Joyeux Anniversaire

My husband has always been so amazing at making my birthday special.  He is always planning special gifts and dinners and surprise parties.  I love him for it, because there is nothing I love more than birthdays.  This year though, I begged and pleaded for something low key.

I told him that I didn't feel like getting dressed up and finding a sitter to go out to a fancy dinner.  All I wanted to do was sit in my PJ's and eat pizza and cake (because I seriously never get to do that)!  

Since my birthday fell on a Monday (and who wants to celebrate birthdays on Monday?) Cornel and Nathan woke me up with breakfast in bed on Sunday morning.  It was such a special moment.  Nathan climbed on the bed, gave me my card and then proceeded to eat half of my breakfast.  I could have never imagined my life so full than at that very moment.
The rest of the day went exactly as planned complete with pizza for lunch.  My husband cleaned the entire house while I got to relax with Nathan.  What more can a girl ask for?  

I was also showered with beautiful roses and presents.  I had picked out my gifts while on vacation, so it was nice that I finally got to put them to use.  I opened up my gorgeous shoes that I bought in Milan...

I love them...

And then of course there were my earrings that I picked up at the factory in Austria.

Later in the evening I got to enjoy my delicious raspberry tiramisu cake from Maison Vacher.  If you are ever in the area you have to stop by, really.  This is the best boulangerie in Chamalieres!  We've gotten all of our pastries, cakes and breads there for over 3 years because it is seriously THAT good!  Those are fresh blackberry macarons on top of the cake...
Of course, I had a little help blowing out the candles.  I have to say that even with baby spit all over it, the cake was still delicious!
It was such a special weekend and so glad that I got to spend it with my family.  Sadly, on my real birthday I spent the day at work, but I had the memories (and extra cake) to help make it through.

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What would I do...

I don't think that one week goes by without me uttering the words "I wish I didn't have to go to work today", although I've never given much thought to what I would do if I weren't working.

10Clean the house.  I also love to utter the words "if I didn't have to work so much I could clean the house", but who am I kidding?  I hate to clean and the house would be just as messy (if not much more if I were staying home).
9.  Become Susie Homemaker.  I would be the woman who greets her family after a long day all dolled up in high heels and pearls.  A martini and slippers for my husband and fresh chocolate chip cookies for the kids.  Dinner would also be lovingly prepared from scratch each night.  Okay - not true.  I would do none of this, but I would like to maybe learn to cook a little better and maybe make a dinner that didn't involve some sort of frozen food.

8. Get my craft on.  I would love to actually get creative and do things that I don't get to do in my spare time.  Like scrapbook or sew - okay maybe not scrapbook since I have 0 patience but maybe sewing.

7.  Save the environment.  I would join these groups that save the environment you know like the NRDC and do something worthwhile with my time. Okay, maybe also an exaggeration - I'm lucky if I can sort the trash for the recycling every week.  So maybe I would just not shower and get pretty everyday and call the water conservation "going green" and definitely find time to sort the garbage.

6. Join the PTA.  I'd become one of these involved parents that I see everyday. You know - the ones that give the evil eye to parents like me for never having the time to get involved.  I do give a good evil eye - so this has some potential.

5.  Watch TV & eat bon bons.  Seriously, at least for one portion of my day I want to be able to watch something other than the Disney Channel.  I would get dragged into mindless soap operas (like I did during my maternity leave) and enjoy the mindless entertainment.

4.  Nap.  My son gets to take a 3 hour nap at school, I think I deserve the same.

3. Exercise.  Because after doing nothing but watching TV while eating bons bons and napping I'm going to need to feel better about myself.

2. Stalk all of my friends on Facebook.  Because the couple of hours that I get to do it at night isn't nearly enough time.

1. Shop!  Oh how I would love to go shopping without a stroller or toddler in tow.  I would try on all of those gorgeous non-mom clothes that I can't afford and daydream - then I leave the store without buying a thing.

