Tag Archives: family

Paris day 2 – Le Tour Eiffel

Our first full day in Paris was a Wednesday and it was quite a contrast from the previous day. Tuesday had been a day of many contrasting emotions, the sadness of leaving my Dad & my home town, then the joy of seeing my sister for the first time in almost 5 years. We added to that the stress of traveling a journey not before completed, making sure we caught the right trains at the right time, the metro, the journey around the metro, oh my it was an adventure.

I awoke pretty well refreshed on the Wednesday, despite yet another uncomfortable bed, it turns out I am utterly spoiled with my nice mattress at home & traveling in less than great beds causes poor sleep & an aching back, this night though I think I was so tired I could have slept on the floor quite happily.

Our apartment was in a great location, just a  few blocks from the Louvre & the Royal Opera house. Yet rather interestingly the nestle of back streets we were on seemed to be some sort of little “China town” as there were a host of asian restaurants of all nations. We had determined that we would go get breakfast from a patisserie, the one closest to the apartment was also recommended by Olivier on our arrival so we went there. For the quintessential multi-cultural experience it was a traditional Parisian patisserie that happened to be operated by some people of Japanese descent, meaning there were 2 languages we could not understand in the window. I was all set to try and bumble through ordering in French, but the assistant – who spoke perfect English, obviously overhead us talking & started the conversation in English. So with a little less excitement than I was expecting, we returned to the apartment with fresh Cafe Creme, pain au chocolates & a real French croissant, all of which were delicious.

IMG_3134I’d love to tell you that we came to Paris to do more than the most cliche of tourist things, that we went exploring little know treasures (other than a Japanese / French patisserie). But I don’t want to lie to you, we came to Paris to do the things people do when they come to Paris, on the first visit at least. Today was going to be all about making some little girls (who happen to be cousins) dream come true. Today we would go to the Eiffel Tower.

Following our delicious breakfast, we began the rest of the day’s adventure. We decided to start with the park at the Louvre, it would give the kids a much needed opportunity to run around & burn off some steam & also allow the adults to relax and enjoy the surroundings while stretching our legs. It was in easy walking distance so no need to use the metro, we were all a little gun shy from the previous day’s excitement. The streets were lined with 5 story stone buildings, it would be easy to imaging the roads having been carved out of the buildings rather than the buildings being built around them. Just at the end of our street there was a magnificent statue of some gut that looked like he had escaped from the Musketeers stories.

Once we got to the louvre we fort the first time saw the Eiffel Tower in the distance past a rather grand arch which we would head through into the park. The tower even from a distance is quite a sight, standing almost regally over the city, even with all its fame, actually seeing it was somewhat breathtaking.

It was an impressive beauty of a park, long, wide and well manicured. Sculptures strewn throughout, interesting plant life and some trees that were oddly cut flat at the top with impress levelness. We found a little playground within the park & the kids set about having a good time, while I tried (in vain) not to stare at the crowd of men practicing some form of martial arts, seemingly the older gentlemen were instructing the younger ones. We moved on from the playground after a while to let the kids ride the merry-go-round and then have a go in the trampoline park, My daughter had a blast with all of this, her soccer fitness helping her never even remotely get tired.

 

We decided to grab lunch before catching the metro to the tower & exited the park on the north side, no plans or destination in mind, just somewhere to eat. Right where we exited there were 2 restaurants on the main road either side of side street junction which had a third restaurant for us to choose from. For some reason i declared that we should go to this third one, being a hundred years from the main road seemed preferable to me.

The Brasserie called Flottes was just perfect. It was a long but rather thin city bar / restaurant. At least 3 floors, we were seated on the main floor at a corner table. Oddly I had a taxidermy’d polar bear towering over me in the corner. The place was not particularly busy, but there were folks there doing life, conversing in French, the ambiance of the place was just right, maybe because I was so relaxed and enjoying our stay, but I really felt like I was traveling here. I ordered a salad that came with cheese and ham & potatoes, making for a quite substantial meal for a salad. My wife enjoyed real French onion soup & my daughter had a sandwich with an egg on top (I forget the name) & was most excited to eat real french fries in France (although they are apparently of Belgian origin).

After lunch we rode the metro to the tower, a much more relaxed metro ride given that we were without suitcases and it was not rush hour. Rather than going the long way around on the metro to get to the closest station, we got out at Ecole Militaire metro station which put us at the entrance to the gardens leading up to the tower. This allowed for some great photo opportunities and also gave the anticipation of the climb chance to grow amongst both the kids and the adults as we strolled towards the imposing structure.

