Sunday, March 31, 2002

"Aux Champs Elysees!" a song by Joe Dassin, the feeling I get when I listen to that song, is the feeling of joy, of excitement and of beauty, that is all Paris. We spent 6 very full days in the City of Lights and could have easily spent weeks more!

On Saturday, March 23rd, we left New York on a Delta flight to Paris. As always to Europe from the United States, this was a nightflight and a fairly short (just over 6 hours) one at that. We had hoped for a 777, but got stuck in a rather old MD11. The seat room was dismal, the temperature in the aircraft downright hot and the food, well, uh, not memorable. None of us slept a wink, not even Saskia! But I had a miracle pill with me: No Jet Lag, a homeopathic medicine made in New Zealand. Katja and I used it to Holland last time and felt so much better than the rest of the family, that I decided to diligently dole out pills to all 5 of us every 2 hours. Saskia liked the sweet taste so much, she kept asking when the next pill was due.

Thanks to these pills, we didn't feel too groggy stepping out of the plane at Charles de Gaulle airport at 7:30am on Sunday morning. We had pre-arranged a shuttle pick-up from the airport and I got my first chance to use my rusty French, since they requested to be called by us upon receiving our luggage. We quickly found the chauffeur and he drove us to our hotel, the Novotel Les Halles in the center of Paris, near the shopping mall, Forum des Halles.

Of course, our rooms (we needed 2, because none of the European hotels will put 5 people in one room) were not ready yet, so we went to eat their breakfast buffet. They had great food! Eggs, ham, salami, several cereals, but best of all: baguettes, croissants and chocolate croissants. Yum! And cafe au lait, of course.

After breakfast, it was still too early to get a room, so we went for a walk and found out we were fairly close to the Notre Dame cathedral. The weather was gorgeous (though cold!) and the blossoms were out and Notre Dame made a huge impression on the kids (and the adults!). So that was a good start of the vacation, as it whetted the appetite of everyone for more.

Upon return at the hotel, we found one room was ready. It must have been quite a sight for the guy who just wandered into the room to check the mini-bar an hour later, as we were all sprawled on the 3 available beds in exhaustion. Still, we kept the nap short, as we know from experience, that too long of a nap means not such a good night later. Once the other room was ready too and we had unpacked a little, we ventured out into the sunshine again.

This time we walked towards the Louvre museum and walked through the Tuileries gardens, by the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carousel, to the Place de la Concorde, where Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were executed, along with thousands of others. Today, nothing is left of that gruesome scene. A 3300 year old obelisk from Luxor, Egypt now stands where the guillotine once stood. The statues in the corners of the Place, representing the big cities of France are impressive too, as is the traffic flying around the square!

We decided (hey, everything looks so close by on a map!) to walk back via the Madeleine church (resembling a temple, Napoleon loved classic structures!) and the Opera (where the corner statues had just been cleaned and looked golden instead of the usual bronze-green). This way back to the hotel turned out to be quite a bit longer than we expected and we found that most of the brasseries and bistros along the way were closed on Sunday. Just a block from the hotel we found a nice French bistro though. I couldn't help but order escargots! Katja and Rick were less enamored with their "Cote de Boeuf", which turned out to be a rather tough piece of beef. The desserts were out of this world though! We were in France (and in heaven!). Back at the hotel we were all so tired, we went right to sleep at 8pm and slept all the way through till 8 the next morning!

Monday, March 25th

After a quick breakfast at the hotel (the only morning we were up early enough to make it there, as the restaurant closed at 9:30), we immediately went to the Notre Dame, hoping the line to climb the towers wouldn't be too long yet. It didn't look long, but unbeknownst to us, groups got precedence and we ended up waiting for 1.5 hours in the cold wind! Just as our group was about to be admitted, Saskia announced she had to go to the bathroom. I felt like an awful parent as there was no toilet anywhere and after all that time in line, we really didn't want to have to start over in line. As it turned out, she did fine, even climbing the stairs by herself and enjoying the view with the gargoyles. We also saw one of the huge bells of the church.

Once downstairs again, we rushed to a restaurant, to eat lunch and use the toilets. Lunch was chocolate crepes for the kids (I don't think they ate anything that grows on trees, bushes or in the ground the wole week!) and baguettes for Rick and me.

After lunch, we went into the main part of the Notre Dame. Very impressive!!! The stained glass is amazing. I took pictures, but none of them really do justice to the real thing. As it was a sunny day, the glass was all the more vibrant in color. The kids were awed by it too. There were many candles burning and for 2 euros, you could burn your own. The kids decided they'd like to burn one for their grandparents. We spent a good half hour in the church, I was once again surprised just how interested the kids were!

