Our first trip to Paris! Summer 2016

I wanted to share a beautiful trip my family and I took to Paris, France this past summer 2016. It was such a wonderful experience to get to share the magic of the City of Light with my tribe. For years, I have been watching french cinema, studied some french in school and just plain liked croissants so much. Oh, their sense of fashion of course!  There is a reason why so many people love it. It's  a gorgeous place with a culture of beauty and quality living. As a family, we were so glad we took the plunge, and decided to visit this amazing city.

We were happy campers just strolling around town, discovering the intricate buildings, restaurants and gardens. I still have flashes of our travels deep ingrained in the bank of my memory. We did a certain amount of research before going but the places and spaces we ended up going to, were all more of a gut instinct for us and I'm happy to report that it worked!! 

I remember our tickle fights at the hotel room, the carbonara pastas dishes (too good to pass on!), the sparkling water that became our new drink of preference, the kids meeting Eiffel the Tower for the first time, all those crepes everywhere!!, the astonishing paintings at the Louvre, the jaw dropping architecture, the good taste and fashion of the majority of people and so the list goes on and on. Below some pictures of our trip:

There were so many moments that I will forever treasure. One of my favorite memories happened at The Louvre when the kids told me they wanted to make art just like that. "Can we make that at home?'" Of course! I replied. The fact that they are curious and that they want to make their own art is very encouraging to me. We lasted in the museum a couple of hours so Mark Walter and I really appreciated their stamina. 

The weather was quite hot but it didn't feel overbearing at all, probably because of your charm Paris!

Details, details, details and flowers everywhere!

This room at the hotel we stayed at, so pretty.

photo credit: Mark Jacinto Kropf

a kid pondering.

guapísimo!!!

 At the Arc De Triomphe.

At the Arc De Triomphe.

Paris had the most beautiful little restaurants, mom and pop shops and boutiques. I cannot imagine how much they have had to fight to keep it that way. Their social life of friends and families just hanging our during the workweek reminded me to my country of birth, Ecuador. People place a high value on relationships. 

The most delicious carbonara pasta I have ever tried in my life.

a shopping mall in Paris.

a memorable smoked salmon crepe:-)

Hi, Eiffel!

The kiddos and I.

Our family.

Ok, so the last bit of our Eiffel tower family photoshoot took quite a bit of effort because it got extremely hot and we didn't have plenty of time left in Paris. Thankfully the kids were helpful after mentioning the word ice cream.

Mi Mark Walter y yo.

Mi niño.

Mi niña. Thanks to grandma Kropf for a beautiful dress and red shoes that Dominika loved instantly. She wanted to wear it the entire time!!

One of the most rewarding things to experience as a family is growing together. Because of living together and spending a big chunk of our time in each other's company one gets to see the flaws, the gifts, talents, strengths and weaknesses. But recognizing our humanity and condition and still choosing to love, nurture and encourage each other is very much worth the journey. So grateful for what God has done in me through the adventure of raising my family and for what He will do.

Thanks for reading!

Our first trip to London! Summer 2016

This Summer 2016 was a blast. A real dream come true for our little family of four to travel abroad together. We set our sights towards Europe, and had the opportunity to visit London as our first destination. 

London was more of a comfort thing for us because my hubby has lived there before and so he knew his way around. I could tell it was a very special thing for him to show his family a dear place where he has build many memories before. The kids were enchanted, and so was I. I knew from our domestic travel in the United States that they were pretty good travelers but they really did impress me. These kids love airplanes and hotels and the whole shebang. They get a kick out of the airplane food, getting to interact with the flight attendants and seeing what new hotel they get to stay at. 

Sometimes I do get a little shy to share this kind of observations because I know that that is not always the case with kids, and I definitely do not take it for granted. Still, I want to be able to share this blessings because it was an important part of our travel and my memory of it. 

The first evening there, it was all about going around Piccadilly Circus(London's equivalent of Time Square) and just walking around exploring the city. Visual flashes of seeing Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the M & M store swirl in my mind. Also, the wonderful carbonara pasta we tried at an Italian restaurant. By the time we went back to the hotel, we were exhausted. I put everyone to bed, husband included, and lights off.

Next day, we started our journey surprisingly early but by mid afternoon we realized it wasn't a good idea to push the boundaries of what our strong little girl could handle. She was just not feeling well and we needed to get back to the hotel for her to rest and take a nap. I think after that incident,  we understood that a mid afternoon break was what was going to work best for us. A mid afternoon break bought us extra hours at night as well, I don't know but it settled well with her rhythms. 

