A Travellerspoint blog

July 2011

Brugge Farm Stay Continued


July 27 - Divide and Conquer!

DH and I decided to give each other the gift of time alone in Brugge. Today was his day and tomorrow would be mine. We began with yet another rainy day in Belgium. My only complaint has been the lack of summer weather here! We headed for more groceries and I finally snapped a couple pictures in a Carrefour. Nothing too exciting really.
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We really meant to do more but instead came back to the farm to spend the day. We rode bikes, went swimming, and played with animals while DH took a look around Brugge at his own pace. Here are a few of his pictures.

Check out all the bikes! It seems like everyone rides a bike around here. It's just the way of life.

Back at the ranch, the kids were having a great time with their friends from Scotland.
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Another donkey ride for good measure.

I made some chicken and rice for dinner and we said goodnight to all the animals and called it a day.

July 28 - My day in Brugge and dinner in Gent

After a leisurely morning, I headed off to Brugge by myself! First thing I did was buy a nice warm caramel waffle and didn't share a bite with anyone. It's the little things I tell ya!

I wandered and shopped to my heart's content. I snapped a few more pictures of lovely Brugge.
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I found a tiny pub called De Garre down a VERY narrow alley. It took me forever to find it! I had their house tripel beer. Mmmmmmm!
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After more wandering - I probably walked 5-6 miles - I headed back to the farm. We gathered our things and drove to Gent. It was a surprisingly short 30 minute drive. Another beautiful city!

Well hello there castle right in the middle of the city.

We had a typical Flemish dinner. I tried the Gent specialty waterzooi - a chicken stew. DH had a yummy scampi salad.
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We headed home, cracked a Belgian brew and called it a night.

July 29 - The Belgian Coast

After a quick bakery stop, we made the 30 minute drive to the Belgian coast. Everything is so close here! Check out these delicious baked concoctions:

We made our way to the resort town of Blankenberge. The small coastline in Belgium was built-up in the '60s and '70s with high-rise condos and tacky shops. I found it fascinating especially compared to the vast and virtually empty Oregon coast. Those little white shacks are owned by people. We saw a few for sale.

The kids rode carts around a velodrome. They especially liked the refueling stations, telephones, and ATMs!
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Some major container ships make their way down the channel.

For lunch, we checked out one of the many frite/snack shops all over Belgium. We tried bitterballen which are kind of like fried gravy balls. No kidding!
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After our "healthy" lunch, we stopped at a random beach bar. They had a play-area so the kids ran off some steam while DH and I enjoyed a beer. I'm amazed at how many restaurants offer play-areas. I'm envious!
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We got away from the condos and highrises for a more traditional beach experience.

We stopped at another grocery store and made dinner back at the farm. Sausages and zucchini this time. Just another day in Belgium!

July 30 - Beer Pilgrimage Day!

Today was the big day to visit two beer sights - Westvleteren (St. Sixtus) & De Dolle Brewery. First stop was that yummy bakery again for another treat.

Westvleteren was about an hour away. This is true Trappist beer and the brewery itself cannot be visited. We stopped at the adjacent cafe for lunch. The cafe is also the place to taste this exceptional beer. Some beer lists rate Westvleteren 12 as the best beer in the world!
Here's a pic of the infamous Westvleteren 12:

Next was a visit to the De Dolle brewery. We had a 3:00 tour time that we had reserved. The guide was this sharp and funny woman who had been present at the brewery's beginnings. She was quite a character!
I even bought posters from the guy who designs all the artwork and labels.
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We came home where the kids swam once again and played with their new friends from next door.
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Of course the big news is that DD#1 finally lost her first tooth! She was so so so excited and can't wait for the tooth fairy to come to Belgium.

We are sad to be leaving this special place in the morning. I have a feeling we will return someday! There will be many goodbyes in the morning - both to animals and new friends.
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Tomorrow is back to Germany and the Mosel River. DH will be taking a ring taxi around the Nurburgring! I'm not sure what the internet situation will be so it might be a few days before I can update. Best wishes everyone!

