Right Smack in the Middle of Paris!

Orléans was the perfect stop before Paris. We kinda felt like we were coming home….. it was a nice familiar feeling driving up to the hotel.  This was to be a night of organizing our luggage after 7 weeks on the road.  We needed to look through EVERYTHING (especially the kids luggage) and quietly remove some of the toys that the kiddies had accumulated over the duration of the trip. We honestly did not want to bring some of the stuff back with us (really….. who needs a huge foamy hand from Le Tour de France)  😉  Mike also needed to figure out away to “attach” the drivers side bumper of the car…. back ONTO the car.  It was something that happened while the car was “parked” for the week in Barcelona.  We honestly didn’t know what happened and we certianly weren’t going to be the people paying for something we didnt do (for all we know this could have been something form the previous driver… the problem just wasn’t from us!).  This brings me back to the point I have made earlier in the blog…. the point that Mike can rig just about anything to make it work…kinda like MacGyver.  He managed to attach it, and it was all good!

After we woke up and played in the huge back yard over looking the Loire River, we packed up the car for what would be THE LAST TIME.  We programmed the Tom Tom for the Charles de Gaulle Hilton Airport hotel and with Darth directing us through roundabouts and exits, we were off!

The plan for the day was to drive around Paris early enough to miss Friday rush hour traffic, get to the hotel at the airport, drop our belongings in the room, all with enough time for Mike and Brodie to drive to our old neighbourhood in Paris, and drop off the car.  Syd and I would make our way to our favourite metro stop and hook up with the boys there.  We would then continue on our afternoon of exploring, have dinner, all before heading back to the airport of our last sleep in Paris.

Looks like our Tom Tom had other plans for us this day!

On our drive we seemed to be closing in on Paris instead of going around it.  The Tom Tom said we were 15 km from our destination when all of a sudden, in the distance we could see the Eiffle Tower.  I thought how curious this was because I was pretty sure the airport was MUCH further from the Eiffel tower than that.  I mentioned it to Mike, but he said that no, the Tom Tom was programmed to the correct address…. uuummmmm……this feels familiar but……ok!  We  kept getting closer and closer to that iconic tower when we finally pulled over, litteraly across the Seine from it, all while the Tom Tom was saying we were 3 KM from our destination.  It honestly felt like we were back to our first day driving in Paris and making our way to La Defense and the crazy nightmare that that was. We we knew our plans for the day were quickly going down the tubes!

We were in the EXACT place we didnt want to be during RUSH hour….. Right smack in the middle of Paris! Uuuugghhhh!  It took us quite a bit of time to make our way onto a main road towards the airport.  We were quickly running out of time….. to the point where we didn’t think we would get the car back to the rental company in time before they closed for the night.  After what seemed like an eternity in Paris rush hour traffic, we were almost at the airport and our hotel, we were so close we could see the damn hotel, but we just couldnt find the exit to get us there.  Oh my…. here we go again!  After a couple attempts and going around in circles at the airport we finally found the route ot take us to our hotel.

Time was definitely of the essence as we unpacked the car like mad. We checked into the room, and in a blink of an eye, Mike and Brodie jumped right back into the car to get it back to the rental agency in our old neighbourhood of 17th arrondissement and the Arc de Triomphe.  Sydney and I were to meet the boys at our old stop on the M1 – Charles de Gaulle Étoile

I thought Syd and I had a ton of time to get there since the boys would be fighting traffic on the roads, but much to my surprise (and 2 trains later), we hooked up with Mike and Brodie at the EXACT same time. AWESOME! It was pretty cool that, this part of the day turned out to be  seemless.  Now it was time to get on with our “last day in Paris!”

The first stop was to a pharmacy.  We needed to get Syd a French version of “Gravol”.  I DIDN’T take all the advice I was given on this 7 weeks earlier, and was not going to make that same mistake. I needed  to have this on hand incase Syd needed help during the flight.  I was NOT going to go through the same HELL that we did on the plane 7 weeks earlier…. it was just too crazy and stressful for EVERYONE involved.  We then hit up a couple of stores on the Champs-Élysées before making our way back to our old neighbourhood and the “purple” restaurant for dinner. Sydney, it turns out, was just happy to be eating pizza and sitting in a purple chair.  Mike and I were so thrilled to be back in the ‘hood, eating some yummy food, with a happy little Sydney, all while Brodie , Mike and I were catching the London Olympics on the big screen TV’s.  Life was GOOD… eating pizza, in a purple restaurant, in the middle of Paris!

We called it an early evening as we knew we had an EXTRA long day ahead of us the following morning.  Taking the train to the airport, and watching the Eiffel Tower disappear on the horizon, was just so “bitter sweet”.  It was so incredibly “sweet” to have spent the past 7 weeks with the family in Europe, but so “bitter” that 7 weeks ended up going so damn FAST!  Wow…. hard to believe we were heading back to Canada in the morning!

We woke up packed and ready to go and made our way to the hotel lounge for breakfast. It was cool to be looking out at the airport runways (and a Concord airplane), as we ate our last breakfast in France.

