Budapest, Hungary

Hungarian Parliament Building at night

Sunday- We left Patio Hostel in decent time. We had to bring our bed linens down at this hostel which they sometimes have you do at more hostel, less hotel places. We took another FlixBus out of Bratislava and arrived into Budapest around 1 pm. Our first business was to walk along the Danube some more because we still hadn’t got enough of it. Then we took our bags and dropped them off at the Meininger Hostel which is essentially a cheap hotel but super nice. We went walking across the Liberty Bridge and up to the Gellert Hill Cave that’s part of a cave network and now is a church built into the cave and hillside. We found a pub close to our hostel called “For Sale” and decided to eat there. Inside the ceilings were low and everything was made of dark wood, with straw scattered on the floor and bowls of peanuts on the tables. Every available ceiling or wall surface was covered with notes from people around the world who had also eaten there so overall the fire risk of the place was high. Haha. Anyways Morgan had Hungarian goulash that was so good, and Madison and I had chicken in mushroom gravy with croquettes. It was a fun experience. After supper we got tickets to go on a Danube river cruise that started at 9. We ended up outside at the front of the boat sharing a table with a nice couple from London and had a good time with them. The cruise was fantastic with lavendar lemonade served for the ride and the glowing lights of the Budapest shores to watch. Everything that looks grand during the day looks so much more so all lit up on a clear, cool night. It was a highlight for sure.

Monday- We went downstairs for breakfast-toast and marmalade and gouda cheese and coffee- and then walked across the street to the Central Market Hall, a huge market of meats, cheeses, and Hungarian things in general. There were lots of handmade embroidered cloths and paprika is a very popular spice here so that was everywhere. Then we rented scooters and cruised towards the Parliament Building, which is the third largest Parliament in the world. It is a phenomenal building and so I will share a link if you would like to learn something new. https://visithungary.com/articles/parliament

Shoes on the Danube Memorial

Close to the Parliament Building, we made a stop at a monument along the river called “Shoes on the Danube Bank”. In WW2 Jews were ordered to line up along the Danube and remove their shoes before they were shot and fell back into the river. There are sixty pairs of metal shoes along the river as a monument for those who died there, and it is such a sad place. Another read: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/shoes-on-the-danube-promenade

Szechenyi Thermal Baths

After we got lunch we took the train to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths. Budapest is called the “City of Baths” and is known for its thermal waters so we of course wanted to see for ourselves. The Szechenyi are the biggest and most popular, and when we got there we could see why. Built in 1913, the building that houses the baths is old and looks more like a capital building. There are huge tiled rooms with pools of varying temperatures, and then outdoor pools as well which is where we spent most of the time except when Morgan and I did a dip in the polar pool. We talked about you Jalen, cuz you would have liked it. It was so relaxing and we did a lot of people watching too. We left late in the evening and got supper on the way back to the hotel.

Vienna Day & Travel

Friday- We haven’t spent time yet in Vienna exactly since all we did was rent a car so I am counting today as day one in Vienna. We had a random day today. We slept in until 9, for one thing, and didn’t have any plan at all made for the day. Morgan decided to knock something off his bucket list and made supper reservations for a Michelin star restaurant called “Apron”here in Vienna. Unfortunately we have hikers clothing and nothing was dressy enough for a nice evening out but we didn’t mind because we decided to hit up some thrift stores. Does it get better than thrifting in Vienna? We spent the morning pilfering and came up with a blazer for Morgan but decided to go to a mall to look for shoes for me since I only have sandals and runners along. We ate lunch in the mall and Madison and I both found a couple things for the evening. We took the train and at 6 exactly we arrived at Apron and were ushered in to a warm, black toned restaurant with stone tabletops and cushy booths. We had the 7-course menu which I will post here.

•Arctic Char with carp caviar, celery, and pistachio nuts

•Jerusalem Artichoke and Pear with Gruyère, verjus, mustard, and pumpkin seeds


•Scallops with wild asparagus, green strawberries, and ossetra caviar


• Asparagus and Heart with smoked cheese curd, radish, and sorrel


•Arctic Char with carp caviar, celery, and pistachio nuts


•an intermission with popcorn ice cream 


•Rabbit with onion, beluga lentils, and XO vinegar


•Lamb Shank with bell pepper dashi, “Beuscherl”, fermentet garlic

•Lamb Heart and Lung with bone broth


•Blanc De Noir with raspberry, rice pudding, “Yuna 37%”


Also, with compliments from the pastry chef, a tree laden with mojito lollipops, churros, and hazelnut chocolates. One of the highlights to me was a butter candle in a brass candle holder that our server lit. There was a gravy vinaigrette at the base of the candle holder and as the butter candle melted it ran down into the vinaigrette, where we then dipped our bread. So cool.

