February 21, 2013

London 2.15 - 2.18.2013

February 15
The day started with a trip to Munich, oh joy! The airport! Things went swimmingly there.  No issues at all.  We got on the plane and settled in for our short trip to CDG (Paris).  I saw the Eiffel Tower way off in the distance…I believe that’s as close as I’ll get but that’s okay.  We landed with plenty of time to get through customs, lunch and even smoke.  Customs was silly.  The guy started speaking to Rachel in French.  I don’t recall how or why, but I told him that we were super spies and we were training Taylor to be a spy.  I showed him both of our passports and he ended up stamping all of them.  Not sure how great that is in an “official” passport, but whatever.  After buying lunch I passed Taylor and Kari off to a man wearing a Superman shirt.  I told them that he was a super hero so they’d be safe with him.  He said, “Only if there’s a phone booth nearby…” in his British accent.  It was pretty amusing.  Then we decided he was a super spy, as were we.  It was all pretty great.  Rachel and I went to smoke while Kari and Taylor talked to Superman.  He was heading off on a “mission” and left before we got back.  He really looked like Stone Cold Steve Austin...in a Superman shirt.  At any rate, we hopped onto our connecting flight and headed to Heathrow.  Once we got there things were still smooth.  Customs was a breeze, we managed to get our Oyster Cards with very little hassle.  Then we hopped on the tube.  We had NO idea where to go.  I looked at the map on the wall, I knew that Kensington Olympia was the station nearest the hotel.  So I picked the tube stop nearest to that and we got off there.  BIG MISTAKE.  Just because it looks close on a map of the tube does not mean it is.  Well, that depends on your definition of close.  We were about 2 miles off.  Not a huge deal…except that my rolly suitcase weighed about 40lbs, the carryon was heavy, and Rachel’s bag was no rolly and pretty dang heavy.  Wandering the streets of Chelsea and Kensington…well it wasn’t bad.  We got to see a lot of awesome things.  Including Jaguars, Bentley’s, and Range Rovers…just all over the place.  Parked in the driveways of these amazing townhomes.  HUGE townhomes.  So pretty.  We were definitely in a desirable area of town.  It made the walk nice because we didn’t have to be looking around looking for dodgy characters.  The dodgiest characters were saw were doggies.  Har har play on words.  So we FINALLY got to the hotel.  Our room was on the 8th floor.  Okay, there were only 4 floors including the attic.  But after all that walking? It felt like the 8th floor.  After a short while we figured out that they had given us the wrong room so Rachel and I went downstairs to talk to the staff about it.  She showed us another room on the second floor that was actually our room, she was unsure of what had happened.  So we switched rooms.  Both rooms were great, and honestly, had Taylor not been there…I’d probably have stayed in the first room.  But it was a “shared bathroom” room, so the bathroom was the next floor down.  Us grown up’s could handle that but it kinda freaked me out to think of sending Taylor down and away to potty or shower.  So we switched.  Both rooms were great.  The whole hotel was great.  We were very happy.  We asked the staff where nearby to eat, they told us about a few different places, including a pub on the corner.  Literally 1 townhome and across the street from the hotel.  I sent Rachel in to see if they allowed kids in there…some pubs are weird about that after certain hours.  No problem, Tay was in.  We had delicious amazing food and I drank some kind of delicious local draft beer.  Perfect ending to a pretty good travel day (minus the getting a little lost…thank Steve Jobs for maps on the iPhone).  We went to sleep pretty easily, we were all fairly exhausted but super excited about what the next day would bring.

