Sunday, October 15, 2017

Road Trip Day 2: The Long Ride

Despite not eating dinner until well after 9:00 the night before and being fairly tired, we managed to get up, get ready, have the hotel breakfast, and be checked out of the hotel and on the road by just after 8:00 today.  The check out person was much nicer than the check in person.  Today was going to be the longest ride of our road trip.  We were driving from New York to Milwaukee.  We made a rest stop in the morning.   Then it was on to Ohio where we made a lunch stop, but the options weren't great so instead we used the bathroom and Mike bought a snack--because you know we didn't have a ton in the car or anything.  We stopped again a little later in Ohio and found better food options.  We each got a slice of pizza and a bread stick.   There was a gas station there too so we got gas.  We hit some serious traffic by Chicago--I can't imagine what that must be like at rush hour because it was a Saturday afternoon and it was nuts.  We got to our hotel between 6:00 and 7:00.  The lady who checked us in was probably the friendliest hotel person we met the whole trip.  We hung out in the room for a little while and decided to just eat dinner in the hotel since we were kind of tired from the long day of driving--or in my case riding since Mike did all the driving.  The food was pretty good.  I had fish and chips and we both tried a local beer.  I drank it, but I have no desire to drink it again, I'm not really a beer fan, but I figured I'd try it--I would be trying several more beers during this trip too.  Mike enjoyed his, I believe it was called Spotted Cow.  We took a peek at the outdoor bar after dinner--it was lovely, but we weren't in the mood for more drinks and then called it a night.
The next blog posts should be a little more interesting because we finally got to see stuff besides rest stops.  :-)  Here are a few pictures I took while in the car. Mike actually rocked out to "Bye Bye Bye" while driving.  I found that quite amusing.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Road Trip Day 1

My husband and I have always wanted to do a road trip.  We figured it would be easier to do before we had kids.  My brother was getting married in Denver, CO so that seemed like a good excuse to do one.  We originally wanted to drive out to Denver for the wedding, then head to New Mexico (I've never been there), Arizona (to visit a friend), and Las Vegas (because hubs had only been there once and it was a brief trip), then fly home.  Unfortunately, to rent a car on one side of the country and return it to the other side resulted in a $1000-$1200 fee so we nixed that plan.  To rent around here and return in Vegas was going to cost around $2000, but to rent here and return here (with lots more miles) was going to cost under $600.  So weird.  I figured since it was a chain, it'd be easy to do.  It's not like every time you rent a car it has plates from the state you're in.  In fact, the one we rented wasn't from our state or even a state that touches our state.
So as you know from previous posts, instead, we went to Arizona and Las Vegas in April and then planned to drive to Denver and drive home from Denver and NM would just have to wait for another time.
The hubs worked a half day the day we began our road trip. I spent that half of the day doing last minute packing, going to the gym, getting my nails done (hey I wanted to look good for the wedding), doing a load of laundry, a little cleaning, and basically making sure everything was good to go.  He got home around 1:30 and we were on the road by 2:30. We made one or two rest stops and got to the hotel before 9:00.  Our first stop, was just a random hotel off the highway in New York.  Our plan was to go to Milwaukee the next day (we had booked two nights there).  We found the hotel easily, but the entrance road wasn't clearly marked so we drove by it twice--yeah, we're cool like that.  We checked in (I was not impressed with the girl who checked us in, but the guy who checked us out the next day was much better) then Mike ran down the street to the Chili's to get dinner to go as we hadn't stopped for dinner.  After dinner, we watched a little tv (and I read) and then it was bed time for the long drive tomorrow.     Here we are on the ride and eating dinner on day 1.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Day 16: Good-bye Germany

