Sunday, June 30, 2013

From Paris to Marseille - Day Four

On the fourth day of the trip, Nicole and I hitched a ride aboard a super fast train that got us from Paris to Marseille in just a few hours. It would have been slower by car and also, it was relatively inexpensive. We got 1st class tickets as the cost differential was only a few Euros per person and for the extra room, we figured it would be worth it. Boy was it.

Rachel recommended that we bring a bottle of wine, some cheese and bread aboard the train and enjoy the ride...well, that is exactly what I did and the ride was fantastic. It was very pretty watching the French countryside go by at 200MPH+.

See what I mean?
I think I caught Nicole taking a nap. By the time that we made it to see Rachel...
...I had eaten all my bread and cheese and drank most of my bottle of wine. Now, THAT is how I like to ride a train.

Rachel lives right in Marseille. This is the view from her apartment.
That is Notre Dame de La Guarde.

Marseille is a big city...the second/third biggest in France. Lyon and Marseille keep flip flopping depending on how many babies are born that year, they are so close in size. When we got to her apartment, we were shown around, met some of her roommates and then we had a bottle of wine and three different types of pate.

Then off we went to find some food. Rachel had a place all picked out for It was very good. All three of us split pizza, pasta and salad, then walked around Marseille for a minute and then back to the apartment, where I thought we were going to hit the hay...but her roommates were there and we stayed up talking and drinking. 

I had Pastis for the first time, an anise flavored aperitif which is mixed with water. Funny that I had it after dinner and not before. It was very good. Then we continued having wine and talking. It got quite late and Nicole went to bed while Rachel and I stayed up to the wee hours of the morning catching up. Off to bed late...and early to rise the next day. We had a full day planned.

Paris - Day Three

Ah, day three in Paris...this was filled with The Louvre and the Musee d'Orsey. Both museums and both wonderful; however, I have to say that I was disappointed with The Louvre. For being such a world renowned museum, the audio guide was sparce...they didn't talk about every work of art, just some of them. It was also crowded and all the signs were in French only. Now, I realize that we were in France, but English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. You would think that they would have explanations in English...but no. The problem with that is that I got bored looking at everything...sometimes I like to read.

Anyhow, I got some great shots of various statues and of the most awesome was of the Mona Lisa. The reason it was awesome was not because of the painting itself, or the size (as it was very small) but because it is such a coveted work of art that it was just neat to be in its presence. 
Yes, that is some dudes head. It was hard to get a good shot because there were SO many people there. This was the best shot. Other than that, most items were beautiful, but I can't tell you what they are because everything was in French...argh! Here are some of the highlights.

And this one...The Code of Hammurabi. According to what Nicole has told me about this piece, it was the first written code/law in human history.

There is writing on it...I promise, it is just not legible to me so I didn't include it.

After the Louvre, we went to the Musee d'Orsey which has a lot of great works. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to bring in cameras so I had to snap some on the DL. Hopefully these look familiar.

If you guess Van Gogh, you are correct...a gold star for you. Starry Night was quite an impressive piece in person. Pictures and prints just don't do it justice. I throughly enjoyed the Musee d'Orsey as it had a great audio guide and the plaques were in English as well as French. 

After this long day of museums, we headed back to our neighborhood to look for something to eat. We were going to get Rotisserie chicken and wine and cheese and bread, but all the stores were closed, save for a few restaurants. So, we went to Cafe Charlot, near our apartment, had a great dinner and went to bed. This was going to be our last day in Paris as in the morning we were hitching a train to Marseille to see Rachel. 

Paris - Day Two

After sleeping soundly and not waking up to an alarm - thank goodness - we decided to take a long walk. The plan was to go to the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and then back to the apartment, all while enjoying the sites, checking out back roads, and taking pictures. We initially wanted to go into the Louvre that day, but the line was so stinking long that we decided we would buy tickets ahead of time and then just go the following day.

Here is Nicole at the back side of the Louvre...see all the people. No good!
 And the famous pyramids...if you look closely to the left side of the pyramid, you can see the line that is stretching from the front of the pyramid, to the left, down past the pool/fountain and then out of the picture. you see all two people just to the left of the pyramid in the foreground? They are like most who stand there and get a picture taken of them touching the top of the pyramid. We didn't do that.
For there, we started walking straight up the Avenue des Champs Elysees toward the Arc de Triomphe where we found this fabulous statue.
And this awesome lamp post.
Shortly after this picture was taken, we were famished and took some side roads and found a little cafe, where we had Cafe Au Lait's and Croque Madame/Monsieur sandwiches (ham and cheese) and a lovely fresh salad.
As we continued up the Avenue, we found that it was a popular place to shop with the flagship Louis Vuitton store (where Nicole found a bag that she really wanted) and a store called Lancel (where Nicole found a bag that she really wanted). While in the Lancel store, purchasing our bag and wallet, we asked the shop keeper if this store was only in France. She said, "No, we are worldwide" to our surprise. Neither of us had heard or seen Lancel in the states, so I asked her if they were in the US. Her answer was, "Not yet." I was shocked that a worldwide, high-end fashion store didn't have a store in the worlds largest economy. Oh well....I guess Dubai is working out well for them. Needless to say, we are looking forward to them opening up a store; however, for the time being, I am sure that we are a small percentage of the population that has Lancel items.

We kept walking along and then we found it...
Yes, that is Nicole with her Lancel bag and the Arc. What a sight to behold. That Arc is GIGANTIC!
In order to get under the Arc, you have to take a walkway under the street as at the intersection, there is a traffic circle (of course with no lights....people just yield to get into the circle...wish that happened here in the US) of which you cannot cross without being a bug on a windshield. 

