Adventure to Scotland Part 4- Paris

When we first decided on this monthlong trip we thought it would be great to take advantage of visiting a few “nearby” cities. After being here in Edinburgh, we decided that we actually wanted to stay here for the most part, so that is what we did.

Paris was high on my list of cities that I wanted to see, however, so we decided to make that one happen.

Paris is a story of if it could go wrong, it did. Let’s start with our first day. First of all, to get the best price on flights we took the 5:55 am flight. This meant that I had to wake the kids up at 3:30 am. Really not the best start for a trip. Still, we were excited and had high expectations for our days in Paris, so we were ready to go.

After a couple of weeks in Edinburgh, we felt comfortable with public transportation. We have frequently used buses and trains, and it has been easy to navigate and overall a great experience. Those feelings did NOT transfer to Paris. We had two tired adults, five kids, and several pieces of luggage through the Paris airport, onto an extremely crowded train, to our train station that we had carefully researched to start us on our first full day. Snafu number one- this train station didn’t have luggage lockers.

Get back on train to backtrack to another train station that has luggage lockers. Walk approximately a mile and a half in this train station to find luggage lockers to be told they were “out of order.” Start internally panicking and begin walking away when they fix the problem after all. Oh good, maybe out luck was turning. Nope.

We now are too far away to walk to the Eiffel tower, which was our original plan. We decide to go the most reliable route and take a taxi from the queue. Of course there were no taxis that would fit 7 people, so we have to divide into 2 taxis. No problem we think, we are going to the same place and we will be just fine. For the first 3/4 of the trip our taxis were able to follow each other. We reached a traffic light, however, and one taxi made it through and the other didn’t. I don’t panic as I reach in my bag to grab my phone to keep track of the others.

That is when I realize I left my phone in one of the bags in the locker in the train station. I am starting to panic a bit at this point, mostly because I know my husband is going to kill me. I try to reassure myself that we will be going to the same place so it will be okay.

After an incredibly long ride I arrive at the Eiffel tower with three of the kids and look around for Jeff and the other two. No sign of them. We walk up and down paths on 3 sides of the tower. Nope. There is a line about 400 people long, so I have the kids go ahead and get in line while I look around some more. Still no luck.

I think surely if we just wait in the line for a bit that they will find us. I ask everyone around us if there is another entrance, and I’m assured that there isn’t.

Finally we are at the front of the line. At this point we have been there for what feels like hours. I am in total panic mode now. I start frantically asking if the people around me are Americans. I found several and asked to use their phone. At first, no luck, they didn’t have service.

A nice man from China heard my pleas and offered me his phone. We both tried and tried but couldn’t get a call to go through to a U.S. number. Finally I begged another American couple again to just let me send a text. They said they didn’t have a text plan but I could iMessage someone. Only problem- Jeff doesn’t have an iPhone. Sigh. Still, I use the opportunity to text both of our mom’s and ask them to get the message to Jeff. Unfortunately it was so early in the U.S. that both of our moms were still asleep. We are now at the very front of the line and just having to let people go in front of us.

Zac then offered to walk the path a little bit and look. Against my better judgement (let’s face it, there was only panicked judgement happening at this point) I let him do that. Shortly he came back with Jeff and the other kids. The relief I felt at this point was only dampened by the look on Jeff’s face when he oh so calmly asked me about my phone. Turns out that his taxi dropped them off on the main lawn, and he was pacing back and forth looking for us.

Finally we are together and think we can finally get our tickets and go in. Surprise!  That line that we waited in for so long was only the line for security.

We had 3 things planned for our day in Paris. At this point we go ahead and say that we can never make it to all 3 now, so decide on doing the Eiffel Tower and Sienne River cruise.

Despite everything, I was pretty excited at this point. We were actually there at the Eiffel Tower!

