A Travellerspoint blog

Belgium escapades

The final moments

It has taken me a while to create this last blog because I wanted enought time to capture the - oh too brief moments with my friends in family in Belgium. Here is my final entry.

Mentioned in chronological order, so no one gets offended-

1st- My friend Danitza Lienard. She came to London with Lyndsey and I, she hosted me several nights, she is one of my bridesmaids in my wedding, and most importantly, she has been my friend since we have been in kindergarten together. Here are some pictures of her house and of us! The last picture is of her parents's house and not hers but she lives two doors down!

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Danitza's house was cute and cozy and offered us anything we could have needed. I still think of how we are friends and how incredible it is that people can know each other for so long, lose touch, get back in touch, and still have the ability to get along as if no time was ever lost. You'll be meeting her at my wedding this summer. I miss her very much!

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Next are pictures of my family. my mom's brother, my uncle, still lives in Belgium with my cousins. It's funny to be around them because looking at them is almost like at yourself in the mirror. Not because they look like me but because we come from the same place, the same people, and the same culture. My uncle hosted 2 BBQs so that the family could spend time together.

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the 1st two pictures are pictures of everyone. People had their shirts off because it was so hot at the time and no one there has air conditioning. The last picture is of Elodie, my cousin Julien's girl with their first son, Nolan. I couldn't post a picture of my other cousin's baby, Romi and Yanis, because all the pictures of him are those of him naked splashing around in the pool.

Here are some pictures of the landmarks I grew up around:

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These pictures are of my grandmother's house, her neighborhood, the tree that holds up my childhood, and the garden where my grandfather used to grow his vegetables. A long time ago that was...

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These past pictures include a picture of my grandmother eating fries, the roundabouts in town, and other buildings that would only be familiar to my family and those who live there.

Next, I have pictures of my mother's cousin's family. He isn't in any of the pictures unfortunately- I didn't realize I had no pictures of him or his son. Henriette and Anais went to the countryside of Belgium to visit their oldest daughter, Gladys. The area was beautiful although we went on a rainy day. I enjoyed a great lunch with them that day and drank the most delicious hot chocolate of my life made with real cocoa chips. We also had a great girls' day out. They were gracious enough to cook us dinner twice. Both times, my grandmother said she had never eaten better in her life. Karl also served us great french wine and sent me home with a bottle which I will save for a special occasion. The following pictures include where Gladys stayed by the lake and the places we visited while we spent the afternoon with her.

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I thank them again for their kindness and love, and even more for the continuous giving heart towards my grandmother.

Next, I have pictures of the North Sea, beach pictures, and our brief encounter with one of my mother's dear friends and her family. Talking to them always puts a smile on my face. Their sense of humor can get you out of any funk you could ever be in. I'm sorry I couldn't spend more time with them.

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Next are pictures of more family although it is too complicated to explain how they are directly linked to us. We first met at the beach, where we enjoyed everyone's company at a BBQ. I later spent one night with Freddy, my mom's cousin, and his family. We visited Namur by night and the castle, the real citadel. Being around that family just makes you understand how much love there is between all of them.

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Remi wanted to go to their fair before going home to let me taste their version of funnel cake. I have to say it blows any of our fair food out of the water. I could have sworn I took pictures of what we ate but this is the only pcitures I salvaged from the fair.

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Next are just some pictures of their beautiful house.

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I want to say thank you to that entire family. They remind you of how important families are. I also want to say thank you to Freddy for being one of the best examples of what a giving human being looks like. He has one of the biggest hearts I know and his children are just like him. I hope to see them at my wedding, too.

If anyone is in the running for being a great example of a giving human being and having a big heart, it is Carmella Deleu. I have a long history with them. I went to school with their daughter, Ornella. We grew up together. At one time, they almost moved close to us in Tennessee. Carmella gives to my grandmother like she gives to her own family. For that, I owe her a million thank yous and the recognition that she might be in line to be a saint some day. Here they are below.