We caught the hotel shuttle to our terminal, got a luggage cart and packed it full.  The airport was so CRAZY busy I almost couldn’t believe it! Walking through to get to the Air Canada check-in was almost close to impossible.  The lineups to check in were beyond anything I had ever seen, and thinking to myself I thought we would never be on time for our flight.  When we arrived at the Air Canada check-in it was CRAZY!  One thing that I can say is that membership “has its privileges”!  With the amount that Mike travels through out the year, and the “status” he gains at Air Canada for all that travel…… well we were put through the Super Elite check-in line.  Thank you Air Canada….. Thank you!  The amount of time it would have taken to get through the other lineup…. it was mind boggling. We made our way to the Air Canada lounge, where the kiddies made themselves quite at home before we needed to go and board our flight for Canada!

It was a full flight back to Canada.  The little Miss made it perfectly through the leg from Paris to Toronto with a “GREAT” sleep mid way through the flight, waking up refreshed for the layover in Toronto.  I was able to get caught up on a couple of movies during that flight, as well as a bit of a catnap.

Getting through customs was quick and easy.  We had a few hours before the flight to Vancouver so we stopped for lunch and I was just so happy to be hooked in to Canadian WiFi with no connection issues!

The flight from YYZ >YVR was painfully long. Not because the kids were tired or cranky (Syd slept again… through the landing into Vancouver, with a seatbelt on and everything!), but because I really now, just wanted to get HOME!

Arriving at YVR,  Brodie got THE BEST SURPRISE when his best bud was there to greet him after 7 weeks away!  It was so awesome to see these 2 little buddies so excited to see one another… it was AMAZING!

Air Canada lost our car seats (but thank you so much for giving us brand new ones to use!) so it took an extra 45 minutes to get out of the airport and into a cab.  Once we were on our way back home, and driving down Granville Street towards Yaletown, I found myself excited to get back to our Vancouver life.  I was excited to see our Condo.  Excited to look out over the water towards the North Shore mountains.  Excited to get back to all that Vancouver had to offer.

We had an AMAZING 7 week family adventure.

There were “amazing times”, and  “bad times”. There were “fun times, and “crazy times”. There were, “take your breath away moments”, and there were “I think we should end the trip now and fly back home” moments.

I am so thankful that we got to spend all the amazing, fun, crazy, take your breath away, moments together… as a family.  Traveling and exeperiencing Europe for 7 weeks.

We seriously cant wait to do it all again.

Look out Europe….. the Bain Clan will be back….. Summer 2014.  Hold on to your hats, because it’s gonna be another EPIC ADVENTURE!

Enjoy your (not so) Daily Dose.

Xox

B.

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Orléans…. and the “F” twig

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Mr.Man

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More wind farm awesomeness EnRoute to Paris.

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Hello LAST TOOL BOOTH

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Hey….. Its  the Eiffel Tower…. I dont think we are heading to the airport!

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This is probably not a good sign….

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I adore you…. but we REALLY shouldn’t see you right now!

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Nooooooooo………

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Boo… Tom Tom has brought us where we REALLY dont want to be right now!

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We are finally sorted and where we should be!

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Yay….Champs-Élysées

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Navigating the Paris Metro

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Hello Purple Pizza Restaurant!

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On to train #2 back to the airport.

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Back to the airport

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Mr.Man

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The lIttle Miss

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Kiddies

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View from the room

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Breakfast view!

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Our Luggage for 7 weeks…..

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I think we did pretty well… car seats and all!

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Charles de Gaulle Airport… sooooo crowded!

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Thank you Air Canada…Thank you!

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Airport LOVE!

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Mr. Man

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Anything for Brodie… his Favourite!  😉

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Our Plane

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Waiting

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Canada… here we come

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7 weeks goes …… FAST!

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My Loves!

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Here we go!

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Mr Man and the iPad

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We are completely addicted to our technology!

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You know what?…… Its just not the same…… Missing my french coffee already and we haven’t even hit 33,000 ft!

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Canadian Soil…. here we come!

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More Airport LOVE!

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Yes indeed!

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Our first Canadian sunset in 7 weeks!  We LOVE you Vancouver!

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Bring on Ile de Re´ and a Big Change of Heart

We woke up in LA Rochelle to a travel day.  We were making our way to our SECOND to last sleep before heading back to Canada. That sleep would be back in the quaint little hotel we stayed at in Orléans (at Brodies request).  Although it was a bit of a stretch from La Rochelle to Orléans (about 4.5hrs on the A10), it actually was the perfect spot before heading back into Paris for our last night before our flight back to Canada.

We made our way down for the fabulous breakfast, packed up the room, packed up our little (full sized) car, and checked out of our quaint little hotel.  Since we had some time befoer we “needed to drive on”, we decided  to check out the surrounding area. We talked to the hotel concierge about places to see and the recommendation was Ile de Re´.

When Mike booked La Rochelle he said it “was a place where people from France go to vacation”.  Now while I thought La Rochelle was a pretty little town….. I wasn’t 100% sold on the fact that “THIS is where the French go to vacation”…… That is, until we were directed to Ile de Re´. Now….. at this point in the vacation… knowing it was coming to an end quickly, and living out of a suitcase for almost 7 weeks, with not many laundry facilities close at hand….. I will admit (shamefully so) that I was looking forward to unpacking my bags on Canadian soil, and settling in for the duration of the summer in our Yaletown condo.

