Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Very Surprised GRANDMA!

I've seen a saying on Pinterest many times that says, "Friends are the family we've chosen for ourselves"; my friends here are the (non-biological!) sisters (and brother) that I honestly don't know what I would ever do without.

With that being said, last night's plan was to kick off a proposed 2015 Europe trip with our first official "meeting" (a/k/a wine, food and chatter). The usual gals, as well as some new ones, filtered in with drinks of choice for the evening, and food galore. Yippee, this was gonna be a fun night! I couldn't wait to hear everyone's choices for places they'd like to visit, and get this party started!

Long story short, after suspiciously being held in the kitchen (I even started to get annoyed because I couldn't see what was going on!), the REAL fun began: A SURPRISE GRANDMA SHOWER!!! FOR ME!!! (a party just for me?! YaY!)

Our skilled cake maker Tina was once again put to work! How cute is this?! And oddly enough, without any coordinating on anyone's part, almost every single gift was elephant and/or baby animal themed! ☺ My girls are good! 

Pumpkin hummus, pumpkin cake, mini shrimp salads, quiche, hot wings, deviled eggs, stuffed mushrooms, gourmet sandwich roll, Chinese slaw, smoked raspberry dip, brownies and cakes...all for ME! ;) (I'm sympathy eating with Samantha, gotta keep my strength up for this little guy!)

Annie's adorable, rolly-polly, sweet-smelling, soft, cuddly, absolutely perfect little grandbaby Zachary came along so that I could get some practice! His lovely momma, Laurel, spent the evening with us, too! (and so far, Jax & Sam's little guy's name is Zachary, too!)

Time to cut the cake! Zachary was ready, too ;)
And then...the GIFTS! Soooo many gifts! Grandma bibs, clothes & blankets; hats, shoes & toys; Nuks, spoons & medicine scoops; picture frames, a memory book, a booster seat, the list goes on and on!

The loot! Isn't this crazy?! How can a girl be so blessed?!
No words can begin to express the gratitude, joy, thankfulness and love that I have for my friends...the sisters (and a brother!) that have been given to Jack, Jackson, Alex, Lindsay and I from the One who knows what we need, and especially when we need it. These beautiful baby gifts are temporary (and so appreciated!), but the true gift of these folks' friendship is something the five of us can cherish forever ♥
Just for fun, I now know why I was voted "most dramatic" in school...I'm usually on the other side of the camera, and these pics show why it needs to stay that way!

FooZer! I am never giving you my camera again! ;)
(but thanks for the best shower, EVER! ♥)
 AND we picked where we're going!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The City of Light(s)?! But It Rained...

Day 7 Flimwell to Paris, France!

We were all so excited; the City of Light, the City of Love! Le sigh! Paris. FRANCE! We're even taking the Eurostar a/k/a the Chunnel! How cool is this gonna be?!

We got up at 3:30 (am!) to leave by 4:30 (am!) for the Ashford International train station, as the Eurostar for Paris left at 6:17 (am!). Eeeek.

MICKEY?! Didn't I leave you back in FLORIDA?! There's no gettin' away from this mouse! I'll take Disney World over Euro Disney any day, thanks ;)
Anyway, the train ride was pretty darn smooth, and we arrived in Paris in exactly two hours, at Gare du Nord station. Straight away, I had to "go", but toilets were .70 Euro cents (.93¢); I had to use the ATM (longgggg lines), get change (at least I got the last two copies of the British newspaper 'Sun', renamed "Son", since the lil Prince was born the day before), get yelled at by the lavatory guard ladies, and was approached by a woman (in unisex bathrooms, no less) who needed me to guard her stall door since she was "claustrophobic". We're not off to a great start. When I was then short-changed by the woman at the metro ticket counter, I started to have some worries about the day ahead!
Ok, let's shake it off and head for Le Tower de Eiffel!  
Ok, this was cool. When we got off the metro train and rounded the corner, THIS is what we saw! Things are looking up! (literally!)

Garden and fountains on the...west? east? north? I dunno. I was already all turned around (and I studied the map so hard!)

We're here, we're really here! Ok, this is awesome!
Let's go up this baby! Le sigh, again. Well over an hour later, in 93° heat, we made it "inside", which just means we made it out of the baking sun into the tiny area where we waited for an elevator. Eeeeek.

Hmmm, stairs or elevator? That's a no-brainer! We were squeezed, crammed and shoved into the elevator to the half-way point, where you take another elevator to the top. Can you tell I don't like lines and crowds?!

But, hey, how 'bout this view?! I had to ask some folks who were waiting in the line for the elusive elevator to the top (which wraps around the mid-section of the tower) if I could step in and take a quick shot. They acquiesced, and this is what I saw! ☺ 

Westerly view, looking down the Seine!

Ta da! I present...our photo at the Eiffel Tower! Don't worry, I'm impatient, but I wasn't gonna jump!

Looking south. It was cool to know Alex had been here just a few years ago! But he was much younger, thinner, and more heat tolerant. Lucky kid.
Time to move on; the lines to the top were long, and I was really pooping out in the heat :(

The Metro in Paris, sadly, is not much like the Tube in London. It was hot. And not too clean. And did I mention hot? But it's ok, let's go to the Louvre; Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa and Winged Victory, here we come! 
We're here! The sky's not lookin' too hot, but let's keep moving...

Guess what?! The Louvre is closed on Tuesday.  -_- And it's pouring. But I got this shot from the window in the main walkway! Take that, Louvre!

We made a run for it (didn't know where we were headed, but we ran anyway!), and I got a quick shot of the pyramid.

