Monthly Archives: August 2013

Europe 2013: These are a few of my favorite things

Now that we are back and *mostly* recovered from the trip I thought I would write about the things we enjoyed most.

First – we enjoyed visiting with our family and friends.  We were able to experience four different countries – three of those with a family member or friend.  We are grateful for that.

Now – onto the other things.  If you ask the kids what their favorite parts of the trip were – they will say the Alpine slide that we did in Austria and climbing the church tower in Munich.

I of course have several favorite things.  I loved riding the trains throughout.  Trains are just so much better than being stuck in a car driving.  The one time we had a long drive ahead of us we were stuck in traffic.  With trains that is not a problem.

I loved Munich and the Garmisch area.  Next time we go to Germany I think we’ll make a whole vacation based in this area. There is so much to do around here.  I would love to visit the area around Christmas time and go to a Christmas Market and then go skiing in the Alps.  The mountains are beautiful.  I also would not visiting this area during any other time of the year.  There appeared to be many hikes near us.  Garmisch also appeared to be a nice little town that was big enough to make it feel like a normal size town that I could actually live in.  I would love to be able to rent an apartment for a summer sometime in this area when the kids are older.

My favorite thing that we did – go to the Bavarian festival in Garmisch.  This was so awesome.  I would plan future trips around this festival.  It was pure German culture and it was unstaged.

I loved the Alpine slide. I could have just stayed at that mountain all day.  I wish I could have had the day on the mountain with just my husband – it would have been fun to take the chairlift to the top and then walk down.

I loved renting bikes in the Netherlands and riding to see all of the windmills.  This made me feel so Dutch and I loved passing other people riding bikes.

I loved the historical museums in Berlin.  Berlin is a city that I could easily visit on my own without the family and just spend hours in each museum.  Bike riding seems to be very big in Berlin also.

I loved visiting Rheinfels castle.  This castle would have been fun to spend an additional hour or two at.  It was huge and really fun walking around in the tunnels.

I loved visiting Paris, though our visit was short.  We weren’t willing to drag the kids into museums here, but just being in Paris is an experience.

I loved that lunch could be as simple as walking into a local bakery and picking up a loaf of bread.  I don’t think I can even count the number of sit down lunches we had on our trip.

And finally – I loved that I was able to show my kids Europe with them being at such a young age.  Sure – we ate more McDonald’s than I had anticipated.  But we were able to do a lot with them and they were relatively good sports about it.

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Europe 2013, day fifteen: Germany and returning home

Today was the day we flew back home.  Like our journey to Europe, it would also be a long journey home.  That’s what happens when you book the cheapest tickets you can find on the East coast.

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Our flight left Dusseldorf at 12:05 PM.  Our hotel was literally right across from the
airport.  So we left the hotel around 9 AM and immediately went to the airport.  The line to check-in was HUGE but the line moved relatively quickly.

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Security was much nicer to go through than US security.  I am a nightmare to go through security with. I hate the naked body scanners though I am feeling much better about them knowing which ones show an outline of you versus a naked image in another room.  Anyway, in Germany we were able to keep our shoes on and we only had to go through a metal detector.  My husband had forgotten about our French sunscreen and he had that taken away….

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We went through security and briefly glanced at Duty Free.  I don’t really understand this.  It seemed to me the prices were much more expensive than anything I could buy in the states.  Duty Free wanted to charge 3.50 euro for a bag of gummy bears.  I can buy the same bag of gummy bears at Target for under $2.00.  So we passed on duty free.

We went through passport control and headed to the gate.  Boarded the plane – once again I had reserved the bulkhead seats for us. So we were the first row in Coach class.  It was nice as we were the first to get our meal and the first to get off the plane.  I much prefer flying East to West – we had an enjoyable flight and I was able to watch a few movies.  The Rhubarb ended up taking a nap for about two hours of the flight as well.  I  had ordered kids meals for the kids but I suspect they mixed up the main course unfortunately.  The kids menu said, “Spaghetti and meatballs” but the main dish they were served looked nothing like that.

