Monday, September 17, 2012

A Surprise Adventure

A happy mistake took us to an amazing place!!

We were on our way to Hohenzellern castle when after two and half hours we realized the GPS had taken us to somewhere we hadn't intended to go.  In an effort to make the best of it, we found the nearest castle ruins (just a couple miles away from our non-destination) and then had a drink at the restaurant just outside the ruins.  Suddenly, Stephen suggested we go to Garmish, Germany which was only 2.5 hrs further, we were in the middle, do we make an adventure of the day, or get back in the car and head home?

After hostilely overthrowing my dad's opinion we got back into the car and headed for Garmish, making it a true adventure with no change of clothes or a tooth brush. Garmisch is my favorite place in the world and I was so excited share it with my parents.  I knew that despite my dad's now foul attitude, he was about to see the magic and splendor of the German Alps.

As the mountains began to rise from the horizon, my mom started crying because of the beauty.  My dad's grumbles and defeated sighs became fewer and my own soul buzzed with the excitement of our return.

I found an excellent hotel on my iPhone, chose a restaurant as recommended by Trip Advisor users and had a great evening with my parents.  Sadly Stephen had to take Zac back to the hotel.  Poor Zac was way to wiped to do the restaurant thing.   But it did give us an opportunity to dine leisurely and not have to worry about Mr. Z throwing a fit or having trouble.  Thank you Stephen!  I'm sorry that you had to eat your dinner as take out, but your sacrifice was not taken for granted.

The next day, I convinced my mom that a gondola going 2950 meters straight up into the clouds was our next must do.  Sadly the cloud cover at the top of the summit prevented us from seeing anything further away than about 10 feet.  The observation deck was already covered in snow and ice even though it was upper 70's at the foot of the mountain (Zugspitz).

After the gondola ride, we took Zac to a small play ground, at a restaurant and had a drink before heading out to our final restaurant choice - a place that Stephen and I had spent Thanksgiving dinner with his parents two years before.

With our bellies full and Zac totally exhausted, we set out for our 3.5 hr trip home.  We made it home in great time with no trouble and we are still talking about how amazing our spontaneous adventure was and how very well Zac traveled.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Schwartzwald - Day 2/3

After a hearty nap, Zac woke about 5pm sunday and we walked over to a nearby city fest.

It was a smallish beer tent with (lame) live music. Fun was being had by the stein. We stayed for one drink and headed back to the hotel for a light dinner.

We had a much easier bedtime this time and I fell asleep well before Stephen did (most likely because I tasked him with making sure Zac got to sleep ok - I was too pooped to keep going and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow).

Zac was up again at 6am, packing and cleaning was follows by b-fast at 7:30 and then off to cuckoo clock shopping.

Our first stop was to "the first worlds largest clock". We were disappointed because the doors were locked even though the posted hours stated they should be open. It turned out to be a good thing though because there s a difference between the "first" and the current "largest clock".

We found the current largest clock and it was considerably larger. For €2 each we got to go inside the clock and watch the gears turning. Very cool.

We then drove a bit and started our shopping trip near the bottom of the waterfalls we had visited earlier.

We found a clock with a more simple style and just a cuckoo (no music). See the photo on my Facebook profile.

Now we're on our way home and not a moment too soon (see photo).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Schwartzwald (Black Forrest): Day 1/2

The drive down went perfectly! Which is more than can be said for Friday afternoon!

On Fri, S got off work at noon due to a power outage for construction. So after he came home and Zac woke up, we decided to do some last minute errands.

While stopping for a coffee and snack, I lost a tooth-crown!! It just popped right off! I immediately called my dentist (who is usually closed on Fri) and was directed to the dental assistant. She kindly informed me that the doc was on vacation and would be flying out shortly.

I explained my issue and she instantly tried to get ahold of him.

Luckily, doc wasn't scheduled to fly until Saturday morning (to Afica for a hunting trip), so he met me at 5pm in K-town and did an emergency cement job.

Timing could NOT have been better!!

Now back to Saturday: the drive went perfect. We left shortly after lunch - a strategic move to save money on food and to ensure that Z would be in prime snoozing mode. Zac fell asleep 4 blocks from the house and stayed asleep for 2 hrs (the whole drive was 2.5 hrs).

We checked into our guesthouse (2 bedroom suite - not luxurious but very adequate) and then headed out to the triberg waterfalls ("highest waterfall in Germany)

It was a beautiful park and the falls were remarkable. We got tons of great shots (to be uploaded after we get home).

Saturday night didn't go quite as well. We had a disappointing dinner (though the hostess was an excellent one - very friendly and doted on Zac). Bedtime was a complete failure! Long story short - toddlers need routine, adults need breaks from "routine". Zac finally succumbed at 11pm and woke up at 6am.