Bring on Ile de Re´ and a BIG change of Heart.

Ile de Re´….. a beautiful 30 km island connected to mainland France by a 3 km bridge with beautiful sandy beaches.  It sounded devine.  We said our goodbyes to La Rochelle and made our way to Ile de Re´ and all it had to offer.

As we were driving over the bridge I thought to myself… that “YES….. THIS is where the French go to Vacation!”  It was maybe about 30 minutes from La Rochelle.  There was a hefty toll to get across the bridge but it was only a one way toll (thank goodness). The beauty and quaintness of Ile de Re´ caught me right away.  The island is filled with cabin and bike trails…. really if you were staying here that would be the best mode of transportation you could be on.  We made our way to one of the many beaches on the Bay of Biscay, with nothing but water between us and North America.

With the waves rolling in, the quaintness of the small town and island life, it really reminded me of Tofino, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  The waves were huge and constant, and with that magical sound as they crashed upon the sandy beaches.  The 4 of us were in HEAVEN!  It was ashame that we hadnt known about this the day before as there probably would have been no melt down…. just a picnic lunch and a lot of sand digging!

It was at this point I said to Mike, forgetting totally about my earlier desire to get back to Vancouver and clean clothes….. that we should call the airline, change our flights, and add another week to the vacation.  I was more that willing to stay in France another week or so…..Ile de Re´ is just that MAGICAL!

We spent a fair amount of time on the beautiful sandy beach, but we had to say good bye to the ocean and make our way for lunch, so we wouldn’t be driving to Orléans in the dark!  We made our way to the other side of the island where there were more restaurants and shops, than sandy beaches. It was later in the day so our first restaurant of choice was closed until dinner service.  We then found a cute little pizza “pirate” place in La Flotte that was open.  After a quick bite it was time to hit the road and get on our way to Orléans.  After all the playing in the sand and surf both kiddies (and Mike) were looking like a nap would do them some good!

Back over the 3 Km bridge, we made some good time driving the toll roads towards Orléans!  There were number of “Pit Stops” all which included automated coffee machines, but we were happy to arrive back at our little hotel “just off the highway” in Orléans in time for dinner.

The kids were super happy to see the hotel and the grand backyard over looking the Loire River, where races would be run around and around the Merman fountain….. I was pretty happy that there was unlimited wifi, and that this would be THE final organizing of  the kids, and my suitcases before our flight home!

It was time to curl up and sleep before our last travel day and our “do over” night in our old ‘hood on the streets of Paris and I couldn’t wait!

Enjoy your (not so) Daily Dose.

Xox

B.

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3KM Bridge to Il de Re

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Bridge love

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Sandy beaches to the left

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Sandy beaches to the right

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Heading to the Bay of Biscay

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Beach awesomeness

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Wow…. so AMAZING.

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Lets dig a hole……

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Beauty and the beach

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The Little Miss

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I *heart* Paris too!

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You go girl!

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Mr Man

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Beach vastness

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Hello Gorgeous!

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Family Love!

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My Man!

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The kiddies!

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LOVE

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No pants!

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Ummmm…….

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ahhhhhhh…. the waves crashing in!

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RACES!

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Syd wins!

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Me and my Kiddies!

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Beauty!

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Two favourite boys!

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Family Love

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Paddle on in my friend!

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Island life!

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another carousel…. it was closed when we saw it!  😉

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Island travels

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Island travels

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Lunch spot!

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Lunch time!

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…. of course

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Bye bye, Il de Re… thanks for your hospitality!

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do people actually still use these?

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Hahaha… LOVE this!

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iPad in hand

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Other iPad in hand!

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Ile de Re´

Thank You Tourism La Rochelle… Thank You!

We woke up La Rochelle, to mixed weather.  It was partly cloudy with a cool breeze, which would be prefect weather to spend the day walking around La Rochelle.  We made our way down for the breakfast buffet.  One thing I love about staying in European hotels is that breakfast is usually included with the price of your room and it is usually delicious. What a great way to start the day. Fresh baked bread, yummy jams, deli meats, amazing cheeses, and who could possibly leave out the pain au chocolat. 😉

We packed the day packs with everything we would need for touring around the city and headed out. La Rochelle is a small town, with pretty little shops and tons of restaurants.  We spent a bit of time shopping, and a whole lot of time meandering around neat little courtyards and side streets.  We eventually made our way out of old town and walked around the marina.

The plan for the day was to do a walk about, grab lunch, and then tour the towers that were the entrance way to the marina.  We found a cute little restaurant on the marina and sat down to a shaded table next to a retired couple from USA.  We chatted to them about their trip and ours. It was funny that while we were travelling in a clockwise direction they were doing almost the exact opposite to us.  At the end of our lunch we said our          good-byes, but not before they told us how well-behaved our children were.  Mike and I thought this was so sweet, and on the whole our kids are well behaved, but we sure chuckled once we left the restaurant knowing all the crazy meltdowns and episodes that had transpired before that day!

It was getting on in the afternoon, the clouds had parted, and it was becoming hot and muggy. I knew we might be pushing it with the little Miss by heading to the towers for a look around, since this is what we were here for…  off we went!

