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Training for a ….flight home.

14 Jan

Well, many ambitious people may be making resolutions to train for some type of endurance event in the upcoming year.  A marathon, half-marathon, triathalon…heck, maybe even a fundraising walk.  All of them are admirable.  But, how many of you are training for your next trip through the airport?  I am.  Seriously.  I am.

I have to tell you the story of our flight home for Christmas.  Many of you have heard it but some of you haven’t.  And even though I wanted to drop to my knees and scream in agony at one point, I’m all about looking back at the humor in things.

It started off seemingly fine.  In fact here is a picture of Quinn sleeping on the plane right before take off:

What every parent LOVES to see on the plane...

Well, make that right before we were supposed to take off.  That’s right we sat on the runway for an HOUR AND A HALF!!!!  So all that valuable napping occurred while we were still on the ground.  Eventually we made it into the air and that’s when the fun began.  I won’t bore you with the details of the flight…I mean it’s the same old song and dance.  You know how flights with little ones go…you play, you walk around, you feed them snacks, you pray they’ll go back to sleep, you pray the people sitting next to you don’t hate you, you bank on the fact that you’re kid is cute and charming and wait for the flight attendants to come around and dote on them for a bit, and then REPEAT.  So after several cycles of this and a couple pretty bad airline meals ( I think labeling it “steak” may be a tad ambitious on their part) we land.  Yay!  Except only the half the battle is won so far people.  Technically more than half in terms of flight time, but still there is a long way to go when you consider customs and security and another (albeit short) flight.

Here is where I realized that trying to make a pretty much impossible international connection with a child could be part of the standard firefighter’s physical test.  So, we arrive in Toronto with an hour to make our connection due to the delay leaving Frankfurt.  By the time our baggage actually made it to the carousal it was about 30 minutes.  Ummm, yeah.  Thirty minutes to clear customs (line longer than the line for spray tan at the Arnold Classic) and security, and find our gate (which can be a scavenger hunt in and of itself.)  So what does one do when one realizes the impossibility of the situation?  And one has checked the board and also realizes that the next flight to their destination doesn’t leave for 5 hours?  The answer is simple- pray.  And prepare to run like you’ve never run before.

The cliffnote version is basically that we pleaded, begged, looked pathetic, and used our child as a pity token to get bumped to the front of the line for customs.  I joke but that is where the praying really came into play.  Some airport personnel (not generally known for their overflowing sympathy) actually felt bad for us and did something about it.  Yes, it was a Christmas miracle…no joke.  Even with that ENORMOUS gift we only had 15 minutes til our flight departed and we still had to make it to (and through) security and to the gate.  And since we were international we had ALL our luggage with us til we reached the drop off before security. We looked like fools.

Joe pushed the cart with all our suitcases precariously balanced and I carried Quinn, a backpack, diaper bag and a partridge in a pear tree.  We made it breathless and desperate to the baggage drop off and security point.  A girl from the airline assured us we could still make it and to just “run”.  Again we had great luck by being able to utilize a separate security line for families with small children and despite the typical fumbling awkwardness of removing bags of liquids, taking off shoes, pulling out laptops and doing one handed cartwheels while holding a baby; we were through security relatively quick.  This is where our journey home became part “Amazing Race” and part “Biggest Loser”.  I mean why would gate 246 be near by?  And why wouldn’t you have to have a detailed map to get there?  Let’s just say it involved stairs, split-second decisions about whether to turn right or left, and running an all out sprint while carrying Quinn and a 30 lb back pack.  Joe also had a back pack, the car seat, and a diaper bag.  Oh, and let’s not forget to mention that the “final boarding call for flight…” had long ago been made.  This is where it turned Biggest Loser on me.  I was running, every single fiber of my body was hurting, people were staring and all I could hear was Jillian Michaels in my ear.  “Are you gonna quit Rachael?  So, that’s it- you’re just going to give up?”  I thought “no, no, I won’t quit.  I can do this.”  And then I quit.  Literally I couldn’t take another step.  I yelled to Joe to keep going.  And bless his soul, he did.  He continued on past me with a determination that reminded me of a scrabble challenge from our early dating.  Anyway, not too much behind him ( I hope) I arrived at the gate expecting the worst.  I was fully prepared to hear “plane just left.”  Instead I was met with the “I have so much pity for you right now” look from the women at the gate.  She told us they were waiting and to go ahead down the jetway.  So, ragged and weary we boarded the plane to Columbus.  Granted I sounded like a severe asthmatic in the throws of a life-threatening attack, BUT we were on that plane.  And we were on time.  Hoo-ray.

So, my fitness goals for 2011 are pretty simple: Be able to make it through the airport without feeling like I just ran up 40 flights of steps with a few monster truck tires strapped to my back.

