So...we're back! As much fun as traveling around the world is...there is no place like the USA (and your own bed!) We have been unpacking suitcases, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and trying to get over our jet lag for the past couple of days but we are glad to be home.
I think I told you about how Steve wanted to take his mom to Europe ever since his dad passed away. He just wanted to make a fun memory with her and not regret anything. (He had been planning a trip to Israel with his dad when he died and he never got to do it, so this time he wanted to make sure it happened.) Then it kind of grew from there to all of his brothers and sisters and their spouses going along. So it was kind of a "Maddox Family European Vacation"! Haha!
In an effort not to drag the whole trip out and tell you every little detail, I will just hit the highlights!
Where we stayed: Near the Tower Bridge. It was so pretty, especially at night with the Tower Bridge lit up. The Olympic Rings were on it, ready to be lowered as the kick off to the Olympic festivities.
Fun things we did: We went to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, Big Ben, the British Museum, and Trafalgar Square. We also rode in one of those red double-decker tour buses and got to see lots of the sights of London. My favorite was going into Westminster Abbey and seeing where William and Kate were married. Plus, there are so many famous people buried there. Wow. So much history! I love that. And Big Ben all lit up at night is just beautiful!
What we ate: We had the classic fish and chips and mushy peas.
And Steve and I ate at Garfunkel's one night. It is just a chain there, but we've eaten at it several times and it is pretty good.
We stayed in London for two days, then it was off to Paris!
Where we stayed: We stayed in a little hotel not too far from the Eiffel Tower. It was very modest, but it was fine for what we needed. Plus it was close to everything we wanted to do.
Fun things we did: Visited the Eiffel Tower at night, toured The Louvre, went to Napolean's Tomb, shopped on the Champs Elysees (unfortunately, my hair straightener blew up and I had to go in search of a European straightener!), saw the Arc de Triumph, went inside Notre Dame, and took a river cruise on the Sienne River at night. We also took another tour bus around the city to see the sights. Mark was in Paris with friends, so we met him for dinner one night, which was fun! What I love about Paris is all the gorgeous architecture and how everything is so romantic and beautiful. Plus I love all the history that is there. And the Louvre is amazing. Seriously, you could be in there all. day. long. There is so much to see, we barely scratched the surface!
What We Ate: Lots of pastries! Goodness...it was carb overload! It was hard to find fresh fruit or even something with eggs or sausage or anything but croissants and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. We ate crepes one day that were really good. And we did have a wonderful little restaurant across the street from our hotel called Chez Pierrot.
Our waitress was adorable and so cute and friendly (even though she hardly spoke a word of English!) One night I had a steak there that was delish. And another night we liked it so much we went back again. Steve had salmon and I got their pork tenderloin. Yummmm!!! I recommend that place if you are ever in Paris!
Where we stayed: The Marriott. Yay for Americanized hotels! We loved it!
Fun Things We Did: I think the most memorable thing we did was go to the Anne Frank House. That was so moving and interesting. It is so hard to believe what went on in Amsterdam and all over Europe during World War II. It felt very real to be in her house and imagine how scary it must have been to be hiding from the Nazis in fear for your life. We also visited the beautiful Flower Market which was so pretty.
Marijuana is legal in Amsterdam, so it was crazy that they sold "Cannabis Starter Kits" at the flower market. If you're like me, I didn't even know what cannabis was. (Ashley asked me if I've been living under a rock or something!) Apparently it's another name for marijuana. Who knew? Haha! We took a river cruise on all the canals throughout Amsterdam and Steve and I rented bicycles and went bike riding through the park one afternoon. Bikes are EVERYWHERE!
One of the things about Amsterdam is that you have to watch out for cars, trams, and bikes. They will all run you over if you're not careful!
Amsterdam is beautiful and is much smaller than London or Paris. And I love how well everyone spoke English there. It was so easy to communicate with people. Amsterdam has a more laid back feel, but it is very open and "free". It is one of the most liberal places I have ever been to. I really didn't see that many families there. It seemed to be mostly singles and college-age students. And the bar scene is alive and well. People are out partying hard till all hours. That is not really my kind of thing, so I didn't like Amsterdam as much as some of the other places we went. There is some history there, but not as much as other European cities I have visited, so I felt like there wasn't as much to learn about.
What we ate: The first night we were there, we ate at a Dutch restaurant and had traditional Dutch food at a restaurant called The Pantry.
I had something kind of like a beef stew with pink cabbage and mashed potatoes. I really liked it!
Another thing they have there is little mini-pancakes called potterfjes. They are served with powdered sugar and syrup and are so good!! I loved them!
We also stopped briefly in Brussels, Belgium on our way back to London. It was absolutely beautiful. The plaza or square that we went to was probably the prettiest one I have ever seen in Europe. The buildings were amazing and so ornate. We didn't stay long, but I'm glad we got to see it!
Our trip back was very long. We traveled by car, train, escalator, stairs, tram, metro, and pretty much any other way you can think of carrying all our luggage. It was an adventure. The flight home was nine hours long, so we watched lots of movies, read, and took naps. We needed that time to recover from our vacation! Haha!
Now we are back home and back to reality. Tomorrow is the fourth of July and I, for one, am so glad I live in the USA! I love visiting Europe, but it makes me thankful for all my blessing here! :)