2023/08/22 – Day 30/31: The Journey Home

We were up at 04:30, which gave us time to gather our belongings, and enjoy a quick complementary breakfast from Hilton. We discovered this included a pre-packaged croissant and a piece of fruit. They had a bowl on the table with an orange, apple, banana, and peach. I guess it was for everyone to share who had to depart before the breakfast was served. We polished off the fruit and ate the pastry. It wasn’t our best meal but it gave us energy. At 05:15, we were all waiting for Addison, who insisted on showering before our flight. When he arrived, we all made our way to the bus stop.

FYI: if you are ever planning to stay in Zurich, be aware that most hotels offer free shuttle service from the airport, but charge a fee of 6CHF per person to shuttle you back to the airport. Since we still had our Swiss Travel Pass, we opted for the free public transit option.

Using our handy Google Maps, we figured out that we could take a set of stairs down the hill to a main road, which led to a crossroad where someone was already waiting for a bus. It was quite straight forward and highly recommended. The bus was quite crowded, and had standing room only. We packed in like sardines with our backpacks on and carryon suitcases with us. However, it was still early enough that it wasn’t unbearably hot yet, and we only had 2 stops.

When we got to the airport, we followed the crowd into the building and had to search for our ticket gate. There were several to choose from, but we needed to find where BA was located. Somehow, Addison and Tavis deciphered the map and led us to a ticket booth where they checked our passports and issued our tickets for all legs of the journey home. Then we made our way through security and waited to board the plane.

Onboard, Tavis and I were up front, and the kids sat together in the section behind us. It was a fairly short hop to Heathrow, and quite uneventful. We each got a meal which was nice.

When we arrived in Heathrow, we met at the gate after departing the plane. About 5 minutes later, I realized I had forgotten my water bottle. I ran back to the gate but the security guard there basically told me no one could get back on the plane and to send an email if it was very important but mostly that I shouldn’t expect to see it again and next time I have to take more care to remember my belongings. How Rude!

I met up with Tavis and the kids back at security. Apparently, Ari had also lost his water bottle. Oh well. We removed all of our liquids and had no major issues this time going through security. Tavis and Addison’s bags got searched but otherwise it was quick and nothing was removed. We went straight to the British Airways lounge as we had 2 hours to wait. It was a bit more tricky because we only had 2 Business Class tickets. Addison and I went through first with our electronic tickets on our phone. Luckily, we could just scan in, instead of talking to someone. A few minutes later, Ayva and Tavis came through with our paper tickets. Ari was casually walking with them. Tavis had no issues scanning his ticket, but Ayva’s wasn’t working. It caused just enough commotion to get Ari in, and the agent had a look at Ayva’s ticket and waved her in. We spent the next 2 hours relaxing, and eating the most amazing meal I’ve had in an airport!

A couple hours later, we boarding our flight to Austin. Tavis and I had the pods, but the kids were back in Premium Economy. It was a nine hour flight, and they came up a few times to let us know that they really appreciated the seats we booked to Europe better than the ones home. We didn’t have enough airmiles to get everyone up front both ways. They were still grateful that we brought them. Tavis, Ari, and Addison slept on the long flight. I couldn’t sleep, so I watched movies and read. It seemed to go by quickly.

We arrived in Austin, Texas around 17:00. We had to exit and go back in through security a 3rd time! This time, the people at security were extremely strict. All of us had our bags checked, and they would not let us through with the travel size wine opener. Funny how it has travelled around the world and in Texas we are told it is unsafe! We also got in trouble for forgetting to empty our water bottles and not taking our shoes off. They wanted to confiscate Ayva’s Costco water bottle, but we made them escort her outside to empty it. Then, I decided to check Ari’s bag (the wheels were already broken) because Tavis was making a scene, and I didn’t want to surrender the wine opener. I first went to the wrong gate agent, then stood in the wrong line. Then after waiting 30 minutes, was told to go to the first place that asked. It took an hour to get a bag checked, but the agent was nice and directed me to a different gate where security was much more lax and they were helping passengers empty water bottles and getting through quickly. No one was asked to remove shoes either. It took 5 minutes to get through. I met Tavis and the kids at our gate about 10 minutes before boarding our last flight to Seattle.