We arrived at the museum to a small line up to pay for admission. This is generally not a problem, but since we were lined up in a “gift shop” to pay for admission, I knew that something was going to go down….. and it was probably going to be Sydney!  True to form, and the time of the day, that little gift shop caused us the biggest headache.  Sydney’s little world now revolved around some random trinket that she JUST HAD TO HAVE! Uuugghhhh…. here we go people.

We managed to get the tour started with hopes that she would forget about said random trinket that she just HAD to have, but alas we were wrong! It was a tantrum to end all tantrums.  It actually ended my tour of the tower when I just had to get her out of the tower so she wasnt disrupting EVERYBODY’S  tour.  I had the sweetest english couple come up to me and told me that their 18-year-old daughter was “just the same” 16 years ago…. and told me not to worry about what people thought… and that the little Miss was just fine!  They helped brighten a dark moment that day with out a doubt.

Mike and Brodie continued the tour while I took the little lady outside so she could calm down.  In order to get her outside I had to pass through the very gift shop that was ultimately the cause of this very meltdown…. uuggghhh!

Now, I totally get the whole marketing to tourists, and getting people to part with their money for things that they “think” they need…. but seriously to have to walk through it twice! Thank you tourism La Rochelle… thank you!

Sydney finally tuckered herself out with the tantrum, and fell asleep as I carried her.  Mike, Brodie, and I ended up watching a boat festival while the little Miss slept.  She was in better spirits when she woke, and seemed to perk up a bit more at the thought of getting a bowl of yummy ice cream at a cool, little ice cream shop. I was just super thrilled to sit down and have a yummy cup of coffee. EnRoute back to the hotel we decided to stop at the carousel for “just one ride”.  Seriously… had we not learned ANYTHING from the days episode?!?  We did get the “3 ticket” special, and she rode twice.

We ended our day at the hotels outdoor pool since it was so smoldering hot outside.  After about 5 minutes at the pool the wind picked up, the clouds rolled in and we were hit with a surprise rain storm that sent us running for our room.

It was a crazy way to end a great (but partially) crazy day!

Enjoy your (not so) Daily Dose

Xox

B.

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Starting out the day just like how they ended off the night before…. side by side! *love*

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Looking from our room into the courtyard… love French hotels they have so much character!

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Out and About in La Rochelle

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Pretty La Rochelle

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Mike and the little man

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Me and the monkeys in the heat of the day.

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Lunch stop

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Pretty marina and shops

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The little Miss sat on EVERY ONE of those posts.

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Finally at the end…..

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…. to reach THE bIggest ice cream cone….. EVER!

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La Rochelle Tower

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biggest anchor EVER!

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Inside the tower

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Mr. Man

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Firing arrows or practicing his “Usain Bolt” moves

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That is one steep staircase

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Oh France… how I love you so!

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View from the top of the tower

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View from the top of the tower

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View from the top of the tower

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Mr. Man

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much. needed. sleep!

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still sleeping

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more superhero sightings

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Spidey is watching you!

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Fun retro dessert shop

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Loving the retro ice cream pics with the springy legs!

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Hey… it’s a carousel!

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The little Miss….

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Now just one more ride!

The Day Started in Spain

It was time to say good-bye to San Sebastian, our beautiful sandy beach and warm water.  We were in our last week of our extended holiday, and making our way towards Paris for our flight out later that week.  Our second to last stop before Paris was a small coastal town … La Rochelle.

After packing up our room and fitting everything into the car, we spent the morning at the Barceló Coast (ice-cold) pool, swimming, and soaking up the sunshine before having lunch and making our way north towards La Rochelle.

Funny thing about San Sebastian is that it is literally 20 minutes from the border into France.  Had we not had to pay a toll, I just may have totally missed even entering France….. it was that quick!

Our drive took us north on the A63 through one of the most famous wine regions in THE ENTIRE WORLD …. BORDEAUX.  I seriously had to laugh.  Here we were…… 4 of us in a car driving past some of THE most fabulous vineyards and wine in the world, without even the slightest desire to stop! HA…… Mike and I were on a mission (and with 2 kids 5 and under… I guess it was reason enough NOT to stop) get to La Rochelle….. QUICKLY!  Sigh…… the vineyards and wine of Bordeaux will have to wait for another trip!

It was about a 5 hour drive to La Rochelle from San Sebastian, and driving on the toll roads…. well……. it’s never a cheap day on the toll roads of Europe! We arrived late afternoon and were directed precisely to our hotel by Darth Vader and our trusty Tom Tom app on MIkes phone.  The hotel was super cute and was everything you would expect in Europe….. an old non-descript stone building, that once you entered, blew you away with all its loveliness!  There was nowhere to park on the tiny road that lead us to our fabulous hotel so we were parked half on the sidewalk. Had we been on our first week of the trip we would have totally stressed over the situation of “where to park”…. but after 6 weeks we were starting to  feel like locals and pulled “kinda off the road and half on to the sidewalk”…. It just seemed like the normal thing to do.

What a fabulous room we had. Mike had been booking a lot of our accommodations off of Trip Advisor, and this one, like all the rest, (the exception being Lourdes) did not disappoint. We looked into the courtyard and had a tiny view of the old town.  After the long drive we decided to get cleaned up and head out to investigate the town and find a yummy place for dinner.

