Anyone who knows us well (okay anyone who has ever met us) knows we are kinda fanatical about Disney.  So, one of the first things we HAD to do now that we live a mere 5 hour drive from Paris was book a trip to Disneyland Paris.  This past week we finally got to take that much anticipated trip.  Wanting to make the most of our length of stay tickets we decided to drive out a day early (Saturday) and stay in the cheapest hotel we could find which had reviews indicating it was clean and safe.  This would allow us to be at park open on Sunday. Knowing the hotel would be small and hold no appeal we did not see any benefit in arriving early Saturday.  So, we decide to slow down and enjoy the drive (the point of this journey was not simply to arrive).  We had been told there were many tolls along the highway in France between here and Paris.  So, we figured one good way to get a more scenic route would be to tell the GPS to avoid toll roads.  Magically the drive time increased by two hours and our route now included both Luxembourg and Belgium!  We were off.  As we neared the border with Luxembourg the kids asked to stop for food.  We convinced them to hang in there for another half hour so we could park in Luxembourg and wander the city and eat there. We made it to the city in half an hour allright.  It is a very interesting city with a great mix of very new and very old architecture.  What we saw from the car was lots of fun and enough to make us want to go back someday.  Everything we saw was from the car.  Try as we might (for fully 45 minutes) we could not find a single available parking space.  Every lot had lines of cars (all with local L plates) waiting for spaces.  Some big event must have been happening.  Finally empty stomaches and full bladders got the best of us and we had to throw in the towel and head on towards Belgium in the hopes of finding parking, restrooms and food.  Half an hour later we crossed into Belgium and saw the perfect place for lunch like a Mecca along the side of the highway: IKEA!  Yes, IKEA.  I admit we were far too hungry at that point to go looking for adventure.  An hour later, stuffed full of meatballs, free soda refills and soft serve ice cream we continued our journey.  We were glad we had stopped at IKEA as we did not pass much else in Belgium.  We did go through one small village and then we were in France--home of the 120 KPH speed limit much to David's chagrin.

Our first stop in France was in the city of Reims.  We were lured off the highway by this lovely cathedral that the kids are fooling around in front of:


We could not tour the inside of the cathedral--but it was fun to see the outside and the kids enjoyed running in the nearby playground (where this photo was taken).  Reims is also where we enjoyed our first French pastires (mmmmmm): 

It is also where we encountered our first classic European automatic pay to use toliet stall (which we compltely forgot to take a photo of).  Here is the description of that curiosity which I sent on to our friend Jason who recently directed the musical Urine Town (which was inspired by such toliets):

 It was just this little circular building thing not much bigger than a phone booth.  You had to put in 40 Euro cents in exact change only (you couldn't pay more and let it keep the change) and then the doors opened up and gave you a few seconds to walk in before closing you in.  The writing on the outside informed you that you had 15 minutes of time at most before the doors would automatically reopen ROFL!  Also, kids under 10 are supposed to be accompanied by an adult at all times--no way could someone even my size fit in there with someone even as big as little Ila--really not happening.  There was no seat on the toilet and the "washbasin" was a slot you put your hands in and then move slowly down the length of.  It dribbled first water, then soap then water and then had a short blast of warmish air to "dry" with.  Kind of like a drive through car wash.  The whole thing was a riot--totally worth 40 cents just to see it.  Dave and I were like "yep, totally can see why this inspired a musical."

So, Reims was our first true adventure along the way.  Continuing on, we quickly found that much more intersting than oddall toliets is The Champagne Road.  Yes, we were in the middle of Champagne country.  Dave once saw A Good Year on a flight and came home saying he wanted to move to France and buy a vineyard--and here we were in the middle of all those lovely vineyards dotted with one adorable French village after another.  We did stop a few times to drink in the scenery and once to drink in the wine.  We did a tasting at a local vineyard (and bought two very reasonable and tastey bottles).  Even Marika had a small sip of each champagne.  We asked her how many 12 year olds could say they had been wine tasting in France?!  Enjoy the photos:


Eventually we made it to our little hotel room.  It was clean and safe and TINY.  Honestly smaller than a category 11 stateroom on the Disney Magic.  Really quite a bit smaller.  It was fine for the night and all we needed--but close quarters in deed!  We headed back out to find dinner and had the first of a string of bad, overpriced meals in France before collapsing into our beds for the night giddy with excitement for Disney on the morrow. 

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