Day 10- Knocked out at the airport

Our Eurotrip- What we wore

If you haven’t noticed from all our trip photos, we actually wore the same jackets for 10 days. Our luggage consisted of 1 small suitcase, 1 small duffel bag, a backpack and a small baby bag. When we arrived at the airport, the ground staff were surprised that we only had that much luggage for a family of four. Tres bien, one of the staff said and I think he said it more out of surprise than admiration.

I actually packed 4 sets of clothes for the kids and me and advised Chubby Hubby to do the same. I washed our clothes every night until probably our 6th day. I did not go to the laundromat. Just washed the clothes with my hands in the bathroom sink and hung them near the radiator in the room. Thankfully they got dry the next evening. We didn’t have any radiator in our hotel in Amsterdam, but I am so happy they had their own laundry room downstairs where you can do your laundry.

I didn’t bring any accessories and I wished I didn’t bring any makeup. By the 3rd day, I did not have the energy to do my face.

I have no regrets that we didn’t glam up for this trip. I cannot imagine lugging around big suitcases with two toddlers in tow. I know I’ll have a glamorous holiday someday, maybe when the kids are all working. But right now, this is how we will roll.

Day 1 Outfits- Me and Marcus in Mcdonalds, Frank and Aria at George Pompidou

Day 1 Outfits- Me and Marcus in Mcdonalds, Chubby Hubby and Aria at George Pompidou

Day 2- Frank and Marcus on the train, Aria outside Musee D'Orsay, Me at the bottom of the Eiffel

Day 2- Chubby Hubby and Marcus on the train, Aria outside Musee D’Orsay, Me at the bottom of the Eiffel

Day 3- At a resto outside Louvre, we missed rice so we looked for a Chinese Restaurant

Day 3- At a resto outside Louvre, we missed rice so we looked for a Chinese Restaurant

Day 4, at the foot of Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, Paris

Day 4, at the foot of Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, Paris

Day 6- Hanging outside the Joods Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Day 6- Hanging outside the Joods Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Day 7- Chubby Hubby putting on new boots outside NEMO museum and Aria cheering him on in Amsterdam, Netherlands, me and Marcus exploring the area near our hotel after just arriving in Brussels, Belgium

Day 7- Chubby Hubby putting on new boots outside NEMO museum and Aria cheering him on in Amsterdam, Netherlands, me and Marcus exploring the area near our hotel after just arriving in Brussels, Belgium

Day 8- Me and Marcus at the Train Station in Brussels, Frank and Aria at the Grote Markt

Day 8 Brussels, Belgium- Me and Marcus at the Train Station, Chubby Hubby and Aria at the Grote Markt

Day 9- Wandering around Brussels, Belgium

Day 9- Wandering around Brussels, Belgium

 

at the foot of the Eiffel Tower

What we did in Paris… and didn’t do

We went on our trip without a fixed itinerary. The only scheduled item we had for Paris was the walking tour on the second day which we had to leave 15 minutes after it started because the kids were going crazy. So in other words, we winged it.

I know that with all experienced travelers, RESEARCH is the number one thing they do before going on a trip. NO time should be wasted, NO opportunity missed. However, we didn’t do enough research and we didn’t make any fixed itinerary. So I therefore conclude that we are not experienced travelers.

Oh Well.

But I did make my list of things to do and places I must see and got to accomplish most of the items on the list. Some, I didn’t get to do. Hopefully for another trip.

1. Got to see the Eiffel Tower and take a family picture. See here.

2. Saw Mona Lisa’s smile at the Louvre.

mona lisa at the louvre paris 2015

My view of Da Vinci’s most famous work. Black hat kept getting in the way.

3. Checked out the padlocks at Pont des Arts

Padlocks at Pont des Arts

Padlocks at Pont des Arts

 

4. Went “shopping” (window) at the original Galleries Lafayette.

Ceiling of Galeries Lafayette at Boulevard Haussmann, Paris

The majestic ceiling of Galeries Lafayette

5. Walked down Champs Elysees and visited the Arc De Triomphe

Down Champs Elysees from the Arc De Triomph

Down Champs Elysees from the Arc De Triomph

6. Checked out the street artists at Place du Tertre in Montmartre

Place du Tertre

Place du Tertre

7. Visited some of the historic churches

At the foot of Sacre Coeur in Montmartre

At the foot of Sacre Coeur in Montmartre

Notre Dame Cathedral

infront of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Guess what I am doing?! lol

8. Gawked at grand and historic architecture

The famous pyramid of the Louvre

The famous pyramid of the Louvre which is also the entrance

The Opéra national de Paris

The Opéra national de Paris

Govt Building beside the Louvre

For some particular reason, I forgot what this building is called, but its right beside the Louvre. I think it is some sort of Governmetn building.