La Rochelle is a pretty little town.  Tons of restaurants and shops in the old town with beautiful cobblestone roads and walkways.  Leaving the “gates” of old town, there was a great little night market, with tons of artisans showing their goods. We did a little walk about while looking for a place to eat with the kiddies.  There were so many amazing options. Walking along the street surrounded by all these amazing restaurants it was hard knowing after we looked at the menus that there was really nothing that the kiddies would eat…. Uuuugghhhh….. so frustrating knowing that we were missing out on some AMAZING food.  We had almost lost hope on where to eat when Brodie spotted a sushi restaurant.

If you know the Bain Family…. you know that we are addicted to sushi… kids included! Seriously… we go for Sushi every Friday (or Saturday) since the kiddies were born.  Sushi was not really something we had come across during our adventure, so with Brodie begging to go there for dinner, we went and got ourselves a table.

The restaurant (I think it was called Koi) was a funny one.  From the moment we arrived not one person looked happy or smiled.  Mike and I assumed it was because we had 2 kids with us, but as time passed on it was clear that the waitresses just were not happy people…… they were treating every table the same…. no smiles and just plain crabby!  I don’t really remember the sushi and if it was good or not, but I do remember being quite happy that the kids weren’t eating pizza or pasta! Since this trip I have noted that the kiddies will do well eating in Italy or Japan!

After our sushi experience we decided to do a walk about and look at the towns military towers that were so pretty all lit up.  Afterwards we headed over to investigate the night market that was happening just outside of old town.  As we were walking through the tree covered night market we heard a crazy squeaking sound.  It turns out that the trees covering the market were filled with bats just “hanging out”, and Brodie thought this was über cool.  After our bat experience we decided to hit an ice cream shop for a “before bedtime treat” and made our way back to the hotel for a good nights sleep.

It had been a long day of driving and the kiddies were holding up rather well given that the day started in Spain!

So much to do….. so much to see!

Enjoy your (not so) Daily Dose

Xox

B.

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Loved this hotel!

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Why must little Miss  always sleep perpendicular to me….. that girl does laps in her sleep!

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hanging poolside… topless of course!

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This pool was ICE COLD!

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Hello France (and toll booth)… we are coming!

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Bordeaux

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Bordeaux

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HAY… in Bordeaux

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Sunflowers…. in Bordeaux

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More Sunflowers…. in Bordeaux

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Shocking… another toll booth!

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Our Hotel…. SO AWESOME!

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Would totally stay here again… so great!

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NOT Super happy… its been a long day!

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La Rochelle…. Old Town

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Koi…. Interesting little Sushi Restaurant!

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Wanted to take home Kois’ Bar statue… she was so cool!

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Restaurant row at dusk… Old Town

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La Rochelle Tower

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Clowning around just outside “Old Town”

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After a long day…. chilling together!  *Love*

Room 62 and an Olive Tree

Carcassonne – part 2

After our week in Lourdes it was time to say good-bye to the Pyrenees Mountains and Le Tour de France and head back to our beloved castle and room 62 at the Montmorency Hotel in Carcassonne…. YAY!

To say that I am absolutely in LOVE with this hotel is not really a understatement!  It totally ROCKS!  The rooms…. super cool.  The beds….. amazing. The pool kicks butt, and being so close to the castle, well really, can you ask for more? Oh yeah…. there is also an olive tree right outside the door!  Hello……. it really doesn’t get any better!

Since we were in the same room from a week ago it kinda felt like we were coming home.  Everyone there remembered us and the kids loved that they knew where they were going.  I was happy that after a week away from this fabulous hotel, I, once again had full water pressure, an amazing rain shower, and various body gels and shampoos.  This hotel is simply AWESOME!

We arrived after an uneventful 3.5 hour drive from Lourdes – where we left overcast cloudy skies for sunshine and warmer temperatures. We spent what was left of the afternoon in the pool before heading into the castle for dinner.

We decided to head into the centre “square” for dinner which was probably a mistake on our part just given the touristy nature of the restaurants we were eating at. All the restaurants seemed to have similar plastic coated menus and had a HUGE number of tables that were all full of tourists ( I know …. I’m a tourist as well…..). This is usually my sign to run and find another eating establishment, but the kids were pretty set on the place that “they” picked out…. Brodie says “lets eat at that restaurant” referring to the restaurant with the green awnings and umbrellas.  I ordered the goat cheese salad, in my head, hoping to replicate the one I had in Luz St. Sauveur (but with no luck).  The kids ended up being super happy with their meals, and in the end as long as their tummies are full and they are happy….. well, anyway, that’s what I tell myself!

It was a beautiful night so we walked around the castle till dusk, stopping in on our favourite store… Real chocolate.  We picked up a crazy stash of über tasty chocolate.  After our shopping extravaganza , we were ALL going to head out on the “Daddy/Brodie” nightly castle walk.  Well little Syd had other ideas. Her “less frequent” meltdown was fast approaching…. I have no idea what set her off, and it lasted about 10 minutes with her kicking, screaming and crying on the ground, before I finally said… “OK let’s go back to the hotel”. She was happy as a clam to be heading back to room 62, her comfy bed, and Bubble Guppies on the iPad.  Brodie and Mike finished their nightly castle walk without the two of us, but then stopped by to pick us up for a “night-cap” at the hotel bar.  Apple juice for the kiddies and fermented grape juice for the parents!