The last leg, we were all in Premium Economy. There was an obnoxious woman wth a dog behind us. I think she was tired and frustrated because they kept telling he to keep her dog in the crate. He tiny dog spent some time exploring under the seats and rubbing up against my legs, and the girl beside me. By the end of the flight, the passenger was referring to all of us in terms that were not very polite. When we got off the plane, we stopped at the bathrooms, As I was inside, I heard a commotion in the hall. Apparently the passenger with the dog was still upset and not being respectful of others. When we got to the gates to leave, there was a long lineup and the doors were closed. Apparently that same passenger managed to close the airport with security was detaining her. When the doors finally opened and we were able to leave, she was in handcuffs. I think everyone wanted to clap, but we all just pushed on with our heads down, and smiles on our faces.

We were all very tired, but we still had a 2 hour drive home. Ayva, Ari, and I went to get the checked bag, while Tavis and Addison went to get the car. The bag actually came quicker than expected and we went to meet Tavis. This proved to be more difficult than expected without a working phone. We walked to the shuttle area and thought we walked the entire length before returning to the original meeting point. As we got back inside the airport, I received a message through wifi and we went back to the shuttle pick up. Tavis had the shuttle stop to pick us up and we were on our way to the car.

The drive home was a blur. Tavis and I were both extremely tired after traveling for 30 hours. Atleast Tavis slept for a few hours. At one point, we were looking for a rest area, but as we got closer to the border we kept each other awake and finally arrived home at 01:00.

We went straight to bed! It was a long day of travel, and we all slept well in our own beds.

We had quite an adventure, and the memories we had will last a lifetime. I am proud of our kids for joining us on the trip through Europe. Even though they were tired through long days of travel and sightseeing, they didn’t complain much and were very mature and well behaved. I hope they continue their adventures as they go through life, and never fear the unknown.

2023/08/22 – Day 30: Switzerland (Thun)

Today was our last day in Switzerland. It was another beautiful day. We have had a lot of adventures, but we decided that we would let the kids sleep in. Everyone had a lazy morning and we caught the 10:36 bus to Spiez. Terris and Addison drove to Spiez because Terris has an appointment later today and it saves him from going all the way home. The rest of us caught the bus. We arrived in Spiez at 10:47, met up with Terris and Addison, and easily made it to platform 4 to catch the 10:50 train to Thun.

We arrived in Thun at 11:00. We walked through town to the river and watched people surfing by the dam. They used a rope to get to the rapids, then they let go and rode the waves. From there, we walked across the bridge above the dam. There were huge fish swimming under the bridge. We came out to a street that looked like it belonged in a movie set. I love how the Swiss flag is hung all down the street. We turned into what looked like a store, but was a tunnel that took us to level -7 of a parking lot. We took the elevator up to floor 0. Then got out and into another elevator that took us to a different floor 0. From there we walked out and we were at the foot of a huge castle!

We walked through the castle gates and had an amazing view of the city. We continued walking through the castle grounds on a path that took us all the way down to main street (back on floor -7). We toured the main street and some of the stores. We also walked to a few swimming spots. One reminded me of the waterslides. It was a section of the river that was fenced off. They had a slide and diving boards. You pay to get in and you can find a spot in the shade on the grass to put your towel and snacks while you swim. Further down, they had birds in a cage like the zoo. Ari was disappointed that none would talk to him.

Next we made our way toward the steam boat ferry. We stopped at Coop to by sandwiches for lunch before boarding the 2 hr ferry that makes several stops on its way to Interlaken, at the opposite end of the lake. We boarded Blümlisalp at 12:40. There were no seats outside in the shade so we sat down on a bench just inside the door and ate our lunch. After we started moving, Ari asked Tavis if he could see the engine room. Sandra asked a crew member who said “No, it’s not possible” while Ari had already found a different member who offered to take 2 down. Ari and Addison went down and learned how the steam boat was powered. Ari was asking questions about how it worked, so he walked them through and showed them how the water was filtered before entering the engine. It was a great experience.