February 16
This time we found the Kensington Olympia station.  It’s above ground train but goes straight to the underground at Earl’s Court.  From there we hopped on the Piccadilly Line and then switched to the Bakerloo line to that we could hit Oxford Circus.  We were looking for the Disney store, which we found.  It was only a tiny bit of trouble, nothing crazy.  I just kept telling my map that I was driving, which I was not.  Once we figured it out, we were good.  We stopped at H&M and took a picture of Taylor there to send to Danny.  Mostly because he hates H&M.  Taylor ended up getting a really cute outfit there, I did as well…it came in handy later.  After all of that, we were looking for a Claires.  We never did find the Claires in Oxford, but we did meet a beautiful chocolate brown Am Staf/Pit mix named…Yorkshire something.  I can’t remember his full name.  But it was Yorkshire something.  I want to say Pete, but I know that’s not it.  He was such a love muffin!! We seriously spent about 30mins (or more) just loving on him.  He knows tricks and he can dance.  The man was a street magazine salesmen, we bought one of his magazines…but mostly we talked about the dog.  He was a rescue and now lives with the man, goes everywhere with him.  Typically he just lays in his chair there but we were so excited about seeing him and loving on him that he got excited and hopped down to play with us.  He had a touch of arthritis, but he was spry and amazing.  I loved him.  I wish I could have brought him back with me.  He was amazing, so so so so sweet.  Reminded me of Rainbow.  We finally tore ourselves away from the pup and headed to Starbucks for a pick-me-up and some lunch.  I got some sort of iced coffee with 4 shots of espresso…definitely picked up.  I also ate this falafel thing soooo tasty.  Kari and I won the birds, Rachel and Taylor went inside to eat.  But I could not let the birds win!! Damn pigeons.  They were dive bombing us and trying to eat our eyeballs.  But we won!! We finished our food despite the little winged rats.  We found the tube, headed back to Piccadilly.  I don’t know what it is but I really enjoy Piccadilly.  The girls seemed to like it too.  It’s fun, high energy, and…just has this…feel about it.  The problem was we had to pee.  All of us.  We thought our bladders may explode.  There is NO WHERE TO PEE IN PICCADILLY!! Okay, in the tube there is a bathroom but none of us had the 50pence or 1euro to get in.  Stupid monies.  We spot some golden arches.  YES!! No.  There is a guard to the downstairs, where the bathroom is.  Rachel asks him to go down, he lets her.  He won’t let the rest of us.  So we go stand in line to buy something so we can get down there.  He, this bathroom guard, is a Jamaican man…cool accent when it’s mixed with a bit of an English accent.  He comes over and says we can go downstairs.  So we wander over.  Poor Kari was first and he says, “No no, not you, where is my darling? She goes first.” Me, being the smart ass I am, pop around Kari and say, “Here I am!” to which he begins laughing very heartily.  “How did you know I was talking about you?” He asks though the laughing.  “It’s the tattoos.” I shrug.  Cause I know it is, that’s why he let Rachel down in the first place, he saw her tattoos.  So we joke with him for a few minutes, then we go down to pee.  On the way back up he makes the other girls wait, literally parts the crowd of paying customers and grabs my hand and “twirls” me out of the store.  It was freakin’ hilarious.  I started saying I was McDonalds royalty at that point.  We ended up heading to Boots from there – think Walgreens – because I needed something for the pain.  It was creeping up more and more.  I figured it was from all the stairs and walking, no big deal.  I got some Ibuprofen and some Paramedecol or something like that…basically Tylenol.  Then we head to Cool Britannica.  Pretty much my fave souvenir shop…primarily because there are Bulldogs everywhere.  I’m easy like that.  There was a great older man in there dressed up with this crazy crow like bird (stuffed), we talked to him for a bit.  He’s thinking of getting his first tattoo which I highly support of course.  We found lots of good stuff, Danny’s requested tea…another bobble-head Stella…some stuff for Taylor’s friend Chloe...and a couple things for The Bar and The Bar Too.  I also got Gin a silly birthday present, nothing super awesome, just silly.  There was some sort of Love fest of something going on by the statue of Eros (Cupid, basically).  It almost looked like an Occupy London type of thing…but it was definitely more about peace, love and acceptance.  And the whacky tobaccy…that smell was abundant.  We went on the bus tour after that, we sat on the top open part for most of the trip.  It got COLD.  So we moved under.  But not until Kari got tons of great pics.  I got some good pics…til my camera battery died.  Stupid camera.  It was pretty fun though, we were so silly.  We wandered around Piccadilly at the end of the tour looking for food.  Everywhere had a 1 ½ or more wait time…finally I remembered Bella Italia, the place I went with Shannon and her Mom.  We headed there and waited for about 15mins…or less…to be seated.  The food was DELICIOUS.  The table next to ours…they were raging monsters.  The teenage girl was awful.  I wanted to throw things at them, but instead I just offered my services to the server in the form of whacking them with the huge pepper grinder.  Good times.  After the rude family left, a bridal party showed up.  They were so gorgeous, all of them.  It made me want to puke lol.  Then worse, they were SWEET! Rachel told the bride congrats and how cute they were (the bridesmaids were all in pink tutus with pig ears and noses, the bride was in a white tutu with cow ears and tail).  We talked with them for about 30 mins, they were Irish and so sweet.  They told me I looked 20, which was fabulous…then they thought Taylor was 17.  Which was not fabulous.  Dang tall child.  I was wondering if they had applications…in order to hang out with them you had to be hot.  Cause they were all super hot.  On the way back to the hotel we got on the tube…but before doing so there was another magazine salesman that pulled us aside.  He thought that Taylor, Kari, and Rachel were my children.  So I aged about 20 years from the walk from the restaurant to the tube.  He was a very flirty very old alcoholic (drinking wine on the street corner while selling his magazines) and he told me his name was Johnny Too Good.  Rachel was trying to get me to leave but I was amused.  Most British men, especially the older ones, are terrible flirts but completely harmless.  He had thought I was Irish, oddly, but I told him I had a proper British surname.  He asked what it was and I told him, then he said, “Really? You think that’s a proper British surname?” And I said, “Yes, of course.” Then he pointed to the building behind me.  Wyndham Theater.  He said it was one of the more famous theaters in London.  Imagine that.  Me and my proper British surname, we’re famous.  Not that I didn’t know that.  After finishing up with Johnny Too Good, we headed back to the hotel.  Easily.  Since we’d figured out the right way to take the tube to the train.  We giggled a lot, visited out favorite little convenience store to get some drinks, and went to our room.  That evening we met the co-owner of the hotel as we were talking to the desk woman.  She was from Poland, the same town as Persyda’s Mom.  Very cool.  All of the female staff we spoke too were Polish.  The co-owner of the hotel had grown up in London but his parents had emigrated from Armenia.  Sooooo cool the amount of people you meet from everywhere.  London makes me think of what New York must be like.  We headed to our room and passed out fairly quickly.  It had been a long day and we had a lot of plans for Sunday and I was in quite a bit of pain so it was time to sleep it off.

