Sunday, July 28, 2013

Home Sweet Temporary Home

After a whirlwind 10 day trip through 3 countries, we are back home in Nijmegen.    We called our families tonight and it seems like so long ago that we were in Belgium. 

It was amazing to talk to my grandfather tonight and hear his excitement when he asked if we possibly went to Liege in Belgium!  

What an amazing vacation that we had!  It's hard to believe that we took the kids on such an amazing trip and that we actually went to the top of the Eiffel Tower!!   

The trip home today was rather uneventful!   We made it home from Paris in 4 hours and 50 minutes with only one bathroom stop.  I don't know what I was anticipating but I was pleasantly surprised by our little travelers!  Granted it is now almost 11 pm and they are both wide awake!  

Tonight consisted of a home cooked meal (finally) and a bottle of wine (possibly 2 by the time we actually hit the sack).  Tomorrow, we are excited to show Kerri our sweet town of Nijmegen!  It's Market Day in the town centre!   We'll be shopping away!

I cannot believe that it is already the end of July and that our trip is nearing the end! I'm not ready to come home! We still have so much to see!    Here's a few of our favorite pictures from our last day in Paris .  KJ was desperate for a picture that was an illusion!  She looks like a giant with the Tower in the picture below.  We'll be framing this one on her wall aside her Eiffel Tower wall decal.   

Our very own Rusty!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Closing out the week

We are closing out our road trip vacation to Belgium and France with a bang.  Today we headed back to Disney for our last day of our passes.  We went to the Studio Park and Magic Kingdom.  We conquered all but three rides in both parks - Crushes Coaster, The Ferry Boat (is that really even a ride?), and RC Racers.    Kayla went on Rockin Roller Coaster a grand total of 6 times and we rode Pirates at least a dozen over the course of the week.  Roman's favorite was Star Tours and the Parachute Drop (from Toy Story).   Kerri was a trooper and jet lag hasn't set in yet...she went on almost all of the BIG rides in both parks.   We opted not to stay for the fireworks tonight and left the park about 15 minutes before they were set to go off.  Fortunately, we made this choice because 2 minutes before the shuttle arrives, the skies opened up and it started to pour!

Next week, I'll post more about my thoughts on the Disney experience when I have more time to gather my thoughts and sit and concentrate.   I'll say this...It does not even compare to the Disney experience in FL or CA.   I am glad that we came and the kids enjoyed themselves but I think it is no where near  the caliber of the USA parks. 

Tomorrow, we are heading to Paris for one last trip.  We're planning to see the Eiffel Tower again and get some good pictures and to hopefully see the Statue of Liberty before packing up the car and getting ready to venture back to Nijmegen! 
The cotton candy was bigger than our heads!

One last ride on Pirates of the Caribbean

Thursday, July 25, 2013

She's here!

This morning, Bill got up early a headed to the train station to pick up our special visitor!   Kerri came to see us!  Just a few days after getting home from Western Canada, she was booking her plane ticket to Paris!  She'll be spending a few days with us in Paris and then will be coming back to Nijmegen with us! 

She hit the ground running today!  We went to the Louvre, Notre Dame, and The Arc de Triumphe today.  We also enjoyed a boat tour!   This evening, we went up to the top of the Arc at the perfect time!  We got to see the Eiffel Tower light up with twinkles for several minutes right after 10 pm!  It was so beautiful!

The Louvre is massive in size!  We were there for just about 4 hours today and saw just three halls...and that was breezing through.  The Mona Lisa - INCREDIBLE!   We really loved seeing the Ancient Egypt exhibit.  Over 6,000 Egyptian artifacts - Kayla was in her glory! 

Tomorrow, one last day at Disney!    Happy 2nd birthday to our sweet nephew, Kerian!  We hope you have a great day celebrating buddy!  Eat lots of cake!!! 


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

When You Wish Upon a Star...

When you wish upon a star....your parents let you stay up super late to see the fireworks at Disney!

