Sunday, December 11, 2011

Family Photos

Jon and I are jumping on the Christmas Card bandwagon this year and decided that we needed a family photo taken for said Christmas card.  We got a new fancy camera for Christmas this year and asked our friend Scott to test it out for us by taking the photos.  We think that he did a fantastic job even if two of the photo subjects were a little squirmy.
Just Us in our coordinating sweaters.

With the squirmy creatures.

My favorite outtake that Jon says no to putting on the card...

And just because we all know that animal pictures are cuter than people pictures... Sleeping Koda.

The sticker on her forehead says, "Star."  We thought that it fit quite well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Ugh, we still haven't been able to figure out how to get our France post to show that we posted it less than 5 months ago.

Oh well, at least Thanksgiving is only TWO days away!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. If you know me, you're probably thinking, "ANY holiday where you get to eat as much as you want would be your favorite holiday!" And you would probably be right... but Thanksgiving is different. While I do love the food... turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, broccoli casserole, stuffing, and pumpkin pie (mmmmmm)... Thanksgiving is about more than that.

One of my other favorite things is to spend time with family, so this holiday is the perfect opportunity to combine the two. Although my parents and most of my siblings will be in San Diego this year, we do have Rachael's sister and her family coming up from Las Vegas to spend Thanksgiving with us. I'm really excited to have them visit and enjoy the holiday here in good ol' Utah.

In addition to the food and family, I love this holiday because SO many people actually take the time to think about what they're thankful for, something that seems to fall by the wayside most of the time.

I am thankful for so much, and I won't bore you with my list, but I will just say that at the top of it is my wonderful wife, Rachael. She is more amazing than I can express in a blog post. I am so thankful that she is my wife, and that we get to be together forever.

Now I just have to work as hard as I can to make sure she feels the same! :)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


As some of you know, we love to travel. We are extremely blessed to have the opportunity to visit so many places, to experience different cultures, and most importantly, to be able to spend time with family. This year, we had the amazing opportunity to go with my family to visit France and Switzerland. Our trip was from July 23rd to August 2nd.

Rachael and I flew out of Salt Lake. We met my family in Dallas, and flew to Paris on the same flight.

The following is our itinerary, put together by my sister, Erin, and her husband Jon M. Thanks Erin and Jon for putting this together!!!

France Itinerary
Note: for each applicable site, we’ve put the page no. referencing the site in the “Paris Pass Guide.” Look at the guide for more info., nearest metro stations, normal price of admissions, and mini-maps.
Day 1: Sunday (7/24)
9:15 a.m. - Arrival at Paris - Charles de Gaulle airport; go through customs, get baggage, complain about lost baggage
10:15 a.m. - take train to Hotel Novotel Paris Tour Eiffel, 61 Quai de Grenelle, 75015 Paris, (33) 1/40582000
RER B/Blue train to St. Michel/Notre Dame station; transfer to RER C, direction Versailles, exit at Champ de Mars/Tour Eiffel; walk 10 min. - travel time approx. 1 hour
2:30 p.m. - Paris Opera House (Palais Garnier - 8 rue Scribe, 9eme) tour; travel by Metro. Pg. 103.
Also nearby: the Paris Story 1 hour multimedia exhibit. Pg. 96.
3:45 p.m. - watch part of the Tour de France final stage from Les Tuileries Gardens; travel by Metro (or walk if we’re up to it), Tuileries station.

We had dinner that night at a little café near our hotel. Jet lag finally caught up to most of us by this point, and I’m sure that every one of us was sleeping at the table during this meal.
French cuisine is definitely different than American fare, and Rachael and I are not as adventurous when eating abroad as we would like. But then again, it would be really sad to get food poisoning while traveling, so we don’t mind sticking to the more tame options.

Day 2: Monday (7/25)

We started the day with breakfast at the hotel. They had it set up buffet-style, and tried to Americanize it by adding scrambled eggs (powdered) and bacon (way undercooked) and fowl (turkey) sausage. It was really good! The hot chocolate was probably the highlight of breakfast at this hotel. Think European chocolate in beverage form.

8:30 a.m. - Les Cars Rouges - Paris hop-on, hop-off double-decker bus, catch it at the Eiffel Tower, take it to Stop 3, Musée de Louvre. Pg. 101.
9 a.m. - visit Le Louvre - Paris Bus (hop-on, hop-off), stop 3; use our passes to avoid the line by going to the Richelieu entrance. Pg. 28.

The Louvre is amazing! Unfortunately, it’s also AMAZINGLY HUGE. There is so much to see and learn that we could not even visit all of the wings of the museum, let alone see all of the incredible art. I guess that means that I will have to take Rachael back another time!
Jon and John the Baptist

The Mona Lisa, notice the hoards of people reflected back in the glass.

In front of the Notre Dame.

The Rose Window in the Notre Dame.

