Monday, December 24, 2012

European Christmas Vacation - Part 1

The first part of our European Vacation Begins...

December 13, 2012
Heading to Frankfurt, Germany
We had a decent flight to 1 1/2 hour flight to Joburg. Once there, we had about a 4 hour layover.  Luckily Santa came to visit us early (Ernie the Elf wanted the kids to have a surprise) and got the kids Leap Pads for the trip the morning we left! Woo Hoo! This saved us tremendously- Thanks Santa & Ernie! They were busy little leap pad kids for literally about 24 hours straight, listening to music, playing games, etc.  It was great.
Doesnt Hannah look like she is 13?? So Big!
Covering our noses as they spray down the plane on the SA flight (from Zim)!
And Hannah carrying ALL 3 of her babies. Such a good Mommy. :)
In Joburg Airport
The kids with Nelson Mandella in the airport (Ha!) and killing time by the gate waiting for our plane.

Frankfurt, Germany

Hannah slept the entire flight from Joburg to Frankfurt- about 11 hours (on Tom’s lap). She was not feeling great, so it was probably much needed.  She threw up the night before we left and had a fever for two days…we were not sure where that would go, but luckily it ended there. J Whew!  Chase slept about 8 hours, and seemed to be somewhat entertained by the movie selection, but I can not complain.
We got to Frankfurt around 7 am and headed straight to our hotel. We hopped in a cab and went on our way.  We pretty much dropped our stuff off in our room, showered, changed clothes and then headed straight out to try and find some breakfast. Not the easiest thing to do surprisingly. We walked what seemed to be miles looking for the Frankfurt Christmas Markets. We thought they opened at 9 or 10 am and it was around 9 at this point.  After asking approximately 10 different people if they could speak English, we finally found one.  He then told us that the Christmas Markets did not open until 12 pm and directed us to the city center for breakfast. 
After walking a few miles, finding a place for breakfast, and walking around one of the biggest malls I have seen in quite some time, it was finally 12 and we headed to the Market.  As I am sure you can imagine, we enjoyed all the scenery of Christmas, Christmas – EVERYWHERE and were simply just enjoying being out of the third world.  All of it was more than we had seen in a while and even walking around the mall was a bit overwhelming.  But we were having fun!
After walking around the markets and taking the long walk home along the river, we finally made it back to the hotel. It was a beautiful walk and I must say an amazing view from our hotel room as well.

(the view from our hotel window)
We ate a nice dinner at the hotel. I even enjoyed an amazing meal of Sea Bass (my favorite!), and also a delicious glass of German wine. J

To see ALL the pictures from Frankfurt, click below:

December 14, 2012

Mainz, Germany
We decided to take the train to Mainz, Germany for the day.  It is about an hour train ride. We did not get much help from the hotel, so we ventured out on our own, looking for the closest train station. We got a little turned around and ended up walking further than we had wanted. However, we made it there, despite the confusion of trying to get tickets to where we needed to go. We got lucky and met an American who helped us out and even took us to the main station to show us around. So nice!

We finally picked up a small breakfast, our first coffee for the day and then waited about 15 minutes for our 11 am train to Mainz. We even got to ride in the double decker regional train, which the kids loved. Chase however fell asleep within the first 10 minutes. It was not a long trip, less than an hour- and we were there. 

Once we arrived, we were perplexed not sure of which way to go, but I asked a lady at a small hotel and she gave me a map. She then drew out the way and showed me the way to go. Where? You guessed it- the Mainz Christmas Markets!

Entrance to Mainz Christmas Market
The town was adorable, so much smaller than Frankfurt and very easy to get around. We enjoyed this market even though it had almost the same items as the other market, but it was still very unique.  We had our first glass of Mulled Wine (Gluwhine) and the kids had their first glass of hot chocolate. Chase took about 1 minute to spill the first HOT cup, but they were very nice and gave us a new one.  I must say the people there were VERY friendly, especially compared to the Frankfurt crowd.  Hannah bought a German snow globe and Chase got a small nutcracker- they were thrilled to pieces.


We had a nice lunch- Chinese, if you can believe it.  However, eating NORMAL won ton soup was worth it. They do not have won ton soup in Zim. I know, the little things right? We then walked up, down and around some beautiful cobble stone streets and checked out one of the beautiful churches along the street.  Amazing!
We walked back to the train station to find out we missed the faster train by just a few minutes. So, we caught the commuter type train- which took quite a bit longer, and headed home.  Unfortunately, it started raining.  When we got to our final stop, we still had to walk about a ¼ mile in the pouring rain and cold back to the hotel which was not so fun.  We were supposed to meet Jeff Horkey (the RSO in Frankfurt) at his home for dinner, but we were just too exhausted- and so were the kids. We found a way to order pizza to the room and had that for a quick dinner before bed.
The time and day light hours seem to be really messing us up.  It gets dark here around 4:30 pm and then the sun does not come up until about 7:30 am.  It’s crazy! It’s only an hour earlier from Zim, but at times we feel seriously jet lagged.
 If you want to see more pictures from Mainz, click here:
Pictures from Mainz, Germany