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The next section is dedicated to my godmother, Josee, her husband, Mario, her daughter, Melanie, and her son Bruno (and Peggy, his girfriend). They welcomed me like another family member, gave me more than I could have ever asked, and then some. I drink a hot milk with honey when I think of Mario, I have gotten used to immaculately ironing my clothes thanks to Josee, and I spray my Occitane perfume and put on leggings to think of Melanie. To get the whole package, I look at the picture of all of us at Park Paradisio that is posted on my fridge. To get a moment of peace, I imagine myself on Melanie's couch, reading a Mark Levy Book with the church bells ringing on a Sunday morning. I picture her serene apartment and remind myself of the conversations we had day after day which reminded me again that the reason I am the way I am is because I grew up where all these people mentioned in my blog grew up.

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They took me to amazing eateries. The following pictures are from Park Paradisio- not quite a zoo but had enough animals to be considered one.

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The whole park had an asian flair. It was beautiful! The pictures of the us on the bridge were fun to take because Melanie was petrified to cross the bridge!

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Here are some pictures taken at Bruno's house-

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All I can say is a million thank yous!

This next part is an ode to Mary Agnes- she bakes like the gods. Here is what she made for me while I was there. Yes- if you counted 5 pies and 2 cakes, you are right!

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She, too, deserves a million thank yous for what she gives to my grandmother, for the listening ear she gives my mother, and for being one of the only people I know that can give as much as she does even when doesn't have much to give in the first place. Thanks again!

I got the opportunity to hang out with another friend of mine I used to go to school with. She, too, visited me for a month. Visiting her reminds me that you may think you change through the years, but the fact is, you are the same person you were when you were 5 years old, only with a few tweeks here and there. I hope she gets to move to Berkley so that I have an excuse to go to Cali and spend more time with her. I wished I could have spent more than 1 afternoon with her.

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A few days before going back home, I took a nolstalgic walk down memory lane. I walked to the school I went to and down the street I used to live on.

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This last picture is in honor of my grandfather. I finally got to visit his grave for the first time since his death. I wasn't trying to be morbid and I don't post this picture with sadness. I just want to give him the recognition he deserves.

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I leave my final blog by saying that I had an amazing time thanks to the people who took me in while I was there. I miss those people every day and I know they don't even know it. They continue to shape my life thousands of miles away. I still hope to win the lottery some day so that I can visit them several times a year as I please. Until then, it is my goal to save my money to be able to visit them every other year. A million thank yous again-

See you soon! With love,

2nd and 3rd day in Paris 079

2nd and 3rd day in Paris 079

Posted by CarolineC 18:51 Comments (0)

Day 7,8,9

London and Lyndsey leaving me

overcast

I don't remember how the London trip went exactly because I have waited so long to blog but I will try to reconstitute it as best as I can-

Londond was awesome! Danitza served as our tour guide which made the trip very easy. She knows London like the back of her hand and also knows how to work the metro system.

The following pictures are the last one of lyndsey in Belgium in front of Danitza's mom's house. She took us to the train station very early in the morning. The underground is what the metro is called in London. Our hotel in London was on Montague street- so of course I had to take a picture of that and of a red phone booth. Lyndsey wanted a superman costume so she could pop out of one but the booths were all a little too stinky.

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We couldn't check in quite yet so we started touring London as soon as we arrived. The london eye is the ferris wheel you take to see everything possible in London. We didn't ride it because the line was enormously too long but it looked cool enough from far away. You can also see that the weather wasn't great the first day. We had jackets on but fortunately missed the rain.

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There is also a picture of big ben from far away and other random buildings that I cannot name. I kept waiting for Peter Pan to fly by.

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We got to see Parliement square- the buildings that explode in V for Vendetta. There were boycotters parked on the lawn. They have been there for the last 5 years fighting against the war overseas.Brugges_an..don_055.jpgBrugges_an..don_056.jpgBrugges_an..don_057.jpgBrugges_an..don_058.jpg

We then took a stroll in the park leading to Buckingham Palace. The park was awesome. It had many lakes, many species of birds and flowers, all explained to us as we went along. Lyndsey was most amused by the squirrel that begged people for food.

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We didn't get very close to the palace, because of the crowd. We did manage to snap a few pictures at the change of guards.