Posted by familyineurope 12:49 Comments (0)

Farm Stay Near Brugge, Belgium

First off - a couple highlights from the farm. We're here for the week.

July 24th - A long driving day.

We had around 6 hours of driving today to go from Mont St. Michel to Brugge, Belgium. We had a quick fast-food stop along the way. (I know, fast-food. We had to bribe & exercise the kids in the play area.) The drive was relatively fast and painless. The kids seemed worn out and didn't mind relaxing in the car. Angry Birds is our new travel friend.

We arrived at our farm gite just outside of Brugge around 6pm. The owner spent nearly an hour showing us around and giving travel tips. He is very kind and generous with his time and tips. He seems to really enjoy showing people a good time! I can't say enough great things about this place. We're already talking about coming back. The two-bedroom apartment is in a restored barn. It's clean, roomy, and very homey.
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Here's the view from our outside deck.
There are chickens, rabbits, pigeons (we saw 2-day old pigeons today), donkeys, cows, horses, sheep, cats, and more. There are flowers growing everywhere and kids play equipment. The girls are beyond happy here and we've had a hard time getting them to go anywhere!
This looks like our old cat Gabi:

For you animal lovers, here are a few of my favorites.
Hello big guy:
Some long-legged cows!
According to the owner, this breed of cows are born only by C-Section. A vet is called in for each birth. The babies are just too big or something.
Lulu the horse actually is a working horse! She hauls carriages full of tourists in nearby Brugge. She's currently taking a break on the farm. I'm tempted to take her out for a ride. It's just been too long since I've been on a horse!

There is only one other apartment here and it's occupied by a Scottish family with three kids - ages 4, 7, 10. The ten year old girl loves playing with our DDs. She even painted their nails! There's an indoor play-area for the kids too.

After we settled in, we had a typical Flemish dinner in the nearby village of Oedelem.
Here's one local specialty - eel! It was pretty good.
DD#1's smiley sausage with carrot hair.
DH's mussels and frites. Fries are the bread in Belgium. They come with everything in massive portions. There are fry shops all over! There are two just in our tiny nearby village!
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Goodnight from our little farm!

July 25 - Hanging out at the farm

We pretty much spent the entire day enjoying and appreciating this great place. I got out for a run. It is blissfully flat country here! I also drove to the nearby store to stock up on groceries. DH and I are big fans of Belgian beer. I nearly fainted in the store when I began pricing some of our favorite bottles. Bottles of Trappist beer that go for $4-6 at home are around 1.50 Euros. Woohoo!

One of the best features here at the farm is the massive supply of bikes! Hours and hours of entertainment!
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These go-cart contraptions are a hit!

DH even had a chance to wash and vacuum the car. It needed it!

After lots of bike riding - DD#1 and I went off for over six miles - we finally got ourselves together and headed to Brugge for dinner. We parked outside of town and took a short bus ride in - another tip from the owner. The town really is lovely.
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We had dinner at a place with over 400 beers on the menu. The menu was an overwhelming BOOK! I had a Flemish beef stew and DH had a fish stew. The kids also shared the Flemish stew. It was really tasty! The vat of fries were there but didn't make the picture.
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After a very filling meal, we got home and rolled into bed.

July 26 - More Brugge

After a little bike riding, we drug the kids into the car back to Brugge. We had barely gotten a taste of the city yesterday! Check out how DD#1 felt about being forced to leave the farm:

First off was climbing the famous belfry. Some might remember this tower from the grisly movie "In Bruges". There were 366 steps and a nice view at the top.
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Check out the huge modern windmills in the distance.

After all those steps, we rewarded ourselves with a box of chocolates. I visited this same shop around nine years ago. Mmmmm!

We wandered around taking in the sights. We stopped for waffles with whipped cream. Hey, you gotta have waffles in Belgium!

