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We woke up on our final morning in Barcelona to beautiful blue skies and sunshine.  We were packing up our “European full size” rental car and driving across the northern part of Spain.  Barcelona > San Sebastian.

Once again, remarkably, we were able to fit everything into our little “full sized” rental car. We were definitly becoming pros at packing the car up tight by now.  Once we were packed up we took the kids across the street to the mall and the rides/trampolines that were there for one last go around.  Syd was fully advised on the rules of the rides, and that there would be a couple of rides but when Daddy said it was time to go…. well it was time to go!  With plenty of agreements, and yes yes I understand, we headed to the rides. All was going really well until it was stated that it was “time to go”.  Seemed like the little Miss forgot all about her knowladge of “it was time to go” and threw one of the biggest tantrums of the trip.  We eventually got her in the car and were making our way out of Barcelona and onwards to our next stop on our adventure ……. San Sebastian.

The landscape from Barcelona and the Balearic Sea > San Sebastian and the Bay of Biscay was ever changing. Leaving the hot and muggy city of Barcelona, into the scorching hot, and arid plains along the E-90, and then into the cool and dewey mountainous region just past Pamplona into San Sebastian…. we hit almost every summer weather condition on our drive. I’m not sure what my expectations were on what the landscape would look like before we drove across Spain, but what we saw that day was so varied and so very beautiful.

It was hot when we left Barcelona at 11am that Saturday morning.  The temperature was mid 20’s and was I’m sure going to climb to the high 20’s even low 30’s given the hot muggy week we had just had.  As we started our drive away from the water, and with not a cloud in sight, our little in-car thermometer contined to rise giving us a detailed occourance of the temperature happening outside our little car. As the vegetation got sparser…. the temperature got HOTTER.  We hit a temperature of 43 degrees as we passed through the plains of Spain.

The one thing you notice as you drive through Spain (and the other 2 countries we drove through… Germany and France), is that Europe is on the pulse of utilizing and colllecting “green” energy. Driving through the arid, sunny and windy plains of Spain, there were acres upon acres of solar panels, and wind turbines every where you looked.  It honestly was an incredible sight to see. I am by no means an expert on the topic of the collection of “green energy”, however, it seemed like in Europe they just get it.  They do what needs to be done, utilizing all the awesomeness that mother nature provides. Canada needs to get on board……  It truly was an inspiring sight to see!

We stopped for lunch at a roadside rest stop. It was crazy busy given that we never really saw tons of other cars as we were driving.  I first thought it was funny that there was covered parking for our car, but given that it was 43 degrees outside, and blistering sunshine… It was a real blessing that we found a spot under it and in the shade.

I LOVE the rest stops in Europe! It is another thing that the Europeans take seriously.  There is full on restaurant facilities with decent enough food to get you through.  Nice bathrooms, trinket shopping, fuel, and coffee machines that can make you ANYTHING you want for under 2 Euro (except for the large coffee that you want to hold and savour for 40 minutes… I think its a North American thing!)  😉 Seriously, they have everything you could possibly want for your drive, and it is AWESOME!

After about a 45 minute stop we were back in the car with the AC cranked and were continuing on our jouney towards San Sebastian. We continued our drive passing a ton more solar and wind farms but the landscape was changing and the hills were becoming more lush and the temperature was dropping.  We were starting to pass through farm land.

We had another unexpected “milestone” as we drove from one side of Spain to the other… we passed through the Greenwich Meridian.  The Greenwich Meridian is the line that seperates East from West…. a line from the North Pole to the South Pole. It may have just been a couple of signs telling us what we were approaching as we were zipping along the highway, but it was pretty cool event as we passed under the cement arc over the roadway.

The closer we got to the mountains and San Sebastian the cooler it became. We left Barcelona and 25+ degrees, to a high of 43 degrees somewhere on the plains of Spain, and now our handy car thermometre was reading 17 degrees AND we had to turn the winsheild wipers on since it had started to rain. We were in beautiful lush mountains, and low cloud. Funny that it felt like we were back in Vancouver after only driving for 6+ hours.

We made our way through the beautiful city of San Sebastian and found our amazing hotel Barceló Costa Vasca.  The hotel wasn’t as handy to the beach as we would have liked, but the rooms were AMAZING, the pool was awesome, and there was a fantastic kids park that we had to walk past to get to the beach…  so all in all, it worked out perfectly!

