Day 7- lounging, biking and celebrating...

The day before was so very dreamy but we knew day 7 would need to be WAY slower. Lyra was having trouble sleeping the night before so we decided to let the girls sleep as long as they wanted. Again.

The boys headed out early to see the catacombs. I’ll let Jorge tell you all about that creepy goodness.

One of my favorite parts of the Parisian apartments are the big giant windows. You can feel the breeze no matter where you are and hear the bustle of the city. It feels like you are out even when you aren’t. I just did laundry, cleaned and pretended I lived there. I may have also looked up apartment rentals.

When the girls finally woke up, we walked down to the patisserie and grabbed some brunch. There was a flower market, grocery market and pharmacy all right by the apartment. Each day you only buy what you need and after work hours you see dozens of Parisians buying their evening baguette on their way home. It is a lovely way to live.

 

The green of the Eiffel Tower was directly behind our apartment and the tower itself just a block or so away. The girls and I sat on a bench on the green just admiring the tower, eating and chatting. We headed over to a little park to play for a bit. I watched as Lyra gathered up her courage to invite a new friend to play in French. She must have asked me 10 times to repeat the phrase to her.

 

She got close one time but couldn’t quite make it happen. I was so proud of this little girl for trying. It’s scary to put yourself in such a vulnerable position. *I* was so nervous ordering the food each day in my very pathetic French, but each day we got a little braver, a little more confident.  

The boys ended up taking much longer than we anticipated so when they finally arrived we headed back to a part of the city in search of some gifts to take home. By the time we rode the metro over it was almost time for me to go back to the apartment to meet Jack for a night bike tour we were doing.

The rest of the crew went on while Jack and I headed to our adventure. We didn’t really do any tours, mostly because they add up for six people and seem to take so much time but biking through the city at night sounded fun.

 

In big families, it always feels like one kid is kind of getting lost in the shuffle and need so you just keep switching the focus around all the time. It’s really nice to have one on one time when you get a chance, but I find it almost always requires intention. It’s especially awesome when you find something in common that just you and the one kid like to do….hiking, biking, outdoorsy stuff is it for Jack and me.

So Paris is a bike lovin’ city through and through. You can find bikes to rent by the hour and day almost everywhere you turn and there are a good amount of bike lanes thorough out the city. …BUT I didn’t anticipate how crazy it is to ride IN that traffic with those cars, taxis and buses- oh my Lord. I have mad respect for you RVA bikers. We survived and besides getting to ride around the courtyard of the Louvre,   Jack was mostly stoked there were no helmets.  Side note- When I returned back to the apartment someone had eaten my baguette I saved for dinner and everything was closed. This may have sent me almost over the edge, but I found my way back. (barely)

 

We ended our last night in front of the Eiffel Tower to celebrate Lucy’s birthday. It was the perfect way to end such a trip. Hope that kid has a million more celebrations so special and memorable.


We were SO full, full of joy, full of gratitude, full of a good kind of tired. There was a deep-in-your-bones kind of grateful to have had so many wonderful experiences together. We were total rookies in the craziest ways and learned so much.

The one question that each person asked?

“Where are we going NEXT?!”  

Day 6- The Golden Day

Just like life, there are these days/nights when the sun happens to shine upon you and stars align or something and everything goes right, that was this day of travel for the Salgados. After 5 crazy days, it seems we are just starting to find our rhythm and groove.

We grabbed a breakfast on the run- croissants and baguettes galore!- and headed to Musée d'Orsay . While on our way we stumbled upon one of the love lock bridges and locked our family love up.

 

Lyra has this secret love of tagging things, I find her name written and etched all over the house. Every time I ask her about it, she looks somewhat sheepish and I’m not even sure she can always control it. Her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree when she saw a million signatures along with locks on the bridge. After a conversation of the dangers of graffiti (I LOVE graffiti, truly) and destroying property, we let her write her name, she was super blissed out.

Just below the bridge, along the Seine there was a great section of games and activities for kids, hopscotch, these rad animal guys and a giant chalkboard wall. There are so many clever uses of public spaces in the city. I love, love, LOVED that so much.


In order to keep the day rolling we chose one area we wanted to explore in the museums. You could spend days in each of them otherwise and this helped keep the kids engaged and moving too. We went to see the Impressionists at Musee d’Orsay- Monet, Manet, Degas, Cezanne forever!!!!

 

The girls loved it, the boys loved this very interesting bean bag chair right outside the exhibit. Jorge said it was hands down one of the best parts of his whole Paris experience.  Oh yeah, there was that one moment where Lyra almost accidentally touched a painting and I thought Jorge was going to have a heart attack, but it WAS ALL FINE...really. 

 

From there we grabbed some SUPER yummy frites and headed to the Luxembourg Gardens to eat and chill. We do lounging very well, the Salgados do. One of my favorite (and at times maddening) parts of this trip has been having a period of uninterrupted time together. All kinds of things and conversations come up after you have been together for a while and then there is also a welcomed silenced too. You don’t really need to say anything at all, just being together is enough.

 

After lunch, Jorge found us THE MOST MAGICAL GELATO- gelato flowers!! And they tasted even better than they looked. You could pick three kinds which just felt extravagant in and of itself. We did street food and cheap eats in Paris, it was what our budget allowed- but it always felt like you were getting the best of everything! I do not understand this at all, it may just be part of the Paris magic.

On our way to Notre Dame, we somehow stumbled upon a comic book store district or something. Every corner we turned there was another store, like 10 0f them. The kids were in total heaven. We found Pokemon’ cards in French, the latest Bravest Warriors, Magic cards galore. I just love when you uncover goodness by total surprise. It felt like there was something for everyone.

