About Us

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A funny thing happened on the way to Alsfeld

When we first met up with our German adventure guide, Nadine we were discussing how Mike and I had always wanted to come to Germany and that we'd almost honeymooned here.  We also brought up that we're big Rammstein fans.  She wasn't that big of a fan, but she knew of them, especially since she came from East Berlin, where all of the band members are from.

We didn't really talk or think about Rammstein until this happened in the bus on our way to Alsfeld.

I can honestly say I never thought I'd be on a tour run by Adventures By Disney in Germany, on the Autobahn and listening to one of my favorite bands ever.  It's one of those things that you don't think will have an impact on you but it does.  The fact that she listened and remembered our conversation and then did this very small gesture is one of my favorite memories from the trip.

Nadine rocks!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Heidelberg Castle

To pick up where I last left off, we were due to meet up with our Adventure guides and the group around 5 pm on Monday - July 2nd.

Mike and I spent some time relaxing in our room after our drizzly walk through Heidelberg and met up with our fellow adventurers in the main lounge of the hotel.  We were only about 21, which is about half the usual amount of adventurers on the trip.

I was wearing my skele-corgi shirt, gotta represent!

Mike made the introductions for us because I'm a little on the shy side and we got to talking to our fellow adventurers.  We also received our first pin and our Adventures by Disney lanyard.

After the meeting, we went to dinner, which was a buffet.  I used a few German words here when I told the server, "klein", because he wanted to give me a huge serving of sauerkraut.  "Klein" means small in German and he obliged and gave me a very small serving.  See, I learned something from Rosetta Stone!

Later still, we hung out with some of our new friends in the bar area before heading up to bed.  We had to be up fairly early to eat breakfast before boarding the bus to head up to the castle.

The earliest structure of Heidelberg Castle dates back to around 1214 AD and was later expanded around 1294.  It was the home of Rupert III, King of Germany in the 1400s, and he was the one that expanded it and turned it into a fortress.  It has seen various attacks during the Thirty Years war in the 1620s-1630s and the Nine Years war that begain in the late 1680s.

When we arrived, we were greeted by our guide for the morning, Lizzie.  Because we were on a private tour, there were certain areas of the castle open to just us and not the rest of the tourists.  And let me tell you, there were plenty of tourists!

The first area we saw was the main entrance.  Notice it's only as wide as a wagon or a caravan.  It used to be a drawbridge, but it has since been cemented.  Under the archway was the portcullis, which still resides in the ceiling.  You can see the large doors that would be reinforced when the castle closed up for the night.

Passing through the archway, we were led to the small museum that held statues and a scaled down version of the castle and its gardens.

After the museum, we walked through the courtyard, which looks like this:

I continued on with the group to see the second floor areas of the castle, while Mike went down to the cellar to wait for us.  There were too many stairs for him to navigate and lug his wheelchair up and down them that we felt it best to separate at this point and pick up again later.

When we did meet up again, we were led to the moat.  Yes, I said moat.  Look at the scale of the people in this picture compared to the height of the walls.  Crazy stuff huh?

We continued through the moat and went past the "Powder Tower".  This tower as you would expect held the gunpowder and it exploded, leaving it in ruins.

We continued on to the terrace where we were able to get shots like:

Ok, that's enough posting for today, next in the series - Alsfeld!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Heidelberg Day 1

After our trying time getting to Heidelberg, all Mike and I wanted was to go to bed.  But, seeing as Germany is 6 hours ahead, we didn't want to risk crazy jet lag longer than needed.  We ate a quick dinner at the hotel, best BLT I've ever had, then retired to our room.  Our bodies wanted to stay up, but our minds were tired.  Sleeping that night was difficult.  We'd only manage about an hour's worth of sleep, then we'd be up again.  I busied myself with reading and Mike skimmed through German late night tv.

Because we arrived a day before the tour was scheduled to start and we didn't have to officially meet up with the tour til 5 pm that evening, Mike and I had the entire day to explore Heidelberg by ourselves!  YAY!

We headed down to breakfast, feeling much better than the previous day and very hungry.  The breakfast buffet at the Europaischer Hotel Heidelberg was amazing.  I regret not taking a picture of the spread, so you'll have to take my word for it.  Mike and I dined on scrambled eggs, bacon - oh amazing bacon, sausages - chicken and pork and more, deli meat, homemade sausages, breads, pastries, fruit, cereal and more.  This marked the beginning of our 3 times a day sausage consumption for the duration of the trip.

After breakfast, we headed into the lobby where we ran into our two adventure guides - Nadine and Jennae.  Nadine suggested we visit the Hauptstraße, (or Main Street in English), and so we headed off in that direction, but not before taking pictures of the hotel.