We are desperately hungry, so we grabbed some food from the vendors at the bottom of the tower. Shortly we decide that we need to get in line ASAP (I forgot to mention that I wasn’t able to prebook tickets online, but that is a different disaster story. Public service announcement: if you are going to the Eiffel Tower, ALWAYS prebook your tickets!) It appeared to be a long line, but fortunately we didn’t really realize how long it was. After about an hour into the wait we seriously considered walking away, but I argued that we were too invested at that point. Did I mention that it was about 95 degrees?

Finally, finally, it was our turn to get in the elevator to go into the tower. The plan was for Jeff and Zac to go to the summit, and me and the others to go to the second level. As we buy tickets we find out that the summit is closed. Of course.

So, we go up.

It was spectacular of course, but everyone was hot and exhausted. By the time we got back through the line to go down the tower,  found two taxis again, had the scariest taxi ride of my life, and made it back to the first train station to retrieve luggage to then go to the second train station for the next leg of our journey, our entire day was spent and the only thing we saw in Paris was the tower. Oh well, you have to see the tower, right?!

We had to rush because we had our big surprise for the kids- Disney! We didn’t tell them until we reached the end of the line on the train which was Disney Land. They were thrilled, and after the chaos of that day, we were thrilled to be in the peacefulness of Disney too!

We spent two days in Disneyland, enjoying the Marvel events that were happening this summer.

It was all truly great, however we continued to have what we called “Paris luck.” Shows we wanted to see were cancelled. Multiple times. Rides we wanted to ride were closed right as we walked up to them. Souvenirs we bought broke immediately. Multiple times.

Still, we were happy. Kids were happy. Kai was amazing and showed his contagious enthusiasm for everything we did, which was perfect.

Finally it was sadly time to go to the hotel by the airport where we would catch an early flight the next morning. We decided to book the TGV this time, which would make our return train trip much faster than the one that brought us to Disney. Or so we thought.

We arrived at the train station at 8:30 for our 8:55 train. The actual train ride was supposed to take 10 minutes, getting us to our hotel at a decent time.

We are first told that our train was delayed 15 minutes. Then 20. Then 40. Then an hour. Then an hour an fifteen. At this point they stop changing the board and we wonder if a train is every coming. Apparently no one actually works at the train station at night so there was no one to ask. The kids were tired and hungry, and frustrated that we could have had longer at Disney.

FINALLY at 11:00 our train arrives. We make it to the Paris airport. Walk the mile and half to where we can ride our shuttle to the hotel. Make it on the very last shuttle of the night. Arrive at our hotel at a bit past midnight.

No problem, we just have to leave our hotel at 5 am. That was an expensive 5 hours.

The next morning we are completely ripped off by our cab driver. Have ridiculous bad luck trying to check in at the not working kiosks. Finally find where there are actual employees working, get checked in, and give a huge sigh of relief as the plane touches back to the ground in Scotland.

I’m glad we went. It was a great adventure and the kids loved it, but I’m also thinking that next time I might just skip Paris…

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Adventure to Scotland- Part 3

Another week passed in just a blink. We are now a little over halfway into our trip, and I wish it would never end!

We just couldn’t stop talking about how much we loved seeing the Shakespeare performance, so we looked found the city they were going to next and found a bus that would take us there.

We spent the afternoon at these beautiful gardens and grounds. There were big fields to play in and a wooded garden to find fairies. There was a wishing tree to tie ribbons onto. It was an easy afternoon.

Finally we had a picnic and watched an incredible performance of “Hamlet” that night. Every single one of us loved it! I would not have predicted that watching some Shakespeare plays would be high on the list of things we have done for my 6 and 8 year olds, or even my 9 or 11 year olds, but it was just THAT good! We made sure to get front row seats this time. Seriously. anyone traveling to the UK in the summer months need to make it a priority to see “The Three Inch Fools” in person!

The next day we followed an online scavenger hunt that we found around Edinburgh’s “Old Town”. At this point we have walked these streets so many times that we know them very well, but the scavenger hunt led us to some things that we had overlooked for sure. It was a great way to explore the city. We will definitely try another one again sometime!