February 17
Sunday didn’t go quite as planned.  After breakfast I was still in a crazy amount of pain.  It was the weirdest pain.  It was shooting from my right lower hip area to my cervix.  I know, TMI.  But if you have a cervix, you know there is an odd pain that only comes from the cervix.  It happens when getting the exam and they swab the cervix, or really when anything touches it.  It’s a sensitive little bugger.  Rachel then talked me into going to the ER.  There was no way I was going to function.  The Ibuprofen and Tylenol were not cutting it, I was in agony.  So Rachel asked the woman at the front desk about the nearest hospital, she pointed it out on the map then offered to call a taxi.  Rachel explained to her what was going on and she became very concerned, it was super sweet.  She asked me if I’d like her to make me some chamomile tea while we waited for the taxi and stuff, she kept telling Rachel I’d be okay.  It was really sweet and yet another reason I love that hotel (London Visitors Hotel, by the way).  I showered and then we asked her to call a taxi for us.  Rachel and I were going to the hotel and we sent Taylor and Kari to Piccadilly to look for a Claires.  Kari’s navel ring had fallen out so she needed a new one.  They had mastered the overground to Earl’s Court then to Piccadilly, plus Kari had looked up directions to the Claires, so they were ready.  Meanwhile, we went to the ER.  It was pretty fully but they got me back fairly quickly.  I had to pee in a little tin thing, then pour it into a tube.  Weird, but effective.  The doc tested it, everything checked out fine.  He asked me my medical history then got me up on the table.  “You have adhesions.  Why didn’t they take out your cervix?” He said matter of factly.  “I don’t know.” I don’t.  “Well they should have.  You have adhesions, I can feel them here.” I’m squirming in pain as he’s touching the part of my belly that hurt, between my lower hip to bellybutton area.  Lovely.  He sits me back down at the chair and says, “I wouldn’t advise you to have surgery again unless absolutely needed…in Germany.” He didn’t seem to be a fan of the care I had received.  Which was fine, it seems every country thinks that their care is the best.  And honestly, I don’t know why they didn’t yank my cervix either.  It just seems like something left in there for scar tissue to stick to.  After that madness, the doc prescribed me…something.  Don’t know what.  Tylenol with something narcotic.  It works, I feel a little pain but not anything like it was.  I do feel stupid as hell though…the joy of narcotics.  We went to Boots to fill the prescript and then went back to call a taxi and wait.  While we were waiting a nice man asked for a light…he was a down-on-his-luck type of guy.  He was at the hotel visiting his friend (whose name I can’t remember).  She’s 93 and not looking so good, he said.  He was hoping she’d live to 100 because then you get a letter from the Queen!! I told him I’d pray for her to make it to 100 and even beyond.  So if you think about it, blog reading friends, say a prayer for her.  Our taxi finally gets there and let me just say – had I not taken the pain pills I may have died.  Rachel and I were laughing SO hard it was ludicrous.  The man drove the wrong way down a one way road.  I was saying I would be so scared to drive in London, he said, “You don’t drive.  You enjoy.” Then he floors it and starts honking at everyone.  We were cracking up so hard I’m surprised we didn’t wet out pants.  He would honk and wave at pedestrians, “Why you no wave back? I wave at you!” HONK! Then he saw a car that had passed us not long before, “I know her! I’ve seen her before, earlier.  Maybe she does not remember me.” He starts honking and waving at the Range Rover.  “Why does she not wave back?” HONK.  It continued like that for the entire trip.  When he finally dropped us off, he deducted our fair because we were fun I think.  I tipped him, probably too much, but it was SO much fun and the stress melted away because of his silliness.  I told him every time I heard a honk from then on out, I’d think of him <3 as he drove away he honked about 6 times lol.  It was fabulous.  We ended up going upstairs and making reservations to eat at Planet Hollywood at 5pm.  I felt like shit, my high from the silly man had worn off and I felt like I ruined the Sunday.  We had SO many plans to take the bus around, get off at allllll the stops (well the big ones) and take pictures.  And I ruined that.  I was getting very down.  So I decided after dinner, I was heading back to the hotel.  I told Rachel because I knew she’d get it.  She decided she’d come with me, primarily cause she was worried about me I think.  I gave Kari and Taylor precise directions to get to Platform 9 3/4.  It's not difficult, you just get on the Piccadilly line and take the Kings Cross or St. Pancras stop, Kings Cross is across from St. Pancras.  We traveled mostly on the Piccadilly line so they were pretty familiar with it.  Rachel and I got back to the hotel and started packing everything up, we had to leave the hotel at 730am to catch the bus to go to the tube.  The girls got back from being Harry Potter dorks hehe and were happy.  I still felt like a jerk and like I ruined an entire day.  I was really trying to avoid that.  Sigh.  We finished packing up, got everything squared away, and fell quickly to sleep.