When we got to Spiez, many people got off so we grabbed seats in the shade out front. We tried to get photos of the water, but the camera couldn’t capture the shades of blue in the lake. It is comparable to the Caribbean… but a lake. When we got to the next stop we got off the boat because we realized we were getting low on time. We saw a great swimming location but when we found out it was going to cost $50 to swim there, we hopped on a bus and headed back to Thun.

We got off the bus at the mouth of the channel to swim. There were stairs going into the water and a nice current that you could ride down to another set of stairs. It was a great way to cool down in the heat. After cooling off, we caught the bus back to the station and walked to the specialty chocolate store to get some good Swiss chocolate. Then we picked up groceries for our last dinner before taking the 16:25 train back to Spiez.

When we got back to Krattigen, Sandra made hotdogs while we all finished packing our bags. Terris got home just before it was time to go. We got some last photos in their back yard. We were really sad to leave Terris and Sandra. Our visit was far too short. We walked to the bus stop for the last time to catch the 18:36 bus. Sandra had tears in her eyes when we left and we felt the same way. Our vacation had come to an end and all that is left is the journey home.

We were on the bus to Spiez with only 1 other couple. There were no stops and we got to the train station in Spiez early! We caught an earlier train than expected to Bern. We arrived in Bern at platform 49 with 10 minutes to get to platform 6. It was plenty of time. Our train departed right on time at 19:31. We arrived at the Zurich airport station at 20:51. We went straight to the hotel shuttle pickup and arrived at 21:00, just as the Hilton shuttle arrived. It was perfectly timed! When we got to the hotel, Tavis checked us in while we grabbed the bags. Tonight we are going to bed early because we have to be up at 04:30. We have an early flight tomorrow and we have to take the 05:30 bus to get back to the airport.

2023/08/21 – Day 29: Switzerland, Liechtenstein

We got up around 06:00 and had breakfast and packed our bags for a long day of trains. Today we planned to see parts of Switzerland that we haven’t seen yet. We were also going to make our way to Liechtenstein, but we had to catch a bus at 07:06 too time it all correctly.

We arrived in Spiez by 07:18 and had a 20 minute wait to catch our train. Our train left Spiez 4 minutes late which left a tight connection for the next train. Luckily, we made up time in the tunnel and we arrived in Visp only a minute late. It was plenty of time to make our connection. Our next train left Visp at 08:08.

We arrived in Andermatt at 10:20. It was a beautiful train ride through the mountains. The views were incredible and the train was also empty!

We had 10 minutes to catch our connection in Andermatt. Sandra, myself, and the kids got on the train to find seats. The 2nd class cars were all reserved so the lady checking tickets told us we could go to 1st class. We found our seats and waited for Terris and Tavis who went to buy drinks and snacks. When they came, they were turned away and we were told we were too large a group and we had to move to the bike car. It didn’t have seats or windows. We walked up another car and found seats that weren’t together but at least we could see out the window at the view. After leaving, the attendant told us the party of 52 who reserved the cars didn’t show up, so we went up and got the entire car to ourselves. It all worked out. We got some great photos through the canyon!

At 11:35, we arrived in Disentis and switched trains again. The train wasn’t very full and we easily found seats. After we started moving, we enjoyed our packed lunch of Flippin Floppin sandwiches.

We arrived in Chur and ran to catch our connection again because our next train was already waiting for us. We had 3 minutes to spare. This time we had air conditioned seats upstairs. The windows didn’t open though so we weren’t able to get many good photos. Chur is quite a large city. There are several tall building and it has more of a modern feel.