Just a kinda cool photo, still on Louvre grounds.
Our main goal of the day was the "Lover's Bridge", so we put up on our rain jackets, braved the downpour, and set out to find it! (Luckily, it wasn't far ;) 

The bridge is actually the Pont des Arts, which crosses from the left bank to the Louvre museum. From the website: "The love padlocks, called cadenas d’amour, multiplied until there were thousands of love tokens on the bridge, each engraved with a message of love. After locking the love padlock onto the fence, lovers toss the keys into the Seine river – a sign of their eternal devotion." Can you see them all?!
Linds studying the many different styles, engravings and dates! It's really kind of a wonder the bridge can hold all the extra weight!
There we are! J E, T E, L E, 7/23/13! Right by "Monica E"!

Jack locked our lock, we kissed our kiss, and threw our key! Sealed for all eternity! Hahaha, SUCKER! ;) Lindsay got us on video, which was pretty cool ♥
Lee & Bev placing their lock. Too late for them as well, their fate is sealed!
The rain started again, and we fled to the Left Bank for some lunch. Easier said than done; we finally found a café, though, Le Comptoir Des St Peres. Terrible service and overpriced food (Jack's glass of Coke was $6.51), but apparently the café lav holds a great story (which Linds found when we got home): back in the day, F. Scott Fitzgerald worried aloud to Hemingway about, shall we say, his "inadequacies"? Story is, Hemingway assured him "things were okay". At the time of usage, Jack and I were freaked out about the bathroom being unisex and not having a toilet seat, but we feel much better about it now! It's famous! :P 

I would have loved to see the Musee D'Orsay, but we were kinda gettin' Paris burn-out at this point. Maybe next time!

A few more pics by the Louvre since the sun came out! Much prettier in the sun!

My artsy fartsy French photo op of the day. Those cheeky French!
By now, we were wet, tired, and a bit discouraged, so we decided to pick up some souvenirs and head back to the train station.

Jack and Lee opted for ciders in a pub in the station; Bev, Lindsay and I figured we'd see what else the nearby shops had to offer!

Turns out wine and crepes called our names instead! Second best part of the day (the Lover's Bridge was first) was this little bit of heaven in a French café. Ok, Paris, you're not so bad after all!
Lindsay took a short clip of the numbers on the departure board flipping over, which was really neat. All aboard the train back to England, we're beat!
Paris, it's been...real!

Monday, September 2, 2013

From Soho Down to Brighton, I Must Have Played Them All!

Day 6 Flimwell to Brighton Beach

Yeah, yeah, I know it's silly, but I've been waiting to title this blog! We really were in Soho on our London day, and day six takes us to Brighton! Look out, Pinball Wizard!

This trip was about an hour and 20 minutes; Lindsay's car sickness was starting to get the best of her (nausea and headaches), so we stopped at a chemist in Robertsbridge on the way for some travel sickness medicine.
Photo op! A cute Italian bakery on the corner of the high street.

Making our way to the chemist...this poor kid has had it! We picked up the English equivalent of Dramamine (I found out on my trip two years ago that nothing in their drug stores looks like ours!), even though the kind lady behind us in line said that a hard boiled egg works way better than any medicine at the start of a long car trip. Hmm...well ok, then!

We're here! A lovely mermaid welcomed us at the marina, which was huge and full of outdoor restaurants. Now we're off to find the beach! Hope you brought your bathing suit!
Errrr, you actually don't need one here! See the area of beach mounded up on the right? That's the naturalist's part of the beach, so feel free to let it all hang out ;) Eeek, let's get on the trolley car and get to the pier!

Our pretty girl posing by the Brighton Wheel; there's a VIP 'capsule' available for special events (if you'd like to spend $93 per person for six revolutions and a glass of champagne)! I'll pass on the bird's eye view, especially since there's a pretty good chance of seeing a naturalist right down the beach!This Wheel was erected in 2011, with permission to stay there until 2016.  

This view of the pier with its colorful chairs was so inviting, I decided to take off my shoes and walk down the beach :)

Holy cow, this hurts! BEACH?! Even coquina sand is easier to walk on than rocks! I have no idea how the folks walk around barefoot, but they do.
It was another sweltering day, so ice cream sounded fabulous even though it was 11o'clock in the morning. We talked every day about getting ice cream, so here was our chance! It came with a chocolate 'flake' stuck in the side, which was crumbly, light chocolate. Deeelishhh!
There was lots o' carnival fare: fish and chips, toffee apples, candy floss (that's cotton candy, folks) and seafood galore; in particular, jellied eels, which I learned is a traditional East End London dish since the 1800's. Thanks for that, East London.

Peeking back at the beach through the railing.

I loved this view, too, and it shows the ledge from the "beach" to the water...see the kid crawling up it?!

Bev then directed us to The Lanes, where all the shops and restaurants are. It was colorful and lively, and every restaurant and café had an outdoor eating area. Time for lunch!

We decided on the Cricketers; the food was wonderful, as I know now all pub food is.

Inside by the bar, which I'm thinking is only used in the evening. Love the photos on the ceiling!

Lindsay and I had sausage rolls (again)! I developed quite a taste for Colman's mustard (HOT!) in these 6 days, and lemme tell ya, sausage rolls and Colman's with a cold cider or beer is next to heaven!

We left the pier, and swung by The Rock for a pint; Jeannie and her hubby Denis (who the locals still remember fondly!) used to manage this pub, so Bev knows it quite well!
I liked the "snug bar" door entrance on the side...maybe this was Bev's secret entrance at one time?! ;)
Are you as tired as I am? (maybe it's all the cider!) Let's head back home for some time in the garden!
This abandoned church (it must have been beautiful in its day!) is right next to our last stop at Jempson's grocery to re-stock; we plowed through a ton of English cheddar and mini sausage rolls every night with our nightcaps! Good Lord, no wonder my pants were tight by the end of the first week!
Next up: PARIS! But it may not be what you imagine...

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