We got a little bit of a later start to Disney this morning with all intentions to stay well into the evening.  Today was pretty crowded but we optimized the use of the FastPass and Baby Swap tickets to our advantage.  So much so that we road the Buzz Lightyear ride 3 times today!  Fortunately, when we were taking a dinner break at Planet Hollywood out in the Disney Village, it started to get gray and thunder and lightening were present.  As we re-entered the park, many, MANY people were leaving.  Ride lines were minimal this evening.  We went on Pirates 4 times with no wait!  I even got right onto Space Mountain!   We had a great time in the park today but our favorite part was by far the nighttime Spectacular Show- fireworks, lasers, and the castle was transformed to have images projected on it!    
Tomorrow we are up bright and early to pick up our special visitor from the train station then we are heading to the Paris City Center for the day. 

Want to see where our little furry friend Mac has been so far?   Follow Immaculata on Facebook!   A few of our Mac pictures were posted today!  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Taking in the sights

While it seems that most of the world was anxiously awaiting the royal baby debut, we were out gallivanting around Paris!  Our first stop today was at the Notre Dame Catherdal.  First we visited the crypts and learned a lot about the historical area.  Next, we went inside the church and were in awe with all of the décor, stained glass, and shrines throughout.  The rose windows were spectacular in details.  Don't worry Sue - I took pictures of each of them for you!   Afterwards, we hopped in line to go up to the top of the towers.  After waiting in line for well over an hour and inching our way to the front few families, suddenly it got very windy and a few minutes later the skies opened up and there was a torrential downpour!  The monument was closed indefinitely.  When the rain tapered off, we got in line again but thunder and lightening still persisted so the towers were not reopened yet. After waiting it out for a bit, we decided to head to another location to try to salvage the rest of the day.  We hope to go back again, but if we don't make it, we'll be okay with that also.  Given that there is currently construction going on in one tower and the famous bell is not visible, it makes it slightly easier to say that we tried. 

Next, we headed to La Conciergerie, which was the former royal palace and the prison. Thousands of prisoners were taken here during the French Revolution.   One of the most notable was Queen Marie Antoinette.

We then continued our day by walking along the Seine River up to the Louvre.  While the building itself is closed on Tuesdays, the famous pyramid structure there as well as the outside grounds, including several fountains.   After dipping our feet into the fountains we went to go sail boats in the Jardin Des Tuileries.  Roman was beyond excited for this!  It was his "must do" for Paris. 

We then hopped the metro and headed over to the Arc de Triomphe and climbed some more spiral stairs (I wonder how many total I'll climb up and down during this summer!?!)  up to the top to get the most breathtaking view of the city!  The Arc is positioned right in the middle of the world's largest round about.  Looking down at the traffic below was a bit concerning.  I could NEVER drive there!  You'd find me with the car in park crying hysterically!    At the top of the Arc, Kayla had a grand old time trying to snap some fun pictures with the Eiffel Tower that was visible.  She was pretending to pinch it and lean on it.  I think she must have hacked into my Pinterest account.  (she also did this at the Louvre). 

After a long few days of sightseeing, we are hoping to sleep in tomorrow and head to Disney later on in the day.  Maybe we'll make it til the fireworks tomorrow night.  We have just a few more rides to check off before we've done them all.

I should also mention that we are anticipating our first visitor later on this week.  Stay tuned to see who meets us in Paris and then is brave enough to ride to Nijmegen in a VW Golf with us!  Did I mention, it's a 6 hour car ride!?!   This person is also bringing over more oatmeal for our Roman!!!!  WHEW!!!!
Outside Norte Dame
 Sitting with our feet in the fountain at the Louvre
 Sailing  boats at the Jardin Des Tuileries 
View from atop the Arc De Triomphe
 Can you spot Bill and Kayla at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?  Roman and I snapped this picture from the video feed at the top of the monument.  (Top right at the rope line...Kayla has on purple)

***While I was typing this entry Bill turned on the TV.  He found a bocce ball tournament being played!  Yup!  The sports channel is airing bocce ball. I'm not quite sure what to make of this! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

280 Meters Up

Today was a BIG day for Kayla.  It was Eiffel Tower Day!  For those of you who do not know, Kayla LOVES, LOVES, LOVES the Eiffel Tower.  She has a giant decal on the wall in her room, Tower earrings, shirts, and even a Painting with a Twist picture that I made specially for her.   She's been asking to come here for quite some time now and Bill and I are so glad that we are able to provide her with this opportunity.      

