5,000 miles and 163 pee stops later….

Meet the passengers: B1, B2, C1, C2 and C3

Meet the passengers: B1, B2, C1, C2 and C3

We did it!!  Holy Moly, my little idea to take 5 kids under the age of 10 from Texas to California with one other brave mom in her Storm Trooper (also known as the white minivan) is now complete and my final answer is…….it was a success!  Hear me out, days 1 thru 3 while we were logging about 500 miles per day and trying (but failing) to find a groove I was fairly certain I’d made a huge error in judgement.  After all 7 people in one car for 7 hours per day, 5 days in a row is a lot to ask of a grown up let alone a 5, 7, 7, 8 and 9 year old.  Up the ante on this little pressure cooker by breaking an iPad, then a DVD player, then a pair of “ear muffs” (also known as headphones), for good measure have your iPod start to malfunction and you are ready to start checking flights from Nowhere, New Mexico to San Francisco, California!  Thankfully, it never came to that.  We were armed with a HEAVY dose of humor, and we made it and even smiled and laughed along the way…..in between the pee stops that is.

Here are a couple tips we picked up.

Tip 1:  It’s really helpful if your nightly stop has a pool.

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While the “adults” planned the next days’ travel strategy pool side, the kids happily went insane.  Nothing quite like a cannon ball to express your daily frustrations.

Bonus points if you can find something like this for your lunch break.

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Or even this random gas station treat.

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Tip 2:  Electronic distractions are certainly helpful, a movie can provide maybe 30 minutes of quiet, however that peace and calm usually won’t last.

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The other mom had packed up Lego Hero Factory (in that nifty clear container at the bottom of the pic) and these provided hours of entertainment for all our little passengers.

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Tip 3:  One exciting stop for the way out and one for the way back is plenty.  Especially if one of those stops is the Grand Canyon.  We opted for the North Rim and were able to stay inside the park in wonderful cabins that were more comfortable and hospitable than most of our other hotel stays.

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Super comfy beds and since there is no wifi or cell service to be had the park provides free long distance to check in with loved ones.  See below my daughter’s first experience with a phone that has a chord – that’s exciting stuff!

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Even more impressive than the phones with chords is the canyon it’s self!  My son’s 7 year old words were, “It looks like a cool bath tub for giants”.

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But the best thing about sleeping in the park is the canyon at sunrise, I highly recommend this!

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Tip 4:  If you’ve been driving for 5 days straight try to give yourself at least a full week outside of the car.  Your destination should provide lots of easy fun, no helicopter parenting required.

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Tip 5:  When in doubt follow the signs.

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And last but not least…..

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Adventures in France-Land, Paris final day

Good morning.

Good morning.

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Our last full day in France.

Amazing how at home we've all come to feel here.

Amazing how at home we’ve all come to feel here.

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We ventured out and ate things like this.

And this.

And this.

And this.

And this.

We walked by this guy a bunch.

We walked by this guy a bunch.

We did some of this.

We did some of this.

The sky looked like this.

The sky looked like this.

I got my hair cut.

I got my hair cut.

We people watched and played another family favorite, "spot the tourist (and guess what country they are from)"

We people watched and played another family favorite, “spot the tourist (and guess what country they are from)”

At this point we are extremely sad about the thought of leaving France the next day.  We put the camera away and savor the last hours in the City of Light.  We went out for a spectacular Thai meal and hit the second of only two “lost in translation moments” during the whole trip.  Our lovely server spoke Thai and French but no English, even so she helped us choose a magnificent meal with the universal sign of “tummy rub” signifying “yummy” – we returned in kind with our own sign language of a huge smile and a “thumbs up”.

Goodnight Paris, thanks for a perfect final day.

 


Adventures in France-Land, Walking (and trains) VII

We wake up on market day in Puy L'eveque and have time for just a bit of shopping.

We wake up on market day in Puy L’eveque and have time for just a bit of shopping.

The taxi arrives just when the rain gets heavy and off we go to Cahors to jump on a train.

The taxi arrives just when the rain gets heavy and off we go to Cahors to jump on a train.

