SURPRISE! We went to Europe…and the kids had no idea!

“Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport.”

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We did something completely unique, something we normally do together as a whole family but felt would lack the wonder and amazement if we shared this secret with our children. We surprised our children with a family adventure to Europe…again. Only this time we stretched whatever truth we had and led them to believe they were going to visit family in New Zealand, when in fact they would be visiting family in England instead. We talked about all the adventures we would have in NZ, explored cost and locations, looked at pictures and vloggers, and we weren’t being entirely untruthful. After all, we were going to do these things – but not for a few more months when we actually did go to NZ – so really we weren’t lying at all…maybe only by omission.

It was a tough prank to pull, particularly when the climate difference is so enormous, and I had to leave room in my suitcase (and wallet) for the extra clothing they both may need. My travel agent was in on the surprise, as were my family, friends, and colleagues…only a few of whom needed a gentle nudge in the ribs to remind them to prevent their foot from entering their mouths. It almost killed me keeping this quiet and I was close to internal combustion I am sure. Never the less, we arrived at the morning of our departure with complete composure and not one hint of what was about to occur.

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Arriving at the airport we got ourselves a bite to eat and my much-loved peppermint tea, and gave the girls their surprise packages. Included were some metro maps, Eurostar confirmations, Paris accommodation confirmation, euros and pounds, and an oyster card for travel. Whilst my little one took a long time to figure it out, my teenager burst into long sobs of gratefulness and genuine surprise lasting a good 5 minutes, and not without many puzzled onlookers. “Are we really?….I cant believe this!….Oh my goodness…I DIDN’T PACK MY MAKEUP!!!” were just some of the comments that escaped her. It really was a priceless go-pro moment (that’s if I actually owned a go pro).

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The flight was much more uneventful that the last and oh…my sister in law actually didn’t know we were coming! We had kept that as a surprise too with the help of her best friend. That surprise was amazing – walking into the restaurant and being greeted with looks of shock was amazing! My poor sister in law had mostly one thought “how am I going to say goodbye when they leave” bless her soul.

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We had an amazing 3 weeks exploring England: Stonehenge, Pluckly (Darling Buds of May), Chatham Dockyards (Call The Midwife – including seeing some of the shooting of the series and meeting cast), and many other places. We did a couple of days in Paris again, because of course that is my favourite place, and stayed near the Sacre Couer. Did I mention we love Paris? And on our way home to Australia after a very sad goodbye with our family, we spent our 24hr layover in Abu Dhabi in a very lovely hotel. I must say that all in all, my stay in the AUE was eye opening and reminded us of the scare tactics media use to try to breed hate and fear. Our time there was lovely and customer service far exceeded anything I have ever experienced here in Australia, and we were treated with complete respect and care – I have decided that we don’t spend time watching, the news anymore and any website, company, or program that has an outcome of fear and hate, will no longer be watched, read, or supported by our family anymore. Life is too short for that rot!!!

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So, I know that I haven’t gone into great detail about our trip and I have much more to share, so head over to Intrepid Nurse on Facebook and Instagram, where you can see live video, photos, and more – like and share so we can grow our life and adventure stories, and so I can connect with yours. Intrepid Nurse will soon grow to be my main travel and nursing hub and this will remain my more personal family things. Intrepid Nurse will soon follow up with a fully functional website with reviews, videos, and more.

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Big question if you will – what have you learnt by travelling to new places?

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TO EUROPE, WITH LOVE

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I can feel the tears of longing welling up inside as we think about where we have been and what we experienced. It’s not that I’m unhappy in where I’m at right now but I didn’t think catching this bug would change my whole life the way it has. People warned us that there was a risk of contracting this even if you thought yourself immune. Truthfully, I didn’t even really feel it coming on until we were fully infected and we knew we would never recover. Moments in every day reminded us of that time, and it takes every ounce of strength to stop ourselves from getting swept back into it all.

We really understand so much now after this experience, and understand the addiction to the cure of this bug. We understand the need to feed it, and why every spare dollar can be spent on it. It’s okay though, it’s not a horrible contagion, but it’s certainly a costly one. However I wouldn’t change it for the world and really I feel somewhat blessed and lucky for being able to experience it.

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Okay so I’m talking about the travel bug, but I guess thats not really surprising considering the last lot of posts I have written. We really do have the travel bug now and really its all we seem to be able to think about – not just the travel aspect of it, but having a life filled with more adventure, more wonder, new connections – I guess its the spirit of adventure we are craving more. I know I have been a little behind in my posts, I havent even touched on our last stops of Capri & Sorrento, Santorini, Athens, and Sydney. I suppose it is easy to become caught up again in work, study, and family life to even think about setting aside some writing time to finish off our story…but finish is the wrong word for it and I will tell you why before I tell you about our adventures in Santorini.

I’ve decided to write this now at last because I am home from work sick and talking hurts my throat…the nurofen seems to have dulled the headache pounding in my head for days, and honestly…lying in bed exhausted all day makes me feel a little unfulfilled. So what does a writer do when these moments arise…she writes of course – its highly therapuetic!