What would you do if you didn't have to work?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Submitted as part of Mama Kat's writing workshop.
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25 weeks

What a's been full of fun and excitement.  It started with a great family weekend and my birthday {more to come on that later}.  I can't believe that I'm at 25 weeks, I know I say that every week but it seriously feels like time is flying by.  

There is finally no denying that I'm pregnant, which is a great thing.  That means that baby boy is growing.  My mom sent me some cute maternity tops from the States which I've been wearing lately although I'm still in my non-maternity pants.  Sadly, my belly still isn't big enough to keep them up and pregnant or not a saggy butt is not an attractive butt!

I've still been sleeping okay and haven't had any unusual cravings, although I did indulge in some raspberry tiramisu cake - because it's not fun being pregnant if you can't eat junk every once in a while.  

I have already started washing newborn clothes and making room in the closets for baby #2.  I hate cleaning and organizing so while it seems like it's really early to start, it might just take me until December to finish!

top:  gift from my mom, jeans:  Abercrombie, shoes: Puma

Shirt: Gap Maternity, Skirt:  Made by moi; Shoes:  Tod's (birthday present from the hubs)

Shirt:  Made by moi; cardigan Old Navy; jeans: Motherhood Maternity; shoes Tod's, Necklace:  Tiffany's, 

When I was 25 weeks pregnant with Nathan I was having my very baby shower in Arizona.  Crazy how time flies.

pleated poppy

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The Right Thing

There are those days when I struggle - struggle with trying to decide what is the right thing.

The right thing for me; the right thing for our family.  Whenever I look into the face of my son I wonder if we are doing the right thing by staying in France. 

I grew up surrounded by family - cousins, aunts, uncles.  I always had that built in system of friends, of support of love.  Even now, 30 years later the bonds are still there.  I hurt when my family hurts, I share in their joys even from thousands of miles away.  When I think to my childhood these are the fond memories that I always remember.

And what have I done, I have stripped this opportunity from my son.  Is it fair that he grows up without any family nearby?  Is it fair that I'm denying him that relationship with people that share his blood.  Will he just grow up, knowing about those "strangers" that he sees once a year that live so far away.

Will he grow up thinking that his grandparents live behind a computer screen.  Is it fair to deny him their love, their hugs, their kisses and all of the spoiling that grandparents are supposed to do to their grandchildren?

I struggle with the guilt of living so far away - struggle with how our choices will impact our sons.  And now with baby #2, the guilt is doubled.

I am reassured by the fact that at least my sons will always have each other.  Reassured by the fact that our family has survived and that we have learned to rely on each other and hopefully that is the right thing.  It's at least the right thing for right now.

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Clear the Roads....

For years my husband has been telling me that I need my own car - but honestly after the whole driving debacle of 2008 - I was a little car shy. 

Plus the fact that I was still in denial about the fact that we would be staying here for any long period of time.  I mean I didn't want to buy a car if we were leaving in a couple of months.  But now that I'm in my new "acceptance" mode and expecting our second child we knew we would have to make the investment soon enough and in an automatic car no less.

I spent my days staring at all of the cute European cars on the road dreaming up the pros and cons of such cars.  I always pictured myself in a cute Italian car that left no room for car seats but that I would look absolutely great in...such as the Fiat 500 (doesn't it look like a toy)
My husband suggested a smart car, because then I wouldn't have to parallel park (which I don't know how to do by the way)... I mean, look I could park this thing anywhere and put the kids in the trunk or on the roof maybe...
But alas, all of these were pipe dreams because while we loved to talk about it, we hadn't done anything about it.
Then came the message from above, in email form none-the-less about the used automatic car for sale.  It belonged to an expat family that was heading back to the states and they wanted to sell it.  It's as if it was made for me.  It's 7 years old and only had 12000 miles on it (um...brand new).  We went out to take a look and we were SOLD.  

It's a Renault Scenic the closest thing to a mini-van that you will probably see in France.  Isn't she pretty...I've named her Minnie...

Now the kids won't have to ride in the trunk and my husband can stop chauffeuring me's a win-win!  Plus since this fell right around my birthday, my husband now gets to tell everyone how he bought me a car - earning him major husband points and bragging rights to anyone who asks.