Butter candle, goat cheese, olive butter, baby potatoes

Everything was centered around earth and nature as it was served, from rocks and pottery to leaves and trees. Presentation and service were at the forefront of the evening and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Morgan went to the kitchen afterwards to meet the Michelin star chef and we decided to really splurge and take an Uber back to the apartment. What an incredible evening for any foodie. We thought of James&Jenn and wished you were with us!

Saturday- We went to a market that Vienna is famous for called Naschmarkt. It ended up being 1/3 of a mile long and packed with any kind of foreign spice or food you could ever want and booths full of paintings and embroidery. Think the Turlock sale except everything was vintage and there were priceless paintings that we only dream of finding in thrift stores in the States. Like they were just shoved in boxes and around. I thought Madison was going to have a cow. She was horrified. I mean, we are nerds for cool paintings and here they are just nothing because they’re so common. Anyways we did a lot of sorting and Madi actually came up with one to bring home in her backpack. We had breakfast at the market also, a Viennese breakfast with soft boiled egg, cheese, Viennese bread, and marmalade. Oh and of courrrrse a latte. Then we got tickets out of Vienna and away to Bratislava, Slovakia.

Old Town, Bratislava, Slovakia

We arrived into Bratislava after an hour bus ride and walked to the Danube River where we sat for awhile admiring the boats and the people. Then we walked to the Main Square in Old Town where a curly haired pianist was playing “Hallelujah” and it was beautiful. Every kind of person was sitting and listening: an older man with a green vest chugging a 2-liter of coke, little children sitting on the steps, families walking. A little farther on a man was producing huge bubbles with a rope and the children were jumping and laughing and bubbles were floating upward in a haze of summer. We got to our hostel, Patio Hostel, and relaxed there.

Some notes: 1. Bratislava is surprisingly up to date. I figured it would be more like Vienna but it’s ahead. 2. McDonald’s here has real flowers on some of the tables. 3. We are averaging 6-8 miles of walking a day. There weren’t many escalators in Vienna so we got a lot more steps in. 4. Way less people here in Bratislava speak English. We literally cannot communicate with most of the people we need to.

Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt

Wednesday- This morning all of our clothes were dry which is cause for celebration! We left Wels and stopped for pecan croissants and lattes at a place with a red velvet couch and two ladies running the bakery that reminded us of Mom and Rhoda. Then we drove 1.5 hours to Hallstatt, over rivers and mountains and through lots of tunnels. There are lots of pine trees and today there was sunshine. We got into Halstatt midmorning and walked the town. Most of the houses are made of wood with shutters and window boxes with geraniums in them. The houses go up and up the mountain all joined together but with little alleys running all over underneath them. The lake is a lovely blue green color and there are swan boats and actual swans cruising around on it and we decided to get a little boat so we could too. It was such a fun time going around the lake and relaxing on the boat and soaking up the sun. I know I sound like a broken record but it is absolutely gorgeous here and we are loving it 100%. Its doubly cool for Morgan because he had planned this cool anniversary trip for us here to Austria a couple years ago and covid canceled it so we are excited to finally be here! After touring around Hallstatt and getting coffee to go, we started driving towards our Airbnb an hour away. Morgan took a scenic route to Lake Gosau, this alpine lake beneath the Dachstein glacier. We hiked out to some rocks, past cows with actual bells on! and swam out into clear blue water where we were for a while. Then our trip continued on to Golling an der Salzach where we went to some downstairs burger place for supper and then went to our place which is a hotel tonight.

Our swimming hole.

Thursday- Morgan got up early and went on a hike this morning while Madison and I slept in and organized our stuff. We went down with Morgan when he got back for a yum breakfast buffet. Again, no sweet waffles and pancakes and donuts, just meat, cheese, yogurt bar, and different kinds of bread. Morgan had a destination in mind so we drove up past where he’d hiked through a bunch of little towns. We were right in the heart of ski country with lifts right by the road and beautiful green ski runs everywhere. We ended up in a little Cafe where we got hot chocolates and more pecan pastries. It was a very blustery , cool day but the scenery was tops. We drove a couple hours back to Vienna and Morgan dropped us off at our Airbnb and then went to drop off the car. We have usually stayed in hostels but with Madison along we can split an Airbnb for cheaper so we have been doing a lot of those instead. We had spaghetti and veggies for supper and Morgan brought back flowers for me:)

Some notes: 1. We discovered some kind of addictive shortbread cookies here and are going through a surprising amount. Then we stopped today and bought 2 boxes and got 2 free so yay. 2. The cows wear bells. Yes. And a little boy just like Peter in “Heidi” was walking with them in his little hat and short pants. It made us think of you Rosemary!