After a full day of driving we went for a walk through pretty San Sebastian towards the beach. We picked up some groceries, for the morning, and then found a cute little outdoor spot for a dinner. Since it was first day of the Olympics we had the bonus that we could also catch a few of the Olympic swimming events on the big flat screen TV that was behind the bar. We had some yummy food, over looking La Concha, which was by far, one of the prettiest beaches we had encountered so far.

What a day driving from one side of Spain to the other. So varied and so beautiful. We were excited to start our last week of our European vacation in this pretty little town in Basque Country.

Enjoy your (not so) Daily Dose

Xox

B.

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One last spin on the rides across form the Hilton

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The favourite truck

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So fun…… but you know that leaving is NOT going to end well for the little Miss.

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On the road outside of Barcelona

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Gas was expensive (euro/lt.)

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So hot outside

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Farm land

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Unexpected excitement! 😉

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There it is….. Greenwich Meridian

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Yay for covered parking

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Walkway over the highway

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Collecting solar energy… So hot and sunny!

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Wind Farms

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Love these

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Nearing San Sebastian

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Lush

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Our hotel….. 2 rooms were needed…… again

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Uh oh……

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Its hard being 3

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Siblings in San Sebastian

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Olympics

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and Olympic sized beer

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The little Miss

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Mr Man

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Prettiness at dusk

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The Family

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Show for the kids…. music and wine for us!

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Between Heaven and Hell

Barcelona – Part 4

I realized early on, when we began this adventure, that really, only one MAJOR outing per day could be planned before the kiddies lost their minds and were a complete mess (making my life a BAZILLION times harder than it needed to be). The outing for this particular day in Barcelona was was going to be something close to my heart.  We were going to visit THE MOST FAMOUS MARKET IN BARCELONA……. LA BOQUERIA!

The outing on this day was 100% for me. I was half hoping that the kiddies would be super excited by going to the market……. but I knew that they were most likely too young to enjoy this little treasure of Barcelona.

We spent a good portion of the morning at the hotel prepping for our adventure, before we hopped on the train, to take us into the heart of Barcelona and La Boqueria Market. We navigated our way on the metro and walked a good portion of La Rambla before coming upon the market.

It is a large covered market, that has all the spanish delicacies that one dreams of!  We walked in (make way people……double stroller coming through), to some of the most amazing smells.  We passed by a Tapas restaurat and the food smells were OUT OF THIS WORLD! Seriously……  what I would have given to have sat down and ordered a glass of wine and some fab food…..

As the kids and I meandered around the market we notice many local specialties and tons of frresh vegetables and seafood.  At this point I realized I was caught between Heaven and Hell.  Pure Heaven with all these amazing ingredients around me ….. and Pure Hell since I was living in a hotel with no where to cook all these ingredients. We ended up leaving the market with some AMAZING fresh squeezed juices…… but that was it.

It was hot day in Barcelona, and the kids seemed like they had had enough so we decided to make our way back to the hotel on the metro and call it a day pool side with Brodies’ new friend and some yummy eats.

Barcelona Part 5

Friday was our last full day in Barcelona and we woke up with a mission.  It was the day of the Opening Ceremonies for London 2012 and we were making our way to the Olympic Diving Pool from when Barcelona hosted the summer Olympics in 1992.  It is the most iconic of venues from the ’92 Olympics.   It showcased Barcelona as everyone had ever imagined it to be…..   The backdrop for the divers was (and is) SPECTACULAR to say the least!

We arrived via, the metro and then to a funicular up the mountainside to the dive pool.  I did find it strange that it took us a while to find the “Olympic Pool”.  I had assumed there would be signs pointing us in the proper direction, but there were none. We did eventually get on the right track and made our way to the admission counter and to the pool deck.

I will admit that I was a bit thrown off that this Olympic landmark was not better signed.  Coming off the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and seeing first hand the care that Vancouver has put into preserving its Olympic Legacy, I was shocked by what we encountered.  It was almost like Barcelona could have cared less about this once iconic venue…..   it made me sad 😦

Since it was the Opening Ceremony day for London 2012 I had hopes that something spectacular might be going on here….. and with 4000 seat bleachers…….I thought there maybe big screen TV’s with ticket admission to watch…. I dont know…. something….seriously SOMETHING! I was wrong…. there was nothing “Olympic” going on here…. BOO!