Day 16, I woke up early and tired.  The bus was leaving for the airport at 6:30AM.  We were supposed to be in the hotel lobby before 6:30 so we could grab our breakfast to go (breakfast didn't start 'til 6:30 so we had to get "to go bags"), load our luggage, etc.  Well, truth be told, the bus driver loaded our luggage for us.  After our farewell dinner followed by a drink in the lobby (and a game of Heads Up), the previous night, I still had to finish packing.  According to my Fitbit, I got 5 hours of sleep (4 hours and 59 minutes if you want to be exact).  I don't sleep well (if at all) on planes and I not only had a long plane ride ahead of me, but also a 6 hour layover later in the day.   I have no right to complain, I had a wonderful trip, but yeah, I was worried about the long day and lack of sleep.
We picked up the other group, got situated at the airport, and took a short flight from Berlin to Frankfurt.  We had a bit of time in Frankfurt so I got some last minute souvenirs and a terrible pretzel. I thought oh, one last German pretzel before I go home, it will be delicious.  Nope!  Stick with non-airport pretzels for deliciousness.  Before long we were on the plane headed to Washington, D.C.  The flight was a little bumpy at times.  I tried unsuccessfully to sleep, though I may have dozed here and there.  I did read and watch a movie, but of course, right now, I can't remember which movie.  I know at some point I saw "Lion" and "Crazy Stupd Love" so I'm going to go with those two, though it's certainly possible I watched one of those on the way TO Germany.  (I also watched "Hidden Figures" on the way to Germany, which I very much enjoyed.)  "Lion" made me cry, but I still liked it. Crazy Stupid Love was funny.  We got to D.C. a bit later than we were supposed to, but like I said, I had a 6 hour layover so no worries there.  It did take a little time to get the luggage, clear customs, and recheck the luggage, but we managed.  We said good-bye to some people in Germany, to more people as we left the plane--some had to hurry ahead because they did not have 6 hour layovers--I think two ladies barely made their flights.  And to a couple more who were staying in D.C.  And soon we were down to six of us. Said bye to two more, only to run in to one of them again going through security.  Then four of us were in the same area--Terminal C I believe so we all had dinner together.  It felt weird to have to pay for dinner again after so many delicious free dinners.  It was nice to have still water without having to ask for it though.  :-)  Three of us were on the same flight so after dinner we said bye to one more as he headed down the hall the other way to his gate.  I was so glad to have people to wait with because I was too tired to really read or journal much, but I also was afraid to nap for fear I'd miss my flight.  I was starting to feel weird.  I've never done drugs, but I felt like I was getting delusionsal from lack of sleep.  I was wondering if that's what it felt like to be on something.  By the time I made it home, I'd been up for over 24 hours on only 5 hours of sleep and the night before, I'd only had 6 hours of sleep.  Eventually 10:45 arrived and I was on my flight home.  I rotated between reading and sleeping--didn't make much progresss with either.  We landed around midnight.  It took a while for the luggage as it always does at that airport, but it came and I said good-bye to the last two people from my group who were headed to  a workshop for a week and then home the following weekend.  Mike was waiting for me outside and I got home a little after 1am.  It really was a wonderful two weeks in Germany.  I had a great group of people, learned a lot, saw some great places, heard some great stories, ate some great food (and Raddlers), cried a little, and overall, enjoyed myself.  Thank you TOP!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Day 15: Free Time in Berlin

Our last full day in Berlin was also our free day.  We had a meeting at  5, but we were free until then.  After a night of not enough sleep (remember the Midnight Monuments Tour), three other girls and I headed out to explore Berlin.  We stopped at a couple of shops, then went to the Berliner Dome. The place itself is beautiful.  One of the girls left to explore some other things but three of us went up to the top outside.  The weather cleared up so we could get some nice shots of the view outside.  The weather said rain all day so it was the one day of the whole trip I didn't have my sunglasses or sunscreen and I really could have used them.  I guess don't trust a weather report in Berlin.  Next it was off to the Memorial for Murdered Jews and the musuem underneath it.  The musuem was interesting, but also depressing (I mean I kind of new it would be, but you know what I mean).  We stopped at a few shops on the way back--souvenirs, chocolates, and macaroons.  We got back to the hotel around 4:00 and had an hour until our final meeting.  Our meeting was actually a final group reflection where we had to reflect on the whole trip.  After that, we walked to a tapas place, where we enjoyed some delicious food.  Then back to the hotel for one farewell drink and we met Jason's wife (they were traveling around once our tour was done).  We all played Heads Up for a little while.  It was a fun night.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Night 14: Midnight Monuments

