Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

The 2009 New Year's Eve blue moon as seen from Neuchâtel. It's a cloudy night, but they parted just enough to let the moon peek through.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Arc de Triomphe

Our last day in Paris and yes, we did go a top the Arc. This Arc is truly a monument. It is big and impressive. And the views from up top are expansive.The arc was approved by Napoleon in 1805 to honor France's armies and victories. The Arc's intent changed a little over time and was finally completed in 1836. We bought a gift shop book that explains its history and the artwork adorning it. It is very interesting.

After the Arc we had lunch and then headed for the train station and the trip back to Neuchâtel. We had a good time in Paris. It is a great city to visit.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Science museum

We went to the Science Museum today. The part we visited was much like the kids section in Cincy; in some ways better and in some ways not. Since it is a busy place the ticket price was a time frame rather than unlimited admittance. Parker's favorite part was the water section and Payton's was the construction zone.Our developing pattern was staying up late and sleeping in. We got to the museum mid-day and after we were done it was nap time - for all of us. We headed back to the hotel to rest before heading out again later in the evening.

We walked to and under the Arc de Triomphe but didn't go in it. The ticket line was long. Though our weather was nice it was still cold after dark. It would have been cold topside so we decided to try the Arc again tomorrow. Instead we continued walking down Champs-Elysées.

Avenue des Champs-Elysées between the Arc de Triomphe and Franklin D. Roosevelt is a shopping mecca. It's 8 lanes of heavy traffic flanked on each side with very wide sidewalks. It's a showcase of who is who in retailing. You quickly see why the movies portray people going shopping in Paris.At the lower part of the avenue it is flanked by parks and greenways. Here they had booths setup selling Christmas trinkets, souvenirs, food and drink - a real Christmas bizarre. Payton and I rode a roller coaster, but at the end we didn't ride the ferris wheel.By now Kathleen was getting cold, Payton was doing okay with his Nutella covered waffle and Parker was snug as a bug in a rug sitting in his fleece lined cocoon. I was cool but my flannel lined jeans kept me pretty warm. Our night was done and we headed underground once again to take the Metro home.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Walking with Dinosaurs

I woke up late in the morning today. So late that the family had already been to breakfast. I was tired from yesterday. We were all rested and ready to see some dinosaurs. We headed for the Metro.

Today at 3 o'clock we had tickets for the Walking with Dinosaurs show. We had bought tickets online months ago when we saw a TV commercial for it. We thought Payton would really like seeing it and us too. We purchased 'best seats available' and we got row 24 tickets. We found our section and started walking down the stairs, down, down, down until we were at what I would call row 1. Row 24 was the first row. Holly cow we got the Bob Uecher seats down on the front row!

Man this show was great. I couldn't understand a word of it - it being in French, but you could tell what the show was about. The dinosaurs where all life size and very, very life like. It was so cool. We wondered if Parker would get scared, but he sat and watched wide eyed too. All the dinosaurs were great, but good ol' T-Rex took the cake. This show has been in various cities in the USA for a couple of years and will be into 2011. If this show comes your way, do go see it. It is amazing.

After the show it was back on the Metro and we headed for the Opera area where we had dinner. Where you may wonder? Why at Pizza Hut. And it was pretty good. The pan pizza crust was just as good as in the USA. Parker slept almost through dinner, but woke in time to eat what we saved for him. After dinner we walked towards the Louvre (stopping at a Starbucks) and then walked up the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. There was lots to see; lights in all the trees, a huge ferris wheel, a Christmas bizarre. Tomorrow we are off to the Science museum and on the way home we'll go back to Champs-Elysées area and partake in a thing or two. One thing on the agenda is taking in the view from atop the Arc de Triomphe.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Arrived in Paris today

Today the TGV zoomed us to Paris. The purpose of our trip was to see the European Tour of Walking With Dinosaurs. Besides seeing the show we'll stay a few days and check out a few sites too.

We checked into our hotel around 3 PM. We stayed in the Neuilly-sur-Sienne area in the northeast of Paris. There wasn't much daylight left so our plan for the day was to go see Full-screenRépliques de la Statue de la Liberté (replica of the Statue of Liberty). It is located on the man-made island of Île des Cygnes (Isle of the Swans) in the River Siene. It faces west towards Lady Liberty in New York. Since it is at the end of the island and facing westerly, you have to be on (or in) the river to see it real well. Otherwise you are at its base looking straight up at it. Still, it was pretty cool to see.

By now it was dark. It was cold, but warmer by about 5° than Switzerland - maybe the upper 30s. We went under again to take the Metro home. Our hotel isn't right next to a Metro station. Instead it is surrounded by 3 stations, but each is a short walk. After getting off the Metro and before walking home we stopped for dinner.