During our visit,to the pool we took in the most STUNNING view of Barcelona with no crowds. We got to cool off in the heat of the day in a pretty awesome pool with about 12 other people, as well we got to watch the Barcelona Diving Team practicing.  The kiddies and I thought that was pretty cool. The pool is in much need of some serious repairs as you will see by the pictures.  It is sad that such a beautiful pool is not being used to its full potential and is falling into disrepair.

The kiddies and I had a super fun last day in Barcelona, making our way around town like we were locals!

During the week leading up to the Olympics, Mike and I had been looking into places to watch the Opening Ceremonies. We finally decided that our hotel room was most likely the best place to see it.  We couldnt find any “hype” around the event so we made our own.

We had dinner across from the hotel in an “Itallian” restaurant that was attached to the mall ( *disclaimer*…. I  have already stated this was not a culinary journey for the Bain clan).  We then proceeded to the “mini” amusement park. You know…. the one that seemed to follow us everywhere in Europe.  Brodie was  full on on the trampolines from his experience in Luz St. Saveur and when it comes to any type of carousel…… well Syd seriously could go in circles FOREVER, so she was in HEAVEN!

We made our way back to the hotel, and with wine and chocolate milk ordered to the room, we had the best time cheering the London 2012 Canadian Team on as they entered the London Stadium with Simon Whitfield carrying the Canadian FLAG!  It was such an awesome evening, even if we couldn’t understand what the local commentators were saying!

It was an fabulous way to end our last day in Barcelona……

Enjoy your (not so) Daily Dose.

Xox

B.

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Our Hotel. The Hilton Diagonal Mar. we were 7 windows up on the right hand corner. We looked right into Mikes work at SAP!

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La Boqueria

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An entire stall dedicated to Baccalau (Salt Cod)…. sorry it’s not my favourite!

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Our purchase for the day! So super YUM!

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Mmmmmmmm……..MUSHROOMS!

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nnnnn…….. NUTS!

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AWESOME and beautiful!

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YUMMERS!

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An entire stall just for Foie Gras….

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Outside the Market… La RamblasBarcelona 2-23

Hahahaha…. to late now….. but needed this for sure!

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Our entrance to the metro

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Pool…. Here we COME!

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Spiderman follows us EVERYWHERE!

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FUNICULAR up the mountain

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Mr. Man

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Little Miss

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Kiddos in Barcelona!

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Pool… finally!

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Olympic Dive Pool

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Down we go to the pool deck!

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Dive towers

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Barcelona team practicing

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Brodie LOVED THIS… said I NEEDED to take the birds photo!

He was right.

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Diving Platforms

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Repairs needed

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Hallway to change rooms… no signs, so it turns out we all changed in the “boys” change room.  Oops!

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Random fix-it-up places all through out the dive pool venue 😦

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Loving the stair walk up!

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Up Up Up

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Dive platforms

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“Olympic” signage…. so sad!

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More fun at the hotel pool before dinner!

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8:30PM and its EMPTY! Will be full in about an HOUR! Late night dinner for everyone in Barcelona!

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Round and round we go!

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Chupa Chuyps Truck

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Chupa Chuyps Truck was the favourite

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Motorcycles…. FUN!

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Opening Ceremonies – London 2012

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Yay Canada!

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Hello Canada… Hello Simon Whitfield

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The opening ceremonies were AMAZING!

Keep Calm….. and Blog On

Soooooo…. to say its been awhile since I have blogged would seriously be an understatement.  What can I say……life just got busy.  Halloween, birthdays, Christmas, New Years, more birthdays. Then throw in an “almost broken” hard drive that I just didn’t want to deal with…… well you get the picture!  I have decided its finally time to finish our trip blog (after all, some people have been wondering how the flight home went with the little Miss).

So here goes…..

Keep calm

Now lets see just where DID I leave off…..

Day 2: Hop on Hop off bus tour.