Travel Day

Monday- This morning we packed our bags, made sure the kitchen and our room were cleaned up, and left the apartment for the last time. We found our way to Kafe Francin, a little coffee place I’ve been eyeing from the train every day. Then we went to a couple thrift stores where surprisingly, I made my first personal purchases since the trip began. Stuff was cheap, less than a dollar for a lot of it and I found a lace edged, mustard handkerchief thing for me and also something for Mom♡ Madison found a super cool vintage brown leather purse that she is going to restitch. Like what a cool thing to remember Prague by. We went to a shopping mall and had lunch and went into a grocery store. The stores here never cease to surprise me. The cheese, for example. When we went to the Netherlands a couple years ago we took cheese home for Dad Kevin because he loved weird cheese. He would always say “a little mold never hurt anybody ” so the cheese we see here wouldn’t bother him like it does me. It is full of mold. Far past the stage of common bleu cheese. It’s disgusting but it’s for sale everywhere.

Train compartment. This looks much more welcoming than our cars did.

Then we were off to Prague Central Station. I love the central stations here. They are like airports with the people pulling suitcases and hauling backpacks, but they’re also like a shopping mall with a food court and any kind of store you’d need. Our train was delayed half an hour so Madison and I sat in a Burger King booth and read while Morgan wandered around. This train was the first long-ride train we’ve taken on this trip, from Prague, Czechia, to Vienna, Austria. Some of the longer trains like the one today have little compartments with six seats in each of them. Morgan and I were in one compartment with 4 other guys, and Madi was in one a couple down from us with other people. The doors slide closed on them and they basically are little hotboxes. It was absolutely stifling and why we won’t take that particular train again. Anyways one of the men in our compartment was from Ohio and was originally from Hanford, near Fresno! He was a professor who taught teachers how to teach. You just never know who you’ll meet. I read John Grisham for most of the trip but we did see some stunning scenery. We went through mountainous regions in Czechia with pine trees and rivers, and then into Austria we had fields and fields of wheat being harvested and even wind towers so we really felt like we were getting close to Montezuma. We arrived into Vienna station at 9:30, about an hour behind so it was darkish already. We got supper in the food court and caught a train just a couple minutes down the line, close to where we are staying for night. We got an airbnb close to where we leave from tomorrow so we are putting the washing machine here to use and then going to bed. We are on the same time zone that we were in Czech, the Central European Summer Time which is 6 hours ahead of Michigan time and 9 ahead of California.

Traunsee Lake in Gmunden, Austria

Tuesday- Our Airbnb is probably the worst we’ve had on this trip, although it was actually fine. The dryer didn’t dry our clothes so we stuffed them into trash bags and hauled them along while we walked over to the car rental. In hindsight I’m glad we had the wet clothes bags because Madison and I used them for seating at the car rental place. With some bribing Morgan was able to get his international drivers license and then a car rented. Then we spread the wet laundry over every possible surface in the vehicle and were off. We’ve been living high on the hog compared to other backpacking trips: warm showers, clean clothes every day, a washing machine at some of the houses, etc. so wet laundry doesn’t matter. We headed west out of Vienna and after a couple hours or so of beautiful scenery, we arrived in Gmunden. It is a little town on the north tip of Traunsee, Austria’s deepest lake. It is so absolutely beautiful. Mountains that go right to the water, trees on hills and the blue lake. We got gelatos and walked around the town until it started raining so we drove back to Wels, where we are spending the evening rewashing some clothes and relaxing. We have a 10th floor apartment with a lovely view of green hills and the sun shining in patches down on them. Morgan went out to get supper for us and Madison is sleeping off a headache while I write.

Some notes: 1. One thing I notice here is the lack of standing signs from places like McDonald’s or Burger King or hotels. The view from our window is just city lights and no tall neon or lighted signs. 2. Our little SUV has glorious a/c.

Prague Day 3+4

pickled things at farm markets.

