The Last Day…

 Guten Tag!


This will be the last entry about my mom and dad’s trip!  I never intended for it to take this long but with everything going on it took longer than I expected.  I have other things I want to say but I wanted to get this last entry out of the way before I delve into the things going on in my life now…  So without further ado…


After a few days of recovery dad felt good enough to venture out for a short trip.  We decided that the Manderscheid Castles were just the thing.  So we piled into the car and drove the 20 minutes to the castles.  About halfway there we stopped in the little log playground to take a breather and get a few pictures.


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 Me and my mom! 


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 Ryan and dad…  They look so handsome in their Bavarian hats! 


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 Mom and Dad in The Land of Fairy Tales.


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 I think of all the pictures Ryan and I have from here in Germany, this is one of my favorites!


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 We stopped at the top of the hill overlooking the castles…  We decided to make this the extent of the trip.  Dad was feeling not so great and the winding roads weren’t helping… not to mention it was a bitterly cold day! 


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 So we went home and spent another day or two just relaxing. 


Mom had to take this picture.  She was just fascinated by the fact that tractors drive up and down my street with hay bales like this!


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Another day the guys went out to shop and mom and I stayed home to bake some Christmas cookies!


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 On the very last day before Mom and Dad boarded a plane for home we decided to walk through my little town.


This is my street from the corn fields at the bottom of the road.


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 Here we are standing in front of those cornfields getting ready to walk through the neighborhood.


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 Mom and Dad in front of the cornfield.


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 Way up there are Mom and I walking… Dad and Ryan hung back to take some pictures of the neighborhood in the sunset.


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 Mom and I…


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 Ryan and I in front of the little cuckoo clock house in our town.


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 Walking down mainstreet… 


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 The outlook over the town of Bitburg, and the B50 valley.


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 Mom and dad in front of Bitburg.


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 Can you believe that in the middle of winter we had something blooming?


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 After we had walked around the whole town we came back up to the top of my street.  Isn’t my little cottage just great?


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Here it is all lit up for Christmas, though you can’t really tell… 



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 The sun setting on our last day…


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 The next morning bright and early we drove them back to the airport. 


It was a wonderful trip.  We had quite a year with all the trips home and the visits from both Ryan’s parents and mine.  We wouldn’t trade it for anything!


So that finally closes 2007, only a month late!


Auf Wiedersehen!


Courtney


 

The Louvre & Chuck’s upchuck adventure!

I have so many things running through my mind… so many things that I want to say… I just can’t seem to put them into words today.  So I’m taking the cowards way out.  I’m going to post another entry about my parents trip today.  I only have a few more stories to tell and pictures to share so I would really like to finish it up.  Before I start that though I need to let you know that I heard from Ryan yesterday and he’s made it there safe and sound and will spend the next few days settling in and learning the ropes.  I would also like to say thank you so much for all of your prayers, support, messages and comments.  It means a great deal to know that even 6,000 miles from home I have a support system.


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The morning after our adventure at the Eiffel Tower at night, we awoke bright and early.  We decided that the easiest way to reach our destination would be the metro since we had tried it the day before and had such success.  We also were not anxious to brave the morning Parisian traffic yet again!  If only we had known what was in store for us…


We checked out of our hotel room and left our luggage with the clerk, then set off foot loose and fancy free for the Louvre!  We walked out onto the streets of Paris and enjoyed a brisk walk to the underground metro station.  As we came out onto the platform of our train we all stopped and stared in shock!  I honestly don’t know if I have ever seen anything like the sea of bodies that we had joined except for in movies about New York city!


We made a human chain so we wouldn’t loose someone to being swept away by this seething tide of humanity and made our way to our proper place on the platform.  (Saint Michelle and the Notre Dame) We watched as one train came and went, watching in horror as we beheld the literal opening of a can of sardines, a few people pouring out of the packed car and the jamming in of another 30 or 40 when I would have said it was already full to capacity! 


The next train began pulling in and we took our cue from those around us and pushed forward ruthlessly until we too were jammed into a car impossibly full of bodies.  The four of us found ourselves surrounding a pole in the center of the car, facing each other and desperately guarding our belongings.  I was distressed to find that not only did the car look and feel like a can of sardines but it smelled of one too!