After my near sleepless night (uncomfy bed) Mr. Z was ready to roll at 6. B-fast didn't start till 8 and our morning activity opened at 10am.

We were able to keep Zac occupied till 7:30 when we ventured out hoping at least to get some coffee. We lucked out and b-fast was just getting laid out. We enjoyed a simple cold b-fast and then spent some time at a near by playground.

At the appropriate time, we got into the car and headed to a Barefoot Park. There are a few of these in Germany - its a walk in the woods with varying terrain all with out shoes and socks.

It was a blast! We spent nearly 2 hours walking around the trails (Zac insisted on intermittent carrying). We followed that up with a super lunch (more supper than lunch - which we all needed after a tough evening and rigorous morning).

Now zac is napping and we are back at the hotel - me on the terrace enjoying a glass of wine, and S in the room reading his book (and most likely checking his eyelids for holes.)

We aren't yet sure what we'll do for the rest of our trip - we'll check out tomorrow and head home midday - though what is in store for us, we don't yet know.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Adventures in Ireland: the final chapter...for this trip

Today officially marks 5 years of marriage for Stephen and I. To celebrate and honor this milestone we renewed our vows in a private hand-fasting ceremony.

It was just the two of us saying our vows to one another while literally tying the knots in a cord that was wrapped around our hands. This comes from an ancient Celtic tradition - and probably even predates the Celts.

We chose to do our hand-fasting at the cliffs. So, shortly after breakfast and just as soon as the morning drizzle let up we were out the door and at the cliffs again. We were there early enough that there were very few people and it really did feel like it was just him and I and the powerful forces of the wind, cliffs and waves. (Pics will soon be posted)

We also chose to hop in the car and take a drive to some near by villages where we found a beautiful spillway (see photo) and a busy sea side promenade - complete with surfers! We found some lovely trinkets and had some lunch before we headed back to the B&B for a rest. We watned to be sure to have enough energy for our night out on the town.

At a little before 6pm we got up and out to a recommended pub for some food and music. The pub was about 80% full by the time we got there but we found a great table just around the corner from the band. We couldn't see them, but we could hear them. It was a fun 6 piece band of an accordion, guitar, spoons and 2 mandolins.

I was hoping for a reenactment of the scene from the movie "Titanic" when Rose meets Jack below deck for a dance party. I think we may have left too early for such an event to occur - for here I sit typing at 9:15pm.

Hey, give me a break! We need to be on our way to the airport at 4:30am tomorrow!

I have had one funny coincidence each day that we've been in Ireland. Every where we go, I run into people from Wisconsin - and they have all been familiar with my home town, Wautoma!

This really is a small world.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Adventures in Ireland: Day Two

Today was our physically fit day. We started our morning with an attempt at walking to the nearby cliffs of Moher. The hostess said it was only 5 minutes away! After we were 15 minutes into our walk, we realized that she meant it was a 5 minute car ride. So we changed our focus and went for a long morning walk around the countryside.

We are staying in an area that is quite rural. In fact, Mrs. B&B runs the inn while Mr. B&B tends the cows. There is even a hobby petting farm one house up.

The land here is all rolling hills that are parceled by beautiful ancient stacked shale stone fences and watched over by surprisingly large, simple and colorful houses.

After our walk, we returned to the Inn for a freshly prepared breakfast that included eggs, sausage, toast, fruit, yogurt, juice and coffee. Stephen and I shared a very leisurely and intimate meal while sitting in a quiet dining room. These are the moments that really resonate with me when we are traveling and for the first time, I realized I was on vacation.

At midday we went sea kayaking! We took a 3 hour paddle around the bay of Galway and it was magic! Not to mention the magic that was needed to get my curvy body into a wetsuit. Whoa, it's a been a few years since I had one on last but the feeling is the same. It's both a feeling of security and of suffocation. I don't know if I'll ever be strong enough or skilled enough to get into one of those things by myself!

The day started drizzly and grey but cleared up in time for us to set out into the water. About 40 minutes into the tour, it started drizzling again, then down pouring! The drizzle was enchanting, the downpour was misery. Thankfully the heavy rains swept further out into the ocean and we were eventually treated with sunny, partly-cloudy skies for the last hour of our tour. We saw castle ruins, sea birds and migratory birds aplenty. We took a quick stretch on a sandbar beach out in the middle of the bay. Most significantly, we didn't fall in. Water temps are still pretty cool here this time of year.

We savored some pub grub at McDermot's in the village of Doolin after our paddle. It was the best Guiness Pie I've ever had (a total of two). We had every intention of sticking around for the live music, until we found out that they started playing at 9:30pm. It was only 5:30 and there wasn't enough good beer in the bar to keep us satisfied for 4 hours.

Oh, and then there's that whole "up after 8pm" thing that we still struggle with.

We resolved to stay out late tomorrow night (St. Patty's Day) and really enjoy the culture!

