Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Germany Day 19

Today was fun - a lot of riding - but fun.   We got up, ate breakfast and left the hotel by 8.  We then headed down the clock road where there are stores decorated with Cuckoo Clocks everywhere.  We stopped at one super nice shop that had a lot of hand made German stuff including Cuckoo's and Nativities - we splurged and ordered both.   They are being shipped to the house and I'm super excited.  If you remember I wanted to buy a nativity the other day and the guy insulted me telling me I could not afford it... so this felt right.  It was a little bit less, but more importantly the people were helpful and friendly.  

After making the credit card scream we drove on for a bit, stopping at a truck stop for a bite to eat, and then on to Heidelberg.  I really enjoyed Heidelberg.   They have a castle that has been damaged but you can still walk around and in some of it - I actually think it is one of my favorites.   The sweeping views off of the top, the fact we could just meander and take pictures.   I really liked it.  They also have a gigantic beer keg - so big you can dance on it.   Not sure I get the appeal, but it was certainly novel.   The town has a river running through it with a lovely water break they have in manufactured into it.    You can see this from a pedestrian bridge that also gives a lovely view of the castle.    I loved the castle and the bridge.  I loved walking the shops and just really enjoyed the city.  It may change my mind on Germany - we just maybe went to the wrong parts?    

It started raining on us right as we were leaving so we were all huddled under an awning waiting for the bus.  Once on we drove straight to the hotel where we had a nice going away dinner and got the bags ready for our flight home tomorrow.  

I'm have enjoyed our trip.  There was a lot more riding / traveling than expected in Germany and there were ups and downs, but we have had a good time.   Mama has a DR. appointment scheduled for Friday to do an assessment on the arm and determine next steps.   Jack has agreed to go with her - I want someone in the room with her and I know if I see that cast off and the beautiful colors underneath I will either pass out or vomit, so Jack is going.     I will be at the house recovering from the travel.  It's been great but I'm ready to be home.

Tomorrow is really just airplanes so unless something amazing happens this will be last journal entry for this trip.  I hope you have enjoyed traveling with us and until next time stay safe and God Bless.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Germany Day 18

Today showed us the German country side that everyone raves about.  But don't let me digress... I know you want to hear about the entire day right?

I woke up in the middle of the night not feeling well so I was moving slow this morning.  Jack took  Mama down to breakfast and I laid down for a bit longer.   I came down about 7:20 and wanted some of the French Toast.  When I went to get it there was none - when I asked the wait staff if they were going to make some more I got a very gruff "NO" and that was it.  There wasn't much else and my stomach wasn't 100% so I stuck with coffee.

We then left for Neushwanstein Castle.   This was the castle that inspired Disney and it was gorgeous from the distance.   The king designed it himself, but never got to live in it as he died before it was complete.  It was very pretty with amazing paintings and architecture throughout.  They said no photos, but I sneaked a few - not as many as yesterday as these guards were more watchful, but I sneaked and got some.

We had gotten a ride up to the castle but had to walk back down - the walk took about an hour.  The walk down was nice as it had stopped raining for the most part, but it was a deep - damp - cold so I was ready for the bus and the heater.  I thought we were early so I went to the bathroom and got some cash out - only to get on the bus and realize I was 5 minutes late, oops :)

We then road over to Lake Constance.  The drive over was gorgeous, but it was rainy as well - I am sure glad we have a great driver.   Once there we saw the lake, but didn't stay long as it was cold and rainy.  We walked quickly to a restaurant and sat down.   The service was good as was the food.   We had burgers and really enjoyed ourselves.  It was an inside restaurant but birds had flown in the doors so that was neat to see.  

After this we went back to the bus and drove to another short stop to see a church and a view of the lake.  It was raining and I had just warmed up ... given it was really more of a rest stop we opted to buy a couple of souvenirs and stay on the bus.     We then drove to our hotel in the Black Forest and are resting up for tomorrow.  

Last real day of our trip before we fly home is tomorrow -here is praying it's sunny and warm :)




Monday, September 18, 2017

Germany Day 17

Best day of the Germany portion of the trip so far and maybe of the entire trip.   We got up and ate breakfast (didn't have to check out of the hotel) and then headed to Zugspitze station - it is a spot where you can view Zugspitze Glacier at 8,530 feet high.   We didn't see much of the glacier itself as there was significant cloud cover, but OMG it was amazing.  White as far as you could see - it was cold, but we wore warm cloths so it wasn't too bad.  I had on two pair of jeans, 2 shirts, a sweater and a jacket...

The air was so crisp up there and it was so breath takingly gorgeous.  The wind was blowing which would also take your breath quite literally.  I'm really glad we brought Mama's O2 machine where she could enjoy it.  

We got some cocoa in the cafe and thawed out for a minute - then went out to enjoy it some more.   We then hopped on the cable car and road it down, which was nice as well - the condensation from the morning had dried up so we could see out of it - amazing.

We then came back to the Oberammergau and walked to the village itself.  We checked out the theater where they hold the Passion play every year and then went to grab a bite to eat.  After lunch we did some souvenir shopping before heading back to the hotel.

We rested for a few minutes and then headed Linderhof Castle.  This castle is original and the only one King Ludwig actually lived in.  It was fashioned after Versailles, but was a poor imitation.  That being said it was still amazing, especially the outside.  The fountains and the way they flowed into the building was really well done.

We had a guided tour of the castle.  The castle was gaudy as is Versailles.  I enjoyed seeing the gold inlay, the painted walls and the statues.  They said no pictures, but I sneaked and took several... I know I'm a bad person.  I think my favorite room was the bedroom and my favorite item was the glass peacocks.   They also had an ivory chandelier that was nice, but I feel bad about the fact it was ivory - even if it is old.

We then came back to the hotel and took a nap, went to get some Italian food, and are resting up to tackle tomorrow.   We are all getting a little tired with the go-go-go schedule, but today was worth it.   Amazing day !

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Germany Day 16

Every day you are on vacation is a good day and today was no exception.  I will say though - in all fairness - I've had better tours.   I've traveled with Globus 5 times now and this is the first time I've been disappointed in the trip for a number of small reasons that add up to just ... well not satisfied.   I won't dwell on that here though - just want to be up front and honest for my memories.  I also know it is coming across in the journal-ling some so I want to remember why when I'm 50 wondering why these journals don't sound all rosy and stupid happy like they normally do.

So on to happier things - what did we do today?  Jack put our bags out by 7 and we got up to start getting ready.   We were running a bit late so I ran our hand held luggage down by 8:15 while everyone else finished getting ready - we don't leave until later today as we opted out of the concentration camp excursion, but our bags needed to be on the bus so we didn't have to keep up with them.  

We then headed down to breakfast and ate at a leisurely pace since we had some free time.   Then we headed out to go see the Oktoberfest Parade.   We saw that they were lining up and ended up right where it started.  I wish later we would have moved as they were actually coming in from 3 different streets so Mama and I only got to see about 1/3 of it, but we saw a ton.  Jack scooted under the rope and went to get a better view, but Mama and I decided to just stay.   It was drizzling rain the entire time so it was a little comical - me trying to take pictures while we tried to keep myself, the camera and Mama's arm dry.  The parade was really neat with people all dressed up and horses pulling buggies.   It was very unique and LONG.  I think it's longer than the Macy's parade on Thanksgiving - we sat and watched it for 2 hours and it still had a little bit to go.

We then walked down to the MarienPlatz area and grabbed a bite to eat.   We ate at a local German restaurant, but I got a hamburger.  It was good though a bit expensive - they did have English menus though so that was a win.   We then wondered around the square a bit, everything and I do mean everything except a tiny tourist shop was closed.   Apparently that is the norm here on Sunday's.  I really wanted to buy a coat because 50 degrees is a lot colder than I thought it was, but everything was closed.

The square is pretty though - they have 2 town hall buildings the old and the new.  The new one is Gothic and really cool.  The old one is actually newer because it was rebuilt after the war was pretty as well.  We took some pictures of the outside and then it was time to meet with our group.

We were supposed to take a walking tour of Munich ... instead she spoke in the square - without using the Whisper system that makes it where you can actually hear her and then we went to the bus for a driving tour.   It was basically this is this building, this is that one, while we drove by them - it was so boring.  I fell asleep... I woke up when Jack showed me the Olympic stuff - that we didn't get to stop and see.

We then stopped at this palace which was amazing ... but we only got 20 minutes to see it.   I was PISSED let me tell you.  I wanted at least 30 to 45 to see it and take pictures of the amazing gardens. It took 10 to go to the bathroom and we were gong to be on the bus for 2 hours after this...so not going was not an option for most of us.  

We then drove to Oberammergau.  The drive up was gorgeous - we are getting into the Alps and the mountains are just amazing.  We are staying tonight in this little hotel in the Passion Play town of Oberammergau.   The scenery is amazing and we have a free night tomorrow night to walk around, I'm really hoping the shops stay open a bit later.  