Just outside the church was one of the stops of the hop on-hop off Les Cars Rouges (site in French only, but still nice) double decker buses, so we decided to take it to the Arc de Triomphe. The tour is nice, but I was disappointed at the few stops, the Sacre Coeur and Moulin Rouge were not included for example.

At the Arc de Triomphe (at the end of the Champs Elysees), where the French tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located, Rick and Saskia decided to stay below, but Katja, Kai and I climbed the Arc. Once upstairs, we had a wonderful view, especially of the Eiffel Tower and the Arche de la Defense (the other Arch in the line Arc de Triomphe du Carousel-Arc de Triomphe-Arche de la Defense, the latter being a very modern structure. We didn't make it there this time, though).

Next on the agenda: Sacre Coeur and Butte Montmartre (fun website!) , especially Place du Tertre. To get there, we took the Metro from Etoile Charles de Gaulle to Anvers (on line 2, the navy line).

Figuring out the Metro took some time. It is the best one I've seen so far, though, nearly everything is within easy walking distance from a Metro. But the stations are dirty, there is no handicapped access (I'm not sure how disabled people move around Paris at all, frankly, there are so many steps everywhere!!) and there is a lot of petty crime and begging (we saw mainly women with children, tearing at my and the kids' hearts every time, what a life :(). At one of the stops, an American couple just found out they'd been robbed, of their money and passports! That made an impression on the kids too. Having learned from Amsterdam, I had a bag with many zippers and a location impossible to reach for my wallet. Inconvenient for me, but also for a pickpocket.

At first we bought individual single tickets for each Metro ride, but after 2 days, we ran into a nice Metro employee, who explained the pass system to us and made the rest of our Metro traveling days much easier (I was so glad to speak French! I found the Parisians opened up immediately to someone attempting to speak their language).

Anyway, let me not cloud the experience of Sacre Coeur with my ramblings about the Metro. This church is truly impressive and remains my favorite in Paris. As we got out of the Metro, we could spot the white turrets up the hill. So up the hill we went! And more steps, and more steps, but then the church loomed in front of us.
Saskia even wanted to run to it, but unfortunately, she ran into a street (not clear it was one at all), while a car was approaching. I must have yelled her name very loudly, as everyone stopped their conversations suddenly (and there were many, many people there!). Thank goodness, the car was going slowly and able to stop for her. She cried from fear and I needed a while to get my heart back into shape. The next car coming by was a speeding taxi cab and I don't even want to think of what could have happened!

The inside of the Sacre Coeur is beautiful, though not as impressive as the Notre Dame. Still, it feels more like a "real" (i.e. working) church. In fact, we went back to the area on Friday and were not allowed in the church because of preparations for the Good Friday mass.

There is also a cloister next to the church, where we saw some nuns cleaning windows. Saskia, having read the Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans, thought one of them might be Miss Clavel. We also saw a house covered with vines on nearby Place du Tertre (where the portrait painters come at you in droves!), which Saskia insisted was Madeline's house. Kai, on the other hand, was certain of the contrary, as he did not see anything that looked like Pepito's house nearby.

We metroed back and had dinner near the hotel. This time I ordered tartare de cheval, to Katja's horror: raw horse steak. Ok, so I am still quite European in my food tastes ;)! The waiter even felt it necessary to remind me it was raw, according to Rick he had had one too many tourists ask why their burger was not cooked ;).
Dessert once again was delicious! Poire Belle Helene, pear with ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Tuesday, March 26th

This time, we decided to try a *real* French breakfast. Well, that was harder to find than we thought, at least what we had in mind (croissants, eggs, brioches etc.). We ended up entering a smoky brasserie and having a very greasy ham and cheese omelette with a croissant. The owner had to run out for the latter, to get some more at the nearby bakery. Fun!

We had decided that we could fit in a visit to the Eiffel Tower, before taking a tour to Versailles at 1:30 pm. Once again we did not count on the huge lines these attractions have! There was no way we would make it through the line for the elevators in time. So, we decided to be bold and went to take the stairs (the top was closed, but we could go to the second platform, still plenty of steps!)

The ticket agent eyed our stroller and Saskia and asked if we were certain we wanted to do this. But of course, we said, no problem! Well... hundreds of steps later (while Saskia walked a good amount of steps herself, she did get tired and I put her on my back), we finally reached the platform. And then we were in a hurry, as we had little time before our tour would leave.