Next, we went to THE original Hard Rock Cafe where we bought things and ate lunch. We then took a tour of their vault for old memorabilia. It was really cool.

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From Madonna's undergarments to Elton John's old credit card, there were a lot of cool things. I can say however- that lunch at the Hard Rock was the most expensive meal we had in London and second most expensive to dinner in the Eiffel tower.

Next are pictures of Madame Tousseaud's wax museum. They have wax statues of many celebrities which look real as day. Madame Tousseaud, in her day, was a real person who made wax replicas of people who had gotten beheaded. It is a strange and morbid story but one that has made people really want to see the wax figures.

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My favorites include telling Tiger "I told you so" and posing with Tom Cruize.

We also stopped by Baker Street where Sherlock Holmes lived and where the Beatles store is too.

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After all that- We finally got to check in. The room was great. Each of us had a bed, we had tall ceilings and a big shower.

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Day 8: Better weather and better sleep

Next are pictures of the church where Diana got married, where many things take place for people of importance in London...but I cannot remember the name of it. We walked in but didn't tour all of it.

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We got to see the Millenium bridge which is the newest bridge in London. It appears in one of the Harry Potter movies and is a "smart bridge". It moves with the vibrations and winds it feels....and next are pictures of the Shakespeare Globe theater. It was great! They re-created the theater where Shakespeare composed and acted out many of his plays. The amount of information I got is enornous and cannot share all with you but the pictures show the stage as it was back in the day, made of the same materials, same dimensions, and all. They put on plays like back then, without a roof, with penny pincher seats and all...

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Next are picture of the tower bridge. I didn't like the blue they used on the bridge but apparently there is no changing that since it has always been that color.

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Next are pictures of the Cathedral St. Paul, we went there the day it was closed-we didn't know-because it appears in the DeVinci Code. It was still very pretty to see!

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The last two pictures are one of the double decker bus and a picture outside the hotel.

Although I didn't take a picture of our meal at lunch, it may have been the best japonese food ever. Real ramen noodles in a miso soup---hmmm, delicious. That night we ate a great italian restaurant tucked in a small alley. The server barely spoke english and the food was delicious and cheap. A great ending before Lyndsey returned to the US.

Day 9:

A last picture of all three of us.

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It was sad seeing Lyndsey leave but I was happy she would get to see Cory. It turns out that Cory would ask her hand in marriage when she returned home. Congrats Lyndsey!

In the meantime, Danitza and I had one last day in London. We decided to do some shopping. Because we were up much earlier than when the stores opened, we decided to tour the city a little more. You see pictures of Piccadily circus and the one painting I posted is the picture of Van Gogh at the National Gallery museum. Pictures were not allowed and I was quickly told not to do it again! The museum was free and awesome.

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The last pictures include my one English meal- fish and chips- which was good but way too much for lunch. Also, before leaving London, we stopped at platform 9 and 3/4, for all Harry Potter fans, and I took a picture as , I went through the wall too...too cool.

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Goodbye London!

The next blogs will be less interesting for those who are not familiar with my family and friends here in Belgium but I will be posting them soon too. miss everyone and only one more week till I return to TN!

Posted by CarolineC 00:46 Comments (0)

Day 4, 5, and 6

Going from Paris to Belgium and getting ready for London

Day 4

Our last full day in Paris! Lyndsey and I decided to save this day for catching up on anything we had not done yet before leaving France. So of course, it was spent on shopping! Believe it or not, after letting ourselves sleep in and hitting the tourist shops and regular shops, our day had already flown by. Lyndsey managed to buy half of a chocolate store and a cooler bag to make sure it didn't melt, and I bought everything from a Paris apron to a Paris bracelet...I know, cheesy but you have very few chances in your life to really be cheesy and live it down.

As the evening came around, I got ready for my "rendez vous" with Zeneta. This was interesting. As I left to meet her a few mintutes before we had to meet, I forgot to double check our meeting place and also forgot to carry around my phone numbers in case I needed to call for emergency reasons. I got to the metro station and....no Zeneta! I immediately knew I had gone to the wrong place.

