France, Paris and Lyon 2006

Le 22eme Septembre

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle (aka Roissy) airport very early in the morning. It was much smaller than I had expected, and we waited over an hour to go through passport checkpoints!
Our plane ride (Air France) was excellent. We felt like we weren’t even in the air half of the time! They had personal tvs at your seat, on which you could watch movies (they had foreign and US ones) or watch a little topographical map that would update the loction of the plane and tell you how much longer the flight was. The food was excellent—their wine list was selected by the top sommelier from the year 2001, and they had real silverware. We had champagne, and after dinner they’d come around with a little cart serving tea and baguettes.
The most exciting part so far was at Logan airport—when they announced our plane was leaving – in french! The International Flight section of Logan was an exciting melting pot: Italian and Latino families having animated arguments, Parents scolding their children in Japanese and German, Swedish backpackers (and 2 girls who were from one of the Swedish owned Virgin Islands—they spoke Swedish but with an island accent!) You weren’t even in the air and you felt like you were all over. (One cool thing about the British Airways—they have double decker planes! I saw one out the window—I want to go to Britain solely for that. And tea and crumpets.)
I had a cold today and was sneexing all day long; Poor Chris is just getting over a flu. We were both pretty jet lagged.
When we got off the Metro near our hotel (after almost getting lost and having a hard time getting tickets for the RER), we looked up and right in front of our eyes was L’Arc de Triomphe! When our hotel had advertised that they were a short walk from it, they weren’t kidding. Incroyable, as the french would say! That’s when we TRULY felt like we had arrived.
The staff at the Hotel Duret have been very nice so far. Some poor lad at the front desk initially sent us to the wrong room, and apologized profusely (we didn’t care).
Our room is small but very nice, with a classy apartment feel. There is a cute bakery down the street, from which we had our first “pain au chocolats”.
For dinner, we split a bottle of wine at the Place de la Grande Armee and people watched. It was an excellent day, and our first impression of Paris has been way more that we had imagined . I’m sure we’ll write more after we’ve recovered from jet-lag.

Things we ate today:

Breakfast on the plane: croissants, yogurt, and petit pains with honey

Lunch at the CDG RER station—2 baguette sandwiches with sliced cheese and fresh tomatoes and basil.

Pain au Chocolat at the bakery down the street

A bottle of bordeaux wine for dinner

Le 21eme Septembre

Our second day in Paris, and already I have fallen in love with this city! We woke up to the sounds of a fire alarm gone off at the hotel—we thought there was a real fire but apparently some idiot had been smoking a little too much in their room (yes, in France smoking is pretty much allowed everywhere. Even when it says a no smoking area people don’t pay attention. But you don’t smell the cigarette smell, which is nice).

It was raining outside; we grabbed 2 baguettes and a pain au chocolat at the boulangerie across the street—the people were a bit snobbish but it was understandable—they have hundreds of customers daily, especially tourists. I likened their attitude to that of a NY bakery. We stood under an overhang to eat our pain au chocolat, and a large white dog came out of one of the shops to see what we wee doing. He looked up at us plaintively while we ate (too bad chocolate is bad for dogs!) At first we said “sit” and he looked at us like he didn’t understand. Then we thought “duh, French” and the dog sat when we said “assiez-vous”. How cute!

We decided, even though it was raining, that we would walk to see where the Louvre museum was. We found out that my shoes were not too good for walking in the rain on their smooth pebble sidewalks. I felt like an ice skater walking down the street! Oh well.
How to begin to even speak about the beautiful buildings we saw? It blows the mind. Museums, theaters, even simple apartments—nothing was done on a small scale and without gorgeous detail. The streets smelled wonderful—like a mixture of cardamom, old libraries, and a good pipe.
Past L’Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysees, we saw some pretty little parks with lovely fountains. Then we arrived at the gardens near the Louvre. Someone had said that it would take a day just to simply explore the gardens, nevermind the inside of the Louvre, and they were right. Incredible, immense statues and fountains that were hundreds of years old, beautifully landscaped bushes and mazes of flowers, acres and acres worth!
We grabbed a cup of coffee at “Cafe Vierry” outside the entrance and people watched under a covered outside area. The waitstaff was kind there and we enjoyed our cup of coffee ‘french style”-meaning we took over an hour to savor it.
Chris and I took hundreds of pictures today. I can’t accurately put into words how it felt to actually see some of these historical structures in person-The Louvre, Saint Chappelle, Notre Dame—it felt like being in a dream. I have never seen such beauty or history-nevermind the painstaking detail that was put into each. A walk around each corner revealed a sight more beautiful than the last.
After spending some time wandering around the gardens (and seeing that Parisians really do know how to RELAX), we crossed the bridge over the River Siene and saw L’ Institit Francais, Le Grand Palais and le Centre aux Justice (inside of which was Saint-Chappelle).
We stopped into a gorgeous gothic church (St. Germain) it was considered small by french standards, but still had beautiful stained glass windows and flying buttresses across the ceiling. Outside we passed by a real fashion magazine photo shoot,! The woman was dressed like a victorian bride but with spiked motorcycle boots on.
After seeing St. Germain we wandered more streets and then went into Notre Dame. The architecturew as incredible, down to every last detail. The ceilings so high, it made you dizzy to look up! Hundreds of people were there, taking pictures and lighting candles. The light from the stained glass windows cast a gorgeous shadow on the immense walls. To be a part of something so old was incredible!
Later on , we wandered back to the gardens outside the Louvre where we had ice cream- “la glace”-one server was a rude 17 year old who talked on her cell hone. That’s a 17 year old for you—anywhere. Chris had violet ice cream and I had fig sorbet, with real fig seeds in it. It was unlike any ice cream you could taste in America.
Now we are back at the Hotel Duret, eating juicy red peaches that we bought at the fruit market across the street.
Everything here is delicious and sensual.
I bought this little “cahier” today at a paper merchants to capture the memories of our trip. Je suis en amour d’ici!
Things we ate today:
Fresh baguettes and croissants au chocolat from the bakery across the street
cafe creme at Cafe Vierry
violet and fig ice cream
red peaches
tofu wraps from a deli down the street
Salads at a restaurant near the Champs-Elysees. I had a lyonnaise salad with sliced hard boiled eggs and a dressing that was great, Chris had buffalo mozarella and tomatoes. The waitress, Nadine, was very nice and patient with the American tourists who came in and ordered things in very botched French.