Saturday- This morning we leisurely got around and caught the bus to the Jewish Quarter which we had big plans to see. Unfortunately I had forgotten that Judaism celebrates their Shabbat, or Sabbath, on Saturday, and the internet doesn’t keep up with them so therefore everything was closed that we wanted to see. We went to a couple Farmers Markets that we stumbled upon and I love those. Fresh wildflowers, five-gallon pails of saurkrat and anything pickled you could think of, sausages in crispy baguettes eaten with ketchup and mustard, and lots of produce. We found iced coffees and I managed to find a cabbage strudel that the man in front of me recommended. It was saurkrat and goat cheese in a pastry and it was SO good. Then we walked to Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle in the world. It was a bunch of uphill walking with stairs which I obviously enjoyed with my lithe physique. The view from the top was phenomenal, a panorama of all of Prague. The castle grounds are huge so we did some walking around and then headed back into town.

We stopped to see the Lennon Wall since we were close to it. Said to be inspired by John Lennon, it is a wall full of graffiti and political paintings that is continually changing. There were a lot of poems about the Ukraine hung up in front of it, calling for change and peace. We have seen so much support for the Ukraine here. In one of the main squares, there is a huge hand painted mural that says “Back off Putin! Hands off Ukraine!” We decided to go back to Mondieu for lunch then because its such a cool place. We planned our next stop which is basically deciding the next town we want to stop in which will be Vienna, we think. We had supper back at the apartment and have been relaxing. We know some of the bus routes already and a feel for the city so it’s been a huge plus being here for more than a day or two.

Old Jewish cemetery headstones

Sunday- We had a lazy morning deciding what to do for the rest of the day since it was supposed to be hot. We had bought some little cinnamon rolls that we baked for breakfast. There are a couple people staying in the other room beside us now, but we really haven’t seen or heard them. We eventually caught the bus over to the Jewish cemetery, the only burial ground allowed for Jews in Prague from 1439-1787. The tiny yard has around 12,000 headstones. There are approximately 85,000 bodies buried 12 layers deep, and the retaining walls around it are to hold the soil in place that had to be added occasionally for more layers. This cemetery is still intact from WW2 because the Nazis wanted to use it as part of an “extinct race” museum. Afterwards Morgan and I sat on a bench beside the Vltava River and watched the boats and people and Madison went off to paint for awhile. We walked through an old church and then got coffees later on. Madison is making us a picnic supper which we are excited about, Morgan is sleeping, and I just finished listening to Avery preach at Wildwood.

Vlatava River + Prague Castle

It’s been a really tough day, which is why we didn’t do a lot. We simply were just sad. I know you maybe are rolling your eyes. A tough day in Europe, yeah right! But it’s true. I told Morgan I just felt like I needed a good cry over everything and he said he did too so we thought we would schedule one for this evening. The decisions we need to make are ones we would call our Dads for, so today I was just mad. Who do we call now?? Nobody loves you and is quite as invested in you and your life like a Dad is. They are supposed to be here to help with financial and life problems and big decisions. They give you wise opinions with just the right amount of judgment so you know what they would do if it were them. And I am just so sad we don’t have that now. We have lovely people in our lives, but each of those people have their own family and life without the worry of a married schoolteacher couple. So as Morgan and I talked about next year and tried to make more decisions, I just felt so alone. Sometimes we look at each other and say,”Is it true? Dad is really gone??” We can hardly comprehend it. Everywhere there are survey markers that remind us. And we saw on the news that Machu Picchu in Peru was threatened by a fire and we knew Dad would be watching that because he was so enthralled with Peru. But here we are. Please pray for us, and especially Morgan.

Some Notes: 1. There is graffiti everywhere here. You’d think it would make it seem dirty, but it sort of just fits in here. Its rare to see a stretch of wall that doesn’t have some sort of paint on it. 2. There is no air on the buses here, which it seems like I’ve mentioned before. It is around 15* hotter inside the bus than outside, so its like you get to cook alive while also watching the town go by.

Prague Day 1+2

Old Astronomy Clock

Thursday- I woke up early while we were still driving in Germany and it was beautiful with so many green trees and small rolling hills and wheat harvest happening here and there, although wheat harvest here looks alot different than it did in Central Kansas. For one thing, there weren’t two super shiny fixed up trucks sitting prettily facing the main highway. There are just a small combine and a wee truck out here but I guess they still can harvest. We got into Prague around noon and there happened to be a good ole Burger King at the bus station so we ate lunch there. They use czech koruna here for money and some places take euros but the moral of the story is, I had neither when I tried to use the washroom that required 1 euro. We found a little private room with a shared bathroom thats quite cheap. It has orange shag rug and little vintage floral pictures in frames that girls in the states would pay money for because they’re “in” right now. Luckily nobody else is in the other room so its just us. We relaxed at the house this afternoon and caught up on sleep. Morgan walked to a supermarket a couple minutes away and grabbed supper. Ovens here are weird so that took some time but we had $3 pizza and pepsi for supper. Supper of budget champions!

