Okay, Okay, Okay…

I have been neglectful of my blog posts.  Writing about Paris was much more overwhelming than I anticipated, and I STILL have 2 days left to do a play-by-play.  Maybe by our next anniversary I will have it all finished…:)  Speaking of our next anniversary, I think we have nailed down our next vacay!  Woot Woot!  My incredibly smart hubby knows that keeping me busy with planning & the like keeps me out of trouble.  After all, happy wife = happy life, right?

Until we are actually booking our trip, I am keeping it under wraps.  Don’t want to jinx it.  But let’s just say it involves sunny weather, a convertible, and about 1,000,000 pictures.  Of course, that last part is no real surprise.

Aside from that, we had a most amazing weekend.  Friday night, the girls & I painted faces on our pumpkins.  After that, we joined BBP in the garage for a rousing game of darts.  Guess who won?  THAT’S RIGHT.  Yours truly.  Sure, it was a fluke, but I will take what I can get!  After darts we all settled into the couch to watch a movie.

Saturday we got a late start & some welcome sleep.  Then BBP, Chloe & I planted grass seed.  Fingers crossed for some super results.  Casey went to the fair with Sam.  Mercifully, Chloe did not seem to care much about the fair, so I dodged that bullet yet another year.  Next, we went to Carolina Ale House to watch the Gamecocks beat Vandy.  We couldn’t watch at home due to that pesky Dish Network/Fox dispute.  If they take away BBP’s news channel, things could get ugly.  Here’s hoping they work it out sooner rather than later.

Sunday we relaxed, then BBP & I went for a long neighborhood walk.  Since we couldn’t get enough of the beautiful weather, we loaded up the van & went to the park for a dinner picnic.  Eating, football tossing, and rolling down grassy hills ensued. 

What an amazing weekend!


Paris: Day 9 thousand and 2

At this point, we are starting to feel like this vacay is taking on a life of its own. 

On our way back to our hotel, we were in the subway and one of the most memorable things happened.  The train was already overcrowded, and a group of children on a field trip were waiting to board.  Instead of waiting for the next train, the teacher instructed the kids to shove on to the train until we literally did not have standing room.  One of the children started laughing at the predicament of being in a train that was bursting at the seams…then another started.  Then another.  I guess when they say “laughter is contagious”, they really mean it!  Before long, the entire train, kids and adults, were roaring with laughter.  Gut busting, stitch in your side, watering eyes laughter…Brian and I included.  I am not sure if it was so memorable because of my near hysteria from being on vacation for so long, or what, but the experience was surreal. 

After our hysterical laughing experience, we made our way back to our room at the Renaissance Paris Vendome (our home base for the trip).   Hip Hip Hooray to being back in the land of good bedding:

It was another hot, hot, hot day in Paris.  So naturally, we set out to find our dacquiri hot spot cool spot at American Dreams Cafe.  We couldn’t find it.  Instead, we found another American Dream come true:

CHEESEBURGERS!  They were delish. 

After eating, we walked back towards our hotel & deliberated on what to do this fine evening.  We still had a few things left on our bucket list, but not sure exactly what we were ready for tonight…

Shopping did not make the cut.  Sniff Sniff.

Oh well.  We meandered our way down to the Seine River, and saw that we were definitely in good company…

People were everywhere! 

We had a snack & did some additional walking around by the waterfront…

Check out the bridge in the background.  It is the Pont Neuf, and all those little specks are PEOPLE.  We had to investigate further…

Shazamm!  That bridge was literally COVERED in people!  In fact, as the evening wore on, everywhere we looked was COVERED in people.

After walking around, we finally decided what we wanted to do:  catch a night cruise on the Seine.  The place where we thought we could go was all sold out.  So, after some more…you guessed it…walking around, this is where we ended up (without a moment to spare):

And here is some stuff we saw on our cruise…

The bridge with “faces”

Armed guards walking on the roof of the Louvre…Had these guys been here all along & I just never noticed? 

The old train station, turned museum (D’Orsay)…also one of my favorite buildings while walking around Paris

Two crazy tourists (a.k.a. US!)

Seriously.  This needs no explanation

Salsa lessons by the Seine…One thing I wished we had done

The boat cruise was fun, but the fumes were unpleasant from our boat as well as the other boats on the water.  If it had been any longer than an hour, I would have probably gotten annoyed.  But all in all, a good experience.

After our boat cruise, we decided to try and rent a bike to ride back to our hotel.  We hadn’t done this yet, and Brian was itching to try out the rental bikes.