We ate at Le restaurant de l'Entrecôte. Kathleen had eaten here on a business trip to Paris a few months ago. No menu. All they served was sliced up steak and french fries; though you could choose between medium and well done. We got there before they were open for dinner - a little before seven. By the time we got in and seated Parker was turning into a wild animal. Nothing we did was settling him. By the time dinner was served his transformation was complete. He was screaming and squirming so much we had to lock him down in his stroller. He wouldn't drink milk. He threw french fries on the floor. I gave him a piece of steak and he started chowin' down. The boy likes steak! We were happy he quieted down and I'm sure the other guests were too - especially the people sitting next to us. He just kept eating steak and refusing anything but steak. He must have eaten 3 or 4 oz. It started out rough, but we were able to finish dinner in peace.

With dinner over we walked home to our hotel. We had put some miles on our dogs and we were pretty tired. We went to bed anticipating tomorrow and the big show.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Scenes from Christmas morning

The kids woke to a nice Christmas morning. Not quite a white one, but there is some white stuff here and there. Parker quickly snatched up the uneaten portion of Santa's cookie and nibbled on it all morning.
The boy's having to wait to open presents from Santa until after pictures are taken.
Payton had asked Santa for Transformers. Santa obliged, but he also gave him some books and other things. Parker got his own tool kit and books too.Kathleen is liking her new Sterlinks bracelet. And Parker is still nibbling on Santa's cookie.Christmas was pretty good around here. We hope your Christmas was nice too.

Oh, and here is the present that Santa forgot. Kathleen 'found it outside'. Apparently this is sort of a Dolan tradition from Kathleen's childhood.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Getting ready for Christmas

Mama Mi she cooked
All day a nice dinner
The boys played inside
On this cold day of winter

The Tree is all covered
And lit to shine bright
Awaiting the visit
From Santa this night

Excitement fills Payton
He behaves at his best
Gets carried away at times
Our patience he does test

Sleep time is near
The family is fed
Hugs and kisses are shared
And it is off to bed

Bells ring and they ding
Dreamy thoughts wisp about
Santa is coming
Awake and shout...

Merry Christmas to All!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Our Christmas tree

We have a nice little tree thanks to Kathleen and Payton. We hauled one of our little trees back from the big house to use here in Switzerland. It's a pre-lit tree, but without decorations. Kathleen had the idea for her and Payton to make some. And some they did. Except for a string of candy all the decorations are cut out from paper. They did a great job and the tree looks really nice.

Yesterday the kids played a little out on the patio. Our snow is a dry snow and doesn't pack well. There isn't enough yet anyway to try to make a snowman. We're expecting more snow this coming week. Hopefully we'll get enough for snowmen and sledging.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

First morning back

Today is our first morning back from the USA. The boys are still asleep - going on 12 hours now. They are wiped out from the trip home. It is about 27° and is snowing. The ground currently has an opaque covering of snow. I don't know how much snow we'll get, but up in the mountains it is probably snowing pretty good. Maybe we'll go sledging this weekend.

We enjoyed our time back in the USA. We had planned only 3 weeks, but ended up staying a little over 4. We delayed our return twice due to dental problems for me. I was scheduled to get a crown, but then had to get a root canal first. It wasn't healing properly. Ahh the wonders of modern medicine. Drugs fixed me right up and on the morning we flew back I was finally able to get my crown put on.

We remodeled our basement while there. During week one I put down a nice 'wood' Pergo laminate floor. It is a huge improvement over the carpet. We had one bedroom carpeted, but otherwise the entire basement has the laminate floor. Week two was Thanksgiving and we spent that with the Dolan clan on Hilton Head Island. This is always a good retreat. We had planned to paint the basement in week 3, but realized the job was to big for us to complete on time. We did the smart thing and hired it out. Had we left as originally scheduled the basement remodel would have stopped here. The extra week allowed me to install the IKEA kitchen cabinets. Not all the parts necessary were in stock. I'd say the remodel is about 95% done. Four cabinet doors, dishwasher, sink, fasten down the countertops, and install the shoe molding around the floor perimeter and it is all done.
Parker loves pushing buttons now. He has become very adept at spotting buttons and instinctively reaches out to press them. The Prez better not leave the football lying around in Parker's presence.

At Hilton Head we had a gathering of 21 at Grandpa and Grandma Dolan's. The icing on the cake would have been Kathleen letting me drive home a '68 Firebird we looked at down there.

This year we may have started a new tradition for ourselves. The drive to Hilton Head is a long one. This year we stopped in Charlotte and stayed overnight at the Great Wolf Lodge. Since it is winter time it is great fun to play in their indoor water park. And best of all, cousins live in the Charlotte area and can come to the park with us! Payton likes this best of all.

The whole time back in the USA I had only one hamburger - from Red Robin. Can you believe it? We had Dewey's pizza three times, the ribs are still great at Texas Roadhouse and we ate way too many Oreo cookies! Gosh those cookies are good.

This morning I am already missing two things from back home; our garbage disposal and our trash compactor. Oh well, time to head off to the store to restock the shelves here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New floor is down

Last Saturday was our first day back in the big house. We had ordered and took delivery of 829 sq. ft. of Pergo flooring. I started that day putting it down and a full seven days later I finished. Actually I am about 99% finished. I have one threshold to put down and shoe molding around the perimeter. Neither will take long, but the molding will have to wait until a future trip home.