 

Our little comic book detour caused us to arrive at Notre Dame just as the bells were ringing for mass. There was a wonderfully kind bubble guy there as well. He was so patient and let the kids hold the giant bubble wand. Josiah decided RVA needs a bubble guy, so hit him up in the comments of places he can busk to save for his next trip abroad!

Oh Notre Dame…the reverence, the windows, the gargoyles and statues…it was dark and holy and so beautiful. We listened to the mass for a bit, lit a candle and then stood in awe for a while outside. The Louvre was calling so off we went.

We took the metro and came up through the underground up to the Carousel- up to this!! This is the toilet in the bottom of the Louvre. That would be rainbow toilet paper guys, I think we reached bathroom nirvana. Jorge was cringing at the 1.5 euros it cost to use it but I thought it was TOTALLY worth it. Lyra said it was so fancy she didn’t even know how to get out of the bathroom.

The Louvre has these Nintendo 3Ds guides for kids which it so very brilliant. Kids immediately perk up and are on the hunt for art. Pro tip- bring an extra set of head phones and splitter- 2 kids can share!

 We explored for a while but the kids were fading so we decided to see the Mona Lisa and bolt. Lyra was leading us to the ML with her 3Ds but that wasn’t going so well, so then Josiah was, but then we lost him. It may have happened when I was staring that this ceiling or 57,000 other beautiful things.

I realized his phone was dead and for one split second I wondered how we would ever find him. Jorge was not worried. After a half hour more and Jorge taking over the navigating we finally found the old ML girl and Josiah. The Mona Lisa was a little womp-womp, everyone thought it would be bigger.

At this point everyone’s feet hurt so we found a little bench behind the ML and I gave foot massages to the girls. Somewhere in the discussion we started talking about smelly feet, then smelly armpits, and then Lyra announced that her friend Max can LICK her armpits, so then we all instantly tried because it sounded impossible…and I must have been so punchy but we all laughed and laughed at the whole scene…and this is what I will remember most about the Louvre. Licking armpits.

One more train ride home and we collapsed, with our comics and baguettes, very happy and full. 

Day 5- Paris and the little things

I asked a tour guide what it was like for her the first time she came to Paris, she said she just walked around with her mouth open for a week. I understand this response completely. The old world beauty and architecture is just overwhelming. Our first full day in Paris was somewhat of a wander with purpose. 

I'm sure it's against all the travel rules (not that we haven't broken a 1,000 already), but we let everyone sleep in this morning. We started later to catch up on some rest and then sat down for some crepes at Suzette creperie. From there we headed to the Arc de Triumph and climbed to the top for a stunning, stunning view of Paris.

 

It’s one of those places that you see in pictures but can not fully take in the magnitude and grand sight unless you are there. You just keep shaking your head, trying to imagine all the men and women working together and the time it must have taken to create such a structure.

We decided we must go to the top!  Lyra was very unsure as we were climbing the forever circular staircase, but she got over her fear of heights because the view will just do that too you- it was that good. 

 

From there we headed to Avenue des Champs-Élysées and walked all the way to Place de la Concorde. I’m not that big of a shopper but I was secretly thrilled to see so many stickers on the walk way. There were hundreds so we didn’t think one more would hurt.

And, ohhh the flowers in October!!! 

 

We pressed on to the Place de la Concorde only to discover that we happened to be in Paris during the set up for the contemporary art fair (Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporain - Paris). As part of the Faire, there were these very rad light and sound exhibits. It made me wish there was a LOHK wall or something of the sort there, but maybe someday, right?

The rain finally found us on our trip so we ducked out into the Jeu de Paume Museum for some hot chocolate and a break. They had a GREAT Halsman and Dali exhibit, my little photographer heart was leaping while my family so happy to have a few minutes to sit and re-group.  With more rain and nightfall, we called it a day and headed back to the joy of the patisserie next to our apartment and warm beds.

The little things I noticed today-

1.   There is a difference between vacationing and travel. I am finding I REALLY prefer the latter. Vacation is treats, activities, a momentum built that begins to create expectation…it feels like more, more, MORE and go, go, go…travel is exploring a place, people and culture.

Travel stretches and often requires time, patience and intention.  Vacation feeds “give me”, while I believe travel encourages “teach me”. There is nothing wrong with vacation and to give yourself all kinds of wonderful things, but for our adventures abroad, I believe staying longer in one place will help us balance the pace and focus on travel. ....BUT who knows, maybe it's all a mix of both? Still learning for sure. 

2.  The kids’ world view is widening and growing each day. Josiah said he can see himself studying abroad and loved London. Each kid at different times mentioned themselves traveling on their own some day and were constantly taking notes and comparisons of the ways our different countries work, govern and live.

“I don’t think you need a car when you have the tube!”

“Look how the light changes yellow BEFORE the green, that makes so much SENSE!”

“You gotta BUY plastic bags here, that’s gotta be better for the environment. Who wants to buy bags? ”

“I like how you have tea here all the time.”

“Has anyone noticed that the food tastes 200 times better in Paris?”

3.   Travel is just one of those things you have to DO to learn. You can read a million books and tips but finding your way with YOUR people/dynamics is all built on living those experiences together. We are not huge planners I discovered on this trip. We like things to unfold which is both great and can make things complicated with so many factors and different needs.  

Everyday we learn a little more, about the world and about ourselves. It's so, so good you guys. Crazy good.