People have compared Paris to New York City—I say the two are nothing alike. So Far, my impression of Paris is:

It is relatively clean (hardly any trash on the sidewalks; street sweepers are everywhere!)

It’s actually pretty easy to find your way around. The metro system is far better organized than the NY subway or the Boston T.

Nothing is shocking here!

Less air pollution than NY. Everyone here drives either a Vespa or a smart car, or they walk or ride bikes.No SUVs here!

Fashion is all relative-it is not so much “who” or what you are wearing, but how you’re wearing it here. It’s a way of carrying yourself.

So far, we haven’t spotted a single overweight French person here.

French people know how to savor time. Last night Chris and I spent an hour drinking some wine at a cafe. We finished an entire bottle before the couple next to us even drank half of their martini, all in the course of an hour!

I see very few harried people on cell phones or attached at the hip to their laptops. When you go somewhere to unwind, you unwind and don’t bring work with you.

Police sirens have a calmer, more pleasant alarm here.

Children tend to be more socialized and independent. They can go out to dinner at 9pm with adults and not be crazy.

Many dog owners here don’t walk their dogs on a leash, and yet the dog follows them. French people take their dogs everywhere!

Everything sounds prettier in the French language-even curses.

Le 23me septembre

The Louvre! The Louvre!!! What a mind boggling array of priceless history and art. I will never forget having been part of such a grand place, even if for a short while.
Among some of the countless things we saw:
Italian marble sculptures
Venus de Milo
The Winged Victory of Samothrace
Several Egyptian Sphinx (es?)
A real medieval moat and portions of a castle built in the 1600s that was unearthed underneath the actual Louvre during an excavation in the 1980s
The crowned jewels of Louis XVI and Marie-Antionette (talk about serious bling bling!)
Renaissance armor
Greek epitaphs
Napoleon III’s lavish apartments
religious artifacts dating back to beyond the dark ages

I can’t accurately put today into words, but “je me souviens tout”–I will remember everything.

Today was Saturday, so everyone was hanging outside the museum. Young couples snuggling in the grass, old men smoking pipes at “le tabac” with friends. People walking dogs. On weekends, children often go to the huge fountain near the entrance and sail little boats (“petit bateaux”) and race them on the water.
No one went with a laptop or cell phone. They went to relax and enjoy eachother’s company. What a shocking thing to us Americans.
Lines today were surprisingly not bad, considering the day and time. We hardly had to wait at all.

Things we ate today:

Crepes at a cafe en route to the Louvre (gotta remember names next time!)

A 4 eur. Bottle of wine (was good!)

Dark chocolate

Salads at the museum cafe, and real yogurt that came in a crock

Bordeaux wine and a demi st. Marcelin cheese at Grande Armee

Violet and poire ice cream

le 24eme Septembre
Today we went to see the Eiffel Tower. It was enormous! We didn’t end up going up it because the line was too long.
Nearby, they were having a 25th anniversary celebration of the TGV.
Everyone was out rollerblading, biking or walking (les francais sont actifs!)
There are so many beautiful gardens around.
We had breakfast on Rue L’ecole Militaire—croissants and OJ and Coffee—doesn’t sound like much, but we are adapting to the french way of eating and actually felt satisfied.
A crazy drunk Russian guy came up to us on the street, asking for money. But we knew he was crazy and drunk and we got scared so we didn’t end up giving him anything. His breath reeked of Vodka. CHEAP vodka.
After walking around the Eiffel Tower for quite a while (it started to rain!), we headed over the next few streets to L’Hotel des Invalides—a giant military hospital museum, in which Napoleons tomb was. Napoleons tomb was IMMENSE and set in a gorgeous crypt guarded by marble statues. The ceiling was a dizzying height with stained glass windows, and an exquisite, private chapel was overhead. Talk about a Napoleon complex, this man, even after his death. Then again, NOTHING is small in France.
We also saw medieval weapons and armor, and samurai fighting swords and armor as well. Chris was happy!
Just for laughs, we decided to check out one of the only 2 McDonald’s in all of Paris. The food wasn’t anything special but it was a hell of a lot better than at home. It had posh leather seating and Tvs hung from every angle, blasting MTV. There were areas where you could sit and listen to recent top 40 albums on headphones.
Chris and I ordered a medium french fries, and it was smaller than the american small! They also put the nutrition facts on all of the wrappers there.
We had Indian food for dinner, back at L’Ecole Militaire.
Tomorrow we take the TGV to Lyon-I have no idea what to expect, but I do hope we get there on time and safe-and ENJOY it. Already I wish we didn’t have to leave here so soon.

Au revior, Paris!

Things we ate today:
croissants, OJ and coffee at L’Ecole Militaire
mozzarella panini by the Eiffel Tower
french fries and mini parfaits at McDonalds (aka “Chez MacDonald”)
Indian food for dinner

