EuroBlog : Traveling with a Toddler in Europe 2

A very big trip with a very little girl.

Find the first half of our adventure, Days 1-13, in the previous blog post.

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Day 14 - Gibraltar   Our GLAMP site is under an hour’s drive from Gibraltar, so we’ve decided to cross the border for the day. As per a tip from our glamping hosts, we parked on the Spain side and walked across the border to avoid being caught in car traffic.


None of us really knew when to expect. We’d all heard about the rock of Gibraltar, sure, but until I was standing beneath it did I understand why. It’s not only MASSIVE, but so steep! We boarded an open top bus into the city, which felt very appropriately British. We would also see the iconic red telephone booths and pick up a few of my favorite Crunchie bar chocolates to remind us we were, in fact, in British territory.


We stopped in the city center for a lovely lunch and then walked to the base of a cable car that scales the rock. With the dog and baby in tow, we realized it was better to hire a taxi tour and we are so glad we did.


Our first stop was a view point; did you know you can see Africa from Gibraltar!?! Our next was beautiful caves that are also used for concerts. I’ve visited many cave sights around the world, but have never seen one lit up like this with all of the steps and stage laid in; it’s wild! Next, we went up to the very top where we saw many, many more apes just lounging by the road. Amelie excitedly called them “oo-oos” (the sounds a monkey makes). They seem very accustomed to people around and don’t seem to notice you (unless you have a plastic bag or food out- a very big no no on the rock). And last, we got to check out the tunnels used to make Gibraltar the military defense it’s famous for. The tunnels house some of the old cannons used by the British to defend their big rock which, now that I’ve seen it, seems completely impenetrable. From the outside, it’s hard to tell where the holes could even be hiding in the huge rock face. I can’t imagine how you’d fight back a giant stone like that: it is amazing. Our taxi tour brought us right back to the border (you actually drive right through the center of their airport’s runway to get in and out of Gibraltar which I also found pretty fascinating).

A stop at a big grocery store on the way back and we had everything for a nice dinner at the glamp site. When we got back, the grill was already fired up as the other tents were now occupied by a couple families of friendly, and quite feisty, Brits. Matt stayed up late bonding with his new “mates” over some whiskey. The guys sounded like they were having a great time, the only bit I over heard was when one had discovered a praying mantis on a wall that was “proper grilling” him. With the baby sleeping soundly in our lovely tent, Caitlin and I enjoyed some wine and a good chat to catch up.


Just the kind of day we didn’t really plan, but rather just let it slide into place: a very fun day in an extremely beautiful little corner of the world.

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Day 15 - Fuente del Gallo, Spain   La Playa.
We woke up in our tents for the last time this morning after a breakfast complete with lots of puppy kisses. We all agree: glamping is amazing and we are a bit sad to leave. The windy weather hasn’t dissuaded our plans for a beach day on the way back to the city, but perhaps it should have. We arrived at the first beach town to sheets of sand blowing across the empty parking lot we pulled into (and swiftly back out of). The car was trembling in the gusts as we passed beautiful open fields along the coast, but after a stop for a lovely lunch, luck would have it that when we tried one last beach we found success. Beach day revival!


The beach in Spain is super. First, the obvious: the tatas. We keep our bikini tops tightly fastened in the States, but after 5 minutes here I don’t understand why. The boobs everywhere were no big whoop. In fact, I think it’s great to normalize breasts a bit more. Everyone seemed very relaxed and low-key (compared to beaches in Florida). Caitlin said it best when she pointed out “Everyone wears a bikini here, it doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, fat or slim” and it’s true. This shows a bit more love and respect of one’s shape: something else we could use a little more of on our home turf.


With the baby and dog tucked under the shade of our umbrella, we enjoyed some cold tinto de veranos (best idea ever! like the wine version of a radler or shandy) while the boys had a beer. The little bar serving up drinks was like so many of the little places we’ve been in that it was extremely affordable.