We had a quick ride to Sargons where we caught bus 12E to Liechtenstein. We crossed the river and entered another country, the last one we will visit on our month long adventure.  We arrived in Liechtenstein just after 14:00. We saw the castle, then discovered it is closed for renovations. Of course! We walked through the streets and looked in some stores. We had ice cream, then walked to a souvenir/information building. We got a “Princiest” photo taken (they had a royal chair and I believe it has to do with he name of the district), then while Addison was purchasing a coat of arms pin, Ari knocked all the key chains off a rack. We helped sort and put them back but had to run to catch the 14:57 bus back to Switzerland. We left an impression!

The bus took us back to Sargans where we caught a train to Zurich. The air conditioner was broken and the only care with seats left was extremely warm! We split up and half of us found seats in an air conditioned car upstairs while the rest of us sat downstairs where it wasn’t too hot. We arrived in Zurich at 16:23 with 10 minutes to catch our train to Bern. Our train arrived a few minutes late, giving us 3 minutes to get from platform 5 to 3. We ran and just caught our train to Spiez. It was quite crowded but we managed to find 7 seats quite close together and the car wasn’t unbearably hot. When got to Spiez, Terris, Ari, and Addison jumped on teh bus to go home while the rest of us stopped at the store to buy food for dinner. We caught the next bus 30 minutes later.

We had a busy day, but it was incredible! The views through the pass were indescribable. Switzerland is a beautiful country! We are going to have to come back again.

2023/08/20 – Day 28: Oberwil, Weissenburg

This morning we caught the same bus at 09:36 to Spiez. There we had a 15 minute wait before catching our train to Oberwil where we planned to hike.

We got to Oberwil at 10:45 and the temperature was already 27 degrees! We began our hike up to the mountains through farm roads and fields. It was quite steep and the sun was hot! It was nice once we reached the forested trails. After an hour of hiking, we reached the foot of a small hiking trail that went up to some caves. Sandra and Terris had never been there so we had no idea what to expect. It was incredible! We first hiked straight up a hill and came to a cave with 2 picnic tables, a fire pit, grill, firewood, matches, and cooking utensils. It was a perfect place to have lunch, perched in a cave on the cliffs.

After finishing our lunch, we continued up and explored 3 more caves that dug through the mountain. Some we were able to hike through, others we hiked in and back out. One of the caves was 20 meters up a ladder! It was huge and had 2 levels. It looked like a great place to camp and was a nice cool retreat from the hot sun. The last cave we explored was the largest and went down. It was only 10 meters up a ladder and it had a solar panel that powered lights throughout. There was a rope we had to use going down and back up because the rocks were extremely slippery. 

Around 13:30, we started making our way back down to the main walking path to continue our hike toward Weissenburg. We came to a huge swinging bridge that connected the path between the mountain pass. We were so high up that we could barely see the river below our feet. It was an amazing view. After crossing the bridge, we made our way down the trail to the water. Ari and I went swimming in the glacier water. Our feet were numb, but it was so refreshing after a long hike in the heat. 

We didn’t have a lot of time to swim because we had to continue on to the the train station. Our train was every hour and we had 40 minutes to get there. We continued down the path to an old archeology site of a hotel that once stood. The rocks still standing were quite impressive. There were also more places to swim in teh river but we didn’t have time. Also, we saw 2 naked men sitting on the rocks below so we decided it wasn’t a good idea to take another dip. We continued on past a picnic area with a field and a lookout tower. Before long, we arrived at the train station.

We timed our hike perfectly and had 7 minutes to wait before our train was scheduled to arrive.  It wasn’t an actual station, just a shack, so we had to push a button to let the train know to stop and pick us up. It would have been awful to forget to push the button and watch the train rush past. It only comes once every hour.

We arrived back at Terris and Sandra’s before 17:00. We relaxed and did laundry before dinner. It was another great day in Switzerland!

2023/08/19 – Day 27: Switzerland (Bern, Neuchatel, Murten)

This morning we were up at 08:00. Tavis and Sandra started the sandwich factory and prepared breakfast while the rest of us took our time getting up. We all met at Terris and Sandra’s at 09:00. We had breakfast and were running out the door at 09:36 to catch the bus. Luckily, the bus was 2 minutes late and we got there just in time.