Next, we took a canal tour in a little boat. DH and I found it very interesting. DD#2 fell fast asleep.
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We came back home and the wonderful owner was here offering up donkey rides. The kids were ecstatic!
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In addition, we ran into another local farmer who invited us to see his dairy farm. They had tiny kittens...
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A calf that was born earlier in the day as well as other tiny calves.
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Hello there milk mamas!

We had easy pasta dinner at our place, did more bike riding, and called it a day. I didn't mention that the farm is located at the end of a mile-long road. There is almost no traffic on the road so the kids can ride up and down safely. They love the independence. We all do!

Hopefully four more happy days in Belgium will follow. Stay tuned!

Posted by familyineurope 12:25 Archived in Belgium Comments (3)

More Normandy - D-Day Sights, Bayeux, Mont St. Michel

A truly amazing sight on the horizon - Mont St. Michel.

Playing on Omaha Beach

Now for the details:

I'm behind a few days in my blogging but am happy to report a fantastic Internet connection here in Brugge, Belgium.

July 21st - D-Day Sights and Bayeux

It was a good 90-minute drive to the D-Day beaches from our gite. We were getting worn down by the long driving distances to every attraction! Our gite was just too far out to be truly convenient. Despite this, we had a great day and saw some astounding sights.

We began our day at Arromanches where we saw the remarkable Port Winston Artificial Harbor. Incredible how a harbor was created with old sunken ships and cement blocks (hauled across the channel). You can still see many parts of the makeshift harbor.
It started out as a nasty rainy day so I don't have the greatest picture of this:

Then we watched a powerful movie in a 360 degree theater called "The Price of Freedom". It really set the tone for the day. Even our young girls seemed to appreciate how serious the history was.

We stopped at the Longues-sur-Mer Gun Battery. These were the remnants of four German casemates with guns intact. The guns were designed to hit targets 12 miles away. The Allies did some serious damage to these.

Next we stopped at Omaha Beach for a picnic. It's hard to imagine this lovely beach being the horrific scene it was on June 6. 1944. We reflected on how lucky we were to picnic and play freely. We also felt much pride seeing the American flag flying everywhere.

Next we paid our respects at the WWII American Cemetery. We had to laugh when we saw our first drinking fountains on our entire trip! Once we were inside (we had to pass through security), we saw a very informative display that we wished we had had more time to appreciate. Outside of the visitor center, we saw the white crosses that went on and on.

It was chilling when some bells came on and played the American National Anthem. Everyone stopped and was either silent or hummed along. Definitely a goosebump moment.

We were all feeling impacted by this visit yet had to move on. We stopped in the nearby town of Bayeux which miraculously escaped WWII bombing. We decided to get DD#1 some new shoes. A word of warning about Skechers Twinkle Toes - these are cute flashy shoes that aren't meant to be walked in. Both my DDs' Twinkle Toes have fallen to pieces. I'll take a picture and post sometime - I also want to send Skechers a little note..... Anyway, we found some cute Keds for DD#1.

We were very impressed with the huge cathedral in Bayeux!
DD#2 thought the crypt was fascinating.

We found a nice place for dinner after our long day of sight-seeing.

We splurged again and had real courses! My first one was sea snails. I thought I'd ordered scallops so I was rather surprised. Luckily, I actually liked them!
A few other pics from this yummy meal:

We had a peaceful ride home and had our first night driving. It was a long and fulfilling day!

July 22 - More food, swimming. Last day in Normandy.

It was yet ANOTHER rainy day. We had such disappointing weather while in Normandy. We had a lazy morning and finally decided to drive to another little town for lunch and to use their indoor pool.

We found a random little brasserie where I lucked out with a yummy fish plat du jour!
The girls were good sports in these French restaurants. They shared a croque monsieur.

We picked a pool because I had seen a picture of the great waterslide. Upon arrival, it was closed for technical reasons. We still had fun playing in the pool.

DD#2 had fun on another basket swing in the town park.

We stopped at another grocery store for snacks and dinner supplies. We made dinner at the gite, packed up, and were eager to move on tomorrow!