One of the things on our list was meeting up with a good friend of my aunt, who lives here in Edinburgh. We met her at the National Museum of Scotland, and spend a lovely day together. It is an incredible museum, and besides a days’ worth of hands on activities for the kids, we got to see “Dolly the Sheep“, learn about the history of the asthma inhaler, and see a robot spell our name.

We had heard rave reviews of “Dynamic Earth.” It was easily walkable for us, so we decided to try it, but I honestly didn’t have high expectations. As frequently happens, it then blew me away. There were fantastic interactive and entertaining exhibits about the makeup of the earth. Everyone loved it.

That takes us back to Sunday. This week we attended St. Giles Cathedral. It was incredibly beautiful, and with the paramedics having to rush in part way through the service to attend to someone, it was also unfortunately eventful.

That brings us to today, when we went to Camera Obscura and World of Illusions.  Kids loved it all, but the most interesting part was a type of camera that they have at the top of the tower that is 165 years old. They can still manipulate this camera to see the people walking by on the Royal Mile.

We wrapped up the day with Kaitlyn and I riding the Ferris Wheel that she had been too afraid to ride when her siblings did a while back (time feels funny here. How long ago WAS that?!) At any rate, she has been frustrated with herself since not riding, and today she felt determined to do it. I had mixed feelings about this as I was just as happy staying with her on the ground. However, we did it. She was incredibly proud of how brave she was, and I tried to not let on that I was equally proud of myself. That thing is high!

Tomorrow we are leaving Edinburgh for the first time for an adventure in Paris. Shhh- it is a surprise for the kids!

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Adventure to Scotland- Part 2

The adventure continues!

Since literally five minutes after we arrived, Drew has been asking to go to the beach. We finally had a day that was available and decently warm, so we decided to try out the bus system and go to Portobello beach for the day. The kids were determined to swim, but the North Sea was absolutely freezing. They had a contest to see who could go under water for the longest time, but the record was only 5 seconds. I thought that was pretty impressive because I wouldn’t brave it past my feet!

Saturday night we followed Zac’s request, and went to see a little theater troupe perform “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Since Zac played Lysander last December and all of the kids knew the play fairly well, it was perfect. The location was breathtaking. This was at Lauriston Castle. We brought a picnic, played on the grounds, and watched the play. We enjoyed it so much we are going to travel to another city today to see this same group perform “Hamlet.”

We have a goal to try out a different church each week, so this week we attended Greyfriars Kirk. The church was beautiful, and we knew that our friends from home sang here just last summer, making it a perfect choice for us.

We then spent the afternoon wandering the streets of Old Town. We went into a Harry Potter Museum, and finally found some “Millionaire’s Shortbread” (well worth it!).

Monday we went on a bus and boat tour out of Edinburgh.  Certainly seeing seals and puffins was one of the highlights of the boat ride, but getting to stop at this little island was absolutely fabulous. Inchcolm Abbey which was built in the 10th century was beautiful, and we felt like great adventurers exploring it.

That marks the end of our first week and a half. This quality time together is absolutely priceless. We are loving it all!

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Adventure to Scotland- Part 1

Life is so busy. I know that is true for us all, but this year we really felt it. Besides being busy busy busy, it is painfully evident how quickly the kids are growing. The combination of the awareness of these two things led us to want to make a conscious effort to slow life down and spend quality time together.

Initially we were thinking we would just pack up our lives and explore somewhere new for six months. We sat with this for a while and made some exciting plans. Eventually we realized that 6 months was just not going to work in our lives of work, school, braces, and surgery schedules. But we decided not to kill the dream, just alter it to one month in the summer!

We quickly settled on Scotland for our destination. Lots of people have asked me why we chose to go to Scotland. In a lot of ways the answer was “why NOT Scotland?” Scotland is absolutely beautiful. It is English speaking, which makes it just a tad easier for such a long adventure with 5 kids. And bonus- Kai’s surgeon from Ohio has a colleague here, so if we had some sort of medical emergency we know that we have a contact here that we could reach out to. With that box checked, we were in!