Now I just have to change the plates and registration and spend an eternity at the prefecture (city hall) and oh yea...learn to parallel park.  It's always something here in France!

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Toddler Bed Experiment

Right before going on vacation we decided that we were going to take the plunge and transition Nathan from his crib to a toddler bed.

We both thought it was way too soon, but with the arrival of baby #2 we knew we would have no choice.  We wanted to have the crib ready for the baby and we had high hopes of Nathan being in his big boy bed by the time his brother was born.

Rather than making a big commitment to a toddler bed right away, we decided to do the transition by taking the side off of his crib.

We picked the big day - took the side off and let Nathan explore his new bed all afternoon.  He loved climbing in and out.  Putting all of his stuffed animals on the bed and then taking them all off again.  We were excited and thought this toddler bed transition was going to be a piece of cake!

Then nighttime came, we laid Nathan down in his bed sang a goodnight song and read him a book.  His little eyes were small and sleepy and we snuck out of his room.  No sooner had we crossed into the hallway when we hear the door squeak open and a sleepy eyed toddler making his way out to the living room again.  We must have put him back to bed at least 10 times that night.  We decided to finally just spend the night in his room until he was really asleep.  Later that evening as we sat on the couch talking about the night we heard it "THUMP" - Nathan had fallen out of bed.

Very little sleep was had that night and the nights that followed.  We were wondering whether or not he was really too young for the toddler bed.

Then something miraculous started happening - he started staying in his room.  At first he would sleep on the floor, others in his chair, but not running out of his room every 2 minutes.

Then little by little, he started sleeping in his bed.  And before we knew, he would voluntarily go to bed at night and sleep in his little bed.

Could it be that in only 2 months my son had mastered the big boy bed?

Life is so much easier now for all of us.  He goes to bed voluntarily at 8 PM and he wakes up and comes out of his room on his own.  No crying or whining for "mama" or "daddy".  Just a sleepy-eyed toddler with bed head who makes his way over to hug and kiss us in the morning.

Even when we were about to crack those first couple of weeks - we stuck it through.  And now we are ready to go and purchase Nathan's very own big boy bed!  A bittersweet milestone for me as I realize that the baby that was once too small for his crib is now ready for a bigger bed.

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F is for Gym

It's probably no surprise to any of you that know me that I have not been blessed with any athletic ability.  Ever since I was little I have been blessed with a unique lack of coordination.

Given this fact, I think my parents were still surprised when they received a letter that I might not graduate high school because of my gym grade - yes gym as in PE.

Since I had only taken gym my freshman year I had a hard time trying to figure out how on earth I could have managed to screw up my grade in gym of all classes.

As it turns out, it was all due to a surgery I had my freshman year which forced me to be out of school for 2 weeks and sit out gym class for an entire month.  I thought that since I had a doctors note that prohibited me from any physical exercise for 4 weeks - that I was in the clear.  I would dress up in my gym clothes and go and hang out while my classmates played volleyball and ran laps.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think that my lack of participation for medical reasons meant I would fail gym!

With only 2 weeks left until graduation my mother was irate and I was cursing the day they made gym a mandatory subject.  To this day - I have no idea how all of those hours kickball have made a contribution in my life.

I went and groveled on hands and knees to my old teacher to change my grade.  She was less than understanding and could have cared less if I graduated or not.  Fair enough - it had been four years since I had failed her class.  Eventually after getting sick of me begging she agreed to give me an incomplete and let me make up my missed hours in the remaining 2 weeks.

I kissed my senior half days goodbye and had to join all of the new freshman for gym.  It was humbling and infuriating all at the same time.  After my sentence was up she changed my grade from an Incomplete to a C - good enough for me to graduate but not good enough for me to forgive and forget.

I did have high hopes of my classmates rallying together chanting "Donna Martin graduate..." oh wait, wrong high school

Mama’s Losin’ It

Submitted as part of Mama Kat's writing workshop.