We arrived in Spiez a few minutes late and ran to catch our first train to Bern. It was a new train and Sandra was insistent on catching this one. It was really nice, spacious, clean, and quiet.

We arrived in Bern at 10:24 and had 30 minutes before our next train. We walked through the train station and stopped at a Coop grocery store. We bought a calzone, coffee, and freshly squeezed orange juice. The machine squeezed the orange juice as we watched it… crazy!

We arrived in Neuchatel and walked down to the lake. There was a festival going on. Tavis went to a tent and signed up for a competition. We made 2 teams of 3 and competed against each other. Team Canada (Terris, Tavis, Addison) vs Team Swiss Canada (Sandra, Ayva, Ari). The competition consisted of 3 activities. Sandra and Terris started with the ball throw. Terris seemed to dominate and Tavis ran off to the paddle board. Sandra finished shortly after and Ayva was a ninja grabbing her board and running into he water. She passed Tavis on the first stretch. It was neck in neck. Tavis caught her as they rounded the corner and was back in the lead on the way back to the beach. In the final 10 meters, Tavis fell off his board and Ayva pulled ahead leading the way to the bottle toss. Addison and Ari began tossing and in the end, Addison pulled out the win for Team Canada. We won 3 free towels which was great because we didn’t bring any, and Tavis was soaked. What an awesome spontaneous experience! 

After, we walked down the beach to a point on the boardwalk and sat on the rocks while we enjoyed our flippin’ floppin’ sandwiches that Tavis and Sandra prepared. After lunch, we slowly made our way back to the train station. We took an underground tram back which was powered by huge wheels and a cable on each side. We left at 15:32.

We got off the train at Kerzers to transfer to another that took us to Merten. We walked into the historic town. Walking into the village, the scenery changed. It was like walking back in time. The street was lined with historic buildings that had stores on the street level. We walked to the end of town, then we went up steep stairs that took us onto the city walls. We walked back to the other end of town on that wall! It was shaded and breezy up there looking down on the rooftops. What a hidden gem!

On our way back to the train, we stopped at a Coop to get more groceries for dinner tonight and tomorrow. It was much cheaper than Migros. After, we played on the old school teeter totter in the park across the street. After 10 minutes, we made our way to the station to catch our train at 16:46. We made our way back home with transfers in Kerzers, Bern, and Spiez, where we caught our bus to Krattigen. It was a great day!

2023/08/18 – Day 26: Paris, France – Krattigen, Switzerland

This morning we were up at 06:00 with the plan to leave by 06:30. By the time we finished emptying the garbage, stripping the beds, starting the dishwasher, and getting ready, it was already 06:45. We hurriedly walked to the metro. Luckily the we only had to wait 2 minutes. We went 3 stops and switched metros. The second one arrived just as we approached. We went 1 stop to the Gare de Lyon train station, arriving around 07:05. We then went through a maze of stairs and hallways to find the actual train station. We found a screen as soon as possible to find which platform we needed to be at. We then very quickly made our way to the train and found carriage 16 and found our assigned seats. We boarded at 07:15 and teh train pulled out of the train station right on time at 07:22. We were on our way to Switzerland. This was our last reservation of our Europe trip. We were finally on our way to visit Terris and Sandra.

There was a couple that came and told me I was sitting in their seat. When I looked at their ticket, I noticed they were assigned the same seat in carriage 17. That probably happens a lot. The train was a t TGV train and it was really nice and spacious. The best thing was the free wifi and it was actually quite spacious.

We arrived in Basel around 10:30, and had to ask where to purchase our Swiss Travel pass. We cued up to get a number and waited 30 minutes to see a ticket agent. We finally got our passes and had just enough time to catch the 11:28 train to Spiez. We spread out a bit because there wasn’t assigned seating and many single riders claimed the seats of 4. It all worked out though and it really wasn’t too busy. We arrived in Spiez just after 13:00 and met Sandra.

After meeting Sandra, she had the car so pull all 10 bags in and went shopping at Migros. After, we put the groceries in teh car and went to the train to meet Terris. Ari and Sandra came home in the car, and the rest of us took the bus. We all arrived around the same time.

