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Paris - Eiffel Tower

We had five days in Paris. I took a bunch of pictures...I couldn't narrow it down anymore than this, it's a beautiful city!

There's nothing more 'parisian' than going on a carousel in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

The first afternoon we walked around the Eiffel Tower to get a good view from every angle.

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Our second day in Brussels we headed to Bruges, which is about an hour outside of Brussels.

Vehicles are not allowed on many of the roads near the center of town. It is one of the best preserved medival cities in Europe.

The first thing we did was head to Markt Square to climb the Belfry.

The boys were very excited to climb the Bell Tower, it is 366 steps to the top.

The stairs were tight and twisty.

Tired after the long climb.

The view from the top.

Coming down the steps.

The Church of the Sacred Blood. It is said that there is a vial of Christ's blood store here.

Bruges is called 'Venice of the North', as there are canals running thru it.

The next morning we had a bit of time in Brussels before our train to Paris. Nate wasn't feeling 100% so John and I walked around a bit in the morning while Nate took a nap in the room.

Brussels (and John) is very photogenic.

John is a bit of a budding photographer!

Nate woke up and then we found this cool smurf statue. I didn't know that smurf's were Belgian.

And then it was the high-speed train to Paris!

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Atomium and Mini-Europe

We headed up to the Atomium and mini-Europe on our first full day in Brussels. The atomium was designed in 1958 and is 335 feet tall and each sphere is 60 feet in diameter.

They had this cool 'be.WELCOME' sign the kids could climb on while we were waiting in line for tickets.

Total cutie.

The boys enjoyed going inside the atomium.

There was a great view from the top. There was a cool view of mini-Europe from the top and you could see all the way to downtown Brussels.

They had a great display on the making of the atomium and a bunch of information about the Civil Engineers who designed it which was neat.

Next after an hour of playing on the playground and lunch we went over to mini-Europe. Mini-Europe was pretty amazing... they had the most famous buildings from each of the EU Nations on a small scale.

Nate is showing off his shirt will all his EU flags on it while he's in front of his flags.

On the subway ride home. It was a fun-full day!

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Day one in Brussels

After our third night in Amsterdam we took the train to Brussels. In hindsight we should have taken the express train but it was 'only' 30 minutes longer and cheaper to take the non-express train, theoretically...

After 4 hours on what amounts to a subway car and three different transfers with our luggage we made it to Brussels. When we got there we checked into our hotel and headed to the Grand Place to see the Flower Carpet.

The flower carpet happens every two years for three days. We timed our arrival so we would get to see the last day of it. It was raining but pretty spectacular.

Pictures can't really do justice to the size of it. It is about as large as a football field, covered in individual flower petals and sod. It was very impressive, especially with the beautiful buildings surrounding the square.

After we viewed that a bit we had a good lunch in one of the restaurants surrounding the square. John and Nate were excited they got to drink their water out of wine glasses. Glenn and I were nervous.

We then walked up to the Comic Strip Museum which told of the history of comic books. The boys were most excited to see the Smurf Comics since the Smurfs are Belgian.

Brussels definitely had a different 'feel' than Amsterdam. Glenn and I enjoyed it more...the streets were wider with real sidewalks, buildings more spread out and the architecture just as interesting as most European cities.

Downtown Brussels is nicely walkable with tons of shops, restaurants and museums. The boys saw these macaroons in one of the numerous chocolate shop windows and wanted to try them. They were pretty but earned a thumbs down for taste from the boys.

We walked around a bit that evening catching the flower carpet a few more times and visited the Manneken Pis statue which is quite small in person.

Afterwards we stopped for a snack before bed. We all agreed that Belgium had the best food of the three places we visited. Chocolate, waffles and french fries are their specialities.

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Anne Frank House and Windmills

The second full day in Amsterdam we started off by heading to the Anne Frank House. I was glad I had made advanced reservations, as the line at 8:30 was already several hundred people long. We were just able to walk in at our reservation time. The Anne Frank House was very moving and had a lot of information. Not only about Anne's life, but also how the building was used (spice warehouse) and the people who helped the 8 people in hiding. The boys were silent and excellent for the 45 minutes it took us to walk thru.

After that we went to Zaanse Schans, which is a little town about 40 minutes from Amsterdam. They've moved a bunch of old houses and windmills to this one area and have a wooden shoe factory, cheese shops, chocolate shops and a bunch of other stores and museums to walk thru.