Once we reached the base of the tower we were faced with the choice of riding the elevator or climbing the stairs. A combination of long lines & significantly higher prices made the choice to use the stairs a fairly easy one to make. Once through security we began the climb, our surroundings were as you would expect, lots of exposed metal all joined together in a very industrial revolution kind of way. We were climbing the east side, the elevator there was closed for repairs, a rather amusing sight was the 2 engineers working on the elevator car situated either side of a model of a man who looked like a train driver. It took a second to realize that 2 of them were real, or maybe that one of them was fake.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We reached the first floor fairly quickly, my daughter excitedly leading the way as I straggled behind taking photos. The first floor was quite the tourist center with restaurants, a gift shop and even a small ice skating rink.  There was also one of those awful see through floors running around. I actually didn’t realize how much I do not enjoy them until this day. My head knew it was safe, they wouldn’t put it in if it were not, millions of people have walked safely on them, yet as I told myself they were safe, my legs said no, not moving. I eventually managed to get myself to walk in it, rather week kneed and certainly not enjoying having to overcome some repressed fear of falling to my death. Ok at that point in time it was not particularly repressed, but think about it, if by random chance that thing were to fail while you were stood on it, you are going to die, absolutely no other options, there’s also a good chance you are going to land on someone & take them with you, it just …. yeah.

After some souvenir shopping in the gift store my sister informed me that she would not be going to the top, nor her husband or my nephew, I guess theres a family thing here haha. My niece however did want to join us & so we headed up the stairs to the 2nd floor, just the four of us now.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If I remember correctly it was a total of 670 stairs from the bottom to the second floor, that’s a lot of stairs (they were numbered by the way, I didn’t count). The view from the 1st floor had been pretty good, but the razzmatazz of the surroundings took away from it a little. The 2nd floor was all about the view, the platform was smaller (as I’m sure you know, the tower gets thinner as it goes up) which made it quicker to walk around and see the view from each side. It felt as though you could see forever, the sprawling city immense and beautiful, the air was cool, but not cold, not like it had been in England & certainly not like Scotland. The breeze was pretty good up there though. After spending some time taking photographs etc we to some tickets to rid the elevator to the top, the stairs only go to the 2nd floor, but the elevator add on from there is way cheaper.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The elevator was cramped due to the number of people in there, I wonder what the capacity is, surely it must be significant. The place must be awfully busy in the summer, early December crowds were enough for me. The ride up was fairly quick, the elevator wobbled a little & if I allowed my mind to wander towards what would happen if the cable failed, well, my knees went a little week. I’m not sure where these thoughts of falling were coming from on that day, it was rather bizarre.

The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is one that will stay with me forever, it is beyond spectacular, words really cannot do it justice. The girls were just as blown away as I was, my darling nice particularly proud of herself for not being too afraid to reach the top of the tower, I’m sure she will remind Mum of that for years to come. I took many photos & some video. If even took some panoramas, holding my phone through the fence to get an unrestricted shot. That was until my wife pointed out the signs that I had somehow been oblivious to telling you specifically not to do such things. I guess a cell phone accidentally falling from 300 feet would probably not be such a good thing lol.

I am not sure how long we stayed at the top for, we did not hurry, but it was getting crowded so we decided to go back down. We rode the elevator and then hit the downward stairs which did not feel particularly good on my knees or legs in general (yay getting old). We exited the tower just in time to see a guard of armed soldiers passing, a stark reminder that we were then only 3 weeks removed from the terrorist attacks that shook not only Paris, but the world. It was reassuring to see them as it helped to make us feel that we were in Paris at probably the safest time in history. Yet it was also heart breaking, that such a thing would be necessary in a place of beauty, a place of civilization, a place where normal people aspire to visit, to make dreams come true.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We spent a little time in a small park near the tower, my daughter and her cousin doing their best to communicate with some of the local children. Kids were playing all around, young boys playing football others chasing each other, the rest of the swings and climbing frames, it was a wonderful sight. Eventually it was time to leave and ride the metro back to the apartment.  however before we settled in for an exciting meal of leftovers lead us into a pleasant relaxing quite evening in the apartment, a quick trip to Starbucks was in order. They had some fabulous freshly squeezed orange juice which I enjoyed much more than my wife did her luke warm coffee. We strolled down the street to get a closer view of the stunning Palais Garner, the national opera house. Then on the way back, we called into the must amazingly delectable chocolate store, it was frightfully expensive, but worth every cent.