After trying 20 different numbers which were supposed to equal what we know to be 411, getting hit on by a police officer after asking for his help, and THEN getting hit on by the cab driver who took me back to the hotel and then to meet Zeneta, I finally had made it to where I was supposed to be.

Although I wish I could sum up the night she and I had, I can't but we had a great time together and I hope that another 10 years don't have to go by again to hang out the way we did that night.

Day 4,5, and 6 007

Day 4,5, and 6 007

There are pictures of her dog Kaya, whom she brought to the wine bar...cutie pie!
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Day 5

Leaving Paris...we got our bags packed, took some final pictures and headed for Brussels and Brugges. We had to take the train in order to this- the Eurostar at the Gare du Nord in Paris.

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The whole train situation was a little confusing to figure out but we did make it. Here are some pictures we took of Brussels. Lyndsey had her first experience with the "Grand Place" and the little statue of the boy who pies, "Mannikenpis". We also stopped at the purely Belgian fastfood place called "Quick" where Lyndsey ordered a burger the size of her head. The picture of the bronzy gold woman is supposed to bring you good luck if you rub her which explains why so many parts of her are worn down and shinier than other spots.

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Day 6

We joined my friend Danitza to visit Brugges, then visit the town of Mons close to where I grew up so we could all catch the train to London the next day. Brugges was beautiful...but it was cold- we had jackets on most of the day. It had rained the day before which really brought the temperature down.

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The picture of the two boys from Alice in Wonderland is made completely out of chocolate!Yum!

Our lunch really put us back on track! We finished Brugges by looking at the canals and eating an awesome Belgian waffle.
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We then headed to Mons, which is the bigger town close to where I grew up. It will be the cultural capital of Europe in 2015 and annual hosts the battle between the dragon in the heart of the city. This battle has a lot of myths and folktales incorporated into many things they do in that town. Sometimes, I look at how pretty it is and think that I would rather spend time in Mons than in Paris because the architecture is the same but I wouldn't have to fight crowds.

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Of course we also had to take a picture with the famous monkey which also brings luck if you rub it with your hand closest to your heart.

We enjoyed going to the St. Vaudrue's church and its watch tower, placed at the highest point in the city. It had wonderful views and the church held a beautiful chariot in charge of carrying the saint's relics during festivals each year. All of us lit candles in the church to make a prayer---mine involved praying to a Saint that would help me not lose things....hope it works! I just love this city!

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I inserted a picture of getting caught in horrible rain! The last pictures are of us eating the best fries of our lives at "Chez Bily"....That is all folks. Next blog will be of London-soon!

Miss everyone!

Posted by CarolineC 23:07 Comments (1)

Day 3

sunny 33 °C

Day 3!

Holding strong! We headed to Versailles- where Louix the 14th lived. We had to take the metro outside of the city to get there. Our ride was about 30 minutes- not bad although the train has no AC which can make it stinky and hot!

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We got there and the place is something made from fairytales. The castle was so elaborate enameled in gold, surrounded by such beautiful statues and gardens. Here are entrance pictures!

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Then the fun started---sarcasm in my voice--- The place was so packed, Lyndsey and I had a hard time not killing someone. People were rude and inconsiderate. We were lucky that we didn't have to wait in line for tickets because of our museum pass but I had to wait 20 minutes in line for the bathroom and Lyndsey had to wait in line 30 minutes for a map of the place which didn't really help us at all! As I waited for Lyndsey to get out of line, I saw people cheating and grabbing maps without waiting in line, so---for those of you who know me---I had to go police the situation. I place myself so that people coudln't grab the maps anymore. If someone approached me, I told them to get in line like everyone else---they weren't happy but I was! A little bit of justice! Here is what the inside of the castle looked like: the chapel, the hall of mirrors, and so on.

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The ceilings were my favorite. Every ceiling had beautiful paintings and everyone one of them had a significance. Even every person and every detail had a purpous---Louix had each room in the castle redone at least 10 times in his lifetime...don't know what there was to redo but...to each his own! We were exhausted by lunch from fighting crowds so we grabbed lunch at a restaurant inside. Lyndsey said she had her favorite meal there so far. It was similar to a chicken salad sandwich and I had a quiche. We ended the meal with an eclair which was delicious!