It was another HOT cloudless day in Barcelona. We had our usual breakfast at the hotel, and then made our way to our bus stop for day 2 of our bus tour. I made sure that our hats were packed because I was determined to see Barcelona from the TOP of the open air bus.  With our hats (and full sunscreen) on, Barcelona did not disappoint. What amazing buildings! So beautiful with their “movement”, colours, and unique style.  My initial thought was  that we were going to do the full loop on this tour since we didn’t do it the day before, but those thoughts quickly evaporated as we came upon La Pedrera.  I decided in an instant, that it was worthwhile the kiddies got off the bus and saw this building up close and personal.

La Pedrera is just a stunning piece of architecture.  I know that to some people it is more than this, but since this is not something I have ever studied I will take it for what it is…. and that is a beautifully crafted building.  We got off our bus and made our way to the line to buy tickets.  The kiddies were less than thrilled to be waiting in line, so I promised them that there would be a gelato at the end of the “tour”.  As one waits in line, people come up and continually try and “sell” you things.  This one lady who worked at La Pedrera, thought she would inform me of my “tour” choices once in the building….. Ummmmm…. I’m with two kids under age 5.  There will be no 3 hour commentary tour, no 2 hour commentary tour, let alone a 1 hour commentary tour.  We are heading to the roof, with a tiny walk around and then down to the cafe for gelato…. but hey…. thanks for asking!

The walk up to the roof was great.  Brodie and I had a little game going and Syd followed in step for step (except when she wanted to be carried…. really little lady…. its like 100+ degrees).  We finally made it to the roof and we were not disappointed. The views of the city were great (we even saw the landmark Sagrada Familia that we were at the day before).  Brodie really liked the “stone soldiers” at the top, and Syd was just happy to hang with her brother.  We had some great photo ops, and then decided to make our way down for gelato and a much needed coffee.

On the way down they take you through the apartment that Gaudi once lived in.  This was super interesting until Syd saw a wooden rocking horse…. well all HELL broke loose. All she wanted to do was cross the “keep out rope”, and RIDE THAT HORSE from 1892 or when ever it was from! It felt like FOREVER trying to find our way out with a screaming Syd in my arms until a very nice lady told me I could take the lift down!  We made our way to ground level on the lift, but one now needs to walk through the GIFT SHOP to get out of the building…. of course!  I managed to get the kiddies through the gift shop with a small purchase of a “Gaudi 5 sided marker”, and into the cafe in record time.

The cafe was in the La Pedrera building so it was probably one of the most stunning cafes I have ever been to.  We were seated and ordered 2 chocolate gelato and an uber yummy coffee.  I remember thinking while we were sitting in that beautiful cafe, just how fortunate we were to be experiencing this amazing city around us and all it had to offer…… Sydney melt downs and all!

We ended up taking the hop on hop off bus line in the full loop. It was great to see the shopping districts and then make our way back to the hotel.  We got cooled off and chilled out on the “club floor” of the hotel, getting snacks and drinks before meeting up with Mike for a  picnic on the beach.

When we first reserved our hotels for the trip, I remember thinking that the kiddies and I would be at the beach in Barcelona EVERY DAY.  It was so close to the hotel…. I seriously was picturing beach AWESOMENESS.  Other than our first day walk around, we hadn’t been to the beach prior to this evening.  It was fun to bring dinner down with us, but for some reason I just wasn’t having the experience I was hoping for……. my expectations were high, and I guess were just not met.  The beach was busy and it just wasn’t what I had pictured Barcelona beaches to be.  The kiddies did have a TON of fun in the waves.  While Syd was totally apprehensive at first about getting in the water, she finally stripped off all her clothes (of course) and frolicked around with Mike and Brodie.  Brodie was having SO much fun jumping in and trying to ride the waves. I was pretty happy watching all of it unfold with my Nikon in hand, all from the safety of a dry towel, warm sand. We had a lovely evening being together on the beach but that was our one and only time spent on the Barcelona beaches.

It really was a great day…. Barcelona, Beaches, and My Family……seriously…. NOTHING BETTER!

Enjoy your (not so) Daily Dose.

Xox

B.

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Waiting for the tour bus

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Larger than life Usain Bolt

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All the beautiful buildings from our top of the bus view.

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Brodie called this the “Eye Ball” building…. we are watching you!

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Fun, but “hot” bus seats

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La Pedrera

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La Perdrera

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The walk up to the roof top…. Brodie was just a tad bit hot from all the Barcelona sunshine!