While I'm not happy with this tour on a number of levels, we are still having a great time and I'm really looking forward to our trips into the Alps tomorrow.



Saturday, September 16, 2017

Germany Day 15

It seems like we live on the bus these days, but we had a good time today  We got up, ate breakfast and left the hotel by 8 AM.   We rode for about 2 hours to Rothenburg.  This town was really great little town.  They had a lot of great shops with Christmas ornaments and cute items.  We spent a good hour walking around and looking and then sat and ate a croissant and a coffee.  

On the hour they had this completely corny thing whee these dolls poke out of a building and pretend to drink a beer.  It goes back to something that may or may not have happened years ago where a army commander told the mayor he wouldn't destroy the town if someone could drink a liter of beer in one go - so the guy did and saved the town.  Now ever hour on the hour a fake doll pops out and drinks a beer - it is the corniest thing EVER.

As we were leaving the town we realized we missed the absolutely best street -- I wish we would have had another 30 minutes to walk down that street - ah well.

We then rode down a bunch of back roads and saw some gorgeous country side before landing in Munich.   We got to our rooms and headed to dinner.   Dinner was nice and now we are back at the hotel getting ready to go to sleep.     So another fairly lite day - honestly I didn't know Germany was big enough to have us in the bus this much, it seems we've crossed the entire country twice, lol :)




Friday, September 15, 2017

Germany Day 14

So today was really a travel day so this blog will be pretty lite.   We got up and had to have the bags out by 7.  So I got up at 6:30 and went to help Mama, then came back and helped her then came back and got ready myself.   We then headed down for breakfast which was ok before getting in the bus to head across Germany.

We stopped at a gas station along the way to have a bathroom break - then drove on to Leipzig.   Leipzig is where Bach lived.   We went to the church where he is buried and also where he lead worship.  It was a pretty church and we enjoyed walking around it.  They also had an open air market that we walked around a bit.   

We started to go into a Germany Cafe to get lunch, but they didn't speak English at all and we didn't feel like getting something unexpected so we ended up going to McDonald's and got a hamburger.  Mama tried to order it with only mayo, lettuce and onion - she needed up getting a plain hamburger... we couldn't get them to understand.   It was hilarious.

We scarfed the food down and then ran to catch our bus.   The driver wasn't there yet so I ran back and I mean RAN to go to the restroom before we left.

We then drove for a while longer before stopping at another convenience store for a 30 min break.   They had a machine that would cut and juice an orange - making fresh OJ and putting it in a 20 oz bottle; it was awesome.   I really liked it and wish we had them in the states.

We then drove on to Nuremberg.  We really wanted to see this town as they said it was the toy town of Germany, but we arrived after all of the shops closed which was a bit of a disappointment.   We rested a bit and then drove to the top of the city where there was an incredible view.   We then strolled down through the town taking pictures as we went.  The town was an old fortress and it is surrounded by a wall.   I enjoyed meandering down taking pictures though I wish we would have had a bit more time.

We then ate dinner before walking a back to our hotel - I really wish we had a little bit longer here.   I'm super tired though and look forward to whatever tomorrow holds.   

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Germany Day 13

Berlin - that is what today was all about.  I got up at 6:30, got dressed and went to help Mama with a few things given the bum arm.   I then came back to finish getting ready myself before heading down to breakfast with her at 7.  Jack was still in the shower so we went on just so as to not hurry.

We walked into the hotel dining room and several of the group came to check on Mama through out our meal which was very nice.  Breakfast this morning was ok, but nothing compared to the one yesterday.  However, it filled us up and prepared us for the day.

We then loaded on the bus and met our local guide.   She was very stylish with her hair half hanging down in her face and healed boots on that I would kill myself if I dared try to stand in them much less walk.   She is the daughter of the guide we had yesterday and I was dreading having her - her father was a bit monotone and I just really wanted a bit of personality today.  Well, I shouldn't have dreaded anything - she was fabulous!   She told great history about everything, was interesting, she strayed here and there to give us extra bits or to go off on a tangent.   I absolutely loved having her today.

This morning was an optional excursion to Potsdam.  On the way, as i twas a bit out of town, she pointed out some Berlin highlights and then proceeded to give us the entire royal history of Prussia.   The first palace we went to in Potsdam belonged to the Prussian royalty and was also where the Potsdam Conference was held in 1945, Cecilienhof Palace.   The palace was under construction on the outside but it seemed pretty and I was able to get a few photographs.  

On the inside you had to buy a photography permit - which I did.  I hung back far enough to get lots of pictures without people in them, but could still hear her through our ear pieces.  I love those things as they allow me to wonder and not miss the dialogue.  The interesting thing about this place is that the caretakers really guard it very closely -- but it isn't all that pretty or unique on the inside.  Apparently the guides can't say certain things or they get into trouble and the guards are trained to ease drop and report back.   We had a woman guard follow us most of ht time and I found her very unfriendly and intimidating.  She kept watching me but I paid for my permit by golly and I was taking my pictures.

We saw each of the big 3's desk along with the conference room.  The palace was chosen by Russia and they made sure they had their pick of rooms and desk.   The conference room was round and it was very important these 3 looked equal vs. one favoring the other - stupidity - just walk into a room and sit down, who care's who walks in first?  I don't understand how that pomp and circumstance every helps anything.

Once we finished here we drove to Sanssouci Palaece to see the gardens and take pictures of it's outside.  I thought it was really pretty and enjoyed strolling around it.   The Prussia King who helped bring the people out of famine by teaching them how to eat the potato king is here.  He is known as the potato king and people leave potatoes on his grave.  He is buried with his 10 dogs whom he loved greatly.   The gardens and fountain were quite pretty and it was an enjoyable stop.

We also drove over Glienicker Bruckle, a bridge that connects Potsdam with Berlin.  It was used to make spy swaps between the FBI and the KGB during the cold war.  After leaving Potsdam we drove back to our hotel to eat and rest before the next excursion.

We decided to eat at a all day breakfast place behind the hotel called Chips.  We walked in and there isn't a sign that says seat yourself so we waited... and waited.  Jack tried to ask a lady who looked like she worked there, but he was ignored.  So we waited some more.  Finally this lady, the one who ignored Jack, came over and said sit anywhere except if it says reserved.   Well, I sit down at the booth to which she says - RESERVED.   I didn't know - the sign was tiny.  So we sckoot over a table and wait.  I may have called her a bad word under my breath.

Then we waited some more.  Finally Jack said they have 5 minutes and we are leaving.   A minute later the waitress came over and took our order.   And we waited... several and I do mean several minutes later they bring us coffee and some soda no one has heard of.   The coffee is very much like English coffee, which means nasty!  I had to ask for cream twice and even then it was frothy and weird.

The food they brought was pretty good - very good actually.  We all had the lumberjack, which consist of eggs, bacon, french toast and a salad.

After eating we went back to the room and took a 20 minute power nap.

We were then up and at it again.  We hopped back on the bus with our guide and our tour director to go hear about the WW2 history up to the falling of the wall.   It was interesting to hear about it from her as she lived through the Berlin wall collapse - she was a child in 1990.    I learned some things and enjoyed the commentary.    We stopped at a timeline near a 1 mile section of Berlin Wall that is still standing.   We stopped at Checkpoint Charlie and also a Soviet Memorial for the WW2 soldiers that was in a very nice park.   It was interesting - however by time it was over I was dragging.

We came back upstairs to our room and crashed.   We had a good hour nap and then got up to go to dinner.

Dinner was at a local restaurant that obviously caters to tour groups.   It was so cramped you could barely move - which sucked.   It was also really loud.   However, the food was incredible and you could drink as much as you wanted - anything you wanted.  We stuck to soft drinks but several in our group got quite happy.  Before long they were all up dancing in this restaurant you could barely move in.   It was fun to witness - I would have loved to dance, but it was just too crowded.  Mama laughed at us.   The room is dancing - drinking - laughing.  Jack and I are translating the place mat with an app on his phone and having a great time... it takes all types I guess.   It was fun.

Now we are here at the hotel and need go to breakfast at 7 in the am so I'm calling it a night.  Sleep well blogland.

P.S.  Mama is doing great - didn't let her slow her down at all today.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Germany Day 12

Today was an eventful day that included an ambulance ride, a cast and some grateful people that it isn't more serious.   First and foremost, to ease everyone's minds,  let me say everyone is fine - nothing life threatening.   So... want to hear about our day?

First we got up, had our bags out by 8 and then had breakfast at the hotel.  The breakfast was amazing!   It was a buffet and I filled up on fruit and extremely crispy bacon - I love crispy bacon.  The coffee was also good.  We sat with a nice couple from Minnesota - we didn't get to know them very well and I still don't know there names, but they were nice.