After we’d had our fill of vitamin D, we headed back to Sevilla to get the rental car returned and grab a quick bite before bed. This first to-go dinner in Seville was amazing, and I now see it was just a sneak preview. I believe Seville is the best place in the world to go out to eat. On day 15, I didn’t know it quite yet, but the most amazing culinary experience will unfold over the next few days. Spain, you just get better every day.

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Day 16 - Seville, Spain  HOLA SEVILLA! We so pumped to be staying right in the heart of the city and ready to see the sites!
Caitlin teaches a class this afternoon, but has time in the morning to show us around and have lunch together first. She guided us on a wonderful walk through the neighborhood and to one of her sight-seeing favorites, the Alcazar. It was once a Moorish fort and is now a Spanish palace. The deep history and ornate quality of the buildings in Europe has not stopped dropping my jaw just yet. I still found myself stopped in my tracks to admire, and the Alcazar was no different. The baby liked the goldfish in the garden fountain the best, while I was excited to see the peacock and duck that are such close friends spending time together in the sprawling garden.


And now the most important part: tapas for lunch time. This blew my mind We started with a tomato salad with homemade basil gummies topped with dollop of lemon sorbet. The variety of textures, the crisp cool lemon sorbet with the warmer cheese and tomatoes, the soft gummies, it was all so playful and creative. Most importantly, it was delicious. From there we went on to an almond soup (topped with pop rocks!), pork checks, croquettes, a mini roast beef burger, acorn fed Iberian ham, and who knows what else. It was all beyond my expectations. Just when lunch couldn’t get any better, the desert we chose was an orange cream with mint ice cream and slow gin slushy (I think?) I can’t remember all the details now. What I do remember is that it was all so wild, but worked together SO seamlessly. That’s the thing about these little dishes, it’s not that they’re weird for the sake of being weird, but rather that the flavors pair together so beautifully, sometimes in such unexpected ways. In one word it was DELIGHTFUL.


After some more city explorations and once Anthony was home from work, it was off for round 2: DINNER. We again ordered tons of tapas at another place closer by the apartment. I’ve never been more grateful of my daughter’s ability to sit at the table for long restaurant dinners. I’m also kind of glad I’m not raising my daughter in Spain though; I can’t get used to the time thing. Walking home from dinner at about 11pm and they playground was slammed. (Yes, playgrounds here are amazing like Paris’) It was so packed with screaming running children, there wasn’t room for Amelie to play. Being the responsible parents we are, we stopped for ice cream instead.


Before we left, I really began to value  the importance of a toddler’s schedule and felt throwing it off this much might be turmoil for all of us, but it really hasn’t worked out that way. She is clearly enjoying this trip as much as we are and growing so fast! Her verbal development is on the fast track this week and her vocabulary is expanding exponentially, with a few words in Spanish and French too! I’m so glad she’s such a happy bear and we are all having such a joyous time!

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Day 17 - Seville, Spain    It is TACO TUESDAY tonight, but first we have another day in Sevilla to explore! Caitlin has a bit more work, so we walk around just the three of us. When we sit down for lunch the baby is asleep in the Tula, so it really felt like a little lunch date for Matthew and I. One of the dishes was SO phenomenal, we ordered a 2nd serving. 3.80 euro for this pork over potatoes with a beet sauce; it sounds so simple, but it was easily one of my favorite things I have ever eaten! The meat was so buttery, the potatoes so sweet, the sauce just the perfect compliment! Ahh, I loved it BOTH times!


After lunch, we took the dog Enzo for a walk before going for a pre-dinner drink up on the Setas. I forgot what the real name of the structure is, but the Spanish call it the Setas because it looks like a giant mushroom. When construction begun to build, roman ruins were discovered beneath, so they changed the plans for the building to include an underground museum of sorts to preserve and display what had been found. It is so rad to see the things found there STILL THERE. 3 euro gets you a ride in the elevator up to the top and your admission also includes a free drink (beer, wine, tinta, soda, or water). Amelie enjoyed climbing the big wide stairs and we enjoyed seeing the familiar landmarks from above. Anthony met us and it was off to another playground to wait for the 9pm or so dinner time.