Sadly our credit card did not have the right kind of chip, so we were unable to try out these bad boys.  Oh well.

We continued on foot back towards our hotel, and decided to head over to the Opera District and grab one of the now world-famous-in-our-minds dacquiris.  Sadly we arrived just at closing time.  Insert womp womp womp sound effects here.

So, we strolled back to our hotel (still thirsty) and called it a night. 

We had our last full day in Paris tomorrow, and still a lot of ground to cover.  Next stop:  day trip to Versailles, and a little something romantical on the Pont Neuf Bridge!

7.7.7…A.K.A: Time To Get Our Celebration On…

After our walk back the center of Reims, we hit the room for a quick wardrobe change.  We decided to go to a seafood restaurant for our anniversary dinner.  The food looked good when we walked by the night before, and I can hardly resist the charms of Larry the Lobster walking around in a tank, blissfully unaware that he is about to be my dinner.  Okay, just kidding.  That sounds cruel.  I really prefer all lobster murdering to go on behind the scenes & I am the one that is blissfully unaware.  But thanks to Food, Inc. I no longer have that luxury…but that is a whole other blog post.

So, we are seated on the sidewalk and order our frosty beverages.  I really wanted a mojito, however nobody in Reims seemed to have heard of it.  Or maybe it was my Southern  pronounciation that was throwing them off.  You know how I say it:  mow-hee-toe.    They don’t call me the Geico pothole for nothin’, y’all.

Anyway, Brian placed his order with our server & tried to order a salad.   The server acted like he was crazy (how did he know?  does our reputation precede us, even in Europe?).  Through a series of hand gestures and charades, the waiter conveyed to us that Brian ordered a very large meal & a salad would be overkill.  We took his word for it…And when he brought this double decker plate set up to the table, we figured he probably did have a point:

And I went with the less epic, yet equally delicious:

After dinner we walked around for a bit, and treated ourselves to an ice cream cone.   We stopped at a few bars for a cocktail or four, but nothing really enticed us long enough to stay.  Plus we were pretty tired from the events of the day.  We headed back to our room & fell asleep in about 3.8 seconds, give or take a 0.1 second or two.

The next day we hit our favorite breakfast spot again.  The coffee was delish.

Then back to our room to pack up & check out.  Our train was not scheduled to leave Reims until 4 p.m & we were really all Reims’d out.  So we went to the train station & upgraded to a direct train that left at 11 a.m.  Double score!

Good bye, Reims!  Don’t forget to write!

So we loaded up & headed to the train station.  Guess what, Paris??  The Griswolds Phillips’ are baaaaaackkkk!

P.S.  If you are interested in reading more about our fabulous wedding, visit http://ashleeandbrian.weddingannouncer.com/

I see Contador, I see Lance…Our next stop is the Tour de France!

So after our 35 minute walk + 20 minute beer break, we arrived at the location of the Tour de France stage finish.  We were about 3 hours early, but the crowd was already packing in:

While we waited, we decided to hit the gift shop tent for some souvenirs, grab a beer, and some national potatoes.  First place we found them with ketchup!  Score!

We found a Livestrong car, and had to pose for tourist photos.  ((And to my friend Cindy that incredulously asked, “THAT is what you wore to the Tour de France????”, the answer is YES!  Why would you expect any different?))

I really wanted to lay all over the car & lick the windows, like the people did with the Ferrari on the Champs-Elysee.  But I settled for this:

The sponsors of the Tour had organized a parade and they were throwing all sorts of free swag into the crowds.  We managed to score some of these goodies, but we could not manage to get our hands on the elusive LCL Banque ball caps.  We did get to enjoy the mist from girl spraying water into the crowd & enjoy a few unique floats in the parade.  Apparently Fergie is big in France, because they played the same song on a loop for the entire 3 hour parade.  Start singing Black Eyed Peas “Tonight’s Gonna Be A Good Night” in your head, beginning NOW…

So after all that voyeurism…I mean, parade watching…we worked up an appetite!  What?  At least it’s not another wardrobe change…

Brian started to open up all the free stuff we amassed from the parade giveaways:

And we are still waiting for the big finish…Three hours sure is a long time when you are sitting on the side of the road drinking Heineken & eating French Fries…

…….And they arrived!  Just like that, it was over.  3 hours of waiting for a 3 minute finish.  That being said, it was SUPER EXCITING!  The energy of the crowd was electrifying & the cyclists were whizzing by at breakneck speeds.  Truly an amazing experience.  I thought it would be fun, but did not expect to be so caught up in the excitement.

And the winners are:

What a great way to spend an afternoon. 