We woke up to cloudy skies and a weather report calling for rain…. noooooooo! I wanted hot Carcassonne sunshine and blue skies!  We decided given the weather that we would enter the castle and walk the ramparts around the walled city.  The line up was a bit crazy, with about 30 minutes in line waiting just to buy entrance tickets and I found myself thankful that it wasn’t 32 degrees and sunny!  We all throughly enjoyed touring around the old castle, and walking the defensive wall that surrounded the castle.  The views of the countryside and city were amazing. Although it still wasn’t super hot and sunny….  we ended our day in the pool.

Our last morning in Carcassonne was BEAUTIFUL! Blue skies, sunshine….. the perfect morning for a quick breakfast, a quick pack of the hotel room and car, and then a lazy morning spent splashing in the pool and basking in sunshine.  We slathered on the sunscreen and ended up splashing, jumping, diving, swimming, shark hunting, dragon hunting, princess rescuing….. in the pool for HOURS!  We were all quite sad to leave but with a three-hour drive to Barcelona ahead of us, and lunch to eat, it was time to call it a day around 1:00.  We said goodbye to the resident pups, and cats, jammed our selves into the “european full size” car, and we were off.

Good-bye Carcassonne, room 62 and my olive tree…… till next time!

PS. Just so you all know….

I  didn’t understand the crazy amounts of time a blog would take, and the frustration I would have with the Wi-Fi in our various accommodations on our trip, so this isn’t really a LIVE account of our trip.  We have been back in Vancouver BC now, just about 4 weeks, and I am still blogging about our trip from July……  maybe it’s now called a “Journal”.  Either way, I’m still having fun recounting our trip from notes I took on my iPhone and going through the photos I took…… I hope you are all still enjoying it!

PPS If you are reading this and you happen to live in Carcassonne….. we left an iPhone 3GS (iPod really….) at the “green” restaurant  (we think).  If you could help me track it down and ship it back to Canada I would be forever grateful…. as would a little 3 year old princess! If you track it down you can comment via the blog and we can get in touch!

Enjoy your Daily Dose

Xox

B.

Hello Carcassonne Castle

“Real Chocolat” store   Mmmmmmmm…….

So, so happy!

Sword fighting in the castle

The Family

Hangin’ in a castle

The nightly walk

yup…. it’s pretty deep!

The Castle and Ramparts

Siblings

Me and my kiddies

we’re off to see the wizard….. Oops…..wrong era!

Walking the Ramparts

The inner City and Castle

Oh my…. we are all of a sudden not happy!

The start of the nightly walk

Syd is not having ANY part of this walk

My little man

Good Morning Carcassonne!

Fun with giant X’s and O’s

Hello AWESOME rain shower!

Bye bye comfy bed

Bye Bye resident pups 1&2

Bye bye, Syd’s favorite kitty

THE POOL!

My Olive Tree

Good Thing He Brought The Visa

Lourdes

We arrived late in the day in Lourdes. We hit some city traffic, and then found our apartment hotel that was going to be our home for the next 7 days. We got all our luggage, (now, plus 1 bike), in the room before heading out for a quick scout around town, pick up some breakfast supplies (it was Saturday night and we now know what its like to be in a town, in France, on a Sunday…. everything is CLOSED!), and grab some dinner.  It turns out they REALLY like pizza in Lourdes.  Almost all the restaurants that were near us were Italian. Pizza and pasta….. the kiddies were in heaven!

Our apartment was situated perfectly in the city.  We were close to shops, restaurants, and much-needed laundry facilities! We were also super close to the highway entrance to the Pyrenees Mountains – this was great since it turned out to be our almost daily commute. As it turns out…. the tiny mountain towns in France are simply the BEST!

We woke up Friday morning to beautiful blue, cloudless skies.  We packed the bike and headed to the Pyrenees Mountains. We drove up the Col du Tourmalet – and at 5km to the summit we pulled over.  Putting on 2 pairs of socks, Mikes cycling shoes, and buckling up his helmet I set out on the rented bike.

Right away……on the bike, I knew I was headed for trouble…… I was not 100% sure on the clip out mechanism of Mikes bike shoes, I couldn’t get the bike to its lowest gear, all while starting out on a 8-10% grade…….well 20 meters into my 5km journey I toppled off the bike into a heap on the road.  Mike came running to my rescue, managed to get the bike in the lowest gear, then got me and my bruised ego, back cycling up the Col du Tourmalet all within a couple of minutes.

WOW, WOW, WOW……..

It was crazy to think that I was actually “cycling” up one of the most über famous mountain climbs in France.  I was actually cycling where Lance Armstrong spent a good part of his career (I LOVE Lance Armstrong…. its OK …… Mike knows). A climb I had seen countless times on TV –  and the ride up the mountain was nothing short of spectacular.  It was so unbelievably amazing, there are almost no words to describe it!