So we took some quick pictures (this was the one overcast day of our visit) and rushed back down (no easy feat with a 42 pounder on my back!). For days after, my calves would hurt, even though I'm in good shape and do stair workouts all the time at the gym. Somehow adding 42 pounds really did me in!

We just made it back to the hotel in time to be picked up for our first arranged tour (we decided on the tours, as the lines were hours long at every attraction and the tours provided entrance tickets and skipping the lines). The company we chose for our tours was Euroscope. They were excellent! This first tour was to Versailles, the palace of (primarily) Sun King Louis XIV. In a comfortable 9 passenger van, we were taken there and told on the way about the history of the very illustrious French Kings, especially Louis XIII, XIV, XV and XIV. I had been to Versailles before, but only remembered the outside of the palace.

Once there, we got audio guides in English and were given 1.5 hours to tour the palace. It was crowded! But not so crowded that we couldn't see anything. The older 2 kids were very interested in listening to the audio guides. Unfortunately, the palace couldn't capture Saskia's attention. So, I let the others listen to the guides and did my own tour with Saskia. The Hall of Mirrors still impressed me a lot. The thought of walking somewhere, where kings, queens and nobles were hundreds of years ago, is awesome to me.

The opulence of the place is not rivaled anywhere I've been to. The paintings, the statues, incredible! And the landscape outside, very immaculate and beautiful (though I personally prefer a little less structure).

Once back in the van, we saw the Trianons and Marie Antoinette's Country Village. Too bad it was cloudy (and we felt the only raindrop of the trip). And then, back to Paris.

After a quick dinner, we were picked up for our tour of Paris by night. The driver told us we were first to take a one hour cruise on the Seine. When we got to the dock, it was filled with people! The cruise didn't look very likely, unless we wanted to wait in line for more than an hour (NOT!). But never fear, this is why we recommend Euroscope so much, our driver had a way around the crowd and opened a gate, which allowed us to board with the first people!

The cruise was very nice, all the bridges crossing the Seine (Washington DC can go there for advice! Every kilometer or so, there is a bridge!) were interesting and had histories all of their own. Especially the Alexander the Third bridge was nice, as well as the Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris.

Back on dock, our driver took us for some picturesque sights of the monuments: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Invalides, Notre Dame and Hotel de Ville (City Hall). At 11pm we were back at the hotel, exhausted, but happy.

Wednesday, March 27th

Ouch, was it ever hard to wake up that morning! We had a "girls" room (Katja, Saskia and I) and a "boys" room (Rick and Kai) and we had determined to get up at 8. I couldn't! So I called Rick to ask for 30 minutes more of sleep. Please??? The funny part is, that I never have to ask Rick for more sleep, he'll sleep for as long as he can. So this was a funny situation. He is so trained by me, that he was all ready to get up. But everyone welcomed the extra half hour!

Still, we had to leave relatively early, as the crowds gathered quickly in the city. We ate a breakfast of fried eggs and croissants (I love fried eggs, again such a European thing, I guess, as no other in the family does) and then walked to the Louvre. We had acquired Museum passes at the Metro the day before. These passes (only necessary for adults, something the Metro agent did not know, so he sold us five passes, 3 of which we ended up passing on to others) allow you to get into most museums without standing in line. Highly advisable! They're obtainable at tourist offices (we never saw one) and Metro stations.

We were in the Louvre in no time! We decided to immediately make our way to the Mona Lisa. The kids learned about her and Leonardo DaVinci earlier this schoolyear, so they were psyched to see the real thing. A long walk past all kinds of Renaissance Italian works (one very interesting one made portraits out of only vegetables) and finally at the end of a corridor, there she was. The line wasn't as bad as we feared, but the painting was as unimpressive as we had thought. We can now say, that we saw her, though. I had prepared Katja and Kai, that the painting would be smaller than expected, so they were not disappointed, but I still wonder just what the attraction is over all those other works of art!

After seeing her, we were thirsty and had a drink in a very nice cafe in the palace (the Louvre was the main royal palace before Versailles was built). Then, off to the other tourist trap: the Venus de Milo. I have to admit to being more impressed than I would have thought. It's certainly awesome to look at something that was created more than 2100 years ago. The way the statue is placed is impressive too, it towers above everything at the end of the ancient Greek statues corridor.

