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Catching up

There seems to be a trend in my space here, it's been awhile.

Well, we had our excursion together as a family to France. We left on July 8 and returned home on Aug 4th. I had to work most of the time while we were there (M-F) all day.

It was a long trip, but overall good. It was a hot and humid trip. Liz and Dennis were welcomed to France. I think Strasbourg was a bit long for them in the 1 bedroom Apartment hotel with a pull-out couch/bed for Dennis. I do think it was needed for us as a family as I tend to travel weekly M-F for my work. I am happy and content that they were able to come and spend time with me in a foreign land.

So what did we get to do? Well, there was much eating at many of the great restaurants in Strasbourg. The following list is not exhaustive:

I think one of the major surprises in Strasbourg is the access to great cuisine. Even the run of the mill places are quite good and generally healthy. The two gems that were found this trip, and I am glad Liz and Dennis were with me, were Etoile des Nieges and Gurtlerhoft. L'etoile des nieges is a raclette and fondu place that specializes in food from Savoie. The decor of the place was awesome, Dennis had a hard time using the restrooms with the hugging chip'n'dale type squirrels. Gurtlerhoft was also a treat as it is in the cellar and provided a cool retreat from the heat and humidity and featured wonderful alsacien food (the riesling chicken and salmon were delightful). Liz really liked Piano Grill and the David Spade like waiter that treated her and Dennis like royalty. Most of the places were great and Dennis really was spoiled and introduced to a culture he never knew existed.

Excursions. We walked to Kehl which is approx 6 miles walking from Strasbourg. There really isn't that much in Kehl, but it was a great adventure to the passerelle that joins France and Germany. This bridge allows one to walk from France to Germany above the Rhine river and allowed us to take some fun photos of us all on each side of the border while on the walking bridge.

We rented a car for a weekend and went to Heidleberg Germanyand Mannheim, Germany. During this weekend we saw a castle, drove insanely sharp hills and enjoyed the drive in our little rental. Liz was able to return to the castle she visited while living there as a military brat. Dennis got to take a tour of the inside of the castle and be amazed at the many different things he did not understand. The grounds were great, and we went tot he city center and walked around after a long day in the sun. We sold out and ate at the hard rock Cafe in Heidelberg after visiting a few of the churches and being ushered out as masses were about to begin early Saturday evening. I had a run in with a fellow Aggie in the streets of Heidelberg as I rushed to locate an ATM to withdraw funds for the stupid parking garage. Normally my card works, but this time it did not and the parking machines were un-manned. I think it was a great day and we got plenty of pictures. We grabbed a few souvenirs, a large stein that now sits in our living room, and a dagger (letter-opener) for Dennis. He was so excited about it and likes to have fake battles with the air while we aren't looking, ya he's excited.

Liz and Dennis were introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints ward in Strasbourg wiki link. The ward is decent but the size of a large branch. The members welcomed liz and Dennis openly. The Bishop's family is from Portugal and their little boy is about Dennis' age. He speaks english and befriended Dennis and helped translate for him in primary. The primary teacher was quite gracious and spoke highly of Dennis and his efforts to listen and understand in a foreign language. Liz was befriended by one of the counselors wife's and Patty and a few others tried to assist in making it better for Liz while there. The last Sunday we were there, the Relief Society approached her/us to know more of our situation. I translated and help explain how our situation works and why I am in Strasbourg each month since November 2012. I think they were disappointed to learn that we were not moving to the area, but were still very welcoming and gracious in explaining that they were grateful to have Liz in their midst.

Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg. The same weekend we went to heidleberg, we decided to go to HK after church. We were all a bit like, should we or shouldn't we, and in the end decided we are sooo close so yes, Carpe Diem. And we are glad we did. The chateau and grounds and drive up from Orschwiller. Liz fell in love with the little town as we passed through. Unfortunately we learned shortly toward the end of our trip that Liz's genealogy is connected to a small town not far from here in a place called Saverne . We even found out a few people from the ward in Strasbourg knew the family name "Bronner", I guess I will be returning for a visit before Christmas. Back to the chateau. This place was great, from the walk up from the place where we parked, to the self-guided tour. The views were AMAZING. It made Liz and Dennis feel a bit like they were in the Disney story "Beauty and the Beast". Good thing I am not Gaston :) . It was a great place to visit even though we had to pass up on the monkey place and the eagles place on the way. I really would love to bike out to it, but it would make for a long ride, especially the last part into the Vosges mountains to see the chateau. The armory was great, and the ceramic heating system that was used was quite cool also. They had a comic book about Sherlock Holmes and HK, we need to see if we can find that in english for Dennis as he was excited for that.