Afterwards we went upstairs to get our bags and then headed out to face the day.   Our first stop was the train station where we caught the ICE from Dusseldorf to Berlin.    If you are curious ICE does not mean ice - it stands Inner City Express.  Mainly it is a high speed passenger train.   We were up to 150 MPH at one point - it was much more in KM which makes it even more interesting when you look up and think "oh crap that's fast" lol.   We rode in first class and I'm grateful given the trip was 4 hours.

The ride was exceptionally smooth!  Mama slept and Jack and I just enjoyed the down time.    We had waiters in the coach and they brought our lunch to our seats which was nice.   We had Chili... it was awesome, but did not taste like chili I'm used to.  It had a lot of beans in it, was not spicy and had a different flavor, I really liked it.  

After 4 hours of down time we left the train and headed for the bus.   On the way out you ride up an escalator, turn right and then ride up another one.  Because of the number of people turning there was a slight build up at the top of the first escalator ... but the first escalator doesn't stop, so we almost had a major pile up with bodies falling everywhere... it would have been bad.   But people got the clue and started moving faster - catastrophe avoided.

So then we walked out of the train station to go to the bus.   The roads and the sidewalks are the same color and the lips are very small maybe 3 inches?   Just enough for Mama to trip over... she fell and when she fell she fell hard - she landed full body plant on the sidewalk.   She scrapped her head a bit and banged up her arm, but she seemed ok.  She quickly got up, said she was fine and we headed to the bus.   Let me say that the group jumped into help very quickly and were all concerned.  We have a nurse here with us and she was extremely helpful, but Mama said she was fine and we went on.

A bit later she said she thought she had hurt her arm, but it would still bend so I honestly thought it was just bruised.  I told her if we need to stop and go to the hotel or the hospital to say the word...she said she would, but for now she wanted to continue.     At the end of the tour, 4 hours later, as we are getting to the hotel she asked to go to the hospital to have it seen about.

I spoke to our tour director, who spoke to the reception desk, who called for a "doctor".  I was planning an getting a Uber to the hospital... however when they said they called the doctor I thought maybe doctors here made house calls or something.   No... 10 minutes later up rolled an ambulance.   The first paramedic did not speak English, but Pasquale our tour guide helped.   They got her arm stabilized and off we went.  At first they said only I could go in the ambulance which we would have dealt with, however then I hopped in the back with her - I think they wanted me up front, but that wasn't happening - So Jack got to ride in the front and off we went.

The second paramedic who came in (they work in teams of 2) spoke English so he was in the back with us.   He took some information as we drove and soon we had stopped at the hospital.  However, the staff came out and told the driver that the entrance they pulled into was under construction and we needed to go to another one - so back in the ambulance we went.  

Once we got to the right entrance we got out and they told Jack and I to wait in the waiting room - well that wasn't happening.   I told them Jack would go to the waiting room, but I was going with her - period.   So... Mama and I went to the exam room.   4 people swarmed in - all speaking German - and began to examine her.   5 or 6 minutes later a lady looked at us and said English or German?   LOL - We said English and finally got to really talk to someone.  It was so odd - like watching a movie in a foreign language without subtitles.

They took us down to XRay and we sat and waited.   A few minutes later a lady popped out and X Rayed her arm, then they sent us back to the original room.   And by sent - I mean sent.  They didn't walk us just pointed and said go... so we wondered around until we found our way.

Once there I was giving the lady Mama's medicine list - which is long - when the Dr. came in and said... "It's broke - you need surgery".   My heart dropped!  I said when?   At this point she pulled up the X Rays and showed us where it is broken in the elbow.  I don't see what she was talking about but trust her.   She said it needs surgery within a week or it will begin to heal the wrong way and possibly have to be re-broken.  I said can it be done today?  She said no - soonest she could do it was Friday and Mama would have to stay in hospital until Monday or we could fly home.  Well - answer to that is no we are not staying in a German hospital for 4 days.   So we asked a few more questions about what happens if it is not done in a week, what are they gong to do to keep it from getting worse, etc...

She said they would put a cast on it and given the pain medicines she is already on she could continue to take those for pain.   They said they would give us a CD with the X Rays and we could give them to our Dr. for a second opinion.   We said ok ... and went to wait on the cast.

While waiting we discussed what we would do.  I explained to Mama it is really up to her - We can fly home tomorrow (somehow) and we can get her to a DR and get the surgery. OR if she isn't hurting and feels like it she can take risk and wait 9 days instead of the 7 or less we can finish the trip.  As of now she is opting to finish the trip - I will be watching her and we will take it day by day.

We then went to get her cast on.  Now this hospital is apparently a teaching hospital - so there is Mama surrounded by 6 people as a Dr. explains how to do a cast.   He went to show how on the wrong arm and one said "wrong arm" just as I was about to do the same.  He said "I know - I was just showing how it would work".... If the consequences of this weren't a broken arm that sucks to high heaven it would have been hilarious.  Who am I kidding - Mama in a room full of interns all speaking German while setting her arm was hilarious.   It was just amazingly funny.

Once the cast was on the doctor told us he would give us a write up (in German) and we could leave.  I asked about the bill and he said they would handle with the insurance we gave them earlier... so we walked to meet Jack in the lobby, got an Uber, and came back to the hotel.  The entire ER visit took less than an hour!   AN HOUR!  Can you imagine that visit in the US ?  We would have been there half the night and probably into the morning.

We got back to the hotel and I sent Mama up with Jack to the room to drop stuff off, use bathroom, etc.. while I went to find our tour director.  He was eating lunch and I caught him up on the events.   As of now we are planning to stay... we shall play it by ear.     Several group members asked about her in the dining room which made me feel good.

I then went up, collected Mama and Jack and we came back down to get dinner.   We walked in and the entire group clapped in welcome.  It was really nice of them.   We sat down and had dinner which was really good - salad - honey baked chicken with carrots and potatoes then a chocolate mousse.  The conversation amoung the three of us was also good - it was just a nice enjoyable dinner.

After dinner I went to help Mama get settled in and ready for tomorrow, had to get desk clerk to come show us how to operate the phones because I couldn't figure it out, and then I came to my room and started getting ready for tomorrow.  

It was a good day until it wasn't and even then it wasn't bad.  My stress level is high and I'm worried about her, but I also know that we are in God's hands and all will be well.   She is 72 years old and did a 4 hour tour with a broke arm ... I hope I'm half that good when I'm older.

I also want to talk about the tour, because we did see some things I want to remember.   Pasquale left us with a city guide who was very funny with political and other jokes, however he had a monotone voice... it was good though and when I wasn't watching Mama to see if she was really ok or no his commentary was interesting.

I honestly have no idea what we saw as we drove through the city.   I do know 90 percent of it was not standing after WW2 - they rebuilt it and they did one of 2 things.  Rebuilt it back how it was or went super modern with it.  So the architecture is very different from one building to another.

We stopped at the Brandenburg Gate, which is in former West Berlin and took a few pictures.   This thing has had a life.  It was finished in 1795.  Then Napoleon moved it to Paris during the French Occupation (1806).   It was returned in 1814 - being declared a symbol of victory.  It was damaged during WW2 and was restored between 1956-58.  It stands very close to where the Berlin Wall stood and there is a line of pavers you can walk that show where the wall was.

We then drove by Checkpoint Charlie - we will see more of it tomorrow.   We then went to Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtnis-Kirche.  A church that was destroyed in WW2.  It has a bell tower standing that is still damaged from the bombs.   We walked around outside, took some pictures and then went to buy a few post cards.  It looks really neat from the outside.  My pictures aren't great though - I was focused on other things.

We went back to the coach and seeing we had a few minutes I left Mama with Jack and went to take a few more pictures.  I then realized you could go in the damaged tower... so I grabbed a few from inside too.  Inside it is amazing - Gold tile all over the place with mosaics.  It was absolutely gorgeous and I'm sorry Jack and Mama missed it.   I also went  into the new church they built.  It is a glass structure that is blue on the inside due to the glass and the reflecting light.   It has a large alter with a Christ hanging on it and that was it.  Very Very Modern and I didn't really like it.  It was dazzling sure, but not pretty - I took some pictures and then made it to the bus with a minute to spare.

We then went to the Holocaust memorial that is made of concrete blocks.   It is treated more like a park with people sitting on the monuments and talking.   It seemed common, but seemed odd to me - at the same time it's in the middle of a very busy square and takes up the entire square so it was inevitable I guess.   Mama went back to the front area to rest while I poked around for a few.  I tried to pray and thank God for my life.  I tried to think of the Jews who had lost so much and of the atrocities that occurred to warrant this monument, but I found myself unable to really do so.  

I hopped back on the bus and he finished the tour at the hotel at which point you know the story.   It's been a long day and I'm going to bed.  Here is praying that tomorrow is a better day - praying Mama is not in pain - praying she can enjoy the rest of this trip  - praying -


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Germany Day 11

Today was an off day - we all have them.  That being said we did get to see some things in Germany that I enjoyed.   Here is our day for those interested and for posterity sake.