Brussels continued…Grand Place and Christmas market

1 Dec

So, where did we leave off??  Ah, yes, I think it was with the chocolate elephant.  So continuing right along; We visited the Grand Place (French) or the Grote Markt (Dutch term) a few times during our stay because it was close and well…just so darn pretty!  It is the town square basically of Brussels and the buildings are AMAZING.  It is absolutely gorgeous.  They hold events there throughout the year but mostly people just walk around and enjoy the beautiful architecture, decadent scent of chocolate and perhaps a Belgian beer on one of the lovely patios.

Here are some pictures of Grand Place during the day:

Setup had begun for the Christmas season

The amount of detail is unreal

I think this was my favorite building...love it

And at night it was so incredible.  I mean really just absolutely stunning.  There was a Christmas light show projected onto the buildings which I took video of because it was seriously just so magical.  I’m not sure my pictures adequately convey how pretty this really was but hopefully you get some little sense of it.

Beginning of light show; Yes that's Joe's head, I'm not a photograper people!

More light show

My favorite building again

There is so much I couldn’t capture!  Like I completely forgot to take pics of the huge nativity scene…Doh!  The light show encompassed multiple buildings and was set to music…pictures just can’t accurately portray what it was like.  But, you will just have to take my word for how awesome it was.

This is probably true of the Christmas market as well.  It was beautiful, charming, cozy…everything that would make you want to stay out all night despite freezing temperatures.  Again, my pictures don’t do it justice.

Okay so a bit blurrry, but this was on the way walking to the Christmas market

Getting closer...approaching the Christmas market

The little wood "cabins" on the right are some of the vendors for the market

Ice Rink

Not sure why no one is skating....hmmm

The food at this market was out of this world.  The smells…intoxicating.  I mean, it was unbelievable.  It was absolutely freezing (don’t worry, Quinnie was bundled appropriately and when I got her back to the hotel and peeled off all of the layers she was quite toasty in fact), though no one seemed to mind.  People were milling about sipping on hot beverages, smiling, laughing, simply enjoying the night.  The feeling of merriment was so thick in the air you felt you could almost reach out and grab it.  Stick it in your pocket and take it home.  Really it was just wonderful.  All the little booths had their various goods for sale, ranging from Christmas related things, to food items, to toys and everything else imaginable.  I wished several times that night that I could transport my family and friends there to experience it with me.  You will all just have to visit!!!

Brussels Part one…

29 Nov

Well technically this is part two if you count the little “preview” I posted yesterday.  But, let’s not split hairs and just get down to the business of our time in Brussels.  It was awesome.  It was very hard not being with our families during the holiday.  We missed our families, friends, and let’s be honest…the food.  But, in lieu of Thanksgiving home with our loved ones we had our own mini holiday in a new city.  Here are some pics from our trip-

We arrived to a very rainy Brussels

Some pictures taken from our hotel room right after arriving

Despite the rainy (actually at this point almost sleet) weather we decided to walk around just a bit and get something to eat. Couple more pics of the area right outside our hotel-

Forgot to mention when I posted this yesteday that this building is the Brussels Stock Exchange

Advertisement for the Christmas Market we ended up going to the next night

Yes that is a Pizza Hut on the right, not sure if you can see the sign due to the light.

We did not eat at the Pizza Hut; I mean come on, that would be such a waste of time.  But, I will say- that place was packed every time we walked by.

 

Home during our stay

Upon returning to the hotel…

Quinn tried to phone home to wish her loved ones a "Happy Thanksgiving"

We spent a lot of time just walking around the city and enjoying the architecture, the people watching, and of course- the smell of chocolate and waffles.

The tops of the building peeking through in the back is from the Grand Place which you will see more of in a bit.

One word for the smell coming from this place...divine.

This picture is not the greatest, but every single menu item at this restaurant came with fries. Um I think that's what the menu in heaven looks like.

This was an inside gallery or row of shops we walked through.

It is here where I saw these shoes:

And yes, that would be 100 Euros for those kids shoes. Nice of them to put candy in the display though...I suppose to distract from the outrageous price of the shoes!

More of the Grand Place peeking through in the background.

Adorable little street with tons of amazing restaurants.

 

Notice how close the awnings are? They practically touch.

One of our stops to try chocolate.

Quinn was not about to be left out of the chocolate sampling.

Elephant made of chocolate outside of Chocopolis.

Gotta break here folks!

This is just a portion of our trip.  More to come, including The Grand Place (at day and at night…so pretty!) and the Christmas Market.

Brussels to come!

28 Nov

Most of you know that Joe, Quinn, and I went to Brussels over Thanksgiving for a mini get away.  We had a wonderful time and I managed to take quite a few pictures.  This is just a little preview, but I will be posting more in the next day or two.

view of building directly across from our hotel room

Grand Place at night

Quinn taking it all in...the view from our room

More to come soon!!