At the same time we were in Germany, there was another group from our fellowship also in Germany.  All groups have a slighty different itinerary, but they all end in Berlin so at this point both groups were in Berlin.  The leader of the other group was organizing a Midnight Monuments Tour of Berlin. He extended the invitation to our group.  About half of our group decided to go.  We arrived at the meeting spot around 10:15, but the other group was running late so it was about 10:45 by the time we got started.  Basically, we walked around Berlin at night and saw some memorials, churches, etc. lit up.  It was cool to see.  The monument for the burned books actually looks better at night because it's hard to see in the day time.  Anyway, we stayed on the tour until around midnight then headed back to our hotel.  We couldn't figure out where the closest subway was so we split up and took two taxis bak to the hotel. One of the other girls and I had a drink before bed.  It was hard to believe tomorrow was our last full day in Berlin.

This is just a portion of the memorial to the burned books.  The empty shelves represent the books the Nazis burned one night in 1933. I believe it was around 20,000.   The empty shelves could hold all the books so it's kind of powerful to see how many books that is when you see all those empty shelves.  

Back at Checkpoint Charlie.  

Brandenburg Gate at night 

Sheila Laguna (Flat Stanley) wanted to visit Brandenburg Gate too.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Day 14: Currywurst, Christmas, and Kreuzberg

Do you like the alliteration in the title?  Today began with a lecture on refugees. It mainly focused on refugees in Germany, but there was also information about refugees in other countries as well.  I definitely learned quite a bit.  The lecture ended early so we had some free time.  One of the girls in our group had mentioned two museums she was interested in.  I wasn't expecting to have free time that day so I hadn't really planned anything.  So I joined Darcey on her trip the museum.  Another guy in our group came too.  We started with the communication museum.  It was fun.  It focused on how communication had changed over the years.  There were old telephones, radios, televisions, just to name a few and even a section on old advertisements.  We also met a robot.  We then ventured to the currywurst museum for lunch.  On the way we stopped at a Christmas shop because I wanted to get a Christmas ornament.  We didn't have time to do the museum, but currywurst is one of the "must try" foods in Germany so I figured I'd better give it a try. When in Rome or in this case, When in Berlin...
 I ordered the vegatarian version, but did try a bite of Darcey's regular one.  Both were pretty good.  Then it was back to the hotel because we had to meet our group soon for our afternoon session.  We headed to a museum in Kreuzberg, which was close to our hotel. We had a lecture at the museum and a little time to explore.  Then we had a tour of the Kreuzberg area, which included a stop at a mosque.  I'd never been to a mosque before so that was interesting to see.  During the tour, our guide told us about weddings in the area and had us all participate in a traditional wedding dance right outside in the neighborhood.  I'm sure we looked strange to anyone passing by, but it was fun in a quirky way too.  Dinner that night was Turkish food. I think that may have been the first time I ever had Turkish food.  It was pretty good.        

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Day 13: The Berlin Wall and The Ballet

Today began with a lecture on the Berlin Wall followed by a visit to the Berlin Wall Memorial (and then a little more lecture/ Q and A).  It was interesting, but like so much else related to the wall, sad too.  Lunch was at a Swiss restaurant.  In one section of the restaurant, a movie was being made.  Unfortunately, I don't really know any German actors/actresses so I can't tell you who they were.  From what I heard, one of them was famous, but the others were less famous.  Anyway, I had some good fondue at lunch among other things. We had the rest of the day free so two other girls and I went back to the Berlin Wall to take some pictures and look around a bit.  We think we took the scenic route to get there, but we somehow made it, it just took us longer than we thought to get there.  By some miracle and decent public transportation we successfully made our way to the Opera House later to meet up with some more people from our group to see "Sleeping Beauty," the ballet.  We figured since ballet doesn't involve talking, that was a good thing to see in a country where you don't speak the language.  It was long, hot inside,  and a bit different from the story I know, but I still enjoyed the show.  I like a good ballet.  It was also cool to see a ballet in another country because how often do you get to do that in life.  After the show, it was getting late so we took the subway and then walked a bit back to our hotel.

 Memorial to those who died related to the wall (i.e. trying to cross the border)

 By the Opera House