February 18
We woke up at 6am and started getting ready.  I wore my outfit from H&M, a tank dress with leggings, with a sweater over the top.  It was super comfy on my belly.  By 730 we were out the door and headed towards the bus stop…which we eventually found.  We took the bus to the…Nightsbridge? I don’t know, some tube station that was on the Piccadilly line.  From there it was straight to Heathrow.  We had enough time to cash in the rest of our Oyster card, I got cash back from mine because I had exactly 20pound left on there, and Taylor and Kari’s got refunded to my card and popped up the next day.  We went into Heathrow, got through customs and security, and then found food.  We ate at a coffee place.  I carried my food onto the plane with me cause I didn’t want to rush eating, my stomach already hurt enough.  When we got into Paris is when everything got jacked up.  Our flight out of Heathrow was delayed for whatever reason so we made it to Paris with 30mins to get to our flight.  Which could have been easy…but it wasn’t.  We ended up being outside the security part of the airport, then had to go back through security…then more or less run to the gate.  I didn’t run.  It may have jostled something loose.  But Kari and Rachel were running.  I was walking briskly.  We made it, just barely, and completely out of breath.  Phew.  Once we got to Munich things continued on their bad streak.  No luggage.  Sad.  I guess our luggage didn’t run as fast as the girls did.  We filed a claim and the got in the Jeep and headed home.  Our luggage showed up on the 19th and all was well.  Thus ends the day by day account of the journey of 4 silly American girls to London.