Once we got under the Arc, I had this great idea....
From there, we took our time heading to the Eiffel tower. As we meandered along the streets we chatted and planned out our evening. We were starting to get tired with all the walking and then BOOM, there it was...
I mean, it doesn't look like much from this picture, but the tower is magnificent. I wanted to go up to the second floor, but when we got there, we were obviously beaten by many other tourists who had the same idea. This trip I decided against purchasing tickets ahead of time and thought since it was early in the year, there wouldn't be as many tourists. Boy was I wrong. So needless to say, we didn't get up into the tower this trip. I figure it will be there and we will just hit it on our next trip to Paris.

As we exited the other side of the tower, we got some pretty amazing shots...
From there we hiked it through the financial/political district which was dead since it was a Saturday, ate dinner at a little hole in the wall restaurant (where I had the best risotto ever) and then back to the apartment. While heading back we passed in front of Notre Dame and caught a candlelight Easter mass. It was quite amazing a beautiful in the huge cathedral.

From there, back to the apartment and some well needed rest as I calculated the amount of miles we walked that day....right around 10 miles in total....

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Paris - Day One

My first trip to Paris. Nicole had been before. We had a great time looking at the sites, seeing friends and eating. Yes, eating...and drinking wine (all the food will be in another post...keep your eye out). What a great city to eat...oh yeah, and the sites are nice to. We got to Paris, took the metro into town and then walked to our apartment. After dropping off our bags at the apartment, allowing the cleaning lady to finish cleaning the apartment, we took a walk around. We just grabbed the map and our cameras and made our way down the streets of Paris toward Notre Dame.

Of course we stopped for a croissant and coffee first, which was lovely. We split a regular and chocolate croissant and began our trek. The croissants were flakey and warm and inviting. They didn't last very long. As we wound down the streets of Paris, just before we got to the island where Notre Dame sits, we found the police blocking the streets allowing a column of people pass. We stood and watched and as they got closer, we noticed that it was some sort of Catholic walk for Good Friday.
After they passed, we took a moment and I snapped a picture of Nicole on the bridge.
And then once we crossed the bridge, we found Notre Dame. Let me tell you, Notre Dame is quite the cathedral. We didn't want to go inside because there was a long line to get in and we knew that we were going to see a mass so we stopped and took a few pics.

From Notre Dame, we circled back, ate and then hit the hay...

13 weeks!

So, fast forward to 13 weeks pregnant...things are going well. The baby is healthy, we have been to three doctors appointments and all is well.

Flash back -- We could hear the baby's heartbeat at six weeks, which was nuts! We could also see it on the sonogram, just beating away....a little flash of light on the monitor was really neat to see.

Earlier in the appointment, the nurse was asking us all sorts of personal questions...the one that stands out the most was after she was done asking Nicole some questions, she turned to me and said, "You're the father?" Immediately, I thought, 'No, do I look old enough to be Nicole's father' and then it dawned on me...she meant, the father of Baby Z. HA! We all got a good laugh out of that one. That is when it hit home...I am going to be a father. Wow!

Fast forward -- We are now at the 13 week sonogram to test for abnormalities which might lead to some birth defects. All seems to be going well and the tech has the wand on Nicole's stomach and then starts to prod her belly HARD. It took us both by surprise and he didn't warn Nicole or myself as to what he was about to do. When the tech saw the surprised/pained/about to jump out my chair and tackle him face, he immediately asked if Nicole was okay and explained that he was just trying to get the baby to move around so he could take measurements. I could then exhale....

So, our baby is stubborn. The baby just wouldn't move for the tech and so he kept 'pounding' on Nicole's tummy. I could tell it was uncomfortable for her, but she sure is a trooper. I imagined the baby just kicking it in this nice warm room, sleeping, and then all of a sudden a huge *thwap, thwap, thwap* and over and over and over and over. Well, sure enough, our baby wasn't having any of that. Baby Z just kept sleeping and sleeping.

Then finally....movement! It was quite the site to see our baby moving around on the big screen. While the tech took measurements, I was just in awe and then started asking questions. I have no idea what I asked, but I asked whatever came to mind. This is what we saw:
Then, all of a sudden, the tech flipped a switch and we saw this:
Now, I think this is an AWESOME shot of Baby Z. Nicole thinks that it is kind of creepy. It is amazing how far 3D technology has come that at the flip of a switch, it can give us this image of what Baby Z looks like at 13 weeks. A head is being developed, legs and arms. Just amazing!

All in all, after the testing, they docs said that Baby Z was healthy and didn't have any signs of any abnormalities. Yay!

Only 29 more weeks to go.

It's Positive!

Yes, its positive. Well, yeah, life is positive. Work is positive. The dogs are positive. But I am talking about the little baby growing inside of Nicole. Look at the pregnancy test...

yep, positive.

We are SO excited that we are going to be parents. That night, just before our most recent trip to Europe (Paris, Marseille and Barcelona) Nicole took a pregnancy test...and what do you know...we are going to be responsible for another human being. We were jumping up and down and could barely contain ourselves...then it hit soft cheese while in wine while in Europe...POO! But, we're going to be parents!

It was such an exciting time. We were/are thrilled.


Us watching FC Barcelona destroy Mallorca in Barcelona
Hello to all!

This is my first blog. I have never taken the time to set up a blog; however, I do read some. It is my intent to keep this blog updated regularly with the happenings at the Zeitler Zoo. Considering family and friends are all over the world, I thought that this would be a good way to keep everyone updated. Bear with me for a while as it will likely take me a while to get this blog up to speed. You will likely find that it will start out as a jumbled mess, referring to past trips, milestones and general information that I think everyone would like to see/know.

As I move farther along, and get everyone up to speed, I hope that this can be a fun place to chronicle our lives. Nicole and I have done a lot in the last few years and will likely be doing a lot more in the years to come.

Please, read, participate, share, and most of all, enjoy.