Friday- A good sleep. Then walked to the bus, took a tram, and arrived in Old Town Square. Everything here feels set back in time. Maybe the 90’s. Lots of older ladies wear floral dresses with open-toed shoes. We first watched the Prague Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square. Its a beautiful clock from 1410 and is the oldest clock still in operation. It has a dial for the time and hands for the sun and moon positions. On the hour, doors open above the clock and the apostles walk around. It’s unique to say the least. More info👉 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prague_astronomical_clock

Roast duck, cabbage kraft, potato dumplings, bread

We ate lunch and what a meal it was! It was at a little Czech place and we ate outside in the dwindling sunshine. We had roast duck, which is becoming a very common meal here. At home it seems that duck is expensive and somewhat of a delicacy but we have had it several times here and we love it. We also got beef in cream sauce, another common dish here and equally delicious. It started raining after lunch so we got soaked walking through the rain and getting splashed by little cars. We found our way to the Church of Our Lady Victorious where we warmed up and also observed the wax figure of baby Jesus from 1638, said to have become famous by protecting Prague from the ravages of the war and the Plague. Anyways we dried off while we talked to a priest about Vancouver and then walked to a place called Mondieu where we had happy hour with cherry lemonade for a good hour. Then we went walking over the Charles Bridge, a medieval stone bridge from the 15th century. There were people drawing and a little four man band playing jazz when we walked across. We caught the train and stopped at a supermarket on the way home. Grocery shopping here is an experience, mainly because everything is in Czech, German, or Russian, and also since things like butter are in weird packaging. We found a package today that contained a crepe and apple slices. Gingerbread is a big thing here too so we bought some to try out, along with different pastries. We relaxed this evening at our place and had pesto spaghetti for supper. I’m excited because we’ve entered the phase of our trip that we are relaxing and doing lots of strolling up and down the cobblestone streets instead of rushing here and there for the next thing. We are just getting to know the city slowly and leaving tracts here and there as we go.

Some Notes: 1. Shout-out to Halstead Church for supplying us with several hundred tracts for our trip. Since we left directly from Kansas, we got some from church the night we were at Darvin&Diane’s for supper. So Halstead, your name is in London, Paris, and Prague so far! 2. We still haven’t figured out where people do laundry so we have just been using the bathroom sink. 3. The drinking straws here are so little. Like at home you can suck a strawberry through a Sonic straw. Here you can barely get drink through it. Maybe an exaggeration but you get the idea.

Normandy Day 1+2

street market we stopped at-

Tuesday- We left the apartment at 630 and caught trains until we got to a car rental place we had our eye on. With minimal stress we rented a little manual minivan thing and loaded our backpacks. Morgan is driving while we cruise along in the French countryside. Abe is sleeping which he does alot of the day:) Its quite green here with lots of trees on both sides of the road and the occasional roll of hills, much like Michigan. And sometimes Pennsylvania. It’s sunny and warm, truly an ideal day. We’re on an interstate towards the coast and Omaha Beach. The vehicles here are mostly small, electric or eco-friendly cars. No pickups and no older vehicles. The cars have been seen pulling anything from a camper to a boat so they apparently have more guts than it appears. We stopped in an obscure little village just off our route looking for a Cafe and instead found a local market where no one spoke English. It was exactly what we were looking for so we spent half an hour strolling and trying to use expressive hand motions to portray which sandwich we wanted. Morgan got some paella that was so so good and then we were back on the road.

view west towards Omaha Beach from Point du Hoc

The first stop was in a decent sized town called Caen. You can easily find it on a map. We went to a big WW2 museum called Memorial de Caen and spent several hours watching films and reading and going through artifacts. I never cease to be amazed at the senseless loss of life all for the love of power. I left the museum feeling a little blue at humanity. We drove our sweet van over to Omaha Beach after the museum and spent some time walking on the sand at low tide, looking for seashells and remembering the past. The countryside is beautiful here on the coast. Overgrown bushes all over and vintagey brick houses that come right to the road. Small curving one-lane roads wind through the little villages that are full of French country charm that people at home pay HomeGoods for to get the look. Against the old brick houses grow holly hocks and hydrangeas in abundance. Roses spring over gates that hang ajar and jersey cows graze when we reach countryside again. It is idyllic. After the beach exploring, Morgan, Madison, and I drove over to Point du Hoc, a 5 minute drive from the Omaha Beach memorial. Point du Hoc are where the US Rangers took the cliffs and German bunkers step by step in the bloodiest battle of D-Day. We walked out on a gravel path. The sight is preserved simply with a waist high fence around it and small signs. The area we walked along the top of the cliffs was littered with huge craters from the fighting. We explored the bunkers that are left sitting quiet and empty, the rusted barbed wire still strewn along as a last effort of defense, and the cliffs with chunks missing for hundreds of yards. When you look out at the beautiful English channel, its hard to imagine such a lovely place once so full of sadness.