We got up and had our bags out of the room by 7, then headed down and ate breakfast.  They told us to sit anywhere and we did, but I am not sure our table had been cleaned as I noticed others after the fact had plates and things already on the tables.   But it was clean enough I guess - either way it was completely our fault regardless.   Breakfast was a buffet and it was fairly good - honestly everything was probably colored by my own sour mood so ...  The coffee was drinkable, not as good as yesterday, but good.  The food was also good though I didn't eat very much for some reason.

After breakfast we went to the coach and rode a short distance to get on a river cruise.  We cruised down the Rhine River to Cologne.   When we first started the cruise it was rainy but it cleared up as we went along  so for much of the cruise I stayed on the top where I could get better pictures while Jack and Mama stayed in the bottom section.  I can't blame them as the wind would cut through you like a knife - I hope my pictures were worth it.   Along the cruise we  passed several Castles and also several little towns that were very picturesque.  I'm going to have to spend some time matching the Castles with the pictures in my books to see which is which as I could not hear the boat stuff very well.  I did enjoy the castles though and the general scenery of the cruise was gorgeous.    The Rhine river itself is very large an dis actively used for shipping  - it is considered an international waterway.

Another thing to note is that trains run on both sides of the river.   They made the entrance to the train tunnels look like castle turrets so that they would not be bombed in WWII as they knew the Allied Forces were under orders to try and not bomb historic buildings.     On another note our tour director said yesterday on the way to dinner that many of the buildings (churches, etc...), such as some we saw in Frankfort may look old, but they were completely demolished in WWII with the bombings and were rebuilt to look the same.

Once our tour was done we hopped back on the bus and drove to Cologne.  Our first stop was a restaurant where they gave us a snack and drinks.  Most people got beer, but we got a coke.   We didn't stay very long - we had limited time to see the city and we wanted a little something more substantial to eat so we stayed for a few and then split from the group.  

We first tried to go to the this German place our guide had recommended on our walk over to the snack restaurant, but A) it was frilly B) it was expensive an C) after sitting for a few no one had come over to wait on us.  So we left and went to a bakery down the street.  This place was so odd - it is an open air bakery with the smell of sugar wafting out onto the street - instant interest, right?  Well you go in and all around the food and in the restaurant honey bees are flying around.   They are everywhere - my first instinct was eeeewww and oh crap I'm going to get stung.  However, I then realized they pollinate our food so decided to stay.   Mama was not as nice as I am and some bees may have meet their unfortunate death :(    We got our snack and coffee and sat down to eat.   The coffee was good and the apple roll thingy was OK, but it made me not be hungry so win!   It was a little warm in the restaurant and we weren't really comfortable with the bees flying around so we left to go sight seeing.

Cologne's home to the tallest twin tower Cathedral in the world.  It is a Gothic Cathedral and is amazing to see.   The material it is built out of is white but it absorbs the pollutants from the air which gives it a black look.  They are constantly cleaning it but in all honesty it looks cool black.  The building was started in 1248 but was not finished until 1880... Now that is a delayed building project.  The sheer height of it is a sight to see.   We took some pictures of it from the outside then wandered in to take some more.  Jack sat down on a pew and let Mama and I wonder - I spent at least 40 minutes meandering on my own taking pictures and I don't think we saw 1/2 of it.  They have several rooms and sections off of the main area ...   The inside of it is massively tall with a sweeping arched roof that you have to see.   I can't say its the prettiest cathedral I've ever been in as far as the art or the architecture, but it is most impressive.  You can't walk in and not be impressed by it's sheer size and beauty.

After the Cathedral we walked over to a Roman / German Museum and just looked in the windows from the outside.   They have an original Roman mosaic floor they discovered and built the museum around it - it was quite pretty.  

And that was our site seeing for the town - we went and bought a few souvenirs, grabbed a coffee to get out of the rain and were done about 30 minutes before our scheduled meet time with the group.  

We then had a bus ride to Dusseldorf where we are staying overnight.  The ride took a bit of time and most of us slept as it was interstate driving.   Once here we came to our rooms to freshen up before dinner at 7.

The hotel is an airport hotel and more of a technical stop vs. a site seeing one - just need to get from point A to B so I wasn't expecting much of the dinner.  However, I was so wrong.  It was a buffet and it was incredible.   You had choice of meets and the sides were good  - also the salad bar was super fresh and clean.   The wait staff was also spot on!   The rooms are also really nice - very spacious and built to be worked from for extended periods of time, which makes them comfy!    

Tomorrow we ride the high speed train to Berlin - first class ride no less.  This should be interesting to experience.  Praying for a good mood tomorrow and that we have a fabulous day.

Monday, September 11, 2017

London / Germany Day 10

Today was mainly a travel day ... We got up and left our hotel by 7 AM to catch our 11:30 flight to Frankfort.   First win of the day - our pickup car was not a Prius and could easily fit us and our bags.  Special thanks to Paula, our travel agent for handling that.  We had to pay a big more and I will give the luggage company an online review explaining exactly what I think of the fact they sent a car that could barely handle 2 bags and 2 people for 3 people when I get home.  However, Paula was awesome and took care of it for us so we would not have to deal with it as we left London.

The airport in London was so nice!  We are traveling Lufthansa Airlines - I checked before we came and their website said a 2nd bag was 25 pounds each, which in the US is cheaper than an overweight bag so we each had 2 bags.   Well... we get up to the check in counter and it is 25 pounds if you do it online, but 68 if you do it in person.  Let me just say right off that is bull xxxx.  The lady was so kind though - she explained that if we do overweight bags it will be cheaper.  So at the checkout counter, in the middle of London's airport we again broke down the duffel bags into larger bags... kinda like we did when we arrived in London and had to get into that dang Prius.   We handled it though and the lady was so patient and kind with us.

We had told Mama to go to the handicapped area to wait as we typically get her a wheel chair in the airports.  She doesn't need it to walk, but the oxygen with all of the batteries gets really tiring to carry and sometimes you need to rush through airports and she doesn't rush well without having oxygen issues.    So anyway - she walked down while we were still dealing with the luggage, but an airport employee had her sit in another area.  So... we get done with the luggage, walk down, no Mama.   I ask the handicap assistance people - they haven't seen her.  My heart about dropped out of my chest.   I went to the bathroom - no Mama.  I walked around for a couple of minutes - no Mama.  I go up to the handicap desk and ask if they have seen her again... and let me just tell you. London is a big international city, which I love, but that also means that even though they speak English - they don't speak English.  They kept asking me if  I lost a purse - I said no I lost a PERSON my mother,  please help.  About that time Mama came to see if we were done yet... THANK the Lord.  I thought I had lost my mother in a foreign county.... who apparently doesn't speak my language, lol.


After we were all together I went to see about her wheel chair.  The one thing bad about London - handicap access.  They wanted her to wait in this area until close to boarding... where there was no food or anything.   So we decided just to walk it with the oxygen.  We then went through security.  This was amazing - we didn't take our shoes off first of all!  Second - you put your stuff in bins and walk though, much like the US.  However, the conveyors are circular and the bins are under it constantly rotating back from the other end.  So pickup a bin from underneath, put your stuff in it, walk through.  Easy as pie!   Plus, the security guards - helpful and not yelling at you or getting annoyed when you have a question, such as do I take my shoes off!

We then collected our bags and walked off.   A few minutes later I realized I didn't have my watch so I went back.  Instead of being all huffy as they are in Atlanta... they helped me look in bins and even re-scanned my bags looking for it.  We found it in a bin and I was on my way.   Just mind blowing how great they were and how friendly.    I later heard a Canadian couple talking about how much better it was as well.

We then went and got breakfast.   We got it Wonder Tree Restaurant in the airport.  I had pancakes with bananas and strawberries which were marvelous.  But you want to know what was better???? We had filtered coffee and it tasted like what we had back home - I had 3 cups!   I was so excited. Coffee Coffee Coffee!  Our waitress was also incredible.   Just an amazing experience all the way around.

We then went down to the gate area to await our gate assignment.   We chilled for a bit - Jack slept - and generally it was an uneventful wait.    Our flight was delayed by 45 minutes, but it just didn't bother us.  Not sure why ... it just was.

Once our gate assignment was available we made our way to the gate. I chatted with the attendant and made sure all was well with the Oxygen.  They had to jump through a few more hoops - showing the paperwork to the Captain and all, but it was all good.  A little nerve wrecking waiting for them to say ok, though I knew I had everything in order, but all good.  