At this point, all I have is emotional impressions of what my travel was. That's why I love to document and blog as much as I can of my family's memories. The longer I wait, the more the details fade. Anyways, all of my pictures here were taken with my dslr camera. I have a significant amount of iphone pictures as well, but for now this:

We met up with Bonnie or Bonifacio how some call him. One of my hubby's best friends. Bonnie was a darling, showing us around London specially some non touristic things like a Brazilian mom and pop corner restaurant with delicious feijoada. He showed us around his home and even let us do laundry. We stayed in London a little over a week and since we traveled light ( a carry on for each person for almost two weeks!), we needed it.

He was also responsible for taking the kids to the movie theater so Mark and I could have a special anniversary dinner together. Bonnie, if you read this thank you, thank you!!!

Family pictures are one of my favorite things ever!

Throughout our stay in London, we visited Borough Market and Camden Market which was amazing. It was not only the food that impressed me but also the goods they sold. The jewelry, clothing and crafts was pretty unique. It's hard to find truly unique things nowadays, thanks globalization! 

Oh, my sweatheart, you are truly growing fast!

I don't know if the photo does it justice but the falafel was amazing.

Dishoom was my very favorite in London. What a unique experience and it was huge too! Indian cafe style cuisine with a twist. This restaurant was a fantastic marriage of delicious food mixed with evocative decor. The walls were full of vintage India magazine pictures and it just took you to a different place. I love that ambiance can do that for you. All I can say it was an intriguing and different experience and I like different.

On this particular day, we went out for brunch and right afterwards we waited a bit to see a theatrical performance of the Railway Children with a real train inside and all. Kid's were super excited. 

They did enjoy dressing up:)

Thanks for the photo Marky!

Mark Jacinto has this strange and endearing thing were he giggles a lot when he snaps pictures. He feels flattered when we trust him with the big camera. I don't know what else is going on in his head but he just giggles a lot. At home, he likes to borrow my iphone and make videos and take pictures of food and body parts like elbows and hands. It's pretty cute and pretty artistic the way they come out!

Papá e hijo.

I was taken by the history of the place were my feet got to walk in. I was smitten by the detail in the architectural works of the city. But most of all, I was happy to be experiencing all of that with my family.

Next, we decided to take the train to Paris. Thanks for reading!

Our trip to Ecuador

We packed our bags and woke up super early to catch a morning flight. I can still recall the kid's excitement when we told them we were going to Ecuador to visit abuelo Jacinto and the entire family there. It has been too long since our last trip to my native country of Ecuador.

It was a very emotional moment when the kids first saw their great grandparents and family members. We were welcomed with balloons, big smiles, hugs and kisses (very much latino style). The kids were enjoying all the extra attention, "aw, that's so nice I like my balloon! Is that for me?!" Mark Jacinto exclaimed. Dominika was taking a few minutes to warm up to the new crowd.

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It was a very special encounter when Mark Jacinto met his grandfather Jacinto. I named my son after my superhero grandfather, who was really a father to me. I cannot thank him enough for all of his love and support growing up.

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We arrived at night, hugged a million times, chatted a lot,  shared some gifts and went to bed from a long day of travel. Our hearts  were full!

 My grandmother Carmen and I. She is my princess, we share so many things in common!! Including birthday!!

My grandmother Carmen and I. She is my princess, we share so many things in common!! Including birthday!!

So pretty much the best guayaco breakfast ever El Café de Tere in Guayaquil, Ecuador. My favorite thing to eat and drink there are the bolones and freshly squeezed juice. Everything there is absolutely delicious with a home sort of taste. A very popular dish there is the plantain based dish called Tigrillo. 

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It felt so special eating as a family and reminiscing over funny stories. My grandma and mother laugh a lot; they always find something to laugh about. It was great seeing my uncle and my beloved brother.

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Satisfied tummies ready for adventure. This kind of breakfast really sets you up for a great day, no matter what comes your way (or so it feels).

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We had many beautiful moments together as a family. My husband Mark Walter, the coffee lover, found this awesome coffee shop called Ludica in Guayaquil; the only place at the moment where you can get superb quality drip coffee. Needless to say, we were there a couple times. 

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I thought this photo above was so especial, we get to live in such a wonderful place: Brooklyn, New York. 

 Reading to Michael Junior, we miss him so much. He's such a beautiful and bright child. God bless him.

Reading to Michael Junior, we miss him so much. He's such a beautiful and bright child. God bless him.

 Best pumpkin spice latte ever. Ever. 