The look on her face when she spotted the tower for the first time when we left the metro station was priceless!  She loved it!  Roman loved it.  We all loved it!  The tower was MASSIVE!  I don't think anything can truly do it justice until you see it with your own eyes!  Daddy came through with flying colors also!  He was able to order Summit tickets online the day before we left on our road trip!  After going through the surprisingly very short reservation line, e journeyed up an elevator to the second platform and all sighed at the stunning views!  We then stood in line for the lift to the summit.  Even though it appeared long, it moved rather quickly.  After another elevator ride, we arrived to the summit.  What a majestic panoramic view of Paris!  I think I snapped a picture from every inch of the summit! 

After visiting the Eiffel Tower, we headed over to the Hotel De Invalides.  We saw Napoleon's tomb and many artifacts from wars.  The area of the museum where the crypts were was simply beautiful.  The walls and ceilings were painted with beautiful murals and marble was throughout! 

Tomorrow, we are heading back to downtown Paris again to see some more sights on our Bucket Lists.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Magical Moments

It was another day full of Disney Fun for the D'Eletto family.   We were at the parks for over 12 hours and there only a handful of rides that we haven't done yet.  Truly, just a handful...5 rides total between both parks are all that we haven't done!  Magic Kingdom, we are missing the ferry boat and the train.  Disney Studio - Magic, Carpets, RC Racers, and Crush's Coaster (although that had an 80 minute wait just minutes after the park opened...that may be one we don't do).  Kayla's favorite ride of the day was Rockin Roller Coaster (she did it twice) and Roman loved the Toy Soldier Parachute Drop.  Both kids braved the Tower of Terror with me but I don't think Roman wants to do it again!  I think he was truly trying to secretly impress his sister with the brave face!   This morning we hit up Disney Studios and had a great time.  It is a scaled down version of the Florida park - significantly.  It was awesome though that a whole section of the park was dedicated to Toy Story...rides and photo opts!  We saw a motor stunt show and Stitch Live.  Stitch Live is similar to Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot and is very interactive.  During the show, Stitch picked Roman out as having the best monkey face and had a whole conversation with him, took a picture of him with his digital camera, then gobbled it up to keep our boy near and dear to his heart!  It was something R talked about the rest of the day.   

After Disney Studios we went to Rainforest Café for an early dinner. It was great to have a sit down meal and re-energize.  The kids and I have never been to a Rainforest Café!  What an amazing experience.  I wish there was one closer to our house in the USA!  While throwing a euro cent into the fountain, Kayla managed to cut her arm on the wiring that surrounded it...she was okay but it was a long, shallow cut and the 4 band aids that Momma had did not cover it.  Never a dull moment. 

Then we headed to the Magic Kingdom.  The goal of the night was to ride the Buzz Light Year Ride and I can say - Mission Accomplished!  (Now may be an appropriate time to divert to say - Boy are they sticklers for the fast passes this park!  Don't try to use a fast pass two minutes before the start time...they will make you wait and get back in line!  Also, don't try to use it after your 1/2 hour window has passed!  We had a fast pass for Tower of Terror and the ride was down when we returned to ride.  The attendant at the time said we could come back at any point in the day without a problem to use them.  Of course when we went back, they initially denied us entry! Wow!  Nothing like home.)  Back on track...we got on some "highly desired" rides with very little wait this evening - Dumbo, Stat Tours, and Autopia were among them.   

I'd like to take a moment to introduce you to Mac.  Mac is the mascot for Immaculata University, my alma mater.  They are doing a campaign where alum and current students take pictures with Mac in awesome places around the world.  IU got word of our trip and my kids really wanted to show Mac what living in Europe was like.  After a few emails back and forth with the IU Communications office, I received a package at our hotel yesterday -AMAZING - with a Mac plush for each of the kids (which interprets to no fighting!)! We plan to take him with us on our trips and take pictures with him in various locations throughout Europe!  Today he visited the Magic Kingdom with us!  Be on the lookout to spot Mac in our pictures and on the Immaculata FB page.  

