Monday, October 27, 2008


I'm in my kitchen... It's amazing! I'm rubbing my puffy, red, tired eyes and thanking God for my wonderful coffee maker. We arrived last night around 1am without 90% of our luggage and a tired cranky baby after 25 hours of traveling.

It all started at 6am Sunday morning in Barcelona, Spain (that's 11pm on Saturday US time). We woke up early and grabbed our bags and headed to the airport transport. We were toting 6 huge bags to check at the airport, a stroller, a carseat, Ryan's backpack, my laptop backpack, and a carryon suitcase with all of Ryan's toys for the ride.

We had several hours to catch our flight in Barcelona so we checked our 6 huge bags which were so packed that we had to dump stuff out of one of the bags and move it to another bag because it was over the weight limit.

After a few hours of sitting we finally caught our 2 1/2 hour flight to London. Ryan slept a good part of the way and it went really well. We arrived at Heathrow Airport in good spirits and made our connecting flight to Chicago. We ended up sitting on the airport tarmac for 45 minutes waiting for some technical delays to get cleared up with the tower (which really seems like a long time when you are getting ready for an almost 9 hour flight). Off we went in our huge 777 boeing jet plane over the atlantic. Ryan was an angel. He played cars on the floor and slept for 2 hours of the flight. He only cried once when he was woken up on the plane. At 6 hours into the flight Jessi remarked "If he cries the rest of the way home he was still an angel this whole trip".

We finally arrived in Chicago where we were informed that we had to collect all of our baggage, drag them to the check in desk (hard to do with a baby in a stroller). Go through Customs, Immigration, Security again for the third time, and then catch a train to another terminal to catch our next flight. Luckily for us the flight was delayed because of the wind or we would still be in Chicago right now.

At one point we realized that the daylight savings time in Europe didn't extend to the United States and we were a full hour off the time we thought it was. It actually worked out nicely because we had over an hour delay for our flight to Kansas City so we were able to get on the plane really fast after we made it to the terminal.

We had a fairly uneventful flight to Kansas City and arrived around midnight. Only to find out that our bags that had followed us faithfully through 3 airports had gotten lost on the way to Kansas City. Only one bag showed up on the belt so we had to wait in line with 15 other people while the American Airlines staff tried to figure out what happened.

So long story short we are home. We may only have one of our bags and Ryan may have woke us up after 3 short hours of sleep but we are home. And happy. Soooo happy.

I can't wait to see everyone again. We love you and thank you for reading this blog and I promise to get pictures of our amazing cruise up soon. (The colliseum in Rome, Southern France along the Riveria, the lost city of Pompeii, Tuscany and beautiful southern Italy.)

Until then

The Kingsbury's

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Last Day in London

Today is it, we are mostly packed and the apartment seems so empty. We are heading over to the Hiserote's house in Richmond this afternoon for our friend Ken's birthday and then we will come home, get to bed early and we will be up at 3:15am to catch an early taxi to the airport tomorrow.

The time here seemed to drag at times, but now that we are leaving it seems as if it all went by so fast. 2 nights ago Ryan and I met Jess at the Westminster tube station after she got off work and we walked across the Westminster bridge to an area of restaurants under the shadow of the London Eye. As we left for home that night it had gotten dark and the Eye was completely lit up with blue lights. The three of us walked along the Thames river admiring the dancing blue lights on the choppy waters. As we crossed the bridge we noticed Big Ben with it's somber green glow and the houses of parliament stretching out in front of us. We passed Westminster abbey and noted how it was the most beautiful church we had ever seen inside and out. Deep in our own thoughts I couldn't help but think I may never see these wonderful things again.

Even in 2 months time I have started to take all of the amazing sights here for granted. You can only pass something so many times and Oooo and Ahhh. After awhile you are bumping into people with camera's who are snapping excited photo's and you think "Tourists!" I hope all of these things have burnt into my brain somewhere so I can picture this town for the rest of my life. I can't tell how how beautiful this place is and I can't accurately describe to you things like walking through St. James park with the first leaves of fall on the ground and the sun shining through the trees glowing off the wings of the pelicans and swans floating on the lake. Breathing in that first frosty breath of autumn, standing where Kings have hunted and Queens have strolled for centuries, is too big for my simple brain to take in and my hands to type out. God how I wish I could fully appreciate these things!!