July 23rd - Mont St. Michel!

After three hour drive, we saw this amazing sight...

A pretty nice view for our picnic lunch!

We visited a biscuit (cookie) factory with tons of free samples. We stocked up on some of these famous biscuits.

After dealing with some rather challenging behavior from DD#2, we also managed to kill time and avoid the ridiculous crowds that descend on Mont St. Michel in the afternoon. We arrived around 5pm. It was truly a magical place to explore. The girls remembered that this place was fictionalized in the movie "Tangled". They were looking for Rapunzel everywhere!
Pretty posing girl:
It was hard to stop taking pictures!

Finally - goodbye to Mont St. Michel

We're in Belgium now and absolutely love where we're staying. The people, food, and beverage are out of this world! There are other children here and our kids are very happy. I'm a couple days behind but will catch up tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!

Posted by familyineurope 12:41 Comments (1)

Normandy - where it rains just like Oregon!

July 16 – driving/transition day

We started off our morning still in Bordeaux. We found a cute patisserie not far from our hotel and had a fantastic pastries and coffee for a little over 5 Euros! We were feeling a little smug about our abilities to find quality places without guide books.

We hopped on the autoroute and didn’t get off for hours and hours. Unfortunately, you can really rack up the toll charges driving on the French autoroutes. Our tolls for the day neared 50 Euros! Yikes!

For a quick lunch, we stopped at one of the stops on the route. The autoroute stops are like a mini-village complete with gas, restaurant, mini-market, picnic areas, and WCs. The one we found was extraordinarily packed with people. It was rather exciting in a way! We bought baguette sandwiches and I got more coffee from the line of coffee machines. It’s funny how the coffee machines advertised XL coffee and it was still only around 8 oz. I miss my 16 oz mochas!

We drove through lots of soggy weather and found our little cottage in Normandy up a windy narrow road. We stopped at another Carrefour grocery store in a town nearby for kitchen supplies. It was nice to stock up on milk, yogurt, cereal, (WINE!) and other staples. We liked the space in our little cottage with its two separate bedrooms – one at each end. At last we had space AWAY from the kids! Have I mentioned just how hard it is at times being together ALLLLLLLLL the time?

The half-timbered buildings are fascinating. A barn connected to our gite has deteriorated a bit and you can see how clay/dirt fills in-between the wood.

The girls went a little nuts upon arrival in the huge yard and tree swing.


The satellite TV had all British (ENGLISH!) channels. I nearly wept! Friends reruns were never more entertaining. We had an easy dinner of pasta and I bought plenty of stinky cheese to try. We’re mere minutes from Camembert, Livarot, and many other famous stinky cheeses. The owners of this lovely gite left us a great welcome package with local cider (some for the kids and some for us), calvados, camembert, butter, eggs, bread, butter cookies, and more. They are very friendly and have given us a lot of help.

We were supposed to have internet access all week. Sadly, we haven’t been able to access it. I’m typing this update in Word now before I forget. Despite seeing a mouse in our gite – eeeeeeeek! We still slept well and enjoyed having more space.

July 17 – Chateau Vendeuvre, some sunflowers, and our desolate Sunday in Normandy

We awoke late and were still getting our bearings in Normandy. The kids enjoyed the swings and massive lawn just outside. After a leisurely breakfast, we managed to leave and visit a nearby chateau. On the way we found a pretty sunflower field and stopped for a photo-op.

This particular chateau was known for being kid-friendly. The outdoor gardens had several surprise water features that came on with sensors. There were also some mazes the kids really enjoyed. The indoor area had a lot of miniature antique furniture that none of us got that excited about. There are a lot of miniature museums in France. I’m not quite sure what the big deal is.

It was Sunday in Normandy and pretty much everything was shut down. We went to a nearby town and tried to have lunch. Every place was closed. Many places close between 12-2 for lunch. Restaurants stop serving right at 2. All the villages looked pretty desolate. The pouring rain didn’t help matters. The kids were starting to melt before our eyes so we called it a day and headed back for lunch at our cottage/gite.

