welcome to the place where meetings with birth family, work schedules, personal once in a life time trips, adoption retreat weekends, and exhaustion collide. this is a long one, so get yourself a cup of coffee and settle in.
long before the thought of london we'd planned a build your own pizza party for the day after valentine's with daxton's birth mother and half brother. luckily we were all able to focus on that moment and keep the rushing of preparing to be out of the country for two weeks to the pm side burner for that night. the early evening was lovely and we always look forward to our visits. for this visit daxton's biological mom and half brother were scheduled to come over and spend some time at our house. since my mom was in town to prepare to watch dax, she got to meet them too. we really enjoyed being able to just relax and catch up. we all made our heart shaped pizzas, shared in some cupcakes, and listened to dax's half brother play songs for us on the guitar. dax was completely star struck when he saw the guitar and then saw his half brother playing it so beautifully. once he was done playing the song he'd learned daxton gave him a huge hug. if they weren't previously the best of friends they are now. that totally sealed the deal.
regarding international travel, it all happened in a flash. i found out shortly before it would be time to go that i would need to be in london for one week to get the new uk program up and running for their first assessment. originally i was told i’d be going by myself and after coming back from india, i said i’d never do that again. i am just not a good lonely traveler. so, that’s when we decided will would tag along – and since he’s never been across the pond we’d tack on a train ride over to france for a week in paris. before we knew it the tickets were booked, the nani and the gran-gran were lined up to watch dax and we were on an 8 hour flight from jfk to lhr.
|we took raffie with us as a representation of dax so we could show and tell him about all we'd done and seen.|
the week in london went by quickly. my coworker (who ended up coming last minute) and i worked about twenty hours a day, but we got things set up and rolled out for a pretty successful first assessment the following week. once the work in london was done will and i started our sight-seeing vacation. we took a long adventure in attempting to locate a temple, and after about 6 miles of unnecessary walking, we located it and got to admire its beauty. it was also just good to get out and breathe some fresh air. later we took a sight-seeing tour by open air bus and saw most of the highlights of london including trafalgar square, buckingham palace, big ben, parliament, harrod’s, high tea, hyde park, the underground, a real pub, picadilly circus, and the london eye. for dinner we went to an amazing restaurant (one of my favorite from the trip) called vinoteca. (very reminiscent of our formerly favorite restaurant in raleigh enoteca vin, before it closed down.) our sight-seeing time here was short and the next day we boarded the train for france.
the train ride to Paris was fairly short, only two and a half hours. it was good to finally get into rest/relaxation mode and i actually dozed off for a bit on our ride. once we arrived we gathered up our luggage and were greeted by a driver to take us to our hotel. will and i were taking in all of the sights and appreciating the fact that we’d driven directly around the eiffel tower and that we were actually finally in paris. the hotel was only about two blocks away from the eiffel tower and before we knew it we were checked in and able to drop our bags. i immediately came into the room and opened the windows. it was the one thing that i required of a french hotel. i had to have windows that opened. how very parisian. we relaxed and soaked in the sounds of the bell tower from the nearby church and enjoyed the cool crisp air wafting in from outside. not relaxing too long, we decided we’d head out for some sight-seeing.
after the flea market we headed over to montmartre. i knew we'd be seeing it the following day on our tour, but also knew the weather was not going to be as splendid as it was on monday, so we figured we'd soak it in while we had the sunny window.
|hotel ares eiffel|
after a good night of rest we were out for a day of exploration. we got an early start and located our fresh pastries and espresso. we ate them in a park right around the corner from the bakery. it was so good just to take a deep breath and say "we are eating fresh pastry in paris france!" after breakfast we wanted to get an early start to head out to the flea market. it was something that was at the top of my monday list, since they are only open sat - mon each week. we'd downloaded directions from oh joy and were so glad that we did! we needed every single indicator she'd given!