I will draw a veil over the 10 minutes of horror that was that train ride.  Let it suffice to say that it was… um… memorable.  Finally it was our stop and we joined the press to disembark as quickly as possible. 


In the three days that we were in Paris… for that matter the two weeks that my parents had been in Europe with us… we have never gotten off a train, bus, or car and stayed close.  We have always gotten off at a run for the next new adventure.  However, here in this one train station, underground, and after an experience that will forever make me wary of crowds we inexplicably stopped to chat right outside the doors of the train… next to a wall and in the middle of an ever moving sea of bodies.  It was so loud that we could barely hear each other but there we stood none the less… 


Suddenly above the din of human voices the four of us heard at once the sound of one lone woman still on the train yelling…


“Passport!”


Why we heard her, why we paid attention I will never know… but we turned to see her leaning out the door of the train we had disembarked from holding out a passport and keeping the doors from shutting.  We raced to the train to catch it in time… and grabbed it just as the doors closed, barely missing the poor ladies hands… we mouthed a big thank you and watched her nod, smile, and speed away…


We looked down in shock to see my father’s passport with a big boot print right across the front.  My dad said that he thought that he had felt someone pick his pocket but when he felt it he had shot his hand back to check his wallet and finding it there had thought he was okay… he hadn’t thought to check for the passport.  Whoever had picked his pocket must have been disappointed and just dropped the passport.


The woman must have been an angel… for why had she looked down to see the passport on the ground under all those feet… and more mysterious… how in the world had she leaned down to pick it up!!!?? 


What an experience!


After we had all calmed down and the rush of adrenaline had calmed a bit, we made our way out of the metro and walked into a sunrise on the Ile de la Cite!  It was a beautiful morning. 


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We found a little bakery and went in to find some breakfast…  We stood there at the little counter and ate our quiche and bread and enjoyed a steaming cup of hot chocolate.


Then we strolled across the river Seine and started towards the Louvre.


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 We arrived at the Louvre, paid our entrance and checked our coats.  We don’t have a lot of pictures from inside due to restrictions but we did get a few.


Here I am with the Grand Sphinx of Tanis.


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 Ryan and I!


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 Mom and dad.


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Here I am with the Effigy of Akhenaten (1325 – 1338 B.C)  I am fascinated with all things Egyptian… (not very original perhaps)  Akhenaten was the first recorded Monotheist.  Which is to say that he believed in one God.  He also went against tradition and was the first Pharaoh to portray his wife, Nephritis as equal to himself.  After his death all record of him was destroyed by those that did not want his beliefs to gain popularity but a few pieces survived!


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 This is the ceiling of the jewel room!  Unfortunately none of our pictures of the actual jewels turned out.


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 And the main reason anyone journeys to the Louvre? 


(Singing at the top of my lungs.) “Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa men have named you…”


Oops sorry!


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Yes, I admit it, I gave in and played tourist here… shamelessly.  I stood in front of the Mona Lisa and made my best Mona Lisa face.  Sigh… how cliche!  I think I pulled it off okay though… how bout you?


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 I could not in good conscience tell you about the Louvre and not tell you about bloody stumps.  Almost from the first hour that we were in Paris (because there is so much walking and climbing!) my dad started joking about his poor little bloody stumps (meaning of course his feet)  As the second day stretched on we all started to take up that cry and shouts of


“Oh my bloody stumps!”


Could be heard across Paris… since most of these cries were shouted from the tops of various and very tall monuments! 🙂


Let me just caution you.  If you should ever get the chance to visit Paris… do.  If you choose to visit the Louvre do not do it on your last day!  OUCH!


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 For most of my adult life I have wanted to visit this museum of legend.  I was so excited to cross into that glass pyramid and see the wonders this old palace held within it’s walls… 


I won’t lie, I’m glad I’ve seen it, that I have the opportunity to say I’ve been there… but there is a part of me that wishes I had lived my life wanting to see it…


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 After a morning and part of the afternoon at the Louvre, we took the metro (which was not nearly as crowded now!) back to the area around our hotel, got our last lunch at the little shop we frequented during our stay and did a little last minute shopping.  After our bloody stumps had flat out given up we hoofed it back to the hotel, gathered our bags and headed for the train station.