My granddad recently published a book about WWII. In the book he describes the relationship that men have with each other in the trenches during wartime. Even though they have only known the person next to them for a few weeks or days or even hours, they quickly become the best of friends. It's funny how in this same land where my grandfather would embark on his military career so many years ago, I would find friends not in the trenches with machine guns but in the parks and drop-ins of London armed with strollers.

Here's to you London and here's to you Stroller Brigade. Thanks for making this a wonderful, memorable 2 months. God Bless!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Stranger in a Strange Land - Sunday

It's our last day in Paris. We decided we just had to tour the Louvre museum and we were going to spend all day there if we could. The place is huge and we have heard that it can take 2-3 days to see everything.

We got up, stopped at McDonalds for our first actual French McDonalds breakfast. (Please believe we normally don't eat McDonalds every day) and we ran into a bit of trouble. The evening menu is pretty straight forward with Sandwich, Fries, Coke etc. But the breakfast menu was mostly in french and the menu changed every 3 seconds and was very hard to read. I wanted to get some eggs, pancakes and coffee but ended up with 3 small croissants, 2 coffees, a cocacola light, a bacon pancake (weird), some other dry overcooked pancake, and a bacon egg and cheese mcmuffin. It also took about 25 minutes to get our food and there was only one person in front of us in line. Soooo that was an interesting start to an interesting day.

We headed down to the eiffel tower where our bus tour "Les Cars Rouges" starts, to get on the bus that we knew would eventually at some point take us to the Louvre.
But they were having a half marathon right around the Eiffel Tower that day! Thousands of people running and being cheered on by marching bands and jaunty scottish tunes played by bagpipers. It was at this point that we realized we may never see the beautifully cobblestoned streets of Paris again so we took a picture.
We needed an alternative route as our bus stop was in the middle of the race and it looked like the tower was pretty much off-limits to any bus traffic for awhile. Jessi picked up the map and like other french explorers such as Jacques Cartier, Joliet, and the Cavelier de la Salle we headed off into uncharted territory looking for geographic treasures.
On the other side of the tower is the Champs de Mars where we picked up the scent of Les Cars Rouges and eventually found a bus to take us to the Louvre. We boarded the bus and eagerly waited for it to stop in front of the famous museum.
3 stops later we realized it had skipped the museum! We asked the driver who told us that he had to take a different route because of the marathon. We decided to stop at Notre Dame and do some quick shopping for souveniors, grab a crepe or two, and enjoy the scenery for a bit before figuring out how we were going to get the the Louvre.
I believe this is where we captured this fun picture.
Map in hand we caught the bus once again and started off towards the Louvre, only to realize that once again we were headed in the wrong direction! We asked the new driver, and he told us that because we had stopped to eat, the marathon had ended and they were back to the original route which had already run by the museum and wouldn't be back for 2 hours.
Argh! Luckily the driver was extremely nice and dropped us off across the river from the Louvre and we only had a short walk to our destination.
Did I mention we walked by a building that was covered in grass, ivy, moss, plants, and trees?
Crazy huh! Back to the museum. This is the site of the famous book and movie starring Tom Hanks - The Davinci Code. Having read that I had an idea in my mind what it would look like but I was allll wrong.
The place is immense. It has a huge courtyard inside which i show an aeriel view of in Thursdays blog. It is chocked full of some of the world's rarest and most famous paintings, sculptures, and artifacts. The entire place is a maze of stairs and elevators, eateries and places to shop. One of the neat things about the Louvre is that it is free for those who are 18 and under. Which was crazy since I just had my 17th birthday last week and Jessi wasn't going to be 16 for another month. Hehe of course we paid the nominal 9 euros a piece admission and headed in.

Our first stop which was a half mile and 27 flights of stairs away, was to see the Mona Lisa. We were informed that it unfortunately it was not for sale. Ryan thought she had a big nose anyways.

They had some paintings from a few small mostly unknown painters.

And some awesome egyptian artifacts and greek sculptures. At this point the day was turning into evening and the museum was going to close soon. Ryan who hadn't had a nap all day was losing his patience with all humanity and was threatening to go on strike. We left the museum and headed to the closest bus stop where we saw something I have never seen or heard of in my entire life.

