Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Journey's Will Continue...

Just not quite yet. It's really interesting how adventure comes in waves. At times, it's all around and one just can't seem to get away from it and relax. Then at other times, like these past few weeks, it just doesn't seem to be anywhere. Last weekend, my family and I made our way to Walt Disney World for one last hoo-rah before our annual passes expire. It was also a way of introducing me to the next wave of adventure to come.
Now about Disney...
We left early Saturday morning (as in so early we were there by 11:30).
Of course, we went straight to the hotel, got checked in, all that jazz, blah blah blah. Then the real fun began. We stayed at a new hotel this time, the Swan & Dolphin Hotel to be exact. It was super nice, and was in walking distance to everyone's favorite place, EPCOT! 
We had a bit of time to kill before our lunch reservations at Le Cellier in Canada at Epcot. First off, this restaurant is one of the most difficult to make plans for. We always wondered what was up with that, but, then we ate there. Hands down, it is the best meal I have ever had. I would recommend it for anyone going to Disney who doesn't want to dine with characters. It's a prime steakhouse, and a bit on the pricey side, but if you're looking for a great meal to treat you and your family to, this is an excellent place. There's also The Seas at Epcot too, but, that's another story for another day. 
We got to ride Soarin', one of our favorite rides there, as well as Journey Into Imagination with Figment, and even Spaceship Earth with minimal wait. I take that back, there was hardly any wait at all thanks to the new Fast Pass+ that Disney is introducing. We were able to plan our days in advance, which really takes the stress out of a Disney vacation. We were even able to squeeze in riding Test Track before it was time to go find a place to watch fireworks! Look at me and my mom, aren't we adorable?
If you're looking for the best place to watch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, I highly recommend both the bridge between France and the UK, as well as anywhere in Canada. Also, if the moon is rising when the show first starts, watch it. It will look like it is under water. However, this mirage cannot be caught on film; believe me I tried my best. 
After the fireworks, it was a short walk back to our hotel and we even stopped by a bakery at the Boardwalk Resort for a little pick-me-up after walking off our amazing lunch. We went to sleep early in preparation for day two of our adventure. 

You see, there's this thing in my family: nobody likes to sleep in any later than about 0830 in the morning, and when we're on vacation that time becomes 0700. It never fails; we don't sleep in. I suppose it has to do with the fact that we generally like to get as much into one day as we can. It didn't help that we only had two days. We were up, packed, and on our way to Magic Kingdom in absolutely record time. Until FP+, we really didn't like Magic Kingdom, because we never got to ride any of the rides. Now, it and Epcot are my favorites. 

One of my favorite things about Magic Kingdom? Why, getting to meet Merida of course! I don't think anyone except for curly-haired people understand what it's like to finally see a princess with truly curly hair, in all its unruly glory. Anyway, yes I got to meet her and yes it was in fact magical. 
hey look new hairs
Yes, here we go, meeting Merida!
Now, people usually guess correctly when the say that I am a Disney nut. We had some time to kill after lunch before going on the Little Mermaid ride, so what did I do? I went to meet Ariel of course...
Sadly, the weekend came to a close and we headed home again. Now, I'm enjoying a Snow Day in Florida (yes, yes, snow day, nobody knows how to handle cold and ice and bad road conditions). This is more than likely the only snow day I'll ever manage to get, seeing as moving north means cold and snow and ice are not such a big deal. I'm enjoying my day and also getting ready for Region Latin Forum this Saturday. Until the next adventure,

Friday, January 3, 2014

Day Nineteen and Twenty: That's a Wrap!

Sadly, my time in Deutschland is over and I am back in the ever wonderful United States of America. I know that I love Germany, but it is so good to be home. I never thought I would be so happy to hear an airport worker say "welcome home" to me as I was having my passport checked. January the 1st was excellent I must say. We had dinner at another traditional German restaurant, supper at the hotel again, and spent a good portion of the day packing and then with my great-grandmother. It was sad to say goodbye, but I was ready to be home.

Yesterday started early. I mean early. My mom was up at 0430, I was up at 0450, and my Oma was up at 0500. It was crazy busy, because my cousin's husband was coming to pick us up at 0600. It was a whirlwind morning, because when we went to sleep the day before my suitcase was still not all the way packed and locked shut. We threw in the shower bag, opened the gusset so my coat would fit, and zipped it shut and made sure it was underweight just in time for the knock on the door to come early. Needless to say we were halfway to our on-ramp when my mom and I realized our freshly toasted brotchens were still on the stove (the oven wasn't on, but our bread was in fact left behind). Of course, I managed to remember the gigantic water bottle.