it was definitely a highlight of my trip, so i got a little nervous when i thought we were not going to be able to find it. when we first got off the metro at the stop we were confused as to which direction to go. we wandered down a street, but it was full of bus routes and seemed to be meandering off into residential areas. we quickly turned and made our way back to the metro stop and then will spotted the necessary sign to get us there. when we got there we made our way up and down the crooked little aisles and pilfered through all of the items. we saw loads of mis-matched silver plated utensils (which is what i wanted) and then spent the next few hours just looking for the exact right pieces. we finally came upon a lady sitting with a dog drinking an espresso. she spoke english quickly after we used our broken french and we chatted about a crucifix she had on a display in the front of her booth. she told us it was from the 1800's and we admired how delicate it was. we asked how much it would be and figured we could swing it, so we picked it up. we asked her if she had any silverware and she said that she didn't, but her friend did - and said she would escort us to their booth. there we found nothing but silverware so she helped us dig through the bins for the classic french pieces. our one interesting find was a booth with all sorts of metal press letters. we dug through and found all of the w's we could find. if i had more room in my suitcase i would have taken home lots of furniture, but shipping back to the us was just not something the budget would allow.
everything seems so peaceful from up here. it was nice to see all of the landmarks and where they are in relation to one another. it showed us how far we'd already walked!
that night we rested our feet and went out for a picnic by the eiffel tower for dinner and the elevator ride to the top. we went to the market and got some foie gras, some wine, cheese, and fruit. then we went to a boulangerie and got a baguette and found our way to a little park bench. we enjoyed our romantic little picnic under the gleam of the tower. after the pic nic we made our way to the line to wait for our turn in the tower. i am not a fan of heights, so i was a little nervous, but i knew millions of people have done it before -so i kept my fear under wraps.
on tuesday we had signed up for a sight seeing tour of paris. there were supposed to be four people on the tour, but because of the weather we ended up with a private tour. the driver was very nice and told us if there was anything we wanted to do or see that was not on the list to just let him know. we felt like we got a great overview of the city, got to see notre dame inside and out, drove all over town in the shelter from the sprinkles, got to see the moulin rouge, and then got a personal tour of montmartre (where the driver was born and raised).
that night we had an amazing dinner at cafe constant. we love getting dressed up and going to dinner, so this was right up our alley. we had no reservations, but we decided to go check it out. when we arrived there were people all milling about the bar area, but nobody seated at a table. after some time we figured out that the first seating is at 7pm, and nobody gets a table before then. so, when 7pm rolled around we were all escorted upstairs where we could sit to prepare for the dinner service. we both enjoyed and favored will's duck dish and thought it was one of the best of the trip. however, the appetizer ouef moullet, a deep fried soft boiled egg over mushroom sauce - was expertly executed and divine enjoyment. my dessert - il flottante was so delicate and delicious, i will never forget every pillowy bite!
the next day we knew we had a moderately sunshiny day so we decided we would literally walk all over paris and take a river cruise. we started out with finding the best coffee shop in town and headed in that direction. here we found amazing cortados and lattes and just enjoyed the scenery for a bit. after coffee we found a boulangerie on our way to our walking tour. we stopped in for some quiche and pastries and then made our way to the steps by the seine river. we enjoyed our leisurely breakfast and soaked in the sun. after enjoying breakfast we walked along the seine and made our way to the docks where you could do a river cruise. we opted for the open air cruise to be able to take pictures. it was a bit chilly when the clouds covered the sun, but it was fine in gloves and coats.
|these ladies kept barging their way to the front of the boat to take their pictures on various devices.|
after the river cruise we decided to walk to the arc de triomphe to see that and the champs-elysées. here we hiked to the top of the spiral staircase inside the arc to see the view from the top. i had never done this before, so it was a fun experience for us to share as a first together. the views were incredible! after sight seeing we at lunch at a sidewalk cafe and i enjoyed the most delicious salade nicoise. it was so fresh and full of flavor. it just so happened that laduree was on the same street, so while in the neighborhood we had to go investigate more macaroons.
