diamonds and the eiffel tower


We awoke our first morning in Paris to delightfully bright blue skies and waiting Starbucks (thanks Mom and Dad!).  After making breakfast at the apartment, we were off.  Nearly a year ago, while Dad was planning our trip we had CMT on at our house and Taylor Swift’s new music video “Begin Again” was played.  He was working on the Paris portion of the trip and the video shows her in Paris – the majority of the video was filmed 16 (yes, actually 16 steps) out the front door of our apartment.  Naturally, we did some reenactments.  😉 We strolled across Lover’s Lock bridge where tradition says that a couple can lock a padlock on the bridge, throw the key into the rushing waters below and their love will be as secure as the padlock.  The sheer number of locks locked on locks (ten times fast, go!) is amazing.  We found one that dated back to 1977!

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Next we began a walking tour that would result by the end of the day with us having walked over 16 miles throughout the city of Paris!  We started with Les Halles – a shopping district that also contains English St-Eustache that was highlighted for, among other things, begin the location of the funeral mass of Mozart’s mother and the baptism and marriage of Moliere.  We continued to the Louvre where we thoroughly enjoyed taking the cliché tourist photos and watching outer travelers (we will tour the inside on Thursday).  Relaxing a bit around the fountains – plentiful throughout the city of Paris – soon enough we continued to the square where Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were beheaded.  The Arc de Triomphe was next on our walking tour before we headed into Eiffel Tower territory where we ate lunch in the shadow of the famous tower.  It is a bit of surreal moment to finally stand in front of the legendary structure – much like the feeling when we saw Mount Rushmore or the London Bridge.  Forgive the lack of details; I’m too excited to get to the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE story!!  🙂

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Mom and I had been trailing the boys throughout the grounds as they were on an epic hunt for the perfect shot of the Eiffel Tower for the house.  The shots were never just right – there were too many people around, we couldn’t get a full view of the tower, etc.  Just as I was beginning to complain they had ones that would suffice just fine a rainstorm began pelting the tourists lounging on the grass, causing everyone to quickly abandon their spot and sprint for cover.  True Washingtonian that we are the rain didn’t bother us in the slightest; Dad finally had a clear shot of the tower free from other people while Cameron and I decided this would be a great opportunity for some jump shots in front of the tower.  We were laughing and hamming it up for my dad who was taking pictures when I heard Cameron say “how bout one like this?”  I turned around to find him on one knee.  My heart is racing already writing the story but it was absolutely magical and a moment that is forever engraved in the most precious spaces of my memory.  It still hardly seems real.  Obviously I quickly said yes while trying not to cry and we were engaged!!!

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I cannot believe that I get to marry the love of my life and my very best friend but I am so excited to say that we are now officially engaged!! 🙂  To have my parents there (Justin, you are so incredibly missed brother) and to have pictures to remember – my man is the absolute best.  The tours of Paris will continue later tonight and tomorrow, however, no sight will be as beautiful as my love on one knee and his ring on my finger! 🙂


welcome to paris

Leaving southern France and headed for PARIS!!!!  If I’m being honest, I don’t have any tales to tell of the drive, the countryside, etc. because Cameron and I slept the entire way but it seemed a quick trip to us!!  We parked on the curb by our apartment to unload, got yelled at by a 100-year old lady not to park there, and checked into our apartment for the next six days.  Incredible doesn’t even begin to describe this three bedroom, gourmet kitchen boasting beauty that is DIRECTLY across the street from Notre Dame but we will say travel agent Daddy done good 🙂  We got everything upstairs and Mom and Dad took the rental car back to the airport while Cameron and I walked through the streets of Paris to the open air market by the bastilles.  The largest in the city and only on Thursdays and Sundays, we had a fantastic time wandering the continuous rows that snaked back and forth in the shadows of the Bastille.  From produce that you could smell the freshness to handcrafted jewelry, homemade notebooks to stock dresses it was a dazzle for the senses.  We spent a few hours at the market before the wafting sweetness of the crepes made it impossible to ignore our rumbling stomachs any longer.

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Leaving the market to wander the streets of Paris, looking for something to eat.  The streets of Paris.  Again, something that I just cannot capture into words.  They are everything I always imaged they would be and the quintessential Paris of my imagination – ornate, swirling iron balcony’s line the romantic apartments while crepe stands dot the street corners.  The well-dressed Parisian mixes with the camera toting tourist and cheap souvenir stands sit across the street from Louis Vuitton.  Eventually we found a Greek pita type thing for Cameron and an egg, cheese, and ham crepe for me.  Anyone who knows anything about me knows I am a crape devote and the first I had in Paris did not disappoint.  I may have been really hungry but it was the best I’ve ever had without question.