Up again bright and early tomorrow to explore the city of Paris!

A visit to the Magic Kingdom First Aide Station was needed for the cut arm. 

The boys and Mac riding on Dumbo the Flying Elephant 
In front of the castle after a long day in the park

 Guess who did the conga line with Goofy and Donald today!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

It's a Small World

I feel like we are in the real version of the ride "It's a Small World."  In just one week, we have been in 4 countries!  This time last Saturday we were in Germany then back to Netherlands, then scooted off to Belgium and now we are in France!  The kids were troopers on the 3 hour car ride and our Magellan got us here with no pit stops or deviations along the way!

We are staying at a beautiful hotel right on the Disney Golf Course right outside of the city center of Paris.   What did we do after we set down our bags and ate lunch....DISNEY OF COURSE!    I have to admit that I am very jealous of my 5 year old!  He's been to 3 Disney Resorts in just 5 years!  His first Disney trip was actually when I was 5 months pregnant with him, followed again when he was 7 months old, again when he was 2 and now!   Wow!  Next he'll be asking for the cruise or Tokyo!

The park was awesome!  It was a hot day but timing was in our favor for most rides.  We got on Star Tours in under 10 minutes!  The kids were both too small to ride Indiana and we know that Bill loves those movies so it was a Daddy must do ride.  The attendant hooked us up big time.  When we inquired about the "baby exchange" (their version of the Parent Swap), she let Bill go into the Fast Pass line (without the Fast Pass ticket).  He got on in less than 5 minutes and then he brought me out the "baby exchange voucher.  I immediately went through the exit and got right on the ride!  I mean, no sooner did I step foot on the platform, and I was ushered on to the ride!  It was awesome too! Nothing like the one in Florida.  It was a roller coaster and it even had a loop!  HOT DOG!   Of course we went on several of the big rides today!  Big Thunder Railroad, Star Tours, Pirates of the Caribbean, Teacups, Peter Pan, and Phantom Manor (aka - Haunted Mansion) were among them!  Roman is following in his sister's footsteps and loving the big rides!  He wasn't  even off of Big Thunder and he was asking to do it again!  One awesome difference is that you can actually go up inside of the castle!  I took a few pictures on the balcony tonight but the sun glare was a little too bright.  

After the early morning we had and all of the Disney excitement, we actually left before the fireworks were set off.   Because it's daylight so much longer, the fireworks don't go off until 11 at the earliest.  We'll see them one night this week!  The kids fell asleep within minutes tonight!   Tomorrow morning, we'll be going to Disney again. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Brussels Part 2

It's official - I am in love with this city!  It's spectacular and full of rich history!   Today was our museum day.  We started off at the Brussels Museum of Natural Sciences.  We are IN LOVE with the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philly (thanks to our fabulous neighbors) and had high expectations for this one.   It lived up to the high bar that the D'Eletto family set!  Dinosaurs Galore so we had one happy little 5 year old!  This museum is home to over 30 Iguanadons that were discovered...some of them are in still in the positions that they were found in!  We also saw an exhibit on baby animals, gems, sea life, the Arctic, and whales.    It was a fantastic morning and we spent over 3 hours in the museum.  We totally could have stayed there longer but we had more to see in the city! 

Next up, we trotted across a few parks and arrived at the "Musée Royal de l'Armée et d'Histoire Militaire" (Military Museum). It was HUGE and it was FREE!   We saw war planes, tankers, zeppelins, suits of armor, cannons, swords, and military weaponry.  The museum is in the midst of a renovation to include an entire section dedicated to World War II but there was still plenty to see and do.  If we didn't have the two children running from one display to another, I am sure that Bill could have easily spent the entire day in this museum.  One awesome part of this museum is that it is the only building that has access to the amazing Arc Cinquantenaire.  This Arc was built in 1880 by King Leopold commemorating the 50th anniversary of the independence of Belgium. It is graceful yet very dominating!   We had no idea that this was even near the museum yet alone part of it!  Walking through the park I told Bill that we "had to find it" and he came through with flying colors! 