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To break it bluntly but beautifully…we are moving to England!!! Okay so not straight away…but in a few years time when our teenager has finished school, and our youngest has finished primary school – our intention is to spend a year or two in England with me working as a nurse, and spending time getting to know my neices and nephews and sister in laws more. Of course we will be doing some European travel whilst we are there too. But first, we are heading for another UK VACAY in December to spend Christmas with my family, and check out schools and hospitals. We did initially consider doing one year in England and one year in France but after looking at the average nurses wage and cost of living we decided we might need to rethink that one.

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So tell me…have you lived and worked abroad before? Have you lived in a country with a different language and how did you cope with that, particularly if you have children? We are currently learning French however to ensure that if something changes we can fit right in with our language skills, and besides that we love the French language and plan on spending more time there whenever our lives and budgets warrant it. Enough about that…stay tuned for my next article on Sorrento and our little adventure on the Isle of Capri…

CHOCOLATE, CHEESE & CHUFFERS

We all held our breath the way we’ve always done, and as we entered the long tunnel and darkness overcame us like night….we realised that the English Channel was probably a bit long to play that game! I’m not sure what I was expecting going on the Eurostar under the water to Paris, maybe that it would seem like a long time going all that way. In reality though, it was only about half an hour and you barely noticed apart from a few pops of the ears. What a surreal thought to go so far so quickly under a major body water, and it must have been an odd thought because it certainly confused the hell out of Little Miss Macca – who at 8 years old thought it was going to be kind of like an aquarium where you could see through a plexiglass kind of roof to the under water magic kingdom. How sad that I had to dash those dreams when we quickly surfaced from the murky depths with no hello to anyone least a mermaid.

Leaving Australia everyone told me “oh the French are horrible people, they just HATE foreigners!” and “if you don’t speak the language they won’t serve you” and “Paris is a disgusting dirty place with rubbish everywhere”. Clearly many of these people have either never been to Paris or haven’t been there recently, or were so rude themselves that the French just served it back at them, because Paris was lovely. Sure every country has its thing and Paris was no different to the rest of the world, we even came across a few arrogant people particularly in Versailles, but for the most part the French were lovely to us. If I could change one thing it would be the copious amounts of cigarettes people are smoking – seriously it would be interesting to see what there rates of emphysema and lung cancer is – I’m going to need to be hooked up with a long supply of nicotine patches when I get home…as are my husband and tobacco chewing kids lol.

This is Mackenzie dealing with the overwhelm of Paris with too many noises, smells and sensory input…SPD and APD at its finest…

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Side note: I’m also going to need to hit the veges hard when I get home – seems the diet here is bread, cheese, bread, chocolate, pastry, bread, cheese, bread, oh and did I mention chocolate? Lets just say that our insides were not very happy with us when we ate out. That’s not to say the food wasn’t amazing because by goodness the baguettes with beautiful fresh French cheeses in it were really worth it.

The day we arrived we did get very, very lost trying to find our AirBNB apartment in Montparnasse but eventually we figured out the metro system and felt quite safe at any time of the day all over Paris. I must say that our first ever AirBNB experience was amazing with a cute 4th floor 2 bedroom apartment with wrap around terrace that opened up over some of the area (as opposed to another building), was amazing and our host made sure our stay was great and kept in contact with us whenever we needed it. We arrived to find yummy little local foods, a bottle of wine, cheese, and cool local details. We would do Air BNB again for sure and we will certainly be staying at this one again, and again, and again!

Side note: We visited a place called Flams just near the bottom of our apartment and had a Flam…. They were delicious and had vegetarian options, which was welcomed after a long day out exploring. They are a little like pizza but made on a type of flat bread kind of thing.

The metro system was sensational at getting us to all the sights we wanted to see and there were lots of them. The only downside was the immense noise and speed at which these old trains (although some have tyres!!!) run at, only because of the distress it causes my little sensory kiddo. We saw so many touristy sights but also just wandered around the little alley way streets too…which is the best way to find the more authentic restaurants.

NOTRE DAME – Oh my goodness this place is amazing, with its stained glass windows, gigantic splendour, and indescribable beauty, I was brought to tears when I walked inside. We arrived at just the right time to sit and take in an afternoon service with angelic singing and the opportunities along the outer area for the children to light a candle and say a prayer. Although we had arrived too late in the day to climb the towers we were not disappointed with our experience. We had also gone under into the crypt to see the understones, and dug up remains of another time…simply amazing.

THE LOUVRE – Another tear jerker for me since I have been dreaming about visiting the Louvre for quite some time. It was late in the day also for this place but we do have two children that have forgotten how amazing it is to get up in the morning and utilise the whole day (that and they have been so tired with the sun going down so late in the evening – around 830 or later). As we enter we realise how huge this place is (and yes it does remind you of the Da Vinci Code with the glass pyramid), and its exciting to be able to experience this. Lucky for us that we did come late because it was significantly easy to see all the greats we wanted to see without having to have a smack down with the crowds to get through. We saw the Mona Lisa and Mackenzie was shocked at the whole moving eyes thing, along with Aphrodite, and the Kiss of Love. We did have a few giggles whilst we were there, with Macca grossly disgusted at all the “boys bits” on show on the statues, Lauren and Hubby posing like some of the statues, and us losing Kevin somewhere leading up to the Egyptian section right on closing time. This left Mackenzie, Lauren and I running through the Louvre like a pack of frantic tourists screaming out “Kevin” and me madly snapping pictures as I’m running, of cool things along the way. Seriously – Griswalds eat your heart out!

