Monday, June 23, 2008

The longest weekend of the year

What a wonderful place we live... can you believe that the sun didn't set this weekend until after 10pm! Not that I have the energy to be out doing things at 10pm, but it's nice to know that I have the option.
So to celebrate, we went hiking at Dreilanderpunkt. What is a Dreilanderpunkt you may ask? It is where Germany, Netherlands and Belgium all meet. It is the highest point in Holland, and a place that is crossed with a few hiking trails. It makes us feel like we're in the wilderness, even though we're surrounded by millions of people. And it smells good up there. There are so many trees and plans and bugs, if you didn't know better, you'd think that you were home in the Pacific NW again....
W. had a great time. I didn't know that slugs could be 'pretty', but to the eyes of a two year old, anything is possible. We have been having afternoon rain showers, and there were puddles a plenty. These too made W.'s day- what child in their right mind doesn’t love to walk through these... much to the chagrin of the next person who was obligated to carry her. She has a hiking backpack too... it's just not something that she like to use. We like to bring it with us in hopes that she'll use it, but mostly we carry the girl on our fronts, and the empty shell of a seat on our backs.

Sunday we took a tour of a local castle. About 35 minutes from our house is Hoensbroek castle. This fall there is to be a military ball there, and we wanted to check it out before we were obligated to go there. W. had the best time climbing the twisty uneven stairs that led up into the keep, then down into the dungeon. Her only worries were for the spiders, and if they were coming with us or not.
The castle is beautiful- it is not original however, but beautiful none the less. We spent a good part of the morning there, and had lunch at a near by cafe located on the grounds. The food wasn't great, but the scenery was awesome, and we were able to watch ducks and play out of doors while we waited for our food. This castle is definitely a great place to take visitors....

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Oh la la

Our adventures have finally led us to Paris, or as some call her, the City of Light (La Ville-lumière), to experience what others only dream about. Well maybe others don't dream about going to the most romantic city in the world with their two year old and parents in tow, but for us, it was what we wanted. Only a three hour train ride from Aachen, we were able to see the country side in style. We reserved train tickets on a high speed train called Thalys: where if you catch them at the right time, you can get a one way ticket from Germany to Paris for as little as 25 euros! W. had a great time being able to watch videos on the portable DVD player we brought, and the grandparents enjoyed her game of musical lap.

Arriving at Paris Nord, we took the subway to the nearest stop to our hotel. It was relatively easy to get to, even with a stroller and luggage. My husband, being the researcher he is, found a hotel that was reasonable and with in minutes of the Eiffel tower.

To me, Paris is beautiful. There are stories which I'm sure every one has heard about how dirty the city is, or how rude Parisians are. Not so. If you ever have the opportunity to go to Paris, go. There is so much history here to see, the buildings are free of graffiti, and the people are European. They are friendly, but don't expect them to gush at your feet for visiting their city. I tried what little French I could remember on them, and they seem to be satisfied with that. Being a major European city, most people have a second language, and they are able to speak English.

Having a little one restricts the places where you can go. Paris has many beautiful museums- none of which W. would enjoy. So, my husband was able to go along with my father to spend the morning at the Louvre. From what I've heard, it's overwhelming. It's so large, and there are so many things to see, that you'd need days to take it all in. I did see it from the out side, and it was impressive that way as well.

What I really came to Paris to see though were the churches. I was not disappointed. On almost every corner there is a work of art dedicated to God. In high school I took some French. Well, I was in a French class at least, and I remember learning about a cathedral called St. Chappelle. It was called the cathedral of light because it's walls were not the usual stone gothic architecture you see all around, but comprised of stained glass, so beautiful, kings would sit in the main room for hours to think.

We also saw Notre Dame. My father is an architect, and when I was younger he used to tell me about the flying buttresses of churches and cathedrals- and now I had the opportunity to visit one, an especially notorious one with him. It is a beautiful cathedral. Probably not the most beautiful I've seen, but it does rank in the top 10. If you are in Paris, this is definitely a sight worth seeing.

And a trip to Paris wouldn't be complete with out a romantic climb to the top of the Eiffel tower at sunset. Lucky for us we had brought some babysitters. Lucky for me, my husband agreed to wait two hours in line to purchase tickets to the top. The views were amazing. Paris lit up at night is unbelievably big. The elevator takes you up to the second level platform, where you are able to look over the city landscape. Then you hop back on the lift and travel up to the top most platform where the views are stunning, if not a little breezy. In fact, it's chilly up top- take a jacket if you go!

