Friday, January 22, 2010

Christmas Vacation 2009 - Day Seven

The final day of our Christmas Vacation was a travel day - headed for home in Heidelberg Germany. We didn't have to start at a crazy-early hour ... which was very nice.

At the centrail train station we mailed a few post cards, enjoyed a hot chocolate, and made our way to the right platform. We took the ICE from Brussels to Frankfurt.

Usually when we travel by train, we prefer to sit in an enclosed little compartment that seats 6 people and has a lovely table. In the past we've watched movies, shared songs, napped, and told stories all in the privacy of our own enclosure with a sliding glass door. This time however, we enjoyed the Panorama Suite. It's a collection of 8 seats just behind the train engineer's "flight deck." While the train is at the station, the floor to ceiling glass is opaque, but as soon as he/she pulls away, the wall of glass clears up and passengers can see out the front of the train and watch the engineer at the controls. Talk about super cool! They were great seats.

After arriving in Frankfurt, we had just enough time to grab a plate of our favorite chinese noodles (and a couple take-home containers) before hopping on the train to Heidelberg. We arrived at the hauptbahnhof (central train station) then took a local train to the stop just 3 blocks from our house.

It was great to walk in the door at home after being away for a week. The trip was wonderful and so memorable. Most of us learned from previous trip to pack lighter and the traveling was much easier. I was glad we made the effort and took the time to be together.

Central train station in Brussels.
Jack, Marie, Flower, John, & Joe

Peeking out from behind a piece of art in the Brussels station.

On the platform before boarding the train for home.

Working a crossword puzzle ... in ink.

"Look here!"

Jack doesn't look interested in the puzzle and John appears to be feeding Flower the answers.

The train engineer's control center. So cool.

A reflection of John.

Jack and Flower on the trip to Frankfurt. The seats are on raised platforms - stadium style for a better view.

Just arrived in Frankfurt!
Joe, Marie, Jack, Flower, & John

Waiting for the local train in Heidelberg to take us from the hbf to home.
Joe, Flower, John, Jack & Marie

The holidays with my people, seeing new and fantastic sights, and arriving home safely is where it's at.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Christmas Vacation, 2009 - Day Six

Day Six was a travel day from London England to Brussels Belgium. We started waaay early in the morning and were at the train station before 7am. Too early in fact for public transportation; we had to arrange for a taxi large enough for all of us plus our backpacks.

We had quite a lovely two-course breakfast on the Eurostar for our return trip - complete with steamed washcloths when we were done.

Knowing we wouldn't be in Belgium very long, we didn't make too many plans. And that was a good thing. As it turned out ... the folks in Brussels were not as friendly as folks in other places. That was sad and disappointing and unfortunately consistent everywhere we went... buying metro cards, hotel, restaurants, etc. On the plus side, we did not start an international incident on the metro back to our hotel after an afternoon of site seeing.

Bright Spot! The Atomium was constructed as part of the 1958 World's Fair. It was very cutting edge for the day and quite futuristic (remembering that Sputnik was launched in Oct 1957). This is the single largest attraction in all of Belgium - and just plan fun. Folks can walk up just so far and then wait in line to take an elevator to the top.

Additionally, there is a retro museum at the base of the Atomium as well as inside several of the spheres... it covers 1955 to 1963. This was super fun to walk around.

Afterwards, we found a Mexican restaurant. The food wasn't so bad, but the company was better. Fortunately, we didn't have anything else on itinerary, so we could take as much time sitting and talking as we wanted to. Good times for sure. Our hotel rooms were nice and we stayed up watching something captioned on television.

Arrived at St. Pancras to take the Eurostar to Belgium - looking very bright eyed.

Hot Chocolate Marie and Where Are My Gloves Joe.

Relaxing on the Eurostar before getting underway.

Most of the backpacks.

Flower and Joe - you can just see John's shoulder on the left.

Mural down the block from out hotel in Brussels.

Found this sweet carousel.

The Atomium

That small cluster of people at the bottom, in the middle of the picture is my family.