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MONTPARNASSE TOWER – What is called the Tour Montparnasse, this massive building is spectacular at night time from the top. With glass surrounds, you can have a 360 degree view of all of Paris. Although it gets a little windy at times you can warm up with a nice glass of red and take in the twinkling lights of all the major places in Paris and everything in between.

ARC DE TRIOMPHE – This was a lovely place to visit and impressed even the kids, despite the six million stairs to get to the top! We could see most of Paris from up here and to see the traffic around this centre was hilarious…like watching ants scattered by water – they all have somewhere to go but its every one for themselves. Hence there is ALOT of beeping horns and yelling.

The stairs inside the Arc deTriomphe…by this stage stairs were met with a groan!

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PALACE VERSAILLES – To be honest, someone needs to sprinkle some joy glitter all over some of the people in Versailles. Although the palace has some exquisite pieces of art, exquisite beauty in the palace, and extensive manicured gardens, nothing can gloss over the sheer rudeness and unwillingness to help. Mackenzie by this stage was an emotional mess and being such a warm day we needed to catch a taxi back to the train station and despite her being in tears and us begging the taxi driver, they refused in the most rude way saying they will only take people back to central Paris. I did get quite shirty however and the driver at the very back of the line agreed at double the regular fare for that distance much to the disgruntled reaction from the other drivers. Honestly I have no kind words to say about those people (there were more), so I will leave it at that.

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MOULIN ROUGE – Oh wow! This is certainly worth the cost of going and it is worth having the meal and show, although I do recommend that you do the first show of the night as there will be less waiting. They do pack you in like sardines but it is worth going. I’m fairly sure that Mackenzie was the only young child there and they do allow children over 7 years old to go. Mackenzie is a bit prudish and gets very embarrassed at bums and boobs, so I was shocked that she coped so well and only had one significant reaction covering her eyes at the start of the show…after that the glam, the bling, and the artistic talent distracted you from the boobs and butts when they were showing. The dancers are so athletic and skilled, with a definite grace…I was in awe! I was disappointed at their parading of little miniature ponies across the stage though as were my girls – they are talented enough without the need for animals, and its an issue that the girls and I will address in positive way. All in all though – spectacular!

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THE EIFFEL TOWER – This made all of us have a tear form in our eyes (or in the case of Lauren and I – rivers of sobbing) at the sheer beauty of this place, despite the fact it is a tower of metal. Every hour at night time it is covered with a display of sparkling lights that impress even in the presence of people selling stuff (that is until the police come and they scatter). I was blessed to have my sister in law and her children come to visit us for the weekend in Paris and we all went up…even brought nerves to me and Macca. Some went to the second level, and some of us went to the very top. It was spectacular seeing Paris from the top of this massive structure, but even though I am getting pretty good with heights even I had a few butterflies heading up not to mention my poor sister in law Emma who hates heights (she got all the way to the second level). It is definitely a sight to see.

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DISNEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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This is quite a magical place, particularly for kids. For me, I wasn’t that excited when I walked through the gate, but the reaction of my kids were worth it and certainly made my day. Lots of different lands to explore, okay so the massive adult sized Robinson Crusoes Treehouse was kind of cool, along with the Mad Hatters Tea Cup ride – that thing was awesome. The kids really enjoyed it and you definitely need more than one day for it too. My big suggestion is that you should arrive significantly early to get a spot for the parade and for the light show in order to see it – when you spend thousands of dollars to go to see it and end up seeing only a slither of either you can feel a little disappointed. The girls really missed out on the parade because we underestimated how busy the roadside would be (way worse than Movieworld), and I had to put my “don’t mess with this mamma because my kids aren’t going to miss out because you want to push in front” face on and even had to give another parent a serve for trying at the Dreams Show at the end of the night (be warned there are ALOT of horrible adults that will physically shove your kid out of the way and not give a second thought to any injuries they may cause to yours or anyone elses child – sad but true). It was worth staking our claim early and digging in til the show. I had tears as I watched the Disney Castle come to life and the reaction of the girls was equally amazing. If you do want some quiet crowd free time though ensure you stay at one of the Disney hotels as this gets you early entry into both the park and lots of areas, before the general public and you wont have to worry about getting transport back to Paris late at night.

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One of the saddest things I had to do in Paris was say goodbye to my family…my beautiful sister in law had brought the children over for the weekend to see us and I have to say I’m not entirely sure how I will go another long span without seeing them. We love them so dearly and I should say we are now planning to move to England to work for a year…as a nurse this shouldn’t be too difficult to do.

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So after a long day at Disney we woke early the next day to set off for our next adventure in Spain…and thats a tale in itself so I will leave it for another post.

Have you been to Paris? What about Disney Paris? Favourite ride?