We then boarded the plane, got seated and few to Frankfurt.   I  will say the Lufthansa air planes are horrible in comparison to Delta- even the bad Delta planes.  The plane itself was new and very clean, but the seats reminded me of stadium seating.  My butt was numb with in 10 minutes ... it was very uncomfortable.  I'll never complain about coach seating in the States again... ok I lied I will, but then someone remind me of this!   The staff was nice though and they gave us a pastrami sandwich which was yummy.  

The wind or the pilot or both were having some issues during take off and landing that made my stomach do circles.  I rarely have issues flying but this made me feel a little off - kinda like I did going up into the needle in San Antonio.   All was well though and we landed and made our way to baggage claim.   Customs and security in London and Germany are so easy... makes the US feel like checking into a prison vs. the supposedly the freest country in the world.  I know we have to be safe - especially after 9/11 - it just seems like we do it in such a rude intrusive manner in the US - there has to be a way to be safe, but it still be a good experience.

We had missed our transport to the hotel with Globus, so we went to grab a taxi.  The first driver had a car and could not take us due to luggage.  I was actually glad as he was exceptionally rude.  The second drive that came up had an SUV and we all fit in nicely.  He was friendly, though he made it a point to tell us to our face that Americans were arrogant.   I can't say overall I disagree about America being an arrogant country and her people thinking we are better... we aren't by the way ... most people are the same.  They want to get up, live their live and go to sleep - there are extremest on both sides of any story, but most just want to live.   It did surprise me though to be told by a foreigner we were arrogant and thought we were above climate change.  Can't say Trump is making a good name for us over here... just saying.   Overall it was a ok ride to the hotel.

Once we got here we got our rooms and headed up.  Jack took our luggage and I went with Mama to get her settled in.  We opened her room and a man popped his head up from the bed with a WTF look on his face.   I quickly backed out and started laughing.   We went down to reception and explained that a man had been in our room... to which they started all talking in German very fast.     We were given another room - right next to ours (which is awesome) and they gave Mama a free Coke/Candy Bar which was nice.  Accidents happen and he wasn't naked it was just funny to us - not sure he felt the same way.

I got her settled and repacked her suitcase from where I had destroyed it at the airport, then went to settle my stuff.   We rested for a few and  then headed out to meet the group for dinner.  I am truly shocked - the bus is only 1/2 full.  I love the fact its a small group, but shocked as I've never been on a Globus tour that didn't have a full bus ... minus maybe 1 or 2.   I really wish I would have just brought the spinner suitcase now vs. these duffel bags as it will easily fit under the coach and would have been SOOO much easier.  However, we did talk to him and instead of having to squeeze everything in we can bring the duffel bags down in the mornings and slip them under the bus - which is good given we will buy souvenirs :)  I love my souvenirs.

The dinner was good.  The first course was a potato soup that was really good.  Then some type of beef dish with sour-grout and noodles that was ok, but not my favorite.  They then had fudge filled cake with ice cream which was amazing and coffee - good coffee!  It was a nice meal - we sat with a couple from New Orleans and enjoyed getting to know them a bit.   Her name is Lynette and his is Renee - he comes from a family of 9 kids who all still live in the New Orleans area.   He worked for the city of New Orleans as an architect and helped with the designs to rebuild the city buildings after Katrina which was neat to hear about.   They seem well traveled as well -- I always worry when we talk about where we have been that it will come off as boastful, which we never mean to be - we are very blessed to travel as much as we do and I do not take it for granite.  It is fun to share about all the neat places ... I love to travel and hope to much more of the world before I pass.   So it's nice when others have traveled and you can talk about the various places and compare notes.

After dinner we came back to the hotel and are getting ready to leave tomorrow.  Luggage has to be outside the room by 7 and we have to eat breakfast and be ready to leave by 8.   Let the Germany adventure begin.




Sunday, September 10, 2017

London Day 9

Today is our last day in London before we head over to Germany and we made it a great day!  We got up and left the hotel at 7:15 heading to meet our tour.  Once there we got on the bus and headed to Castle Leer.  I could tell right off this tour guide was better than the one the other day - though some of his jokes were a little out of taste for me.     We rode over to the Castle while he pointed out things and told us history along the way.

Once there we meandered around a bit before they opened - the grounds are gorgeous!  Then we went through the castle which has been set up to show how it would have been at different time periods, from the 1500's all the way to the 1970's.   I enjoyed walking through and some of our group were photo buffs so we enjoyed chatting.

We then made our way back to the coach after getting some pictures.  Mama isn't feeling well today - fighting a cold and I could tell she was feeling it when she wanted to head back so early without asking us to take pictures.

Once on the bus he talked some more and then I dozed off while we rode.   Jack woke me up at Canterbury.  This is the oldest town in England and reminded me very much of any town... nothing really special until you got to the Cathedral.  The Cathedral was amazing and you could take pictures which made it even better.  We walked through, took some pictures and then headed back to the bus.  It started drizzling on us so we didn't dally on our way back, but booked it - stopping on the way to buy Mama some tissues.

Once on the bus we drove to Dover.  Mama always wanted to see the White Cliffs of Dover so here we were.  We got out and started walking down to see them closer and it started raining - not drizzling - raining!  We had left our umbrella's on the bus so we got wet... I'm lucky that the coat I have has a slick rain resistant material so I didn't get too wet on the top, but my legs were soaked.  Mama also got pretty wet... We did get to see them although - We both took the fasted snap shot ever and booked it back to the bus.   The bus driver was nice to cut the heat up and we tried to dry out - the entire bus I think got wet :(

We then rode back to Greenwich - most people dozed.  Something about those buses induces sleep.   When we got back to Greenwich we headed to the boat - stopping along the way for the guide to tell us about it.  We saw a different part today than the other day, but I'll admit I didn't see much today. Greenwich is on the river and it was cold, windy and rainy.   So we were grateful to get on the water taxi and head back to London.  Once we got back we said good bye to the guide and headed to the hotel to pack and get ready to head out tomorrow - our driver picks us up at 7 AM.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

London Day 8

Today was amazing.  We walked approximately 9 miles and saw the most amazing parts of London.  We started by having a relaxing breakfast at the Cafe Momo again - the best waffles EVER.   We then made our way down to West Minster Abbey.  The area around it was extremely busy, but we managed to get some great outside pictures of the Abbey and Parliament.  

We then went inside the Abbey.  No pictures were allowed inside, but it was extremely pretty and we enjoyed meandering around.   After we left the Abbey we walked over West Minister Bridge - took several pictures and began our walk along the river.  The entire day today was part of a walk along the river that went from West Minister all the way to the Shard with several stops along the way.

Our first stop was to take a few pictures of the Eye and various buildings along our path.  We then briefly went up into OXO Tower and took a few pictures before heading over to eat some lunch. We ate at a pizzeria and it felt great to sit down - the food and service were also excellent.

After resting a bit we walked up to St. Paul's Cathedral.  Again, no pictures were allowed inside which is asshame as it was gorgeous.  The ceiling had gold guilded paintings - it was breathtakingly beautiful.  We then went outside and took a few pictures in front of the cathedral - amazing.

We then walked down to go to the Shakespeare Globe - we didn't make it in time to see it as closes at 5, but we took  few pictures outside and walked down to see the Southward Cathedral.  We were allowed to take pictures inside of it and I enjoyed that a lot.   It was really pretty and I loved taking a few pictures.  

After this we went over to a local snack shop, grabbed a snack and drink and just relaxed for a few. Our poor feet were screaming ...  Once we had rested for a few we went to The Shard and rode up to see the view.  It is the largest building in the EU and it was a great view.  They have it all fancy where you can get a drink and just relax.   We enjoyed walking around a bit, but in all honesty, our feet hurt.  So we looked for a few and then headed home.

We grabbed a sandwich at the local grocery store and then came to the hotel to do laundry and rest!     Tomorrow is another big day :)  Hope you all are well.

Friday, September 08, 2017

London Day 7

It was supposed to rain hard today, but God held off for us and we only  had a few drizzles - praying that it continues tomorrow as we have a big outside day planned tomorrow.   So what did we do today in the drizzles?  Well, it was a lighter day but we had fun.

First we got up a little late and then had breakfast at Cafe MoMo - the coffee - not so great - the food outstanding!  Best breakfast so far!!!  We just have to teach Europe how to make coffee and all will be right with the world :)   Seriously though I had waffles with berries and the waffle was amazingly sweet and the berries super fresh - it was delish!

We then grabbed the metro to NottingHill where we walked through the market place.  I imagine due to the rain the outside marketplace was lighter than normal, but we appreciated the fact it wasn't crowded and enjoyed meandering through the various shops and outdoor vendors.  I actually bought me a skirt - it's completely frivolous and I don't know where I'll wear it, but I just loved it so... I bought it.  