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Roof Top Beauty

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Looking towards  Sagrada Familia

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Stairway fun

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Our beautiful cafe/gelato stop

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Ceiling detail in cafe

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Mmmmmm……. Gelato (and amazing coffee), makes everything better!

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Stunning building near our hotel in the Diagonal Mar

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So lovely….. all the white against the blue sky.

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Picnic on the beach

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Syd was having NONE of it……

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Brodie was all in!

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Off comes the clothes

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Now she is loving the waves!

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My Princess…..

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…. with lashes that go on forever!

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Wave riding all evening

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Fun

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Looking down the Barcelona beach towards the W hotel

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!)

Disneyland Paris… Yes we were CRAZY

July 7th saw Mike start his holidays and pick up the new rental car – European full-sized. We packed up the apartment, handed over the keys (nooooooo), packed the car full to the brim, and programmed the tomtom for DISNEYLAND! Yes we were going to Disneyland Paris for 2 nights/3 days and the kiddies were going to lose their minds – or maybe we were the ones loosing our minds!

We made our way to the hotel, checked in, unpacked the car, and within 15 minutes, without even leaving the hotel Syd had a new best friend (Tinkerbell aka Tink) to carry around….. you know what….. it was going to be a long 3 days of saying NO…….. constantly!

The weather was mixed. We drove through the Paris rain, but the clouds parted and the sun came beaming through just as we entered Disney Village for lunch.  Our lunch spot was one I never thought I would EVER take my kids too….. The Rainforest Cafe!

Now, the trip really hasn’t been the culinary journey I hoped it would be for the kiddies – although they had never been to Rainforest Cafe before……. and absolutely LOVED it.  I mean really how could they not.  With animated elephants, gorillas and butterflies, all topped off with an indoor thunderstorm – seriously if you are 5 and 3, and they serve a monster portion of french fries…… this is THE BEST RESTAURANT…….. EVER!

After lunch we made our way to the park entrance, where Brodie and Sydney went on a hunt to see who could find Tinkerbell (our new best friend) first. It was a tie – as usual. The park was jammed full of people, with lineups in every direction, for absolutely everything.

With many ooohhhhss, and awwweess, we made our way to Sleeping Beauties Castle.   The kiddies were super excited to be inside the castle, although Sydney was concerned that she couldn’t find Mickey or Minnie – “because that’s where they live”.  After our inspection of the castle was complete, we made our way into the rest of the park.  With line ups of 90 minutes or more, for almost all the rides, we decided to do the Alice in Wonderland maze since the lineup was moving fast.  The kiddies loved the jumping water, the playing card guards and the spinning eyes on the hill.  Once we finished up the maze adventure, we decided to go to the room and get ourselves organized for the night and the parade that would be taking place that evening.

Passing by Sleeping Beauties castle we noticed that we missed checking out the dragons home. We ventured in for a look, and I was surprised by Brodies reaction….. he was genuinely scared of the dragon!  I find this a bit funny since the boy has been watching Starwars for the past couple of years and NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING……. about ANYTHING……… seems to scare him. Well this dragon did…… he didn’t know if it was real or not!

Disneyland Paris is celebrating it`s 20th anniversary…… AND so was our hotel room. The room was clean but definitely in need of some modern updates.  A TV (from this millennium) with a HDMI hookup would have been nice, as well as Wi-Fi for my computer and iPhone (……seriously – no WiFi??).

We made our way to the Mickey Cafe to have dinner (another restaurant on the amazing culinary tour for us).  It really was awesome for the kiddies since all the characters walk around and visit your table while you eat dinner. They will sign your autograph book ( that is IF you remember to bring it), and sit for pictures. Syd was pretty shy around the characters and wouldn`t even touch or look at them, but Brodie was “all in” on this one!

We made our way into the park for the nightly light/water show. It was quite a wait, but it was pretty awesome.  The kids loved the lit up floats with all the characters, and the water and projection show on Sleeping Beauties Castle was spectacular.  The only problem was the duration!  We waited till almost dark for the floats and then we waited another 30 minutes after the parade for the projection show.  I didn’t time the whole production, but, when you have little ones with you, it really started to feel LONG!  We couldn’t have left even if we wanted to, because we were packed tight like sardines, with a ton of other people and their little kids.  The show was totally amazing, and the rain held off ….. quite literally till the show ended. We walked back to the hotel in the pouring rain and arrived at 12:15 AM. It was a long day!