We didn’t make it far this day. I got a little stir-crazy and borrowed a bike for a short ride on the country roads. The roads around here are like a spider web and go every which way. I felt so silly and panicked for getting somewhat lost! I can barely speak a work of French and didn’t even know how to pronounce the name of the place we were staying. Luckily, I took a few deep breaths and tried another little road that lead me back. That cured me of getting away on my own without GPS for a while!

Have I mentioned how fantastically awesome the GPS is in our car? Man. Worth every penny.

DH grilled some sausages for dinner along with my concoction for Mac & Cheese – didn’t go over that well. We just hung out and watched it rain while driving each other a little crazy. I think we were all feeling a little homesick this evening. Luckily, DH and I were able to end our day watching the women’s World Cup soccer game against Japan. So sad to watch the US go down. They were the stronger team!

July 18th - Honfluer and Etretat - in the rain!

We had ambitious plans for our day after spending so much time at our gite yesterday. After breakfast, we headed out to the coastal town of Honfluer. It was over an hour away and the rain wasn’t letting up. Being Oregonians, a little rain wasn’t about to change our plans!

Honfluer was beautiful. We bribed the kids with a carousel ride so that was the first order of business. Pretty neat that it had two levels!

DD#1 was starving again. She can make it about an hour before she’s about to die of starvation. After drying off for a few minutes in the tourist information center, we found a recommended café for lunch. I had some mussels while DH had pizza and the kids shared a savory crepe. We checked out a church across the way that was made of wood – very unusual. A bomb went through the roof during WWII but didn’t explode. It’s fascinating running into reminders from WWII. Normandy is full of history.

The bell tower was built separately across the way from the church.
The interior:

I loved wandering around the town of Honfluer. DH and the kids found a park along the jetty and I took off to explore and take a few pictures. I didn’t buy any souvenirs – too touristy – but got some nice shots.

Even though it was still raining, we took a 45 minute drive to see the famous chalky-white cliffs along the ocean in Etretat. This turned out to be a ridiculous and pretty hilarious side-trip. We were completely soaked. We snapped a few token pictures and I thanked my dear family for putting up with my often ambitious itinerary.

We drove back home and stopped at the Carrefour grocery store once again for dinner supplies. The girls were drinking an amazing amount of milk. We had ham tortellini for dinner. The French seem to put ham (jambon) in about everything. Both DDs behavior was leaving much to be desired. They played outside in the large yard while we cracked open another bottle of vino and called it a day.

Random thoughts – Normandy is WAY bigger than I expected! Driving to all my planned destinations is much further than I anticipated. The kids were also showing major signs of travel distress. DD#2 was especially throwing some impressive tantrums. We’re one month into our trip and have realized that it’s just plain hard sometimes. I knew it would be but it’s even more difficult than I expected.

July 19th – Sunshine in Normandy? Could it be? Time for Velorail!

We awoke (albeit 9am) to a lovely day. DD#2 had a screaming fit in the night and kept us all awake for a while. After breakfast, we eventually headed out to a natural park area known as Suisse Normande. The main attraction was the Velorail. A disused railroad line was now used for tourists. The neatest multi-person "bike/cars" could be pedaled down the tracks.

It was another hour drive to get to the attraction. The girls are SO done with long car drives. Geesh! We had an interesting picnic in an old rail car.

We all enjoyed the Velorail and it renewed my faith that we can all have fun together. It’s possible! It was a pretty neat experience and a bit of a work-out.

We came home and finally took advantage of the nice heated pool just outside our gite. DD#1 and I stayed out for quite a while playing random pool games. DD#2 took a much-needed nap.

For dinner, we treated ourselves to a fancy-ish French meal in the nearby town. We actually had courses like they do in France! The kids were most excited for their dessert course with ice-cream and candy. We enjoyed walking around the small village after our nice dinner.

The small town near our gite even has a massive church that probably doesn't make any guide book. It was open after dinner so we did a little exploration. We were the only ones inside.

