I recently bought some siren whistles so we can pretend to be rahsaan Roland Kirk, who frequently used them in his performances. Meg immediately loved them and got creative with them.
Today, we Paris-ed all day. We started with Notre Dame, which is the only church we’ve had to wait in line to good inside. It’s a good thing it’s pretty. Which it is. The gardens around the side are also pleasant.
We got on the batobus on the Seine, which is a boat that works like a hop on hop off bus. We took it to Jardin de Plantes, which is the next stop. We wandered the gardens by the river and the kids found art and playgrounds. We walked across a bridge to Ile San Louis and peaked into the church there, which we had to ourselves, in contrast with Notre Dame. We bought a picnic lunch from a small, local bakery, which we ate in another park. Then we found some pretty incredible ice cream, which we took with us on a walk.
We took the batobus to the Louvre stop. We stopped at the mall under the Louvre pyramid, mostly for their pay bathroom where they try to sell you colored toilet paper on your way out. We explored the Tuileries park, including the carousel.
We went into the Museé d’Orangarie to commune with the impressionist, especially the two rooms filled with Monet’s Water Lilies, which was pretty special and naturally well lit. The kids were moved, but bored by the wall of Renoir’s downstairs.
Then we headed back to our apartment via batobus, tired and happy. After dinner and bathes, so sort of march went by our street. Always something happening here.
Thursday was a holiday because Europe is awesome. We went to some sort of historical festival around an abbey of a neighboring town with some of Rob’s coworkers. There were crafts and rides. Spencer loved the bumper cars. Meg loved the swings. I loved the Ferris wheel. Rob loved being done with work for the trip and the beer.
Wednesday we took a regional express train to Köln, about an hour from Aachen. We toured the cathedral (the relics include the bones of the 3 wise men who were the first to make a pilgrimage to Jesus), saw a rail bridge covered in love locks, walked along a river walk, toured the chocolate museum, and played in some fountains.
Where we stayed was really close to Stadt Park, a large park with a couple nice playgrounds. Here are several shots of the kids enjoying the gardens, fountains, and playgrounds.
Aachen has been a city for more than 2000 years. One highlight is that in 800, Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in the Cathedral. We saw some old Roman ruins and visited the Cathedral.
The cathedral is impressively ornate. One of one the gold boxes holds Charlemagne’s remains. The other holds the churches relics: Jesus’ swaddling blanket and loin cloth, Mary’s clothes, and John the Baptist’s decapitation cloth. They only take them out every seventh year, so we only saw the box they are in. We also did not see Charlemagne’s stone throne on the second floor because it was only accessible once a day as part of a tour only available in German.
One of Rob’s coworkers, Lena, is from Gent. We road tripped there and explored the city with both of our families. We were charmed by the sights and by the inhabitants of the city. Like Maastricht, Gent has a pedestrian only downtown. In contrast with Maastricht, the city felt very comfortably lived in. Both cities were delightful.
We had lunch (the kids got Belgian waffles!), went on a river boat ride, toured churches and a castle, enjoyed street art, found ham hanging from rafters, and of course had ice cream.
The boat ride was delightful on a hot day. The castle had exhibits on midevil weapons and torture, including a replica of a guillotine. Meg had a really hard time with why humans would hurt each other like that. The rest castle was neat, and all the stone keeps it cool in the warmth. The kids now consider themselves experts on churches and castles.
We also parked in an interesting parking garage, with ambient music, free and clean bathrooms, paintings of books on the wall, and a machine to test your BAC before getting in your car.