This one is for Rachael's Dad who always joked that one's butt might fall off.

Eat lunch in this area after the museum
Afternoon - visit l’Ile de France, including la Câthédrale de Notre Dâme (towers open until 5:30 p.m.); la Conciergerie (last admission at 5:30 p.m., pg. 70), and la Sainte-Chappelle (open until 6 p.m., pg. 72).
Evening - ride Les Cars Rouges the whole way around the city. We saw Paris the quickest way possible, and still had a blast. We saw l’Arc de Triomphe, drove down the Champs-Elysees.

We ended the evening with a trip to Montmarte. We sat on the steps of Sacre Coeur, watched some amazing street performers, saw people get arrested for selling little trinkets on the sidewalk, and went inside the church. Afterward, we had dinner at a café in the center of a courtyard where artists gather. On the way down, we stopped and took pictures of the Eiffel Tower from a distance. It was another great day.  The best memory of the day was David racing with the funicular as we left Montmarte after a 3 hour dinner.

Jon and James waiting to ride the finicular

Amazing street performers!

View of the Eiffel Tower from Montmarte.

Day 3: Tuesday (7/26)
8:30 a.m. - Eiffel Tower (approx. 17 minute walk from the hotel) - ticket windows open at 9 a.m., and there will be a line, so the earlier we get there the better. To go to the top will take from 30 - 90 minutes (depending on the crowd.)

This is a great, but frustrating memory. We went to the Eiffel Tower, but we didn’t get to go inside. My dad waited in line while the rest of the family enjoyed a leisurely breakfast (it wasn’t really leisurely… we were running VERY late) and when we got there, the annoying little French man (who HAPPENED to be the security guard) wouldn’t let us get in line with my dad, and the line was 2 hours long. After a pointless argument in which some choice words were exchanged, we decided to just come back another day.
So, we decided to go to the Trocadero to take pictures. It was pretty cool, because the last time my family went to Paris, we took family pictures at the same place, so we posed the same way.

Replica of a photo taken when the Hamilton's toured Europe in their youth

10:30 a.m. - Musée d’Orsay - skip the lines by going to Entrance C. Pg. 26
Proposed Split-Up Time: if you want to do the Catacombs, this is probably the best time.
2 p.m. - Paris Catacombs, 1, avenue of Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 14e; admission 8 euros; last admission at 4 p.m.; 45 min. tour; Metro stop Denfert-Rochereau.

Unfortunately, after waiting in line, we were unable to visit the Catacombs this day. We met the rest of the family at the Pantheon, and continued on the next activity.  There are no pictures from this phase of the day because there are no photos allowed in the Musée d’Orsay.  We did have a chance to see Van Gogh's "self portrait" that isn't really a self portrait.

8 p.m. - Bateaux Parisiens Seine River Cruise - 1 hour cruise, (available 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m., every 30 minutes; departs from Port de la Bourdonnais, Trocadero metro stop. Pg. 100.

This was a fun activity. We rode in one of the glass-covered boats in the Seine, past Notre Dame, and through Paris. I thought it would be more romantic, but those boats are LOADED with loud American tourists. We learned a lot about the city, and it was a great experience.
Following the boat tour, we walked along the shore of the Seine, past the Eiffel Tower, and were fortunate enough to see it when they turn the thousands of flashing lights that are positioned all over it. With the beauty of the river, and the Eiffel Tower, with the old buildings of the city as a backdrop, it’s no wonder Paris is considered to be such a romantic place. I felt so lucky to be there with Rachael!

Best shot of the glittering on the Eiffel Tower, there are better ones of the tower, but this shows the sparkle.

We look cheesy, but this was on the boat.  Notice Jon's dad's "phone" next to us that told about the points of interest that we were riding past.

View of Notre Dame from the boat.

Night shot from the boat of the beautiful Tower.

Another cool night one just before the twinkling began.

Day 4: Wednesday (7/27)
8 a.m. - Drew, Jon H., Jon M. pick up rental cars

What a fun experience! Driving in the city is definitely a fun thing to do when the city was designed with pedestrians and horses as the main mode of transportation!
After dropping the cars off at the hotel, we walked over to the Eiffel tower, and this time we got to go up! It is awesome to see the city from that vantage point. It looks like a bunch of wagon wheels, with the streets as the spokes. The buildings are so well built that they have been there for hundreds of years!
On the terrace of the Eiffel Tower.

One of the legs of the Tower.

Being goofy, they stuck their heads through the fence to get a unique shot.
A view from the top.
After the Eiffel Tower, we split up. Erin and Jon and their family went to Versailles, and the rest of us went to the Paris Catacombs. After waiting in line AGAIN, we got to go in! Another amazing experience! The catacombs are a series of chambers that are the final resting place of six million people. The bones have been arranged along the walls, with femurs interlocked log cabin style, and skulls arranged in crosses and various other religious symbols. The rest of the bones are piled behind the façade, and it as a really cool experience thinking about what these people did and saw in their lives.
Entrance to the area where the bones are located.