These two can make you a little crazy- SO much up and down...but their joy and energy made our trip so special...all the kids really, each has something to offer that makes it all add up to being complete.   

These two can make you a little crazy- SO much up and down...but their joy and energy made our trip so special...all the kids really, each has something to offer that makes it all add up to being complete. 

 




Day 6 - Paris

PARIS!!! This place is amazing. And when everyone is on the same page, and energy levels are in tune, we can take the city on and truly soak it in. Gonna make it a short post tonight... But we walked around 19km today and tried to get in as much as possible. Musee d'Orsay, Pont de Arts, Pantheon, a gelato stop, pomme frites, Luxembourg Gardens for lunch, Notre Dame cathedral (where P and I sat for the mass), the Louvre (where we lost Josiah for a bit) and finally home for some paninis, crepes, beer and the best four dollar bottle of wine ever.

We're trying to carefully balance the needs of the kids versus making sure they at least see some major things here without it being a major touristy thing. Honestly, it's kinda exhausting balancing everyone's needs, but today everyone was on board and we really got a good day in. It was a nice balance of being part of the city and also seeing some of those touristy things we just kinda have to see.

Notes from today: 

The kiddos were beasts today. No complaints, moved through the city like old pros, and really took in everything around them. 

The food. Oh my lord, the food. It doesn't matter if we sit for a meal or we grab it to go from a vendor, market or patisserie, it's all amazing.

There's no easy way to do this city in three days. No way.

I think we finally found our groove... Thankfully we have one more full day. 

Did I mention the wine???

AND the baguettes and pastries???

We hit some parts of the city where it was speak French or go hungry. Proud to say we didn't go hungry.

It was a sunny day in Paris today

It was a sunny day in Paris today

The Siene

The Siene

Sisters

Sisters

Lyra loves to tag things. She's left her mark in Paris.

Lyra loves to tag things. She's left her mark in Paris.

Luxembourg Gardens

Luxembourg Gardens

Locked in!

Locked in!

From Musee d'Orsay

From Musee d'Orsay

Hey Brits, Now THIS is a castle! (Luxembourg Gardens and Castle)

Hey Brits, Now THIS is a castle! (Luxembourg Gardens and Castle)

Gelato!!

Gelato!!

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

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The Siene

The Siene

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They're tired of me asking for selfies, but secretly I think they enjoy it.

They're tired of me asking for selfies, but secretly I think they enjoy it.

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The Louvre

The Louvre

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So much coffee...

So much coffee...

Day 5 - Paris

Day five was our first full day in Paris...and the kiddos were wiped out and couldn't get going in the morning. The Clark Griswald in me wanted to see a hundred things today, but that just wasn't gonna happen. So I went off by myself to pick up the Paris museum pass (FYI, totally worth it if you're gonna museum it up while in Paris), grabbed a cafe au lait and tested my very weak French. By the time I returned to the apartment, everyone was ready to go and we hit up Suzette's creperie. The mood of the crew overall was less than sunny, but my lovely wife was able to rally us, and get the grouchiness cloud off our family. That's just the truth about travel I guess... Lots of feelings, needs, wants... But I love how it brings us together and we can take a day where no one was feeling united to a really great day.

The rest of the day was awesome... Arc de Triumph, a stroll down Champs-Elysse, the Place de la Concorde, a yummy dinner, baguettes and desserts to end the evening.

Notes from today: 

I'm overwhelmed with the architecture here. Everywhere I look I am blown away.

Our interactions with the locals have been great. Funny, but very warm and extremely helpful.

We'll need one hundred visits here to see half of what we want to see. 

I've forgotten what water tastes like. Veggies too. The bread here is amazing as is the wine and beer.  

The architecture is stunning

The architecture is stunning

Arc de Triumph

Arc de Triumph

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Champs-Elysee

Champs-Elysee

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The view from the top of the Arc de Triumph

The view from the top of the Arc de Triumph

Day 4- the roller coaster of all coasters

I'm not even sure where to start with this day, it was one of those for the forever travel memories category for sure.

It all started well enough. It was a travel day as we were headed to Paris via train. We cleaned Hannah's apartment to the sparkle level because I always feel like we are representing all family travelers when staying at AirBnb's. Families don't always have the best rep. Lyra drew a portrait of Hannah, Lucy left a small sculpture of found objects in London she had been collecting along the way, and I left stickers. We were feeling super on our game and had some time to spare before our train so we headed down to a local coffee shop I noticed the day before.

In the window there were several really well made stuffed animals sitting on the couch facing the window. It was a clear invitation for kids to come on in. When we sat down and ordered I noticed this little girl sitting in the corner. She was watching every move the girls made. I could tell she wanted to connect so badly. I asked Josiah to trade seats with Lyra so she could be closer because it was obvious Lyra wanted to connect too. In a matter of two minutes, the girls started chatting and in five, it looked like they had been friends for years.

I'll call her E here...but Lyra and E just clicked from the jump. It turned out E's mum and dad owned the coffee shop, so Lyra got the inside scoop on the shop and a free hot chocolate. E happened to be at the cafe because she was sick that day, so I just prayed those germs away and baptized Ly in Purell when we left because there was just no keeping them apart.

They talked and laughed, played hide and seek and E told Lyra all about school and life. She explained to Lyra "If you want to look smart, you must where a tie!" and then showed Ly two different ways to tie a tie. She told us all about her academy, going to sea side and wished she was going to Paris too. Lyra also learned about the word holiday vs. vacation. They couldn't have been any cuter.