After the excitement died down, we joined the crowd in walking back towards the town center.  We knew the winners of the Tour were likely celebrating, and we had some celebrating to do of our own…today was, after all, our wedding anniversary! 🙂   More on how we celebrated our third year of marriage in the next post!

Hanging Out In Reims With The Man Of My Dreams

So after nearly a week in Paris, we embarked on yet another exciting adventure…going to Reims.  Reims is about an hour and ten minute train ride from Paris.  Our plan was to head to Reims today, hang out & get our bearings, then find out the best place to be for the Tour de France stage ending there the following day. 

And away we go!  Brian was not feeling the best.  I think our late night, plus the illness he battled for the majority of the trip, were taking a toll on him. 

We caught our subway from Tuileries to Gare du Nord train station.  It was a Twilight Zone-esque kind of place.  All sorts of strange birds were flying around, including actual birds, in a hurry.  We were unsure how long it would take to get to the train station & aboard our train, so we were actually very early.  At this point, I was really exhausted and tired of having to think so much.  My high school French was not nearly as good as I thought…thanks a lot, Madame Connell. 

Fortunately we were safe during our stay at the train station.  And this gives a whole new meaning to security guard:

Finally it was time to board our train.  In fact, we nearly missed it.  We did not realize that the destination screens displayed only the final destinations…since we had a connector train (more on this later), it did not show our destination on screen.

After we settled in for a long winter’s nap for our train ride, Brian took a much needed siesta, and I attempted to take pictures of the countryside.  Unfortunately, I ended up with a lot of blurry shots of bushes:

After we switched trains in Epernay, I was able to get a few decent vineyard shots.  After all, we were headed to champagne country.

When the train arrived in the Reims station, we weren’t quite sure what to do next.  Everything I read about our hotel said it was “just minutes” from the train station.  However, “just minutes” in which direction was not specified.  I had done a google maps walking tour of the town before we left (I really know how to burn up some free time)…however, it appeared there was some remodeling going on & detours set up everywhere.  I vaguely remembered virtually ‘walking’ through a park to get to the city center.  We saw a park past the construction & off we went. 

It turns out we were about a city block from our hotel.  After walking through the park, we ended up in a cute area that was closed to vehicle traffic.  Both sides of the street were lined with restaurants, hotels, cafes, and bars.  We just had to figure out how to get to ours.  Finally we found it:  Latino Cafe.  Latino Cafe in Reims, France.  Makes sense.

This was our first experience with a room that did not have air conditioning.  Since it was a sweltering 95 degrees outside, I knew this could get interesting.  Our check in experience was okay…They spoke about as much English as we did French, so after a lot of pointing & head nodding, we found our way to Chambre Huit. 

Our room was open to the street, and the view was excellent.  Three flights up the narrow, steep stairs, less excellent.  The room itself was no frills, but clean and had a funky little decor going on…I liked it!  We were happy to be out of Paris and in this cute little town. 

The views from our window…

We were both starving at this point, so we headed downstairs & decided to try the food right at our hotel.  Delish!

After dinner, we walked around the city for a little bit to get acquainted with our surroundings.  Lots of bars and people milling around, but we were so tired we went back to the room around 11 p.m.   We left the windows open while sleeping & around 2 pm, the restaurant below up really cranked things up…I never heard them but Brian said they were having a whole lotta fun down there.

The next day, we got up and headed out for breakfast.  We found an excellent breakfast spot & had the best coffee of our trip.  The food wasn’t too shabby either:

After breakfast, we decided to head towards the tourism office to find out about the Tour de France.  We figured they would know, and hoped that someone there would speak enough English to point us in the right direction.  We were right!

The tourism office was right behind the Notre Dame Cathedral in Reims.  This was a huge cathedral that was once where France appointed their kings. 

We walked around the Cathedral and took in some of its history.  The intricate detailing truly took our breath away.  Some of the statues were beginning to crumble due to age, and they were being redone by historians.  An exhibit was set up in the church showing how this process was completed.

And Brian found a flat penny (or would that be euro?) machine for Chloe…well, sort of flat penny.  More like a gold coin.

After touring the church, Brian decided to head back to the room for a few minutes so I could do some shopping.  We decided to meet back in an hour, so we could start heading out for our 30 minute walk to the Tour de France stage finishing area.

I hit a few cute little shops, plus Monoprix.  Basically this store was a French version of Target & had cute little inexpensive items.  I was disappointed there was no Isaac Mizrahi for Monoprix line, but I did pick up a cute gray ballerina sweater!