The wooden shoes were very colorful and the demonstration was interesting but I do wonder how many pairs they sell each year.

Nate has decided that once he learns about woodworking in Boy Scouts he would like to make a pair. Currently they're mostly made by machines, with a template shoes on one side and the block of wood on the other. The wood has so much water in that it drips out. It takes only about 10 minutes to make a rough shoe by machine.

Afterwards we went to see the windmills. It was very cold and rainy that day.

John found this duck which he called the Darth Maul Duck.

They had several windmills, each of which were all 'working' windmills. The majority of them were from the 1600's.

Most of the windmills were either sawmills or oil mills. We went in the one that produced peanut oil. It was quite loud inside and the platform by the blades was very rocky and windy.

The boys found a chocolate shop and we browsed thru the craft fair before taking a bus back to Amsterdam.

We enjoyed our time in Amsterdam. The museums were great, there were many more we would have like to have gone to but didn't have the time or the boys wouldn't have enjoyed them too much. We did find it incredibly dirty, people would throw trash in the streets and the garbage cans were few and far between. There was a lot of trash in the canals which is a shame. It was nice seeing so many people on bikes but the scooters were a bit out of control. It was a good place to visit but I don't think we will rush back. On to Brussels next!

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First day in Amsterdam

We went to Europe for 12 days in August. Our first stop was Amsterdam. It was a twelve hour trip thru Dublin and the boys did great...only a bit of a meltdown in the customs line in Dublin.

When we first got in, we decided to do the canal boat trip. Some of us were a bit more tired than others...

Amsterdam has more canal boat houses than any other city in the world. A lot of the canal houses kept their blinds open so we were able to peek in on the way by.

Almost all of the canal houses had hooks at the top of their houses which is what they use to move furniture, etc into the upper floors of their houses because the stairs are so narrow.

The next morning we had a quick breakfast...John wasn't feeling so well so he went back to the apartment with Glenn to rest.

Nate and I took a nice scenic walk up to the Van Gogh museum. Both boys were great walkers, walking at least 5 miles each day.

The Van Gogh Museum was great. They had tons of his paintings organized by date and it was interesting to see his 'state of mind' as his paintings progressed. Nate was actually fairly interested in the paintings and I think enjoyed himself.

Afterwards Nate and I walked over to the nearby park where there is the Iamsterdam sign and a playground.

Afterwards we met up with Glenn and John at the New Church which is next to the Royal Palace. It is where the royal wedding between the Crown Prince and Princess was and the inauguration ceremonies are.

We went over to the House Boat Museum afterwards. It was pretty neat to see how these house boats were set up.

We went back up to the park by the museums so that John and Glenn could see them since they didn't come in the morning.

The boys had fun playing on the swing set and running thru the water.

t for Thompson!

We had a good first day and a half in Amsterdam!

...and a finalized post after 6 months!

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Last day of vacation

Our last day of vacation was spent at the Magic Kingdom. We arrived with plenty of time to see the opening show.

We hit up all of the boy's favorite rides...dumbo of course...

...and to mix things up a bit John tried out Aladdins Magic Carpet ride, which is basically the Dumbo ride but it tips you back and forth as well as up and down.

Meanwhile, Nate had gotten brave and decided to go on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. He rode it twice and loved it.

We had lunch at the Crystal Palace, which was my favorite eating venue of the trip. The boys loved seeing all the Winnie the Pooh Characters.

Nate found a man to trade pins with him after lunch.

And since John's favorite part of the trip was swimming, we made sure to leave plenty of time for that in the afternoon.

It was a great trip. I am officially hooked on the idea of a February vacation, especially after this FREEZING winter!

Somethings I don't want to forget for next time....
John's favorite rides were Dumbo and Small World.
Nate's favorite rides were Pirates of Caribbean, Nemo in Epcot and Race Cars.
French bakery was awesome.
Meal plan not worth it for us.
Nate gets sick on the Magical Express.
Boys loved all 'playgrounds'.
Boys loved seeing characters and trading pins.
Best Character Food - Disney Junior.
Best Characters - Crystal Palace
Not worth it character Meal - Cape May
Definitely go back to the Beach Club!

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Animal Kingdom and Epcot

The next two days were spent at Animal Kingdom and Epcot.

Both boys loved the safari. Nate has mentioned several times that we haven't been to the zoo lately.

John really enjoyed seeing the animals and repeating after the safari driver. "The okapi is a shy animal".