No work will be done on our basement remodel Thanksgiving week. Our plan was to paint the basement after Thanksgiving, but we just wouldn't have been able to get it done so we hired this job out. By the time we head back to the mountain house we will have a refinished basement. We are looking forward to seeing how it will look.

I will post a picture or two at a later date.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Halloween 2009

Brushing teeth

Parker 'brushes' his teeth with Payton in the morning. He tries so hard to do everything Payton does. He has taken to standing on Payton's step - leaving no room for Payton. We had to get Parker his own step. This creates new opportunities for Parker. He can now reach the faucet and Parker loves playing in the water just like his brother.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The picture that can not be

This many people happy about the Chiefs? It just can not be. The Chiefs are terrible.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Our trip to London

We’re back from 4 full days in London. I cannot over emphasize how good it was to be in a country that spoke English! Foggy ol’ London did us right with good weather each day. We saw some sites before going to Wembley Stadium on Sunday to see the NFL’s International Series game – the Patriots vs. the Buccaneers.

Payton was thrilled with going to Hamleys toy store our first full day there. It’s one of the world’s largest toy shops and we went to the flagship store on Regents Street. They go all out with many people demonstrating the toys and games. There are many toys out for you to try out too. In all it is six levels of toys, games and fun for all.

Along the River Thames (pronounced temz) we took a ride on the London Eye, viewed Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster, crossed the Tower Bridge and toured the Tower of London.

The London Eye is a huge Ferris wheel rising 443 ft. above the city. The wheel has 32 pods able to hold about 25 people each. A single rotation takes about 30 minutes. It offers a great view of the city.
Big Ben clock tower and the Palace of Westminster are just across the river from the Eye. We just looked at each from afar. I’m not complaining, but to really check things out with a 5-year old in tow is really hard. Parker didn’t come with us. We left him back in Neuchâtel for a vacation of his own with the Marciondo’s.To the west, down river from the Eye is Tower Bridge which we crossed to go see the Tower of London – a huge fortress. The Tower of London isn’t really a tower at all and is mistakenly identified with the White Tower. The tower is actually a complex of many buildings with the White Tower standing tall in the middle. The Crown Jewels are kept at the Tower of London, but they aren’t in any tower. They are kept in the Jewel House which is a long building just north of the White Tower.

We invested the time into seeing the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. And wouldn’t you know it; the only bad weather we experienced was that morning. It was just a light drizzle and it stopped before the Change. We arrived at 9:30 - 2 hours early for the 45 minute ceremony. All told we stood for about 3 hours! You had to do this to get a decent view. We were part of the early bird crowd and got lucky picking a spot. We stood about 10-12 ft. left of the center gate. The ceremony was elaborate and precisely choreographed. An officer marched right up to us several times. When he first did it we thought we might have done something taboo. He surprised the crowd by once saying good morning. We all got a kick out of that. There were two bands and they played very well. And not just fuddy duddy stuff either; it was fairly current music. One song was from Saturday Night Fever. Disco; imagine that. Funny thing was that we were all so engrossed with the ceremony we actually missed the change of guards.By the time the ceremony was over, little Payton was wiped out. It was time for lunch so we carried him to a restaurant. By the time we got to one, he had rested enough and was ready to go for the rest of the day.After lunch we headed to Piccadilly Circus to see Ripley's Believe It or Not museum. Payton enjoyed it and Kathleen and I did too. It was filled with interesting tidbits and fun things for Payton. The world's smallest street legal cars were just his size. If you're a Top Gear fan you will recognize the PEEL 50 from one of their episodes. The last thing in the museum was a real hoot. It was a large diameter spinning tube you walked through. The walkway had railings so you didn't fall over. It was nearly impossible to walk through this tube without leaning on the rails. Any sense of balance went out the window. It was really cool and fun.Here are some general photos of the city on our way back to the hotel. London is very big with lots of people. Both the streets and the sidewalks were jammed with people. Almost everyone spoke English. Heaven.The next day was football Sunday - our last day in London. Before the game we walked around Hyde Park near our hotel. Around 2:30 we headed off to Wembley Stadium to see some American football. Well at least we saw it from one team. The Patriots beat up on the Buccaneers. It was a home game for the Bucs so there was Buccaneer stuff all over just like it would have been back in Tampa Bay. It was fun to see. The Londoners really seem to have taken to the game. This is the third year for this game. Eighty some thousand people attended the game and they all left nearly the same time. Seemingly all were headed to same tube as we were. As many people as there were, we walked right onto a jammed packed train and got home quicker than from any game I have been to in the U.S.Our London trip was pretty nice. I would like to go back. Maybe not London, but instead Blackpool. The place is sort of like an Atlantic City or the Coney Island boardwalk. It is a summer destination for the Brits. It would be a lot of fun especially for Payton and Parker. Next time we will take Parker along.