After my little shopping excursion & Brian little nappy poo, we were off!  Heading out of the Reims city center to the Tour de France stage finish!

What we encountered a long the way:

After all that walking, guess what we needed next:

Paris: Day 5, Part 2. Montmartre & Moulin Rouge.

 Soooo, where were we?  Oh yes, on to Montmartre for our self guided walking tour!

After relaxing in the room for a couple of hours & a wardrobe change, we hit the subway for our walking tour of Montmartre.  I found this on the TripAdvisor.com forum, from a member who had recently visited Paris.  It seemed like it hit all of the high notes that we were looking for in Montmartre, so away we went.

The streets were crowded & this looked it would be an uphill battle:

We arrived from the subway stop and headed towards Sacre Coeur, the first stop on the tour.  Starting at the top & working our way down, instead of the other way around.  On our way up to Sacre Coeur, we decided to stop in for a bite to eat.  We stopped in one place & used their super sketchy bathroom.  After 20 minutes of being ignored, we decided to get up and leave.  We opted for an indoor restaurant with glass windows, so we could check out the street views.  Plus they were playing Jack Johnson, so we figured we couldn’t go wrong.  I ordered the mixed grill & expected seafood…Apparently mixed grill was more “random meats from the grill”, but it was good so I was happy.  Brian ordered a shrimp & pasta dish, and about 5 bites in, we decided to trade meals.  The most exciting thing we got at the restaurant was three whole cubes of ice with our drink orders!  We were thrilled 🙂

After eating, we resumed our walking tour.  We reached the staircase that is featured in a famous French photo.  Lotsa stairs.

When reaching the base of Sacre Coeur, the streets were crazy-crowded & we had our first encounter with “the bracelet men.”  These African guys came up to us & tried to put yarn bracelets on our arms.  We ignored them, didn’t make eye contact, though they were pretty aggressive.  One even grabbed Brian’s arm.  We kept rolling past them though, and that was our worst experience with these characters.

What an amazing view!  Wow.  Just breathtaking.

Apparently we weren’t the only ones that thought so.  The steps and whole area surrounding Sacre Coeur were PACKED.  And remember when we went to Le Cinquante?  The very same guitarist was on the steps of Sacre Coeur playing for the crowd:

After going into the church and checking things out, we decided to get this show on the road.  We did have our SECOND walking tour of the day to finish…That’s right, I said second.  Who’s scheduling this stuff again?  Oh right.  That was me.

And we are off!  Back down the hill…

And what we encountered along the way…..

A mime…

A courtyard area full of cute “as seen on TV” types of restaurants/cafes…

Unique bicycle storage…and a cute guy in a pink shirt…

This super cute cafe…I am totally printing a picture of this place for my girls PB Teen pink & green bathroom…

Au Lapin Agile…the bar where Picasso hung out.  Brian was especially excited to see this place because his favorite play, “Picasso at  the Lapin Agile” written by Steve Martin, was set in this very place. 

The handsome guy in the pink shirt again.  Is he following me?

These super cute apartments, and another flight of descending stairs…I sure am glad we started at the top…

The first of the two famous ‘moulin’ (windmill) in Paris.  Now a very cute restaurant.  Too bad we were on a mission…

A back alley where we could have been robbed, raped, or murdered…

The building where Picasso lived for 8 years…

Yet another flight of descending stairs…are we there yet?

Stopping for a frosty beverage…

And we made it!  The Moulin Rouge.  People were literally lined down the block waiting to get into this place.  Brian and I thought about going, but looked into tickets and they were pretty pricey for what we read was a cheesy show & mediocre food.  So, we were content to admire it from afar…a.k.a. the 24 hour bar across the street.  This whole area was very NYC-Times-Square-in-the-1980’s cheesy.  Definitely catering to an ‘adult’ market.  But it was worth the experience to go, and we had a fun time getting there on our walking tour.  We would recommend it to anyone, and you are interested in duplicating, check out CaptainPlanIt’s trip review on the tripadvisor.com forum (or comment on this post & I can send you the link).  Our only caveats would be to maybe skip some of the alleyways if you are going at dusk.  A couple of times, we felt a little uneasy.  But during the day, this should not even be an issue!

Day 5 was amazing.  Day 6-8 we headed to Reims, France to catch a stage ending for the Tour de France.  Stay tuned…

Stay tuned for the rest of Day 5 thru Day 11…

Temporarily derailed due to vomiting illness, shared by Chloe and car accident, courtesy of Casey.  Kids.  🙂  Should be back to regularly scheduled programming by tomorrow!