Visiting Mainz

11 Oct

Seeing as we are still on a quest to find a place to permanently settle into, that and our social calendars aren’t exactly brimming full these days; we decided to spend yesterday in Mainz.  The city actually has a pretty interesting history which I won’t go into too much detail about.  I mean you people know how to use google if you are that interested right?  I’d rather not risk boring you to death.  But, I will say it is one of the three oldest cities in Germany and much of its inner city was destroyed by bombing during World War II.  It is an interesting mix of old and new.  There are still several historical sites and buildings in tact, but obviously much has been rebuilt as well.  We drove around to get a sense of it all and enjoy some of the scenery.  (As a side note, the leaves are changing here much like in Ohio this time of year so the foliage is quite beautiful right now.)  Anyway, after driving around a bit we got out and walked around the pedestrian market square area.  It was Sunday so all the shops were closed but many of the little cafes and restaurants were open and there were still lots of people milling about.  Which brings me to another side note- patios are open (and full) even in quite chilly weather.  Yesterday was beautiful and very sunny, but very cool.  I wished I had a jacket over my sweater and still lots of people sat outside to have their lunch, coffee etc.  Here are a few pics from yesterday:

*Warning- you are about to be subjected to my crappy (mediocre at best) photography.  After the pictures Kim took of the sites these will pale in comparison.  But, what’s a person to do??*

 

Hmmm a bit cut off, but this is St. Martin's Cathedral

 

 

Near the city center, you can see the cathedral in the background

 

 

part of the Mainz theater

 

 

People eating outdoors in the market square

 

 

More outdoor dining

 

 

Pedestrian market square

 

 

small church I liked

 

This city is located along the west bank of the Rhine river.  It was absolutely beautiful driving along the edge of the water.  I wish I would have taken some pictures of that!  There were also lots of little streets with shops etc. that I failed to capture.  We will just have to go back again!

Visiting Oberursel

29 Sep

So, as you can probably imagine, deciding where to live in a new country can be quite a daunting task.  Right now we are in temporary housing in Frankfurt until our things arrive from the USA.  I was quite opposed to this initially, wanting instead to just have a place to settle into and get down to the business of “moving in”.   I am  publicly admitting that my husband was right when he assured me temporary housing would be a good thing.  I am realizing that we have so much to learn and consider in order to make the best choice possible.  So, I wanted to start taking advantage of this “research” period right away.  Once again, Kim was a great sport and accompanied me to Oberursel ( a small town in the Taunus region just outside of Frankfurt that was recommended to us).  It was of course ADORABLE and I sort of fell in love.  Here is why:

 

view from what resembles a "town square"

 

 

another angle from the town center

 

 

chocolate shop....always a good sign

 

Pretty cute right?  Okay, so it’s definitely not settled that this is where we’ll be living.  We still have LOTS of looking/researching to do.  But, if everywhere is as charming as this town, we might have a very tough decision on our hands.

On a mission to see a castle…

29 Sep

So as you all know my good friend Kim was visiting me all last week.  In fact, she just left yesterday morning.  Boo!  She was an excellent companion during her stay with us and really helped foster the spirit of exploring our new surroundings.  So, on Saturday we took a drive south to Heidelberg.  As we heard from a couple Germans- “This is the city all Americans love to visit”.  I can see why.  It’s the image we all have in our mind of historic buildings, cobble streets, little shops crowded close together along narrow roads, and of course…castles.  Although, once again, the castle seemed a bit elusive.  How could it be so hard to find a castle???  Well, I can’t exactly answer that for you.  But, I can tell you we did ultimately find the Heidelberger Schloss and had some fun along the way.  Here are some pictures from our outing that day:

 

Here is the ADORABLE little Italian place we had lunch at....so cute and delicious!

 

 

Kim, Quinn, and myself on the streets of Heidelberg

 

I forgot to mention that upon arriving in Heidelberg and driving around a bit to get a sense of the town, we stumbled upon a little festival going on.  It was sort of a very mini Oktoberfest.  So there were lots of people milling about in the streets, lots of music and different food and drink vendors were set up as well.  We tasted the most delicious mulled wine while we were there.  Actually called Gluhwein, it was the perfect thing for a chilly, rainy day.

 

Gluhwein in these terra cota mugs....so yummy.

 

 

Since Quinnie couldn't have gluhwein to keep warm, we had to bundle her up!

 

 

At last....the castle ruins.

 

And here are some views from the castle once we reached it.  We had to climb LOTS of stairs to get there.  How many do you think Kim??  But once we made it to the top the view was beautiful.  See for yourself:

I think you all know by now, but the pictures from our outings with Kim…well, they are all taken by Kim!  I can’t compete so I won’t even bother posting my mediocre photos when I’ve got the work of a professional at my fingertips.  Thanks Kim!!