We headed outside for round two. The gardens were beautiful and ginormous---The castle took up about a 50th of the map, the rest was all gardens, fountains, and so on. They had classical music playing throughout the gardens which really made you feel like you could have lived during that time...plus shower and no white wigs!

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We left by 3PM because our bodies coudln't handle any more walking, sun, and close proximity to people with literally no personal space.

The funniest story was happened next and I unfortunately don't have pics for it. If you guys know Lyndsey, you know that she has a phobia of people vomiting. well, we grabbed the train back to Paris. She had noticed one of the guys was laying down on the seats not feeling well at all. But we weren't close because we were standing near the train doors because no seats were left. 5 minutes into the ride, we all of sudden hear a cough, followed by gaggin sounds, and the man starts throwing up. We happened to be stopped at a station when Lyndsey, who was pluggin her ears, suddenly pushes the emergency button and jets off the train! I hop off immediately and we are now in the middle of nowhere France! No one was at this station and it was silent as death. The train takes off and we both silently prayed we would figure out how to get back to Paris...The rest of the story involves jumping the train tracks, talking to the clerk explaining that we had already used our ticket but that we had to hop off because someone was puking...but we made it back safe and sound only 15 minutes later than we would have originally. We got home, took a shower, grabbed dinner and a good bottle of wine, which ended the day well. We had a "croque monsieur" which is the french version of grilled ham and cheese with fries. The night ended with talking to Bryan and Corey and then went to bed. Here are pics from our balcony. We are on the top floor in the latin quarter.

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Posted by CarolineC 05:24 Comments (0)

Day 2 a

sunny 28 °C

Day 2!

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We started the day with walking to the Louvre! The morning was beautiful---architecture is great.
Walked by the Seine River which is beautiful in the morning. We really lucked out that everything is pretty much walking distance!

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Once we got there, it was what you would dream of and more. The glass pyramids, the big buildings...amazing.

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The inside was GINORMOUS! I keep comparing it to the grand canyon...which is ridiculous I know but that is what if felt like. Lyndsey and I were more impressed with the actual Louvre building than we were the art because we really don't know much about art! What americans we are!
We saw the Mona Lisa, the statue of Aphrodite, the sphinx...and so on.

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By noon, we met with Zeneta for lunch. She showed us the Jardins des Tuileries, the Champs Elysees, and the Arc de Triomphe.
For those who don't know who Zeneta is, she wsa an exchange student who went to our high school. She is originally from Poland. She digitally retouches images now--for a living. Her biggest client is Sepphora so if you go in there and look at product pictures, she made them look pretty!

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I wished I knew more of French history because all of this would mean so much more than just being beautiful and giant buildings!

We then barely made it to our reservation at the Eiffel tower because my stupid self thought we ate at 8:30 which was actually 6:30PM. After changing in 5 minutes running after a cab and under the eiffel tower, we finally made it to the 1st floor at the 58 restaurant. We had a british waiter who was great and recommended great things. Lyndsey started with chilled pea soup, followed by chicken with asparagus, and finished with a chocolate dessert. I had foix gras, scallops, and meringue pie topped with currants and a phisilis( don't know what the heck that is). We started with a glass of champagne and shared a wonderful bottle of wine throughout the dinner!

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After dinner, we took pictures on the eiffel tower and took pictures of the view, AMAZING!

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I decided to climb to the 2nd floor- there is 1st, 2nd, and top- and Lyndsey decided to wait for me on the 1st. My body hated me and I felt like I would certainly lose my legs but I made it!

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I thought about going to the top for half a second but the half bottle of wine I had just had prevented my body from physically being to do it---which is ok, it was awesome. We headed back down.

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Took a cab back home- right before getting out, the driver asked us if we were american and then asked if we had any 1 dollar coins he could have for his collection of coins. Of course we didn't but I told him he could give me his address so that I could send him one! That was my good deed for the day since the gods seemed on our side that evening!

Great day again! Got to skype with Bryan again and Lyndsey did get to talk to Cory...we were 2 happy Hens!

Posted by CarolineC 01:07 Comments (1)

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