I noticed in Paris the beers for sale at the parks next to the water, sodas, and candy. In Spain, the attitude is the same. We took Amelie to a playground to run off some steam before meeting more of Caitlin and Anthony’s friends for dinner, and they went to buy a round of what we dubbed “playground beers”. The cafes all sell small light beers very inexpensively (as cheap as 0.40) and it seems everyone is always drinking them. We each had a little beer, which felt oddly against the rules, and yet, it wasn’t a big whoop. A phrase you hear constantly here is “NO PASA NADA!”, which translates to “whatever” or “no big deal”.


The “no pasa nada” attitude is something I really respect about the Spanish culture and I hope to bring home a more relaxed attitude with me. Taco Tuesday and all of Caitlin and Anthony’s wonderful friends were great too. Another amazing day, CHECK!

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Today, Matthew and I celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary on our last day in Spain!


We greet the day with a breakfast out at a cafe on the Alemeda with Caitlin and Enzo. Typical Spanish breakfast is something we will definitely be bringing home with us. We’ve been making it at Caitlin’s this week, but this is our first time having it out. Essentially, they grate tomatoes, which are put over bread with olive oil and then topped with a little salt and cheese. It’s perfection in the am.


Matt had read about a huge camera obscura on the walking tour of the neighborhood, so we ventured out to see it. It opens every 30mins for a few hours in the morning and an hour or so in the afternoon. When we walk up, the door is locked but the sign assures us they are open and that the door will be unlocked when the next tour begins. We assume this can’t be more then 30mins away, but in true Spain fashion it’s at least this long that we sit on the steps chit chatting. The baby was again asleep in the Tula for a little nap, and it turned out to be a fun way to start the day.


When we are let in, we’re put in an elevator and told to walk around the perimeter of the tower when we reach the top. The building is so narrow and the balcony around the top is no different. Even with a complete cage, it still feels a bit sketchy on the balcony with the floor sloping out, but we walk around it anyway. The view is wonderful.


Then, the man comes back up, pulls the big shade on the door closed to make the room dark, and pulls a set of ropes to open the hole in the ceiling. We are inside the camera. The mirror and glass is in the roof above us, and the image is projected down onto a huge white disc suspended in front of us. It was VERY cool. Our guide proceeded to give us a tour of the city, able to pan a full 360 degrees and control the focus by lifting and lowering the disk via the same rope pully system. It was totally up our alley and a memorable way to spend this morning.
When Caitlin and Anthony offered to watch Amelie for a dinner out, I had a bit of a flashback to coming home to hear of her mini-meltdown in Paris. This time, Matt and I were very clear with her with what was happening before she went to bed. We told her we were going to go to dinner and she would stay at the house, safe and sleeping with Caitlin and Enzo. She wasn’t impressed, but once settled and asleep stayed sleeping for our lovely night out. We had a blast, and of course, we ate a ton. This dinner will be very tough to top next year! What a way to spend our last night in Sevilla!

 

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And we’re off again! Amelie is excited to take another “hairplane” at the “hairport”, but first we are walking around a market and enjoying the neighborhood for one last morning. We are feeling noticeable more sad to leave. Every leg of this trip has been so beyond what we could have ever expected and so wonderfully diverse. Caitlin and Anthony have been incredible hosts and live in such an amazing place, but it’s time to move on to Belgium!

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Before we head to the airport, we have time for one last lunch outside on the Alemeda. While Matt enjoyed a last little 40 cent beer, Amelie spots a fly has landed on the edge of her water cup. She has been calling flies “bees”, but at lunch we’ve officially got her saying “fly”. Matt said “shoe fly” and so when it landed on her foot she was calling it a “shoe fly”. The fly buzzed around long enough to get a couple quick shots of her at her last lunch in Spain.