Hotel De Ville Paris

Hotel De Ville Paris

Flying Buttresses inside Notre Dame

Flying Buttresses inside Notre Dame

What I didn’t get to do-

1. We didn’t climb de la tour Eiffel. We lingered in front of the tower, we hung out at the bottom but we didn’t climb.

2. We didn’t climb the Arc De Triomphe. For the same reasons we didn’t climb the Eiffel. Plus, it was freezing weather and both babies were being cranky.

3. Didn’t get to see Monet’s waterlily paintings at the Musee d’Orangerie

4. Didn’t go shopping

5. Didn’t see Shakespeare bookstore at the Latin Quarters

6. Didn’t see a show at the original Moulin Rouge.

7. Didn’t visit the Palace Versailles, the Palais Royale.

8. Didn’t leave a padlock at the bridge with F+R written on it

9. Didn’t do any PDA.

We got a bonus from the weather though and we got to see actual snow falling from the sky… magical!

 

Taking a stroll around Rue De Rivoli

Paris for first timers on a budget- where we stayed

Paris is a really big city full of culture, wonderful architecture and history. We stayed there for more or less 5 days and I still think it is not enough. We did take things slow however, because we had two very demanding little buggers and taking slow is the chubby hubby’s idea of a holiday. And I do agree that taking things slow is really the best way to go about exploring a city.

For first timers, location is a BIG FACTOR. As a matter of fact, I think it should be the primary factor on deciding where to stay. We stayed on (at?) the 4th arrondissement (Administrative district) of the city which is in very close proximity to a lot of the must see sights of Paris. No, we did not have a view of the Eiffel tower and it was not a few blocks away. If you have never been to Paris, you have to realize that the Eiffel tower is not the only major sight to see.

Our hotel- Hotel Flor Rivoli, although a very old budget hotel, is right in the heart of Rue de Rivoli which is a commercial street full of international and local brands. It is located a few steps away from the Chatelet metro station, a few blocks away from the Louvre, and Palais Royale, and a few minutes away from the Latin Quarters. If you like theatre and like watching it in French, there are also theatres within walking distance of the hotel. Countless restaurants and cafes are also within walking distance. There is also a supermarket right next door.

When I say budget hotel, it really is a small hotel. The bathroom is small and the room is small. But since we are a small family accustomed to small spaces, we managed. If you prefer bigger and fancier rooms, there are a lot of other hotels in the vicinity. The hotel serves breakfast in the room for a fee and has free wifi.

Strolling along the Rue De Rivoli

Checking out the shops in the inner streets branching out from the Rue De Rivoli

Strolling along the Rue De Rivoli

Taking a stroll along the Rue De Rivoli

We spent a big amount of time just walking around and drinking in the Parisian life. The chubby hubby didn’t want to cram itineraries that would leave us too drained. So our location was just perfect for our first time in the city.

I would definitely look for a hotel in the same vicinity when I go back to Paris.

Coca Cola Life in Brussels

An episode on the Confessions of a Coca Cola Addict

I come from a coca cola drinking family. We drink more coke than any other liquid. Which is why it certainly is not a surprise that both my parents are diabetic and that I am probably heading down that road. I was gestational diabetic with all my pregnancies and that is always lots of fun with all the cravings way out of control.

The chubby hubby and I are trying to find ways to inculcate a healthy lifestyle into our lives. One of the ways we are trying is to cut back on all the sodas. Our rule is that nobody buys soda for the house. Our exception is that if someone else buys the soda for us, we can drink it. And that seems to happen a lot. Maaan!!!!

I have stopped ordering coke whenever we eat out. How I wish Burger King and McDonalds served brewed ice tea with optional sugar syrup. I always skip the syrup. Ok, not always, once in a while. But i put very little when I don’t.

Stumbled upon this green coca cola on our recent trip. They branded it coca cola life. It’s suppose to be a healthy version of the regular coca cola because the sweetener used is Stevia, not aspertame. Now being in a diabetic family, I am familiar with all the artificial sweeteners and right now, we are on the Stevia phase, so its a win for me. I wonder when this will ever come to the Middle East.

Chubby hubby bought me one, and because I have been craving for soda in the freezing weather, i gulped down the coca cola life like everything depended on it. And for that brief 20 minutes of consumption of a 500 ml bottle, I was utterly and completely satisfied.

Happiness achieved.

Coca Cola life in Brussels

Trying out Coca Cola life in Brussels. Please ignore the baby with his eyes covered

Book Crazy at the recent 25th International Doha Book Fair

The one thing I always watch out for are good bargains. So when a few friends and I decided to check out the recent book fair at the humongous Qatar National Convention Center, I didn’t want to go home empty handed but at the same time, I didn’t want to spend a fortune.

When we arrived and started checking out everything in store, most of the books on display and on sale were in Arabic. How I wished I could understand the language. I could only read but not understand. I bet there were a million bargain books in Arabic that day.