le 25eme septembre

I am writing this on the high speed train as we leave Paris and enter Lyon.
I find it amazing how a mere train can get us to the other side of the country in less than 2 hours! At the TGV station, trains were leaving every 15 minutes or so to destinations like Milan, Barcelona and Luxembourg. We need a TGV back in the states.
A funny but embarrassing story about the train: Chris and I ended up having to buy business class seating because we were unable to purchase anything else online back at home.
I bought a silk dress thinking it was much longer than it actually was (and silly me, I waited until the day of to actually wear it!), when in reality it barely passed my knees. With tall boots on I have to admit it was kind of a trampy get up. But it was too late to change. When we got on to business class, a very serious professional gentleman sat across from us and gave me the most disgusted looks the entire journey. He kept glancing at poor Chris, who of course always dressed professional, and I think he believed I was Chris’ “hired woman”. I guess fashion taught me a lesson today!
Upon first arriving, I must admit, we were a little bit dissapointed when we reached Lyon. The first station that the train stopped at was in a neighborhood reminiscent of the 5 burroughs, graffiti and all. The second station wasn’t much better, and when we reached our hotel we saw that the entrance was on a shadier side of the street, above a dive bar and down the street from a few empty industrial storefronts.
There is no elevator and no AC, the beds isseperate and small….but the room itself has old-world charm, with a fireplace and big windows that open out to a view of the park below. Directly across from us is the most beautiful old theater, and fountains which light up at night.
The owner of this hotel doesn’t speak any English, but is pleasant enough and everything is clean.
Walking around later today, we found more to like about Lyon. Old monuments and theaters, adorable little shops with adorned front windows (one particular little patisserie had a pyramid of meringues arranged in the window). We bought wine at a cute little shop called “Cerise et Poitron (cherry and pumpkin) ” and had dinner at the only mexican restaurant in town!
We had grapefruit ice cream (glace au pamplemousse) and explored one of the oldest gothic churches in all of France-Cathedral St. Jean. This church had the oldest and largest astrological clock in the world, as well as the largest sundial. Three churches had been erected near it, all of which were destroyed in a fire, but whose vestiges still lay in the archeological gardens nearby.
We found out that our hotel is only a minute’s walk to the river Seine, where a pedestrian bridge passes to Vieux Lyon. Formidable!

Tomorrow we hope to explore botanical gardens and roman ruins. Already I am sad that our trip is nearing an end.

Le 26eme septembre
This morning we had a nice breakfast at the hotel, then crossed over to Vieux Lyon, where we mounted the thousand steps (literally!) to view the remains of 2 roman ampitheaters built in 19 A.D. It was incredible to be standing in a place that was literally thousands, not hundreds, of years old. Some pillars still remained, as well as tiled entrances and water ducts. The larger of the two is still used in an annual music festival in Lyon!
We travelled back down the mountain via metro (which was like a cable car going up and down the mountain!), then walked over to the other side of Lyon to a giant park called Tete d’or (Golden Head, literally). There are over 300 acres of wildlife and botanical gardens at Tete D’or, as well as the world’s largest collection of carniverous plants. We spotted some turtles in the water, and some animals which resembled spotted reindeer.
We had lunch at a friendly little bakery not too far from the park, and ate sitting by the river.
We bought violet and citron vert chocolates at Voisin, and searched for a wine opener at Nicolas. Neither I nor Chris knew how to ask for one in french, so Chris did his best miming impersonation and the seller understood and got us a great cast iron one for only 5 euro. He was so nice!
Later on, we decided we weren’t crazy enough to only mounth the 1,000 steps to the top of Vieux Lyon once, we decided to do it AGAIN to visit the Fourviere Basilica, a beautiful chapel built to look over the whole city.
Along the way up, there was a lovely rose garden and some little prayer gardens that the monks and nuns used to tend when the abbies were still in use (gardeners still tend them today). The basilica itself was rather small (at least in French standards of architecture), but it was very regal, with beautiful gold and turqiouse painted buttresses and immense angel statues all around.
The view from the top was amazing. We had coffee at a little cafe nearby, and out on the terrace you could see all of Lyon below. Everything appeared so medieval—the tile roofs and cobblestone walkways.
An observation tower (looking eerily like La Tour Eiffel) and a private music school were also nearby. As we descended again, we decided to explore the many little shops in the Vieux Lyon disctict. Each corner found more to explore—pleasant cafes and “salon de the”s (tea houses), bakeries displaying myriands of marzipan and chocolate cakes, local artisans…in one shop we met a woman who creates little stained glass figurines and mirrors with her husband.
A vendeuse was selling blue roses at her fleurist shop. We saw students trying to light incense up with their cigarettes.
There were many college students around and the air was thick with the excitement of youth. Lyon has an air of friendliness to it- so far all of the merchants have been very patient with our meager attempts at French.
We encounteres a happy fromagiere and Chris bought some Alome (sp?) cheese.
We had a fantastic finner at an Indian restaurant in town, and the watier let us practice French but promised to interject with English help if needed.
Chris and I are already fantasizing about running away here one day.
The only scary thing that happened to us was a crazy drunk buy who approached us on the street, babbling loudly in drunken brawl-but he approached nearly everyone and they brushed him off.
Some poor girl was lost trying to find flowers. I tried to help her in my broken french but I am afraid I may have succeeded in getting her more lost!
Tonight we are watching soccer (“le football”) on TV and everyone is excited. We have the window open to the street and we can hear everyone cheering at the bar down the way when France makes a goal. There also must be an opera playing at the theater across the way—people are dressed up and ready to go.

Things we ate today:

croissants w/jam and coffee for breakfast

real yogurt w/ blackberries

wine and muscat grapes (yum!)

baguette sandwiches from a local bakery (with veggies, mayonaisse and boiled egg)

rose and orange flower ice cream from a merchant on the street

cafe creme from La Fourviere

Dinner at Saveur Indienne—samosas, baigan curry and rose, cinnamon and citron vert sorbet.

Violet.citron vert chocolates from Voisin.