We walked out to the street and immediately had to take notice of the cyclists.  Cycling is big in Germany.  This is something we aren't accustomed to in North America, where everyone drives.  Here, it seems everyone cycles!  There are bike paths integrated on to the sidewalks and so you must be careful not to step into the path of a cyclist and you must watch out for not only the cars, but the cyclists.

After a few minutes of turning around to get our bearings, we headed off in the right direction!  To the Hauptstraße!

We first passed by the Bismarkplatz, which is a large square devoted to the public transportation offerings in Heidelberg - bus and tram.  Then, we arrived at the beginning of the Hauptstraße, which is a mile long street containing shops, restaurants and otherwise lovely German architecture that captivated Mike and I.

I have no other words for this street because Mike and I wandered around like little children in a candy store.  There's nothing even remotely close to the architecture and the feeling of being in an old place, yet still being grounded that I'll let the pictures do it justice.

We walked up and down the street and I even practiced a very small amount of German when I purchased a postcard in a local shop.

Mike and I made it all the way to the Alte Brűcke and we saw our first glimpse of Heidelberg Castle, where we would visit the following day.

All in all, a lovely day.

Monday, July 16, 2012

We're late, we're late for a very important date!

Our trip to Germany was done through Adventures by Disney, ABD.  One of the perks of traveling on the tour was we didn't have to worry about pick up from the airport.  We would have a driver who would transport us from Frankfurt to Heidelberg.

So imagine our surprise when the driver was no where to be found at the Frankfurt airport.

Let me back up a bit to explain what happened.

When we landed in Frankfurt, we did not have a gangway connecting the plane to the gate, instead we disembarked on the tarmac.  On our flight there were three passengers needing wheelchair assistance, Mike included. We were fortunate that I was able to go down the staircase to collect Mike's wheelchair, which was good because the airport employee was about to give it away to a little old lady.  As if.  He was checking our name on the tag and her name and was about to give it away!  I'm sorry but unless her name is Michael , she's not getting it!

I successfully got all witchy in his face, because he didn't believe me, and he relented.  I stood, with my hands firmly on the wheelchair handles, to wait for Mike who came down the stairs and promptly sat in his wheelchair, which erased any doubt I'm sure.

All the while, our fellow passengers were taken by bus to the terminal to collect their luggage.  Had I known what was going to happen in the next hour and a half, I would have left Mike there and gone to collect the baggage.

We stood waiting for our bus and we were joined by a young teenager.  Because she was a minor, there was an agent who came to meet her at the plane.  Then, both of them got onto an empty bus and headed to the terminal.  Mike and I looked at each other in disbelief.  We could have gotten on that bus!  But then there would be no story would there?

So, we continue to wait and then a 3rd bus arrives. This one's for us!  The driver opens the back door and brings out the ramp by way of a handle.  Well doesn't the handle fall down twice so the ramp isn't flush with the ground.  He jiggles it twice, it finally stays in place and Mike and I board the bus.  We're told we have to wait for the mobility device, (I forget the official name), to arrive at the plane to help the rest of the passengers.  Ok, no problem.  Except the device takes about 30 minutes to arrive...

Ordinarily this would not have fazed us in the least...

Eventually the rest of the passengers join us in the bus and we're off to the terminal, or so we think.  We arrive at a terminal, yes, but not at the right terminal to meet up with our baggage.  Our baggage was at one terminal and the bus deposited us at a different terminal.

Then the enormity of the Frankfurt airport hits you and the fact you've neglected your German studies hits you and you realize that Mike in his naivete has been counting on your study of German to get us through the rough patches when we are alone and here you are without a clue of how to say any travel related words in German.  We paused for a moment and tried to figure out where we were, but without knowing where our luggage was sent, it was hard to locate it on a map.  But luckily Frankfurt has an awesome mobility team and this little red haired bilingual woman, who reminded me of Merida from Brave appeared and told us to follow her and we'd find our luggage and she'd help us navigate through customs and immigration.  In retrospect, she should have met us on the tarmac, but again, we'd have no story.

She sits on one of those elongated golf carts with a few other passengers from our flight and off we go zipping through the terminal.  We arrive at Immigration and she lets us into the accessible line, where Mike and I both received a Frankfurt stamp to our passports!  We are sent through another set of doors to the baggage claim, where my heart sinks for the first time.

There's no one there from our flight and none of the carousels are moving.  There's luggage off to the side in various groups.  One of the other passengers says we have to look for our bags and my mouth gets a little dry.  I check the first group, not there.  I look over and see a shiny image of the Disney castle, (our luggage tag), sticking up.  I can say I've not loved Disney more than in those few seconds of finding our bags!

We grab our bags, proceed out of baggage claim and expect to see a smiling driver holding the Adventures By Disney sign, but no such luck.  Mike and I walk around the terminal looking for the sign, but our driver isn't there.  My heart sinks for the second time. Finally we decide to call Disney using the emergency numbers in our travel pack and after about 5 disconnects on the pink (!!!) payphone we're told to take a cab to Heidelberg.