December 15, 2012

Rudesheim, Germany
We woke up not sure what to do, but we wanted to head out again to either check out Heidelberg or Rudesheim for the day- it was raining and yucky, but we were determined to go out.  Our hotel does not have breakfast, so this has been the hard part with the kiddos. Always wanting to eat as soon as they wake up, so we got smart and brought croissants home the second day so the kids could have them in the morning.  Although that didn’t help Tom and I, we forgot to bring some home for us- the kids certainly enjoyed their yummy chocolate croissants.  Ha By the way, the kids at this point have not had one vegetable in about 3 days.  Mommy is feeling horrible.
We decided to go to Rudesheim. Why you ask- because that was the train that left first from the station when we arrived. We are real planners, right? We could not make up our mind as I had already been to Heidelberg, but also wanted Tom to see it. It was however a bit further out so we just decided to see which train left first when we got there.
It was about an hour ride. The day turned out beautiful, the sun came out and there were only a few minutes of rain here and there. It was a beautiful small quaint little town. Their Christmas Market was so cute with little vendors stuck inside and outside little cobblestone streets. 


The views were breathtaking over the Rhine River and we even took a cable car to the top to get the BEST view possible. Mommy went with Hannah and Daddy with Chase. Hannah could not get enough of Mom freaking out as she is a bit scared of heights and Hannah was laughing the whole way up. It was pretty funny. 


We enjoyed the markets and stayed a little later this time to see everything lit up a night as well. Remember, it gets dark at like 4:30 or 5 pm.   The little streets were great with all the lights lit up and down each alley way.  We are glad we got a chance to see it. Also, we were there on Saturday- which meant there were tons more people trying to enjoy the markets too. It was packed! You could barely walk up and down the streets!
We found Kris Kringle in Rudesheim! Good thing, it has been our only picture with Santa this year!
We caught the 5:45 train home (barely), with Chase having to pee at the last minute, and Tom running out to find them a place to go, they almost missed the train, but made it at the last minute. The kids took about 5 minutes and passed out on their seats.  Daddy did not get a seat and had to stand the whole time, poor guy and Mommy was holding Chase in her lap- so not only did they fall asleep, but so did Mommy’s legs.  Eventually Chase was transferred to sit next to Hannah so Mommy could stand the rest of the way. 

The kids have been troopers.  By far the most exciting event that has happened over the past few days was definitely the Cable Car. They loved it. And Poor Chase is so desperate to find snow that he is grabbing at it any chance he can get, even if it is brown and dirty- just to throw a snow ball! We probably should have gone skiing first. Ha 

 View behind us is the city of Rudesheim, Its is where the cable cars drop us off, at the top of the mountain.
We had to pick up dinner at the train station (this is normal by the way) as we knew the kids would not be up for going out to dinner.  We then crashed…at 8 pm. A Long Day!
If you want to see more pictures of Rudesheim, click here:

December 16, 2012

Enjoying Frankfurt
We decided that since the past two days have been a bit crazy with train rides and LOADS of walking, we would try to stay in Frankfurt and relax a little.  We woke up leisurely, Mommy re-packed all the suitcases, started our bag of dirty laundry to clean at our next stop- Munich, and the kids enjoyed playing with each other (which was NICE!). 
We headed out close to lunch and decided to walk to the Christmas Markets again in Frankfurt.  We went there the first day.  It is now Sunday and everything is pretty much closed; restaurants and shops- but we knew the markets would be open, so we headed that direction.  We enjoyed walking around a bit more this time as we knew what to expect.  We got the kids waffles for lunch- don’t ask! Tom enjoyed a bratwurst and I had myself some chile con carne from the Mexican booth.  Whatever, I’m just going with it. And it was YUMMY!  The kids also got another hot chocolate and Tom and I started drinking our Gluwhine for the day- again, Yummy!! I’m a bit obsessed with these souvenir mugs you can buy from the markets, we have 5 now. Ha!  They are cute and sadly, the only thing we have even bought on our trip.  $5 mugs. Have I mentioned a small bottle of water also costs $5? CRAZY!!!
So after lunch and a bit more walking and eating, we walked back to our hotel…again, in the rain.  We relaxed some more and then went back out for dinner at a delicious Greek/German restaurant.  It is now late and the kids are still up…its 9:30 pm. But all in all, we have thoroughly enjoyed the first part of our trip.  The kids are of course desperate to see the snow, which we have not seen yet. But they have plenty of cold and honestly have not complained as much as I thought they would at this point. They have probably walked more now than they have in their lifetime and are still pushing through and at times…running. But then I forgot- they are kids, they have SO MUCH ENERGY!!
We are off to Munich tomorrow and despite now having 4 huge duffel bag suitcases that need to go on a train, we are still winging it. We know what time the trains leave and hope to get their early enough for a seat for 4 together and our luggage- wish us luck! It’s a 4 hour train ride.

Oh, and I suppose a trip that begins with throw up, must also end with throw up. Hannah threw up in the middle of the night around 3 am, poor thing. Luckily, that was it. She was fine in the morning-thank goodness!! And... we were on our way. (however throw up bags were close by, just in case)
More to come…

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