July 20 - Cheese and Rain. That's about it.

We woke late feeling tired and a bit homesick. After a very long breakfast and lazy time, we got ourselves to the Livarot Cheese Museum. It was pretty interesting and there were free samples at the end. The robotic production was mesmorizing to watch. The gift shop wasn't bad either. All the cheese labels are really artistic.

We came home after much indecision. The kids played outside in yet MORE rain. I took off in the car to the nearby town to do a little grocery shopping and wandering around. I meandered to the tiny town of Camembert - home of the infamous cheese.

Even though the temp probably didn't break 60 degrees today, we swam in the pool mostly to tire out the kids. It was rather refreshing! Luckily it is a heated pool.

We had frozen pizza for dinner. Not so bad - seriously! I found microwave popcorn, turned on a movie, and called in a night. Did I mention that DH got our internet going? What a relief to be back in touch!

Tomorrow the big plan is to hit Bayeax and the WWII beaches. It will be a big day. An hour and a half in the car! Wish us luck!

(Random - I just checked my email and received a message from travellerspoint.com - they featured a portion of this blog with a Tour de France pic! Neat!)

Posted by familyineurope 14:50 Comments (1)

Tour de France from the Pyrenees!

July 12th – Moving on to the Pyrenees.

We packed up after a great six nights in the Dordogne. The hosts at the B&B were so kind and gave us a nice stainless steel coffee container with their logo full of coffee for the road.

Our drive took us through more foie gras country. We were off the main autoroutes this time and poked through many small villages. We had a great picnic mid-way near a field of sunflowers. So many sunflower fields!
Pretty nice place for a picnic:

How could these little angels be causing any trouble at all?

Seriously - the Pyrenees portion of our trip has been the most challenging so far. DD#2 has been rather explosive at times.

We arrived in Argeles Gazost around 4:30 and had time to unwind in our hotel room. We had a balcony and bunk-beds. Two positives. Our balcony is the one nearest the hotel sign:

We’re without a refrigerator and pool this time though. We walked a short distance to the town center and had a casual dinner. We still find ourselves opening most restaurants when they start serving around 7:30.

We had a drink while we waited for dinner service. On the way to the café, we noticed a fresh milk vending machine. No way! The milk was from a local farm and came in a plastic bag for 1 Euro. We brought it into the restaurant and the kids drank vending machine milk with dinner.

I finally tried cassoulet for dinner. It’s a regional dish which is basically fancy pork ‘n beans. Some foodies are surely wincing at that description! I liked it though. I don’t believe I’ve had beans since leaving the US.

Around 10pm we all heard the loudest thunderclap ever! The kids cried and I was pretty scared as well. The thunderstorm went on for quite some time. Quite a show.

Wednesday July 13th – A rainy drive up Tour de France mountains

We had a slow morning after a restless night. We meandered up to a café for pastries and coffee. Prices are pretty reasonable in this town that caters to cyclists and hikers. On several occasions, I have felt like the token American family on display. Some older French folks openly stare at us. They aren’t exactly scowling or smiling so I’m unsure what they’re thinking about our American family.

It rained cats and dogs all day long. We were all a little moody but finally got in the car to explore a couple of the common Tour de France peaks – Col d’Aubisque and Col du Soulor. This turned out to be a lot of fun! The roads were ridiculously narrow and shared with free-roaming livestock. I got such a kick out of seeing cows, sheep, pigs, and goats up close and personal! The kids were thoroughly amused.

The tunnels dug into the mountains were amazing! DH and I tried to imagine how the cyclists would be blazing down this same road in just two days. The road was just plain scary in some spots. No guard-rails and very steep cliffs.

The top of the d’Aubisque was all ready for the tour with giant bicycles! It was literally raining sideways at the top. We were soaked getting our few quick pics.
When we returned, I snuck out for a short while to shop around town. I found a cute skirt to add to my small wardrobe. I’m getting tired of wearing the same things!