Le 27eme septembre
After breakfast (“petit dejeuner” or “little lunch” literally), we walked to the Heritage district (south of Croix-Rousse by the metro station) to an all-vegetarian organic restaurant called “Toutes les Couleurs”. We sat in a cute little outside area and the very friendly owner tried to help us in broken English, while we responded in broken French! The chef prepared everything as we ordered it in the kitchen next to the veranda. The smell of good things to come wafted through the window. Chris and I had a curry-walnut and spinach pate as an appetizer, and then had large “salades” with smoked tofu, brown rice, melon, and peas (mashed to a stew-like consistency) For dessert we had an exquisite dish of red peaches and rhubarb topped with a very dark chocolate. Tout etait tres delicieux!
Not too far from this district was another, lesser known roman ampitheater. We explored a little, but aside from the restaurant the remainder of the district was shady, so we tried to get out as soon as possible.
We crossed over to rue St. Geroges in the Vieux Lyon district to go to the International Museum of Miniature. Chris, catching on to the French, asked for “2 billets si vous plait” all by himself—he’s learning fast!
The museum was adorable—housed in a 16th century building (“la maison des avocats” or “house of lawyers”)–with open terraces; very old world style. Hundreds of little scenes created to mimic real historic locations in France on a smaller scale—down to the very last painstaking detail. One of the most interesting scenes was that of Maxim’s, a very famous Art noveau restaurant in Paris; it took the artist 2700 hours to complete. We saw beautiful carved eggs , small scale instruments, clothing and armor (all created with just as much detail as their larger counterparts). We even saw a ship carved out of a molar tooth! Small scale furniture was created with dovetailing, working locks and everything.
Chris had some more good cheese (Tome?) at the fromagiere, and we bought little green candies called “coussins de Lyon” or “Lyonnaise coushins” made to look like the cushins that Louis XIV sat on.
We walked around again, and the more we walked, the more we realized how much we will miss France!We’ll be sad to go.
We went to a bar that had crappy beer (don’t drink the beer in France!), and a rude waitress, what a dissapointment. How ironic that the night we decide to try a”Quick”, the only fast food chain in Lyon, we couldn’t find one!
We saw a dog carrying his own leash today. French people and their dogs.
As I am writing this, it is around 10: 45 at night and we’ve just finished watching some strange movie about Russian girls who got kicked out of military school (?). There is an opera going on at the theater next door—I can actually hear the music-how exciting!

Things we ate today:
croissants at the hotel (again)
vegetarian lunch at “Toutes les Couleurs” (described above)
violet tea and lemonade at a flower-tea shop called “Arabesque”
French cheese
bad beer 😦

Le 28eme septembre
Nous somme tristes (we are sad)…today is our last day in Lyon.
This morning we checked out of our hotel and hung around downtown. Some college students running a news program appraoached us and asked if they could pose some questions to us for their news program—we apologized to them that we weren’t from the area, but we were glad to not be identified as tourists!
We looked around once again at all of the beautiful buildings. We bought 2 “boutellies aux region” at Nicolas wine shop (the merchant there recommended them).
We discovered an amazing cafe called “Pignol” and Chris had a mozzarella and tomato sandwich and I had an awesome slice of pizza.
Ahhh….all the pretty decorated shops and cafe windows. I will miss them as we approach the drab of every day when we go home.
We almost missed our train! We arrived early enough to get the train but couldn’t find our car. In France, when a train or plain says it is leaving at 4:00, it is leaving exactly then and not a minute later, even if someone is rushing to catch it! We jumped inside just as the final doors closed and the train began to move—PHEW!!!
How nice it would be to have a month long EurRail pass and take the TGV all around Europe.
We took the metro crom Gare de Lyon to Charles de Gaulle and are spending our last night (sniff sniff!) at a very nice Sheraton hotel room right inside the airport (complements of Chris’ sister Jen—thank you so much!!!).
Our metro passes somehow didn’t work on the exit to the station, so we (and several other young backpackers) jumped the turnstile.

Things we ate today:
Breakfast at the hotel one last time (croissants and the usual)
Pizza and sandwiches at Pignol
a camembert-sesame baguette from PAUL at the train station
yogurt and sandwiches at Charles de Gaulle
more chooclates from Voisin and a croissant au chocolat from PAUL

Things I will miss:

Watching TV shows like “Desperate Housewives” and “Prison Break” dubbed in France
The music-box sound in the metro station that alerts you of oncoming trains, and the announcers voices as we reach stops like “Charles De Gaulle Etiolle” and “Geroges V”.
The laissez-faire and relaxed attitude about life here.
The sighs and smells

Le 29eme Septembre:
We are getting ready to board our flight home. What an incredible trip we had, one we will talk about for years to come.

Au revoir Paris, Au revior Lyon! A Bientot! (See you soon, we hope!)

Disney Vacation 2006 Trip (Labor Day Extended Weekend)

This Labor day weekend, Chris and I decided to once again be adventurous souls and book a cheap, quick trip to Disney. Did I mention that it was hurricane season too? We flew Southwest again and were pleased with the flight—although the weather accounted for a bit of a bumpy ride. When we landed, we lucked out because there was a heavy thunderstorm beginning, and all of the flights that landed after us were circling the landing field because they didn’t want to land when there was lightning. And all other flights at the airport were getting delayed.

We soon discovered that these thunderstorms were the norm, and that around the same time each day there would be these storms and then things would perfectly clear up soon after. The rain was welcome though, as the weather was scorching, with a heat index of up to 115 degrees daily!!! Yow!

We stayed at the inexpensive All-Star Music Resort, which suited us just fine as we didn’t plan on staying in our hotel rooms for too long. Our room was small but comfy and there were several pools around, including a guitar-shaped one! The rooms were air-conditioned too, a BIG plus and a huge necessity in Florida!

Because we are masochists as well as exercise enthusisasts, we clocked a minimum of 17,000 steps daily, and up to 30,000 steps (almost 10 miles!) one day, despite the overwhelming heat. Thanks to the power of air-conditioned hideaways and Earl Grey Iced Tea at the “Earl of Sandwich” in Downtown Disney!

Day two consisted of a marathon walk in the heat to an amazing donut place called Hottie’s Donuts. For anyone who doesn’t believe a donut is worth it—Hottie’s specializes in amazing gourmet donuts that they make right on the premises. I ordered a chocolate peanut butter crunch one, and Chris had a boston Creme. The owner let us sample one of his new donuts, and we spotted some silly flavors—one of them being a Lucky Charms covered donut! (must’ve been the “college kid” special….). We earned our calories that day!

The next day we took a bus over to the Wilderness Lodge resort and hung out on our favorite little private beach, Clementine beach. Aside from the honk of the ferry (which bused visitors over to the magic kingdom), and the babble of a few voices, the beach was as quiet as can be…the perfect spot for a relaxing nap in the shade.

On Sunday we ventured out to the Magic Kingdom for a day of fun! It was busy, but not nearly as busy as other times, and we were happily able to FINALLY go on the Peter Pan ride, one we had always run into long lines on, and haven’t gone on in several years! We felt like giddy kids; our day was made. Of course we also had to ride the Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World.

