Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Traveling Through Europe and First Day in Paris

Sunday night
It’s amazing the difference in not having internet for one night. It’s been less than 10 hours since I was last online but the fact that I can’t unless I specifically ask for the internet passcode is so odd. And it’s one night so I’m not going to. I can survive one night without the internet. What exactly I’m going to do to pass the time until I go to bed I’m not sure but I’ll find something. Right now, that something is going to be listening to music through iTunes and writing this in a word document to be transferred to my blog later. I would be watching Grey’s Anatomy right now but that’s not possible without internet. I’m also going to be slightly restricted on my internet usage for the next five weeks. The first four while we’re in Croissy-sur-Seine the internet will be in the living room and I’ll have to be there to watch/write/etc. Which means I’ll be doing the same thing as I am now. Write in my room and post later.
So tonight we’re near Köln at Daniel’s aunt’s house. It took us about three hours from the time we actually got on the road to get here. The first hour or so wasn’t a problem and then when things got a little tough again, I pulled out a new surprise. (Bracelets where they could slide letters on them to write words.) Unfortunately these only included one of each letter plus some funky characters (a sun, a heart, etc.) thus limiting the possibilities severely. Luckily, both girls have names that don’t repeat letters so they could write their name but it’s hard to include a second word without more vowels which was when the second round of tough started. Noemi wanted to write another name but we’ve only got an A and a U left for vowels, we lost a few letters to the car floor, etc. Nuria woke up and started crying because she was sick of being in the car. Yael was the only one that wasn’t a problem at all. All three girls slept for a bit. I almost slept. I also started listening to Les Miserables on Minerva. When I had to look down to get it set up though, I got a little car sick so I chewed one of my motion sickness gum pieces. It worked but I didn’t know how long to chew it for and it made my tongue numb. Like as if I’d just been given Novocain. (And now, randomly, my heart decides to start hurting. Wonderful. I’m not doing anything. I’m not stressed. I haven’t been active recently. Liebe Herz, WTF? Deine, Vickey)
Tomorrow morning my alarm goes off at 8am. I *might* take a quick shower before breakfast and then after breakfast, we’ll get on the road to Paris. We’re planning to stop for lunch and for an afternoon snack. I’m sure we’ll also wind up making bathroom stops too. If we take an hour for lunch and “Kuchen”, and leave here by 11, we’ll be in Paris by sunset.
Speaking of bathroom breaks, today when we stopped the bathroom was so high-tech. First of all, you have to pay 70 cents per adult to use the bathroom. But that means that they’re completely clean. The doors are full length and they turn red when locked (not the whole thing but a button) so there’s no guessing if it’s occupied or not. They’re automatic flushers but only when you wave your hand in front of them so no surprise “Oh I thought you were done” flushes. And it cleans the toilet seat too! It rotates the seat and cleans it. How cool is that?
Okay, it’s only 10:20pm but I’m tired. So I’m going to find a video hidden away on Artemis and fall asleep. G’night!