After our stroll through the market we went to see the British Library that our schedule pushed out of the agenda the other day.  I'm so glad we fit it back in.  It's funny - it wasn't on my list of things to see and when I asked Jack and Mama to look through a list of "things to do" this was one of Jack's that I had not planned.  I'm so glad he flagged it - it was incredible.  You could not take pictures, but they have books on display that are almost 1000 years old.  Some of them are bibles that is made of pictures - wonderfully detailed, golden, ornate pictures.   There was also scrolls, one of the few original copies of the book of John, works from Michelangelo,  it was just astounding that this stuff survived.  Oh - and a globe bigger than me with constellations painted all over it - beautiful.   And one of the 4 copies of the Magna Carta was on display... Now let me tell you the really impressive part --- going to see this was low stress.  No mean security guards making you feel guilty for wanting to see a piece of our history.  They had guards posted throughout, but they were friendly and unobtrusive -- you could lean on the glass... sit and chat...   I just love guards and staff at places made for visitors here - they treat you with respect and are appreciative of the fact you are here to see whatever you are visiting.    I'm sure there are bad apples, but we have enjoyed it.

Once done here we went to eat at a BBQ restaurant which was really good.   I had baby back ribs with fries.  I got a starter because I wasn't really hungry, but they were yummy.  The waitress was also extremely friendly - we enjoyed the experience.

After lunch we headed out.  Jack headed to work and Mama and I went to see Madame Tussaud's.  I have to admit I didn't want to go... a building of fake people made out of wax.  Every time Mama sees one she asks about going into one and I figured if I was going to be subjected to it then it might as well be the original.  I was pleasantly surprised though - they  had the figures where you could go right up to them and get a picture.  I actually enjoyed myself.   The only thing that got me was it was a little crowded and people would jump in front of you if you were waiting to get a picture, but I liked it.

We then headed back to the hotel and took an evening of downtime.  I accidentally put us on the wrong train coming home, but we realized it and quickly swapped over - no big deal.  First time I've done it in a week -- surprised it didn't happen earlier.  After we got home i rested while Jack worked and during his lunch time Jack and I meandered down to get some fresh fruit at the grocery.  The rest of the evening we have relaxed - it has been nice.  Tomorrow is a big day as Jack doesn't have to work so I saved many of the best sites for tomorrow.  It will be fun - lots of walking though...

Thursday, September 07, 2017

London Day 6

Today was light when it comes to site seeing, but it was a good day - tiring, but good.  We got up SUPER early and left the hotel by 7:10 to make it to The Making of Harry Potter at WB Studios.  Our scheduled time was 9 and it takes an hour and half to get there.    I want to say before, I vent that we had a good time, but they made the start of it be really miserable.

We got to the bus station 20 minutes before 9... they are supposed to come every 15 minutes.  We waited in a line until 9:20.  I had planned on doing the regular buses but they didn't take the Oyster Card out that far so we decided to the Harry Potter Shuttle and we waited...   Then we get there and instead of being able to scan the bar code on my e-ticket that I had printed they make you go through this kiosk to claim your tickets... So we wait some more.  The Kiosk are absolute shit and require you to type in this 17 digit code because the scanners don't work ... then you have to basically beat the screen for it to see you are typing.   They are making millions off of the Harry Potter movies and the visits to this studio, but they can't invest in basic technology like my local coffee shop has??? REALLY!   This got it started off on a really bad way.  By time we got in there at 10 - an hour after our scheduled time - we were all super grumpy.   Or at least Jack and I were - Mama was just along for the ride.

We got our audio guides and decided to make the best of it.   I did mention to the little lady scanning our tickets that they needed to redesign how this was done and her comment back "it works"... UMMM NO IT DOESN'T.  You want people to be happy and have a good time - everyone in that line was complaining, not just me.

So anyway, rant over.  We enjoyed going through it and seeing the props, stages, costumes, etc...   It took us about 3 hours and we took lots of pictures with our phones.  It was a little dark for my DSLR without the flash so I stuck to the I Phone.   My favorite parts were seeing the sorting hat, Diagon Alley and the actual school itself.  They have this model that they used with a blue screen to create the movie and it was AMAZING.   I took pictures, but it's something you have to see in person for sure.

After we had enjoyed the experience, though I wish we could have spent maybe an hour more... just so we could have stop and rested in the middle and savored it a bit more, but we had to get back.   We rode the train back to London and came back to the hotel.   Side Note - I love the trains that go to the outskirts of London -- so clean and relaxing!

Once back to the hotel - Jack went to work and Mama and I went to grab a bite to eat.  Jack had a sandwich in the room - I don't want you to think we are starving him, lol.    The sandwiches in this little shop near us are really good.   Mama and I ate at the restaurant next to the hotel.  I had the beef stroganoff and Mama had salmon patties.  Both were good though I preferred mine.    I don't think I loved either to order them again, but they were good and filling on this cold day.

We then went up to the room to rest for a bit.  We laid down about 45 minutes and then decided to go to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.  Unfortunately they closed at 4 - my research said 5:30... ah well.  We did a little souvenir shopping and then called it an early day.   On the subway ride back one of the trains broke down so we were stuck in a very crowded subway for quite a while.   I had a mini-panic attack, but we made it through.   For those that don't know I struggle with crowds... crowds where I can't move without bumping into someone is an nightmare for me.   On this subway not only could I not move an inch but it was all I could do not to get knocked over.. and people were still trying to squeeze in.  It was worse than a sardine can.   I finally had all I could take and we got off a stop early, walked a few, and then got on another one.  It wasn't quite as crowded and we only had one stop to go.   I have done ok with the crowds here so far - only 2 mini melt downs... today was one of them.  It was worse I think because Jack wasn't with me.   He is good about getting me to a non-panic place when he can.... not sure much he could have done, but ... anyway - we made it.  No worse for wear.

After we rested - Jack took a late lunch at 8 and we went to the Italian place again and I had pizza this time.  I tried one with a 27 year old age ham and Parmesan.  Very yummy...   We wanted to try the pub across the street because I like to try different places while on vacation, but it was sooo loud we decided we just didn't feel it today and went to something we knew would be good.

We are now in the hotel resting and getting ready to face tomorrow.   We sleep in a bit tomorrow which will be nice after this mornings predawn wake-up call.    Hope you all are well  - stay safe with the incoming storm.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

London Day 5 Pt 2

Mama and I left around 6:30 for the Lion King... Google took us to the wrong spot so I'm glad we left early, after walking about 2 or 3 extra blocks (in heels) we found it just in time to get our seats.   Mama is such a trooper - she climbed I think 7 flights of steps to get to our seats... 1st row 2nd balcony level.   Europe is not for the disabled - very few elevators and the streets are hard to walk on.  We made it though and squeezed in - I had to be rude to a girl and tell her to pick up her purse instead of forcing my mother to try and step over it as she squeezed in ... But we got seated.

The show was really good -  I especially loved the lady who played the Baboon.  She had an amazing voice and was funny!  The couple next to me didn't see much of the show - they were too busy making out.  I seriously thought they weren't going to make it to their room for a few minutes... ackward :)

After the show we followed a crowd out another exit, which was a much quicker way out.  We are now back at the hotel and resting before tomorrow.  We need to leave by 6:30 in the morning so... time for sleep!

London Day 5 Pt 1

Today so far has been fabulous, which actually surprises me given our night last night.  We got woken up at 12:30 by the alarm company, the pet sitter had accidentally set off the alarm.  All is well, but it took us a while to get back to sleep - our bodies thought it was waking up from an afternoon nap so Jack and I were both extremely grumpy this morning.   But it slowly ebbed away and we had a really good time.

First we went to try the cafe next door for breakfast, but they also don't serve until 9 AM.  I don't know how they get enough business to do that - do Europeans not have to be at work?   Anyway... we decided to head to the subway and get something near the Castle.  However, upon walking to the metro we saw a place called Garfunkle's with a big sign, OPEN.   So we went in - you could tell they cater to American Tourist and it was a chain, but it was the best breakfast we have had so far.  The coffee was drinkable, not good, but drinkable.  The food was filling and had good taste.   It was a much needed boost after a sleepless night.

We then got on the metro and went down to Buckingham Palace to make our 9:45 tour time.   We got there in time to sit a moment and then went into the State Rooms.  No pictures were allowed, but the tour was amazing.   You went through security, which was all kind - no guards getting annoyed at you going slow.  They were respectful of the fact you were a guest - not a number.   We then were given audio guides and were allowed to meander through the rooms at our own pace.   People stood by to watch but also to assist and you felt welcomed.  Not like the US White House where it is my understanding you are herded through like cattle that they are tolerating.  

The State Rooms themselves were ornate and very much what you would expect in a Palace.   Gold, Red, White, Crystal Chandeliers, Thick Carpet, More Gold.   They had the gifts from various countries to view, or at least a few of them.  Guess what Kennedy gave??  A signed autograph... yep! I had great respect for him as a President, and still do, but that shows the arrogance of Americans - including him.  We think a good gift is a picture of ourselves... WOW - no wonder the world hates us. Anyway, I was disappointed to see that, but some of the other gifts were neat to see.   Some gifts from the various countries were amazingly gorgeous and unique.

