Saturday, November 25, 2017

Fall Break Day 9: back home

The day we left for this trip I received an updated travel schedule for our return flight . . . we had been upgraded to business class.  WOW we were so excited and looking forward to the return since we knew we would be on a 777 and have individual pods so to speak.  How did we get an international upgrade for two people for absolutely free?  I read a lot of message boards and one is full of Texas A&M Aggies.  A few months ago someone posted they had 4 free system wide upgrades they would not be using so I emailed Mark.  He said someone else was flying before us but if they did not clear he would call and see if we could get the upgrade.  Isn't that nice!  Well exactly 10 days before our flight home, we cleared and were confirmed.  I might have squealed a little bit, but I pre-ordered our meal and we enjoyed our trip this week.  We spent the night before our flight at the Hilton Frankfurt Airport which was really nice and had a huge suite!
Colin was starving so headed downstairs for a late night snack . . .
. . . this boy can eat!  Okay so maybe I ate the fries with mayo . . . trust me it is good.  We had a good sleep but waking up early is never Colin's strong part of traveling, but he did it.  We checked our bags and headed to the Japanese Sakura Lounge which was a partner for American Airlines flights.  It was a bit different since it was an Asian airlines but nice too.  I poked around and found myself in the restroom.  The toilet was something else . . .
. . . when you have a sign posted on the wall on how to use the functions you sort of get nervous that you will screw it up and it won't flush.  I was amused and concerned but oh my when I sat down and the seat was oh so warm that I caught myself laughing.  I wish there had been more than 2 stalls because I would have stayed and played around with it a little bit.  We hung out until it was time to head to the gate for the oh so comfortable flight home.  We found our seats 3D and 3H and realized we were sitting backwards which was weird but who cares!  I wanted to take a million photos but didn't want to seem like a total tourist.  I glanced around and of the 20 seats in our section 6 were occupied by kids . . . wow aren't they spoiled.  I could never afford to pay for these seats which can go for a few thousand dollars one way!  Many of the people seemed to be employees of the airline by listening to them chat with the working crew so apparently they don't pay real money for them either.  We were happy for the seats and very grateful that Mark offered up the upgrade for free.  I did offer to bring Mark anything back but he declined . . . what a nice Aggie!  So here is where we would spend the next 10 hours and 30 minutes . . .
. . . I know don't feel sorry for us!
I was in seat 3D and the kid in seat 3H was annoying so up went the divider between us.  It was wheels up and time for the flight to begin.
We had food non stop . . .
That sundae with hot fudge and hot caramel was the best . . . I managed to watch 4 movies (The Lovers, Girls Trip, Paris Can Wait, and The Big Sick) with a couple of short naps.  Oh and there were endless snacks too . . .
It really was an amazing experience and when we landed in Dallas I felt so refreshed and rested.  I am not sure I will ever be able to fly in the regular seats after this experience!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Fall Break Day 8: Aachen, Germany

I finally found a Christmas Market that started today . . . the day we leave so I was determined to get to at least one before we left the area.  So off to Aachen, Germany we go . . . there is also a beautiful cathedral in the town so made a mad dash to buy tickets for the only English tour of the day and we bought the last tickets.  Second time this week we bought the last tickets for the English tour.  Today was the first day of the Weihnachts Markt Aachen so it was very crowded.  How could you not be excited when you see this guy greeting you?
But first it was a quick walk to the Aachener Dom to meet the tour guide . . .
It is amazing and beautiful inside.  You can enter the main level for free but if you want to go upstairs you must book a tour.  Upstairs is the Throne of Charlemagne . . .
. . . I was expecting something grand and gold but got cold and marble . . . but what history!  This was used as a coronation throne between 936 to 1531 and has had 30 kings and 12 queens crowned.  We continued to take in the amazing beauty.
The cathedral has had a difficult history of fires and war and restorations which makes it all the more amazing.  The Barbarossa Chandelier was amazing too . . .
The final stop of the tour was behind the alter to see the Shrine of Charlemagne where we learned that only half of his bones are inside . . .
The tour only lasted for 45 minutes and was well worth it even though it was super crowded.  It was outside to the Christmas Market and I was so excited!
We ate and walked and drank and then started over again . . . I only manged to take a photo of my kartoffelpuffer mit apfelmus (potato pancake with apple sauce) . . .
. . . melt in your mouth good . . . I promise you we ate a little of everything . . . then there was bratwurst and gluhwein!  I won't even tell you all the sugar Colin ate because it was a lot!  Oh my it was a simple reminder of just how amazing Germany is at this time of year!  Of course with anything in life all good things must come to an end which meant we had to head to the train station to catch a train to the Frankfurt Airport for our flight home . . .

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Fall Break Day 7: Eindhoven, Netherlands

Happy Thanksgiving!  Today we continue to venture to the WWII sites in the area by driving to Eindhoven.