In closing, it was amazing.  I very highly recommend the London Visitors Hotel, it was amazing.  I also recommend the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital if you need care.  They were awesome.  And Bella Italia in Piccadilly is absolutely delish!! I want to go back.  Right right right now!!!

January 6, 2013

words paint pictures...Poland

My last blog on the subject was very much about the trip aspect of Poland, the pottery...the stores...the accident.  I'd like to take a moment to use pretty flowery words to describe Poland in general.  The parts that we saw.  The people we met.  Not just the shopping and such, but Poland itself and the feel I got from it.  I am huge on feelings, I feel like certain cities/towns speak to you.  If you pay attention you can see the history through the paint, you can see the struggle or opulence.  It's even more obvious in Europe, I believe.  So let's begin, I will take you on a fantastical journey called "Poland, trip one".

As we began the drive crossing from Germany into Poland things began looking more...oddly like driving down the interstate in the states.  Just at first.  When you start entering populated areas you could see the difference.  The homes, the yards, even the land itself.  While on the autobahn, the most common sights were farms.  Some of the farm houses were very beautiful and preserved, others were a bit run down.  We noticed right away that there was a common building color.  Grey.

Once we got into Bolesławiec, our beginning hours were spent seeking out pottery.  Even during this time I was taking note of the landscape and homes.  The sky was grey and overcast, many buildings were grey, the trees had lost their leaves leaving only naked grey-looking trees interspersed with the evergreens.  We came across a home.  A yellow home.  The yard was still a bit stark but I could imagine it with spring green grass and the trees full of leaves.  I could imagine laundry hanging on the line getting that fresh smell only the sun can bring.  I imagined the people living there in this large home making borscht to eat for their midday meal.  But as it was, things looked a bit bleak.  I would love to revisit during spring or summer to see if the reality matches my imagination.

As we left the pottery area and drove to the restaurant, we saw large stores we recognized from Germany.  We noticed little stores, boutiques and grocery stores.  Then we hit a very residential area where most of the buildings were those I have become accustomed to seeing in eastern parts of  Europe.  Large rectangle apartment style buildings, very functional but not very stylish.  I equate these things with living behind the Iron Curtain, countries that lived with communism for many years.  Function was key, comfort was not.  The things that we take for granted were frivolous and not needed in communistic countries.  Most of these buildings were grey, fitting the theme I had been seeing.  Some buildings had been painted brightly, trying to convey a new message of hope and happiness.  Bright yellows, greens, oranges, reds.  Still very geometric, straight lines...still the same rectangle functional buildings.  Just bright and cheerful.  Trying.