Inside a WW2 bunker at Point du Hoc

For supper I got a very mediocre Margherita pizza, with melted cheese and missing the basil if that tells you anything. We found a cheap Airbnb 20 minutes down the road so drove there and found ourselves in an old French farmhouse of stone and exposed beams. Hans and Myriam welcomed us with open arms and now we are in the attic room with 5 beds and a church bell that chimes outside our window.

View from our window this morning. This is exactly what all the towns we drive through look like.

Wednesday- This morning we visited with Hans as we breakfasted on marmalade and croissants and French baguettes and coffee. He knows and is personally friends with many veterans from D-Day. 800 veterans have came to stay at their little house BnB so he had lots of stories. There is one old gentleman that was on the first wave at Omaha Beach on D-Day that he is good friends with. Hans recommended a couple places to us so away we went. We stopped at some old bunkers and then the American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer. On our way out of the area we stopped to see a church steeple that an American paratrooper had landed on, getting caught by his parachute. Here’s an article about it 🙂 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Steele_(paratrooper) We got sausage sandwiches from a little street vendor and ate them on the way back into Paris. We also stopped at a rest area on the way back. See below picture. So you do the hover over the floor toilet, and scuttle out of the stall because when you’re finished it flushes and then water shoots from three sides of the stall and “self-cleans”. If you are still standing there when it starts, you’re legs are toast. Its a process alright.

rest areas in France. Yay.

Morgan dropped us off and went to return the van when we got back to the city. Madison went to the Musee d’Orsay to see some Van Gogh paintings, the guys went walking, and I walked along the Seine and people watched. We all got supper together yet and then bid Levi and Abe farewells and they caught a bus back to London to fly home. We are sitting in a FlixBus waiting to leave Paris, and we are bound for Prague. This double decker bus has wifi and charging ports that work so thats a step up from our last one. Its an overnight bus so we will sleep hopefully and we get into Prague around noon! Ciao.

Paris Day 1-3

Tour de Eiffel

Saturday- After we got into Paris this morning, we meandered over to a little Cafe close to the Eiffel Tower where we had a breakfast of crepes and lattes. Lattes, we discovered, were 7,50 each. Yes. But we did enjoy them. After breaky we split up for awhile. All of us were super tired from minimal sleep on the bus so it looked like a long day. Morgan and I had climbed the Eiffel Tower last time we were here so Madison, Levi, and Abe went this time. Morgan and I found grass and watched people and then lay looking up at the Tower for awhile. I napped and Morgan did Sudoku and then we went for a quick decaf coffee-its way cheaper than regular- and a chocolate croissant at a little place with wicker chairs and a red awning. When the kids came back we walked in the rain over to the Arc de Triomphe. Took the train home to our apartment and got French McDonald’s for lunch on the way back. We got home and all relaxed. We have an apartment a bit outside the city that we found and we can even see the Eiffel Tower although it’s a ways out. Morgan went to the store and bought food for supper and made a delicious meal for us and then we went to bed early.

the picture opposite the Mona Lisa.😌

Sunday- This morning we slept in for the first time since we left. We took the train into the city mid-morning and went to the Lourve. We spent a delightful few hours wandering the marble halls looking at statues and the Mona Lisa and other tremendous paintings. Along with thousands of other people, I may add. I wish I could portray the immense amount of ground the Lourve covers. It is all white marble inside with wide, high ceilings, well lit halls and lots of stone pillars. We were overwhelmed after a few hours so we went out and got sandwiches from a shop and sat eating in a square close to the Lourve. I overhead an English speaking couple behind me so we chatted with them for awhile. They turned out to be psychologists from Boston which was interesting. We took the bus over to North Dame cathedral later in the afternoon. It looks different without the spire, but beautiful nonetheless. We spent some time watching boats floating down the Seine, mostly tour boats but a few private too. One of the private boats had a hot tub on the deck with an older gentleman sitting in it, sipping champagne!