Mike took the kiddies to look at the cows and sheep that graze freely on the mountain while I cycled up.  About 1.5KM to go, they passed me in the car, cheering and waving their arms.  I felt so lucky to have such a great cheering squad encouraging me up the mountain.  They pulled over and continued with cheering and picture-taking.  The last switch back up the mountain is crazy.  It kicks into a 12% grade…..  I wasnt sure I would be able to do it when I watched a van turn and take the climb, but when 2 cyclists passed me and jumped out of their saddles…. I didn’t miss a beat and followed suit.  The last 200 meters there were cyclist making their way down the mountain and they were cheering us all on…. it was like my own “little” Tour de France.  I wish I had enough training behind me to do the entire 23KM climb, but so happy that I got to summit the Col du Tourmalet.

After my EPIC 5Km ride we came down the “back” side of the mountain (which Mike informs me is actually the front side of the mountain), and had lunch in the cutest little ski town.  We were quite literally surrounded by the Pyrenees mountains, and I definitely see a ski holiday there at some point! It would be breath-taking all white and covered in snow.

We then packed the bike in the car, programmed the tomtom and made our way to Pau to pick up mikes race pack for L’etape du Tour.  The drive through the mountains was beautiful, the kiddies slept, and we managed to find exactly where we needed to be in Pau…… parking spot and all.  The bike expo was awesome.  So many bikes (some 6000 euro and above) bike gear, nutrition, Le Tour clothing….. you could definitely get carried away and spend a fortune!

We had dinner in Pau, and got back to Lourdes around 9:00pm. Mike got his bike, nutrition, and clothing together for the big race.  Alarms were set as it would be an early morning for us with a 5:30am wake up and drive to Pau to drop Mike off for his big race. Its always hard to getting ready for a race.  Trying to figure out the right clothing to wear, and making sure it is perfect for the day…. well its just stressful. We woke up to cool temperatures and low socked in cloud. As we were driving to drop off Mike, we were passing all sorts of cyclists heading to the race.  Mike turned to me, and with concern in his voice says “Why is everyone dressed like its winter?”  Well there wasn’t much Mike could do at this point with regards to clothing, so we just had to all cross our fingers that the cloud wasn’t that bad and that it would burn off as the morning progressed.  We wished Mike well, said our goodbyes and the kiddies and I made our way back to Lourdes, as Mike headed for the start line.  We were to pick Mike up in  Bagneres de Luchon later in the afternoon after 201km ride.

The kiddies and I went back to the apartment, cleaned up, had lunch and ventured out in Lourdes.  The town we needed to get to pick up Mike was about 90 minutes away from Lourdes so by mid afternoon the kiddies needed a nap, so we packed in the car, programmed the tomtom, and we were off.  The kiddies napped on cue, I stopped at the roadside rest area for coffee and a small nap before heading back on our way.  We arrived in Bagneres de Luchon, and was trying to find parking when the phone rang.  It was Mike.  His race was over and wanted to know if we could pick him up, instead of hopping on the race bus…. it would probably save us 3 hours.

Our new destination was Tresbons….. about 40 minutes away from where we were.  I reprogrammed the tomtom and we were off.  Now, for me it was a super strange feeling to be driving `blind` and not really knowing where we were.  I`m definitly more of a visual human being, so this is where a huge foldable map comes in handy!  I followed the directions from Darth, and after about 30 minutes I started to question whether we were on the right path.  We exited the highway, paid our toll and we were on an amazingly beautiful rural road in the middle of farmers fields.  I made a right turn as directed and was thinking this can’t be right…… I thought I would drive another 10 minutes and then call Mike if I didn’t find him.  Well lo and behold after passing through countless little communities, there was Mike and his bike at the side of the road waiting for us. Gotta love modern technology….. and our $80.00 tomtom iPhone app….. AMAZING!

Mike had a rough day in the mountains.  The day was the exact opposite to what my ride had been.  It was pouring rain and super cold.  The clouds were socked in on the mountains and the cold from the descent off the first climb was almost too much to recover from. The second climb was the Col du Tourmalet, where, once he was at the summit, jumped off his bike, bought a jacket and gloves (good thing he brought the Visa), both of which were WAY over priced.  Mike said that being as cold as he was, at that point price didn’t matter, and  he would have paid any amount of money, just to get something warm on his body. He found some cardboard and stuffed that in his shirt for extra wind protection for the second descent.

I was sad that Mike didn’t have great conditions for his race and that he couldn’t finish, but he was happy with how well he climbed and I know if the conditions had been better we would have watched him cross the finish line!

Seeing all the cyclists throughout our week in the Pyrenees mountains was super inspiring….. and with the beauty I saw on my ride I know we will be back….. riding up all the famous climbs! Its one trip I cant wait to plan!

Enjoy your Daily Dose

Xox

B.

Driving through the Pyrenees

On the Col du Tourmalet

In Luz St. Sauveur

5 km to the summit

Hanging out with the grazing cows on the mountainside

1.5 km to the summit

Top of the Tourmalet

Someday we will climb them all!

Syd fell in love with horses

Surrounded by the Pyrenees

in Pau

Mikes Race – 201 km

Profile of race day

Brodie was cheering for Cadel Evans – team BMC.  He thought this was pretty cool!

Race day for Mike – you should see the mountains…. not clouds!