I now write this posting from my bed at 8:45 with very heavy eyelids. Party people, we are not.

Adventures in Ireland: Day One

On Thursday, March 15,
2012, Stephen and I were out of bed at 3:15am to prepare for our very early flight to Ireland. Thankfully this time we made it to the airport with no problems (our last trip to the airport started out with a flat tire 10 minutes from home).

We got on the flight and had smooth sailing into London-Heathrow. It was very exciting to see the city below appear as we descended through the clouds and then down into the famed "London Fog". Unfortunately, that London fog caused us 30 minutes circling of the airport and 3 hour delay on our next flight.

Eventually we got onto or Ireland flight where I sat next to a very entertaining but frazzle man who was headed home after being away from his 2 daughters (ages 6-yrs & 10-months with one on the way) since Christmas time. He worked in Australia and had been awake for roughly 48 hours. Oh, and he was a smoker and if you ask me, it had been quite a while since his last fix.

We landed in Shannon (on the west coast) and drove for about a half hour to our beautiful Bed and breakfast located just one mile from the Cliffs of Moher(google it! You may have seen the cliffs in such movies as "Harry Potter").

When we first stepped off the plane, I was immediately assaulted by the sea air mingled with dairy air. It was the most overwhelmingly charming sent I've ever experienced! It sounds horrifying, but it was so non-sequitur that my brain was totally baffled into submission.

We decided to take our hostess' advice and had dinner at the home of "BIM Seafood Chef of the Year 2011"- a small-ish restaurant called Vaughn's.

We put our GPS to the test and selected the restaurant. We ended up driving on what Stephen labeled "pony trails" of roads for over half an hour when we showed up at a "Vaughn's" but NOT the one our hostess suggested (which we had passed on our way in to the B&B just an hour or so before).

In an effort to correct the error we headed back to the hotel and began recognizing land marks - thus enabling us to make our way to the real Vaughn's.

Stephen ordered a lamb dish that was amazingly delicious. I had a surprisingly disappointing fish and chips with my first pint of Guinness. Ireland - I am not impressed by your idea of beer (IMHO: watery with a good initial bouquet but sours on the aftertaste. I equate it to licking roofing tiles.)

After settling the bill, we headed "home" for a semi-restful night (strange bed+cool temps=semi-restful).

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011

When I was 5, Christmas meant gifts!  When I was 15, Christmas meant giving, so long as I got gifts.  When I was 25, Christmas really was about giving.  Now that I'm 30 ( with 31 looming just 3 days away and an almost 2-year-old-son) it really, really, truly about giving.

It's so amazing how Christmas evolves each year that you celebrate it.  About 3 years ago (2008) Stephen and I were looking face-to-face with our very first Christmas alone.  Just the two of us.  We thought it would be special and romantic;  in a way it was, but in another very real way it was not.

We found that we were alone, separated and a bit left out of what our families were experiencing.  Anyone who's ever experienced a major holiday away from their extended family can relate...which, sadly, is quite a few families in wake of what we've experienced lately (military wise).

As a response, we resolved never to spend a Christmas "alone" again without making it adventure in some way.

The following Christmas (2009), we planned a trip to the German Alps and were expecting our child within a few months.  In 2010, we again took a trip to the German Alps during Thanksgiving (with son and my in-laws happily in tow) and then enjoyed our son's first Christmas at home.  This year, we are headed (no surprise) to the German Alps the day after Christmas and are quite looking forward to it.  It seems that we've started our own family tradition!

Today, we throughly enjoyed watching our son voraciously ripping into his Christmas gifts that came from grandparents, Aunt, Great Aunt/Uncle and mom & dad.  We were thrilled to see the joy he derived from discovering and triumphing over the new challenges laid before him.

The day was truly a balancing act.  With a nearly-2-year-old, one must decide when too much "new" has been enough.  In fact, we reached the "too much new" phase about 10 am this morning when he was ready for some alone time in his room and fell asleep for a 2 hour nap (he usually naps around 2pm).  We were then left with an over-stimulated, over-excited young'in in the afternoon.  Thankfully, video-calls to both sets of parents and the God-parents gave Zac the outlet he needed for the afternoon energy surge.

After dinner (Enchiladas: A Watson tradition I am LOVING!), we played a rousing game of "which parent is craziest, which eventually lead to exhaustion.  As it stands now, we just need Papa to pack his bag and get a cache of snacks and we'll be ready for our 2011 adventure in the Alps.

This year we've got a gorge hike planned.  Thanks to global warming, the Alps have seen record lows of snowfall, which means sledding is out;  but hiking is in!  Stay tuned for photos and stories of our latest adventures.

With our story told, we hope, from the bottom our our hearts, that you have throughly enjoyed the best Christmas of your life!

Look forward to 2012 because it's going to be an amazing year!!!

(Photos coming soon!!!)