Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Dabs Go European!

Bonjour family and friends! Part of the purpose for starting this blog was so I could share with you stories from our summer 2012 family European vacation, and to have a written record of our trip to look back on. We were going to blog live from our trip but due to internet constraints this was not possible. However, I kept a diary and took 3,000 pictures. Therefore I have a lot to share! Each post will be a different day from our trip in order. 

Our vacation included the 5/23/12 sailing of the 12-night Celebrity Solstice itinerary out of Barcelona, Spain. Following our cruise, we spent 4 nights in Paris, France.
As you can imagine, most would be very excited about going to Europe. I was overly excited because my mom and I are the only ones who have been to Europe (and she only went to Paris in 1985). AND I am the only one who has been on a cruise in the past 15 years; the cruising industry has changed a lot since their days of cruising in the 80's and 90's. Tyler had never been on a cruise and Brandon was just a baby. I was so excited, I am sure my family and friends were annoyed with me because all I would talk about was the trip, sorry friends. 
Almost anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with Europe. I had the opportunity of a lifetime to go to Europe in 2004 with the SPC student trip. Since then, I have had dreams of taking my family back to Europe. Those of you who have been to Europe know there is nothing like seeing Europe for the first time; it cannot be recreated. There is something special about stepping off the plane in Europe for the first time, the air and ground just feel different (At least to me). As I already had my first encounter with Europe in 2004 I was overjoyed with the idea of getting to experience that feeling again through the people I hold closest to my heart- my family. I think the feelings I had are probably similar to a parent seeing Disney though children eyes?

Leading up the trip we recorded a bunch of Travel Chanel and Rick Steves shows.  I was the researcher and planner of the trip. Mom and dad just booked it and left the rest up to me. Planning a 3 week Europe trip takes a lot of time! I had no idea how much research I would have to do. The best place I found was the forums on (CC) and Trip Advisor. CC is great for anyone going on a European cruise! You will get everything you ever needed to know and more. If there is an answer you cannot find, just ask and someone will know it, guaranteed! To stay organized I created the "Master Book" or command central as I sometimes called it. I kept everything in there- tickets, itineraries, reservations, language phrases, directions, excel time sheets, etc. I might have over prepared when I scheduled "sleep time" into the excel spread sheet version of our itinerary.Time was precious!


We all had something different we were looking forward to most.

-I (Ashley) was most looking forward to the cruise (I have never been on such a nice ship before!), seeing my families reaction to Europe, and Paris (of course).

-Mom was looking forward to Paris, the cruise ship itself, and everything.
Dad is most looking forward to seeing the Grand Prix of Monaco and the ship itself.
-Brandon is most looking forward to Rome.
-Tyler is most looking forward to the food, Barcelona, and the new experiences of Europe.
Barcelona: Hotel Arts Barcelona, a Ritz Carlton

Paris: Marriott Champs-Elysees, a Marriott

Flights: Lufthansa and Air France
Cruise: Celebrity Solstice, Concierge Class, Port Side, deck 10, C3 Level
So how did this trip come about? I never thought in a million years the Dabs would go to Europe, together, as a family! One day, out of the blue, my parents call me and ask me to “sit-down.” Uh-oh, I thought- usually you get bad news when you hear something like that! They proceeded to give me the shock of a life-time; my mom said “Well your father and I wanted to go somewhere nice for our 30th wedding anniversary... we booked a 12 night trip on a Mediterranean cruise… and we are not done yet, we will be following the cruise with 5 days in Paris.” “UMM, DID I HEAR YOU CORRECTLY?" I thought. Next my mother tells me “After we hung up with the trip planner we felt it would not be the same without you kids… so we called back the planner AND we are bringing you, Brandon, and Tyler!”… “SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!” I shrieked (hey, I live in Georgia now so I can say that, HA!). And that was that! The Dabs were OFFICIALLY going to Europe! Plane, hotels, and cruise, booked! 
Needless to say, I was in shock. Apparently I need to be thanking Rick Steves; without my dad seeing his show this would all still be just still be a dream. And Celebrity cruises for offering an itinerary during the Grand Prix of Monaco!
As I previously mentioned, my parents left all the planning up to me! I had a year to plan the trip of a lifetime. My parents booked the cruise, and plane tickets, the rest was up to me! I instantly got to work. I had full control on making this trip a "hit or a miss"- the pressure was on! 

This blog will NOT be brief or perfect; it will be candid, heart-felt, and wordy :)
Ok, now that we got the introductions and formalities out of the way we can move right along...

Atlanta airport... off we go!

Sunday 5/20/2012
Mom, dad, and Brandon arrive at our place in Atlanta- where we will be flying out of in the morning. We had last minute packing and errands to run, like most families about to go on a big vacation. I always play the scene in Home Alone when they are rushing to get to the airport. I think that is an iconic scene for our generation!
I conducted an “orientation” or “briefing” as they called it on what to expect on the trip as they left all the planning up to me. I used my command center (the ironing board) with packets I made for each family member that contained an abbreviated version of my main folder. I handed them out just like I would to my students telling them when to turn the page :) You can never get the teacher out! They think I am a little nuts, but hey, who isn’t? Ha!
That’s all for this entry! The rest of the entries will each feature one day of our trip, in order with LOTS of pictures!
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