Something I don’t have photos of is our awesome send off dance party this morning. Caitlin introduced us to Enrique’s latest summer jam and we just can’t get enough of it! Amelie and Enzo both make for awesome dance partners. We are seriously going to miss these guys.
All I can say about the flight experience is this: AVOID RYANAIR. To get to and from Sevilla, I made the mistake of going with Ryanair. I didn’t know of their reputation. Regardless, we made it to “Brussels” (really to an airport nearly an hour south of the city) and one of my oldest friends in the world was there to greet us, which made the travel experience evaporate quickly into the past.


We’re staying with a family I’ve known for as long as my own, it seems. We arrived to their gorgeous house quite late in the evening. We’re showered with more true hospitality as we are shown our lovely accommodations before being served a warm lasagna paired with a Belgium beer. Quick hellos and it was off to bed. We’ll see you in the morning, Brussels.

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Day 20 - Brussels, Belgium    The friends we are staying with all have to work today, but the house is close enough to a metro stop that we are happy to set out to explore a bit on our own. Matt is leading the way to the Royal Palais, because like many of the museums and sites here, it’s free to get in! My favorite, and least favorite part, was a room covered in Thai jeweled BEETLE casings. 1.4 million critter shells cover the ceiling and a huge chandelier. I found it at once fascinating and slightly disgusting.
More then any sites, I’ll admit I was more interested in getting a Belgium waffle from a street vendor. It wasn’t hard to track down the smell from the waffles being made, but when I opened my mouth to order, 3 languages came out. I was intending on French, but all this time in Spain got the Spanish going, and I finally landed in English. The waffle man wasn’t impressed, in fact he was quite snappy, but I couldn’t have cared less once I had the waffle in hand.


Next, we discovered an underground tour that looked cool. We found our way to the ticket counter and the man refused our money! He didn’t want to make change, so either we paid exactly in cash or we could use our card. He put us off so we made our way down to the famous Grand Place square instead. It is surrounded by loads of chocolate shops and Delirium has a “village” that reminded me of a McMenamin’s at home.


Our off encounters for the day had set an odd tone but our attitudes were swiftly turned back around when we returned to home base. My friend Valerie had invited us for dinner. It was so wonderful to reunite after so many years apart, and even more fun when she greets us popping champagne saying “We have a lot to celebrate! Two marriages AND two babies!”


Her adorable son is nearly 11 months, about 1/2 Amelie’s age, and they played together nearly as well as our husbands did. This gave Valerie and I plenty of time to play catch up too. It’s always the best to see people after so much has changed, but not to feel your relationship with them has all that much. We always got along well, and so it was no surprise after so many years we still would. I’m glad we’ve come for a visit.

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Day 21 - Brussels, Belgium    The weather is a bit gray, but it can’t cloud our excitement for another day of this adventure. After nap and lunch time, Valerie’s little family is ready to cross paths with mine and we head out for a long walk to a big park (with a pathway is made of old gravestones), another free museum (but we really just go to climb to the top for a great view), and a lovely Belgian lunch.


After our trot around town, we walk back up to the house just as dad and Paula have pulled up and Anne is walking out the door. Isn’t the Universe just incredible sometimes? Coincidence is just another word for synchronicity. Dad brings Amelie a new shirt from Paris, bedazzled with both a cat and Eiffel tower. She is smitten and calls it “shiny gato” shirt. She wears it the remainder of the day, to bed, and refuses to take it off the following morning.


It’s lovely to see my dad also reunite with such a close, longtime friend (as it’s through our parents Valerie and I know one another). Matt jumps into the kitchen to help prepare dinner and we all spend the evening celebrating being together over wine and a fabulous home cooked meal.

