Lots of goodbyes today :(

Today was the day that Brandon and Jameson Welch got to fly to Salt Lake. Tomorrow they will start their two weeks at Sky Mountain Ranch. It is fun to see these boys growing up and growing in confidence. It seemed quite normal to be taking them to the airport and sending them off together to board their plane and figure out all the travel on their own. They are 14 and 15 years old now. We will definitely miss them, but I wouldn’t have them go anywhere else or participate in anything better. They will have two weeks of hiking, working, playing, growing, learning, friendships, and fun. Brandon took his guitar with him on his back. They had their backpacks and gear. What great boys!
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Tonight was the send off for the Pearson family. They have been in Palo Alto for three years. I feel like they are members of our family. They are heading off to Colorado for more medical training. It is hard to say goodbye to so many great people. But I am excited for them in their new adventures. We had a bunch of families get together for dinner and goodbyes. Love these ladies!


Home from France and England!

We had to rise early to get to the airport for our flight. We took a taxi and it was raining a bit. We got there on time, and the flight was delayed. We ate some food and read and waited. It is Brandon’s birthday. We gave him a puzzle book and some treats.


After we boarded we had our movies and food and sleep time. I was tired. I watched Lincoln and Pretty in Pink and slept. The kids had time for games and movies and a little sleep. This is Brandon’s longest birthday ever.

We arrived home around 4:30 and everyone wanted to go to sleep around 5:30 but we got Subway sandwiches and around 6:30 got ready for bed. The three youngest girls fell asleep on the couch reading around then. I went to bed just after 7. Brandon was at his friend’s house and went to bed the latest after watching the Giants game. Wish we could have celebrated more for him, but we were just too tired!

Last day in Paris! Louvre, Eiffel Tower

Our last full day in Paris! We did some of the biggies. We took the metro to the Louvre.IMG_2430We waited in a bit of a line to get into the Louvre, but it was in an underground mall, so it was tolerable. Then we just decided to head straight for the Mona Lisa and see that section of the Louvre. The building itself is massive and full of amazing art at every turn. The Mona Lisa was definitely a gathering place.

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IMG_0492 IMG_0510 IMG_0509 IMG_0507We went out to the Tuileries gardens for a stroll and to find pastries and lunch. Then we spent some time on the carousel and they even had a trampoline park!IMG_0517 IMG_0518

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There was some rain in the sky, so we had our umbrellas we had borrowed from the Flanigans. We headed over to the Eiffel Tower.IMG_2450 IMG_2466 IMG_2465 IMG_2460 IMG_2454 IMG_2452 IMG_2451IMG_0525 IMG_0521DSC_7302 DSC_7336 DSC_7328 DSC_7307

Robin, Maren, Brandon, and Erik walked up to the first level of the Eiffel Tower. It started to really rain, so Nicole, Camille and I sat underneath and found some souvenirs.

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It was raining and we went toward the metro to find dinner.IMG_2469 IMG_2472 IMG_2471We decided to go to the Champs Elysees and find a restaurant. We found a nice meal and then Nicole, Camille, and I did some shopping while the others headed home.IMG_2473 IMG_2476 IMG_2474DSC_7360 DSC_7368 DSC_7361We walked home and saw this sign calling us home.IMG_2489We had a cake with the Flanigans to say goodbye and celebrate Brandon’s birthday early.DSC_7372 DSC_7377 DSC_7374 DSC_7373We loved these kids and Jennifer and Rob have been so generous to let us stay with them. What a blessing to us! The kids are so cute and fun. And now to pack! Paris was enchanting and delicious and so interesting.

Church, Notre Dame, Amorino, Ste. Chappelle

This morning Maren woke up not feeling so well, so I stayed home from church with Maren and Robin. Erik took the other kids to church in the Paris ward. It was a very international ward with translation into Chinese, English, and of course it was in French. They saw the Mickelsens, the BYU study abroad group and the Handleys, and other people they knew.

After lunch we went to Notre Dame to meet the Handleys.IMG_2392 IMG_2398 IMG_2396 IMG_2395 IMG_2394

We walked around the church. Maren was feeling better enough to come along. After the church, we walked over to the see the amazing stain glass windows in Ste. Chappelle.IMG_2399DSC_7160 DSC_7194 DSC_7177 DSC_7175 DSC_7169 DSC_7167 DSC_7166 DSC_7164

Then some of us went up to see the gargoyles on top of Notre Dame, and others went over to the bridges over the Seine and got some crepes.