We returned to the apartment to find Mom and Dad back from returning the car – having already eaten at the Irish Pub down the street we headed back out into the Latin Quarter (called so because it is the academic area in Paris and Latin is the language of learning).  Exploring the sites and doing a bit of shopping we tried to find a grocery store to stock the apartment kitchen for breakfast but discovered things closed pretty early on Sunday.

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Abandoning that venture for the time being, we opted for some crepes again (always, more crepes) and headed down to the water for a River Cruise.  While we were waiting for the cruise to start we enjoyed sitting on the point under the shade of the willow tree.  Just over an hour, the boat ride was a great introduction to the city from the rivers edge.  We saw everything from the Notre Dame to the Louvre, all the bridges and the Eiffel Tower.  Our tour guide was a student named Julie who spoke in both French and English – I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone visiting Paris.  It gives you an hour snapshot of the sites that you will visit and had some fun facts mixed in.  For example, we learned the shortest bridge in Paris (The Little Bridge) has already collapsed 12 times; the Parisians originally hated the Eiffel Tower and had plans to demolish it 20 years after its’ construction; if you spent 3 seconds in front of every piece of the art in the Louvre it would take you nearly 2 months to see all of the art.  It was a great time.

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After the tour, the parents headed back to the apartment and we went to get a quick bite at the Canadian Pub down the street.  I’m almost certain it must be a chain of some sort because the menu is in English, the decor is JUST like that of Robin’s favorite Canadian Pub in How I Met Your Mother, and they served comfort food.  It was delicious.  We headed back the apartment and crashed.


goodbye switzerland!

Our last official full day in Switzerland was spent in Berne.  About an hour from Interlaken we arrived in the mid-morning after sleeping in a bit.  We got to explore the old town, stand officially in front of the infamous Swiss Banks (anyone else a fan of Suits?  Pretty funny how the main storyline last night was about laundering money through the Swiss Banks and the next morning we got to visit it!).  We stopped at the Bellevue Hotel, visited the cathedral; saw the family of bears that are the official Bears of Berne.

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We went by Einstein’s Café and Museum – Berne was his home for two years and it was here that he discovered his Theory of Relativity before he moved to Germany.  The shopping was expensive but entertaining – there is a whole layer of shops below ground that are entered by a trapdoor of sorts that is on the street.  We stopped to have lunch as a restaurant called the Spaghetti Factory (not THE Old Spaghetti Factory though).  It was delicious authentic Italian with great flavors – I loved the fresh Parmesan and Cameron was thrilled to get some Buffalo wings.  We walked around Berne a bit more before venturing to our hotel where we caught up on blogging, emails, podcasts, etc. on our last night in Switzerland!

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The next morning we got breakfast and Starbucks in Berne before driving to Geneva.  The traffic getting into the city was tough and coupled with the fact it was more touristy than we expected, we didn’t spend a great deal of time in Geneva.  We went to the beautiful flower clock and walked amongst the bustling street fair that was set up, stopping to get some Swiss Ice Cream (simultaneously very rich and very tart) and a couple of bottles of Evian from a GIANT, PINK fridge.  Cameron said I could get a pink fridge but it had to be in the garage 🙂

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Soon we were back out of town and quickly emerged into the countryside in Southern France.  It was just as I imaged it to be – warm, fields of sunflowers stretched out farther than I could see, and we passed more than one aqua painted garage door and pink house.  The influence of the Italian and Spanish architecture here is very clear in contrast with the German architecture we have become accustomed too.


After checking into the hotel we ventured into town for some dinner but found that nothing opened for dinner until 7:00.  So strange.  We opted instead for a grocery store stop of sandwiches and now must get to bed as we leave for Paris at 6:00 in the morning tomorrow!!

the land of banks, cheese, and chocolate!

Leaving Fussen early, we began our four-hour trek through the Alps to Interlaken, Switzerland, our home for the next three nights.  Winding on switchbacks through the Swiss Alps, waterfalls dotting the roadside, and tunnel after tunnel that barreled us directly through the mountain.  Cameron and I slept for much of the drive and all of us got what I imagine must be infamous Swiss sticker shock when we stopped for the first time to refuel and get a snack a couple hours into the drive – 30 franks later we had 2 bottles of PowerAde and a water!  The Starbucks stop this morning was well over 60 franks for our four drinks and two mugs!  Over the next few days we would grow accustom to the cost of living in Switzerland.  Some average prices we saw on comparable American products?  12.70 for a Big Mac, 6-inch Subway for 7 Franks, grade latté for 8, and top ramen for 2.30!  And the Swiss Frank is worth more than the American dollar! 🙂