We took the ICE train back to Saarbruken and arrived a few minutes late… which of course meant that we missed our train back to Trier.  We found ourselves waiting out in the cold for an extra hour and 15 minutes before the next train left.


Once we got onto our next train we settled in for the hour and a half long trip.


We goofed around a bit… 


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Posing pretty for the camera!


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Who ever knew goofing off could be so dangerous!


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We figured it was time to get back to our seats!


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And so sit we did…


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About 45 minutes (halfway) into the train ride my dad started to not feel very well.


I should start by saying that apparently there is no three second rule in Paris.  During that last lunch in our little shop, my mom gave the rest of her donner to my dad.  The part she passed over was still wrapped in the little paper sleeve they come in.  My dad made a grand gesture in the middle of our conversation and knocked the tray and sandwich high into the air.  The paper wrapped sandwich flew into the air and landed, paper side down on the ground at his feet.  He had it off the floor again before it had even fully landed, brushed it off, took it out of the paper and we all deemed it just fine.  We were wrong.  It seems that the millisecond it touched the floor was just long enough.


This is the last picture I have of my father standing.


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 A few minutes after this picture was taken my father got out of his seat and laid full on his back in the aisle of the car.


For those of you who do not know my dad, this is a big deal.  He is a fireman and paramedic and has done everything in his power, like most firemen, to never need the attentions of his fellows.  In my whole life he has only been in a hospital for surgery and he’s only called 911 one time and it killed him to do it.  I’m telling you this so that you will truly understand just how scary it was to see my dad stretch out on a filthy floor, talk about the world going grey, and become non responsive as people started to come and ask us if he was okay…


At our stop in Trier a wonderful young man in the German army helped me carry our bags off of the train as my mom and Ryan carried my dad.  I wish I had gotten his name… but as soon as my bags were down and he had made sure, in broken english, that we would be okay, he took off running to catch a train he had already been late for.


We got dad into the train station and to a bathroom where he threw up.


Doesn’t sound like a big deal right?  Well it is… In my life time… 27 years… I can count the amount of times that my dad has thrown up on one hand… and I don’t even need my thumb for the count.  He will do everything from groaning to laying on his back on the floor singing “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes!” at the top of his lungs.  I’ve even heard him scream for my mother “Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnddddddddddddddyyyyyyyyyyyy” at the top of his lungs and when she came running, yelling “What?”  He just yelled back… “Nooooooooothiiiiiiiig… Just trying noooooooot to throoooooooooow uuuuuuuuuup!”  It’s actually quite funny! 


So imagine the concern my mother and I felt when Ryan, who had taken dad into the men’s room came back sweating and pale faced to announce that he must by dying!  He couldn’t imagine how anyone could breath while throwing up that much.  This coming from a man who hates throwing up as much as my father since both of them are the kind of men who burst blood vessels in their eyes and can’t speak for days because their throats are so raw…


We got him out of the bathroom just in time to catch our last train home.  We were lucky to get a standing car with fold down seats all to ourself.  It mean that dad could stretch out on the cushions and that we were right next to a bathroom.


We managed to get him off the train in Phillipsheim and into the car… we only had to pull over once on the short trip home. 


Sounds like a horrible ending to our trip and it was but I have to say that all of us, including dad, were so glad that it happened when it did and not right when we got there!  Not to mention that there was a bit of resentment on all of our minds.  If our first train hadn’t been late and caused us to miss that first second train… we would have been home before he ever got sick! Oh well… Cest la vie!


It was a few days before my dad was even able to eat a little broth… so we stayed in and watched movies and gave him a chance to recover. 


I’ll end it there for the day… 


Auf Wiedersehen!


Courtney

He’s gone.


Here I am, standing on the edge of the flight line watching as my husband stands at attention for role call.  I stand here drinking in the sight of him so proud of him for his sacrifices. He stands so tall and straight with such dignity, sometimes it hits me out of nowhere just who my husband is.  My knight in dingy camos. 


Moments later I’m in his arms.  That last long hug before he gets on the plane, the sweetest moment, the most tender touch.  There is nothing quite like it.  I stand here with his arms wrapped around me smelling him.  Funny how I never notice how wonderful he smells until this last hug.  Funny how in this moment I wish I could stand here and breath in forever, so that I never forget.  Standing here my heart is breaking as he once again gets ready to let me go. 