Strasbourg stuff. We saw the main Cathedral and walked up to the top. Liz's legs were jelly after the up and down and Dennis was just full of energy. We did this on a very hot day in the afternoon during the Braderie (major street vendor day in the city). It was not crowded and we were able to enjoy the views although Dennis had other plans. We watched the light display at the cathedral 3-4 times. Dennis quite enjoyed this because he was able to stay up late and watch the lights. We were able to enjoy July 14th in Strasbourg and their display of fireworks. This small show made what we do in Logan and in other places in America seem foolish. It was awesome, even though the crowds of people were less than polite. There is a nightly show also at the place Etoile in Strasbourg. This one is a bit quirky and they have lights and fountains and film and fireworks. We went twice to this, I was bored but Dennis loved it. Liz and Dennis also explored and discovered Monoprix, pain de Pommes, Sephora and many other little places while in Strasbourg alone as english speakers without me while at work. The apartment hotel got to know them too as Liz and Dennis spent a lot of time in the pool and using the washing/drying facilities and a few other problems that presented during the trip as well (The air conditioning died, the lack of towels and room change over etc).

Paris. Paris was great. Dennis was enamored by so much of it. It was a long first day as we trained to CDG got tot he hotel and then ran into the city to make it to the Musee D'Orsay. We were able to show Dennis many works of art, Monet's most known works, renoir, pissaro, renaud, Van gogh. I was also able to show him my favorite artist jean-Francois millet. The unfortunate thing is while in the museum, pictures are not allowed although we did manage to grab a few like everyone else. One of the works that stood out to me this trip was Cain. I just found it very compelling and quite true to reality, I suspect many just miss it although it is a 20 foot by 30 foot panel of sorts.
Dennis got his first glimpse of the Eifel Tower as we walked a good portion of the river b/c of the work on the RER B line. We also glimpsed the Notre Dame and many other notable places along the Seine as we walked from Place de St. Michel to Musee D'Orsay. I have to say, being able to take Dennis and Liz through my favorite museum was a treat, probably something that may be a once in a lifetime event, and well it was great. We then retreated back tot he hotel after jumping around the metro and made it back tot he hotel. We broke in the pool and the sauna, and were disappointed by the service received at the hotel. i actually complained to Hilton about this and have been in contact with the property manager b/c of this.
We then went to Versailles palace. Again, this was an adventure. We walked the gardens and skipped the inside. It was too long and too hot in the gardens but we got to see some cool stuff. I think it was too much for Liz and Dennis, but we refreshed ourselves at the Macdo just outside of the train station on the way back to Paris. We tried to make it to the catacombs, but showed up a wee bit late. So we took a risk and went to the Moulin Rouge. So we went to Blanche and plunged ourselves in to the red light district in France. Ok so it was mid afternoon and wasn't bad at all. We walked down to the Pigalle stop and left after we got our pictures. We then headed to the Champs Elysees and the Arc de triomphe. Wait I think i have my events out of line, which I imagine Liz will say yes Shane your memory is horrible. Needless to say, I made a great choice in leaving Strasbourg a day early so we could have an extra day in Paris.
The Eiffel tower. I think this was the pinnacle for Dennis. He was uber excited. So much so, he didn't mind our decision of taking the stairs up instead of taking the elevator. because it was hot it was uber packed on the elevators. He was super excited, to see it, to walk on it, to go to the top, to look off it and to use the restrooms on it. It was hot and I was struggling i think. Too much walking since we got to Strasbourg. I logged over 100 miles walking during our time there. It was great to watch Dennis, as spoiled as he is, to be able to take in something that he may never again get the opportunity until later in life. It was AWESOME.

There is so much more i could say about this trip, but suffice it to say it was a great opportunity. We got to be in Europe together as a family for almost a complete month. We had the opportunity to visit places as a family and enjoy those times. It seemed so long while we were there and now even less than a month after it seems like a fading dream. Liz and I still need to work through the photos of the trip. We posted many on FB, but we have many we'd like to re-work before sharing as they are great photos and memories of our trip. We got to run through paris for a few days and because I know the language and it was my old stomping grounds from when i was a missionary, we were able to freely and quickly alter and adapt our plans to meet our needs. What a great opportunity. What a great trip!

How grateful we are to be back home!!!

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