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Anyway, we landed at Newark.  We went through customs and the agent asked us if we were sure we had all of our bags.  He was impressed with our packing for two weeks 🙂  We then had to wait around for another two hours before we caught the train to Washington DC.  Once we boarded the train the Rhubarb fell asleep right away.  The family was separated on the train since we were not boarding at a starting point.  We eventually arrived in Washington DC.

After arriving in Union station we decided to try Uber to get us home.  It was very nice.  For not much more than a cab we had a Lincoln Town Car.  I also had a $20 off your first ride coupon so it probably worked out cheaper than a taxi anyway.  I spoke to a couple of Uber drivers and both seemed to imply that they loved being Uber drivers.

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Both kids were passed out on the taxi home.  We got home and both kids immediately went to bed 🙂  Both kids had camp the next day and both were wide awake and able to start camp on time.

It was a great, but exhausting trip.  We are happy to be home!

 

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Europe 2013, day fourteen: France – Paris

We took the train in from Meaux this morning. We had thoughts of visiting the Eiffel Tower but instead went to the Arc de Triumph. Since it is Saturday and the Eiffel Tower was closed part of the day yesterday due to a bomb threat we figured it would take forever to get up there and also be very crowded. I feel a little disappointed but I think the only way we could enjoy the tower as a family is if we were the first ones up.

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So we went to the Arc. The lines were relatively short for this attraction. If you have a Paris museum pass and you have kids you need to wait in this line to get them tickets. You pay for your tickets and then climb to the top. At the top you can see the ten streets that connect at this point. I am afraid of heights but I actually managed to look over the edge.

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After the Arc de Triumphe we went to Montmarte to see the Sacre Coeur. This is a beautiful location in Paris. Every time I am there I always think of my grandmother. The church was pretty crowded and full of tourists but it is really nice inside.

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We then had lunch and walked around in the Montmartre neighborhood. If I was ever to live in Paris this would be one of the areas I would consider moving to. I could just walk around up here for hours. I stumbled upon the cafe where one of my favorite movies, Amelie, was filmed. That was pretty cool.

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After leaving Montmarte we headed back to Paris Nord to catch our Thalys train back to Dusseldorf. Tomorrow we return home. For this train ride I booked us in Comfort One. The ride has been going pretty fast. We had a snack service with wine, and then followed later with a dinner and more wine. Internet is also free in this class. The kids were the same fare regardless if they were Comfort one or comfort two.

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Our train arrives at the Dusseldorf airport at 9:58 PM and our hotel is right over there. Our flight leaves tomorrow at 12:05 PM. We fly into Newark and then take an Amtrak train home.

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It has been a trip of many countries, trains, and McDonald’s. once we return stateside I will add more thoughts. If I ever have the opportunity to move to Europe for an extended amount of time I would do it in a heartbeat.

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Europe 2013, day thirteen: France – Meaux

Not much to write about on this day. Our friend took the kids for the day. Instead of going into Paris my husband and I hung out around here. We ended up sleeping in until 8, having breakfast, walking into town, bringing lunch back with us and then taking naps.

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The kids had a blast with our friend. They went to the playground by her house and went to a children’s play area. They wanted to spend the night with her again but we told them no as I needed to be able to pack everything up.

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Europe 2013, day twelve: France – Paris

This morning we needed to catch a train leaving at 8:58 to go to Paris. The train was very nice and we arrived in Paris at 11:38. The ride seemed to go very quickly.

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When we arrived we found our friend and then we stored our luggage in a locker. The Paris Gare du Nord was extremely busy. The line to buy metro tickets was extremely long as well. We ended up leaving the station and walking to another station to get tickets.

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We then proceeded to go to the Eiffel Tower. We had planned on seeing the Eiffel Tower today but the line was crazy long. It easily looked like a three hour wait. I might go into Paris early on Saturday to wait in line so the rest do not need to. Where is my younger brother when you need him? He was the official seat reserver/person to wait in line.

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After the Eiffel Tower we walked around a little. We then decided to head to Luxembourg gardens so the kids could play there. This is a great park to go to for people watching and observing French life. There are people playing games all around and the playground is super. My kids did not know which way to run.

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We then had to catch the train to Meaux, where we are staying. We got to Meaux, dropped off our stuff and then headed out to dinner. The kids decided on the train out to Meaux that they wanted to stay with our friend.