During the middle of Lyra's new friend bliss, Jorge and I were chatting with not a care in the world when it hit Jorge. One part of the conversation jogged his memory- he had left all the passports at Hannah's. In one look we exchanged about 10 curse words between us but we moved into action quick.

I called and wrote Hannah, Jorge gathered Lucy and started the 10 minute walk back to the flat. There were three problems:

1. Entry to the building required a key fob.

2. The keys had been dropped in the mail slot. The only way they were coming out was with little hands. or something else...

3. The train station was 30-40 minutes away...and we just had a little over an hour of time. Ohhhhh shit.  (be sure to read Jorge's version!)

Lyra was so engrossed in play and her new friend, so I gave her a moment before I had to break up the party. Josiah, Jack and I gathered up all the bags, and Lyra said a very long goodbye. They hugged three times and didn't want to let go, but we exchanged information so the pen pal love can continue.

We ran back as fast as we could and grabbed a wire hanger along the way at a laundromat just in case Lucy didn't have any luck. We arrived at the apartment to find Jorge folded like a pretzel in the tiny hall with Lucy holding the phone with the camera in the slot. 

I took over holding the phone while Jorge worked....I gotta tell you, the whole thing was straight out of an episode of MacGyver. We had about 15 minutes if there was any chance to make that train...I was secretly praying, and laughing, and kinda loved the whole thing. I believed he could get it but it was a race against time for sure. In like under 15 minutes, that man hooked those keys and pulled them out of the slot...it was kinda incredible. We all high fived, feeling SO crazy proud and then started running for the bus. Adrenaline was pumpin', HE freaking did it!!!

Pic above- Total relief and pride while watching the video of J trying to hook the keys- he remembered to hit record during all that, BRILLIANT!

Right after the high fives but before the bus to catch the tube to catch the train, Lucy fell on the sidewalk in all the commotion. Thankfully she recovered somewhat quickly and we pressed on.  I was convinced we would make that train, we HAD to, especially after conquering the key/passport crisis.

We ran to the tube and made it on just as the buzzer rang and the doors closed- it was the last leg, the run to the Paris train. The back packs were bouncing, the kids hyperventilating, Jorge and I dragging them along...when we finally reached the gate, the doors had JUST closed. We missed the train. The girls burst into tears, Jorge was in next step mode and I was trying not to laugh, it was pure and total chaos. Thankfully, I don't mind these situations at all- you just gotta roll with them.....and roll we did. The next train was in an hour, all was well in my mind but the kids needed some care. Jorge found this amazing little grocery store in the train station and the kids watched Totoro- because Totoro calms all icky feelings, it's a fact. 

For some reason, Jorge and I thought we were just handing our ticket to the agent and hopping on that train, only to discover THIS IS NOT THE CASE. I'll spare you the details, but we almost missed the second train, but thank our lucky stars we made it! Paris bound!!

We arrived in Paris and headed straight to our Airbnb to meet Violet, our host's house keeper and friend. Violet was from Kenya and so delightful, we chatted for a bit and collapsed when she left. We decided to go try to find some dinner but surprise the girls with walking by to see the Eiffel Tower first...we literally rounded the back of the apartment and this was the view:

Lyra shouted, "There's the Eiffel Tower!!" It was pure delight for the first 2 minutes and then was hilariously and terribly anticlimactic. We may have reached our limit for the roller coaster ride that was the day. That was. so. crazy.

So we found a great little restaurant, grabbed some panini's, ate on the way home and dropped the kids off at the apartment. Jorge and I headed to a pub right next to the apartment and drank and laughed and practiced our French with a VERY fun and kind bartender and shook our heads to that day and re-lived the madness...and we were so happy to be alone and in this whole bigger adventure that is this family we made, together.

a picture we found made by Lucy when we got home. Yes, it was just like this.

a picture we found made by Lucy when we got home. Yes, it was just like this.

Day 3- the beauty of walls and ditches

The little neighborhood we are in is known for it's wonderful Turkish food so we wanted to make sure we had a chance to try some. Just down the block was a sweet little patisserie with a kind Turkish man we got to know as Jorge and I went to grab coffee there every morning. We picked up some borek for the kids to try. Borek is a long savory pastry filled with potatoes, spinach or feta cheese. Really yummy! 

 

The crew wasn't moving quite as fast that morning (i.e. Some people did NOT want to leave their beds, not even for London) so we started the day much more slowly. We eventually made our way to Shoreditch....ohhhh, Shoreditch. SO MUCH TO SAY. 

I totally get why it's the hipster's paradise, it's any city loving person's JACKPOT. Street art, incredible food, shops...SO many places to wander. It was the tiniest bit painful because it was one of those moments when I realized I could have spent all 3 days there on a couples trip BUT that isn't the trip we are on and even just a few hours was awesome. 

Just as as we realized the level of awesomeness we were in, Jorge looked at me and the time and realized all the dilly dallying earlier caught up with us- he and Jack needed to leave to catch a show at the science museum, like 5 minutes after we got there. I felt bad for them and also realized this meant tube navigation for me...which made me both a little nervous and excited. More about that in a minute. 

So off they went, while Josiah, Lyra, Lucy and I checked out the Brick Lane Market. So while the sweet, local Broadway market felt all about community, the Brick Lane Market felt like you stepped into a GIANT world market. I loved both for different reasons.

People were shoulder to shoulder everywhere you went (even lining the streets), with literally food from anywhere you can imagine. It was like if you just threw a dart at a map, you could have food from that place and not just an okay version, the most beautiful, yummiest food from that place. It was so insane. I'm sure I sound like Pollyanna world traveler, but you guys, IT WAS TRUE, each place has been crazier than the last.