A cross made out of skulls.

The smiling skull.

A shot of the log cabin action.  This is how the first two feet are on all sides of the walkway, behind that the bones are just in piles.

9:30 a.m. - tour the Palace of Versailles and its gardens
If we want to, and there’s time, we might want to drive to see one of the other chateaux in greater Paris. Pp. 74-83.

After the catacombs, we met Erin and Jon and the kids at Versailles. We got there right before closing, and had to hurry through, but we were able to see many of the rooms, and the hall of mirrors, before going out to the gardens. We spent a couple of hours walking through the immense backyard, and took pictures. I found a four-leaf clover, and we pressed it in our Paris Pass book. Eventually, we were pretty much the only people there, and it was so great to be able to spend some quiet time with my family in a place that has so much historical significance.
Ceiling of the Hall of Mirrors.

More standard shot of the Hall of Mirrors.

Diana, the goddess of Paris.
Jon's awesome 4-leaf clover!

Ben showing off his muscles in front of the entry.

I thought this was too funny not to share.

Day 5: Thursday (7/28) – EARLY Breakfast at the hotel - Drive to Broc, Switzerland: 7hrs, Drive to Gruyère, 10 min.
This is our biggest driving day - we need to be on the road by 8am at the latest in order to get to the chocolate factory on time. The chocolate factory - keep that in your mind, and you will find the motivation you need to arise early and hit the road. Just imagine Erin stuffing her face full of chocolate even faster than David can. In fact - let’s have a chocolate eating contest this trip!!! It’s ON! It’s So ON!
8 a.m. - drive to Cailler Chocolate factory – About 7 driving hours; hours 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. (last show starts at 5:15pm)
Maison Cailler Chocolaterie, Rue Jules Bellet 7, 1636 Broc, Admission: Adults (groups of 10+) 8 chf, kids free

My sister Erin, my brother in-law, Jon M., and my brother David all served missions in the Geneva Switzerland mission. When my family went to pick up my sister from her mission, they went to this chocolate factory and did a tour. After the tour, they were led into a room full of chocolate… and were told they could eat as much as they wanted!
Needless to say, I was jealous that I had missed it (I was still on my mission at the time), but we remedied that by going to the chocolate factory on this trip!
The tour was good, but the part we were all looking forward to was the chocolate tasting room. The tour ended, and we walked through a door… and there was a bowl of sample Branches bars. Little tiny bite sized ones. What the heck? Everyone was disappointed. This was NOT what we were expecting. We had been tricked! So, we did the only reasonable thing we could do. Each of us grabbed handfuls of those little tiny Branches bars we and stuffed our pockets full. Take that chocolate factory!
Feeling vindicated, we walked down the hall toward the exit, through another door, and into….
Boy did we feel like greedy, American idiots! We got to eat as much chocolate as we could (which I found is not all that much when the chocolate is as rich as it was there)! It was so cool! Not only did we get all the chocolate we wanted while were there, but we had our own little stash to keep us satisfied for the rest of the trip.
Jon driving our car, Emperor Zurg.

There were vineyards all over the hillsides along the drive.  So beautiful.

The chocolate tasting room.

Had to get a photo with the factory in the background.

Post-chocolate tour - drive to Gruyère; Cheese Factory Hours: 9 a.m. - 7 p.m., Misses Schneiter Catherine, 1663 Moléson-sur-Gruyère; Admission: Adults (groups of 10+) 4 chf, kids 2chf
Have dinner in Gruyère

We missed the tour of the Gruyere Cheese Factory, but we did get to have diner in the little village. We had the stereotypical Swiss Fondue and it was AMAZING!
First shots of Gruyere.  It was such an adorable town!
We've decided that next time we are in Europe we want to spend more time in Switzerland.  One day in this beauty was not enough.
Stretching our amazing fondu.

Awesome web and spider that we spotted on the Castle in Gruyere.
Drive back to Lausanne to the Hotel Crystal, Rue Chaucrau 5 - 1003 Lausanne, Tél +4121 317.03.03
Day 6: Friday (7/29) – Breakfast at the hotel – Drive to Gap: 5 hours
9:30 a.m. - leave hotel
10 a.m. - tour the Chateau de Chillon (website:, Open from 9am – 7pm, Adults – 12 chf, Students w/i.d.10 chf, kids free
1 p.m. - drive through Evian and stop and visit the medieval town of Yvoire (Photos: )

This was a really neat little town. The architecture was awesome, but it has been turned into a tourist attraction with gift shops all over the place. We were craving ice cream. So we got a little bowl:

It was $2.50 for one scoop or $10 for 10 scoops... we went with the ten and split it 4 ways.