Monday night
Monday has come to an end and if I hadn’t taken a shower I’d be ready for bed. But I can’t sleep directly after a shower so I’m awake enough to write down today’s events. Which is good because I want to capture some of the little things before I forget.
So I’ll try to go chronologically because that’s most logical but we’ll see if it actually happens. I knew there was going to be street construction and Kathrin said it might wake me up but I didn’t believe her. I didn’t realize they were using a backhoe 20 feet from my window. So I woke up at 7 and didn’t get properly back to sleep. We had breakfast around 9 or so (simple, typical German breakfast-toast, cheese, Wurst, nutella, honey, coffee) and the kids played a little before we headed out. Daniel took a shower and we loaded back up. Nuria slept for a bit until Daniel’s music woke her up. We decided that since the trip was 450 km we’d stop every 150 km for a break: lunch, snack, then we’d be here. Around 150 or so, we did stop for lunch. It was a rest stop but it was so much nicer than American rest stops. We were on a toll road in Belgium (oh yeah by the way I went through Belgium today!) and the restaurant in the stop had a café and then a place where you could pick desserts, salads, and drinks from a cooler or you could order stir-fry, burgers, schnitzel, steak, pasta with sauce, and fries. If there was anything else, I’m not sure since it was all in French! Thank goodness for Daniel though. I told him what I’d like and he ordered it for me (a cheeseburger with French fries and a coke-He offered me a beer but the only beer I’ve had here that I liked made my stomach turn over). After lunch, where Ellie by the way at almost nothing, we got back in the car and we all basically fell asleep. At some point we got more surprises for the girls (magnetic travel games then an animal memory game which Nuria destroyed the parts to by flinging them all over the car and an animal rubix cube). Nuria slept almost the entire afternoon. Around the 300 km mark we stopped so Daniel could take a short nap and I think I fell asleep too but I’m not sure. I listened to music a lot today. Daniel’s very strict with Noemi’s speech and making her pronounce things correctly. It resulted in several breakdowns and screaming fits today. Which was tough on all of us. I understand what his purpose is but I think there might be a better way to go about correcting her bad habits than making her repeat sentences over and over. Sometimes it feels like he’s so caught up in her pronunciation that he doesn’t hear her. I know when I speak I mix up the tenses (especially with conditional and past tense stories) so he gets a bit confused about what I mean and when things happened. Correcting that and not paying as much attention to the subject matter due to the grammar makes complete sense. But when a child is speaking, I think it’s the subject that’s more important. Correct it by repeating something the proper way and know that they’ll fix it eventually. (If a kid says “I goed”, then the adult says “You went to the store yesterday. Oh I bet that was fun.” It’s unobtrusive but fixes the problem.) Obviously it’s not my place to say anything so I simply turned my music on.
Finally, we got to France. When we got to Paris, I asked Kathrin if I’d be able to see the Eiffel Tower from the car. And I did! Several times! Only on the horizon but oh my freaking goodness I saw the Eiffel Tower!!!! I’m in France! Yeah I had a squee moment or twelve in the car. When we finally got here, we unloaded and settled in. We had dinner with the grandparents (Grossmama and Grosspapa). I tried a pink champagne, caviar, and crème fraiche (sp) during the appetizer. I tried caviar and champagne. In France. And by the way my anxiety has mostly been undercontrol. Yes, I hide behind the kids and my role as caretaker and entertainer a bit but since I’m already comfortable with Kathrin and Daniel, I know I’ll settle in quickly here too. The main course from dinner was a homemade soup with cous-cous, chicken, vegetables, and chickpeas. It was delicious. Thankfully, she didn’t prepare any pork products. Daniel didn’t tell her until tonight at dinner that I don’t eat any. She asked, naturally, if I’m Jewish or Islamic and I replied, as always, that I’m Protestant but I eat according to Leviticus and added “I’m just weird”.  She seemed to accept that pretty well which is always nice. For the main course, Daniel’s brother and two of his friends joined us. When the kids got tired, we broke up the party and parted ways. Kathrin, Daniel, and the girls have one of the guest houses, and I have the other entirely to myself. It’s kind of cool to have my own house for a month. I’ve got a kitchen, several bedrooms to choose from, a bathroom, etc. (I’ll update my Flickr this week and you’ll see pictures.) I choose the biggest bedroom. It’s the nearest so I don’t have to walk all over tarnation to go to the kitchen and such and it actually had storage for my clothes so I could unpack. I’ve already unpacked and rearranged a bit so it feels a bit more personal and it works better for me. For example, my room has two beds: a full and a twin. I want to sleep in the full but the twin was right next to it. I moved the twin so it was at the foot of the full so that I could get in and out of my bed easier. Also, my shower? It’s the weirdest thing ever. I don’t have a shower curtain or a door at all. I have a bathtub and a showerhead. So I had to sit down in the tub to shower. I’m exhausted now so I’m going to sleep. I have to remember to write about the Barbie incident. Tomorrow morning my work day starts by 10am so I’m planning to be at the house by 9:30 to eat breakfast before I watch the girls. Now, I’m going to sleep. G’night!

Tuesday afternoon
I’ll upload this tonight but I’ve got just a few minutes right now to write so I thought I’d take advantage. We’re going to Paris proper in just a few minutes. As in I’m going to see the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel freaking tower. It’s Paris. I’m in Paris. I had a croissant for breakfast and had my private “Oh my gosh I’m eating a French croissant in a French living room in France.” I hear the girls so I think we’re almost ready. We went swimming this morning with all three little ones which was an adventure. The water was nice and warm though and I did a few laps. I think I’m going to try to go swimming several times a week. Get my exercise that way. I love the water so it’s perfect. I just have to remember to take a shower so I wash the chlorine off. At least I don’t reek of it though. Actually I don’t know if it had chlorine or something else. After we got out of the pool, Nuria was with Kathrin taking a nap and I took the older two to my house to play. They jumped on my bed and played on my iPod for a while until Kathrin called us so she could go make lunch. (Oh goodness. I hear Noemi shouting “Bad Ellie”. I wonder what happened…) I’ve already got a bit of color from swimming. And it was only two hours WITH sunscreen (SPF 30) on. It’s warm enough here that I really ought to buy a pair of shorts. Hopefully I can find a cute relatively cheap pair of denim shorts that are long enough for my modesty soon. I’ll look up cheap places in Paris to shop tonight and I’m probably going to spend Saturday in Paris. Oh, I French braided my hair. It’s not perfect and I need practice but I can do it. I’m so proud of myself. Braiding and French braiding is one of those things that I’ve always known how to do before I tried; I just needed to get my hands on something to practice on and try. I need to do it more often and I think I’ll be much better doing it on Noemi than on myself since I can actually see and make the divisions better, neater.
Oh, the Barbie incident from yesterday. Noemi kept throwing her Barbies. I told her that she couldn’t do that. So finally, I told her if she threw them one more time that Barbie was staying with me for the night. She threw it again. I confiscated Barbie and she threw a fit. I felt bad for causing a scene but I was not about to let that stop me from keeping my word. If I backed down she’d think causing a scene would get her out of her consequences. So I kept the Barbie and Kathrin and Daniel both supported me in it. Daniel said he wished I had come earlier if I’m going to follow through like that. Time to go to the Eiffel Tower.
Back from Paris. I’m suddenly completely sick. I’ve barfed twice and I can’t even hold down water.  I’m blaming the fermented cabbage that I tried. Seriously it was a bite but I feel like complete and total shit. I’ll write about the city later. Eiffel Tower, water playing, playground, traffic jam, Champ Elysses, McDonald’s, Haagen Daaz, drive home, Korean food, sick. That’s the outline and I’ll fill it in tomorrow.