The not supposed to be take panoramas 🙂

IMG_3162 IMG_3166 IMG_3170 IMG_3172

Advertisements

A Rushed Visit to Leeds

The continuation of my vacation journal from our big thanksgiving trip to Europe ….

York was wonderful, we could have stayed for ages, however it was time to go to Leeds. If York was a nice time catching up with family, Leeds was to be a great time, if a little busy catching up with even more folks. Somehow with trying to do so much on this trip we ended up with only 4 days in the city of my birth.

Friday morning we rose in York and packed our suitcases, yet again, then took a nice stroll into the city for coffee, I could get used to this location! After a last bit of visiting we said our goodbyes to my Aunt, Uncle, cousin & his fiancee.
We then made the relatively short drive to my home town, Leeds. Finally at my Dad’s house, we got caught up, although we had been together the day before. It was nice to be in familiar surroundings, even if I haven’t lived in the house for the best part of 20 years. The old city looks much the same, maybe a little damper looking, it has been raining a lot. The most noticeable change that I saw, other than even more buildings in the city center were all the cars. Leeds has always been a busy city, but it felt like there were probably 50% more cars on the roads than when I lived here. It may just be the smaller roads tricking my Texan brain though.

In the afternoon we joined my Dad & step Mum for a visit to Costco, always interesting to see how the same stores compare in different countries. I was quite surprised how similar it was. The Leeds warehouse was huge, easily big enough to be  a US store, many of the goods for sale were also the same as in the US, there were obviously lots of them not.

In the evening we join an old friend and his wife for dinner at a restaurant called the Moody Cow. The food was great & the company even better. I had a jerk chicken & sweet potato fries and a couple of local beers. It was raining like crazy when we got there & freezing cold on the way out.

Saturday was a fun day, after going for coffee (recurring theme on this trip), we had a family reunion of sorts in the afternoon at my dad’s house. I got to catch up with all my step sisters, their spouses & children. My Aunt & Uncle cam over from York. A few family friends stopped by too. I ate far too much and generally just had a great time being in the company of loved ones.

When everyone was heading out to call it a day, maybe sit on the couch & snooze the evening away, we were headed out to a party. Another old friend’s wife’s birthday party. This one was a blast, there were a ton of my friends from when I used to live here & the whole evening was just one of catching up & reminiscing about the crazy adventures of our youth. The most noticeable difference from when we used to hang out in our teens & early twenties were all the kids from babies to my 9 year old running around the place, it was really rather hear warming.

On Sunday we went to church with my Dad. The church of my youth, it is always nice to go and remember the place. It is a very traditional church of England, beautiful stone building with towering ceilings and a pipe organ. It also has the traditional, cold sterile type of service that i remember, lots of incantations or invocation type things, heres what you say after I say this etc, old hymns that do their best to hide their joy & sense of worship in exchange for I suppose a revered respect. It’s no wonder that I went away from the church as a kid if this is what it was like, it just doesn’t speak to me personally. At the same time I felt a sense of gladness and amazement that God has so many ways to reach different people through different churches and worship styles, it’s quite amazing really & just speaks to how much the Father loves us.

We spent the rest of the rainy Sunday doing laundry, an unfortunate necessity of a long trip, I also had a good chance to read, I am trying an actual fiction book, Mistborne & quite enjoying it so far,

Monday would be our last full day in Leeds, we made the most of it though. In the morning, after packing (again), we went and had coffee with some very old friends, the parents of my primary school best friend, it was wonderful to chat & catch up & be in the house I had such good time sin as a kid. Unfortunately my friend was working away in France.

In the afternoon we went into the city center, or “town” as folks in Leeds refer to it, and did some shopping. Once we returned to my Dad’s house we did one of the most important things of any trips back to Leeds – we got fish and chips from the original Nash’s in Chapel Allerton, they were amazing of course!

In the evening we went to go visit my uncle for a little while, that would be the last visit in Leeds, we got almost all our family & most of my old friends in, pretty successful. It was great to be in my home town, even if it was for only a few days. The sights and sounds, the smells, the people, the roads, just everything about it, it may not be where I live or call home now, but it will always be home & as such, it feels good to visit there at least occasionally. I look forward to returning again, hopefully much sooner than this last time. Hopefully I will remember to take more photos then too, we were so busy this time I hardly snapped any.

