Day 291: Part 1: Happy Mother’s Day from Neuschwanstein Castle

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Happy Mother’s Day, especially to my mama Jane! Everyone who knows her, loves her. She is the most generous and giving and loving woman I know and I’m so thankful for her! Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas in the world.

Today we are traveling through Germany, Austria and the Alps through a surprise May snow fall, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Germany again and home to Holland which will technically bring us into tomorrow! It’s been amazing to be able to drive through all these countries and to get a glimpse of the different landscapes, terrain, weather, architecture and sites.

The highlight of my day was spent with my family at the Neuschwanstein Castle. This castle served as the model for Walt Disney’s Cinderella’s castle. It was quite majestic with beautiful views of waterfalls, steep cliffs, and open valleys. To get to the castle, we hiked up the hill for 30 minutes and sneaked in some exercise, with some rain and hail. It was quite cold at the top. No pictures were allowed from within the castle, except for in the kitchen.

When we were done with our tour, we headed back down the mountain and stopped for a German lunch. We then took a horse and carriage ride back down the hill. I loved all of it, except for the hour long wait at the castle entrance, waiting for our tour to begin in the rain. The only way to see the castle is with a tour guide.

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Goodbye, from Germany…

Part 2: Austria, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland…

Day290: Part 4: Fussen, Germany

We arrived in Fussen tonight, and even though we were tired, we still ventured out into town around 8 pm. Most of the shops were closed, but we still found the town to be charming. The highlight for me was hearing live music coming from a little corner Catholic church. We peaked in the windows and I was able to sneak in for the encore performance. How charming to be a part of this small village in a sneaky little way. The kids loved finding a Chinese restaurant and have missed eating Chinese food!

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Day 290: Part 3: Garmisch, Germany

Jeff’s mother and grandparents lived in the small town of Garmisch, Germany near the Austria border during World War II. Today we drove by their house and took pictures of where they once lived. The town was so quaint and we enjoyed walking around in the rain.

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What a bucolic town. MamMam and PopPop, I hope you enjoy a few of these pictures. We love you!! xo

Day 290: Part 2: Olympic Stadium and BMW Museum

Christian is passionate about stadiums. If you ask him a fact about any stadium in the world, he knows it. When he found out we were going on this road trip, he asked that we stop by the Olympic Stadium in Munich. It was a magnificent piece of architecture and we all liked waking all the way around it, even in the rain. Christian and Jeff both sat in the seats and felt what it might have been like being there in 1972.20130511-232840.jpg

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The Olympic pool where mark Spitz from Santa Clara high School won 7 gold medals and broke all world records in his 7 events in 1972.

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Finishing up our visit to the Olympic Stadium with crepes from a street cart vendor.

Life is sweet. xo

Day 288: Fulda and Point Alpha

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Last night when we were going to bed around midnight, Jeff called his grand-dad in Colorado. Colonel A. served in World War II England, Germany, France, and Austria. We like to include him in our travels and share with him our itinerary. His memory and recall of details is amazing. He shared with Jeff a few more highlights of places for us to see on our journey that he had visited so many years ago.

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Fulda Cathedral

The highlight of the day was going up to Point Alpha, in Fulda, to where Jeff used to patrol the Eastern German border as part of the U.S. Army’s 11th Cavalry back in 1985 during the Cold War.

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He had not been back there since and it was remarkable to walk on the other side together as a family, listening to his stories.

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On top of the observation tower.

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We’ve enjoyed driving through the country, seeing the wide open spaces, rolling hills, forests, yellow fields, castles, churches, statues of Jesus everywhere in random places, and quaint towns.

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Driving thru the exit of a castle in Meiningen.

We are ending our first full day in Bamberg. The river flows through the town and the buildings are all ornate in a Baroque style.

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There is a charm to the city with people filling the streets. We stopped to buy Charlie a slice of pizza and started to chat with a local guy while we waited for the pizza to cook. The first strange thing was the baker was smoking while he assembled the pizzas. He laid his cigarette on the edge of the counter while he proceeded to rub sauce over the pizza dough with his bare (just smoked) hand. I tried to ignore it and started to make conversation with the local guy instead of being disgusted. He was a little drunk and friendly, and kept looking at us like we were crazy. He told me that I was weird for being in his town and with the kids. I asked why that was weird and he said that it was too late for kids to be out (8:15pm) and that we were on the party mile street. He kept hitting my arm, like he was surprised to see an American family in his town. I asked him where we should go for dinner and he walked us over to a local restaurant were they sat us in a private room. It was quiet and cozy and we all enjoyed a traditional German dinner. Luckily Marcos went on his way from there, but he sure made me laugh.

Life is good.

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Goodnight, from Bamberg.

Day 287: Germany Road Trip

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The kids have off from school tomorrow and Friday for Dutch national holidays. So we are off on a 4 day road trip to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Jeff used to serve in the military and was a Scout Platoon Leader in the 11th Armored Cavalry and served in Fulda, Germany. We want to go back and see where he was stationed for a brief time and share this with the kids while we can.

It is a five hour drive tonight from Amsterdam to Fulda. We left soon after school let out and all our bags were loaded in the car. I packed sandwiches and snacks, fresh fruit and cheese, nuts and sweets so we could have dinner on the road. The kids are content with their DVD movies playing overhead, iPods with music and games, and paper and pens. The minivan gives them room to spread out with blankets and pillows in comfort. Jeff and I love long drives as everyone is together and mostly content without too many demands. He enjoys to drive and I love to read and play on my iPhone.

I’m excited for what the weekend will bring… So far lots of rain and yellow fields, a beautiful sunset and quaint little villages nestled in the hills.

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Life is good.

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Goodnight, from Germany.