 

While this is all so amazing, what was tricky was keeping track of the kids in a big crowd with so many interesting things/people/food. You have to have your mama hawk eyes on at all times- and this is draining but also worth it. 

Josiah went off to explore while the girls and I went to check out the art/clothing/maker booths in the back. It was a little quieter and easier to get through. We came across this tiny booth with leaves all on the wall. When we got closer you could see these very tiny little people carved from wood hanging from the leaves, like they were flying away...they were so enchanting and dear. Lucy and I were just sort of speechless together. 

We started to ask the artist a million questions, we couldn't help ourselves! Irma, the artist, is from Argentina and has been making them for years. She said when she arrived in London she was sitting at a park one day, worried and had no idea how she was going to pay her rent. Irma looked up and leaves started falling around her, it was her sign and the little people were born. 

Lucy (@lucysalgadoart on Instagram) wanted to show Irma her little people creations and she looked at each picture with so much interest and kindness. I WAS DYING inside. I think my mother heart was about to burst out of my chest because these are the exact kinds of experiences you hope/pray for when you are exploring the world with your kids- but you don't know how they will happen or what it will look like exactly. It was just really sweet, for all of us. 

Irma suggested that she and Lucy do something together, and that we should exchange information. Lucy's eyes lit up so wide and big. Doing art with a fellow artist around the world? Yes please!!! We had to leave to go find some cash (which was it's own debacle but I will save you for the sake of this lovely story) but when we returned, Irma hugged the girls and we snapped a picture together. 

Minutes later after we left I turned and said to Lucy, "Maybe we can be friends with Irma!" And my kid, already 100 light years ahead of me said, "In my opinion, we already are."

Yes, yes we are. 

High from our experience and tired from the crowd, we finally decided on some food and retreated to quiet place to eat...but then the girls were done. I was SO not done. I met some young chefs making crazy delicious banana desert concoctions (called The Dirty Banana)  and chatted about their new business for a bit... Dessert bought me some time but it was clear everyone wanted to go, so we went. 

Up to this point, Jorge did all the navigation. I told him I felt like the Von Trap family, with Captain Von Trap leading us through the Alps, except in our case, the tube. You don't have to think too much, you just go where Jorgie tells you to go- tube, connecting lines, up these stairs , get on this bus- and he magically (and very smoothly) gets you there. My partner does this like breathing, I never looked at one single map.

This sounds great, no? Except I probably shoulda downloaded that app he mentioned AND looked at one map BEFORE we parted. ...but thank god for google. While I am so nervous in these situations, I also LOVE conquering my fear and the challenge. So after a bit of wrangling, and double, double checking (and conferring with Josiah who has his father's sense of direction) I got us on the right tube and took us on a lovely jaunt through Green Park to Buckingham Palace. The only problem was we could not find Jorge and Jack. After an hour of hilarious texting, "I am right here in front of the gates, where ARE you?!!", we figured out WE WERE AT THE WRONG PALACE. 

We said Kensington, NOT Buckingham!! ....so at first I was all annoyed until I realized it was MY FAULT...in all my "I didn't upload the right tube app" shame and confusion, I missed the palace info. So then I was all "I am SO sorry!!!!" And Salgado was ever so patient. ...and now I had another opportunity to navigate- the bus system this time. 

I felt strangely proud and was totally getting the hang of being Captain Von Trap for a bit. When we finally found Jorge and Jack at Kensington, it started to rain ....and the giant trip wall rose up out of the ground. We lost so much time, it was cold, the kids were tired....and the melt down began, mine included.  

We had spent the first couple days doing fun/light/local things, thinking we would do a sweep of the cultural sites on the last day- but with the late start, the navigation mishap and then rain... It sank in. We would NOT be seeing the rest. Kids were whining for souvenirs and crying because their feet hurt and generally pissy about it all and I was thinking- WE ARE IN LONDON PEOPLE!!! Half way across the world, at these amazing places!!!! COME ON!

....and I instantly felt terrible that I hadn't thought this through better, and that we spent so much time on the cultural/local stuff and had not seen all the educational things and now I have difficult kids that just want stuff and aren't appreciating all that is here and why am I so intense about EVERYTHING, it's FINE and on and on in my head, you may know how this spiral goes. 

So then *I* was sullen and pissy while we walked home in the rain, and disappointed in myself and my family....because sometimes you just are.  World travel or no world travel. 

But thank goodness for mundane jobs like walking to the market and figuring out what to have for dinner because it is required and gives you time to sort things out in your head, reframe, get perspective ....or rather think terrible thoughts and buy ice cream. ...and somewhere in all there (along with having the most even partner ever to listen to your ranting) I kind of realized this is how life and travel ARE. You are not immune to your own humanity because you are on an adventure- it only heightens it probably...which is why even more grace is required ...for everyone. 

So after a weepy dinner and acknowledgement of all the feelings for everyone, rest was true grace and the best medicine. Sleep, it's always sleep.

more tomorrow...

--p

 

 

 

Day 4 - London / Paris #!&^@)#@^%#!

Just a quick heads up, there will be cuss words in this post. Like shit. SHIT!! And maybe the F word, but I don't know yet.