No matter what city we go to, the party seems to follow us!  On Sunday, the king is abdicating the throne to give it to his son.  Parties are throughout the city, helicopters are flying above, and rows and rows of chairs, stages, and sound system equipment line the street in front of the Royal Palace.   We left Nijmegen a day early so we could get out of the city before the 4 Day Walk made it down our street to the finish line.  Yesterday and today it was celebrating the new king of Belgium, and tomorrow the Tour De France will be making its way through Paris when we arrive. 

It's early to bed tonight so we can get up at the crack of dawn to make our way to Paris!  Stay tuned for another country! 

Iguanadon Galore

Who knew?!? 

The beautiful Marrella Splenden Fossils

Standing in Front of the Arc Cinquantenaire

Atop the Arc 

Inside the Aviation Hall at the Military Museum

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Brussels, Belgium

Brussels is a truly magnificent city full of rich history!  Upon arriving, Kayla had to go check out the Smurf Store.   While the statue outside was fantastic, the "official" store left much to be desired.  It was small and overpriced. There was a total of 4 types of shirts in the entire place - 1 for boys, 1 girls, 1 woman, and 1 men's shirt.  Each kid did select and buy one figurine and then we were out of there. K was bummed.  She has been talking about the Smurf store since she first heard mention of Daddy coming to Europe.

After that disappointment, we needed a pick me up - off for some delicious Belgian chocolate!  Yum!  Each of us selected two pieces and they were truly the best chocolate I have EVER tasted!  Momma got dark coconut. Kayla got mango.  Roman opted for a vanilla caramel and Daddy got Lemon.  Guess where I'll be going back to tomorrow?!?

We walked by the Royal Palace, saw the Manneken Pis (the world famous statue of the little boy peeing), and had our breath taken away at the Grand Place.  Kayla was in awe there.  She's recently taken a liking to watching The History Channel and during commercials they feature various UNESCO World Heritage Sights in Europe - The Grand Place is one of them!  The architecture and attention to detail is truly remarkable!  Gold and statues are throughout the square all over the buildings!  AMAZING!!! 

Tomorrow, we'll explore more and head to a few local museums. 
Taste Testing Belgian Chocolate

Standing in the center of the Grand Place 
 Smurf Statue
Manneken Pis Statue

A Walk in Family History

This morning we packed up our little VW Golf and headed out on our official vacation of the summer.  While the entire summer is a vacation for myself and the kids, Bill still has to work most of the time.  He took off for the 10 days though. 

Where did we go on the first leg of our journey?  Another country, of course!  We headed to  Belgium.  Our first stop holds significant family history, a town where my grandfather was stationed during World War II - Liege, Belgium.  His favorite war story to tell of his time in Liege is of stealing eggs to make breakfast from a local farm!   We didn't tell him that we were going here because we want to surprise him next time we talk - PLEASE DON'T TELL HIM IF YOU TALK TO HIM! 

In Liege, we walked along the little streets that make up the town square, explored the beautiful Cathedrale Saint Paul De Liege (founded in the year 959!), and hiked to see an amazing view of the town.  I really wanted to see the view of the town from a bird's eye view.  There was no better way than to take on Montegne de Bueren...all 406 steep steps of it  (Whew, I quickly learned that I need to get back to the gym!)!  The view from the top of the first 374 steps - spectacular!  The view after going up another set of stairs a little further up the road - UNBELIEVABLE!  406 steps total!

Afterwards, we hopped in the car and set off to our next destination - Brussels!  We got to experience a bit of the city this evening but we'll explore even more tomorrow and I'll update with pictures and posts in another entry.  We did see some amazingly structured buildings, taste Belgian chocolate, the royal palace, and went to see the Smurf statue.