Day 149: German Christmas Market – Dusseldorf

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We went to explore a German Christmas market today in Dusseldorf. We left this morning for the 2+ hour drive and enjoyed the day before driving back tonight. I wanted to go before Christmas and before the weekend before its over and too crowded.

We used to drive to Sacramento and back in a day, so this felt kind of like that. We knew it would be a long day, but we were up for the adventure and didn’t want to stay at a hotel. We prefer to be in our own beds when we can help it.

Luckily the weather was fairly decent with scattered showers but nothing too crazy. The skies were gray of course and the temperature pretty cold, but when it’s not windy or pouring rain, I now tend to think of the weather as being nice.

What I enjoyed most about the markets was the decor and festive feel of Christmas. I liked the cute little booths and decorations and lights.

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And I liked the unique items for sale, that you don’t typically see in the States.

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I enjoyed wandering around the town and finding our way to the center market and the Ferris wheel, which was a nice surprise.

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The kids must have felt like they were at a carnival, trying new foods and playing with old fashioned toys. We found a nice steakhouse for dinner that felt more American and had less crowding than most restaurants we’ve been to in Holland. My favorite part was the baked potato with sour cream. Mmm…. I haven’t had one in so long!!

At the end of the day, I’m glad we got to enjoy the day doing something new again, as a family plus one! Charlie brought a friend with him and they were so cute together. I’m also glad the world didn’t end today, because I’m not done living it up yet. I hope you’re doing the same. Merry Christmas!!

Day 58: Cultural Exchange

When I was 11, I traveled from Los Angeles to Tahiti and Australia with my soccer team, as part of a cultural exchange program.

Today my 11 year old traveled from Holland to Germany with her volleyball team and is staying overnight with a host family, just like I did. I’m so proud of her.

Bonn, Germany is a 3 hour drive from our new home, so the boys and I drove up tonight and are staying at a hotel so we can see her morning game tomorrow.

The highlights for the boys tonight was trying out the German McDonald’s and the McRib sandwich.
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Somehow both Christian and Jeff knew that you could ask for beer there, that wasn’t on the menu. Surprisingly, they came out from behind with two beers and poured them into cups for the adults! That was a fun difference!
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The McD’s was more like a warm, cafe, and was quite popular.
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After we hung out, we drove to find the location for the game tomorrow, and then to Cologne to find this magnificent church.
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Oh my goodness!! How did they ever build something so grand?
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I was in awe and am so glad we decided to stay up late to see it lit up at night. Both Jeff and Christian had done research before we traveled and both had excellent tips to share. They are both so curious and wicked smart!

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Day 32: Road Trip + Rain = Crazy Kids, Crazy Parents

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All I can say, is I can’t wait for our mini van to be delivered to us. Who would have thought I’d ever, ever say that?  I don’t even like minivans and used to pretend mine wasn’t one!  And having a car at all is a HUGE treat, but having a rental sedan with 3 big kids sitting side by side and touching each other and crossing legs over one another and being confined in such a small space with so much noise and interaction on a normal day, not to mention a multiple  hour road trip is enough to drive someone crazy!  Yes, I’m feeling a bit crazed today. Whatever. This too, shall pass and tomorrow they go back to school. I love Mondays!  😉

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We drove to Oosterbrook today to the Airborne Museum near the Rhine River. Jeff used to be in the 1st Airborne Division (now I hope I get all these facts right, since my knowledge of military history and history in general is lets say, maybe not my strongest or favorite subject.) CORRECTION: I made a big mistake – Jeff is a graduate of the US Army Airborne school, but served in Armored Calvalry – NOT the 1st Airborne Division!!  Doah— insert foot, stop writing about history?? Nahh…

But I am thankful for his love of history and that he chooses to share this with our family, especially since we are here where so much happened. We celebrate Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day in the states by visiting memorial sites or museums, so this is quite normal for us. And to hear the kids making connections to the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall we saw in Cupertino and Pearl Harbor that we visited a couple months ago, and what we saw today, made me very happy and reminds me that all the arguing and bickering and noise in the car was all worth it. I’m thankful that my kids are appreciating a bit of history and are understanding how others didn’t get to live with the same freedoms that we do. We liked the art work outside the museum, the diorama in the basement of the museum that made us feel like we were part of the war time experience, the peaceful nature that surrounded the museum, seeing the pictures of the local families being evacuated from their homes and protected by the joint allied troops and the red poppy memorials that we also saw in Cupertino. All of these things connected us to the past and we could relate a bit more today. I’m starting to like history… who knew?

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After we spent some time at the Airborne Museum, we drove over the John Frost Bridge crossing the Rhine River, through Nijmegin, and then into Germany.  We drove through the towns of Kleve and Emmerich, but we didn’t get out of the car as there was storm after storm, both outside and inside the car!  I did manage to snap a few photos of the beautiful scenery. Also, lots of places were closed since it was Sunday. The towns roll up on Sundays and not even (most) of the grocery stores are open!

We drove back home, and really – it sounds like we went for hours and hours – but everything is very close by car and we were probably home within an hour and a half from our furthest destination in Germany. The kids loved when Jeff drove 150 km/hour on the German autobahn and was still passed by a Swedish car on our left!  Coming back into Holland, the speed limit was drastically reduced to 80 km/hour and you have to obey the speed limit, otherwise they will take a photo of your car and send you a gift in the mail – it’s already happened to one of my new friends!  No tickets please.

The day ended at home with a nice, traditional Dutch dinner – meat, potatoes and a vegetable. I had prepared food before we left and when we got home, we were able to warm things up and sit down for a more relaxing, more enjoyable shared family time.   Ahhh… hope you have a great, family Sunday and relax and get ready for the new week ahead.

Namaste.