Top to bottom: smoked salmon, carpaccio, pate in a pastry, and two duck confit for Cafe de Flore supper

For supper we wanted something traditionally French so we went to Cafe de Flore, which is a celebrity haunt we were told. We were served by a little man wearing a bow tie and carrying a white towel over his arm. Morgan and Madison had duck confit, Abe had smoked but raw salmon, Levi had carpaccio, also raw meat, and I had duck pate in a pastry crust, which I was thinking would be like quiche or something. Well. The pate was just a chunk of crust with duck and lard in the middle. It was also served cold. I can safely say I ate most of it but would I get it again? No. But it was fun to try because we don’t usually eat at places where those dishes are an option. We took the train back to the apartment and the guys got pastries and sandwiches to finish their meals for the evening.

Monday- Madison and I stayed home today. I’m still fighting some bug which we now discovered was maybe covid and we had a good sleep while the guys went exploring in a big park thing. I did a couple loads of laundry and cleaned up the apartment and wrote on my blog so it was quite a relaxing day and we loved it. The guys came back mid-afternoon and Morgan made delicious spaghetti and garlic toast for supper. Tomorrow we are leaving our apartment for the last time and going to try to find our way to Normandy. We went there with Ja last time we were here but it was off season so it was a whole different procedure than it will be this time.

On another note, Dad Kevin has been gone a month. One whole month. I think of it every time I write that I have to clarify which Dad it is. We are in Europe but we miss the family. Morgan and Dad always had this thing that whenever they would be traveling without the other, if they saw survey markers when they were out walking they would send a picture to the other. We often would stop in weird places so Morgan could send Dad a picture of one. We think of it lots now while we are walking down the streets of Paris or London and see one along the dirty sidewalk. So we are happy and sad. Also, please continue to pray for us as we make decisions for school next year.♡

Some notes: 1. There are no bugs here. Like I saw a gnat today for the first time since we’ve been in Paris. Its weird. 2. Morgan got a haircut from a Ghana man down the street. It looks really good.

London, Day 2.

Word on the Water book barge

Friday- This morning Mr. Gary’s took Dot to the airport so they were gone when I woke up. We each got our own breaky at the house, plain toast for me since I’m not over whatever this bug is. We left the cozy flat with hopes we will return on the way home since we fly out of London then as well. The subway was clanky and noisy as usual and everyone had earbuds in which is a common trend here. Not necessarily more than anywhere else probably, but it seems like it. I’m always amazed at how many stories underground we go to ride the tube. We spend a long time on some of the escalators that bring us up from way deep down.

Our first stop was to a little boat on the Regent Canal. Mrs. Dot had recommended it to Morgan so he surprised me by taking me there because I do love a good bookstore and this one was on the water! Unfortunately the internet was incorrect and the bookstore aptly named “Word on the Water”, was closed so we spent time looking at the other houseboats on the canal instead. They can stay in one spot in the canal for 2 weeks with their boats before they have to move to a different location. Its a romantic thought- to live on a canal in a houseboat full of books and plants, floating along with Morgan. We may have to put it on our bucket list.

Tower Bridge on our river cruise

After some more tube riding, we made it to Westminster pier and got tickets for a one-way Thames River cruise. I loved it. We had a good tour guy, which always makes the difference, and he gave lots of facts while we floated along. The Thames is quite brown although they say it’s fairly clean for being an industrial river. It was windy so that was a nice change from the heat. We saw the Prospect of Whitby, the oldest riverside tavern , along the River Thames, and built in 1520. It was a place of questionable characters and later, a judge in the 1700s had a gallows and noose hung over the river where pirates and sea rovers would be hung until they died by hanging, or drowned from the rising tide, whichever came first. The tide is highest at the London Bridge and rises 22 feet so the boat tours plan their trips accordingly. We also went under the Tower Bridge which I thought was stunning.

We ended our river ride at Greenwich where we walked up to the Royal Observatory. Here we paid to go into the Observatory to look at different old telescopes and also to stand on the Prime Meridian Line of the World! We all stood with one foot in the Western Hemisphere and the other in the Eastern. Morgan and I were quite sad here. Dad Kevin was always so enthused about our travels and being there at the Prime Meridian was just what he would have loved. His entire life basically resolved around degrees so we looked in the gift shop and quietly cried together because there was no need to buy him a little keepsake this time like we usually do.