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Soon enough we arrived in Interlaken, checked into our apartment, and walked a couple blocks to the local grocery store to get some snacks, breakfast items, soup for Cameron who wasn’t feeling great, and dinner stuff to cook in our apartment kitchen.  We practiced the public transit for the next day and walked back to the apartment – sampling Swiss chocolate at the plentiful shops along the way.  Let me tell you – it is worthy of all the hoopla.  This chocolate is the stuff of legend – even Mom tried some and Cameron loved it (Mom hasn’t had sugar in nearly seven years and Cameron is not a chocolate fan for reference).  While waking it was incredible to watch the swarms of skydivers come from every direction, faster than the jets at Chicago O’Hare Airport in rush hour.  Back at the apartment early, we took the opportunity to relax, catch up on emails and Suits, and get to bed.

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The following morning we set out to enjoy the truly marvelous beauty of the Swiss Alps.  It is hard to believe that you are actually here when you just spin around – it looks like a photo-shopped vista.  The colors are too vivid and varied to be real, the lines too crisp, the textures too intense.  I wish I could say that words cannot describe the beauty we witnessed and you should just look at the pictures – but the pictures also fall short.  If you ever have the chance, hiking and biking through the Swiss Alps is a must. We began by driving up the valley to Lauterbrunnen to park the car and catch the gondola – a vertical 2 km ride up to Grutschalp.  From there we began hiking through the gorgeous mountains, our eyes trying desperately to take it all in.

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We walked to Winteregg and continued onto Murren where we stopped to eat.  I guess the view from our table on the patio was okay:

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We continued hiking on to Grimmelwald where we caught a different gondola back down to Stetchelberg.  The ride was so steep that it was akin to a roller coaster – I actually lost my stomach like you do when you drop down a coaster.  We walked from Stetchelberg a bit farther to catch the bus back into Lauterbrunnen.  All told we hiked over 12 miles and witnessed some of the most incredible beauty I’ve ever seen.  I still think the Scottish countryside is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been but the Swiss Alps are a mighty close 2nd

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From Lauterbrunnen we drove Grindelwald; it was very touristy so we ended up just driving through it and opting for dinner back at Interlaken.  Cameron and I went out to explore a bit more of the city and look for dinner; we tried some more Swiss chocolate and he still wasn’t feeling top-notch so we opted to go back to MIGROS (grocery store) and get some soup, smoothies, peanut butter, and jelly to make back at the apartment.  Blogged a bit, did some laundry at the apartment, and we all crashed early – ready for another busy day tomorrow.

Having wanted to take the bikes that our apartment had around the day before, our receptionist advised us wait because they had some flooding going on so today we were excited to bike through the Alps.  The bikes were great for Dad and Cameron but much too big for Mom and I so the boys took theirs and we rode into town center to rent bikes for the girls.  Soon we all had mountain bikes that fit properly and we were off!

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We began by riding along the shores of Brienz Lake.  I realize I’m just repeating myself but the beauty of the ride cannot be captured in mere words or photographs.  The water is the most brilliant aqua-turquoise color that was exactly the same hue of my shirt.  If the crisp wind coming off the water didn’t remind me of better, I would have sworn it was the warm water of the Caribbean.  The Swiss Alps and the scenery of our bike ride was nature’s finest watercolor, the intense blue of the water juxtaposed perfectly against the true blue of the sky with the mixture of soft greenery and harsh stone in between.  The white of the snow capped mountaintops blended seamlessly into the white of the clouds and the whole thing seemed too vivid to be real.  Needless to say, it was an enchanted ride around the water.  We made it as far as Iseltwald (up some awfully steep and long hills!!) before Cameron’s bike chain broke while he was just riding it!  Bummer.  The guys engineered it back together to ride it as far as the bus station.  We hopped a bus back to Interlaken to switch the bike out and grab some lunch while Mom and Dad rode back around and got a Subway for lunch.

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We met up at the hang glider park where hundreds of hang gliders land every hour, throughout the entire day.  Back on the bikes (with some sore butts by this time!) we rode around the opposing lake, to West Interlaken, and then to Thuner See by route of another ruined castle to explore.

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We were all getting tired so we dropped the rental bikes off and Mom and Dad picked us up with the car to drive up to Brienz.  We admired all the woodcarvings that the town is famous for and were mesmerized by that water.

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We looked for a restaurant for dinner but all decided cooking for ourselves in the apartment sounded much better than eating out again 😉 We stopped by MIGROS collected some ingredients and made a yummy dinner back home.  Some awesome time talking to Justin (NOW THAT HE HAS HIS PHONE BACK!! Woop!) and we went to bed for our last Interlaken night.  The next morning we were on to Berne, Switzerland.

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