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The Paris Opera House

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There are some places in the world that are so beautiful that it almost defies logic. We always speak of the places in nature where God’s hand or Mother Nature’s work simply takes your breath away, but then there are places where the talent of another human seems nearly impossible.

The Paris Opera House is one of those places, a place that has collected the incredible talent of so many for more than a century.

The gilded walls of the Opera House are filled with the ghosts of passion, art and creativity. Like an electric current that uses your heart as a conduit, the history here is palpable.

We toured the Opera House on a whim while we were spending a couple hours in Paris, before heading out to the French countryside. We were able to peek in on the performers rehearsing that evening’s show, then take in the beauty and history of the building.

Even though Jake and Zac are so young, I welcome the opportunity to show them such beauty. The passion, creativity and talent of others has always sparked connections between my mind, my soul and my heart and I hope it does the same for my little guys.

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The Berghaus Bort in Grindelwald, Switzerland

The Berghaus Bort in Grindelwald, Switzerland is a rustic alpine retreat nestled just off the Bort station of the First Gondola. It’s only reachable by gondola in the winter. So be prepared to dodge skiers, snowboarders and sledgers while you are lugging your kids and bags onto the moving car. It’s not easy to get to, but the charm and views are worth it. The Berghaus Bort offers majestic views of the glorious Swiss Alps in nearly every direction. It’s simple accommodations and mountain-filled fun will make this a memorable stay for you and yours! Berghaus Bort

Borthwick Castle

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Borthwick Castle  just outside of Edinburgh is an AMAZING hotel! Built in 1430, the castle was once the refuge of Mary Queen of Scots and still bears the damage from Cromwell’s cannons.

It is one of my favorite hotels because it gives you such a unique and authentic experience.

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Inside we crept up the tiny spiral stairwells to our rooms, we had dinner in the Grand Hall, then headed to the State Room for drinks. We played croquet on the front lawn. We slept in the Mary Queen of Scots room, which had a hidden door to the State Room. We spent the night like royalty and we LOVED it!

We even had a ghost visit our room. Door knobs rattled with no one there. Heavy wooden doors swung open on their own and I slept better than I ever had before.

Maquoketa Caves State Park

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Every once in a while we stumble upon an unexpected adventure and Maquoketa Caves in Iowa is one of those places. Nestled between emerald green rolling hills that are dotted with grazing cattle and golden fields of grain, Mother Earth has twisted herself into a wondrous system of tunnels and cliffs. Oozing with adventure, the trails at Maquoketa Caves take you up and down, in and out and through some of nature’s most fun scenery.

If I had told Jake and Zac we were going hiking, they would have complained all the way there. They don’t like walking around for the sake of walking around, but they will walk for hours in search of something… So we don’t go hiking we go hunting for dinosaur bones, fairies, elves, gnomes, smurfs and anything else that strikes their imagination.

I wish I could claim this parenting hack as my own, but as anyone that has ever ventured out in nature knows – it’s simply filled with a sense of magic. The valleys and peaks of Maquoketa Caves seemingly captures this magic, and it took less than five minutes for Jake and Zac to spot a possible gnome village carved out of a fallen tree nearly lost in the tiny white flowers that covered the forest floor.

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There is also a sense of danger that precariously balances on each tree and boulder dangling on the edge of every rocky outcropping. Some of the tunnels get very tight and you have to crawl to get through. Consequently, you will want to bring head lamps and a possible change of clothes if you plan to go that deep into the caves. We were not able to venture that deep into the caves because it was too rainy and wet when we were there, so we stuck to the larger caves.

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Maquoketa Caves is filled with a sense of magic that kids will love! It’s also brimming with the adrenaline-inciting sense of danger that grown-kids adore!

The “Getting There”

We love to travel, but let’s be honest getting there sucks. What I’ve learned is that you have to leave your expectations at home. On those long-haul international flights that you expect a TV, ya won’t get one… but on that 1 1/2 hour flight, you will have a TV and charging station.

I also learned that having a child that was easily lulled to sleep by the simple start of jet engines, doesn’t mean they all are. There are kids (ZAC) that could be exhausted and almost asleep walking onto the plane only to kick into hyper-speed the moment those engines purr.

So what do I do… 1. Don’t EXPECT anything and 2. Bring everything that you can carry and not an ounce more!

Below is my carryon packing list:

  1. At least one pair of headphones per person, then a backup.
  2. Portable DVD player with a few movies.
  3. IPAD
  4. Computer
  5. Phone *I’ve been on flights that stream entertainment via free, but limited wifi so have the Gogo Entertainment App ready to use. Then be ready to hand your phone to your toddler the entire flight while you watch the Spongebob movie on the portable dvd player.
  6. Snacks, obviously or so you’d think. Silly me assumed that we could just buy food at the airport until I had a showdown on the candy aisle with an angry two-year-old. Let me just tell you, one of us left crying and it wasn’t him. (Thank goodness for in-flight beverages).
  7. A sense of humor. Don’t even bother packing your sanity, cause you’re going to loose it but if you can step back an laugh when the flight attendant suggest Benadryl next time – you’ll be fine.

With that said, I always try to be considerate of the others on the plane. I let Jake and Zac torture me, but I stop them from being loud, bouncing around and kicking the seats in front of them… Or at least I try (we can all have goals).

Getting there may not be the best but being there is.