 

You’re a wizard Harry – The Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail

I am starting to think that my goal of visiting the Dalwhinnie distillery while we are here is doomed to fail. We were so enchanted with Stirling yesterday that we didn’t leave in time to visit on the way to Fort William. Today we slept later than expected & had a wonderful cooked breakfast even later which meant that unless we were going to dedicate the whole day to it the distillery wasn’t going to happen, it might need to be another trip, possibly a solo one.

Today we visited the Glenfinnan Viaduct & hiked the trail with the same name. The Glenfinnan Viaduct is famous for its use in the Harry Potter films, the Hogwarts Express goes over the old bridge thing the children to the school. The weather was gorgeous, perfect blue skies, cool air & no wind. In fact once we got going, the lack of wind had us removing coats & sweaters as we were overheating despite the temperature not being much above freezing.

The walk was perfect, only 2.5 miles, but with the uphill sections it still felt like a decent workout. The view of the viaduct, Loch Shiel and the surrounding mountains with Ben Nevis in the distance were simply delightful. I’ll let the photos do the talking, we just had a nice family time before returning to the cottage for some afternoon laziness (and British chocolate).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To top off the day of amazing views, we were treated to a rather special sunset reflecting off the side of Ben Nevis (the tallest mountain in the UK), followed by a wonderful evening out to celebrate my Mums anniversary.

Jim

Blood at times is irrelevant

You were family in the truest sense of the word

You had the deepest of influences

A beautiful brother, a beautiful man

You were my friend, but more than that, a mentor and a father figure

 

Your family was an inspiration

The moment I entered your house

My heart was filled with a desire to be a part of it

You & your family were the reason I changed my mind about family

An indelible change in my mindset, your eternal gift to me

Forever I will be grateful, forever I will mourn

 

You had a beautifully wicked sense of humor

Coupled with wonderfully strong morals

A dedication to your family, that was a breath of fresh air to me

A look into a new world that previously seemed impossible

You watched over my wife since she was a child & she loved you more than she could ever know to say & I more grateful than you could know

 

You showed me what it means to be a man

Not an emasculated sissy or some macho moron

A real man

Integrity, honor, commitment

Love, respect, decency

I could write for days and only scratch the surface

 

We may not have shared blood, but you will always be some of the closest family we will ever have

It is a cliché used all too often

But you really were one of a kind, they truly broke the mold after you were made

Rest in peace my dear friend.

Hug my family & friends in heaven

Ask Jesus to do something about cancer while you’re there

I’m not sure I can take losing anymore loved ones to it

 

Working

Working, it’s important you know
We all have to do it in one way or another
As you grow older you go through seasons
Sometimes you love to work
Sometimes you hate to work
Eventually, hopefully
You figure it out, you accept working for what it is
A means to an end, a way to provide
Even the greatest of jobs
Even if you would “do it for free”
It is still all about providing for you & your family

You see work, while necessary
Is ultimately irrelevant
Life is about relationships
The relationships that matter most are your family
This is not optional
It is the way the universe
Any attempt to fight this
Will lead to an unfulfilled life
A life chasing empty victories
A life then will usually lead to loneliness, emptiness

Life is built for love & laughter
Not exhaustion or bean counting
So live your life, love your family
And remember, work is just work

Blood Moon

Solar eclipse
Blood moon
Must get up
Must remember to awake

A fathers promise, daddy’s duty
Sleep would have been nice though
The alarm would have done its job
Then the day would have been refreshing
Instead a dull tired ache accompanies my day

Yet it is oh so worth it
To see her marvel in the beauty
To share a moment
To witness firsts

Daddy’s privilege, my great honor
The great pleasure of loving life
The great gift of being loved

RIP Mary Frances Turner

Just as the flame flickers
Then sizzles to extinguish
When it’s time is done
So must our days
On this earth sadly end

95 glorious years
A blinding light of strength and honor
Humility and Sacrifice
A family matriarch
Moves on to eternal glory

I did not know you well
But I remember you well
A light of pure beauty, an example to all
The last of a generation
It is my privilege to call you family

Lord please comfort us in this time of grief
Bless this family for generations to come
May her community celebrate
An amazing woman and an amazing life
Rest In Peace dear Aunt Francis