We had a lot of animals come up very close to the jeep which was really nice.

The boys also really loved running around the dinosaur playground at Animal Kingdom. Nate also bravely went on 'Dinosaur' twice.

The boys traded pins for the first time while we were in Animal Kingdom. I had ordered a bunch of pins for ten dollars off ebay so the boys could trade it them rather than spend $10 A PIN when we were there. The boys loved to trade and got a lot of great pins when we were there.

The following day we went to a Character Breakfast at our hotel. The boys loved writing the character's names on the table while we were waiting.

The characters were all dressed in surf outfits.

After breakfast we walked over to Epcot. I think Epcot has the nicest landscaping of all the parks.

The boys found this little water park and played for a bit.

Nate loved all of the rides at Epcot. He wrote the Nemo Ride several times, Figment a bunch of times and even rode Soaring (Which Glenn and I loved). John was terrified of Figment and only really liked The Land in Epcot.

That evening we were able to walk around the countries a bit which both boys liked.

John loved the trains in Germany.

A bad pictures, but the dwarfs were really cool.

It was a fun 2 days!

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Vacation Day Two

For our second day of vacation we went to Hollywood Studios. We loved that we were able to walk there...and the boys were excited to take the boat home as well. We waited in our longest line here for the Toy Story Ride...about 80 minutes. The boys were great in line and the boys loved the ride.

We went to a couple shows before lunch and then had lunch with a couple of characters.

Afterwards, we went to the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playarea. The boys loved it and raced around for an hour or so.

We visited Buzz and Woody on the way out of the park.

Every night the hotel had a marshmallow roast on the beach. It was pretty much Nate's favorite part of the whole trip.

We walked around the lake in the evening to the Boardwalk.

Pretty much every day we were there we went swimming in the afternoon. The pool was amazing...beware a lot of pictures....

This is the sand/beach/pool area. The pool was 1-2 feet deep and kids were building sandcastles in the middle. The burger spot in the pool area gave the kid's meals in buckets and pails so the kids all had 'tools' to build with. We of course didn't find this out until we ate there the last day so we just swiped a few that were floating around when we wanted to build.

This is John in front of the lazy river. The boys loved it...they didn't enjoy the lazy part of it, they just liked to race Glenn and I from side to side and be pushed by the strong jets.

This is the main pool area, where the slide came down. You can also see a raised sunbathing area in the back there, which would be a nice place to sunbath if you didn't have kids to chase around.

This is the shipwreck slide. The slide was pretty awesome, Glenn and I each went down several times.

Glenn coming down the slide.

Shipwreck area from the back. You can see the slide the boys loved there at the bottom.

The boys loved this little slide. They went down it for hours.

This is John demonstrating how he swims underwater.

We had as much fun swimming as we did at the parks!

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Guess I need to dust the old blog off again, huh. I keep getting close to being caught up and then am right back behind again.

Anyways, we took a vacation in the middle of February during Nate's school break. With the freezing winter we've had, I am glad we did. We had perfect weather and a great time. You'll have to excuse the picture quality, we only took our little point and shoot and I don't think the pictures are as clear. But it was MUCH easier to lug around Disney World and I find I don't take as many pictures at amusement's hard to take pictures when you're going on Dumbo at top speed.

We went to Magic Kingdom on the first day. The boys were excited and we got there right when it opened. We were able to walk on pretty much every ride they wanted to for the first two hours.

John's favorite ride was by far the Dumbo Ride. Then probably Small World. He did not like any ride that was dark and 'scary'. Scary included Winnie the Pooh, Figment and the People Mover. In his defense the People Mover broke while we were on it and it was a bit scary when we had to evacuate it.

Ignore John's scary ventriloquist doll smile. This is his new 'camera ready' smile.

John's favorite part of the parks were the characters, which is a complete 180 from how he acted at Sesame Place.

Nate enjoyed posing with the characters too but he really enjoyed the rides this time as well. His favorites the first day were Winnie the Pooh and the Tomorrowland Speedway.

We stayed until just after lunch and then took the monorail over to Epcot where we saw Pluto. We had to stop and see him because he is the boy's favorite.

The boys then passed out in the stroller while we walked to our hotel which worked out great. After a nap, they were ready to swim and then we went over to Epcot for dinner.

It was a pretty good day one of vacation!
(and I am pathetically proud of myself for posting this....more vacation details to come....someday!)

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