Monday, August 11, 2008

We're baaaaaaaaaaaaack

Ok guys ... quick run down of our "travelling" nightmares ...then you're going to be in for a real treat as I blog our amazing trip (I couldn't do it while we were in Europe because while I did have Internet access every day it was slow at best in most cases, and I often used the time to chat with the kids through Yahoo which is the best invention ever!)

As I'm typing, my five hundred plus pictures are downloading. (It's gonna take awhile).

First, on our way out - Lufthansa's maintenance crew was on strike in Germany. We had a US Air flight from Norfolk to Philly then a Lufthansa flight direct to Frankfurt. Apparently due to the umm......union Lufthansa our flight was cancelled. So the clerical geniuses re-booked us on a USAir (Yes, I can already hear you saying "Ahhhhhhhh") flight to Zurich with a connection to Frankfurt. Mind you, our bags were checked in Norfolk directly to Frankfurt through Lufthansa (who was now on strike.)

So anyway back to the beginning a bit ... we check in at Philadelphia early and our flight isn't on the board. No big deal according to US Air, they said that we should wait and check the board for our Lufthansa flight (we had no clue at this point that there had been a strike - which happened day before!!!) So we're sitting there, for about an hour 1/2 and Sam goes and checks with the counter and he's gone for awhile (there is a line) and in the meantime I whip out my handy Blackberry and check Lufthansa's website. Flight cancelled. Sam is walking back, frustrated because he'd waited but the line was too long so he just got out figuring we'd get the information somewhere else when I had to break the news to him....cancelled. (Since this is a family site, I'll leave out all the four letter words that came next.) I said above, we went to the counter to find out that we were re-booked through Zurich (now through US Airways, not Lufthansa) and we were assured that our bags were going to make it to Frankfurt. Mmmmhmmm.

As you can tell by my sarcasm they didn't. For three days. And the first three days of our trip was leisure and was spent in little small towns in Germany in Austria. NOT in big shopping meccas. So we had to get EVERYTHING but since we didn't know how long they were going to take to get us the bags we were kind of playing it by ear (they only reimburse 50% when they don't officially "lose" the luggage....which really sucks, in my opinion!!) Priority one for me the first morning after getting necessary toiletries was a hair straightener. Since I didn't think I was going to find a "CHI" ... I had to try to explain to the first salon in Hoenschwangau Germany what I was looking for. Interesting to say the least. We then went on to purchase some clothes - pretty basic stuff - not to mention we were trying to hurry because this was eating part of our trip. (Mind you our first day was blown because we had to fly into Zurich then Frankfurt, then deal with the luggage situation .... we didn't get to Dachau, unfortunately, and that was something that we really wanted to do.)

Anyway, we had the rest of our trip (blogs to come on that over the next few days) and it was wonderful. We loved Germany, Austria and France (Paris) - and had great experiences in all three places. Sam loved the Autobahn highways and got the little Mercedes we had up to about 135 MPH (220 KPH) a couple times <-- Holy Crap!

We both missed the kids IMMENSELY and couldn't wait to get home. Our Lufthansa flight thankfully was on time from Frankfurt (we had to drive from Paris on Sunday morning - we left Paris at 5 AM to be in Frankfurt at 10 AM for our 1:00PM flight) and we made it in plenty of time to return our car and check in. Flight takes off smooth as can be, we relax watch a movie (Kung-Fu-Panda, lol), read, play some scrabble and napped just a little because we are trying to readjust to the time zones. We land in Philadelphia with no problems, get through customs with zero issues (even with having to CLAIM items this time.....Sam bought me a Louis Vuitton bag on the Champs Elysees for my birthday!) and even had time to eat a (rushed) Philly cheesesteak because our flight said (ON TIME) and we had about 40 minutes to spare to catch our US Airways connection back to Norfolk. We ate our dinner in record time (literally about 10 minutes) and get to our gate with about 25 minutes (of course after calling the kids and telling them we'd see them in about 2 hours) and the board says CANCELLED.


Ok so after Sam calms me down from sobbing we find out flight cancelled due to air traffic. That was the first answer they gave us. W.T. (FILL IN THE BLANK)

Then we waited in a huge line to get on stand by (along with about 9 other people from 2 other cancelled Norfolk flights) only to find that one cancelled too.

Then they said that third flight was cancelled due to weather. OK, I'll GIVE THEM THIS ONE. By THIS TIME, they had a legitimate case. It was storming pretty hard. But you know, if you wait long enough anything can freaking happen! So we went to ticketing and again Sam had to calm me down (crying) and he got the airline to get us a hotel for the night (nice that they paid but didn't help me feel better -----------how do you explain to a three year old who says "I can't wait to see you Mommy" and then "Why aren't you going to be here Mommy" that you can't be home after 11 days??) The girls don't really have a concept of time yet, but Zach does somewhat and I felt HORRRRRRRRIBLE that I told him I was going to be home and I didn't make it (I probably cried for two hours yesterday.) Of course, you know we have no luggage right - no toothpaste (thanks to it being confiscated out of my bag for being 4 ounces and not 3 at the Philadelphia airport the night before) we really have no ANYTHING except our carry on which contained our camera, computer, books, etc. They put us in a Howard Johnson hotel and they didn't have anything to spare (probably used up by everyone else in the same boat!!) So UGH, right?? The funny thing (or not so funny - we went from the Hotel Keppler Saturday night - a hotel designed by the same guy who designed the Four Seasons in Paris - and was located a block off the Champs Elysees to the HOJO in downtown Philly on Sunday, heehee!)