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Tomorrow we are planning on taking it easy. The kids had wanted to go to Disneyland but we talked them out of it. They are just spending the day with our friend now.

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Europe 2013, day eleven: The Netherlands – Amsterdam

Wandering around Amsterdam, Anne Frank House (no photos allowed inside), canal cruise, rain, rain, more rain. We spent the afternoon in Volendam, in the rain, but I didn’t bother bringing the camera.

This morning we had tickets to visit the Anne Frank house at 10:40 AM. In order to meet this reservation we aimed to leave Angie’s house around 8:00 AM. We actually left her house at 8:15 AM. There was little traffic on the road and we easily made it to Amsterdam in time for our reservation. We parked the car and had a quick snack and drink before going to the museum.

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First of all – the Anne Frank house is another place I strongly recommend a reservation. Once again we just went straight in while there was a huge line for people without reservations. The museum was very crowded and there were not a lot of kids there. My kids behaved very well in the museum. It was a little hot and crowded. You basically follow the crowd through our the museum. So you are only as fast as the slowest person in the museum.

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After that we got another quick drink. Then we walked back toward the main train station. Once we got back to the train station we took a canal boat tour.

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We eventually headed back to my friend’s house. We stopped on the way back to her house at “McDonald’s” as my kids have wanted to try out the Dutch Mickey D’s. Ate dinner and then headed back to her house.

We leave her house tomorrow morning to catch a 9:00 AM train to our final trip destination before we start adventuring back home. Tomorrow will be busy but I think Friday we are finally going to take another day to relax.

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Europe 2013, day ten: The Netherlands – Rotterdam

A day in which the main activity was exploring the windmills of Kinderdijk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinderdijk) by bicycle. Of course, there were a few bridges noted along the way including Rotterdam’s exceptional Erasmus Bridge.

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This morning we woke up the kids around 8:30 and headed to Kinderdijk near Rotterdam. We took the metro to the waterbus stop and then after that my friend had arranged bike rentals. We rode the bikes to Kinderdijk. This was really neat. The landscape was typical Dutch. Flat and windmills and dykes along the way. Rhubarb rode on a bike with Angie, and the rest of us had our own bikes.

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We had lunch there and then rode back to return our bikes. All was well until we stopped to wait for the waterbus. The Rhubarb tripped and fell and then everything after that was downhill. She skinned her knees and my kids do not like any sort of bandage on a skinned knee yet they also don’t like to see skinned knees. So I ended up needing to carry her after her injury. My arm muscles are going to be huge when we return.

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We returned to Angie’s place and then Angie and I went to Delft in hopes of buying another piece of Delft porcelain. Angie and I got there and the prices seem to be much higher than I remember from 2001. I did not buy anything. I decided I can probably buy something on eBay cheaper than what I saw in the stores. So I passed. We then stopped at the grocery store and picked up some snacks and other things.

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We got back to Angie’s house and then shortly after that we headed to her sister’s house. Her sister had prepared a very yummy lasagna for us. She has a 1.5 year old so our kids were playing with her son’s things. It was a lovely meal.

We left a little after eight and headed back to Angie’s house. Rhubarb skipped her shower due to her injuries but Bubba took one. Unfortunately Rhubarb did not fall asleep until after nine.

Tomorrow we are heading into Amsterdam to see the Anne Frank house and possibly do a canal boat tour.

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Europe 2013, day nine: Germany and the Netherlands

In which the family and Angie spent most of the morning exploring the endless towers, tunnels, nooks, and crannies of Rheinfels Castle at Sankt Goar, and then up the Rhein towards Cologne, Germanyto check out a few of the major suspension bridges before heading to Düsseldorf Central Station (Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof) for our train toRotterdam, Netherlands.

This morning we met my friend Angie for breakfast at eight AM. We checked out of the hotel and immediately headed to a castle on the Rhine river. The castle is called Rheinfels castle. It is the biggest castle on the Rhine. It used to be a lot larger but over the years various groups began to destroy it.

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The castle opened at nine AM. In typical Holbrook style we were the first ones there. This was great. It was so nice being able to take pictures at the castle with no one else there. By the time other people started arriving we were on the outskirts of the castle.

