The Great European Vacation

Having family live in far away places has its benefits. Namely, breaking the travel budget to visit them and explore some really beautiful places. My sister-in-law’s stint in Switzerland will be winding down in the coming months, so it was now or never if we wanted to take advantage of seeing her and taking a side trip to France and the Swiss Alps.

We’re fortunate enough that the kids are old enough to stay relatively entertained by watching movies on the long flights. I definitely feel for the parents of young babies and toddlers walking up and down the aisles trying to calm their crying kids, while less sympathetic passengers give them the evil eye.

We arrived in Zurich, sleep deprived but excited. My sister-in-law met us at the airport and half of us drove back with her to her apartment, while the others took the first of many train rides.

On our first first full day in Switzerland, we traveled to Lucerne, which is about a 20 to 30 minute train ride from my sister-in-law’s town. It’s a beautiful town along the Reuss River, known for its covered bridges.

Chapel Bridge
Chapel Bridge

We strolled along the the river taking in the beautiful sights, while also trying to coax a certain 8-year-old out of her foul mood. Between the jet lag and being forced to wear a winter coat in December in Switzerland, this kid was not happy.

Not all smiles
Not all smiles

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Luckily, her mood improved after a Swiss inspired mac and cheese lunch, a trip to the Dying Lion Monument, and the neighboring Glacier Garden.

The Dying Lion honors the Swiss Guards killed in the French Revolution
The Dying Lion honors the Swiss Guards killed in the French Revolution

The Glacier Garden was just what we needed for the kids. It’s a park and museum, which allowed the kids to burn off some of their excess energy and put the middle child into a happy place.

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While the museum was cool, we all really loved the house of mirrors, even when all three kids bonked their heads by walking into mirrors.

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Lucerne was a great introduction to the beauty that is Switzerland and got us excited for our excursion to Paris the next day.

We took a 4 1/2 hour train ride to Paris, which was great, although the husband would argue that I spent most of the time looking at the French countryside with my eyes closed. He may have been right.

We began our tour of Paris with a trip to Notre Dame. It’s everything you’d expect. Massive, beautiful, and of course filled with kids who like posing in front of the historic church.

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We opted to wait in a long line to climb up lots of stairs to see the gargoyles. We bided our time by eating crepes and drinking hot chocolate. The wait was worth it, allowing us to see some stunning views of the city, even with the overcast sky.

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After this excursion, jet lag really set in and the two younger girls barely made it through dinner.

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They rallied the following day for the trek to the Eiffel Tower and climbing the nearly 700 steps for the first two levels. These kids were determined and step by step, they made it, with little complaint.

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All this climbing and walking made us hungry and thanks to a recommendation from the Rick Steves guidebook, we had what would be arguably our best meal of the trip. A dessert drenched in hot fudge can’t hurt either.

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We capped off this day with a visit to the Musee D’Orsay. I’m not much of an art aficionado, but this museum blew me away. I loved seeing all of the impressionist art. Plus, we went near closing time so the crowds were at a minimum. A bare minimum.

That definitely wasn’t the case when we headed to the Louvre the following day. We waited almost an hour just to buy the tickets, and once inside, it was packed. Jammed packed. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many people this place can hold, and as you can imagine, the biggest crowds clamored to take selfies with the Mona Lisa.

Selfies with the Mona Lisa
Selfies with the Mona Lisa

It’s true what a lot of people say about the famous portrait. It’s a lot smaller in person and not nearly as impressive as I would imagine. Still, the Louvre is a must do when you’re in Paris, so we were pleased we could check it off our to-do list.

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On our final full day in Paris, we spent time strolling along the Champs Elysees and doing a little shopping. Don’t make me try and pronounce it. My French is horrible. First off, we braved Paris traffic to take the perfect photo of the kids in front of the Arc de Triomphe.

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If we were to do holiday cards this year, (which we’re not) this would be on it.

We capped off our final night in Paris with another lovely dinner…. one which poor Erin didn’t quite finish.

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Surprisingly enough, Carrie chowed down at this meal, and at about 4 a.m. it all came back up when she got the stomach flu. Not the best way to end a trip to Paris, but pretty much something you should expect when traveling with family. Luckily, it was a 24 hour flu, so she rebounded pretty well for our final leg of the trip to the Swiss Alps. Unfortunately, she also passed it onto her older sister.

That part of the trip will be saved for the next blog.

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