After some searching, we found the Flemish and Dutch artists wing next. I was thrilled to see the one painting they have of Johannes Vermeer "La Dentelliere". The room with the Rubens paintings commissioned by Maria de Medici is worth a visit too. The kids loved finding the queen in the paintings. In almost all of them she wears a black dress and is the only one not showing a naked breast ;).

That satisfied our appetite for the Louvre and we left to get some lunch (after a quick return to the hotel). We had galettes (hearty pancakes filled with hamburger and cheese and the kids had a croque monsieur (grilled cheese sandwich with ham, except the cheese is on top of the bread, instead of in the middle)).

After lunch, we walked to Musee d'Orsay, on the opposite side of the Seine from the Louvre. This museum is housed in a former train station. It has mostly impressionist and modern art. We saw the Mondrian exhibit, which was exciting to me, as he was a Dutch artist and it was so interesting to see his transformation from relatively "classic" painter to cubist and abstract painter.

Then we went all the way upstairs, since we were mostly interested in the Impressionists. Monet especially, since the kids studied him in school. Kai loved seeing one of the actual "Haystacks" paintings, as well as a few of those of the cathedral in Rouen. And Renoir's paintings of children always touch me. Finally, the Toulouse Lautrec room was impressive. He is one of my favorite French painters and seeing some of his actual paintings was truly exciting. Thankfully, this kind of art spoke to all three of the kids too, so they enjoyed that visit as well. Other paintings we saw there were by Pissaro, Manet, Cezanne, Sisley, Whistler (the artist's mother), Seurat, Gauguin and Degas.

After buying some reproductions and the likes, we left for the Invalides, where Napoleon's ashes lie. We walked and walked, it was much further than expected. Nice interlude: we came by the Museum Rodin and saw the back of the "the Thinker" statue from the street. Too bad it wasn't the front, but it was still nice to see it in reality. The beautiful church of the Invalides shone in the sunshine, but the tomb access was closed by the time we got there.

After some pictures, we went on a wild goose chase, no better way to describe it, for transportation back to the area of our hotel. No close by Metro's, no taxi's (this is something sorely lacking in Paris!) or buses that we knew went anywhere near. We were tired!!! So we walked to near the Eiffel Tower (still quite a hike) and paid lots of Euros for a tourbus ticket to get us to the area near the Opera.

There, we found a great restaurant, although it was the only one where the waiter insisted on speaking English to me, even though my French was equal to or better than his English. That was fine, but it did annoy me when he gave me an English menu as well. I read English every day and at a French restaurant in France, I want to read a French menu. Ok, call me blase ;).

The dinner was absolutely delicious there, though and the waiter we got later on was very nice and funny. Saskia's diet this week was not great, she ate either bread or pommes frites and dessert. And even the adult meals had very little vegetables, a small heap of haricots vert was mostly it. So I learned to order a salad for an appetizer, can't live without my veggies!

What was so fun this week, was how the kids were getting along. They barely fought, in fact, I can't remember a single fight. Katja was just in love with Saskia, pointing out all kinds of cute things about her to me and giving her tender looks. Kai and Saskia found each other hilarious, which resulted in big giggling fits (sometimes a bit loud in the restaurants, but hey, better than screaming, crying or otherwise).

After dinner, we first attempted to flag a cab. At the restaurant, we had asked if they could call one for us, thinking back to our fruitless attempts to get one at the Eiffel Tower. They claimed it would be much better to just go to the Opera and flag one down. Well, forget it, not an empty cab in sight. So, we took Metro, which ended up being fine.

Thursday, March 28th

Today was our shopping day. We decided to go to Galeries Lafayette, thinking we'd spent an hour or so shopping there and then going on to other places. Well, it was just a bit bigger than expected! First, we went to books and CD's, where we added the Asterixes we didn't have yet to our collection and got some nostalgic (for me) French CD's.

Then to the toy department, so Saskia and Kai would be entertained, lots of fun stuff there! Kai found Legos that hadn't come out in the US yet and I just loved all the adorable baby dolls, every little face was cute.

I went to the baby department and got my sister 2 little outfits for my newborn nephew, one by Petit Bateau, a brand I remember from my childhood. Very cute stuff there too, I could have bought the whole department!

Rick and I had made reservations for the Moulin Rouge that night and Rick had not brought a tie, which the tour operator required for that tour. So we bought him a tie.

I did have a dress with me, but saw a gorgeous, very French looking, red outfit and just had to have it. It's a fun pantsuit, nice for evenings out, but not too dressy.

Four hours later (!), we were ready to leave the Galeries and go have lunch at a nearby restaurant.