Police on rollerblades. Priceless
Ryan decided that he wasn't going to wait an hour for the busride so we found a taxi and hi-tailed it back to the hotel to enjoy a nice dinner of jambon wraps, salade, cocacola light, and butter cake. After packing up and trying our best to keep Ryan entertained we set our alarms for 3:15am and fell asleep dreaming of the 3 hour train ride home in the morning.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Stranger in a Strange Land - Saturday

Yaaaaawwnnn. Long day on Friday! We slept in a bit on Saturday and decided to visit the local mall near our Hotel. It was small but had a toystore and a Super Marche (supermarket) inside. We desperately needed some milk and a few basics and Ryan needed to blow off a little steam.

Afterwards we took a different route down to the Eiffel tower and noticed they were having a festival. We stopped and took some pictures and bought a chocolat crepe and a delicious poulet baguette.

Which reminds me did I mention that since they don't have high chairs anywhere besides McDonalds, poor Ryan had to eat his Nutella and Carrots in his stroller ;)

Everything goes better with Nutella it's true!

We picked up a little cash because we were running low on the Euro's.

Took a quick nap and headed off to the Seine to do a river tour. The river is beautiful and winds its way through Paris, touching almost every landmark in the city. Ryan was wonderful the entire ride and you could see couples walking hand in hand along the river and lovers sitting together on benches all along the river.

On the way home we stopped by a little french cafe and had a glass of wine and listened to the waiter tell us how the United States was ruining the world. We decided not to eat dinner there and instead headed to ... you guessed it! McDonald's! for a lovely meal.

Now I don't know if i've told you the drinking age in France is the lowest I've ever heard but this is ridiculous!

Haha ok ok they don't give them away with happy meals. However I did order this 1664 beer in my Le M Sandwich meal deal. It's one of the drink choices right next to Coca Cola Light and Fanta Orange. It doesn't even cost extra.

And of course one more picture of the tower.

Goodnight Paris!

A Stranger in a Strange Land - Friday

Good morning Paris France! The first things on our mind on Friday were The Eiffel Tower and Le Breakfast. We had noticed a McDonalds close by so we figured that was a safe bet until all of our Jr. High School french came back to us. Plus I wanted to see if there really was a Royale with Cheese on the menu (a movie line from Pulp Fiction). I was not disappointed!

It is funny how they mix French and English up on menu's. I saw that alot. Like Chicken Nuggets are Chicken Nuggets but a small salad is P'tite salade. Filet-O-Fish remains unchanged while French Fries become Frites. One crazy thing in Europe is the lack of a real menu. I noticed this in London as well as in Paris. You get a menu board with a few colorful pictures of meal deals and then maybe a very small menu of a few items located on a side wall near the front counter that you can't read until you are practically ordering. Sometimes the big colorful menu like you see in this picture flips through 3 or so different pictures which can make it really hard when you are trying to order off of it. "Ummm give me the, uh, uh, hold on here it comes, umm chicken meal with ummm oh crap there it goes again..." McDonalds wasn't the hardest place to order but it was a bit tricky especially with breakfast items. I managed to get extra stuff almost every time I ordered. It was always a suprise.

After breakfast we headed down to the River Seine and the fabulous Eiffel Tower! You can see a bit of the river in this picture as we walked down from our hotel.

Of course like everything in our lives the weather was blessed by God and crystal clear and around 65-72 degrees every day of our vacation.

We raced onwards knowing we just had to take a ride up that big steel monster. Unfortunately for some reason the lift to the very top wasn't working so we could only go up to the second level. We were still able to take in the beauty of Paris and you could see so much from up there.

After our fun on the Eiffel Tower we signed up for Le Rouge Buses. A bus tour around Paris that hits all of the big sites in about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Your tickets last for 2 days and you can hop off anywhere and just jump on another bus whenever you want. It is a pretty cost effective way to get around Paris and to hit the highlights when you have a limited amount of time.

We saw so much, we literally took hundreds of pictures.