Ok, we leave the terminal and head to the taxi section and we get into the first cab that looks like it will fit Mike's chair and two large suitcases.  I take out the address and name of our hotel and in true Amazing Race style, I point to it and ask him if he can take us to Heidelberg.  He says yes and off we go.  Mike pushes me to sit in the front and I sit, put on my seatbelt and pray this person doesn't kill us and leave our bodies in a ditch somewhere or drive us to some strange place and leave us stranded.

I knew Heidelberg was south of Frankfurt so when I saw the taxi driver head in the southern direction, I was able to relax... a little.  From where I sat I could see the tab steadily increasing and I was secretly thankful that we had decided to withdraw extra Euro at the last minute.  We sped down the Autobahn and I was secretly thankful that our driver was going close to 180 km, the closer we got to Heidelberg, the better I felt. As we drove through the city limits, I started to see some buildings and street names that I recognized from Google Maps, (yay Google!), and I was quite confident that we'd end up in the right place.

We arrived, I paid the driver and with extra for his time and off to our hotel.  Standing on the steps of our hotel was one of our Adventure guides, Nadine, who I'm sure must have wondered who is this weird woman with red eyes, (from lack of sleep - I assure you) coming to check in.  Nadine was a breath of fresh air - she knew our names, she had checked us in and was waiting with our gigantic room key.

I'm also pretty sure she spoke to our driver harshly, although in German it would have sounded much worse...

Just kidding about the last part... maybe...

You might ask if we allowed this experience to cloud our trip.  The answer is no.  We did not.  After we sat down, in the lounge of the hotel, we went over the events and I could definitely see things from the driver's point of view.  Especially if there were other charges to retrieve, we couldn't expect the driver to wait for close to 2 hours.  Yes, it sucked, but it all worked out in the end.  Disney refunded us our cab fare and all was well.

I have learned for next time, if Mike and I travel to a European airport and we see a similar setup, that I'll go on to retrieve the bags and catch up with Mike afterwards.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday Smiler - July Calendar Boy

In addition to the CorgiButts calendar, Gimli was in the CorgiPals calendar under the definition of "corgi smile".

Here he is, not smiling and being a little cheeky.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Chasing the sun

Our flight to Germany left around 11 pm EST and by the time we landed in Frankfurt, it was around 2 pm Germany time.  This meant the flight was overnight and I feared I'd have trouble sleeping.

I'm a nervous flyer and usually cannot sleep on planes, but I was determined to give it a try.  I did doze for about an hour, but that's about it.  I sat in the darkened cabin looking around at the other people all snoring away and sighed.

Eventually I was able to open the window shade and this piece of inspiration struck me:

As I write this it's 2.35 am EST.  We've been in the air since 11.35 pm and I figure we're flying over the Atlantic Ocean.  We have about four hours left before we land in Frankfurt and I've slept for maybe an hour since 7 am on 6/30.

The Air Transat fight has been good so far - we got a snack around 12 am and the "club class" seats are roomy, but not that comfy.  This is an older plane so I'm sure that has something to do with it. The neck pillow I have only makes my neck hurt, which is probably why I am awake now.

It's funny, I was attempting to sleep when my eyes snapped open to see the view outside my window.

Clouds and peace and the sense that the world goes on irrespective of what's going on with those silly humans.  Makes you feel like all the conflict and greed and so on aren't worth it in the grand scheme of things.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Back home

We're back from our travels in Germany!  I have a great many posts and pictures, so look for these in the coming days.

We had a fantastic time, but coming to the end of the trip, I started to miss Gimli.

Gimli, of course, was none the wiser and was having a grand old time staying at my dad's place.  Apparently Gimli is now the neighborhood corgi and has made friends with nearly everyone.  I'm sure he was spoiled rotten as well, which is what everyone seems to do with corgis.  Hey, what can I say, corgis are the cutest dogs ever!

Gimli enjoyed himself chasing squirrels, watching fish in the pond and digging around in the dirt.  He became so dusty and dirty that they had to give him a bath!

As luck would have it, our Disney adventure guide - Jennae loves corgis.  She's trying to convince her husband to get a corgi.  Naturally, Flat Gimli was a big hit with her and she does have a few pictures with him.

Last night, because neither of us wanted to lug Gimi's crate up the stairs, we left it downstairs and allowed Gimli to sleep in our room.  Around 4 am or so, Mike woke up to a little corgi head trying to climb up onto the bed.  Mike gave in, (hrmph and you say I'm weak willed when it comes to Gimli!), and before I knew it there was a warm little corgi at the foot of the bed.

It was all fine until he started dreaming and kicking me.  Ha!

Our yard is doing quite poorly and that's something to work on in the coming weeks.  It's been a heat wave and so the grass is now nice and brown, except for the weeds, which are nice and green... grrr.