Princess for a day!

It was suggested that when traveling with kids, a good idea might be to give them full reign for a day (or two or three).  We decided while we were in Paris, this would be a great place to do it.  There is so much to see and why not change up what we normally would have put on the agenda and let the kids be in charge for a change. Good for them to have the responsibility to figure out what interests them about the city, where to find it on a map and to plan out the day.

First up was our youngest daughter and her day went a little like this:

1. Musee Rodin

2. Walk down the Champs Eysees and Avenue Montaigne for some window shopping.  Or as they say in France, “faire du leche-vitrines” which literally translated means window licking, although we only drooled a little…

3. Stopped for a sweet crepe.

4. The Eiffel Tower at dusk!

It was a truly great day!

Next, it was my oldest daughter’s turn to be princess for the day.  She chose another amazing adventure and it went something like this:

1. Jardin du Luxembourg

2. A special French lunch

3. A visit to the English bookstore Shakespeare & Co. (it was just across from Notre Dame so we stopped in there also).

4. The Sorbonne

I cannot wait to see where they pick to go next!

The Tower of London

There is something for everyone at the Tower of London. History, drama, trickery, weapons, torture, death, royalty and lots and lots of diamonds. Since we did not arrive until the afternoon we ran out of time to see the “rack” which my husband was tortured by missing (pun intended, sorry…).


We took the walking tour with a Beefeater, who is also known as, the Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary (what a name…I would go with Beefeater too!). He showed us around the incredible grounds of the Tower and then we headed inside to see the Crown Jewels. There are over 11 tons of gold and some of the largest diamonds in the world, absolutely stunning! We viewed Queen Elizabeth II’s crown, which she will wear for the State Opening of Parliament in early November.

On our way out, my husband and daughter met the first female Beefeater and then a gentleman who worked at the Tower and he gave my daughters a special pin from a recent opening of an exhibition at the Tower. The same pins had been given to some of the members of the Royal Family when they attended the opening. We felt very lucky! He then brought us up to a private area in the Middle Tower, which is where his office was located. We were able to climb to the top of the Tower and had an amazing view of Tower Bridge. He told us about meeting some of the Royal Family and his experience as an expert on Admiral Lord Nelson, the infamous royal naval hero. It was quite an exciting afternoon! One we will always remember!

Long Live the Queen!

We have been in England for two weeks now and really love it! Arriving into England, after driving off the train, which took us under the English Channel from France, we found it really nice to see road signs that we understood! Although, there are still several words that got lost in translation… Several times we all looked at each other and said, huh what did he say? We are all speaking English but that doesn’t necessarily mean all things are understood! There are many books out there to help us Americans as we travel through beautiful England.

We are staying in a lovely cottage in the heart of Kent, owned by a wonderful couple. The cottage is a refurbished barn and the main home is approximately 700 years old. It is so green here and coming from Southern California, green is a very nice change. My sister and her really good friend Karen came to visit us. It was so great to see some familiar faces! We spoke with the owners of the cottage about getting a cot for them to sleep on. They asked if we needed a high chair too and we went, uh oh, I think we got off track somewhere. As we found out, a cot in England means a baby crib and no my sister is not a baby sister…so we opted for a blow up mattress instead. We are getting quite use to the language differences now and of course, love the accents. Once, we pulled over to ask for directions, and this sweet girl said she loved our accents, I have to say I have never heard that one before!

We have seen some amazing places. The richness of the history is so striking from Dover Castle, Leeds Castle, the City of Canterbury to the British Museum. The City of London itself is a museum, with its amazing buildings and tradition, and the Royal Family, I am in awe.

It is incredible to experience a country that has had so much history and importance. Dover Castle’s history spans over 2,000 years from the Old Roman Lighthouse to the World War II tunnels it was fascinating to see.

The English love their sports and we enjoyed visiting Wimbledon and watching a football match (soccer…) at Wembley Stadium, such a treat! We heard lots of “outstanding” and “brilliant” as the English football team easily defeated Italy’s San Marino team. We heard a lot of other words too that we’re not “lost in translation” but I am trying to keep this a family friendly blog.

We are here for another 10 days and are planning to see Windsor Castle, the Tower of London and will also be visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour for my oldest daughter’s 11th birthday. What a life I am living, feeling very lucky!

The Joy of Eating in France

Our experience of eating in France has been no less than a delectable celebration of food. Every meal we have had here has been incredible. Food is very regional and being in Normandy, we have certainly enjoyed our fair share of Camembert cheese. One of the most delicious meals we enjoyed was a stew with chicken, potatoes, carrots, broccoli and mushrooms all sitting in melted Camembert cheese. I am afraid to know how many calories.