Let's dive right into it... I forgot the passports. But it's not like I forgot them at a hotel or anything, I forgot them at our AirBnB, which I made sure was completely and safely locked for our host after we left. I hid our passports so well, I made sure even I couldn't get to them or apparently remember them. So here we were, passing time at a patisserie before our train to Paris when it hit that we didn't have the passports with us. We were having a lovely time, Lyra made a friend, my flat white was delicious, and we were just free as birds. Panic. shit. Shit. SHIT. F*******CK. SHIT!! Lots of other cuss words... We called our host, who was surprisingly calm but nowhere near the vicinity and she recommended we hit the buttons until someone answered the door and let us in. Well, that would only get us into the building, not into her apartment. That would require a little hand possibly making it's way down the mail slot. So Lucy and I ran to the apartment that was 8 minutes away (Oh, and we only had about an hour to get to the train station at this point, and we were 40 minutes away) and rang buttons and one of her neighbors answered and let us in. Once we got into the building, we quickly knew no hand was going down that slot. That same neighbor that let us into the building came to our rescue again with a coat hanger. At that point I stuck my cell phone in the mail slot, turned on the front facing camera, and as Lucy held the phone and then Patience held it in the slot, I spent the next few minutes praying/cussing/praying/cussing some more/hoping/ and finally fishing those damm keys out with the wire hanger through the mail slot. At one point Lucy asked me if it was ok if she cussed, and I said if there was ever a time that it was appropriate, it was now. The one member of the family that keeps reminding us that we shouldn't cuss let out a hearty, deep and well felt "SHIT" and then a heavy sigh. BUT WE GOT THE KEYS OUT. I was shaking, relieved and oh so happy that the stupid plan actually worked. Got the passports, and then ran like crazy to make the bus and metro. We got to the station with 13 minutes to spare... but *womp*  *womp* boarding had closed for the train to Paris. Thankfully, another train was heading out in one hour, and we were re-booked without any fees. After all the craziness of the day... we finally made it to Paris. We hustled, ran, fell, scraped our knees, cried and almost missed a second train, but we made it. We're here, and one look at the Eiffel Tower glittering tonight made it all right.

I'll let Patience fill in the rest of the day...we're learning lots of lessons on what it means to be a traveler, expectations, traveling with kids and how to help six people get their fill.

Notes from today:

I will never forget passports again

I will NEVER forget passports again

Six hours in Paris, and we have fallen in love with it.

The bread. The wine. The people!!

We had a great time at a pub and had a really fun time with the bartender. First night in Paris was pretty great.

This crew of travelers did good today

This crew of travelers did good today

Paris! Our view from our AirBnB

Paris! Our view from our AirBnB

Tuto greeted us at the apartment!

Tuto greeted us at the apartment!

The Eiffel Tower!

The Eiffel Tower!

Some much needed drinks after this day! Bonne soiree!

Some much needed drinks after this day! Bonne soiree!

Day 2-catch up

I am so behind, I know, but I'm so afraid I'll forget all these little thoughts and memories.

So I left off at the magical bread, but I forgot the tea.

 

The girls noticed that Hannah had some tea with The Gruffalo on the box. This instantly made the tea oh so interesting! Just like good little proper British children, they have been having tea 2-3 times a day ever since. Hannah's bird mug was a total bonus too! (in case you want to check it out- https://youtu.be/cVkj4McR1Fo )

We heard that Borough Market and Brixton were all the market rage, but since we were now enchanted with our new Hackney roots, we decided to check out Broadway Market.

OH. MY. WORD. This market, you guys, I can't even. It was full of the most beautiful whole foods I have ever seen. There is just something about a neighborhood market- the good food, the artisans, the makers, the performers, the dogs and kids, it all feels like community to me.

I also felt very proud of #RVA, we are on our way to a market like this, and very much holding our own.  BUT if you ever find your way to Hackney, please have a Whoopie pie from Violet (www.violetcakes.com ) for me or the mushroom risotto with like 5 different exotic mushrooms from that guy at the market....wish I remembered his name, that was the risotto OF MY LIFE.

Josiah and Jack were happy to have some freedom and wander time to be on their own. They met a really rad guy from Organikrocka.com who made ethically made/organic t-shirts. He took the time to explain his art to them. Stranger goodness for sure.

I swear, I could wander neighborhoods, cafes, parks and markets in a 2 mile radius, just meeting various folks and be so, so happy. I left so full from the market, it made me really think about the kind of travel we are doing. I think because this trip was shorter we are straddling the line of doing touristy sorts of things along with living in a place and experiencing a culture/place. It's a weird balance and it was good to reflect for the future.

We left straight from the market to see some shows. The girls saw Wicked and the boys went to Stomp. The older boys had no interest in Wicked, except Jorge, he totally wanted to see it...but Stomp is just so rad, it all seemed to work out.

So in honor of my mother Ginny Hammond, and her you-make-your-own-good-time motto, I promptly bought the $25 limited view and no leg room seats in the balcony. The second I hit purchase, I was nervous and prepped the girls for the bad seat sitch- except the seats were totally awesome. You had to lean over the balcony just a bit and if I had the pound to buy the booster seats for the girls- they wouldn't have had to even do that...BUT kids are a little wiggly, so the space was perfect.

The girls were mesmerized and LOVED every second. It was the first show Lyra had ever been to and Lucy was too little to remember hers, so it felt new all around. Their eyes lit up at every song they knew and Wicked has about a million good messages in it...it was so lovely. We also happened to be part of the show when the 7 millionth person had seen the musical. 7 MILLION people!

The boys said Stomp was every bit as good- and they got bumped up from their $30 limited view seats, so the universe shined on our musical loving family.

From there we went to the London Eye, which was our big splurge. It's a gigantic ferris wheel of sorts and has some crazy views of the city. It was cool, but certainly didn't have the wow factor we thought. It was just one more reminder that you probably don't need all these crazy tourist things to make a trip memorable.