Carcassonne. An Amazing Castle, One CRAZY Meltdown, and iPod Shuffle Love!

Caracassonne

We had 2 nights and 3 days in Carcassonne before our next stop.  We arrived later in the afternoon the first day and basically got settled in the room and went for a quick explore of the castle and then for dinner.  We ate at a great restaurant in the castle walls…… Le Saint Jean. We sat outside since

1.) there was room for the kiddies to run around if needed.

2.) there were paths for them to explore between courses.

3.) We were in a FREAKING CASTLE built in like……. 1067AD…. why wouldn’t we sit outside!

Our dinner was great and afterwards (and well into the night) we spent some time exploring different walkways, and the castle wall.

On Friday morning Mike had to go and pick up the road bike  he rented  for his bike race (l’etape du tour) that would be taking place in Pau the following week. He left first thing in the morning as he had a conference call with work and didnt want to disturb the kiddies or I before it was time to wake up. We woke up later than expected due to the AMAZING blackout curtains in the hotel.  The kiddies and I went for breakfast and were joined by the resident pups that lived at the hotel – a chocolate lab, and a hush puppy.

The kiddies and I decided we would head into the castle, check things out, and then head back and pick Mike up around 1:00 for lunch.  When we entered the castle there was a horse drawn carriage that would take you around the castle… both Brodie and Sydney decided that they REALLY wanted to take the tour even though it was all in French. Syd fell in LOVE with the horses, and Brodie wanted to see all around the castle. Sounded like a great plan….. Done.

After the ride, and saying goodbye to the horses, we ventured into the castle to see what goodies we could find.  Syd fell in love with a princess shirt and brodie a knight shirt. We got the appropriate sizes and were making our way out the store when our day completely fell apart….. Brodie started completely loosing his mind over not having a plastic bag to carry his shirt.  I finally got him out of the store crying hysterically, and I decided we would make our way back to the hotel.  I thought the tantrum would pass quickly since it was so out of character for the little man, but I was wrong! The 4 minute walk back to the hotel took us about 20 minutes with Brodie taking tantrum to another level, all while little Syd pretending that she NEVER acts like that, and telling Brodie he should be good….. OMG…… really…… was this happening!

We finally got back to the hotel and Brodie was sent to the kids room.  I sat outside in the sun trying to figure out what the heck happened, all while Syd walked around acting like she would NEVER do that!  UUUUGGGHHHH!  Mike made his entrance a short time later….. to me sitting outside, in the sun, with steam pouring out of my ears, Brodie sulking in his room, and Syd (acting a perfect angel) watching the iPad on the big bed.  Mike finally got Brodie to calm down, and apologize for his behavior.

Round 2:

We made our way BACK to the castle for lunch, and a walk around the castle wall.  We had a great lunch (although I am tiring of looking for pizza and pasta for the kiddies), and a fabulous walk along the castle wall.  The weather was nice so we eventually made our way back to our hotel and the awesome pool. The kids were super happy to be finally swimming and splashing around.  They could spend the entire day in the water if we let them!

We woke the next morning to our travel day to Lourdes….. and what an amazing day it was! There was not a cloud in the sky, and I found it hard to believe that I would ever pull myself away from our hotel and amazing pool!

We had breakfast, and packed up the room.  Mike – the master packer that he is, needed to find room in our “European full size” car that was already packed tight, for the road bike that he rented.  Unbelievable……. but…. the master packer made it work!  I was sooooooo surprised that it all fit given that we were so tight to begin with.  The kiddies had to sit side by side for drive to Lourdes…. it was SUPER tight…. but we all fit!  We spent the morning in the Carcassonne sunshine at the pool, and then around 1:30 we decided to call it a day, and make our way to our next destination.  I wasn`t too bummed about leaving knowing that we had just booked another 2 nights for the return trip en route to Barcelona…… YES…. we would be back at this amazing hotel, in this amazing city, in a week!

The drive to Lourdes was pretty uneventful. We plugged in my ancient iPod Photo (from about 10 years ago), with its 10,000 + songs on it and away we went. The kids watched their shows and then slept part of the way.  It was beautiful to see the landscape change once again. We left dry and arid, almost desert landscape, for green, lush land with rolling hills.  It did surprise me that while I knew we were heading to the Pyrenees Mountains, all I saw was rolling hills…. even when we entered Lourdes (which is only about 30 minutes from the mountains).

Where were the Pyrenees Mountains…… I count wait to find them!

PS. I LOVE my iPod….. on random while driving it came upon one of my all time FAVORITE songs….. Dance Hall Days by Wang Chung.  Now there is an oldie but a goodie. Thank goodness for the random shuffle on the iPod!

Enjoy your Daily Dose

Xox

B.

 

Nighttime castle walk

Carriage ride

The kiddies and I

Castle wall walk

Hello Princess

My awesome prince!

Hello Spiderman!

Brodie and Daddys nightly castle adventure

Resident pup #1

Resident pup #2

Our hotel looking from the pool

Hello amazing pool in the Carcassonne sunshine!

Outdoor warm rain shower

Cramped drive to Lourdes

Gotta pay to drive in France!

Traffic jam in Lourdes

Gotta Love the 80s music’e (and my 10 year old iPod!)