Upon completing the tour we sat for  a moment to have a water and rest.  Then we took a few exterior pictures of the lawn/building before meandering out through the Garden Path.   We didn't see much of the gardens, but what we did see were beautiful.

Once outside the garden, Jack and I got in a spat about the time.   We were both tired and well... married.  Married people spat.  Once our spat was over we headed down and saw the Royal Mews. This is where the horses/cars/carriages are.   We went through this fairly quickly, but I did enjoy seeing the Golden Jubilee Carriage and some of the others.  

We then walked to the front of the palace, took some pictures of the palace and the fountain in the front before heading to St. James Park.   St. James Park is amazing.  It is a park with a large lake that is full of all types of birds - ducks, geese, swans, pelicans, and of course pigeons.   We enjoyed walking a ways before sitting on a bench just to enjoy for a bit.

And now the time had come for Jack to go to work so we said our goodbyes before Mama and I went to grab a bite to eat.  We went to a restaurant .2 miles away that Jack said had high ratings, but upon getting there I realized it is a $20 per plate restaurant which seemed way to high for lunch.  So we decided to head to the Churchhill War Rooms and eat on our way.   The walk took us back through the park and there was a pavilion there selling sandwiches.  We stopped and ate in the park,, which was amazing.   We also feed the pigeons.  I swear they communicate - we feed one and suddenly were surrounded by 30 or 40 who came out of no where..  We loved it -- Very Fun.

We then walked through the park, stopping along the way to see the birds, and arrived at the amazing building that the war rooms are in.   We then went down into the war rooms...   The people basically lived down there and I was amazed at how cramped it was - I'm sure it had to be miserable... I was a little claustrophobic down there with the few other visitors they had.   We skipped the Churchhill museum due to being tired and wanting to rest before the theater tonight, but I think it would have been interesting.   From what I've studied I find Churchhill to be a very interesting man.

We then headed back to the hotel and are resting.   We will leave in about an hour to go to the theater to see Lion King.   Mama has never been to a "Broadway" type theater so this is a treat for both of us. I'll do a quick update this evening to let you know how it went, in the meantime have a great night.


Tuesday, September 05, 2017

London Day 4

Today was a bit rainy but overall a really good day.  We started the day off by grabbing breakfast at a place called the Blackbird.   It is a pub that a had a yelp highly rated breakfast.   The food overall was good - I had pancakes which were good, but they were served with honey vs. syrup which was different.  The coffee on the other hand was atrocious, not sure what they do to coffee in England, but they really need to visit Dunkin and learn how a proper cup is made.    The service was great though and we enjoyed the experience.

We then grabbed the metro down to Westminster Pier where we hopped on a boat that took us down the Thames River to Greenwich.  The rain held off during the really neat parts of the ride... where all the pictures we wanted to take were.   So that was a huge blessing.  It then started raining and we went down to the bottom of the boat and enjoyed the ride.  Jack took a mini-nap on the ride and Mama and I enjoyed watching London pass by.   I love boat rides... we take one of some type on almost every trip.

It stopped raining by time we got off, it was just a light mist, so we headed up to the Royal Observatory.  The walk up was extremely steep but the view was nice and it wasn't hot so that was a win.   We then went and saw the meridian line and one of the largest telescopes.   Jack enjoyed it.

We then had to go our separator ways. Jack went to back to the hotel to work while Mama and I went in the hunt of food.  We rode the bus, then hopped a metro down to Piccadilly Circus.   We had a nice lunch at a place called Jamie Oliver's American diner.  The view was nice over the street and the food was yummy.

We then walked around the square, took a few pictures and headed down to the Museum of London.  This is a free museum that walks you through the London during the different time periods.  It was well done and I enjoyed looking at the exhibits.  I didn't read much of the material, but took pictures I can read later if I get the desire.  

Mama and I then headed back to the hotel for a rest.   Jack had about an hour and 1/2 before he could take a lunch break due to meetings so we decided to chill for a bit.

Once Jack was ready it was almost 4 EST so he could basically be done for the day given he didn't take a lunch.   Mama was ready to go to sleep so she stayed in and Jack and I went to an Italian restaurant down the street.   It was so neat.  It looks TINY from the door, but it has a huge basement that is nothing but tables and a bustling restaurant.   The staff was amazing and the pizza was incredible.   I tried a seafood dish that I hated, but I ate some of Jack's pizza and we both left happy.   I'd recommend the restaurant, just stay away from the Seafood pasta dish.  

And now we are back in our hotel, in our pjs and getting ready to go sleep.   I dozed for a few waiting on Jack to get done with his meeting and really hope it doesn't impact my ability to go to sleep.   I need some rest.  

Monday, September 04, 2017

London Day 3

After a rocky start today went pretty well.  We got up, ate breakfast in our rooms, and then went to meet our bus - we were meeting them at 8:45.  We left early and headed out... what we didn't plan on was the trams being so jam packed that not one person, much less three, would be able to squeeze in.   It took 3 trams before we could get on... by time we got to our stop we had 5 minutes to make a 10 minute walk, so we hustled.   We actually made it, we were all out of breath by time we made our way there but we  made it.

We got on the bus, found our seats and enjoyed the ride to Windsor Castle.   We then got off and most of the group went with our guide, but us and another couple or two had City Passes so we went to check in and planned to meet the guide on the other side of security.  He was the one who told us how to check in... yet when we go through there was no guide and no group.  We spent 10 or 15 minutes trying to find the group, missed the audio tour and generally got frustrated.  We eventually went on and saw some of the castle by ourselves.  We didn't really see much of it - we saw the Chapel, the outside of it and the changing of the guard.  We missed alot of it and I was seriously irritated at our guide - what I found out after the fact is that everyone got audio tours and the guide didn't go with them either.    2 minutes of him waiting for us and explaining things would have made all the difference... though to be honest I'm not sure what we paid for given he didn't do anything.

We then got back on the bus, ate a snack we had bought in Windsor and headed to Stonehenge.   I came to Stonehenge as a teenager and wanted to share it with Jack and Mama.   I wanted to get over here in 06 when we came, but the itinerary didn't allow.  It was just as neat today as it was back then. They have changed the way you arrive to it since then - you park further away and can't get as close, but in may ways it was better because you could get pictures without people.  I really enjoyed our time here.

We then got back on the bus and drove to Oxford.  We spent an hour with the guide showing us around the area... he finally did something... and then spent 30 minutes or so doing a bit of shopping/bathroom breaks.  A few things I didn't know about Oxford:

 - It isn't one college, but 35 different schools collectively known as "Oxford", but there is non Oxford University.
 - Harry Potter hospital and dining hall were filmed in Oxford.
 - Bodleian Library - This was neat to see. The All Souls Trilogy I loved to  much involves this library so it was cool to sit there and see the building.

And after that we headed back to London - At this point it was a good hour or two drive.   So I slept on the bus and I expect Mama and Jack did as well.  The bus dropped us off at the Gloucester metro which happens to be a 5 minute walk from our hotel, so we grabbed a couple of snacks and headed back to rest.

We have ate a sandwich, got our showers and are sitting here watching a movie from home while letting our bodies recover.   Overall it was a really good day and we saw alot.  Tomorrow we are supposed to do a cruise down the Thames, but it supposed to rain so I may pivot and do something else - we shall see.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

London Day 2

7.7 Miles and 32 Flights of Steps - that is what we walked today per Jack's Fit Bit.   My feet agree with the number, but we had a good day!   Overall the day was paced leisurely and while we didn't get quite everything I wanted to see/do done today we did a lot.   I also want to remind you that my mother is me... so yes I walked the above, but so did my 72 year old Mama who was with us for every step.   She is amazing!

We got up and headed out to eat at a local restaurant... who didn't apparently open to serve breakfast until 9:30 on a Sunday.. who doesn't serve breakfast before 9:30?   So we left and ended up eating at a place called The Ivy Kensington.  It was a fancy place that felt very British and the food was very British.   I don't remember London for it's food before and I can't say that has changed.   I had eggs with salmon, Mama had eggs with toast and Jack had an omelet.  Mama and I had coffee and Jack OJ.  Mine was edible, Mamas was fairly ok - though it's  presentation was very fancy and Jack's was good.  The coffee was not drinkable and the OJ yummy... I loved the atmosphere, so pretty and elegant, just wish the food had tasted better.

We then left to hop on the bus.  Today we did the hop on / off tour.  We didn't do a complete circuit, but what we did see we enjoyed.  I love the way they have it set up with headphone jacks at every seat - you put your headphones in (they give you a pair), choose your language and listen to the narration.  I missed the ad lib of a tour guide, but they more than made up for it in the fact I could hear and still have a conversation with out feeling like I was being rude.   We enjoyed riding around London and just seeing it.    London is one of my favorite cities in the world.  I love the architecture, the flowers everywhere, the parks, the cleanliness of the city.  I love it's vibe, it's international flair, it's pace of life, the fact there are flower marts on the corners, the food/snack trucks... I just love it.