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Our last stop of the night was Picadilly Circus- just think Times Square. I think we spent a whole 45 minutes there and I could have been done at about minute 15.....but there was a a street performer there blowing bubbles....big, big bubbles. SO simple and yet so enjoyable. The entire crowd was cheering and the girls were out of their minds....these are terrible pics but you can still see the mad JOY on their faces. Can't wait to get to the real pics soon....The bubble guy was raising money for a trip to Australia...he was just brilliant. 

more to come, Shoreditch, Irma the artist and the moment we hit the GIANT travel wall....

 

 

Day 3 - London

One word - TIRED AND GROUCHY. 

Not sure if this is normal, but wow, everybody was slow to go this morning. We eventually got going a little later than we wanted to, but once out the door we headed towards Shoreditch and the Brick Lane Market. That's where P, Josiah, Lyra and Lucy stayed while Jack and I headed to the Science Museum. Jack and I got our nerd on, and caught an Imax and wandered the museum, while the rest of the crew had fun at the market. We eventually all caught up at Kensington Palace, where Jack and I had a fun time people and dog watching while listening to the Beatles. P and I got our palaces mixed and she ended up at Buckingham. After we got it all sorted they met up with us and we walked around the grounds for a bit until it started raining a bit (literally and figuratively.) That's about when moods and temperaments shifted a bit, and let's just say some of the group started to break down. We made the executive decision to head back to the flat and call it a day before it got any worse. We said traveling with kids would be fun and rewarding, right??? Just kidding...it's the BEST. No, seriously...it's been amazing so far but we definitely felt the tiredness today. Calling it a bit earlier today since we travel to Paris tomorrow and we want to sneak some more of London in tomorrow before we go.

Notes from today:

All the dogs at Kensington Gardens were off leash! What?? They were all so well behaved too. Our dogs would have been goners.

There are markets everywhere. London's market game is very strong.

The sun came out for a little bit today... that was nice.

I finally got the look right thing down, just in time to leave. I'm kinda glad we didn't rent a car, I would have smashed it right away.

Our AirBnB

Our AirBnB

Markets everywhere!

Markets everywhere!

The National History Museum

The National History Museum

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

It's fall in London!

It's fall in London!


Day 2 - London

Just a quick note on our travel diary... I'll (Jorge) will give the quick and dirty recaps of the day with some pictures. Patience will definitely come behind with the pretty... All the nice words and pictures I can't write or take. On to day two...

 

Whoa, day 2 was a full day for everyone! We started slow this morning, making sure everyone had the sleep they needed. The girls were up before the boys, and they made their way to a bakery and came back with some amazing breads and croissants. After a delicious breakfast (and strong espresso) we made our way over to Broadway Market. The market was amazing... The smells and sounds were incredible... The food and desserts were so good!! This was definitely a great find! Staying in Hackney has been so great, very diverse. At the grocery store I heard Spanish, French and of course English. I also had a nice man wave me to the front of the line since I only had two items. The four or five other people in line didn't seem to mind... Caught me off guard, but I couldn't imagine that happening back home.

We had a great time at the market, then made our way downtown to catch a couple of shows. The girls went to Wicked, while the boys did Stomp. Afterwards, a quick sushi stop and then made our way to the London Eye. (Insane views!!) Finished the night with some souvenir shopping, a quick late night snack and back on the tube home. Everyone was a trooper today!!

Notes from today: 

The kiddos have gotten really comfortable in the tube. They usually go ahead of us and wait at the platforms. 

Diet coke tastes so much better here. 

The Brits have been very friendly. I've fallen in love with their accent.

Netflix in the UK is a tiny little different. Our login works here though.

 

 

Broadway Market

Broadway Market

The boys tolerating me taking their picture.

The boys tolerating me taking their picture.

The view from the London Eye

The view from the London Eye

On the tube! She didn't want to show her smile. 

On the tube! She didn't want to show her smile. 

Day 1 cont...squirrels, Hannah and magical food

After a claustrophobic ride on the tube that sent us all to the edge, we arrived at the Bethnal Green station. In a moment of pure divine goodness, there happened to be a park right by the station. While Jorge got his navigation bearings, Josiah sat on a bench and made friends with a squirrel. In like a matter of five minutes, the squirrel had eaten directly from all the kids' hands....urban wildlife is all kinds of exciting. The kids were delirious...it is already one of their best memories so far, that whole 5 minutes.

We heard Bethnal Green/London Fields/Hackney is/are the new Shoreditch but it mostly reminded us of Brooklyn. I couldn't believe how familiar Hackney felt and how quickly we felt very much at home here. Pocket neighborhoods seem to be our jam.

We met Hannah, our Airbnb host in Hackney at her lovely, lovely flat. It's a million times better to hear about a neighborhood from someone who lives there. She was warm, funny and kind. Prosecco for us and shortbread treats for the kids were waiting in the perfectly efficient kitchen. She let us know which local pub was good for what and when. Pro tip- avoid the Dolphin unless it's past 2 am and you are already very buzzed. This kind host never blinked an eye as Lyra promptly took her shoes off and followed her around like a puppy dog through the full tour of the house. ...and I could have listened to her say "brilliant" for forever. Airbnb never disappoints.

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  At the end of the longest day ever, Jorge and I wandered Hackney and got some Franco Manca- www.francomanca.co/uk  the most serious wood fire sourdough pizza....oh my, so, so delicious...and the cider options were fantastic- Crate Brewery Cider was just perfect. www.cratebrewery.com

We crashed hard and fast...happy to be in a home, even if it wasn't ours, together.

