Monday, April 30, 2012

They're at it again!

The frogs, that is:

Actually, I'm pretty sure these are toads, not frogs
Yes, the annual amphibian love fest has once again begun on our doorstep.  Saturday morning, we opened the back door to find this couple.  The next morning, they had been joined by SEVEN others, for a grand total of NINE toads -- four couples and one lonely solo guy.  The kids were simultaneously disgusted and fascinated -- as usual -- and my suggestion that Kate kiss one of the toads was met with a look of complete horror.  But she did gather all kinds of leaves, grass and flowers to nourish the amorous critters, only because she didn't know how to catch flies for them.

Amazed that this has happened yet again, I did a little bit of Googling and found that toads do in fact return each year to the same place to mate and leave their spawn (lucky me!  all over my doorstep!).  Of course, last year's spawn was promptly scrubbed off the doorstep with bleach, so no little toads emerged.  I don't know what these guys are thinking.  Hoping to break the cycle and to avoid accidentally stepping on the little guys, we (and by "we" I of course mean Roger) very gently relocated the toads to the forest where their babies at least stand a chance of hatching.

In my Googling, I also discovered that toad and frog mating happens with a vengeance in certain locations in Luxembourg, and the city actually puts up signs blocking off roads where the little critters tend to congregate, not only for the safety of the animals but also for drivers.  Squished toads, apparently, are very slippery!

Also, in some parts of France, they build "crapauducs" -- barriers that guide the animals into holes where they are trapped until they can be removed to safe places.  ("Crapauduc" has to be the best name ever! Crapaud means toad in French).

More info here (but in French):

Now we're just waiting to see if they return or if others are going to turn up.  I can almost guarantee that no toad has ever been hatched on my doorstep, so it is a complete mystery as to why they all congregate there...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Girls' weekend in Paris

One of the many benefits of living in Luxembourg is that Paris -- which is at least my 2nd favorite city in the world -- is only a two-hour train ride away.  Since Kate loves Paris as much as I do, we decided to take a little weekend trip there, just the two of us.  (Well, us and Lulu, Kate's constant companion of the moment.)

Bright and early Saturday morning, we boarded the train:

Doesn't she look excited??

...and arrived in Paris just two short hours later.  Then it was a quick metro ride to the hotel.... 
Kate and Lulu in the metro
...which was adorable.  We stayed here and I would highly, highly recommend it.  It was perfectly located, just a few minutes' walk from Chatelet and the Louvre but tucked away on a tiny, very quiet side street.  The room was small (as are most hotel rooms in Paris) but beautifully decorated.  As Kate said, "It looks like a princess lives here!"
Kate and Lulu testing out the bed
After we dropped our bags, we headed off for some shopping.  (Well, Kate and I did.  Lulu stayed at the  hotel.)  Galeries Lafayette and Printemps were just a short bus ride away.  Last time Kate and I were in Paris together, we shopped for hours -- and she was only three then!  So this time, now that she was a very grown-up five, I was sure she'd enjoy it even more.  And she did!

We really didn't buy that much.  I just made her carry everything. :)
 It was fun, but exhausting:

After our shopping marathon, we headed back to the hotel to rest for a little while and then freshen up for dinner.  I'd made a reservation at  this place  because it was a short walk from the hotel and I'd heard it had authentic French food at reasonable prices.  It was excellent.  Kate ordered a goat cheese salad and an omelette and I had roast pork.  Delicious!  The staff was extremely kind and attentive and addressed Kate as "petite princesse" throughout dinner, which she loved.  I was so proud of her because she even ordered her own dinner in French.  Such a big girl!

Once again Lulu stayed at the hotel.  But after seeing other dogs at the restaurant,
Kate was rather annoyed that we didn't bring Lulu.

The next morning we got up bright and early and walked through the Tuileries to the Musée de l'Orangerie where we got to see Monet's waterlilies, among other Impressionist works:

Then we headed across the Seine...

We couldn't have had better weather!

... to the Musée d'Orsay.  I was glad we'd bought a combined Orangerie/Orsay ticket at the Musée de l'Orangerie because the line at Orsay was very long, but with our combo ticket we were able to walk right in.  Of course the museum is a treasure trove of incredible art, but we also appreciated the architecture of the building itself.

And Kate particularly loved the clock.  Behind her is a gorgeous view of the city.

This was Kate's favorite statue:

A couple of hours in the museum and my intrepid little traveler was starting to flag.  So we had a quick pain au chocolat in the museum cafe and then wandered back across the river to our hotel.  

And then, all too soon, it was time to catch the train home.

Kate and Lulu boarding the train home

One very tired little girl heading home:

Kate loved our trip so much that she asked that we please go back again before we move and do exactly the same thing all over again:  same hotel, same shops, same restaurant and museums.  I don't know that we'll have time for that but I do hope to make this an annual excursion!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring is here!

This is it, the time of year I love most in Luxembourg (well, except maybe fall.  I still can't decide), those precious couple of weeks when spring bursts forth in all its glory.

A first few tentative blossoms show up on trees,

...followed by outrageous splashes of yellow:

And then the magnolia trees!

The first few tulips are popping up right now...

And there are lambs everywhere!


Could they be any cuter?  Not that I was a big fan of lamb anyway, but these little guys have put me off it for good.

This kind of lamb, though:


The kids are loving the spring weather too.  They've been making daisy chains...

...roller blading around the lake...
... and climbing trees.

Hooray for spring!!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Canary Islands

Back when it was -15 degrees C here, we were desperate to get out of the cold and see some sunshine.  So we headed off to the Canary Islands for a week.
So nice to see the sun!

While it wasn't too hot (around 20-21 C / 70 F), it was a vast improvement over snowy, icy Luxembourg.

The beach was gorgeous:

The kids built sand castles,

splashed in the pool

built elaborate canals,

and enjoyed the local wildlife:

Unfortunately, we all got nasty colds while there but if you have to be sick, it's not so bad to recover while lying by the pool or beach with a good book.
Will, sick and feverish on day two

Kate, sick & feverish on day three
My view as I recovered

Fortunately, by the fourth day we were all sufficiently well to take a little submarine ride.  We saw some great fish:

Kate was really impressed!

Will was so impressed he forgot to hide from the camera!
We also visited a local market 

where Kate picked up a pretty Spanish dress

to wear to the hotel's nightly "Mini Disco":

One day we rented a car and drove around the island, which is literally covered with volcanoes:

We also got to see some very cool Spanish windmills:
It was really windy!
Will wasted no time in climbing to the top of the windmill:

But the highlight of the day -- if not the trip -- was the sand dunes of Corralejo:

Check out the pattern:

And isn't it amazing something can actually grow in that?

These dunes were incredible.  They seemed to stretch on for miles:

The kids deemed them perfect for climbing up and sliding  or rolling down:

Or, even better, having Dad race down the hills, dragging them behind:

They may still have some sand in their ears.

Well worth it, I'd say.