Let's BEE Friends
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24 weeks

I feel like I've reached a huge milestone at 24 weeks, especially considering the baby chances of survival should he be born after this week have increased significantly.  My doctor is constantly scaring me about my risk of premature labor, so I'll take any victories I can get.

Other than that, there hasn't been anything too exciting going on lately.  The baby is growing and I am (finally) growing, which is great.  Nathan still points at his own belly and says brother and he still loves to have conversations with my belly, which is cute.

Dress:  Mango, Belt & Boots:  Zara, Shirt & Tights:  Old Navy
It's gotten really cold lately, so I had to bring out the tights and winter clothing - which is crazy considering it's September!!  I didn't have any fall boots and set out on a mission, but the sad thing is that my shoe size can only be found in the children's section.  I found these great boots at Zara Girls and the great things about kid's shoes is that they are about half the price!

And because it's always fun to compare, here is a picture with Nathan at 24 weeks....

I was in Atlanta at 24 weeks with Nathan and loving every minute of it!

pleated poppy

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Is acceptance the last stage of grief?  If so, I think I have finally arrived.

I have come to accept the fact that I live in France and I have to come to terms with the decision that we took three years ago.

I have always thought of our situation as temporary and have never allowed myself to settle in, to make friends to enjoy this opportunity that we've been given.

I find myself always wishing for the things "back home", I fill my days longing about what I would do if I were back in the States.  I find myself always comparing what I do here to how I would them back home.  Always saying how much easier my life would be had we just stayed in South Carolina.

It isn't fair.  It's not fair to my son or my husband and it isn't fair to me.

France is the only home my son has ever known - this language this culture and it's people are part of who he is.  I hope and pray that he doesn't lose his American or Romanian identity, but I have to remind myself that France is also part of his identity.

Thanks to this experience he is learning and speaking 3 languages.  He has visited over 8 countries and traveled more in his 2 years than more people travel in a lifetime.

I fought this life for so long, afraid of losing my identity, afraid of losing myself and my connection with anything familiar.  I have finally realized that living here doesn't mean having to make a choice or sacrifice the person that I am.

And so, I have decided to accept the fact that I live here.  To stop crying for the things I can't have here, the things I don't have and focus on what I do have.

I have no idea how much longer we will be in France.  A few more months?  A few more years?  But as long as I am here I will embrace what is around me and be content in the life we are building as a family.

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Skinny Minnies

If you walk into the office of my OBGYN you will see nothing but tiny pregnant women.  If you ask their due dates you will almost fall back in your chair.  Women who are six and seven months pregnant sporting a tiny little bump that you would think is brand new.

I remember looking around during my first pregnancy and thinking "I wish I can look like that at six months pregnant".  But I guess this is to be expected in a country where even the first lady can rock a bikini while in her 3rd trimester and look great.

While I read about "skinny pregnancy" being a trend in the US, here in France it is a way of life.  Maternity clothes are made in Extra Small and sell out quickly.  There is actually no secret formula and the women are definitely not starving themselves.

So how do they stay so thin and healthy while pregnant?

1) Eat well, eat fresh

While you can find a fast food restaurant in every corner in the US, they are a hard to come by commodity in France which means women make healthier choices.  Most people buy their food fresh each day or at least every few days and even in a country where people can eat their weight in bread, the bread is baked fresh every day and does not come in a plastic bag - meaning there are no added preservatives or conservatives (for all of my francophone readers)!

2) Walk

Most French people walk, everywhere.  A crazy concept I know since very little can be done in the US without a car, but here it is a way of life.  Mothers walk their kids to school, people walk to work and to the store and it isn't unusual to see people biking to work rather than driving even in the winter.

3) Medical System

There is such a strong social emphasis on prenatal (and postnatal) care that doctors and hospitals take a very active role during pregnancy.  From the first appointment my doctor has made it very clear what his expectations are of me and definitely takes the time to explain what is/isn't healthy.  There is definitely no "eating for two" mentality but rather about educating what should be eaten to maintain a healthy weight for both mom and baby. 

And let's not forge the wonderfully state funded re-education classes that help get your um...muscles back into shape after birth.