After the much-needed break from the munchkins, I took them out for a soak in the hot tub. DD#1 loved practicing her underwater hand stands.

I returned to the hotel, dried off, and had dinner at a pizza place. The day was rather uneventful and we spent time in our hotel room watching it rain. The kids needed some downtime and we were plain tired. DD#2 had the tantrum of all tantrums this evening. That is all I will say because I refuse to relive and remember the details. Thank goodness for having a bottle of wine in the room.

Thursday July 14th – Bastille Day!

Finally – we all slept well after a tough start to our evening. We slept late (a pattern, I know) and made our way to a boulangerie for more pastries and coffee. DH was leaving us for the day – with the car – to see a mountain stage on the tour! We opted to stay in town and visit an animal park. We stopped by the Carrefour for snacks and DH dropped us at the Animal Park.

Although visiting zoos wasn't high on my list, this one fit the bill for our day. It wasn’t crowded, the kids were entertained, we were outside walking (rain stopped today!), and the animals seemed more accessible in France. They actually fed and pet marmots! The bears were impressive.


We walked back to the town center and had yummy cakes for lunch. We had snacked on healthier things earlier – really! I grabbed some fruit at the store to balance the cake. The kids played at the town park for a long time and then we soaked in the hot tub at our hotel.

Meanwhile, DH was still up a mountain – Luz-Ardiden to be exact. He parked pretty far away and hiked a couple of hours where he was 3km from the finish line! He took many many pictures - here are just a few:
Here are the two riders in the lead:

Levi Leipheimer

Take a look at all these switchbacks going up the mountain! People camp out for a couple of days to get the best spot.

On our way to dinner, we saw a TON of tour vehicles and police coming through town. The gas station just out our window was taken over by official tour vehicles.

Perhaps the biggest news of the day was DD#1's loose tooth! She is over 6 1/2 and still hasn't lost a tooth. A bottom front tooth is finally loose.

The kids and I had a casual dinner in town. Behavior seemed to be returning back to normal and we all had a nice day.

July 15th - Another Tour de France stage!

We packed up our things, loaded up the car, and headed up the hill into Argeles-Gazost for one last breakfast. It was a sunny day at last!

The Tour de France had taken over the town! Carrefour Supermarkets is a large sponsor and had a coloring station for the kids. They sat and colored for quite a while not knowing that they would earn a huge pile of loot for their efforts! They got a stash of colored pencils, hats, air cooler devices, pencil box, etc... They could barely carry the haul!

The kids also played on inflatable toys. DD#1 is actually inside of that giant bowling ball!

After we wandered the Tour de France "village", we set off for a level #4 climb early in the stage. We took some narrow backroads and walked up part of a hill. It wasn't long before the tour caravan came through. This is a huge parade with cars (floats) made by sponsors. They threw out free loot to those spectators whooping it up. Being loud Americans, it was no problem attracting plenty of attention and getting a ridiculous pile of free stuff! The highlights were two jerseys, 6-8 hats (haven't counted), food, magnets, etc... I'll try to take a picture of our haul later.

We really did have a great view of the riders.

After the Tour madness, we drove 2-3 hours to Bordeaux. We reserved a chain-type hotel on the outskirts of town for our short night. It was interesting using their automated check-in system. We got a key-code, room number, and paid for the room with a computer outside the hotel. We burned off some energy in a forest park complete with exercise equipment and found a nice cafe for crepes and omelettes.

Tomorrow we are headed to Normandy for a week-long stay in a gite! We are so so excited for two bedrooms and a kitchen. I can't wait to stock up in a supermarket. Naturally it's almost 1am. We're keeping strange hours mostly because it's light until after 10pm. Also we're on vacation!

Random thoughts - my children will not use these standing-only self-flushing toilets. I don't blame them.

Also, I love how the grocery stores carry small boxes of crackers and nuts, etc... The US sells giant sizes of everything. It's nice buying a small package of crackers that we can eat without carting around forever.

Posted by familyineurope 14:13 Archived in France Comments (0)

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