this night we came home and rested our feet a little before going out to another amazing dinner. this time we went to le cristal de sel, which was absolutely amazing. here we had some of the most attentive service, forgiveness for broken french, and delicious fare. will had a truffle rissotto (fregola sarda comme un risotto à la truffe noire) that was unbelievable, and my lobster ravioli (ravioles de langoustines, embeurrée de choux et beurre de nage) were so delicate and savory - i can still taste it now! our wine pairings were delicious and the environment was so relaxing and sweetly charming. we both just loved this place!
the day before we'd also injured raffie jr. in a fall at montmartre. he fell off a granite pilaster and broken his leg clean off when he hit the cobblestone. we were able to get a bandaid from my toiletry kit to temporarily mend him so he could carry on his journey until he returned to the us where he could receive medical treatment. he was a good sport about it, but he did ask to be propped up quite a bit.
thursday was our big day to go to the louvre. unfortunately it was raining, but we put on our coats and grabbed our flimsy umbrella and headed out. even more unfortunately was with the rain came wind, and our inferior umbrella was no match for the weather outside the louvre. the line wrapped from one side of the pyramid to the other side of the courtyard. luckily we were only out in it for about 30 minutes, and we dried out quickly once we made it inside.
while inside the louvre we headed for the highlights, knowing that will had never seen these things before. we had to see the mona lisa, the venus de milo, religious art, the dying slave, and the egyptian art exhibit. it was a lot to try and fit in, but we made it all happen. we were inside for about four hours, and after our tour we headed out to pont des art to put our lock on the bridge. we had hoped to make it to the catacombs, but it was just all too much planned for one day and we did not make it there before they closed and we ended up walking around (semi-lost) for about an hour. it was the only thing we'd been unable to locate and were sad to find it on google maps and see that we'd literally walked right past it several times without knowing. will says it gives us reason to have to go back. (i think he liked it here.)
and before you think, oh man how cliche - it really is as romantic as one might suppose to clasp your lock onto this bridge and throw the key into the seine.
it started to rain a bit more heavily at this time and so we made our way over to a bistro and enjoyed a cappuccino, more foie gras, and some escargot. after the rain let up we walked back to our hotel and rested some. we were getting pretty tired at this point so instead of heading out and across town for our last dinner we decided to go to le suffren - it was right around the corner from our hotel and they had gobs of fresh seafood out on display at all times. we'd seen it all week and been thinking about oysters and thought it would be a good fit. we were glad we made that decision. we started our dinner with a champagne toast and a platter of fresh french oysters. they were ginormous! my dad would have been so jealous! we enjoyed every bite and then settled into our entrees. i had duck and will had steak. both were well cooked, but not as good as the two previous night's dinners. because we knew we needed to clean up macaroons we opted to skip dinner and take our tired feet back to the hotel.
we had an amazing time of reconnection and focusing on each other. we enjoyed most every second (aside from my body's overreaction to some eczema that had us attempting to speak french in a pharmacy - allergies are for the birds). we loved experiencing another culture, seeing all of the history, and doing new things together. however, we missed our boy terribly and even though we talked with him on facetime every single day, it was hard to see him over four thousand miles from our grasp. we love that little fella with all of our souls and while we knew he would not enjoy paris, france at this age - it was still hard to not be with him for so long.
the night we got home from the airport we quietly entered his room and just watched him sleeping for quite some time. it brought tears to my eyes to see him peacefully resting there. i kissed my hand and then rubbed the back of his head. finally we were back together.
within a week i was headed for created for care (adoption retreat in lake lanier, ga) with my sisters and mom. that is a whole nother post, which i hope to get to shortly. however, as soon as i get home from one last business trip this coming friday i plan to do nothing but rest and relax with my boy. i've missed just resting with him on the bed and holding him while he watches his shows or holding him on my lap while i read him a story. while traveling the globe is something i think everyone should get the chance to do in their lifetime, having that one on one time with your children is something that is so much more comforting and treasureable than any foreign city could ever hope to be. soon, we'll get to rest.