4) Life in Moderation

While French women take extra-ordinary care of themselves they also know when too much is too much.  You probably won't bat an eye at a pregnant woman enjoying a nice glass of champagne (aperitif) from time to time or indulging in a mousse au chocolate with her caffeinated coffee.  Because as in all French culture, it is these small pleasures that make life worth living.

What do you think about skinny pregnancy and this way of life?  Do you think it's healthy?
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Happy Family in Paris

I'm so excited this morning because I'm guest posting on on how to have a successful family vacation in Paris!

As you know we have been to Paris on numerous occasions with our son beginning from when he was around 4 months old!  I was so honored when Anytrip asked me to write a little bit about my experience.

Please go and read my post which will hopefully inspire you to take the plunge and have a family adventure in Paris.

Anytrip is a great website which lets you book hotels and hostels with no booking fees.  You could also plan your flights, sightseeing tours and rental cars for the same trip!

And when you stop by don't forget to check out their Love Paris contest that they have going where you could enter to win a free trip to Paris!  You could also check them out on twitter and on facebook!

So what are you waiting for...go and check out my post and Anytrip right now!

Please note that I was not compensated in anyway for this post, I just really love Paris!

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Pig Pickin'

Last year we went to our very first Southern Pig Pickin', which is quite ironic considering we were in France, and this past Sunday we were invited to attend our second annual Pig Pickin'.

As soon as the invitation came, I didn't even hesitate and replied yes immediately!  Besides the fact that I would be eating delicious southern style barbecue, complete with homemade sauces - it was an entire day where I would get to speak English! 

The weather was cloudy but the food was delicious.  It was so great to see Nathan running and playing since last year he was confined to the stroller.  

And he also got to try the food for the first time.  Although he much preferred to have the hotdogs and pasta salad than the barbecue.
waiting to be kissed again

He was also reunited with Emerson and Meade, two adorable twins that were with him at daycare but have since left for school.  It didn't hurt that they showered him with kisses, which he didn't refuse.

All in all it was a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  It made me so nostalgic and even a little homesick for South Carolina.  It was so amazing to have a little piece of home even in France!

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Unsolicited Advice

It seems that the moment you tell people you are pregnant they take it upon themselves to impart tons of unsolicited advice.

It isn't just limited to family and friends but even strangers on the street.  It seems that the pregnancy bump is an open invitation for people to tell you what/what not to do and of course share their pearls of motherly wisdom.  I especially loved it when non-mothers would share advice on breast-feeding, co-sleeping and the like.

I foolishly thought that being pregnant with my second baby, the advice would stop.  I mean I've had one baby and survived, so I guess I should know what I'm doing. I was wrong, people have an even stronger desire to share advice with me.

So, I promise to not impart any of my own advice on new mothers but I will tell you what advice is a complete joke.

Sleep when the baby sleeps
 This is a doozie - and most people's favorite.  Let me tell you that it is impossible to sleep when your baby sleeps.  When are you supposed to eat or heaven forbid shower if you spend the 2 glorious hours you have to yourself sleeping?  Who are they kidding?

Crying = hungry
Let me tell you that my newborn cried a lot!  Granted yes, some of those times he was hungry and other times I think he was just annoyed that I kept trying to feed him to get him to stop crying.  Crying does not equal hungry and every baby is different.

If you just let them cry they will learn to sleep through the night...
or other types of useless sleep advice.  Don't let them sleep in your room, let them sleep in your room, feed them formula at night etc. etc.  The list of sleep advice could go on for hours.  Just because something worked for one baby/mother doesn't mean it will work for another.  And while we are at it, if you see me completely sleep deprived - please don't tell that your kid was sleeping through the night since he was 2 days old.  All that is going to make me do is want to smack you - HARD.

While I could go on and on, I will tell new mothers that the time goes by too fast. Even though you feel like you will never sleep again and you cry each and every time your baby cries out of sheer exhaustion - it will get better.  Eventually.