After that, we found we didn't have much time left, before we had to be back at the hotel and get ready for the Moulin Rouge. So we took Metro to the Quartier Latin and walked around there and scoped out a restaurant for our last night in Paris on Friday.

The kids were introduced to their babysitter, a very nice young girl named Lila, Katja ended up liking her a lot, as she taught her some French words. Rick and I were picked up by a Scottish driver, who dropped us at the Moulin Rouge, where we were to have dinner and see the show and then be picked up again.

We were seated at a table touching the stage and so had practically front row seats. We had a very funny waiter and the food was delicious! Smoked salmon, sea bass, filet mignon and a delicious dessert in the shape of the Moulin. And of course very good French wine. We did laugh a little at the dinner entertainment, as it was an older Francaise singing and her outfits were, um, interesting. Not befitting her figure, let's just say that. She sang American songs, with a thick French accent.

The show was everything we had heard and seen about it. Glitzy, entertaining, well choreographed and tasteful, despite the semi-nudity. The Cancan could have lasted longer, it was over before we knew it started. But the 2 hours flew and we truly had a special evening.

Friday, March 29th

Our last full day in Paris, sniff!! The week just flew by! We started out on the Champs Elysees, where we had a delicious breakfast. Croissants, eggs, strawberry tarts, all very well prepared. After eating, we walked up the Champs Elysees, past all the big stores (Disney Store, Virgin Mega Store etc.) to the Metro, to go to Montmartre again. Kai and Saskia had their hearts set on some creatures that street vendors were selling there.

Since it was Good Friday, Montmartre was very, very crowded and they were preparing for a mass at the Sacre Coeur, so a lot of streets were blocked off. Because of all the police around (and did we ever see a lot of police in Paris!!), the street vendors must not have been there, unfortunately for the kids. At the Eiffel Tower, we saw them being chased away by police by bike, I've never seen a bunch of men run so fast!

We had a quick drink at the Place du Tertre and then went back to the hotel, as we had booked the Fontainebleau and Barbizon tour for the afternoon.

The same guide (Isabelle) that took us to Versailles was our guide to Fontainebleau. The weather couldn't have been better, blue skies and 18 degrees Celsius, about 65 Fahrenheit. Fontainebleau is a medieval castle (dating from about 1200 or so), that has been used by just about all the French kings, from Francois I to Louis Philippe, the last king. Napoleon's apartments have been restored to their original state.

Personally, I liked Fontainebleau better than Versailles, although the latter is definitely the better known and way more crowded one. Fontainebleau was not crowded at all, which was a refreshing experience, as Paris is definitely a popular and populated city!

Saskia and I looked at the rooms together and went ahead of Rick and the other 2, I read the plaques instead of listening to the audio guide. Saskia was especially excited about Napoleon's bed and exclaimed that she wanted that kind of a bed (huge with lots of flowers and flowered curtains).

After a short visit to the gardens, similar sculpted as Versailles, we went back in the van and stopped for a short walk to overlook a canyon in the forest around Fontainebleau. Then we drove through the village of Barbizon, where landscape painters like Jean Francois Maillet and Theodore Rousseau had their ateliers.

Upon return in Paris, our guide dropped us off in Quartier Latin, where we first stocked up on souvenirs (I believe each of the kids has about 3 different sizes of Eiffel Towers and we found some really funny t-shirts with French sayings). Then we found a very nice, cozy restaurant, where I had raclette for the first time in my life. Yum! But heavy!

We walked back to the hotel past the Notre Dame, nicely lit up by a full moon. And in the distance we saw the lit up Eiffel Tower. We all felt a little sad saying goodbye to this wonderful city. I think I speak for all 5 of us when I say Paris in spring is definitely all it's cracked up to be! Partir, c'est mourir un peu, as the French say.

Saturday, March 30th

We had arranged for our airport shuttle to come and pick us up at 10am. By 8:45, we were all packed and went downstairs for breakfast. It was quite clear Easter break had started for most Europeans now, as the hotel lobby was full of new arrivals. The restaurant was equally full and we were put in the bar area.

After eating all we could, knowing how bad the Delta food was on the way out, it was 10 and the shuttle had arrived. The driver took a route through Paris and we all liked that, so we could see some more of the neighborhoods. We arrived at Charles de Gaulle more than 3 hours before our departure, but none too early! There was a long line waiting for check in and it took over an hour to get through it. I didn't even feel security was that tight though, as the questions about who packed your bags and did anyone give you anything always sound so ridiculous to me. As if you would answer the truth if you had bad intentions! They did search some luggage, but mostly from women.

