Xander, Vaughn and Quinn had their first Magic Kingdom experience with a visit to the Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios Parks just outside of Paris and the long, expensive day was truly a memorable one.

We rushed out of the hotel first thing in the morning to undertake the forty-minute drive, intent on arriving as the park opened at 10 and staying until the last firework burst over Sleeping Beauty Castle at 11 p.m. We rode Le Carousel de Lancelot (1) and Dumbo the Flying Elephant (2) before rendezvousing with our friends Jeannine and Dylan Cavallo. 

The whole group first took a spin on Les Voyages de Pinocchio (3) and then, after a quick lunch, enjoyed the feel-good splendor of It’s a Small World (4). By that time, we were pushing 6 p.m. and decided to hit a couple of rides at Walt Disney Studios Park before that area closed at 7. There we were jostled by the Cars Quatre Rous Rallye (5) and thrilled by Crush’s Coaster (6).

Our friends bowed out at that point but we kept at it after dinner back at Disneyland Park by hitting Autopia (7) where the kids got to drive their own 50's-style race cars. As we left the ride and began figuring out where we were going to set up for the final fireworks extravaganza, we stumbled upon a perfect spot to take in the Fantasia Parade. Disney princesses, heroes, villains and supporting characters streamed by us on shimmering floats and all three kids beamed and shouted as their favorites waved back at them.  

As we headed back toward the central castle with twenty minutes to go before the ending show, I realized that I could get on Space Mountain 2 (which the kids were unfortunately all too short to ride) in just ten minutes - a far cry from the ninety minute wait we had to endure for everything else we rode that day. It was not your father's (my) Space Mountain. An opening blast-off followed by a glimpse of the park at the peak of the first hill, background music and sound effects in the headrests, three inversions, a laser tunnel and the infinite black star field that has always defined Space Mountain made it one of the coolest coasters I've ever ridden. 

If you've been keeping track, that made a whopping eight rides that at least one of us rode during our Disney experience. Combined with parking, lunch and dinner we shelled out about $500 for the day. Still, we were glad we did it - especially since we made it through the multimedia spectacle of the Showtime Spectacular Finale.  

On Friday we left Paris for good to head to the final stop of our odyssey; a seaside resort in De Haan, Belgium. On our way, we stopped in Giverny, France to visit the house and gardens of impressionist master Claude Monet.

The painter and his large family lived in Giverny from 1883 until his death in 1926 and the estate has has undergone few changes over the last hundred years. Monet was fond of painting controlled nature and produced countless works of his own gardens with its flowers of almost every color imaginable as well as the adjoining pond with its bridges and famous water lilies. 

The extensive garden was designed by Monet himself and is maintained to this day according to his wishes. Many of the stunning views we enjoyed were evident in paintings on display in the gallery/gift shop and it was worth the price of admission just to see the stunning array of flowers.

Visitors can also tour the house where photographs of Monet posing in some rooms are displayed next to the same furnishings and decorations by which he stands. Unfortunately, once again, no photographs were allowed of the interior but it was a perfect stop on our four-hour drive from Paris to De Haan.