Just something we passed along the way, gotta love France.

Just something we passed along the way, gotta love France.

Cahors is a big busy town and this is there lovely train station were the high speed train will take us to Paris.

Cahors is a big busy town and this is the lovely train station were the high speed train will take us to Paris.

One of our favorite waiting games, the "stand on one foot", other favorites include "I'm thinking of a number" and "all the words you can think of that start with 'a'".

One of our favorite waiting games, the “stand on one foot”, other favorites include “I’m thinking of a number” and “all the words you can think of that start with ‘a'”.

A little slice of home that totally earned it's place in the backpack even though it was only used half the time.

A little slice of home that totally earned it’s place in the backpack even though it was only used half the time.

One of the many advantages of being 5 and 7.

One of the many advantages of being 5 and 7.

Back in Paris we navigate to our second air b'n'b apartment.  I really felt the loss of our red and white GR trail symbols as we wove through cars and people instead of trees and mud.

Back in Paris we navigate to our second air b’n’b apartment. I really felt the loss of our red and white GR trail symbols as we wove through cars and people instead of trees and mud.

Welcome to my new home in Paris! I hope this place stays on air b'n'b forever, I love, love, loved it!

Welcome to my new home in Paris! I hope this place stays on air b’n’b forever, I love, love, loved it!

We treated ourselves to a very non-French lovely Italian meal mere steps from the apartment.

We treated ourselves to a very non-French lovely Italian meal mere steps from the apartment.

And topped it off with gelato that the guy somehow made look like a flower, pffffff as if gelato needs to be even more appealing.

And topped it off with gelato that the guy somehow made look like a flower, pffffff as if gelato needs to be even more appealing.


Adventures in France-Land, Walking VI (part 2)

Where were we.....oh yes, walking (mainly uphill) from Duravel to Puy L'eveque

Where were we…..oh yes, walking (mainly uphill) from Duravel to Puy L’eveque.

Then I saw this - if you remember there was a sign in Duravel assuring me Puy L'eveque was only 5km away.  Well here we are 3 KM into our walk and now we've got double the distance we were expecting still to go.

Then I saw this – if you remember there was a sign in Duravel assuring me Puy L’eveque was only 5km away. Well here we are 3 KM into our walk and now we’ve got double the distance we were expecting still to go.  I know 2 more km might not seem like a lot but at that point, on that day, IT WAS!

Oh well, at least we met these guys (turns out to be the highlight of my daughter's day)

Oh well, at least we met these guys (turns out to be the highlight of my daughter’s day)

Then we walked up more hills.

Then we walked up more hills.

We began walking uphill backwards because when you are 7 and you've been walking uphill for 2 hours this is a good idea.

We began walking uphill backwards because when you are 7 and you’ve been walking uphill for 2 hours this is a good idea.

Almost there.

Almost there.

Sweet reward for their efforts.

Sweet reward for their efforts.

I'm not kidding, more inclines.  Sigh....more like HEAVE.

I’m not kidding, more inclines. Sigh….more like HEAVE.

It's a mirage - but not, cause it was actually there.  This "bathroom in the hills", promised a much needed water refill and porcelain potty break.  Alas, there was no water and all those doors were LOCKED!  &%$#!!!!

It’s a mirage – but not, cause it was actually there. This “bathroom in the hills”, promised a much needed water refill and porcelain potty break. Alas, there was no water and all those doors were LOCKED! &%$#!!!! (A special thanks to “The photographer” who broke in and tried his damnedest to hydrate his family)

 

For a second I think I'm hallucinating when I see pancakes growing out of a tree.

For a second I think I’m hallucinating when I see pancakes growing out of a tree.

There's no water on this portion of the trail, but there is this handy bench in the middle of nowhere which is odd but fantastic.

There’s no water on this portion of the trail, but there is this handy bench in the middle of nowhere which is odd but fantastic.

 

Despite my hangover from lunch and the 90 degree inclines we walked that afternoon, this was quickly becoming one of my most favorite days ever.

