Saturday in Paris

Today, we Paris-ed all day. We started with Notre Dame, which is the only church we’ve had to wait in line to good inside. It’s a good thing it’s pretty. Which it is. The gardens around the side are also pleasant.
We got on the batobus on the Seine, which is a boat that works like a hop on hop off bus. We took it to Jardin de Plantes, which is the next stop. We wandered the gardens by the river and the kids found art and playgrounds. We walked across a bridge to Ile San Louis and peaked into the church there, which we had to ourselves, in contrast with Notre Dame. We bought a picnic lunch from a small, local bakery, which we ate in another park. Then we found some pretty incredible ice cream, which we took with us on a walk.
We took the batobus to the Louvre stop. We stopped at the mall under the Louvre pyramid, mostly for their pay bathroom where they try to sell you colored toilet paper on your way out. We explored the Tuileries park, including the carousel.
We went into the Museé d’Orangarie to commune with the impressionist, especially the two rooms filled with Monet’s Water Lilies, which was pretty special and naturally well lit. The kids were moved, but bored by the wall of Renoir’s downstairs.
Then we headed back to our apartment via batobus, tired and happy. After dinner and bathes, so sort of march went by our street. Always something happening here.
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Corpus Christi festival

Thursday was a holiday because Europe is awesome. We went to some sort of historical festival around an abbey of a neighboring town with some of Rob’s coworkers. There were crafts and rides. Spencer loved the bumper cars. Meg loved the swings. I loved the Ferris wheel. Rob loved being done with work for the trip and the beer.
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Cologne

Wednesday we took a regional express train to Köln, about an hour from Aachen. We toured the cathedral (the relics include the bones of the 3 wise men who were the first to make a pilgrimage to Jesus), saw a rail bridge covered in love locks, walked along a river walk, toured the chocolate museum, and played in some fountains.
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Around Aachen

Where we stayed was really close to Stadt Park, a large park with a couple nice playgrounds. Here are several shots of the kids enjoying the gardens, fountains, and playgrounds.
Aachen has been a city for more than 2000 years. One highlight is that in 800, Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in the Cathedral. We saw some old Roman ruins and visited the Cathedral.
The cathedral is impressively ornate. One of one the gold boxes holds Charlemagne’s remains. The other holds the churches relics: Jesus’ swaddling blanket and loin cloth, Mary’s clothes, and John the Baptist’s decapitation cloth. They only take them out every seventh year, so we only saw the box they are in. We also did not see Charlemagne’s stone throne on the second floor because it was only accessible once a day as part of a tour only available in German.
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Sunday in Gent, Belgium

One of Rob’s coworkers, Lena, is from Gent. We road tripped there and explored the city with both of our families. We were charmed by the sights and by the inhabitants of the city. Like Maastricht, Gent has a pedestrian only downtown. In contrast with Maastricht, the city felt very comfortably lived in. Both cities were delightful.
We had lunch (the kids got Belgian waffles!), went on a river boat ride, toured churches and a castle, enjoyed street art, found ham hanging from rafters, and of course had ice cream.
The boat ride was delightful on a hot day. The castle had exhibits on midevil weapons and torture, including a replica of a guillotine. Meg had a really hard time with why humans would hurt each other like that. The rest castle was neat, and all the stone keeps it cool in the warmth. The kids now consider themselves experts on churches and castles.
We also parked in an interesting parking garage, with ambient music, free and clean bathrooms, paintings of books on the wall, and a machine to test your BAC before getting in your car.
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Maastricht and more

Saturday we spent in the Netherlands, mostly in Maastricht, which is about half an hour from where we are staying. Maastricht has a pedestrian only city center and has lots of sight seeing, restaurants, and shopping. And a playground between the parking lot and the city entrance, which delighted the kids.
The city entrance dates back to 1229. We also encountered a water wheel still hooked up to gears but no longer used as a mill.
We explored a fortress church, played in the square in front of the cathedral, and went to a church that has been converted to a bookstore.
On the way home, we stopped at the highest playground in the Netherlands, near the point where Belgium, Holland, and Germany meet, and walked to where we could stand in three countries at once.
I (Clare) got Meg some unicorn shaped cheese and she enjoyed it with dinner.
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Thursday: travel day to Aachen

Today we drove across Germany to get to Aachen, home of the other Nuance Germany office. We will be here for a week while Rob works. The pictures for today are us enjoying random rest stops and the kids exploring the yard and their room in our Airbnb accommodations. Yes, their bunk beds have a rope swing. Despite being kind of small and funky, I think we will be quite happy here.
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Wednesday: a second day in Nürnberg

We headed back into the old city of Nürnberg for more churches and a bit of shopping, eating, and and playing. The weather was kind of crazy, as a rain cloud would blow in, strong winds and spitting in overcast gloom, and then blow out again just as abruptly the sun would come out and be beautiful. Fine weather for strolling streets and ducking into churches or shops as necessary.
I didn’t get great photos of the St. Lawrence church or Frau (women’s) church. Sometimes it’s fun to just enjoy a space, especially one meant for worship. But I couldn’t resist a few photos from my namesake church, the smallest we’ve visited so far and perhaps my favorite. It is an interesting blend of ancient and modern and deals with the part where Nürnberg was 90% destroyed in the bombing near the end of WWII. It really took an entire generation for them to rebuild, finishing in the early 80s or so. St. Klara Kirche blends the past and the future in a classy way, focusing on the positive aspects of both. We should all aspire to be so graceful.
Out back there was a large chess set. Meg and Spencer started playing. Meg quickly decided she would prefer exploring the gardens and I took over her position. In her exploration, she tried to move a large stone and it fell over and smashed her thumb. Rob got her some bandages and played chess with Spencer while she nursed her wound. Today the thumb is impressively black and blue, so she smashed it good.
We continued to explore the city with some street food, which from falafel to pretzel sandwiches to Nuremberger sausages was all excellent. Fresh strawberries were a hit both days.
Meg was quite dramatic when we found a memorial to a synagogue along the river. You mean that building was right here? And they destroyed it? Yes to both, sweet Meg.
The late afternoon was quite nice. We found a playground for the children to get their energy out.
We noticed part of the wall was dug out well below the path and explained to the kids how that used to be part of the moat.
We enjoyed our last dinner with the Kunerts at a monastery that has been converted to a brewery and restaurant with delicious traditional Franconia food. The can do magical things to beer, pig, cabbage and potatoes. They had decorative hops hanging around the restaurant, which was pretty and educational.
Onward to Aachen!
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