 Here's some pictures from Liege. 
St. Paul's Cathedral

Gearing up for our big climb up Montegne de Bueren
Go Speed Racer Kayla! See you at the top!
We all made it to the top of the first 374 stairs
At the very top - 406 steps later!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Gearing Up

We are loving the events that are taking place for the  day walk.  Concerts, fireworks, parades, marching bands, stands full of food, drinks, and souvenirs...what more can we ask for?    The walking route goes down our street on Friday but we'll be long gone by then so we'll miss cheering them along.

Tomorrow morning we are loading the car up for our big road trip of the summer.  We'll first be going to Belgium for a few days.  Then off to Paris for a week.  While Bill and I would love to go to Luxembourg, we are now going to play that by ear based upon how drained and wiped everyone is.  If we can swing it, we will but flexibility is the name of the game. 

We've had a great time trying to plan out everything that we want to see.  I'd be a lot less stressed out if I could actually obtain tickets for the Eiffel Tower!  Even though you can order them online, it seems that those allotted numbers are not available.   The kids are super excited and have been watching YouTube videos of the rides at Disneyland Paris!  Our must see agenda includes:
Disneyland, Eiffel Tower, Norte Dame, Jardin De Luxembourg, Arc de Triomphe, Lourve, Hotell Des Invalides, and possibly Versailles.   I'm sure we'll add other stops to our list along the way but these are the must sees taking all 4 opinions into account. 

Well off to go make lunch, pack up, and head out to enjoy the Walk event some more.  

Marrella Family -  Have fun in OCMD at Marrella-palooza and we can't wait to hear all of the stories!  Dad - no sleeping at FishTales this year!

Roman signing the 4 Day Walk Banner at the starting line 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bust a Move

The kids are loving the 4 Days celebrations!  Music is everywhere.  DJs and bands are set up all over town.  Here's a little video of Roman boogieing on down to the African drums.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

De 4 Daagse

Yesterday marked the beginning of the De 4 Daagse event in Nijmegen.  People come from all over the world to walk between 30 - 50k per day for four consecutive days through the streets of Nijmegen and the neighboring towns. Over the past week, we've watched tents, stages, starting lines, grand stand, pedestrian bridges, carnival rides, and temporary buildings being constructed all over the town.  We are not talking one or two structures. Giant structures all over town!   Bill and I agreed that the preparation and thought put into this event puts the Philly Welcome America celebration to shame. Trash cans are set up throughout the town, water fountains, extra bike racks, port o potties are all throughout the streets.  Giant, concert sized stages with lights and speakers are in the parks and city center.  It truly is one big festival throughout the entire town!  Over 1 million people are expected to be in the city over the course of this week.  Hotels are sold out for miles around!

The walk starts officially on Tuesday and goes through Friday.  Packet pick up began yesterday though so the celebration kicked off then.  We decided to go out in the town today and, boy, were we impressed with what we saw.   Yes, there were beer tents set up all over but it was a family friendly atmosphere.  Everyone was cordial, civil, kind, and polite!  We opted to explore the city centre and the waterfront today.  We went to St. Stevenskerk (the beautiful giant church) and climbed the stairs up to the top tower!  What a view!  Between that hike and the castle stairs yesterday, we are getting in good shape for the Eiffel Tower and Disney next week!  Kayla counted - 210 stairs to the top today. The kids found an awesome African drum circle taking place and got to bang out some rhythms and boogie on down.  There was free admission to the De Stratemakerstoren Museum today so we explored that.   It was a 16th century defense tower that was buried amidst a factory that was there for quite some time.  When the factory was demolished, the walls of the tower still remained and became this museum full of rich Nijmegen history.

Tomorrow, during the day, the kids and I will go explore the events taking place at some of our local parks and I'm sure we'll go out as a family in the town again in the evening after Bill gets home from work.  As I sit here this evening typing, I can hear a concert going on off in the distance.  This is an experience of a lifetime an I am so glad that our family gets to make these memories together.

Climbing the stairs of the Sint Stevenskerk Church Tower 
The view of the town centre from atop the church
Our little expats - Kayla is carrying the official 4 Day flag and Roman has the flag of the Netherlands in his hands