Baguettes have quickly become part of our daily ritual. We watched families buy 5 or more baguettes in the markets and at first we thought they were crazy, and now we completely understand how you must eat a baguette with pretty much everything. Cheese, of course, but with soups and for sandwiches, also. It is a staple for us now!

We have become friends with the waiter at the local Creperie. Since we are eating with kids, we have to make sure there is something for everyone on the menu, and this place has it all. Galettes are savory crepes and you can have them several ways. Ham and cheese being the most common but the choices go way beyond my French translation. Our girls had the most amazing pizza served on a puff pastry instead of pizza dough, it was out of this world. My husband and I shared a puff pastry filled with goat cheese and tomatoes and I about died, yes from my arteries being clogged and also the euphoric sensation of every bite, it was truly that good!


The fun doesn’t stop there though because for dessert it is time for the sweet crepes, which you can have with a multitude of toppings, plain sugar to caramel to Nutella and bananas. From there you can add ice cream or even have it flambéed, quite lovely indeed.
We have been to several of the weekly farmer’s markets. You can find one any day of the week. Fresh cheeses, dairy, meats, produce, pastries, bread and local ciders are just some of the treats you may come across. It is great to watch the locals collect their delicious ingredients to take home. Many of the vendors have beautiful displays showcasing their goods. It is a busy place with so many interesting things to experience. I am really looking forward to checking in on some of the markets in Paris, when we return to France in November. That should be another unforgettable time. I better get in some exercise before then…

Honfleur, Normandie

Honfleur is not to be missed on a trip through Normandy.  Claude Monet spent a lot of time here painting it’s harbor and streets.  It is easy to see why, Honfleur is breathtaking!  I am so thankful to have visited, especially as we head to Giverny, Monet’s home, tomorrow.  Traveling, ahhhhh!  Good stuff!

Palace of Versailles

Driving up to the Palace of Versailles had us all wondering with excitement.  Would it at all be like Hearst Castle which we had visited earlier in the summer?  Well, not at all, the Palace of Versailles makes Hearst Castle look like a guest house, albeit an amazing guest house!  The grounds where the Palace of Versailles sits are enormous.  The formal French gardens were originally designed by Andre Le Notre and took forty years to complete.

Hard to imagine what life must have been like for the royal families who lived in the Palace before the French Revolution, but what a spectacle it must have been.  Complete opulence. 

Every turn of the corner brought another incredible priceless wonder.

What a treat to see this treasure of France!

Au revoir!

We made it!

Years and years of dreaming, months and months of planning and we are finally here!  Although we are in a time zone sort of fog, I think everyone is in agreement that it has been so worth the wait!

Since we are here for so long, we can relax and enjoy the moment without rushing to see all the sights, which is a whole different way to travel.  Arriving in Paris in the morning, after an overnight flight, we picked up our car for the next six months and headed to a hotel, getting lost but not really worrying about it.  Our little adventure helped us to really get going with trying to remember basic French and was a great introduction for the kids.

Unfortunately, once we found our hotel, we all fell asleep and woke up at 9pm…it took me awhile to realize that the sun was going down, not up…

The next morning we did a quick drive around Paris and saw the Louvre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.  We will be back to stay in Paris later in our trip, but had to at least drive by some sights and of course, grab a crepe before heading to Normandy.  We are all in agreement that Paris is a magical city, ahhhhh!

This is where we are staying for the next three weeks.

It is such a sweet cottage in a beautiful part of Normandy.  We have sheep as our neighbors and the only traffic is an occasional tractor going by.  The perfect place to adjust to the time, get started with homeschooling and visit all the amazing places in Normandy.  I feel as if I am dreaming!

Hot, hot, hot!

Well we are done with Palm Springs, thankfully! As much as I love Palm Springs and its environs in the winter, summer is another story.  There is much to appreciate in the Coachella Valley with its desert landscapes, mid-century architecture and wonderful resorts but as much as you try, the heat is just oppressive and there is only so much of being in the pool (which is the only place that makes being outside bearable).  I have had a hard time not being outside, we are very spoiled here in Southern California! 

We have had fun though and have tried to make the most of the heat.  Palm Springs was the best place for us as we try to stay on budget. We do have a pretty big trip planned for the next 6  months so we  needed a place where it was easy on the bank account.

While in Palm Springs we have been lucky to be able to see lots of friends and family, plan a few more stops for our European adventure, get the girls in some French classes and swim classes, watch lots of the Olympics (loved it!) visited the Palm Springs Art Museum and began our online homeschooling.  This was especially good on the really hot days when there was not much else to do anyway…
Don’t tell anyone but both girls learned how to drive a golf cart and a golf ball (you can tell people that part) but not the driving the golf cart part, not sure exactly the “rules” for that one. They enjoyed driving the golf carts much more than the golf balls but still did amazingly well, they get it from their dad! Not an easy sport. Takes a lot to get that little ball all the way to that little hole!