Westminster Abbey

For lunch we had steak&ale pie and mash, which is what they call mashed potatoes. We walked through a street market and then caught a bus back to Westminster Abbey. We had a tip from John Ensz that we should attend Evensong there so we queued and actually went into Westminster Abbey. Like where royals go and their weddings happen and people like Charles Dickens and Sir Isaac Newton are buried! It was the most beautiful church building with lots of stone and a quiet hush even though there were lots of people. We were seated in the “sanctuary” but Morgans keen ears heard they had room to sit by the choir so away we went led by one of the ministers or whatever their title would be. We went walking in front of several hundred people down the main aisle to benches beside the choir. Everyone had to rise or be seated as told by the paper in front of us with the order of the service. Also in special attendance was the High Commissioner of Mozambique and his attendants who we got to watch because their special chairs were across the aisle from us. The High Commissioner also read some Bible verses as one of the items in the service. It lasted around an hour and ohhh my but the choir. Heavenly music. Boys ranging from 10 maybe? To men in their 60s probably. Around 30 total just singing the most beautiful songs with a vocal range that would make you cry. It was the best thing I’ve seen so far. Morgan went and met the High Commissioner of Mozambique afterwards and then we walked to a little Italian place called Satori.

We sat here by these lamps and the choir.

We took our last train over to Victoria Station and boarded our FlixBus that would take us to Paris overnight. We were asked for our vaccine cards for the first time since we left home when we boarded this bus. Unfortunately it seemed one little man didn’t have his and wasn’t allowed to board but he fought the driver and they were both yelling and we happened to be in seats near the front so we watched as they wrestled and the ticket people outside called security, although that’s a loose word for the man that came ambling slowly over. Anyways after more yelling and a man coming onto the bus and talking the crazy man down, we were on the way. We drove to Dover (just like in the Scarlet Pimpernel which is the best book!:) and boarded a ferry to Calais, France. After an hour ferry ride from 3 to 4 ish in the morning, we drove off towards Paris and arrived in the city around 8. I will continue Paris tomorrow. Cheerio mates!

London

First of all, we had a wonderful weekend at Skyler&Ann’s lovely wedding. We got to be with Mom,Madison, and Dillon&Renae and Max a whole bunch and we loved every second. We also got to be with Grandma Jul and Max&Rose and that was just so good as well.

Wednesday- I’m laying in bed looking at the slats of Morgans bunk above me listening to people snore. We flew from San Francisco into London this afternoon. We had good flights and floated in over patchwork greens and brick houses. We spent a couple hours at McDonald’s because Levi and Abe flew 4 hours after us. So we took a taxi and ate lunch. McDonald’s here has lots of different things like mozzarella sticks and crispy Italiano sandwiches and tiramisu or caramel mcflurrys. It’s a treat. We rode a red, double decker bus back to the airport to meet the guys and then we all caught the London Underground, otherwise known as the Tube, over to our hostel. We are staying in a huge room with bunk beds everywhere that have burnt orange privacy curtains around them. We went to a Greek place down the road for supper and then I went to the hostel. The rest went out and about for a while longer but I unfortunately came down with food poisoning so I went to bed.

our Swiss Cottage hostel

Thursday- We had breakfast at the hostel this morning. The buffet had fresh yogurt, granola, and toast with tomatoes, cheese, and meat. This is always a common breakfast when we’ve traveled in Europe and we sometimes skip lunch and have an early supper if we have one of these breakfasts. We left the hostel and took the tube to Buckingham Palace where we watched the changing of the guard. It was a long process with lots of men in red and a noisy band. Abe was sure he saw Prince Charles and Camilla but none of the rest of us were convinced.

The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci

Then we walked to Trafalgar Square and went to the National Gallery. A lot of museums here are free, as was this one. We spent awhile looking at Rembrandt, da Vinci, and Raphael. It was delightful, partly because it had a/c, and we left with full brains. We found a place called Poppies where we ate fish and chips for lunch. It was delicious, although not ideal for my food poisoning position which has been a problem all day.

Harry Potter’s iconic Platform 9¾

After lunch we took the train to Kings Cross Station, which if you have read Harry Potter, will know its an important stop. In the HP books, Platform 9¾ is iconic so we stopped and saw it and went to the Harry Potter shop. Abe, Madison, and I all geeked out for awhile. The kids got coffee in the Station and we caught a train over to the mission house. Gary&Bonnie Barkman are the tract people and welcomed us into their darling flat for supper and night. They are so cool. I teach their grandson Lucas in Enderby so I have heard lots about them and finally get to meet them! We had a fun evening relaxing and chatting and singing. Mrs. Dot Unruh from Idaho has also been visiting them and after a little passport mixup, she ended up staying another night so we have been honored to get to know her also!

Some assorted notes: 1. London has been quite clean in comparison with San Francisco, for example. 2. There isn’t a/c anywhere here and they’re in a “heat wave”. 3. There are police everywhere. 4. London is full of green & trees.