Wednesday morning
Because of last night I’m taking the day off. I think in a few hours I’ll be okay and can head over to the main house but I’m just going to take it slowly. Last night after I barfed the first time, I took a sip of water and it started off the second round of yuck. Then I went back to bed and woke up an hour or two later with another round. I actually did the lay down on the bathroom floor thing. I’m going to try brushing my teeth, drinking some water, etc. In the meantime, I’m going to watch some Doctor Who and write about yesterday’s adventure.
We all piled into the car and headed to Paris proper. We’re staying in a suburb just across the Seine. It didn’t take too long to get there and Yael fell asleep within maybe two minutes. Nuria was just falling asleep when we got there. We found a parking place but there was some chaos with needing a parking permit. Daniel and Yael went off in search of a TABAC shop while the other four of us bought coffees for all three adults in order to let Noemi use the bathroom. What was a coffee was actually a shot of espresso and I found it way too strong. I took a sip and couldn’t drink any more. The café was a rinky dink little place that had floorboards coming up, steep stairs, and no fresh air. I’m surprised it didn’t reek of cigarette smoke. As soon as Noemi had gone to the bathroom, we left, bringing the third espresso for Daniel. He caught up with us and we all headed towards the Eiffel Tower. There are two little carousels, one under one side of the tower and one a little bit away but still within the line of sight to the tower. We went to the little one and Daniel and I rode with the girls. I sat in a gondola with the squirmy-wormy-timey-wimey-baby Nuria. Noemi was upset that her horse didn’t go up and down like Yael’s. We took some pictures of me in front of the tower and me with the girls. Then we went up to this reflecting pool across from the tower. I’ve honestly forgotten the name of it. I’ll have to look it up. We stuck our feet in one of the little pools until suddenly the fountains in front of us went off. Then the big water guns went off creating a beautiful rainbow. Noemi’s shoe fell into the pool right away so she had a wet foot the rest of the day. We climbed up the steps to the top of the pools and I started a trend of trying to look like we had the Eiffel Tower in our hands. Yes, it was dorky. But I had to do it.
After that we headed to a little playground and the girls played for a bit until Daniel went to get the van and we headed out toward the Ile-St.-Louis near Notre Dame for some ice cream. Naturally though we found a traffic jam on the way so we pulled a U-turn and found a parking spot just off the Avenue des Champs-Elysees in search of ice cream. Instead we found a McDonald’s and the girls got chicken nuggets and fries. It was a ridiculous McDonald’s. Their McCafe had macrons and other desserts and I didn’t see the types of drinks but I’m guessing they were impressive too. The whole thing was huge and I couldn’t believe it was a McDonald’s. Very chic, very high class. As we were walking around, at times Nuria decided she’d rather walk so she took hands and walked along between either me and Kathrin or me and Daniel. She’s fastest with two hands but can do it with one or alone. Alone though only goes up to 10 steps at a time. She averages about 6 though. Once it was 12. After McDonald’s, we tried to find ice cream and wound up at Häagen Daaz or however you spell it. Yael got chocolate and vanilla, Noemi got raspberry and vanilla, Nuria got one scoop of raspberry, and I got cookie dough and Belgian chocolate. It was delicious. Rich and more than two scoops but delicious. I ate every bite of it.  We headed back to the car and got a little lost. Well, not lost but we had to make a detour and Daniel wasn’t 100% sure which turns to take. In the end, we made it home though without too much detour. It took 45 minutes when it should have taken 25. When we got here, David and his friends had made Korean food. (David is Daniel’s brother.) Half of it was uncooked and half of it was fermented so basically I had rice with tofu and soy sauce. I did try kim chi which is fermented cabbage. I think that might have been what set off this bout of illness. Or maybe it was too much dairy without a lactaid pill. Or the orange juice reacted with something in my stomach to cause a violent reaction. Either way, nothing stayed in my stomach last night. It’s 12:30 now and I’m managing to eat pretzels and water but I can’t let my laptop on my stomach too long without feeling a bit off. My head’s also a bit icky feeling-kind of full and foggy. Probably from low blood sugar due to having practically nothing in my system. Well, I don’t have anything else to write really and my episode of Doctor Who is over so I’m going to save this and determine my next step.

I forgot to write earlier that we saw the Arc de Triomphe from the car as well as walking down the Champs-Elysees we saw a plaque commemorating where the house in which Thomas Jefferson lived as an ambassador to France once stood. Now, it’s a typical shop. I also saw a Barclay’s and a Mark’s and Spencer (making me reminisce about London). Oh and of course a Louis Vuttion (which I might just get a knock off bag just for kicks since I am in Paris).


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