Trying to come up with fun indoor activities, we headed to the bowling alley, they have got to do something about the slimy finger holes in the balls and the shoes! Just saying…yikes!
Now we are in Idyllwild, it is 20 degrees cooler and very nice to see some greenery. Idyllwild is a sweet little town in the mountains with lots of art galleries and great hiking trails. I am excited to be able to be outside without sweating. Next, we head to San Diego to spend our last weeks in the States before heading abroad. Looking forward to seeing family and friends!

Here is my very handsome husband in Idyllwild.  It is so nice and beautiful, such a nice change from the desert!

The girls love it here and are out searching for forest faeries as we speak, so sweet!  It is strange with everyone getting ready for back to school and we are well, not…  So excited for our traveling adventures to begin!

Schooling on the Road

Figuring out how to school my children while we are traveling has been one of the biggest concerns of our adventure to Europe. There are so many choices for homeschooling but homeschooling on the road, is a little bit different. In many communities there are homeschooling groups that seem to be very successful but for us, a computer and wifi are what we will rely upon.

I only looked into homeschooling because of our extended traveling and may not have looked at it otherwise. Homeschooling definitely is gaining in popularity and since researching about it, I can easily see why. With the unfortunate state of our schools, social issues and the bonus to have such influence on your child’s education, make homeschooling very appealing. We have been fortunate to have had a very good experience in public schools and have been in good school districts.  I have the utmost respect for the incredible teachers and principals we have had.  Of course, there are always “issues” though and I can only imagine how hard it must be for so many.  I definitely now see homeschooling as an excellent option for anyone who may need an alternative type of education. Once we return from our trip and head back into the traditional school system, I will know we have an exceptional “back-up” plan, if needed, and may end up going that route anyway depending on our experience. I have found several traditional schools that are becoming more flexible to the changing climate of education with more independent study programs suited for individual children, I think this is a wonderful trend. It is so great to get out of that box.

We will be using an online homeschooling program, as lugging around textbooks is not a good option. I plan on supplementing with history, art, foreign language, geography and cultural activities in the countries we are visiting. I am amazed on what there is online these days, really a limitless source of education. I have been collecting an incredible list of online resources and have been using some of them as we finish up the school year in our public school (some are listed below). 

We will gather all the required standards for our daughters’s grade levels to make sure all our bases are covered. We also have to file a private school affidavit with the California Department of Education, we become a private school. We have to keep attendance records, as well. All of this seems doable but I will keep you posted on how it all goes.

Obviously, my children’s education is incredibly important to us and their life experiences are as well.  I am hoping the combination of traveling and schooling will open up their minds to the endless possibilities of life.  They can do anything they want to do, no limitations.

Below is a list of resources that I have found.  Some I have used, some I plan to use…  Most are free but some do have membership costs.

www.khanacademy.org

www.time4learning.com

www.brainpop.com

www.xtramath.org

www.cut-the-knot.org

www.spellingcity.com

www.bbc.co.uk/skillwise/english

www.storybird.com

www.chompchomp.com

www.gosocailstudiesgo.com

www.sciencekids.co.nz

www.howstuffworks.com

www.scistarter.com

www.sciencetoymaker.org

www.kidsdiscover.com

www.makingmusicfun.net

www.artsconnected.org

www.web4.audubon.org/educate/kids/

www.pbs.org/teachers

www.superteacherworksheets.com

www.theteacherscorner.net

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Home is where your heart is…

You know how nice it is to come back home from a trip (no matter how fun that trip maybe) and sleep in your own bed?  Well, that is not something we are going to be doing for a long time.  Goodbye nice comfy bed, I will miss you!  It is time for me to branch out and find other beds to slumber in.  I know not all will be as sweet as you but it is a risk I will have to take.

In a way, I feel like we will be almost gypsy like in our nomadic life.  The longest place we have booked so far is for a month.  When we were first planning this trip, I thought it would be great to stay in an area for 2-3 months to really have time to dig in a bit, but with so many incredible places to discover, our time in each area has to be shortened.

I have found some incredible places to stay using several websites, maps and hours of time.  We like places off the beaten path and unique.  I have found a houseboat to stay in on the canals of Amsterdam and a treehouse for rent in Northern France.  It just takes a little digging.

So our home is definitely going to be where our hearts are for the next several months.  They will all be a little different, but they will all be our “home sweet home,” for that moment of our lives and I am thrilled!