Despite my hangover from lunch and the 90 degree inclines we walked that afternoon, this was quickly becoming one of my most favorite days ever.

One of my favorite views.

One of my favorite views.

 

Just WOW.

Just WOW.

I spy something yellow.  But who cares, the yellow is in the town of Puy L'eveque!  We made it.

I spy something yellow. But who cares, the yellow is in the town of Puy L’eveque! We made it.

 

Turns out Puy L'eveque is gorgeous, weird (like you feel the mafia is watching you) but gorgeous.

Turns out Puy L’eveque is gorgeous, weird (like you feel the mafia is watching you) but gorgeous.

And after waiting two hours for the hotel to open their doors (see previous mafia note) we got all settled in just as the rain started to pour.

And after waiting two hours for the hotel to open their doors (see previous mafia note) we got all settled in just as the rain started to pour.

 

Goodnight Puy L'eveque (I hope there aren't any horse heads in the bed tonight)

Goodnight Puy L’eveque (I hope there aren’t any horse heads in the bed tonight)


Adventures in France-Land, Walking VII (part 1)

Our final walking day, Saint-Front-sur-Lemance to Puy-l'Eveque.  Our gracious host Mme. Finnegan from Le Seguinet offers to take us to the most famous castle in the region, Bonaguil Castle.

Our final walking day, Saint-Front-sur-Lemance to Puy-l’Eveque. Our gracious host Mme. Finnegan from Le Seguinet offers to take us to the most famous castle in the region, Bonaguil Castle.

Those cutouts you see at the top were for pouring boiling water on would-be intruders.

Those cutouts you see at the top were for pouring boiling water on would-be intruders.

My daughter opts to completely skip the castle in favor of making friends with le chat.

My daughter opts to completely skip the castle in favor of making friends with le chat.

Now back to the glorious business of walking.

Now back to the glorious business of walking.

We saw this double circle, triangle mark a few times.  Haven't cracked the code yet.

We saw this double circle, triangle mark a few times. Haven’t cracked the code yet.

Meet the photographer.

Meet the photographer.

Any guesses to what's going on here?  Since we did not pass another soul while walking, the trail became a never ending porta potty.

Any guesses to what’s going on here? Since we did not pass another soul while walking, the trail became a never ending porta potty.

Welcome to the bustling metropolis of Duravel where we plan to have our first ever "lunch in a restaurant" since we started walking!

Welcome to the bustling metropolis of Duravel where we plan to have our first ever “lunch in a restaurant” since we started walking!

One of the many benefits of walking is smelling everything along the way.

One of the many benefits of walking is smelling everything along the way.

I'm not really sure what was going on here.

I’m not really sure what was going on here.

But then I saw this picture and realized he was praying for the powers to make the juice jump into his mouth without the aid of a straw.

But then I saw this picture and realized he was praying for the powers to make the juice jump into his mouth without the aid of a straw.

Here we go, our first French country cafe lunch.  It's a five course affair.  Soup, antipasta, pasta with meat, cheese and dessert.  All the while the wine is FLOWING.  Fixed price $13 Euro.

Here we go, our first French country cafe lunch. It’s a five course affair. Soup, antipasta, pasta with meat, cheese and dessert. All the while the wine is FLOWING. Fixed price $13 Euro.

Here's who eats it.  Everyone.  It's not a formal deal, on the contrary, it's very casual and friendly.

Here’s who eats it. Everyone. It’s not a formal deal, on the contrary, it’s very casual and friendly.

More "would be illegal in the US activity" - this cheese board gets passed around table to table.  No sneeze guard, No gloves, help yourself and pass it along.

More “would be illegal in the US activity” – this cheese board gets passed around table to table. No sneeze guard, No gloves, help yourself and pass it along.

Here we are leaving Duravel, I won't speak for my husband, but I am far from sober at this point.  I've calculated we only have about a 5 km walk to our end destination, no problem under tipsy conditions.

Here we are leaving Duravel, I won’t speak for my husband, but I am far from sober at this point. I’ve calculated we only have about a 5 km walk to our end destination,should be  no problem under tipsy conditions.