 

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Day 22 - Brussels, Belgium   We went back into the city this morning for a walk through an antiques market that brought us to an area of designer chocolate shops. Valerie decided we should get a bit of chocolate from a few of her favorites to try and compare. Who would argue with that?!


Post-sugar rush, we all stopped for a big lunch together before splitting up. Matt stayed in the city to explore a bit further with dad and Paula, while I went home to relax a bit. Stephanie and I were throwing a ball around with Amelie in the lawn when I realized how incredible the light was. I’d been wanting to take a portrait of the girls, but wasn’t sure I’d have a chance to get all three of them together. If it was going to happen, it would have to be right then. Alicia had come back from a camping trip in Norway early, and Valerie would be back to work the next day.


What began as one idea and a clear vision quickly transformed in to total nonsense. The only way to get Val in the photos was to go to her place, as she had to put the baby down for bed and get to bed herself. I wanted to pay homage to their time in FL, and we had discovered a box of hilarious 90’s era hats. With Stephanie and Alicia dressed up, we showed up on Valerie’s doorstep. She was a great sport, and I taught them the “west PALM” sign. We took some really ridiculous pictures on her balcony before a few more normal ones inside. I wish I’d had more time and the three of them in that garden, but it was FUN regardless. I’m just glad I got a portrait of them all together. Next time!

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Day 23- Brugge, Belgium   After another leisurely (and chocolatey!) breakfast, we piled into a couple cars and drove to Brugge, “the original Venice”. I really didn’t know what to expect, beyond some more dreary weather. Prepared with  boots and rain jackets, it really turned out to be quite the lovely day!


It was fun to see another extremely ornate European town, drenched in its rich history. We had planned to take a boat tour and be pulled about town in a horse’s carriage, but the rain sort of nixed our grand plans. Instead, we just enjoyed wandering around, went to see a church, and had another nice lunch out. On the way back to the car, we bought ourselves a wonderfully odd throw pillow cover. Amelie helped us choose, so of course it features a cat. Words can’t describe it, so you’ll have to visit us to see it for yourself!


Perhaps most surprising about this part of the trip is the amount of time spent with Valerie’s dad, Christophe. He drove our family to Brugge and back and was happy to answer all of my questions about how he first met my dad, about their work together, and about his own adventures living all over the world.


We stopped by a grocery store (where we ran into the ONLY people we know in Belgium by chance!) and the came home to one last lovely dinner at home with the DuBois’. I joked with my dad that I now know more about Christophe’s life then his! I was only kidding, but I do regret not spending more of this trip asking my dad for more stories about his past. He’s led such a dynamic and incredible life; I’m so grateful we are close.


It’s hard to believe we’re off tomorrow for the very last leg of our trip, but such is the way of the world! Good night, Brussels. Thanks again for all the chocolate, wine, warm smiles, and waffles!

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Day 24 - Grindavik, Iceland   And we’re off, again. More goodbyes followed by more airport time. Today officially begins our journey home. Matt is feeling a bit bittersweet about it; I’m more bitter then sweet. It’s not that I don’t want to go home, it’s more just that I know in my heart home is still there and waiting, so I don’t feel a rush to get back. This trip has been such a dream and so I’m going to continue to let it be until it is over. Also, it’s hard not to be tickled that, even after all this travel, Amelie gets so excited to go on the “hairplanes”.


It was my hairdresser who told me that Iceland Air has a promotion to encourage tourism where you can book an extended layover without any additional cost/fees. This means, to or from Europe, you can stay up to 7 days in Iceland and the airfare is the same as if you’d just gone straight through. We decided on staying two nights, and most of the research and planning I did for this entire trip has been for this short leg!


We walk out of the baggage claim area to find a friendly woman holding a sign with my name on it, ready to drive us to our hotel for the evening. Grindavik is in the absolute middle of nowhere. All we see  out the window are lava rocks covered in moss. She’s picked up another sweet little family from Australia on the way, who are equally as excited to be in Iceland.