That last kiss so sweet and yet so painful.  The desperation for my lips to never separate from his.  Tears stream down my face even though I promised myself that today I would not cry, I would not let him see just how much his walking away tears at me.  Today seems so much harder than any other goodbye has ever been, and I just can’t stop the tears.  All around me there are other wives, saying their goodbyes, whispering I love you, but this moment is just for us.  He smiles, wipes away a tear and leans in to kiss my forehead…


And then he is walking away, his bag over his shoulder, he throws me one last glance and smiles that smile that melts my heart and I wonder if anyone would think I was crazy if I ran to him and begged him to just stay home.  Why should I have to be alone here when he is my everything? 


And then he is gone…  just gone.  He is on his way to fulfill his duty… to make this world a little safer.  I’m left here to feel the vacuum his leaving has left in my life.  Goodbye is the hardest word for me to say.  It is the hardest word for me to live….


God please keep him safe.


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Did you know that ‘August’ is the latin word for eternity?  At least that’s how it feels today.


I’ll be back another day to write more… when I can breath again.


Courtney

D-Day

I can’t say anything more than this and I hope that you guys can figure out what I mean…


We were supposed to have another week…at least… 


We found out four hours ago that we only have 36 hours left until D-Day for us…


The end of the summer feels like years from now…


Obviously I won’t be around for the next few days.  Please pray for safe travel and sanity!


Courtney

Hot soup for a cold day!

Guten Tag!

So, for the last few weeks I’ve been obsessed with finding or creating new soup recipes. I’m a lover of good hearty soups for cold weather and I’ve been cold! I figured it was time to branch out from the one soup I actually make!

In the last week I have found two recipes that I have basically reworked from the ground up and I thought I would share just in case some of you are wanting a nice warm soup!  And can I just add that I made them both Crock Pot friendly?  I love my crock pot!

Chicken Tortilla Soup (YUMMY!)

You’ll need:

1 pound boneless chicken breasts.
2 (10 ounce) cans diced tomatoes of your choice
1 (10 ounce) cans of enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chili peppers
1 can sweet corn (drained)
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 cups of water
2 (14.5 ounce) cans of chicken broth (optional 3rd can for prep cooking)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 ½ teaspoons dried cilantro

I start this soup the night before. I put the pound of chicken in the crock pot with 1 can of chicken broth, some chili powder, seasoning salt, a little pepper, about a teaspoon of lime juice and a few tablespoons of barbecue sauce. Then I cover with water and cook on low all night.

When I get up the next morning I remove the chicken breasts and shred them, rinse out the crock pot and then start adding the ingredients. If you want to skip this step you can put the raw chicken right in with the other ingredients and just shred them about an hour before eating but I don’t think it gets quite as much flavor this way.

So next morning…

Place shredded chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, green chilies, corn and garlic into crock pot. Pour in water and chicken broth, and season with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, cilantro, and bay leaf. Cover and cook on low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.

When it’s all done and you can’t wait another moment scoop into bowls, top with cheese of your choice (I prefer Kraft Mexican blend) and tortilla chips!

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The second soup (and I must admit my favorite!) is my Corn Chowder!!! When I was back in the states I had this lovely Corn Chowder at Applebee’s that they stopped making. I’ve been craving it ever since… so I did my best to recreate it!

Courtney’s Corn Chowder

You will need:

1 onion diced
1 green bell pepper diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 can of chicken broth
3 cans of sliced potatoes drained and diced
5 or 6 rings of a jalapeno pepper (I get the jarred stuff and then deseed them and chop them… You can leave the seeds in for a bit more spice.)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon chili powder
4 cans of creamed corn
3 cups of milk divided
¼ cup flour

Saute onion and pepper in butter until tender. Put in crock pot. Add all other ingredients except for ½ cup of milk and the flour. Cook in crock pot on low for about 6 hours. About ½ hour to 1 hour before eating, whip flour and remaining mild together and add to soup to thicken (you can double this if you want a creamier chowder) Let simmer the remaining time and serve! This is great with some homemade bread rolls!

Well there you have it! I hope you enjoy these! I know I sure am!