We got to see their new house. It is perfect! They have the most amazing view and it is a great neighbourhood. It is about 200 meters from their old apartment that they rented. It is also quite cool in the summer. We sat around and visited for a couple hours. Then we went to get the keys to the basement suite re also rented down the street. We dropped off our bags and walked down to the lake for a swim. The diving board was gone this year, but we still had fun jumping off the platform and swimming. The water was only 19 degrees. Apparently it was much earlier a few days ago but since the heat wave, the glacier is melting and has cooled off the lake. It was quite refreshing in 27 degree weather though!

After we walked back we enjoyed hotdogs and salad out on the table in the back yard. It was a perfect evening. We visited for a while and at 22:30, Tavis, Ari, and I went to our place to get some sleep. Terris had been up since 03:00 and Sandra was up at 05:00 so we figured everyone was tired. When we were in bed, we heard noise outside. We didn’t think much of it, but apparently there were fireworks in Interlaken. Terris, Sandra, Addison, and Ayva had a perfect view so they sat outside and enjoyed it. Then Sandra and Ayva went to bed while Addison and Terris stayed up until 01:00!

2023/08/17 – Day 25: Mont Saint Michel

This morning we slept in. I woke up at 07:00 and woke up Tavis. Apparently, he didn’t snooze his alarm when it went off earlier. We were supposed to pick up the rental car at 07:00 but Tavis didn’t arrive until 07:45. While he was picking up the car I got the kids up, folded our dry laundry, and finished packing our day bag. We were waiting on the street when he picked us up in a Peugeot 308 with manual transmission and unfortunately a gas engine. At 09:45, we started on our way to Mont Saint Michel.

Just after 11:00, we arrived in Caen. We stopped at Chateau to stretch our legs. We walked to the castle and we were able to walk on the castle walls. We went up to the top and admired the view of the city. On our way back to the car, we walked through a little street with restaurants on both sides. Then we found a bakery and bought sandwiches for later.

As we drove toward the island, we were completely impressed with the size of it. It is huge! We arrived at the parking lot around 13:15. We ate our sandwiches while walking to the meeting point for our tour. At 13:45, we checked in as instructed. At 14:05, our tour guide slowly led us to the endless line for the free shuttle. Our 2 hour tour just seemed to get a lot shorter. We finally boarded the bus at 14:39 and arrived at the island by 14:55.

The English tour we purchased months ago was not what we expected. The guide spoke broken English and spent the entire time giving the tour in English, then again in French. We learned a few things and heard some stories, but you can get just as much information from reading the free signs and handouts. A lot of time was wasted with the tour which walked us up over the village and to a lookout. We had really just scratched the surface.

When we left the tour, we quickly walked through the Abby. It was very cool and it would have been nice to spend more time exploring the village, but we had a long drive back to Paris. We walked through the village on our way out of the island, just before 17:00.

We got back to the car just after 17:30. If you are planning to visit Mont Saint Michel, I recommend not doing a guided tour. Parking costs $14,00 for the first 3 hours and $3,50/hr after. The shuttle is free and there is no charge to walk around the the island. There is a lot to see! The tickets into the Abbey are $11,00 for adults and free for children under 18. I think you can do the entire thing on your own in less than 3  hours. We wasted an hour just waiting for our group to  get started when we could have been to the island if we went straight there.

I’m glad we went to Mont St Michel. It was a unique experience. It would be neat to see the tide in, but it was out quite a ways. The tide goes out 15km! 30 minutes every 14 days, the island is surrounded by water from the super tide. 

On the way home, we stopped at Le Mans. It was half way back and a good place to have dinner. We wanted to drive part of the track and see the hand prints of winners of the famous race. We only found the prints of 1 driver and it was getting late, so we had dinner at a local pizzeria. They got us our food super quick and it was delicious.