There are precisely three things in Grindavik: the Blue Lagoon, the power station, and our hotel.
We check into a beautiful modern room, hook up to WiFi to FaceTime with a grandma and make reservations online for dinner. The hotel shuttle takes us over to the Blue Lagoon, where we could have walked, but it was chilly and dreary out. Inside the Blue Lagoon spa there is a café and also the Lava Restaurant. We are heading to Lava for dinner.


THIS WAS THE BEST STEAK DINNER OF MY ENTIRE LIFE. Were you expecting that? I was not. Matt still argues for Burn’s steakhouse in Tampa, FL. This was so much more inventive, textural, and delicious. Dollops of sweet puréed carrots, a beautiful slice of potato gratin topped with beef cheek, this sort of inside out mushroom, I don’t really remember now, but I can assure you it was just all heavenly. Amelie was a doll through our long fancy meal, and it was really neat to get a sneak preview of the lagoon. We can’t wait to come back in the morning for a dip!

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Day 25 - Reykjavik, Iceland   We woke up in our amazing hotel to THE MOST amazing hotel breakfast I’ve ever had, included with the rate for the room. We’re talking fresh fruits, smoked salmon, eggs that look like they’ve come from actual animals, the whole nine. Thanks to a tiny time change working in our favor, we were up a bit after 6am feeling fresh and fine, and about to feel even better. After our breakfast, we returned to one of my new favorite places in the whole world, the Blue Lagoon.


I haven’t spent much time in spas before, I didn’t think it was really my thing. If all spas are like this one, I was very, very, very wrong. Whatever this thing is, it is my kind of thing. We were of the very first people let in. I took Amelie with me to put our things in the ladies’ locker room and rinse off before meeting Matthew to get in the blue!


When we walked out of the locker room, we found there was an indoor area of the lagoon where he was happily waiting for us. You can swim right out of the building through a door in the back corner, or come out and walk out to another larger entrance. It may have been a brisk 40 or 50 outside, but it doesn’t matter,not even for the second you’re standing there in your swim suit, because the lagoon is so warm and the view is SO surreal.


Once in, there’s some exploring to do! Some areas are much warmer then others, warning signs mark the hottest areas. There is some sort of natural mud to put on your face as a mask, a big waterfall to beat your back with the warm water, little enclaves, and just a lot of roaming around to do. Amelie LOVED it. The three of us wandered around together, but Matt and I both took turns with the baby so the other could relax floating around a bit solo.


As we were getting out, a couple girls from Asia were just steeping in, squealing with excitement, even bringing their iPhones in with them so they could snap 100 photos! I suppose it would be nice now to have more photos actually swimming in there, but sometimes moments are too sweet and fleeting to squander them with a camera. To be fair, we brought in a GoPro so we have little video. The excited girls convinced me I could happily spend an entire morning just watching people first step in: so much joy and wonder!


After we wash off and get dressed, a quick snack at the cafe before we take a bus to Reyjkavik to our super hip hostel. The location is phenomenal and the city is not at all what I expected, not that I knew much what to expect. It’s much more put together then I’d have thought perhaps. High end tech clothing stores pepper the main street. Everything has a very heavy price tag. In the hostel, everyone seems to be about max 25 years old, but when I mention this to Matt he points out every person pushing 40 and every other child the remainder of our stay.


My hair feels like straw after all of the sulfur from the Blue Lagoon, so I anxiously hop into the shower (yes, we may be in a  hostel, but I got us a private room with a private bathroom). Fast forward to the most awkward and hilarious moment of this trip where I find myself soaking wet and naked telling the front desk guy delivering the baby bed to please not come in to the room.