As we exited that part of town we entered the countryside again.  We came across more of the fully functional farms, beautiful land, stone houses.  We stumbled upon several large brick or stone homes that you could just tell had once been stunning and gorgeous...windows now bricked over or completely open with no screens or covering.  Parts of roofs caved in, a bit of tagging here or there.  I wanted to live in those places, I wanted to crawl into an open window and make myself a home.  Start small, then transform it to it's former beauty...a traditional Polish home filled with beautiful pottery and walls in that blue so popularly used in the traditional patterns.  Lots of candle light, dim lights, nothing over powering.  I could see myself inside this stately home with my Great Dane laying by the fire and Stella on a faux fur rug.  These are the things I was seeing as I saw these homes.  I know most people saw crumbling and decaying facades and nothing more.  Sometimes having a very active creative imagination gets me into trouble.  Sometimes it creates beautiful images that only I can see, that only I can describe.  It is usually a blessing.  I enjoy finding beauty in things that others view as decay.

As we continued driving we came across a new housing development, some homes still being built.  They were large homes made of stucco with clay tile roofs very much like the ones I often see in Bavaria.  The architecture was gorgeous with many curves and arches, details missing from the functional apartment buildings.  They were beautiful, but far less beautiful than the homes I had been creating in my mind.  They seemed very out of place.

Once we neared the restaurant we were eating at, some of the homes were rather large and seemed more like the ones I had created.  But directly next to that home would be one of the ones I had already fallen in love with, a beautiful stone home with blemishes beyond many peoples abilities to see the beauty.  The restaurant itself was gorgeous.  It is also an inn and for my future trips, I plan on staying in that inn and exploring more of the surrounding area.  There appeared to be a working farm that was either part of the inn or at least attached to it.  There were horses, farm cats, and dogs.  Basically Bri heaven.

By the time we were leaving the restaurant, not only was the sky still grey, dusk was setting in casting even more shadow on places that already seemed dark.  From that point, I was sitting in a back seat and was less able to see reality so I kept focusing on the beauty that others don't see, the beauty my mind was creating for me.

Once we exited Poland things got back to being common place for me.  This section of Germany may have been East Germany and also behind the Iron Curtain but it seemed that if that was the case, they had rebounded much more quickly than the still recovering portion of Poland we had just left.

All in all, I loved the trip to Poland, I loved the things that were seen and unseen.  I plan on returning very soon, with or without buying pottery.  I want to check and double check that I have my SD card this time, make sure it is clear and ready for an absurd amount of pictures.  I want to make people see things the way that I see them or at least help create a better scene for them.  These things will happen, I am determined.

The way I saw Poland reminded me very much of the way that I saw Croatia, which I have not blogged about - but I will.

I hope that you have enjoyed my verbal tour of Bolesławiec and the surrounding countryside.


January 5, 2013

"Super Secret Trip"

I was recently presented the opportunity to go to a country that I have been hoping to go to since we got here.  Not for myself.  Don't get me wrong, I like traveling.  I want to go EVERYWHERE.  But if I didn't have loved ones that had a vested interest in this country, it wouldn't have made my list most likely...my HAVE TO GO OR ELSE list.  But alas, I do love them.  So when this opportunity popped up, I jumped on it.

Poland.  I have mentioned my dear friend Lajo in previous blogs, both here and on the other blog.  Her family is like my family...whether they like it or not.  I adore her side of the family and I love her husbands family.  I just adore them.  And I like to think that they adore me.  Well I don't mention last names on my blogs, but I will just say there are some "...ski"s involved.  Very Polish.  So I wanted to go to Poland and find the boys something, find Milf (that's her name, I don't care what anyone else says).  I was also able to find a couple of things for St. Babs, which shocked me a little bit, but it was still good.

The whole point of this trip was to buy Polish Pottery.  It's kind of a big thing.  Polish Pottery.  It's very popular and there are all of these outlets where we went.  Plus...well...it was Poland.