Day 2- early

On Saturday morning, the girls and I set out to find E5 Bakehouse - www.e5bakehouse.com - an artisan bakery and coffee shop in London Fields. I always imagine that we are super cool and kinda fit in when we go places but we were WAY too cheery and excited and totally stuck out like eager tourists...the locals looked like, "OH MY LORD, the tourists found our magical bread, the party is over now. " ....we didn't even care though, the wood fire bread, croissants and pastries were worth EVERYTHING. I can't tell you what whole food made by people who obviously care deeply about their craft does for my soul. Lyra left a sticker, hope it won over the brits, if not, we'll keep tryin', anything for kindness and bread.

I am slowly learning the magic of travel is all the little things that happen inbetween...the conversations while you are lost, the hand holding, the discoveries of everything new, the bus rides, the uninterrupted time together.

markets, more magical food, shows, eyes, and bubbles tomorrow...sleep well friends.

-p

Day 1 x2

P here....just checking in with some thoughts from our travels so far.

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I made these little stickers to leave in public places for our little bit of guerrilla kindness offering to the world...Lyra can't stop leaving them everywhere, the stash is going quick because I was kicking myself I didn't make some in French....ahhhh, next time! 

It was a crazy long day of travel....this dear girl rode 1 bus, 2 planes, a  train, the underground and 1 double decker bus...all through the night. Her world traveler heart was almost worn out, but she held on. Lyra, on the other hand, was breathing travel like oxygen, the kid could. not. get. enough. 

 

The travel journal from the Koshocks was the best idea/gift ever. I'm not sure how but it turned educational about all sort of things- not "how to make love" ....it has become this little spot for doodles, notes and quotes...the best quotes so far:  "you guys, let's stand over here so we can be ourselves..."- reasons not to be near a crowd- Jorge. "Is that where people make phone calls?" Lyra, upon seeing a phone booth and phones with cords for the first time in her life. "well, yes, and the place where super heroes change into their costumes." - Lucy "look out Dr. Pepper, I am coming for you." -Jack, realizing vacation = sugar drink magic, and we all decided this would also be something Gene from Bob's Burgers would say. "so travel is about time...and waiting, lots of waiting." -Lyra, on the work of getting anywhere awesome. "in our country..." - a new phrase added to our conversation, the world is BIGGER than RVA for us now.  "I thought the palace would be ummmm, a little more palatial?....I agree, it could use more." -Jorge and Josiah about Buckingham Palace. "you guys, do you see the GOLD everywhere?! -patience  "I think this is crazy, a tourist trap and who needs a house this big?" - Jack about Buckingham- these are the hilarious responses/pitfalls of life changes (i.e. getting rid of 1/2 of all you own)... look for Jack on a motorcycle in Shoreditch next week. ......part 2 coming soon- Hackney and magical food!!     

The travel journal from the Koshocks was the best idea/gift ever. I'm not sure how but it turned educational about all sort of things- not "how to make love" ....it has become this little spot for doodles, notes and quotes...the best quotes so far: 

"you guys, let's stand over here so we can be ourselves..."- reasons not to be near a crowd- Jorge.

"Is that where people make phone calls?" Lyra, upon seeing a phone booth and phones with cords for the first time in her life.

"well, yes, and the place where super heroes change into their costumes." - Lucy

"look out Dr. Pepper, I am coming for you." -Jack, realizing vacation = sugar drink magic, and we all decided this would also be something Gene from Bob's Burgers would say.

"so travel is about time...and waiting, lots of waiting." -Lyra, on the work of getting anywhere awesome.

"in our country..." - a new phrase added to our conversation, the world is BIGGER than RVA for us now. 

"I thought the palace would be ummmm, a little more palatial?....I agree, it could use more." -Jorge and Josiah about Buckingham Palace. "you guys, do you see the GOLD everywhere?! -patience 

"I think this is crazy, a tourist trap and who needs a house this big?" - Jack about Buckingham- these are the hilarious responses/pitfalls of life changes (i.e. getting rid of 1/2 of all you own)... look for Jack on a motorcycle in Shoreditch next week.

......part 2 coming soon- Hackney and magical food!! 

 

 

Day 1

We made it! Our amazing little crew of travelers did a great job with an overnight flight and a full day of moving around London getting a feel for the city. After a hectic (and claustrophobic) ride through the tube, we finally made our way to meet our AirBnB host and have settled in a great flat for the evening. P and I took a walk to get everyone some pizza from a yummy shop that was recommended. After a quick dinner, everyone (but me) has literally passed out. 

A couple of quick observations from day one... 

Seriously... Look right!

Seriously... Look right!

These reminders are life savers. Cars (and buses) do not stop here. 

The city is amazingly clean, but I hardly saw a trash can.

I was hoping the Queen's palace would be a bit more over the top.

Lyra likes a young Prince William vs today's Prince William. 

After the craziness of the tube, we rode the bus to our AirBnB. Our hostess Hannah was awesome and very inviting, and we love our home for the next couple of days. She even greeted us with a bottle of Prosecco and some other goodies!

Tomorrow we'll ride a "headless" bus, as Lyra had been calling the open air ones.  

Everyone is tired, but a good night's sleep will put us on schedule for a great day tomorrow of exploring! -j

 (The Queen shared her chocolates with us)

 (The Queen shared her chocolates with us)

Westminster Cathedral

Westminster Cathedral

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This was everyone's make a face how you feel pic. Everyone was extremely tired or grumpy by this point. 

This was everyone's make a face how you feel pic. Everyone was extremely tired or grumpy by this point.