I was drawn to the stalls set up by the different embassies. Looked through the books on display at the French embassy and wanted to buy one even though I only understood the first word of each sentence- Je, Tu, Il, Elle, Nous, Vous, Ils, Elles… Fortunately, I stumbled upon the books on sale at the US embassy and found a few very affordable gems that I couldn’t pass up on. However, they weren’t books for me. They were children’s books. Books for my babies.

If there was something I wanted my kids to take after me, I would want them to love reading like I do. So I didn’t think twice and at the prices they were being sold (25 QAR – or even less – each for hardbound books), i had to snatch them up before someone else did. My favorite is the 50th Anniversary Edition of ‘The Giving Tree’, a story I really loved as a child.

book fair bargain finds at the 25th International Doha Book Fair

Aria’s book fair bargain finds.

I am looking forward to more books at the book fair next year. Hopefully, more books for me. Or not. Whatever. :)

Baby bear crying

Crying babies on holiday

I cannot count exactly how many times the booger and bear threw a tantrum during our recent trip. On normal days, when Aria starts to cry about the smallest thing, I would ignore her. During the first few days we did just that- ignored her tantrums, which earned us stares ranging from sympathy to judgmental. Around the fourth day, I started taking her picture whenever she’d start.

crying at the pont des arts in Paris

At the pont des arts in Paris

crying under the arc de triomphe

Under the Arc de triomphe in Paris

crying On the subway in Paris

On the train

crying in Museumplein, Amsterdam

In Museumplein, Amsterdam

Crying inside Starbucks, Double Tree Hilton, Amsterdam

Inside Starbucks, Double Tree Hilton, Amsterdam

Crying at Maxhotel, Brussels

At Maxhotel, Brussels

She would still cry and then I’d show her her picture and sometimes she’d stop, sometimes she’d keep on crying. Oh well…

trying a family selfie but failing

5 Things I learned (or relearned) on our recent euro-trip

I know I am talking too much about this trip and not about anything else. Well, it’s just that I have been living the mundane life of a housewife that our recent trip was the most exciting thing that has happened to me. So I am apologizing for a few months worth of posts about nothing else but that trip (hopefully I find something else to talk about soon).

Anyway, looking back at that amazing (and exhausting 10 days), I do have some things I wished I had done differently. Here are my top 5 lessons learned that I am hoping never to repeat again. Maybe I realized them already when I went on my euro-trip in 2009 but forgot about it since I didn’t get to travel again until 2011. If I did, how I wished I had paid more attention to myself back then.

5. I should’ve bought that item I really really wanted to buy the first time I saw it.

I wanted that book from the museum at George Pompidou but didn’t buy because I thought I’d just come back for it before we leave but I didn’t get the chance to. And that pair of Dr Marten boots I saw on a Saturday that I thought I’d come back for the next day not knowing that Sunday is rest day for most of Paris. So many missed opportunities… We did buy one poster at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, but the Chubby Hubby left it on the train from to Belgium and we couldn’t get it back. Boo freaking Hoo!

at the George Pompidou center

at the George Pompidou center

4. I wished I joined a tour of the Louvre.

The Louvre is a massive place. There were so many things I wanted to see that I didn’t get to see because it would have taken an entire day. And I know there are things I didn’t get to see that I should’ve gone to see. If I had joined a tour, I could’ve seen the important things and got a comprehensive overview of the entire place in two or three hours. But at least I got to see the Mona Lisa.

Aria at the grand gallery infront of the Mona Lisa, the big painting of the Wedding at Cana behind her

Aria at the grand gallery infront of the Mona Lisa, the big painting of the Wedding at Cana behind her

3. We could use more family pictures

Yup, I only have that one picture of the four of us at the Eiffel tower. I volunteered to take a picture of a couple at the Eiffel and they in turn took our picture. There was also one on my phone when a passerby volunteered to take a picture of us. Just two family pictures in 10 days. Wow.

2. 2 cities was enough for 10 days.

Traveling with two kids 2 and below was the biggest adventure we had on this trip. Just hauling them both from one place to another was exhausting. We visited three cities and didn’t get to do enough in each city because we got too tired and the chubby hubby wanted to take things slow. If we were still a little younger, and there were no kids, we could have added a city and maximized our sight seeing. But with our added baggage (aka booger and bear) taking it slow and just seeing two cities would have been the best thing. We wouldn’t be in a hurry all the time and we wouldn’t be too tired.

The atomium in Brussels, The Rembrandt Museum in Amsterdam, Aria at the Arc De Triomphe

The atomium in Brussels, The Rembrandt Museum in Amsterdam, Aria at the Arc De Triomphe

1. Never compromise your must-see list.

So many places, so little time. I had a list of must visit places for each city. I wished I had followed them all.

Oh well, there will always be next time… Unless the chubby hubby has given up on traveling. I hope not.