What was the most useless piece of parenting advice you received either while pregnant or not?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Submitted as part of Mama Kat's writing workshop.
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23 weeks

Another week already?  I've been getting more and more uncomfortable this week so I definitely think this baby is growing.  I'm still wearing normal clothes, but people have finally started to ask when I'm due - so I consider that a small victory.  I much rather look pregnant than look like a fat cow, so I'll take what I can get.

I also think that we might have chosen a name for baby boy!  We'll be sure to share when it becomes official.  We are taking the name for a test run to see if we like it, but it does feel good to have a name to associate with the belly movements.

Nathan has started talking to my belly, although I think he has no clue what he is doing.  He sees his daddy talking to the belly and he doesn't want to miss out.  I think he will be in for a shock when his baby brother finally makes an appearance.

Even though we spent all weekend going out and doing things.  I only got one picture, and it was when I was off to work - sad isn't it?

Here I am at 23 weeks.  I like to think that I look pregnant.  What do you think?

Shirt:  H&M, Skirt:  made by moi

And just for is a picture of me with Nathan at 23 weeks....

pleated poppy

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These are the moments

We all have those moments in our life that we will always remember.  Those moments that we look back on that still make us smile, cry or even laugh.  Those moments that change who we are completely - and those moments that shape who we are and who we will become.

The moment when you realize that you fell in love with someone special...

The moment you realize that you better marry this person and never let them go...

the moments when your family grows....

those moments when you realize that life is much bigger than yourself...

those moments filled with incredible "first" milestones...

the first time you felt the sand between your toes,

and those moments when you realize that no matter how hard you try, life keeps moving; no matter how much we wish it would stand still.

I'm linking up with Shell over at Things I Can't Say for her Magic Moments series...go and check out some other amazing magic moments!

Let's BEE Friends
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Then & Now

Cornel and I didn't have a typical relationship to say the least.  Our love story crosses oceans, since even though we worked for the same company in the same department - one of us lived in France and the other in the US.

Not that living in the same country would have made a difference since we were both traveling 85% of the time and spent most of our relationship communicating over email, chat and many many phone calls.  We spent the first year of our relationship jet setting across the world in our spare time or during weekends to see each other.

When Cornel proposed we knew that our lifestyle had to change, and so we decided to finally be in the same country.  I moved to France shortly after, and then we had our fairy tale wedding in Romania.

I would have never known that five years after the day I met him, that we would be where we are today. We have an amazing boy with another one on the way.  I never could have imagined loving him more than I did the day I married him, more than the day our son was born, but as each day goes by I find myself more and more amazed with this wonderful man.

We might not jet-set across the world anymore but our life now is filled with so much more adventure than we could have ever imagined.

Linking up with Project Marriage this month!  Go and check out other love stories....
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Beaune is yet another city that I never knew existed and yet one of these that is considered a "must-see" in France.  This city is only about half an hour away from Dijon and conveniently was on our way home.  We decided that we would only stop in for lunch but ended up walking around the city and enjoying the sights.

Beaune is actually at the end of the wine trail in Burgundy (or the beginning if you are optimistic).  From here you can take the small national roads stopping into wineries and sampling all of their delicious samples.  Thanks to baby #2, this was not part of our day - but I still hold out hope for a trip in the future.

Beaune is also famous for their "hospice" an ancient hospital that has since been converted to a museum.  The hospital was gifted land where they began growing grapes and making wine (what else) to help take care of the sick and poor people of the city.  Eventually, the hospital became self sufficient and began growing gaining a great reputation in France.

The vineyards are still there and you can still buy some Hospice wine if you so choose.  There is still a retirement (nursing) home that is operating and still runs on the profits from the wine.

While the history is fun, the most impressive thing about the hospice is the thatched roof in bright and colorful patterns.  This was the first building in the region to have this kind of roof and then it became traditional of Burgundy.  Isn't it pretty?

Other than the hospice and the wines there aren't too many other things to see in Beaune, so after our nice tour we ate lunch and ended our wonderful vacation. 

After traveling for 2 straight weeks by car, I think we have had our fill of vacations until next year!

Would you love to do a car trip for 2 weeks?
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