The ride that had the longest line that day was the Pirates of the Caribbean. Apparently, they had recently renovated the ride to include scenes and characters from the new movies. At first Chris and I were irate—how dare they mess with a classic! But we just HAD to see what they did. So we waited over 40 minutes in line, and we have to say, they didn’t mess with the original too badly. Most of the old favorite scenes and characters were still there, but the beginning waterfall now featured a holographic image of Davey Jones, and the village scene included a few scenes of Jack Sparrow—the character they had created was an uncanny resemblance to Johnny Depp, in mannerism and appearance, it was wild!

We then hopped the monorail over to Epcot and meanered around, making sure to ride Spaceship Earth (an Epcot staple!) a few times and hit the Maelstrom and El Rio de Tiempo. We attempted to hang around in France for a little while too to prepare for our France trip :).

We had our favorite vegetarian lunch at the Tangerine Cafe but were dissapointed to find that they no longer served the Tangerine Dream drinks we always enjoyed! 😦

After spending a few hours (and gettng a bit tired walking in the heat!), we headed back to the Magic Kindgom and had veggie burgers at Cosmis Ray’s. Overall it was a fun day, but we ended up being too tired to stay for the fireworks, which was all as well because it began to rain.

Monday’s heat lead us to the decision that a day at the waterpark—Blizzard Beach-was in order. It was our first time at the park, and we had a pleasant day riding in the lazy river and exploring. We chickened out on riding the world’s longest and fastest waterslide-but ended up taking the ride next to it, which was about half the height-that was about as far as we could go. We enjoued getting cooled off and getting a stair workout at the same time!

Tuesday (our last day) came far too soon. We spent the morning taking pictures and doing my favorite pasttime (shopping!) where we got some ornaments to commemorate our experience—a yearly tradition. We had sundaes at Ghirardelli’s and then headed back to our hotel, where we took a Southwest flight home to a significantly cooler Connecticut. Overall, we spent a great Labor Day weekend there and hope to do it again!

Camping in Maine 2006

writeup by kathy
June 2006,Ogunquit, Maine

Gray clouds on Sunday morning told us that our 2006 trip to Pinderosa in Ogunqit, Maine was off to an iffy start. The sun began to shine later on in the day as we drove along and we kept our fingers crossed. When we arrived at the campsite we were shocked to discover that we were the only tent in the entire 100 + camping area! Apparently the supposed imminent bad weather ahead and the fact that kids weren’t out of school yet left us loners.
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Disney Vacation 2006 Trip (January 12-January 19)


On Jan. 12th we left for our 3rd vacation(together) to Florida for a week of fun and sun.
The flight down was relatively smooth except for a few weather related bumps—we arrived 40 minutes early though!
We stayed at the Pop Century resort in the “90’s music” area, a resort which is fairly new to disney.
Overall, Pop Century was a decent place to stay. It had nice rooms, 3 heated outdoor pools and a large accomodating common area with an enormous cafeteria, a store (of course!) and an arcade. (Chris, the big kid that he is, spent a lot of time playing one of his old favorite games, “Centipede” there. Maybe a little TOO much time :)….)
The only dissapointing thing about Pop Century was transportation. Many of the other resorts have several buses going to and from each attraction at Disney—example one for Epcot, one for the Magic Kingdom, etc…Pop Century seemed to have limited buses running to and from the attractions and therefore it was a long time to wait in between buses. Other than that Pop Century was a cute place to stay at a decent price!

Our first evening we had dinner at Downtown Disney at a place called the Earl of Sandwich. Their sandwiches and salads were surprisingly fresh and very reasonably priced for disney! We had a good dinner there after first having our favorite iced mochas at ghirardelli’s (good iced coffee+good chocolate=iced mocha heaven!). That night we went to see “Aeon Flux” at the downtown theater. In Chris’ eyes, it could have been a silent film and still been wonderful due to Charlize Theron’s wardrobe (or lack of!). He believes that the Oscar for hottest body should be given out to her 🙂 Ah well, you gotta let a guy dream once in a while!

Friday we started calculating just how many steps it takes to get to the places we usually walk to at Disney. We brought a pedometer just to see how much mileage we were clocking in by not taking a taxi to get from place to place. We were very surpised! Here is our list of usual places we walked to and the steps they accrued (this is pure geekiness, I know:) All steps are one way calculations:
Perkins restaurant—2500 steps
Indian food restaurant-6500 steps
Wendy’s-4500 steps
WaffleHouse/GiftLand-3500 steps

Seeing that we made several trips to some of these places in a given day, we really racked up the miles! We went to India Palace’s vegetarian lunch buffet on 3 days, burning off the calories in just that walk I think! We averaged 15000 steps/day.

On my birthday we walked 30,000 steps just at Epcot alone! That was 15 miles.And boy our feet were tired the next day to prove it :).

Friday and Saturday we kind of “chilled out”, walking around and enjoying the sun, catching up on reading and drinking frozen cokes (with rum).