The fountain in the center of the Chateau Chillon.

Looking down from the watch tower at the Chateau Chillon.
Driving to the hotel that night we spotted this amazing store!  It totally made Rachael homesick.
Gorgeous sunflower fields on the drive as well.
Church building from both David and Erin's first mission areas.
Stay in GapHotel Ibis, 5/7 Bld Georges Pompidou, 05000 - GAP, (+33)4/92535757
Day 7: Saturday (7/30) – Breakfast at the hotel - Drive to Aix: 2hr, Drive to Cassis: 30min
9 a.m. - leave for Aix-en-Provence, stopping at villages along the way
Noon - lunch in Aix.
See Aix-en-Provence – guided tour???
2:30 p.m. - leave Aix
Boat trip to the Calanques or kayak ?– to see 8 Calanques, 1 hr 30 min, Adults: 21 E, Children 14 E, departs 10:30, 11, 1:30, 2, 2:30, 4pm; to see 3 Calanques – 45 min, Adults 14 E, Children 7 E

Another cool experience! We took a boat out to the white cliffs along the coast. It was simply beautiful scenery, AND we got to go on a boat, which is one of my most favorite things.
Some really fancy expensive car that Jon will have to explain at a later date.

Riding the boat back to shore.

Charlotte and Ben spitting over the edge of the boat.

Dinner in Cassis
Drive to Novotel Marseille Est, 184 Avenue de Saint Menet, MARSEILLE, (+33)4/91439060
Day 8: Sunday (7/ 31) – Breakfast at the hotel - Drive to Baux: 1hr 15min, Drive to St. Remy: 15min, Drive to Roussillon 1hr, Drive to Gordes: 15 min, Drive to Avignon: 1hr.
9 a.m. - leave Marseille, drive to Château de Baux de Provence (Ancient stone hilltop village and castle ruins– get there by car); and, Saint Rémy de Provence (typical provencal town with Roman Ruins)
Afternoon - Roussillon and Gordes

After dinner in Gordes, some of us stopped at a French cemetery. It was interesting to see the customs of different cultures. One of the crypts had a hole rusted in the metal door in the front. We all wondered (admit it, so would you) if we would be able to see anything inside, so I took a picture, and was surprised to see…
Yep, those are body bags! Probably 15-20 of them! It was a very… interesting and unexpected discovery!

Most docile big dog ever.  Just hanging out in front of a shop.

Entrance to the little town up on the hill.

Had to get a shot of one of the French Provincial tourist traps.

The wall that surrounds the city.

At dinner Jon and David showed off their magic skills.
Best Pizza EVER!
Best soda too!

And the infamous body bags.

View from the cemetery.

This is what the cemetery looked like.

Stay in Avignon at the Kyriad Avignon, 2 Rue Mere Theresa,, Avignon, +33 4 32 76 88 00
Day 9: Monday (8/1) – Breakfast NOT included at this hotel. Drive to Orange: 30min, Drive to Valence: 1hr 15min, Drive to Lyon: 1hr 15min.
9 a.m. - take the first tour of Palais des Papes in Avignon, open from 9am-8pm; audio tour - Adults 10.50 E, Students 5E, kids free
We didn’t actually do the tour, and it was too expensive to justify walking onto the Pont d’Avignon, but it was cool to see!
11 a.m. - Leave Avignon, drive to Orange; have lunch in Orange, visit Roman ampitheatre
4 p.m. - leave Orange, drive to Valence for dinner
If some people want to leave Orange early to visit the caves in l’Ardeche they can, but they would have to still plan on being to Valence by 5:30 p.m.
7:00 p.m. - visit the Chateau de Crussol (hike up a hill to the ruins of a castle built in the 12th century)

In Avignon at the Palais de Papes where we were asked to leave because our children were so loud that the workers could not do their jobs. Bahaha.

Baby James eating his foot as we tried to decide where to go next.

The central plaza of the palais de Papes.

Roman Amphitheater Ruins in Arles.
This was really cool! We hiked up to the ruins, and the view was INCREDIBLE. To think that the ruins were once a little city was awesome. The walls of the structures were still there, but all of the wooden parts, like the roofs and any other structures that would have been wooden, are long gone.

8:00 p.m. - drive to Lyon; stay at the Novotel Lyon Gerland, 70 avenue Leclerc, Lyon Cedex 07,+33 4 72 71 11 11
Day 10: Tuesday (8/2) – Breakfast at the hotel
Fly out of Lyon Airport

What a great trip this was! Rachael and I had such a great time visiting France and Switzerland, enjoying some great cuisine, and learning about the history and culture of that part of the world. But, even with all the incredible cultural experiences, delicious meals, and fun activities, the best part of the trip was being able to spend so much time making great memories with family. We are so blessed to have had the opportunity to be with them, and we are so thankful to my parents for giving us that amazing experience!