After leaving, we gassed up the car and located only 1 open grocery store. As it turns out, the store was in a huge mall. It was comparable to a Walmart… large stores do exist here! We bought groceries for the train tomorrow because we have to be at the train station by 07:00.

Tavis dropped us off at the apartment at 23:20, then him and Addison went to return the car to the rental company. We all showered and packed our bags for an early morning tomorrow.

2023/08/16 – Day 24: Paris

This morning was another sleep in day. I was up at 07:45 and showered before Tavis and I went to find a bakery. Google listed 3 within a few blocks that were open. All 3 were closed due to summer holidays! We ended up going to the same grocery store as last night to buy some pastries and fruit for breakfast. We went back to the apartment to have breakfast with the kids.

The kids weren’t ready to leave the until after 11:00. By 11:20 we were finally on the metro toward the Eiffel Tower. We had a tour booked for 14:30 so we decided to walk around the area. We took photos of the Eiffel from all angle, then walked to the Arc de Triumph. Then it was time to make our way to the Segway Tour at Fat Bike Tours.

We had a father and daughter from New York in our group who arrived right at 14:30 (not 15 minutes early like they tell you). We then spent 20 minutes learning how to use the Segways since Tavis and I were the only ones who had ridden them before (Addison did in Hawaii but he barely remembered). Our tour guide was John. He was really good. Ari was super excited and quickly volunteered to be the first to try it out. Ayva went next and was super nervous, but she did quite well. Addison had no problems either. The other 2 in our group needed a lot more training but in the end they finally got it. By the time we were on the streets of Paris, everyone seemed to have the hang of it. We saw some great sites which were not the typical stops that I expected. We were excited to go back and check out the Dome Church. Our last stop was at the Eiffel Tower and we got some more photos before ending our tour. When we got back, our guide recommended a few restaurants.

We walked back toward the dome church to get some photos from inside the grounds. Unfortunately we arrived at 17:31 and they closed the gates at 17:30. I couldn’t believe we missed it by 1 minute! We then decided to go out for dinner at the restaurant that was recommended. When we arrived, we asked for a table and we were told it was Happy Hour and they only serve drinks for the next hour, no food. We didn’t feel like waiting around so we made our way to the street with all the restaurants. We decided to eat at Le Zinc. The meals were huge and the food was good! We also used the free toilet which most of us have learned to take advantage of.

After dinner, Addison wanted to get some photos of the Eiffel Tower now that the sun was lower. We went back to the park in front. Ayva had blisters so her, Ari, and I sat at a bench in the park with Addison and Tavis went to find their photo. When they got back, Addison and I went inside the gates of the Eiffel Tower to check out lines and pricing. The price wasn’t too bad, but Ayva and Ari decided they had no interest in walking up to the second floor. Instead, we stayed in the park and relaxed for a couple hours while the sun set. We got some artistic photos and enjoyed the time to relax. The sunset was nice and once it got dark, the Eiffel Tower lit up with yellow lights. It was quite beautiful. Every hour on the hour hour between 22:00 and 01:00, the tower sparkles for 5 minutes. We stayed to see the sparkle, which was way cooler in person than any photo or video we took.

At 22:05, we made our way on foot to the Louvre Museum. Our walk took us through garden. We were greeted by a security guard who told us we weren’t supposed to be there. We convinced him to let us go through a different exit so we didn’t have to backtrack. We found ourselves in the middle of a fair. We walked through it and it was bright and loud. When we got to the other side we were right outside the Louvre. I was blown away by the size! I have seen photos, but nothing compares to actually being there. I took a photo as we approached. A minute later, the lights all turned off! Addison was quite disappointed that we didn’t get tickets today, and then he couldn’t even get a photo of it lit up. We were still able to take some photos before finding the closest metro and making our way back home.

We all agreed that of all the places we visited, Paris is at the top of cities we would love to come back to. We would like to visit the Louvre Museum, and Versailles. Unfortunately, the tickets have to be purchased weeks in advance. I would definitely come back for at least a week, and get a multi day city pass. I would also consider getting day passes for the metro so you can come and go on any of the several lines. Regular tickets are only goo for a limited amount of time in a single direction. We had a great day in Paris, and I can honestly say that it is one of the cleanest cities we’ve visited so far. I see why som many people come here.