In line, Katja realized she had forgotten "Glowworm", the doll she got from her grandparents her first Christmas, at the hotel. She was very upset, so I called and asked if they could get it and mail it to us. Thankfully, they found it. I think they probably wondered what the big deal was about a doll that's now been reduced to just a head with a hat and some rags, but to Katja (and us), she's very important!

Once through security, Katja and I went to the perfume store. Katja chose a bottle of "I love Dior" from, of course, Dior and I a bottle of "Miracle" by Lancome, so we've both been smelling pretty ;).

We boarded the plane on time, but were delayed at the gate for more than an hour, because missing papers, necessary for departure, had to be faxed from Atlanta. This meant the total time in the airplane was over 9 hours. I thought that the kids did quite well for being cooped up for such a long time, but apparently the mid-twentyish couple across the aisle from us, found Saskia's whimpering about the pain in her legs the last hour of the flight insufferable and not to be understood. The man decided to even imitate her, I first thought I hadn't heard it right!

Upon landing, we found out, that we would likely miss our connection to Washington, unless we really dashed out of the plane (we had to take our luggage through customs at JFK). So we got into the aisle and I was carrying Saskia and my heavy carry on. Katja was standing in front of me.

Suddenly, the guy I just wrote about, decided that he was going to push himself between Katja and me. He did that in such a way, that I almost fell with Saskia. I politely asked him, if I could stay right behind Katja as we would need to run for our connection. Although I had just heard him tell his girlfriend, that he was glad they didn't have to connect anywhere, he claimed he was in a hurry too and had already been annoyed the "whole" trip at our children, that we were unable to control.

I calmly explained to him, that Saskia had leg cramps at the end of the voyage, but he rudely proceeded with his tirade about better controlling children and how terrible of a mother I was and how we had ruined his entire trip. At that point, I decided it wasn't worth responding anymore.

When people started moving, he pushed me hard, so I hit my head on the overhead bin. At that point, I lost it, I yelled at him for being a total jerk and everybody was watching him, several people commenting on his cowardice. I crossed the aisle and walked out on the other side, way ahead of them, thankfully. I was trembling with anger! But then I decided it wasn't worth it, I'd never see them again. Katja wondered how he would control their eventual children and we made up some horrible scenarios, like stuffing cotton balls in their mouths. That got us laughing again.

Though not for long! Upon arrival at baggage claim, we were told our flight to DC had left and that we would be escorted to LaGuardia, to catch a plane from there.

Well, Delta has a funny definition of "escorted". An agent yelled at our group to follow her, she proceeded to run ahead of all of us at a pace that we couldn't manage with 10 pieces of luggage and 3 tired kids. Then she pointed at a black schoolbus and said, "in there". We assumed she meant that bus would take us to LaGuardia.
There was no one in sight to help with the luggage, so we carried it all on the bus and waited.

Some other people got on the bus, including some French people in wheelchairs. They got marginally more help, but still not at all impressive.

About 20 minutes later, the driver appeared and we went to LaGuardia. We had no idea which flight we were now booked on, but we figured there would be someone to meet us at LaGuardia, to check us through (there was a large group of people going to Baltimore too).

Once at LaGuardia, the driver announced that this was the Delta terminal and left. We were once again left to figure out what was going on. So another man and I went to the counter (there was a huge line of "regular" check in passengers). We told the supervisor about our being sent there from JFK and they knew nothing about that. The 7 o'clock flight to Baltimore, that almost everyone else was booked on, was full and so all those people had to be rebooked and rerouted.

Katja and I had to go to the bathroom badly, but that area had no bathrooms nor any carts for our luggage.

When it was finally our turn in line, the agent looked at our tickets, announced we were rebooked on the 8:30 pm shuttle, but that, sorry, she couldn't help us, we had to be in another terminal.

This is when my patience took a walk. While I remained civil (I proudly announce!), I told the agent, that there was no way we could get our heavy luggage and three tired, sleepy kids and their carry ons, down an escalator into yet another bus.

She told me she had no one to help with luggage. I told her she would have to make someone, then, or I would explode. Apparently, she didn't want to take that risk, because not 5 minutes later, we had our own agent and porter taking us down to the bus and the bus driver was clearly instructed to carry our bags to the check in counter in the Shuttle terminal.

Phew, after going through security, being searched and having to take our shoes off, we finally sat down in the gate area for the Shuttle and had a nice flight to DC, where we arrived 3 hours later than expected. We have a truly wonderful week to look back on!

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