This is a town sign confirming my calculation, Puy-L'eveque, our end destination is about 5 km away.

This is a town sign confirming my calculation, Puy-L’eveque, our end destination, is about 5 km away.

Here's what the sign didn't say, it's up hill almost the ENTIRE way.  That may not look steep, but trust me, it is.

Here’s what the sign didn’t say, it’s up hill almost the ENTIRE way. That may not super look steep, but trust me, it is.

More inclines. I'm kind of regretting the table wine at this point.

More inclines. I’m kind of regretting the table wine at this point.

Notice the elevated vantage point and pretty view.

Notice the elevated vantage point and pretty view.

 

Dancing as I climb seems to be a better option than crying.

Dancing as I climb seems to be a better option than crying.

Notice the elevated vantage point and pretty view.  Will we reach Puy-L'eveque?Find out next time.

Notice the elevated vantage point and pretty view. Will we reach Puy-l’Eveque? Find out next time.

 


Adventures in France-Land, Walking (and trains) I

After an early morning train from Gisor we are back in Paris.  TGV here we come

After an early morning train from Gisor we are back in Paris. TGV here we come

I'd just explained we were taking 4 different trains that day, for a grand total of 8 hours of travel!

I’d just explained we were taking 4 different trains that day, for a grand total of 8 hours of travel!

I honestly didn't see that coming.

I honestly didn’t see that coming.

All is well once again and we explore the train station and people watch.

All is well once again and we explore the train station and people watch.

Family pic, so far so good with the Blundstones, they handled Paris and Normandie like a dream but the real test is about to begin.

Family pic, so far so good with the Blundstones, they handled Paris and Normandie like a dream but the real test is about to begin.

 

The TGV (super fast train) is nice, and I mean real nice.

The TGV (super fast train) is nice, and I mean real nice.

And the view is even better.

And the view is even better. Paris to Bordeaux in a few hours while sitting comfortably, not bad my friends, not bad.


Adventures in France-Land, Normandie I

My little travellers, plane (check), train (check)

My little travellers, plane (check), train (check)

Ham, Cheese and Butter from Gerard Mulot in Paris for train eats

Ham, Cheese and Butter from Gerard Mulot in Paris for train eats

GIsors, our destination in Normandie

Gisors, our destination in Normandie

Our room at our friend's mom's house

Our room at our friend’s mom’s house

She is an artist and her home has me looking for a certain white rabbit who is late for an important date

She is an artist and her home has me looking for a certain white rabbit who is late for an important date

What my kids do when they forget about electronic distractions

What my kids do when they forget about electronic distractions

We took a walk and met the locals

We took a walk and met the locals

The sights.

The sights.

The smells.

The smells.

We gave the kids some room to breathe

We gave the kids some room to breathe.

And just be.

And just be.

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Our host was as amazing as her home

Our host was as amazing as her home

I love this.

I love this.

And the smell of this.

And the smell of this.

And the taste of this.

And the taste of this.

And this.

And this.

And this.

And this.

 


Adventures in France-Land, Paris II

A jet lag produced midnight stroll

A jet lag produced midnight stroll

Napoleon's tomb - da da daaaah

Napoleon’s tomb – da da daaaah

 

chocolate chaud and croissant - dipping is encouraged

chocolate chaud and croissant – dipping is encouraged

Rose Bakery's carrot cake, very strollable neighborhood

Rose Bakery’s carrot cake, very strollable neighborhood

 

Love the pairing (and my husband is in the window)

Love the pairing (and my husband is in the window)

 

Playing and staring at the best park ever, aka Jardin de Luxembourg

Playing and staring at the best park ever, aka Jardin de Luxembourg

 

Stinkiest (and therefore the best) cheese in Paris

Stinkiest (and therefore the best) cheese in Paris

Laduree, you've been replaced

Laduree, you’ve been replaced

 

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Reason #587 why getting an apartment ROCKS.

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Au Revior Paris, next stop Normandie

Au Revior Paris, next stop Normandie