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We met back up and got some crepes for dinner followed by some ice cream at Amorinos. They make flowers with the ice cream out of different flavors.


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We walked down to the river to eat our ice cream and enjoyed the evening.

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We went over to the lock bridge where people put locks to commemorate their love.

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More views of the Notre Dame from that angle.

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Musee d’Orsay, Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur

We had our first full day in Paris. It is good to be here. The kids are a bit tired of going here, there, and everywhere, so we gave them the morning off. Erik, Nicole, and I headed over to Musee d’Orsay for the morning. It is always a feast for the eyes to be in the building and see all the Impressionist art. We had our first ride on the Metro.

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We enjoyed taking our time and seeing the art and building. We got home and packed the kids up to go to the park for a picnic with the Flanigans and the Halls. The Halls are members of the church, another American family. We ate sandwiches and played and talked.

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IMG_2380 IMG_2382 IMG_2383After lunch we decided to head down from the Flanigans to the Arc de Triomphe. We got tickets to hike to the top. Another dizzying spiral staircase to great heights. Makes me nervous. But the views from the top are fabulous.

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Camille could tell I was nervous and came down to the gift shop with me. We shopped a bit, and then got back on the metro to go to Sacre Coeur. We had dinner in the Montmartre section with some live singing and crowds of people in the background.


Then we headed over to ride the tram to the top where the church is. Sacre Coeur is another amazing church and has great views of of the city. DSC_7099


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Then we headed down the long steps to a carousel below.

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Before we head back home on a bus, we had some crepes and stopped in a chocolate shop and saw chocolate sculptures and got some treats.

DSC_7155A fantastic day in Paris!






Mont St. Michel and Versailles

It was time to say goodbye to our retreat in the countryside. We packed up and closed down the house. We got on the road up to Mont St. Michel, a little city and abbey on an island off the coast. We didn’t have time to explore, just to see it and take pictures.



We decided to try and get to Versailles by the end of the day. So we took off, found some food and gas, and then drove the 4 hours to Versailles. Just a couple wrong turns. And we came as most of the crowds were leaving. It was half price after 5:30, and we only had an hour to explore, but that was about the threshold of the youngest of the kids, and we were planning to explore the beautiful gardens for an hour or two.

We got in and headed to the Hall of Mirrors and the Kings and Queens chambers. This is quite a palace!

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When we went out to see the gardens, it was closed for a light and fountain show. We were so disappointed. Nicole was excited to take pictures, such a bummer! We regrouped with our disappointment and headed back into Paris.


Relax & Explore Le Mottay

Another day to play games, read, and relax. We explored around the house some more, and just took the day to be still. I am getting our laundry done from the last week. Erik and I drove to the town Evran to pick up a few things for dinner. But otherwise we just explored and relaxed. We got some radishes from their garden. We went on exploration and photography expeditions. It has been a delight to be here.

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Swimming in Dinan and Le Mottay

We slept in since there were curtains that kept the sun out. We got some croissants and juice and pain au chocolate for breakfast. I am loving these pastries in France. We packed up and then Erik swam with Maren, Robin, and Camille. They even had a hot tub. Fun times.

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We heard from Rob Flanigan that the cleaning crew that cleans their country house was going to unlock the house for us! So after the swimming adventure, we walked around Dinan and took some pictures along the river.

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We drove up to the house, Le Mottay, and the door was unlocked! What a fantastic house. It is an old stone house that the Flanigans have restored and added bathrooms and running water. It was fun for the kids to explore and get settled in.

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It was great to relax and explore and discover a new part of the world. Erik and I got some groceries and gas back in Dinan. We are happy with eggs and sausages and crepes and nutella and baguettes and fresh fruit and vegetables after eating out for so many days.

After dinner we went and explored the surrounding area. There is a lock and canal next to the house and lots of old homes and lovely walks in the woods.

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We feel so blessed to have this time out here to relax with the kids and play card games and play and read.