Inside the Atomium at the base level.

Flower, John, Marie, Joe, Jack

Living in Germany, traveled to Paris, London, & Brussels to eat a Mexican dinner inside an American Conestoga wagon. Priceless.

Burritos, fajitas, tacos, and sparkling water with my people is where it's at.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Christmas Vacation, 2009 - Day Five

Happy Boxing Day from London. From the looks of it, Boxing Day is the social equivalent of Black Friday in the States.

We had a very, very busy day after Christmas. We started with a bus ride to the London Eye. We had attempted to ride this gigantic ferris wheel on Christmas Eve, but the timing wasn't right. However, the Eye was having technical problems the morning we were to ride (argh!) - the employees didn't know when it would be operational, so we decided to pass on it, get our money back, and try again the next time we're in London (it's a good thing - they were not able to honor tickets all day).

The photo ops for Big Ben and the House of Parliment was next - it was just fabulous to stand and look. How many movies or television shows have we seen this backdrop? shoot, CNN uses the same space we were standing on for 'live shots from London'. It was fantastic. I was so glad to to be there.

After that, we had to get to a rally point for the motor coach and guided tour of Stonehenge. Can you believe it?! How exciting is that? Well, maybe some won't find it interesting, but Marie and I sure did. After we found where we needed to be, we were early - so we had some lunch and bought a few postcards.

The ride to Stonehenge was uneventful (I think I took a nap after we hit the countryside). For real, these rocks are in the middle of nowhere. We had the advantage of the audio guide - very cool information there. We walked all the way around and learned much about the surrounding area and some prevailing myths. Since we were there at sunset, some of the snapshots are pretty fabulous. I don't know why I've always been fascinated with Stonehenge, but I have and it was a real treat to be there with my people.

Arriving back in the city we hit the largest mall in all of England - fortunately we weren't there very long. whew! But, it was just across the street from the movie cinema where we took in the late showing of "Sherlock Holmes." It was interesting that in the movie it depicted the Tower Bridge as being under construction ... and we had been there just the day before.

After we got back to our hotel we wanted to collapse from all the fun. Of course we needed to pack our backpacks again - time in London had run out.

Waiting for a bus.

Jack, Marie, Flower, Joe

John set up this shot - he's so fun!

All of us together in London.

Unposed shot.

The London Eye

I love this picture - we're all doing something.

Walking over to the Waterloo Station.

I liked how all the buses looked all lined up.

Waiting for the underground train.

Flower & Joe - on bus to Stonehenge.

Marie & Jack - on bus to Stonehenge.

Us too!

Marie, Flower, Jack, Joe - just before we left.

On the bus back to town.
The countryside and Stonehenge with my people is where it's at.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Christmas Vacation, 2009 - Day Four

Christmas Day

It wasn't a conventional Christmas Day by most thinking, but it was a terrific day all together. We all slept in late, watched television, read books, ate a hot breakfast, listened to music, and visited with each other. After that, it was nap time.

We took off on foot in the afternoon and found an open chicken diner (100% deep fat fried), but yummy nonetheless. Anyway, we saw some interesting architecture and took a few pictures at London Bridge.

I think our biggest adventure of the day was strolling along the Thames River toward the Tower Bridge. It is spectacular! Lit up at night - even more so. We were able to take our time and listen to each other while enjoying the Christmas lights.

On the way back to our hotel we went past the Globe Theatre. And, since we weren't cold enough, we treated ourselves to some ice cream back at the hotel.

We have had a request to stay at home next year - put up a traditional tree, hang stockings, and serve ham with deviled eggs. There is much to be said about family traditions - but I so enjoy making memories together in our travels knowing full well we can exchange gifts another year and there will be years that travel won't likely be possible.

Interesting architecture.

Merry Christmas Jack and Joe

Merry Christmas Flower and Marie

What I wouldn't give for any green vegetable at this spread.

At the Thames River wall
John, Joe, Flower, Jack, Marie

Tower Bridge

Let the good times roll.

Christmas Stockings 2009

Holidays with my people is where it's at.