Now here we are already a week into our adventure, and I think it is the best decision we have ever made. We rented a tiny Airbnb with one bathroom, and we are all loving it so much. The intentional time together is priceless and so needed.

Here is a summary of week one:

Our flat from the outside and the front door.

We have a small park in front of our flat and a playground around the corner. The kids have had fun playing “Tig” (Tag) with some of the local kids. They are also obsessed with pigeons and were thrilled to feed them in the park.

The Royal Mile

A favorite sight on our daily walks.

Greyfriars Bobby

Hannah eagerly volunteered to participate in a street show.

A few “Harry Potter” sights. The cafe that J.K. Rowling loved to sit in to write her novels, and the tombstone where she came up with the name “Tom Riddle.”

Calton Hill. This is an easy walk from our flat, and my favorite place so far. We took a picnic and our books and easily spent an afternoon up here where there are amazing views of the entire city.

We took the train into Glasgow for the day. We enjoyed walking around the city and seeing the museum.

One of the highlights of the trip was seeing James Taylor! One of the lowlights of the trip was that the high seats and loud music made Kaitlyn feel sick, so they had to leave the arena before he even took the stage. 🙁

Edinburgh Castle. We enjoyed the views, but especially enjoyed meeting up with friends from home who happened to be here too.

In the military war memorial at the castle the boys tried to find their grandmother’s maiden name, McGinty. Drew was the first one to find it, winning his grandmother’s contest.

Most of the family enjoyed seeing Edinburgh from the ferris wheel. Kaitlyn and I enjoyed crepes from the ground instead.

Yesterday we toured the Palace of Holyrood House. We saw it from the outside a few days ago, but were not able to go in because the Queen was in residence. Kaitlyn declared it one of the best moments of her life. It was absolutely gorgeous inside, and we all loved it.

Now on to week two! Loving every minute.

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Beginning of Summer 2018

On to the BEST time of the year!! I have loved every single second since we drove away from school on the last  day. I love it, love it, love it.

It is my time to say “yes, we can do that!” It is my time to sit and read freely with the kids without the pulls of sports and homework.

It is time for us all to just be.

And breathe.

We kicked the summer off on a fantastic note when we got to see Hamilton. We had been waiting for over a year for that performance!

In June we were able to to spend a fantastic week in the mountains with a whole bunch of our favorite people. All of these kiddos have known each other since they were babies, and they are still learning new ways to enjoy each other’s company. Their friendships are sweet gifts indeed.

We also anticipated and celebrated our new niece. I love being an aunt, and I adore my nieces and nephews with all of my heart. I can’t wait to meet this one. Our hearts are already full of love for her!

Zac wanted to attend a theater camp this summer. Since it is obvious that this is becoming a true love for him, we wanted to make that happen and signed him up for “Camp Broadway.” This camp is led by a group from New York who travel around the country and do one week in a city, working intensively for one week to put on a production. We have done a few theater camps, and expected a regular camp production on the last day. What a treat for us that it was INCREDIBLE! We learned that Zac can sing and dance as well as act, and loves doing it! They performed selections from “42nd Street,” and we loved every minute!

And we did swim team. Every single day of the week. There are not very many activities that all of my children (and my niece and nephew) can all participate in at the same time. That is a big part of what makes this my very favorite one. Not to mention that I love every little thing about summer swimming. I happily threw my name out there to be the coordinator of the team, and although it was a tremendous amount of work, it was also a tremendous amount of fun. To me, the weeks of summer swim team are the best weeks of the whole year. I can’t believe they are already behind us.

We topped this off with the Fourth of July in the mountains with family. We started the day off with a momma and 3 cub bear sighting, then took home a first and second place ribbon in the bike contest, ate great food, had great company, and enjoyed the fireworks over the lake.

And with that- I am CAUGHT UP!

Stay tuned for posts on our summer adventure.

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