Best pumpkin spice latte ever. Ever. 

One of the places we explored was a vegan place with all natural and whole organic ingredients. The name of the place is Camellias.

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So when Mark Walter and I met for the first time, he was with his good buddy Cesar Andres. I remember those days of immaturity and and just plain naiveté; it was 10 years ago!!! He has a girlfriend now, she's such a nice woman we had some pretty rad conversations about business and domestic manufacturing of products. I didn't know all the amazing details that go into grocery store chains nationwide.

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My brother with Mark Jacinto; they melt my heart. The desserts there tasted great while at the same time being good for you. It was a win win.

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A little someone enjoyed a little much ;-)

He wanted to take them all home so grandma and grandpa can taste it, haha.

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I got to have a little sewing lesson. Over the years I have made Dominika some garments and have sown some clothing for myself. I'm very interested in learning about the art and thought why not learn a little technique here. Lolita, the lady that made my wedding dress is an absolute master. The woman is seriously gifted, so gifted in fact, that didn't need any special tools to make a pattern. With a tiny ruler she worked her magic.

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Endearing to me indeed was when Mark Jacinto helped grandmother Carmen make freshly squeezed juice. He was so excited to help! I felt so proud of him for wanting to help anytime he could. Needless to say, he made it through the entire batch of oranges. Great job son!

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The objective of our trip was to bond and be close to each other. We ate parrillada together.

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Took Dominika and Mark to Riocentro to a little children's museum, so fun!

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The boys went to mini golf and Dominika gave us a private concert at the museum.

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We shared many wonderful moments together. I think grandfather really liked the coffee because he asked for a business card. I suggested it would be a good place to meet with clients( he's an amazing entrepreneur and many more things)

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Ludica had pies, cookies and specialty quiches that were oh so good. I still remember;-)

 Abuela carmen and Dominika.

Abuela carmen and Dominika.

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But my favorite memories hands down were right at the home. When the kids danced with their little cousin, when they played and ate together; the little things you know.

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Also, in my opinion nothing beats grandma's homemade cooking. Her rendition of Ecuadorean food is brilliant.

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El Español has a soft spot in my heart because when papi and I were dating, we used to go there a lot. There was one close by the music school I attended  and their imported cheeses are so delicious.

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Ok, so do you spot the elder gentleman on the right? He randomly came up to me and sang Opera, told me about his wonderful adventures in Italy with Pavarotti and his long career as a tenor. This world can be so random sometimes, he was a character for sure.

 A sweet spot we found for the kids to paint in a local mall.

A sweet spot we found for the kids to paint in a local mall.

Bolones and bistec de hígado. A staple growing up along with fresh juice. 

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My mom got the kids craft supplies and started making little play dough sculptures with them, that meant so much! The kids really enjoyed it.

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Sorbetto has a great tiramisu gelato that my hubby is such a fan of, we took the entire family after dinner.

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Ludica again ;-)

 guapo!

guapo!

 My mommy and I, such sweet times. 

My mommy and I, such sweet times. 

When I'm around family and very close friends I get giddy and spontaneity takes over me. I asked the barista for a chance to make the coffee myself and he said yes.

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We took the kids to a kidz zone kind of like a chuck a cheese, I dont know if I enjoyed my family's facial expressions or the kids.

 Ceviche de camarón, fried plaintain chips and fresh orange juice, oh yes!

Ceviche de camarón, fried plaintain chips and fresh orange juice, oh yes!

Grandfather had fallen totally in love with Dominika, his face says it all I think. I treasure this.

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 We had so many amazing meals there, above Llapingacho one of my childhood favorites. Mark Jacinto loved the veggie soup.

We had so many amazing meals there, above Llapingacho one of my childhood favorites. Mark Jacinto loved the veggie soup.

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We went bowling, needless to say Mark jacinto was very much into it. I think he got that from the Kropf side;-)

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When she is with her daddy, she transforms. She cannot help herself but be goofy and spontaneous. I get you Dominika, the guy is pretty charming.

 Grandpa brought us fresh coconuts. I think Dominika was astounded to see were coconut water comes from.

Grandpa brought us fresh coconuts. I think Dominika was astounded to see were coconut water comes from.

I have so many pictures that I might share in the future but for now I just wanted to post these special memories in Ecuador together. Dominika dazzled everyone with her fluent Spanish while Mark Jacinto impressed with his awesome manners. They adapted so well and so fast to the culture that my family was astounded. We had so much fun getting to enjoy this precious time with my family there. 

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Grateful.