Sunday was my birthday and the anniversary of our engagement, so we decided, same as the last time we went, to re-enact the day as much as possible by visiting the same places, even eating the same foods. In the morning we had giant cinnamon buns (see pics to believe how big!), and walked around the Magic Kingdom.
It was more crowed than usual around this time that we usually visit, mostly due to the “50th anniversary celebration” that was going on. But we were still able to ride on most of our old faves—the Haunted Mansion (“come baaaa—-aaack!”), the Pirates of the Caribbean (“Arrgggggh”!), and It’s a Small World. We could not for the life of us get on the Peter Pan ride. Lines for that, as well as a few other rides, were too long to even bother.
Later that afternoon we hopped the Monorail over to Epcot to continue the rest of our engagement day. To our dissapointment, there was an enormous religious conference going on and thousands of people from “Faith in 3d” were there. Epcot should have mentioned the conference because the lines to EVERYTHING were extra long and we were lost in a sea of red and white t-shirts. They made the line to Moroccan food in the World Showcase impossible to wait in—and that is where we went to lunch on our engagment day, AND the only place to get a really good vegetarian meal at Epcot. So needless to say we were a little miffed at them! But we waited a couple of hours and the line died down a little enough for us to get in.
The most dissapointing aspect of our day was when we went to Victoria Garden (where Chris proposed to me!) and we realized that the bench on which Chris proposed was no longer there! There were smaller wooden benches placed here and there in the garden but none like the original bench—and there was no space to sit down anyway! We did take a pic of ourselves in the garden and re-enacted the engagement anyway :).
We rode a few of our favorite tried and true Epcot rides—Spaceship Earth (3 times!), El Rio Del Tiempo, and later on when lines died down, Maelstrom in the Norway area.
Test Track was closed and we could not get on “Soarin”-the newest ride at Epcot that simulates hang gliding—we were of course dissapointed about that too!
For dinner we went to get our usual veggie burgers and fries at the Electric Umbrella, only to find they were no longer serving veggie burgers but veggie chili instead. 😦
Much later on that night we had Norweigian coffees and watched the fireworks. Overall, despite the dissapointments, it was still a magical birthday and anniversary of our engagement. After the fireworks, a little kid said to his mom, “Mom, did the fireworks shoot the earth down?”. 🙂

Monday we walked to Perkins for breakfast and took a bus from Downtown Disney to the Fort Wilderness resort, the farthest resort from the rest of the disney resorts. It really is the closest to the wilderness; nice and quiet and beautiful. There was a wonderful small beach there called Clementine Beach, which we relaxed on for several hours. There were less than 8 people on the beach (including us!) the entire time. We also were suprised to see a Ferry boat stopping and taking people from the beach over to the Magic Kingdom. We took the Ferry to go there so we could then hop a Pop Century bus back to the resort from there.

Tuesday we spent most of the day at MGM studios, the smallest of the “Main 4″ parks. We went on my personal fave, the” Muppet 3d adventure” and saw, for the first time the “Indiana Jones stunt spectacular”-which was made hilarious by the few “extras” they took from the audience, and the “Lights, Motors, Action!” stunt show, which was very impressive. To be perfectly truthful, aside from a few good rides and shows, there really isn’t much to MGM. It’s not a big enough park to spend an entire day at. So after a couple of hours we hopped a bus over to the Magic Kindgom, and there we went on the Haunted Mansion again (the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was broken), and watched the anniversary fireworks, which were beautiful. They even had veggie burgers at the Cosmic Ray restaurant which were very good. On the bus ride home, a cute little Asian girl was talking to the woman next to her about her day—she went on and on about how she met with the princesses and saw Mickey, etc…it was very cute!

Wednesday was our last full day so of course we were getting a little depressed. We spent the day walking and enjoying the sunshin. We had indian food for lunch, delivered some of our clothes home via the post office ( in order to fit our souvenirs in!) and went to see “The Producers” at the movies that night, which was hilarious (we still can’t stop singing the songs!). We ended the night with our usual snack of a giant ice cream sundae back at Pop Century!

Thursday morning we spent moping, packing, and enjoying the sun. We had one last iced mocha at downtown disney and said goodbye to sunny Florida. Our plane ride home was very smooth and it was good to be back home to see the kitties. We had some great memories on our trip, which will keep us warm through the rest of this winter!

Cute tidbits from our trip:

  • Chris would often mistakenly swipe his ATM card in our room door instead of the key card!
  • # of Ice cream sundaes eaten=5
  • Chris’ highest Centipede game score-58000. # of times he PLAYED Centipede-about 30

Chris and I have decided to do separate write ups of the food we ate and movies we saw while we were there, giving each a rating of one to 5 broomsticks. After doing a bunch of thinking about making our own little Disney site with ratings and call it “disney geek’s”, or something to that effect we did, click here for the beginnings of our site! The food ratings have two broomstick ratings, one for value and one for quality:

MOVIES seen:

  1. Aeon Flux: Chris gives it 5 because, well, Charlize Theron is in it. Need I say more? An okay action flick with some interesting fight scenes. But really it’s all about the booty!
  2. Hoodwinked: A very funny movie that both kids and adults would laugh at. Has a line up of famous voices (John Belushi, Glen Close…even Xibit!) in a fairytale “whodunit” type film. Well written!
  3. The Producers: Nathan Lane deserves an Oscar for his hilarious performance. Makes you want to see the Broadway performance when Lane and Broderick were on! Overall a hilarious movie, especially if you are a Mel Brooks fan. Neither of us are huge Broadway musicals fans, but this one doesn’t even seem like one, and the songs are a riot (we’re still catching ourselves singing such ditties as “The Guten tag Hop Clop”). A must-see.
  4. Brokeback Mountain-Worthy of an Oscar. An excellent, touching film that is about way more than the relationship between 2 cowboys.

FOOD, Drinks and other reviews

Labor Day Weekend Trip to Boston (with surprise Bjork Concert)

August 30-September 1, 2003

Boston -the last weekend in August Chris and I went to Boston for a couple of days. We stayed at the Boston Park Plaza hotel, which was right across from the Memorial Park and close to the T and everything downtown. We had amazing weather all weekend, we were especially lucky because it had rained all week. The gardens in memorial park were gorgeous, there were several weddings going on that weekend. We even ran into a friend, Pepper, whom we hadn’t seen in over a year, we didn’t even know she had moved to Boston ! Friday night we went to the Aquarium to look at cute penguins. Then we went to see the Matrix on IMAX-all you Matrix fans out there, you haven’t really seen it till you’ve seen it on IMAX! It will blow you away.
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Holidays in New York 2003

New York City,
Christmas 2003

Nothing beats New York around Christmas time there’s an energy around that’s unbeatable. Chris and I were lucky enough to go there the day after Christmas with his Mom, Dad, and sister. We spent two nights at the Westin hotel-right across from Times Square ! Our hotel room had a great view of the city (but of course we weren’t there too often). We ate at some great restaurants-Pellegrino’s in Little Italy, Ruby Foo’s(a great sushi place) and a funky French restaurant called 8 ½. We ate WELL!! But the highlight of our trip was, on Friday night, seeing the Lion King on Broadway.
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Camping in Maine 2003

writeup by kathy
June 2003,Ogunquit, Maine be back at Pinederosa (for those of you who haven’t read about our first trip there, please see Camping 01). Yet another few days of bliss, apart from email, phones, tv and the like. Again, we were blessed with beautiful weather and our campsite was nice and shady. We had a lovely little getaway. And some funny memories too! One night a skunk stole our trash and a squirrel stole the candy bars we were using to make our s’mores with!
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Disney January 2002, engagement too!