I was so anxious to condition my hair that I had jumped in the shower despite there not being any towels. It became a very a quick shower when it didn’t drain properly. And of course, it’s while Matt has the baby are upstairs to get towels that I find myself standing there dripping water all over the floor stark naked and there’s a knock on the door. I react by blurting out “No!”, suddenly unsure if the knock was even our door. I creep closer and wait, there’s another light knock. This is so awkward. “No…I can’t answer the door right now…?” Why can’t I just explain the situation like a clear-headed adult? Maybe it’s the naked, cold, and dripping wet part of the scene that’s making me so vulnerable, but instead of communicating effectively or getting upset, my reaction is to start laughing. Life is SO ridiculous sometimes. When Matt finally returns I’m in near hysterics in laughter, freezing cold, and no longer hardly need the towel as I’m nearly dry at this point. The Universe tells some really funny jokes sometimes.


Once we were freshened up, we walked to dinner. I found the restaurant the way we’ve found most things on this trip, using Trip Advisor. Our meal blew my mind. Again. Iceland is quickly becoming a contender with Spain for the VERY BEST FOOD EVER award. What a day!

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Day 26 - Reykjavik, Iceland     It’s hard to believe we will go home today. In some odd way, I don’t think I really believe it. It sounds quite shocking to me to really return to a stagnant home. Not because I don’t love my home, but more because this trip has just evolved into a sort of lifestyle. The past few weeks have been completely transformative for all three of us.


Travel is so good for the soul. It’s been such a pleasure to see so many new places and different ways to live. And while we aim to bring many of those things home to practice in our own lifestyle, this trip has also made us appreciate so much of what we already have waiting for us when we return.


We know it’s going to be the day that just doesn’t seem to end, so we take it slow this morning.Our flight leaves at 5pm, and we get back to Seattle through a total time warp at 5:45pm. We will then have to take a shuttle to the car before our few hours drive back home to Portland.


We start the day with breakfast in the hostel Loft and relax there with the baby as we take turns packing up in the room. With our bags safely stowed in the Loft, we go for one last walk around the city. Amelie is pumped when we find another new playground to explore, and I’m pumped when she is asleep during lunch. ANOTHER FANTASTIC LUNCH. I really can’t get over the food here. If it weren’t for the prices associated with said food, this might top Spain for me, but as Spain is so much more affordable it officially remains my ‘Favorite Place To Eat Ever’.


And then, it’s time. The end of the trip. I notice we’re both a little irritable on the bus to the airport, but also beginning to get a little excited to see our apartment again. When our car finally does pull into Portland late in the night, Amelie barely wakes up enough to say “home” while I change her diaper and put her back to bed, in her very own bed. We all feel like zombies, but it’s so worth it.


When we were planning this trip, we knew it would be incredible, but we never could have imagined how much so. I’m so glad we have taken every opportunity to travel during these first few years with Amelie. It’s easy now, and so much cheaper with her on our laps, but we know a big change is coming. We both know, in some part of ourselves, that coming home tonight is just the beginning of a process of coming home like never before. We know this was our last HOO-RAH for a little while. We know now we will be house hunting, working on our businesses, and planning to grow as a family. We will put down roots in a way we’ve never rooted ourselves to a place before. And while we know it’s the next step, and that we’re ready, it still makes it difficult to let go of the light flow of changes that are an easy reality when you’re not too tied down. Matthew and I have always held one another’s hands to take all the chances life has presented us with. Laying roots is just the next chapter of the adventure, but it makes the end of this one particularly abrupt.

Thank you. Thank you, World. Thank you Léa and Ben, without your love this would have never happened for us. Thank you to my dad and Paula, for coming along and making so much of it so much easier for us. Thank you to my sister Steffi and her family for all of their time showing us around Paris. To my brother Greg and his family for welcoming us into your home. Thank you to Caitlin and Anthony for planning the most glamorous of camping trips! Thank you DuBois for coming together so we could all be together again. Thank you to everyone for all of the AMAZING FOOD, snuggles and high fives for Amelie, and showing us sights we won’t soon forget. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It has been THE BEST.