Out to the French countryside

We had a leisurely morning in Paris at the Flanigans. I walked over with Jennifer to pick up her kids from school. We stopped in a bakery to get sandwiches. I fumbled through a few attempts at some French, but picked up some baguettes and pastries for lunch. We ate and slowly got ourselves ready to make the drive out to Brittany. We are borrowing the Flanigans Volvo that has 7 seats! We made it to the Arc de Triomphe.IMG_2362 IMG_2363

It was a wild ride around that driving circle but Erik was fearless and we made it out to the Peripherique and toward the highways that take us out of Paris. We just kept driving and made it out toward Brittany. It was a four hour drive.

We stopped for some pizza and dinner and arrived at Le Mottay, the Flanigans’ country house around 10 pm. It was still very light outside. A neighbor met us to let us into the house. The key did not work! We tried several times but there were keys in the locks from the inside and we just could not get in. What to do?DSC_6897

The neighbor recommended driving into Dinan, about 15 minutes away, where there was a Best Western he knew about. So we did, and they had room for us, a pool to swim in the morning, and we unloaded for an unexpected adventure! It was a very nice hotel. We had three rooms and got settled in. Off to bed after midnight.


Last day in London, and on to Paris!

Our last day here in London! I could use a few more days to see everything, but we for sure wanted to see Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. We decided to stop by the Courtauld Gallery on the way. It houses some art of the Impressionists and has a cool staircase that we took some pictures of, more fear of the dizzying heights. But with Camille’s fearless camera work we got some cool shots of the building.IMG_2284 IMG_2286 IMG_2285

We then ran over to the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. We enjoyed learning more about the amazing transportation over the hundreds of years in London. Going on all the busses and trains and boats and the tube has been a highlight of our trip!


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They had a history of many of the posters from the tube over the years. There is some brilliant graphic design in all of that.

We headed out to Covent Garden to find lunch and got a feel for the outdoor markets there.IMG_2296 IMG_2297We finally found lunch at a noodle place called Wagamama. Fun place.


We hopped on a bus over to Westminster Abbey. Erik found an app for the busses in London that has helped us navigate that part of the transport.

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Westminster Abbey is massive and impressive and full of history. So many people are buried here, from British royalty over hundreds of years, to poets and authors. We had a children’s tour that kept us moving and learning in our hour at the abbey.IMG_2301 IMG_2302 IMG_2304 DSC_6794 IMG_2303 IMG_2307 IMG_2305 DSC_6791 DSC_6787 DSC_6786 DSC_6782 DSC_6781Many of these places don’t allow photography inside, so we just settled for some pictures outside. Parliament was in session, but the line to get in was two hours long, so we visited Jewel Tower across from Parliament. It is a building form the 1600s that housed many documents from the government.

Here is the view of Parliament from Jewel TowerDSC_6801IMG_2309 IMG_2311 Jewel TowerIMG_2308 IMG_2313 IMG_2310 It was time to go and get packed up for our train through the chunnel to Paris. So we got back on the tube and back to the apartment. We changed beds, vacuumed and left some goodies for Rob Flanigan who lent us the use of the apartment. We got all our bags out the door and headed for the tube.IMG_2317 IMG_2334 IMG_2318

Somehow there were not many trains heading the direction we needed for St. Pancras. So we waited about 15 minutes for a tube train, it was around 5:15. And when the tube train arrived it was packed and we had 7 rolling bags and our other hand carried items. We barely squeezed on and were on a packed train. We made it! It was a little stressful. But we got to the train station, and it was a very nice station to get on the Eurostar over to Paris. We got sandwiches and dinner. And then we waited for them to call our train. We had to go through a passport line again, but we did not have to check our bags. We did have assigned seats. We read and played games and relaxed on the train. It was very smooth and fast. We were only in the chunnel for about 20 minutes I think. The whole trip from London to Paris was just over 2 hours.DSC_6806 DSC_6805 DSC_6803We arrived in Paris a little after 10, got some euros, and then found 2 taxis to the Flanigan’s apartment in Paris! We arrived and got buzzed in. Jennifer was there and was so kind to us. Her eight year old boy was still up. And they shared some bunk beds, the front couch, and a downstairs bed and loft bed with us. We got settled in, had some drinks and snacks, and then went to bed. What a blessing their hospitality has meant to us on this trip!