Our first Christmas/Solstice together, Christopher gave me a surprising but unforgettable gift. We were still somewhat “new” (had been dating a little less than a year) and were nervous about swapping gifts, each hoping the other one liked it (and would be around to celebrate NEXT Christmas!). I compiled a poetry book for him and bought him a game, he told me he had a surprise for me. (If you haven’t noticed already, he is definitely the “surprise” man!!!) Under the tree was an enormous package. I opened it, and it was luggage. Silly, naive me, I thought THAT was the surprise! Since I didn’t have a proper suitcase, I used to always visit Chris bringing tons of grocery bags and a full backpack of stuff, looking like a bad lady instead of his girlfriend. So I was psyched to actually have something to travel in! He said “look inside, silly”. Inside the main compartment was a book about Walt Disney World. “Okay, cool”, I thought. “Look inside t hat silly!”, Chris said. Inside that were two tickets to Disney! That was the real surprise. I was so excited, I had never been before.

After the holidays, on January 5 th , we packed our bags (and thank goodness I had new luggage because I packed everything but the kitchen sink) to leave for Orlando .

We arrived later that day in sunny Florida at the All-Star resort, where we would stay a full two weeks. The All-Star resort is an adorable, fun resort owned by Disney and has 3 different themes under which people can stay-Movies, Music and Sports. In each theme there are several different section that a person can stay at, and these are decorated with themes related to the suite. We stayed at the Mighty Ducks section of the Movie portion. Each morning we woke up in Mighty Ducks sheets and went outside to pass a giant Hockey mask and a pool designed like a hockey arena. We bought commemorative mugs at the cafeteria and were entitled to free drinks with them our whole stay there, so we filled up on coffee and cherry coke as often as we could, and always before going out! (Chris still teases me about the day I experimented with soda concoctions there-orange soda, diet coke, sprite and cherry coke-I was trying to be “adventurous”, but needless to say, it was disgusting).

We enjoyed staying at All-Star. The best part about it was that there were shuttles to go to the major theme parks operating at all hours. Because our visit was out of season we didn’t have to worry about waiting too long to catch a ride. But as a backup, and to just drive around where we pleased, we rented a car for the stay too.

Each day we did something new. We bought park-hopper passes, which allowed us to visit all 4 Disney Parks and 2 water parks. First, we hopped over to Animal Kingdom. It was a relatively sunny day with a chance of rain, but we weren’t worried about it. It was the first time both of us had been to the newest addition to the Disney parks (at least, the newest addition at the time WE visited there). We were impressed by the bright jungle-like atmosphere and the fact they had an actual animal sanctuary there! We would highly recommend the Kilimanjaro Safari ride.I personally have never been that close to lions, giraffes, and hippopotamuses. It was incredible.

I always seem to be the person on water rides who ends up being in the seat that gets you splashed the most. Kali River Rapids was no exception. I got soaked. Ironically, when I got off the ride, it started to rain. Oh well!

Later, we hopped over to MGM studios where we saw some interesting exhibits about Walt Disney (it was the 100 th anniversary of Walt Disney), and saw one of our all-time favorites, Muppet 3-D adventure! How can you not smile when you’re in a theater with fozzy bear and Kermie? Of course, the quips from the cranky old men (you know the ones I’m talking about, the ones from the Muppets who act like the critics of the show) made it priceless. (“How did we get here? Oh yeah, we entered a contest.and we LOST!!” Har de har) Next we went on to.the Tower of Terror . Now I have to admit, when it comes to rides that involve falling from heights, I am a total chicken. But friends who had been on it before had told me it was only 2 quick drops, it was over before you knew it. So Kris and I decided to be brave and thought “why not?. The ride had the eery atmosphere of an elevator ride from the Twilight Zone. The bellhop had a laugh that just prickled the hairs on your head. The whole time we were going up we kept consoling each other, “it’s only 2 drops, don’t worry.”When we got to the top, suddenly we heard a noise that sounded like pins coming loose. We then proceeded to fall at a frightening speed, and I admit I screamed like a little kid. The second time we went up only half way and dropped quickly again. I let out a sigh of relief when we hit ground. I was then surprised to find that we were going up AGAIN, this time ALL the WAY. Kris and I exchanged “Oh my Gods” and realized that the elevator doors were opening, allowing us to view the entire park at a distance too far too mention. We dropped again, and rose AGAIN to fall another time. Needless to say when the ride was over I was very, very relieved. But of course the dangerous rebels had come out of us then, and we were like “that was so cool! We gotta do it again sometime!”

There were days that we didn’t go to parks at all, just lounged by the pool reading books and sipping cherry cokes. Those were a lot of fun too. Some days we went exploring the other resorts, just to see where we’d like to go next time. We went mini golfing at the Dolphin resort (and I kicked Kris’ butt!!), and spent one day at a water park, Typhoon Lagoon.

A family from England was getting ready to leave one afternoon and was kind enough to give us the remainder of their passes to Universal Studio. We weren’t planning on going but we were glad they gave us the tickets because we were very impressed! Universal was slightly less commercial than Disney and seemingly more adult-centered. We walked along a number of different “sets”, and at each set there were different rides. The themes flowed into each other well, and there was different music played all over the park to match the different “sets”. Our faves were Terminator 3-D, Men in Black, and the Wild West live stunt show. There was also a really cool exhibit about I Love Lucy, with a woman who did an extremely convincing impersonation of Lucille Ball. There was so much to see at Universal, next time we go we hope to get a pass for a couple more days there.