We stopped at Notre Dame the famed cathedral in Paris and decided to grab a bite to eat. We had heard how good the crepes are and had to give them a try. Literally every where you turn is someone dishing up made-to-order crepes with Jambon (ham), Nutella, Oefs (Eggs), Chocolat, Banane (Banana), or any variety of things. We grabbed a Jambon, Champignon (mushrooms), and Fromage (cheese) crepe and a Nutella Crepe and a few drinks and chowed down.
The tour of Notre Dame is free and it was beautiful.

They had signs posted "No Photography" but it seems like nobody really cared as there were enough flashes going off I thought I'd wandered into a disco instead of a church. I did snap one sneaky photo just to say I was really there.

This was another place where I saw some of the saddest, poorest people I have ever seen before in my life. There was a dirty, scraggled, old man with eyes that were completely white begging for money and a little old lady with a hunchback so severe that her frail wrinkled hands almost touched the ground when they grasped her little miniature crutch to support herself. In London as in the US I am used to people asking for change but I have never seen anything like this before.
We continued our tour where we saw the Louvre, Some palaces, A cool egyptian Obelisk, and some gold shiny things.

We stopped at the Champs Elysees and did some window shopping at Louis Vutton and some other super-upscale stores. We drank coffee's at a little sidewalk cafe and trying valiantly to order some milk for Ryan in french. Strangely enough it is really hard to get milk at restaurants here. Even McDonalds doesn't sell it. The nice people at the cafe put some milk that they use for cappuchino's into a cup for Ryan to drink. We stopped to look at the newest innovations in euro vehicles and even let Ryan test drive one himself.
After that a quick peek at the Arc de Triumph and back to the Eiffel tower and our hotel to call it a night.

Goodnight Paris!

A Stranger in a Strange Land - Thursday

Thursday night I packed up a few last minute things and grabbed Ryan and we walked to the tube station to meet Jessi at her work about 40 minutes away. She had already brought our one humongous super heavy suitcase with her to work so we left straight from there to St. Pancreas station which houses a tube station and Eurostar a highspeed train that travels between England and France. We went through customs and security and boarded our train which was very nice. Jessi had booked us a seat with a table and the train wasn't very busy so we were able to use all four seats around the table. Ryan was a bit cranky as it was getting late so we gave him lots of snacks, watched baby einstein videos on the laptop and played with the brand new dinosaurs and cars daddy had bought him earlier that day. The entire trip took about 3 hours which is short unless you have a cranky baby on board hehe. They had a fire in one of the tunnels earlier this year and that has slowed the trip down, I guess it used to be around 2 hours.

Once we arrived we immediately looked for the taxi stand and ooh'd and ahh'd at all of the signs in french. We both crossed our fingers that everyone in france spoke perfect english and got in the line for a taxi. While in line I noticed a huge man of african descent standing by the line next to a cardboard box that I presumed was his bed. He had clothing that was ripped showing most of his legs and sandles that didn't cover his grotesque feet which looked like they had been frostbitten 100 times. He picked at his ratsnest of hair and mumbled to himself. This was the first of the very poor and invalid that I was to see during my trip.

With a bit of luck and Jessi's carefully prepared map and address sheet we were able to tell the french taxi driver where our hotel was. He seemed to have a bit of a problem with the exact location and yelled at someone on his cell phone in loud thickly accented french for the first quarter of our journey. On the way to our hotel I was looking out the window when I saw a HUGE building that stretched what seemed like a mile. It was a marvel on the outside with amazing stonework. I asked the driver if that was the Louvre. He responded "Oui Monsieur!" Would you like to see?" He then whipped our taxi across 3 lanes of traffic and squeezed into the middle of the Louvre complex. I can't describe how big this museum is so I've added this aerial view i found on the web. It is truely magnificient and we were lucky to get to tour it and see the Mona Lisa but i get ahead of myself!

As we neared our hotel we could see the Eiffel Tower which as we found out has a light show that goes on for 10 minutes on the hour every hour at night. I wanted to get a video of this but wasn't able to so here is one i found on youtube that shows exactly what we saw.

We arrived at our hotel and were pleasantly suprised at a really nice clean albeit small room with a very friendly staff. We got an amazing deal on and it was literally less than half the normal price. Exhausted we passed out on our bed with Ryan in between us around midnight and slept through till almost 9 in the morning on Friday.