We slept late, and had breakfast at the hotel – more characters showed up for photo opportunities, so not all was lost by sleeping late.  Mike and I decided to divide and conquer with the kiddies heading into the park since their interests were different.  Mike and Brodie would head over to Space Mountain/Buzz Lightyear/Star tours, and Syd and I would head over to the Dumbo the Elephant ride/Castle/Tea cups. We would meet up just outside the Peter Pan ride for lunch and go from there.

Syd and I got to the Flying Elephant ride to about an hour wait in line. A few of the thoughts running through my mind were “seriously”, “wish I had packed something for Syd to eat”, “wish I had packed some water”, ” I wonder how long the ride actually is?”. Well I decided to time the ride…. 1 min 20 sec……. exactly! This was NOT a good return on our investment in line! Well after about 20 minutes Syd saw the popcorn stand below the ride. This was enough for her to make the conscious decision to leave the lineup for popcorn, knowing we would NOT be coming back and lining up for the Dumbo Ride.

The 9.00 euro popcorn was also a DUD. Not only did I pay 9.00 euro for popcorn (seriously…… its popcorn Disney, not Mickey shaped popcorn sprinkled with gold dust), but all the popcorn in Disneyland Paris is “sweet popcorn”. BARF. Well Syd took one bite and also decided it wasn’t for her. Now what to do with popcorn I just spent about $13.00 Canadian dollars on?!?  I took it back to the same stand. The woman there spoke really great english till she realized I wanted my money back…. she even at one point totally ignored me. It really wasn’t that long time before I got my 9.00 euro back (I think she realized I wasn’t going to leave till I got my cash back)  and she got her sweet popcorn back!

We hooked up with Mike and Brodie after their adventure – Mike waited in what seemed like the “slowest lineup ever” for food (if McDonalds can do it in a blink of an eye…… Disney …. so can you!). At this point I decided I needed a coffee and the kiddies needed a nap. We headed back to Disney Village, grabbed a coffee while both kiddies napped in the stroller.  We called it an early night after another FANTASTIC meal at the Rainforest Cafe!

Our last day in Disneyland, and we slept late again.  On our way to breakfast we had pictures with Pluto, and then Mickey and Minnie both showed up.  Syd decided she now was in love with Minnie and just couldn’t get enough of her.  Sydney herself, must have had 5 separate photos of her and the mice. In the last photo she was being kissed by both Mickey and Minnie and she was sooooooo happy!

We spent most of the day in the Space Mountain/Star Tours area. We had some FAST PASS tickets for rides  which meant we really didn’t have time to leave the area. We had lunch and then all hopped on the Buzz Lightyear ride for some “ray gun” fun!

We decided to call it a day in the Disney Park since Mike had a conference call and Syd needed a big nap in the stroller. I headed to Walt Disney Studios for the rest of the afternoon with the kiddies – one sleeping and one awake!  Brodie and I didn’t really go on any rides but hung out looking at all the Pixar displays and rides.  Brodie and I went for a “coffee“ and watched Le Tour de France on the big screen all while the little Miss slept.

By the time we hooked back up with Mike, he had our little “European full sized“ car packed and ready for the short drive to Orleans, where we would spend the night before we headed out on our monster drive to Carcassonne!

I dont really think we had a true “DISNEY“ experience in Paris. I told Mike that we needed to head to California at some point with the kiddies. He reply……“ the kiddes had fun, know no different and that one Disney Experience is enough“ . Mr. Logical!

Look out Disney Aneheim….. we will be coming your way with the kiddies….. someday!

Enjoy your Daily Dose

Xox

B.

Hello Disney!

NO NO NO…. for the bazillionth time you CAN NOT have cotton candy!

…. but you can have a lollipop the size of your head!  😉

“`thanks for buying me my lollipop after I cried in the store Daddy“ because I DESERVE this for throwing a 45 minute tantrum in the middle of Disney…. the calories that you burn throwing yourself on the ground and screaming NEED to be replaced with PINK SWIRLY sugar!

Can you guess which balloon Syd was interested in

Hello Minnie…. I LOVE you

Can you guess who let Minnie fly free…..

Pluto……the hair messing, tickling dog!

Finally…..

One for Brodie

One for Sydney

Hello MIKE!