We made it to Frankfurt in amazing time, giving us a whole extra hour to get through security and to our gate. Now, German security is much different from American security now. The Germans do not have the new machines where it goes whoosh and they either have to pat down the masses that show up on your body or you're free to go. Oh no. Not at all. The Germans have a metal detector and agents carrying wands. My mom and Oma beeped and had to be wanded and patted down and it was just uncomfortable to watch; I can't imagine how it was for them. To my great surprise, I didn't beep at all and was waved through to collect my carry-on bags. This was, of course, after having gone through

  1. Bag drop with Delta where we were asked security questions
  2. Boarding Pass Control
  3. Passport Control
And then, after we were through main security, we had to go through another checkpoint at our gate. We had to show our boarding passes and passports again. It was strange because the gates are all cut off from the main area where you can buy things to eat and drink and souvenirs. To get out and back in (even just to take a bathroom break) you had to show your boarding pass and passport. Serious business I say.

By the time we got to our gate, we only had to wait about a half an hour for boarding to begin. We waited and waited and finally were in our seats with our bags stowed in the appropriate places. We were among the first in our zone to board, so obviously we had to wait a while before we pushed back. However, I did not realize that we were actually delayed by about four minutes thanks to a few passengers being late to the gate. I don't fault them however, because of the fact that I watched so many people get pulled away for further searching at security.

This flight took 10 hours(ish). Again it's weird trying to keep track of time when there's so little to do. I watched three and a half movies and that still only got me to where we were four hours out. I took another hour and a half nap, then stayed awake the rest of the time listening to music. I have to say, my favorite parts of the flight were landing, and flying over Greenland. The sky was so clear over Greenland that it seemed as though you could reach out and down and touch the ice and snow covered mountains. Of course this is irrational as we were 36k feet in the air. Here's how clear the sky was: we were able to see a boat in the water on the coast from our windows.

Here's a little something that nobody except me paid attention to: we were flying due south into a 200 mph head wind. Then, we turned in the sky to the southeast and had a tailwind of 200 mph. This completely changed the arc on the map, so my mom didn't believe me when I said we flew over the Great Lakes. We were supposed to come straight(ish) down from Michigan to Ohio to Georgia. I know I'm leaving out states but those were the big ones I remember. We ended up coming over Kentucky and Tennessee before turning to the south again to get us to Georgia and start making our approach. I don't think I've ever been so happy to hear a pilot say, "We are beginning our final approach into Atlanta. Please remain seated with your seat belt fastened for the remainder of our flight". I was a happy girl.

Something interesting about our flight: we had a fantastic pilot. There was a cold front moving over Atlanta when we were making our descent and he warned us that it would be a bit bumpy. But, we only bumped around a bit between 12k and 11k feet and all was well. I was not excited to be landing because I was scared, but because I was excited to get through passport control, baggage claim, customs, and to see my dad. I missed him a lot. I told my mom on our last day in Heidelberg, "I love it here and don't really want to leave, but I miss my dad". It made my day yesterday to come through customs and out into the arrivals gate and see him there. Random: I felt like Harry Potter trying to get all of his things to Platform 9 3/4 on the trolley luggage cart because I was wheeling four suitcases and two carry-on bags. That cart did not handle short, sudden stops to say the least.

Anyway, I got the first hug from dad (hooray!) and let him take over pushing the cart, as it was hea-vy. We made our way to the car, and I must say I don't think I've ever been so happy to see my mom's car, like, ever. We got out of the airport, out of Atlanta, and into another city. Don't ask me to remember the name, because all I know is it had a barbecue restaurant and I had ribs and I was so happy for American food. We then finished our five and a half hour drive (thanks traffic, that swell of you to add an hour) and got home. My cat Bellatrix met us at the door. That was a bittersweet moment because my dog Luna passed while we were in Germany. However, I was happy to be home no matter what.

This was an awesome experience, one I want to have again one day, Of course, next time I'll be able to pitch in and help pay for an American hotel. I want to do more international travel. My passport has two stamps in it, and I want more. There's so many places I'd like to visit! I want to visit the UK for sure, and hopefully Salzburg in Austria the next time I go to Germany. So many places to see! What's more, before my current passport expires, I will have the letters MD permanently affixed to my name. It's odd to think about, but it makes me super excited. This means that I might be able to do some more traveling post grad before I have to renew this thing.

Not sure if I'm going to keep up with this blog outside of travel, but perhaps I'll talk about the adventures I have. I know I'm going to have some unrelated to travel as I prepare for high school graduation. Maybe I'll make a campus visit to my top choices to see if any of them pull ahead in the rankings behind Hopkins, but that remains to be seen. Until next time,

Day Six and Seven: The One Where We Go Home

Tuesday saw another early start, as we had plans to be at Chena Hot Springs Resort. The reason we had to leave so early is that the road to...