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I of course have more pictures to share later but I just wanted to make sure I got these written out!

Courtney

The city of lights… All lit up!

Bonsoir!


After a quick dinner and trip back to the hotel we set out once again on a bus to see a bit of the City of Lights at night! 


Here you see the Galeries LaFayette (a mall) with Christmas lights to mimic the stained glass of Notre Dame!


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 It’s beautiful isn’t it?


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 After a long bus trip, (traffic was horrible!) we arrived on the Champs Elysees.  This is the view back towards the palace.


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 Yes this picture and the next were taken from the middle of the road.  It was a double cross walk and we stopped in the middle to take pictures.  I have to admit that it was just a little bit scary!


This of course is the Champs Elysees ending in the Arc de Triomphe.


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 Mom and dad in front of one of the lighted trees…


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 Ryan and dad on the walk… 


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 Ryan and I enjoying the stroll along the most famous street in the city of love!  🙂


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 When we reached the halfway point of the Champs Elysees we could see the Eiffel tower alight!


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 The street…


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After we had finished our stroll we found our way to a metro station.  We decided that after the bus ride in we would rather try the metro to get to the Eiffel tower!  It was worth it!  There was no traffic…


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As we came out of the metro station across the river from the Eiffel tower this is the sight that met our eyes!  Amazing!!!


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 Mom and dad in front of the tower! 


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It was so cold on that bridge with the breeze blowing up off the water! 


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 Every twenty minutes or so the whole tower lights up with strobe lights!


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 We strolled along the park until we stood, for the second time that day, under the Eiffel Tower.  We bought our tickets and rode the elevator to the top!


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The view was stunning.  To be honest, the first time I was in Paris the Eiffel tower was the least interesting monument I visited…  After this trip I’m in love!  This was by far one of the most amazing memories I’ve ever made! 


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 This is the Place de la Concorde and the ferris wheel at the end of the Champs Elysees.


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 Invalides which is now a museum and the tomb of Napoleon.


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 The streets of Paris…


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 The Arc de Triomphe…


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 It was a clear and beautiful night…  we could not have asked for better!


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This is Trocadero which sits on the exact opposite back of the Seine…


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Let’s just say that the top of the Eiffel tower in Vegas does not even come close to doing this justice!!!  (We did that on our honeymoon over seven years ago and now here we are on top of the real deal… who would have thunk it?!)


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And as if being at the top of the Eiffel Tower was not enough… we also were privileged to witness a proposal!  My mother turned around just in time to see him drop to one knee and see her burst into tears and nod her answer.   We were the first to congratulate them and used their camera to take pictures of the occasion!  How romantic!


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The Seine with the spotlight from the top of the tower…


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Paris at night… 


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After a good long visit of drinking in the view we took the elevator back down…  It was the experience of a lifetime… something that I will never forget! 


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The next morning we braved rush hour in the metro and went to the Louve!  I’ll share that another day.


Bonne nuit!


Courtney


 

Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame…

Bonjour!


After we finished visiting the Eiffel tower we decided to head on to Notre Dame, but not before making plans to return to the tower at night!


We boarded a bus that carried us away to the Ile de la Cite.  We arrived at the Pont Neuf on the Rue de Harlay!   


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As we came around the corner the sun hit the face of Notre Dame and made it glow.


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We entered the church to discover that the light was perfect for taking pictures of the stained glass…


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 Notre Dame was built between 1163 and 1345.


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 The windows date from the 13th century to the 20th century.


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This is one of the rose windows of the Notre Dame.  Both Rose windows are mostly original glass and are rare because of this.


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In 1939 it was feared that German shells would damage the building and the windows as had happened in so many of the cathedrals spread throughout France.  So the windows were removed and stored on September 11, 1939 to keep them safe. 


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They were restored to the building at the end of the war.


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 As we walked out of the cathedral the sun was just setting over Paris.  We decided to climb to the top of the bell towers of Notre Dame and drink in the view.  So we paid out entrance fees and set out to climb.  It’s a staggering 400 steps to the top so by the time you hit bottom again you’ve walked 800 stairs.  It was quite a hike…


About halfway up the towers we came out onto the landing of the Chimera gallery or Gargoyle gallery.  This is the most famous gargoyle, called the stryga, and seems to gaze out at the city.