Operation Market Garden (17–25 September 1944) was an Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in World War II.  Airborne and land forces succeeded in the liberation of the Dutch cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen, but failed in keeping their further positions in and around the city of Arnhem with its strategically important bridge over the Rhine River.  Market Garden contained the largest airborne operation up to that point.  The operation was split into two sub-operations:
·         Market – the airborne forces, the First Allied Airborne Army, who would seize bridges
·         Garden – the ground forces, consisting of the British XXX Corps

We went to The Wings of Liberation Museum which looked small from the outside but once inside it had more displays that we thought.
It was still early so decided to head into the town of Eindhoven for a late lunch.  The city was organized strange but finally found a place to eat, D'N Hertog Eetcafe.  It is Thanksgiving but no traditional turkey for us.  I went all American with a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.
Of course Colin had steak.  Europe is gearing up for Christmas but sadly most markets won't start until after we depart.  I kept seeing these booth/trailers for something called oliebollen, which translates to Dutch Donuts,so I had to at least try one.  Oh my was it yummy!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Fall Break Day 6: Hoensbroek, Netherlands

It is a beautiful sunny day in the Netherlands.  I am amazed at how warm it is outside and wish we would have not worn our jackets!  About a mile down the street from where we are staying is a beautiful castle that was built in 1360.  One thing I am finding traveling off the beaten path to smaller towns in the Netherlands is that while a lot of people speak English most of the museum information signs are in Dutch and German.  We did enjoy just walking around and enjoying the amazing weather.  The Kastell Hoensbroek is beautiful!
Since it was mid week we literally had the place to ourselves.  We continued walking into the town of Hoensbroek to the grocery store and to just hang out.  On the way back to the house we took a detour to visit the animals.
And yet another sign it is fall . . .
. . . this tree was just beautiful!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Fall Break Day 5

It was a rainy day so decided to be lazy and wash clothes.  If you haven't had the pleasure of using a European washer or dryer consider yourself lucky!  I washed one small load of clothes and it took 2 hours 20 minutes . . . and then I stuck them in the dryer for yet another 2 hours.  So it took over 4 hours to wash and partially dry one load of laundry.  Good thing we had no plans!  I did venture outside to look at the pretty leaves.
Tonight we finished watching the movie, A Bridge Too Far in preparation for a visit later in the week.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Fall Break Day 4: Margraten, Netherlands

It is a dreary, rainy day in the Netherlands but when you have limited time you just stick to the plan and go for it.  Today we head to Margraten to visit the American Cemetery.  A map of the battles in Europe during WWII . . .
There are 8,301 Americans buried here with the names of 1,722 listed on a wall as missing.
I am always amazed at how perfectly kept our cemeteries are overseas.  This one is no different.  The weather sort of sets the somber mood . . .

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Fall Break Day 3: Beek, Netherlands

Today we ventured to Beek.  Not a town that is on the tourist list when most people visit the Netherlands.  Colin enjoys WWII history so when we saw the brochure for War Museum Eyewitness, we added it to our list for an easy day trip.  I had my doubts when GPS said we had arrived . . .
. . . the museum is in a house on the main street between two other residents.  We parked and went inside.  I guess the saying don't judge a book by its cover sort of rings true.  We paid and watched the introduction film which was very well done.  The museum was good too; I think I read it was a private collection which is even more amazing.  I could not get over all the realistic displays.  Most of the information was in Dutch but there were some rooms that had information cards translated to English which was very helpful and nice.  I think Colin enjoyed it but all he seemed to want to do was stop at the grocery store and buy some strawberries, but first he humored me with a photo.
Oh and yes the grocery stores are open on Sunday in the Netherlands such a change from life in Germany!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Fall Break Day 2: Maastricht, Netherlands

It was a great sleep and didn't wake up until around 4:30am so as long as we stay awake today then I think that we will have beat jet lag!  Of course the key is to get out and avoid sitting around so off we go to Maastricht.  It was a crisp fall day with the sun shining and no rain so outdoors we go.  We arrive and there are a lot of people out and about so quickly jump in line and buy the last tickets for the tour.  A view of Maastricht from above . . .
Our first stop with our combo ticket was to Fort St. Pieter. Fort St. Pieter is perched high above the Meuse River on the south side of the city. The fort was constructed in the 18th century to defend the strategically important city of Maastricht. Fort Saint Pieter is a hexagonal construction full of tunnels and caves with several levels and is equipped with various large and small cannons and mortars.  The hill like stronghold soon came to be known as the tallest mountain in the area.  The interior was a maze of tunnels and passages that connected to the famous caves that run beneath the city.  The rows of gunnery windows and solid, thick walls proved their efficacy during another attack by the French in 1794, in which the fortification held strong against the siege.  However this was to be the fort’s shining moment as it was not attacked again before being decommissioned.
We had about a 30 minute break between the tours and tried to get a warm drink but it was too crowded so just enjoyed the beautiful day.  We met our guide and walked to the next stop but these sheep caught my eye . . .
. . . how awesome is that?  I grew up on a farm, but I was so giddy watching the sheep eat and the tractor plow the field . . . I almost thought I was on the set of the movie Babe!  It was time for the second stop, the cave.  The North Cave is a labyrinth that once comprised of more than 20,000 corridors . . . I can't imagine trying to navigate the massive network of passages . . .
The man made galleries once measured 230 km but today only measure around 80 km.   It was neat to see the caves as it shows you exactly where the explosion dome is located that was discussed on the fort tour.  There are many cool murals that are painted but since it is so dark photos were not easy.   The caves were also used from 1942 to 1945 to provide protection for a large part of the Dutch national art treasures.  It was worth the visit, and now I see why you can only tour with a guide.
It was exciting to enjoy being outside . . .it is fall y'all!  I am from Texas.  In Texas we have two seasons, summer (it seems to last 9 months) and winter (if you want to call it winter).  We do not get pretty changes of trees except from green to brown.  We hardly ever get a true fall season so this was exciting for me!
The leaves were so beautiful!