One afternoon we visited Sea World, looking at manatees, riding paddle boats and looking at dolphins. The dolphins were so funny, I took a picture of one of them and it looked like it was posing to smile at us for sure. As far as going out to eat in the evenings and afternoons, most days we would go to India Palace as soon as it opened for the lunch buffet (yummy yummy and cheap too!) and would hit Wendy’s at night (we gotta have our Frosties).

Epcot was the park we frequented most. Not only was there a wide array of food and shops at the World Showcase, but visiting each place gave you a little taste of what it might be like to live in those countries. For food, our favorite “countries” to visit where Morocco (for there vegetarian platter and tangerine drinks), France (pour les crepes!), and Mexico (for obvious reasons.who doesn’t like burritos?). We also had favorite rides-Norways “Maelstrom” (“You are not the first to pass this vay.”, Mexico’s “El Rio del Tiempo” (go there, you will know what we mean about it being an addictive little ride), and of course, as far as the entire park went, Spaceship Earth, Test Track, and the Land (Kris, the lover of all things gardening, of course loves the garden tours there!). We also enjoyed Ellen’s Energy Adventure and the Living Seas .

Now of course, the BEST day at Epcot was my Birthday. I purposely chose to mention this last because it is most special to me. The night before my birthday Kris didn’t seem to be feeling so well (which he later admitted to me he had gotten drunk to calm his nerves) and the next day he didn’t seem like himself at all. I was worried, and a little miffed (why was he acting this way on my birthday? What was he upset about?). In the early morning, before we left, Kris said he had to go to the safe we had rented to get some more money out for the day. I talked to my parents on the phone while he went, and thought nothing of his going there.

The first part of the day we hopped over to the Magic Kingdom and rode our favorite rides. (Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion , of course!!). We had enormous sticky cinnamon buns for breakfast and walked around until the early afternoon. Before we left, we passed Cinderella’s Castle and Kris took a longer than usual pause there. He seemed a little more agitated than usual and then I was really wondering if something was going wrong (Usually, people who are at the Magic Kingdom look estatic. Kris looked green). He quickly asked a woman passing by if she could take a picture of us, and then we moved on. (That picture is now in our bedroom as a reminder of “the short moments before”). We decided to hop the monorail over to Epcot for the rest of the day. Kris kept having to go to the bathroom all day, I was certain he was really sick or had some bad news to tell me. When we walked past Canada , we found a lovely little spot called Victoria Gardens . It was peaceful and quiet there, and there was a beautiful waterfall to walk under. As we walked under the waterfall, I commented on how beautiful it was and Kris answered “Kathy, you know I really love you, don’t you?” and I answered “Of course ! I love you too!”. Kris then answered, “You know I really, really love you?” I was starting to get worried. Was he going to break up with me? He sounded nervous. We made our way to a bench in the middle of the beautiful garden and he asked me to close my eyes, he had another birthday surprise for me. What happened when I opened my eyes is something I’ll never forget. He was down on one knee, asking me to marry him! I was so shocked I could barely make out a sentence (and I didn’t really.Kris says it felt like forever before I answered him.I just couldn’t talk I was so surprised). I of course finally said yes, and a relieved (and hopefully happy!) Kris answered “good, let’s go get some drinks, I’m dying!”. Now I know that the reason why he was acting the way he had all morning was because he wanted to ask me, and he wanted to do it in front of the castle at Disney, but a parade was going on and he didn’t think it was quiet enough. Being in the intimate little garden with a nervous boyfriend was the most romantic to me. Kris is still a little embarrassed that he forgot to take his pirate hat off when he asked me and that he blurted out “you don’t have to say yes!” after he popped the question. I just think it’s awfully adorable and couldn’t have loved him more that moment. I was on cloud 9 with a goofy smile on my face the rest of the day. Throughout dinner and the rest of the evening I barely said a word. Everything about the rest of the day was just blissful. A dog could have gone to the bathroom on my shoe and I wouldn’t have cared. I looked back in disbelief on the afternoon as we watched the fireworks that night. It’s amazing how, when you’re in love and when something like that happens to you, you become oblivious to anything bad in the world. The screaming children and nagging older couples and drunken college kids yelling just disappeared. I know I am at times a cheesy romantic, but when you’re in love, it feels like the whole world falls in love along with you. There’s lots more to tell about our trip that I just can’t put down. You’ll have to ask us sometime. For me that was the most memorable vacation. I think it always will be.

Longwood Gardens/Pennsylvania 2001

Our trip to Pennsylvania at the end of August was a short but enjoyable one. We stayed at the Comfort Inn which was right next to the King of Prussia mall (the 2 nd biggest mall in the US , it is HUGE for anyone who hasn’t heard of it), in , you guessed it, King of Prussia . During our stay, we frequented the mall (which has a rock climbing wall inside of it!), ate at the Blue Moon Café (they have an excellent sundried tomato ravioli. I went there over 2 years ago and I’m still drooling over it!), and cuddled and watched FarScape. The best part of our trip was going to see Longwood Gardens in Kennet Sqaure. Kris had told me it was one of his favorite places to visit, and when he took me there, I could see why. Anyone who adores flowers and pristine gardens would think they had died on the way to Longwood and emerged in some sort of heaven. There were gardens of every sort and more than you could imagine, from Chinese Bonsai gardens to water gardens to enormous fields of lilies. It was like walking in a giant maze of green growth, and taking in the scent of just being alive. The water lilies were in bloom at the time of our visit, which was kind of symbolic-I know this sounds cheesy– but it was at the time when our relationship, still new, was really beginning to bloom. I can’t really describe Longwood properly. You really DO just have to be there. Even just thinking about it right now makes me desperate to smell a flower!

Camping in Maine 2001

writeup by kathy
June 2001,Ogunquit, Maine

The last week of June 2001 marked our first real vacation together. Silly me, I was so nervous to go on vacation with Kris, because I was certain that in this, the longest amount of un-interrupted time together, we would surely drive each other away. I remember freaking out over packing the right amount of clothes, and of course, as always, ended up packing way too much! Kris seemed pretty calm and relaxed on the way there-thank goodness somebody was. We arrived at Pinederosa campground, a camping site in Ogunquit , Maine .
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