Tomorrow we have a car rented and we will make our way to Mont St Michel.

2023/08/15 – Day 23: Disneyland – Paris

We were up this morning before 07:00 because we wanted to leave the hotel promptly at 07:30 to be at the gate before 08:00. We didn’t get out of the room until 07:50. Luckily the park didn’t open until 08:30 and we were about 10th in line as people were lined up miles behind us for the early access hours. Wahoo! We call that a happy accident. They let us into the park at 08:15 and when we got to the second gate we were 1st in our lane to scan tickets!

They quietly opened the scanners 10 minutes early. I saw the scanner turn blue and quietly scanned my card. Ari followed suit. We were actually the first ones in the park and down Main Street. Tavis got excited and started running to take photos of this moment. We even took an selfie infront of the castle. Then we took a photo of the crowd coming down the street toward us and we ran to Big Thunder Mountain. We were the first ones in line! We did it twice before going to Space Mountain. The first hour today we walked straight on to each ride. We then went to the other park and went on the RC Racer which was another 5 minutes. From there we went to Crush which was an hour lineup. We decided to go as singles and it was less than a 10 minute wait. We did the Tower of Terror again and decided to separate.

At 10:45, Tavis and I went back to the hotel. We had a 20 minute siesta and then took all our bags to the complementary baggage storage at the hotel. It is so nice to only have to carry around 10 pieces of paper instead of 10 pieces of luggage! We checked out and met the kids at the Lego store at 12:30. Then we ate lunch in Disney Village before returning to the parks for the rest of the day.

We went on several rides and enjoyed our second day at Disney. By 19:30, we had gone on the Tower of Terror about 10 times (along with some other rides) and decided to try the Singles line on Crush one last time before leaving the park. We returned to the hotel around 20:15 to retrieve our bags. Then Tavis called an Uber van and within 5 minutes, we were in a van that took us right to the front gate of our cute apartment in Paris at 21:00.

As soon as we arrived, we put in a load of laundry and went to the closest grocery store that was open. The neighbourhood is super cute! It isn’t nearly as dirty as I was expecting. We bought some baked chicken meals, along with some beverages and fruit to take home for dinner. I am looking forward to our 2 hour tour of Paris tomorrow.

2023/08/14 – Day 22: Marseille – Disneyland Paris

This morning we were up by 07:00 because we had a train to catch to Disney at 10:00 and we had no idea how bad traffic would be getting back to the train station. We enjoyed our complimentary breakfast and left the hotel by 08:15. There was no traffic on a Monday morning and we filled up the car and returned it before 09:00. We walked 1 block and arrived at the train station 5 minutes later. Our train platform wasn’t announced until 9:45. We went straight to the train and boarded as soon as we could.

At 13:20, we arrived at Disneyland Paris. We caught a bus to the Disney Santa Fe hotel and checked in. We dropped off our luggage in the room, cleaned up, and spent the rest of the day in the park.

We stayed until the light show at 22:50. Addison and Tavis went to find a place to watch the show while Ari, Ayva and I did 1 more ride. We somehow all met up amongst thousands of people crowded in the park. Part way through, it started to pour. The rain was coming down in buckets and the show was almost over so we decided to leave. It was a zoo so we all agreed that if we got separated, we would meet outside the main gates. Unfortunately, that was not a good idea because there were name gates. Long story short, we all got separated. Ari was on his own and eventually made his way back to the hotel but didn’t have a key. Addison and Ayva got lost finding the hotel but eventually made their way after walking 45 minutes all the way around. They didn’t have a key to their room. Tavis and I were walking from gate to gate until 24:30 when we finally got a text from Addison saying everyone was at the hotel. We all made it back but next time, we need a better meeting point and everyone needs to carry a phone and a hotel key!

Tomorrow we get to spend the entire day at Disney again before making our way to our airbnb in Paris tomorrow night.