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The kids loved the castle. We were there for about two hours but easily could have spent an additional two hours there. The castle had high stair cases, dungeons, lookout points, and even tunnels that you needed a flashlight to go through. The view from the castle was amazing as well.

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After we left the castle we proceeded to drive along the Rhine for a bit more. We eventually turned off the Rhine and headed towards Cologne to look at a suspension bridge. Photographing suspension bridges is a hobby of my husband’s. We took pictures and then went looking for another bridge in Cologne. While he took pictures of this bridge the rest of us found a place to get some lunch, followed of course by ice cream.

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We then left Cologne and headed to Dusseldorf to find out where to return the car rental. We found it then drove to the old part of the city for half an hour. We killed time there and then returned the rental car, then walked to the train station.

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We had first class train tickets on the Deutsche Bahn ICE train. As a result we were able to sit in the DB lounge. This was nice as we were able to relax here for 45 minutes before our train left. Our train was supposed to have a bistro car but our friend Angie mentioned they closed this car fairly early on her train down to meet us and as a result we all got dinner before boarding the train. It turned out to be a good call – 10 minutes after we boarded the train the food service stopped.

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The kids (and myself) loved the train. I had reserved a private compartment for us. Shortly after we left Dusseldorf an attendant came to our compartment and took drink and food orders from us. I was going to order an ice cream for the kids but they did not have any today. However the attendant brought them a treat of gummy bears, colored pencils, a coloring book, and a miniature ICE train.

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We rode the ICE train to Uttrecht and there we transferred trains to the Dutch train that would take us to Rotterdam. I think I could ride the trains all day in Europe and never be bored. I have loved the trains so far.

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Once we arrived in Rotterdam, my friend’s sister was nice enough to lend us her car so we did not have to take the metro to my friend’s place. We arrived at my friend’s around 9:15 and we got the kids to bed an hour later. Tomorrow they can sleep in until 8:30. The plan for tomorrow is to go see windmills, ride bikes, and possibly see a miniature Holland.

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Europe 2013, day eight: Germany – Rhine river

A day in which not many photos were taken as we left Biberach An Der Riß, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany for Sankt Goar picking up Angie along the way in Mannheim, Germany after a quick morning stop at the famous Ulm Minster

This morning we aimed to leave my cousin’s house by 8:30. We managed to leave around 8:50. The GPS still had us arriving in Mannheim to pick up my Dutch friend around noon though. On our way to Mannheim we passed through Ulm. Ulm has a very large Lutheran church there so we decided to drive by and take pictures. Doing this though put us about thirty minutes behind schedule. We figured we would make up time on the autobahn.

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It was the longest three hour drive ever 🙂 All of Europe was on the road heading to their vacations. There was also construction going on as well. We finally arrived in Mannheim around 1:40. We picked up my friend Angie and then immediately headed to a restaurant recommended to us by my cousin. The restaurant was on the river and also had very easy parking to find 🙂

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Next we proceeded to head up towards the Rhine river. Once we started driving next to the Rhine we started seeing castle after castle and vineyard after vineyard. It reminds me of France a little. We finally arrived at our hotel around 6:15. The kids were cranky so Angie and I went out to dinner on our own and brought back dinner for the others.

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We are in our room for one night. Tomorrow we depart Germany and head to the Netherlands. We are staying with Angie. We are taking a German ICE train from Dusseldorf to the Netherlands. Bubba is looking forward to it. My husband will have to say goodbye to the Mercedes though.

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Europe 2013, day seven: Germany – Biberach

In which D goes solo to do the bridge thing.
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Not much to write about today. We are at my cousin’s house. We let the kids sleep in but they were so excited to play with my cousin’s kids that they woke up earlier than expected. Anyway we eventually headed to their local swimming pool and the kids had a lot of fun. Their local pool had a large waterside, a young kids area, a sand pit area complete with a faucet to make dams with.

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After the pool the kids sat around to play the game “Where’s my water”. Then we had dinner and after dinner the kids played outside for a while.

Tomorrow morning we leave my cousin’s house and head out to Mannheim to pick up my friend Angie. Then we are driving along the Rhine and stopping at things that interest us.

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