Anyway, so to continue on to our lovey travel story - this morning, we get up at 4:30 to catch a 5:00 shuttle for a 7:40 flight. We're there plenty early, have breakfast, coffee, read the paper. Flight says ON TIME (YAY!) We get to the gate and it's a tiny prop plane. Lovely right? board. We're on the runway. We're taking off. We come to a SCREECHING halt. Not a good sign. We sit on the runway while they check the props. Running them at full speed. Off, on, off on. Only to find out, yea, something isn't working.....we're going to have to GO BACK TO THE GATE.

I'll leave out the four letter words here, and of course - I'm crying again.

So after half hour or so, they decide we're going to take another plane at a different gate, and we finally get on our way home. Rather than landing at 9:00, we landed at 11 something. Oh and of course, they don't have our bags, so ANOTHER lost bag ticket. Un-freaking-real! To put one last *cherry* on this cake, though, on our way home we get stopped because a draw bridge was open, and had to sit in traffic. I swear to God, on the holy bible - by the draw bridge. Today, of all days. It was like some sick joke -----someone was trying to keep me from my kids!

Anyway, that's our travel (airline only) HELL in a nutshell. I needed to vent that. We had a WONDERFUL trip. We stayed at fabulous places, all of them. We loved Europe and had no problems whatsoever in Germany, Austria or France. We loved the food, the people and most of all the things we did together - we saw some amazing landscape, architecture and just things that we'll never forget.
Here's a couple pictures..............and I'll blog throughout the week. I'll also put a gallery up with all of our photos (there are more than 500) - I started, but it was taking so long. By the way, we had taken a couple photos of us at the top of the Zugspitze in Germany (highest mountain) and we had taken some silly shots of us pretending to fall off (there was a bench) and we had sent the photos home (we were talking on the webcam to the kids) and they were looking at the photos. Apparently Zach thought we had REALLY fallen off the mountain. That was the only REAL meltdown he had - Nan and Miss Debbie said he cried, silently, with the tears streaming down his face. Poor thing.

The kids were thrilled to see us tonight and that was a wonderful feeling. Addison, though, took it hard. She curled up in the corner, and hid, and she curled up in her daddy's arms and basically did the silent crying thing. Like - she was so overwhelmed that we were back. Heartbreaking. We had a wonderful trip, but I am afraid 2 weeks is too long to leave them at this age, though I do think it did them some good, and I know their Nana loved every single minute of it. We brought them small trinkets from each place and they loved them (mostly broken or eaten now)but they had a good, long day!

I missed blogging (I think I might be a blog-addict!) and I'll be back in full swing this week, I've got lots to share. Oh and I've missed ICE too. If there is one true tale about Europe, it's not that the people in Paris are mean (they're not) it's that they don't give you ice! And when you ask for it, it's like 2 cubes! :) Smile everyone, Have a good night and I'll chat with you soon! Enjoy the first couple pictures, there is plenty more to come..........I tried to pick a couple from each of the places we hard (500 pictures to pick "just a few!!")

Happy to be home,


Castle in the clouds, Neushwanstein Castle ......... it's not fuzzy, it's just...mist.
Hohenschwangau Lake
Our hotel in Hohenschwangau - see Neushwanstein in the top right. You can't see (but will in later pictures King Ludwig's boyhood castle up to the top left of the picture.) Our room was the second window on the first level of rooms with the balcony (just above the awning) and faced the castle.
One of our silly pictures that had Zach freaking out - top of Zugspitze Mountain - sort of looks like we photo shopped Sam in here - I promise we didn't. Amazing photo isn't it?

Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg Germany. We didn't tour inside this one - time didn't permit - we wanted to head on to France (we were driving)

The French countryside is just as you'd imagine it. Rolling hills, fields, vineyards, pastures....I loved the animals and there were so many cows ... it was so beautiful. We detoured off the Autobahn to see the Argonne National Forest and the American Cemetery - from WWI. Pretty amazing, more than 14,000 graves and almost 1,000 unknown. The deaths all took place between a relatively short period of time and all the remains were eventually transported to Argonne. You'll see photos in blogs later in the week.

Me @ The Louis Vuitton store .... Sam snapped a photo, had to share! :) You really feel like you "belong" on the Champs Elysees when you are carrying a LV shopping bag ... one place we went in (the Notre Dame Cathedral) was checking bags and they looked at the outside of my LV bag and just said "oh you're fine!" Heehee! Paris, gotta love it!
Eiffel Tower at dusk

Another shot of the Eiffel Tower ... it doesn't look as big when you're walking the streets in Paris, but when you're under it, it's amazing. We took a "behind the scenes" tour of the tower with a guide (there were only 5 of us) and we got to see some really interesting things that only few people get to see - the mechanics of the elevators, an underground bunker (that would be used by the French President if there was a war - and was built during the war) - a catwalk they use to maintain the lights that sparkle each evening .... just incredible.

Anyway, like I said, just a couple of the shots! Hard to pick of my 500+!

Well, once again............have a good night!


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