Paris is a great city to visit, and I will definitely be going back. There is just too much to see and do in one short weekend. Luckily it's so close, and we'll be here for a little while longer, so we'll have plenty of opportunities to go back!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Meet the Parents

Since we arrived in Europe over six months ago, I've been anxiously awaiting the arrival of my parents. I knew that they would come, and sure enough they did. The draw of a grandchild yabbering on the telephone to them every night tugged at their heart strings just enough to get them on a plane. But first to Italy, then here. How could I compete with Italy? That was going to be the question. Where we live, it is not known for romance or great food. But I have an ace in the hole, W..

To set things off right, all of the Archer's were all able to pick Nana and Pop up at the airport in Brussels. For me, Brussels is a beautiful city, and I had to show it off a little. So we took a quick jaunt to the Grand Place and had a small bite for supper. But of course how can you be happy with a small super in Brussels when you are surrounded by waffles, chocolate and beer? And of course with the ace in the hole yodeling for waffles, how is a grand parent to refuse. So waffle in hand, we toured the tourist areas of Brussels, finishing off with a nod to Maniquin Pis and a chocolate salute.

The next day was no time for rest. There are places we've never been, and we had two extra hands to help us. In the car to Monschau, Germany we went. Monschau is a beautiful German village located in the Eifel region on the Belgium border. It has been untouched by both world wars, so it retains much of the old world charm visitors are looking for when they visit the father land. Unfortunately, most of the town is comprised of visitors, but that was no matter for four eager adults and one small snack eater. We were able to spend the afternoon wandering along a beautiful stream, and looking at houses that are older then the USA.

One look at W. and you know that you can't resist her. Well you can, but it's very difficult, and she has been honing her skills since her second birthday. There is this little toy store that I know about in Aachen that has three levels, and is bursting with any type of toy you could ever desire as a young child. And being German, the toys are of exceptional quality. Of course this is the place that Nana had to take W. to. Two hours of looking over babies, trying on princess shoes, and making sure all of the toys were in perfect working order, we were able to depart the store. New baby and stroller in hand, it was time for lunch. Or maybe some ice cream, since it was spoil W. day anyways.

Next, off to buy shoes. Now I really had no idea that the love for shoes was genetic, but if you've met my daughter, you would only assume this to be true. I love shoes, any kind, any style, any day; I love them. Her aunt is a famous fashion designer in CA. She also has a thing for shoes. So you can only feel sorry for W. that she has the shoe bug gnawing at her from both sides of the double helix. W. on the other hand takes it to extremes. As soon as the desired object is in her sights, she takes off like a missile. No matter the size, color or gender of the shoe, she has to have it. And try it on, and take it with her. I think the sales lady thought that W. was having a seizure when we were trying to remove her from the shoes in the store and leave. It is that bad. It is ALWAYS that bad. The girl really loves shoes.

So today, with baby in hand, we made the journey to the Birkenstock factory outlet. SHOES. Manna for the soul. As we approach the door, no longer is W. willing to hold hands. As shoes come into sight, baby is thrown to the side and a mad dash has commenced to the racks. There are so many colors and sizes, it is now a question of how can she get more then two shoes on her feet. This simple problem is solved by layering. I did not know of this shopping technique before, but I am thankful that I have such a willing teacher to show me. Today we spent only an hour looking at all the sole food that was offered, but the hour was well spent. With a new pair of sandals, all is right in the world again for W.. Store leaving induced seizures are a thing of the past, and a pleasant afternoon can now be had by all.

Since we were driving by Koln on our way home, I thought it would be a good idea to stop and show Nana and Pop the cathedral (Dom) and see what the Chocolate museum had to offer. We were not disappointed in either avenue. The Dom is one of the few buildings that was left standing when the bombs stopped falling in 1945. 90% of Koln was leveled, but thankfully, this beautiful building was spared. About a mile down the road is the Lindt chocolate museum. Where if you're looking for some hot (or cold) chocolate to knock your socks of, you've come home. I have never had hot chocolate like the liquid pleasure the cafe at Lindt serves. And today I was not let down. We ordered Eis trinkchocolade and Eis kaffe, with of course chocolate cake. The Eis trinkchocolade is like drinking the silkiest smoothest chocolate topped with gain ten pounds on your hips cream and small orbits of ice cream. Heaven. Too bad W. decided that now was the time for a nap. I took one for the team though, and finished the whole beverage myself.

Not too bad having the parents come for a visit. Tomorrow I've got Pop installing screens on the windows, and Nana sewing some curtains. I think I'll keep these folks around, they're quite handy, and fun too!