We hopped off at one point to see Hyde Park, the Wellington Arch, the WW2 memorial, some other memorials/ statues and the Queen Elizabeth Gate.  The Australian WW2 Memorial was amazing - they used more prominent letters of soldiers names to make country names - then it had water flowing over it.  It was very well done.  I also loved the gate - something silly and fanciful about it that just made you smile.

We then went to the restroom,, which required 50 cents... so we had to leave the restroom to get change.   I did enjoy the fact it was clean, but I'm grateful we don't charge to pee in the US.   I have to pee a lot - I'd be broke, lol.

We then headed back to get on the bus.  I saw it there and ran to catch him... while the others caught up.   He let me in and then shut the door on the others joking that they were too late.  It was fun, then I realized we were on the wrong bus and he said we couldn't leave, that I didn't like his bus enough.  He had great fun with it and well just made me smile.   People like that are why I love touring companies, they can make a trip!    He did let us off and we waited a few minutes for the red line to come by and off we went.

By this point the time change has caught up with Jack and he is sleeping - I'm struggling with it a bit myself so I just take random pis of him in his zzz moment.   I have pictures of him sleeping on every trip I think.  We then got off to head to the tower bridge -  I accidentally got off at the London bridge stop so we had about a 10 minute walk, but it was for the best.  I would have been asleep if we stayed on the moving bus much longer and this way we had to pass the Hallows by the Tower church vs. going out of the way to see it.

So we stopped in and saw the church, it is the oldest church in London and it was nice.  They have events there too and one was setting up, but we enjoyed our visit.  Everything was so quiet and reverent - I felt at peace there and in one chapel had a moment of thanks with the Lord - something I rarely do in the churches we visit on trips.   It was something.   The church itself was pretty and well cozy.  The stain glass was mainly clear so and the church wasn't grandiose so it had a different feel from most European cathedrals.   I really enjoyed being there.

As we were leaving I noticed there was a bar in part of the structure - or maybe made onto it.  Very different...   We then were walking toward the tower when we saw a band playing - they were some type of military marching band so we stopped to watch and listen for a few.  I then set down to find us a lunch restaurant.

I typically research restaurants before trips, but didn't this one because I wasn't sure where we would be at any given time... So it took a while to find something and it was frustrating.  I remember why I do all the research now and even knowing why I didn't and that it would have been pointless I kinda wish I had... I hate tryikng to find a restaurant when everyone is waiting on me.  It makes me nervous and also ill - mainly ill because I'm hungry and trying to make a decision.   Anyway... we ended up goign to this place by the water only to find out they were full and were not taking any more people.

It was a happy accident though because it took me to a part I would have not gone to and we got some great pictures (at least I hope they are great) of tower bridge.   We then asked for advice and were on our way to Katherine's Docks who has restaurants -- but some how we got misplaced and ended up eating at a place called the Dickens House.   The building was a gorgeous wood building with flowers all over it.   We at on the top floor with a view of the marina, peaceful!  The building was built in the late 1700s as a warehouse and you could see the exposed rafters - I just loved the look of the place.   Mama and I had fish and chips - which she LOVED and Jack had a burger which was also good.  The service was inattentive and not great, but other than that we loved the restaurant.   I just loved the feel of it.

We then went back the way we came, took a few more pictures of Tower Bridge before heading into it.  We did the tour that allows you to walk over the road and down into the engine room.  One section of it has a glass see through walk way and it surprised me that Jack walked over it.  He is typically scared of heights, but over he went.   I tried to get some unique fun shots of my feet, etc.. we shall see if they turned out.  

After exploring the tower we headed back to the bus.  I was worried they may have passed this spot for the last time today as it was nearing the end of the day and I was correct so we continued on to the subway.   We got our passes that allow us to pay as we go... they have some different 7 passes, but they are limited to certain zones and I didn't want to deal with trying to figure that out so we just did the pay as you go as I had originally planned.     At this point I had intended to go to the British Library, but Mama and Jack were both ready to come back to the hotel for a bit and I can't say that I as arguing overly much....

So we caught the subway ... after we figured out how to read the maps... which only involved Jack and I snapping at each other a couple of times (hee) and then headed home.   This hotel we are in is an extended stay place and we love it.  Spacious, has everything we want and well - it's just homey.  

We came back, took a nap, and then Jack and I headed to a local market to get some food for tonight and tomorrow's breakfast.  No one felt like going out tonight and tomorrow we have to leave for a tour really early.    Mama got her items from us and said she was going to sleep.  Jack and I sat and ate our sandwiches, chips, grapes and a drink and enjoyed the fact we are in our PJS.  I have to say food over here in the grocery stores seems cheaper than at home.  We were in a little convenience type grocery store, not a gigantic one like we have at home.  So I expected to pay more, but it was really affordable.   Plus the ready made sandwiches we got were really good - in the US ready made sandwiches are rarely good.

So... we are back now, resting and getting ready for tomorrow.   We do a tour tomorrow so I think the walking will be less - my feet hope so.  Sleep well until tomorrow.


Saturday, September 02, 2017

London Day 1

Well, today is officially over and I'm go glad.  I love coming on vacation, but the first day of any overseas trip is exhausting.  A) I have to be "ON" - What I mean is that I typically serve as point person for my family with all arrangements, so they are looking to me for where to go / what to do.  I don't mind it, I enjoy the planning, etc... but the day of it can be tiring.   B) We've been traveling since 3 PM Friday and it's 4 PM Saturday in Georgia at the moment, so 24 hours of awake, minus an hour or two on the plane = tired.     It's technically 9:30 PM here in London, so I'm ok going to bed lol.

We did have a good day though.  The travel was uneventful, which was a blessing.  This was our first time traveling with Mama's O2 and I was worried, but it went beautifully.   She also had a much better flight than she did to Greece so WIN!    The flight from Augusta to Atlanta was short, mercifully.  There was a 7 year old behind me and I promise if I ever have kids, and he acted like that, his butt would be sore!

We then made our way to the terminal to leave for London, got some food and chilled for a minute.  The layover went by very quickly and before I knew it we were leaving on another jet plane.   The flight was 7 hours, but it went by fairly fast.   No one really slept well, maybe 2 hours max, but it was a quick flight.  My seat wouldn't recline which was a bummer, but we met some nice people.   I felt so sorry for the couple in the next isle.  They had twin 1 year old boys and were flying them babe in arms.  I know there legs/arms had to be killing them by the end.  I tried to help where I could, but not much you can do.

We then got to the airport, made our way through customs and met our driver.  Now this was a hilarious exercise.   There are 3 of us... this company sent a guy in  a Prius to take 3 people and THEIR luggage to the hotel.  Three people from another country... 3 regular sized bags would not fit in his trunk and we had 3 bags + 3 duffel bags + our carry on's.   I broke the duffel bags down into the luggage and he set one of the 3 in the front seat then we crammed the others in.   Then 3 tired, grumpy people, climbed into the back of a Prius to be very close to one another for 30 minutes.    I emailed my travel agent to make sure this doesn't happen when they pick us back up in a week or so.  It was like getting crammed in a clown car.

We got to the hotel and checked into our room. Mama's wasn't ready yet so we all came and crashed here.  Jack and I got showers and Mama and Jack took a nap.  I closed my eyes for a few minutes but didn't really rest.  I didn't want us to completely screw our schedule with sleeping up so we got up at 2:30, got dressed and headed out.

We walked to Kensington Castle and the Gardens/Park that surround it.   The house itself didn't impress me at all, maybe I'm jaded from all the fantastic architecture I've seen, but this was a little blah.   The King's Quarters had some great wall paintings though and they had an exhibit of Princess Diana's cloths that was really neat.

We then wondered out and walked the gardens, which were impressive.  White flowers everywhere - I loved it.   The weather was also perfect for a walk around outside... nice and crisp air - like fall in the SE.

We then meandered out of the gardens into Queens Park where we watched the geese and ducks... Meandered out of the park to take pictures of the Arthur Memorial statue.  I need to look up it's history and will tomorrow, but it was pretty cool to photograph.

We then went and grabbed some dinner at Bill's Kensington Restaurant.  They have a bottled strawberry lemonade drink that is specific to their restaurant and it is YUMMY!  We bought two big ones to drink this week.   Jack had ribs, which were good and Mama had a chicken burger she thought was excellent.  I did Steak and Eggs and then remembered the English can't cook, but we enjoyed the service and the food.  I loved the overall atmosphere of the place.

We then came back to the hotel and i"m falling asleep as I type this very elementary blogpost - don't expect any big words here.   Love you and talk more tomorrow.

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