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 The view was breathtaking, we were so grateful for the clear day which allowed us to see for miles!


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 The gargoyles were quite a sight to behold.  You hear about them all your life but to see them in person? It’s a bit surreal!


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We got some spectacular views of the city.


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 The legend states that gargoyles were used to scare off evil spirits.  But most of them are scary enough on their own!


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 Looking back along the nave of the church you see the spire of the transept crossing, built by Viollet-le-Duc to replace the smaller one that was ripped off during the French Revolution.


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As the sun began to set we decided to head up to the very top of the south tower.


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And what a story that makes!


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I must take a moment to apologize to my mother.  I’m about to tell the world a deep dark secret… it’s not my fault you know… I’m a writer at heart and you did do it in front of me…


So I’m sorry but here we go.


We started up the little staircase leading to the top of the south tower and I won’t lie I had my doubts.  This staircase was so narrow and winding that two people would not fit side by side on the stairs and so tightly wound and steep that the inside of each stair was only about three inches before it dropped to the next step… let’s just go with it was small.  I’m a bit claustrophobic so it gave me a flutter but, hey we had come this far and paid our entrance fees and we just knew that the view from the top would be worth it!


About halfway up this winding staircase we met with the unthinkable… an entire tour group coming down.  We had almost all of our tour group behind us coming up so we couldn’t simply turn around and go back down.  We all came to an abrupt halt.. stuck in a funnel of brick and mortar with no clue how to proceed.  


Ryan and I were at the top of our group with mom and dad close behind…  all of the sudden I heard my mom start to breath hard… I would have looked back so that I could tell you just how panicked her face looked but even though she was only two people behind me the stairs wound so tight that she was behind the bend.  She then started chanting with increasing volume, “I have to go down, I have to go DOWN, I HAVE TO GO DOWN!!!”  Luckily my dad was behind her and kept her from turning and bowling every one over in her attempt to flee… can you just see that?  The stairs crammed full of people tumbling down, having to wait for the paramedics to come remove the bodies of the fallen and us stuck somewhere right in the middle?  I think mom and I both would have just keeled over dead from the stress of that!


Up until this point we had been trying to explain to the people above us that we had to get past them because there were people behind us too… (which is not easy with about 12 different languages crammed into that tower) but when they heard the panic in my mother’s voice the way cleared rather quickly!


In any case we finally made it to the top and turned to see the damage.  My mother was in a full blown panic attack.  Dilated eyes, flushed face, hyperventilation and all!  My dad saw that deer in the headlights look in her eyes and decided (very wisely might I add) to go ahead and take her down in the hopes that they would get all the way out without meeting another group.  He told me later that he was sure that if he didn’t get her out of there and back on solid ground she would not be okay for the rest of our trip, if not the rest of her life, and there were a lot of other things we wanted to do that might require going into small spaces…


So while dad was heroically manhandling my mother back to solid ground Ryan and I took some time to watch the sunset from the top of the bell tower of Notre Dame.  We took pictures so that my parents could see the sunset they missed. 


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 The bridges of Paris at sunset…


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 The last moments of sunset… 


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 Simply beautiful… 


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 We ducked back out onto the Chimera gallery to catch the last glimmer of sunlight on the way down.


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 On the trek down we stopped to rest at a landing once the stairs had opened up a bit since it was, after all, a very many stairs!


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 At last we came out of the tower to find my mom and dad waiting and my mom recovered!


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 We turned to see the sun setting on the building…


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We had been such a very long way up!


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After we had rested and caught our breath we walked around to the back of Notre Dame to take a few pictures of the flying buttresses.


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 And of each other of course!


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 We walked off of the Ile de la Cite at dusk…


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We stopped on the bridge to take a few pictures…


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 And to drink in the sights…


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 The palace at dusk…


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 The Ile de la Cite… you can just see the top of the spire and the bell towers of the cathedral…


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 The Hotel de Ville…


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 The Place du Chatelet…


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We found the bus stop for our line and headed back to the hotel.  We got back to the hotel, had some dinner, and dressed a little warmer before heading back out to see Paris at night!


But that will have to wait for another day!


Au Revoir!


Courtney