So.  The trip started by us leaving very early in the morning and heading to the Sparkasse in town to get Euro and into the bakery for breakfast.  I somehow managed to lock us out of the car.  Awesome.  We sent Kodie and Taylor to the house to go get the extra key.  I am a genius.  Luckily it wasn't far.  So we get on the road.  I can't remember who started driving lol, all I remember is that at some point I'm driving (I believe after the rest stop).  I drive til Dresden which is where we stopped for gas.  I didn't lock anyone out.  YAY!! Denise took over driving because we were close to the Polish border and I don't have an international license.  We get into town and find a great shop.  We went into several, made some good purchases.  Things begin to get interesting right about here.

We go into an Antique shop.  I'm in love, there are so many amazing antiques! I'm mentally making a list of the things I want to buy.  Then I see a little shrunk type thing...however because it sounds creepier, I am calling it a closet.  A closet of horrors.  I look in and I literally stop breathing...I can't move...I just stare.

Allllll nazi memorabilia.  We're talking rings, medals, SS stuff, swastika stuff...Hitler specific stuff...helmets, sharp stabby knives with swastika's on them...just...wow.  I know that there is a lot of history involving Poland and the nazi's...but it just felt very...wrong.  You don't really see stuff like that in Germany.  I'm sure there is some here, but it's not on display in a little pottery/antique shop.

So Rachel and I left the building and we were doing that weird "super awkward laugh" thing...we didn't even know how to react or what to think.  It honestly made me feel ill as opposed to historical.

The next shop was a great pottery shop where I made several of my discoveries and purchases.  After that we hit one more shop where I bought several more pieces, then we headed to lunch.

Food was AMAZING.  I ate perogies.  In Poland.  Kind of awesome.  I also drank an "organic on tap" Polish beer.  It's right up there with my favorite Croatian beer, it was SO good.  Delicious and great service, plus it was very well priced.

After that we went back to the first pottery shop and picked up a few things I had initially seen and wasn't sure about but decided I wanted.  Then we began the journey home.

Denise drove until Dresden, then Maryanne took over.  This is where things get...we'll go with funny, now that it's over.

7 American women, 2 Polish men, and 2 German Polizei park at a gas station...

That's the start of a pretty great joke, right?

No.  It's the ending of a pretty traumatic event haha.

So everything is going fine, it's raining but it's not too terrible.  So we think.  The speed limit was around 130km there and we were pushing 80km at the most...just taking it easy.  All of a sudden we were HYDROPLANING.  We were all over the place, literally swerving across the lanes, fishtailing everywhere....it was awful.  We were all kind of yelling, Maryanne was silent but trying to regain control over the vehicle.  Finally she was able to stop. In the fast lane.  On the autobahn.  What I haven't mentioned is that in our journey across the lanes we were rear ended.  By a diesel.  On the autobahn.  They pulled over off to the right so we eventually were able to make it over to them.

I cannot even explain how lucky we were.  There is a scratch on each side of the rear fender and the rear right light cover looks like it's popped off a little.  That is all.  We are all fine, our necks and shoulders hurt but it's from tensing up.  Denise went into shock, Maryanne did too I think...I got an adrenaline rush that made me shake like a crackhead, Taylor and Kodie were pretty freaked out...and Rachel was just glad she had taken her anxiety meds early enough that they had kicked in.  Luckily I had as well.  So oddly, Rachel and I were the most calm.  That NEVER happens lol.  We get out to talk to the diesel drivers.  Great.  Polish men who speak next to no English.  Okay.  So I get out my handy dandy iPhone and translate "Are you okay" with my translator app.  They nod and hand it back, asking the same question basically (it's amazing what hand gestures can do).  I nod and translate "scared" then grab my heart and scream lol.  He nods and points to the two of them, grabs his heart and screams too lol.  It was like a super twisted game of charades.

The Polizei show up.  They speak zero English.  And zero Polish.  So we are 3 different nationalities who cannot effectively speak to one another.  LOVELY haha.  The Polizei suggests we drive down the road 5km.  He leads, we all follow, very slowly.  He pulls into a gas station parking lot and pulls under the diesel fuel station with the covers over it - it's still raining.  I leave the girls to do the talking since I was in the backseat at the time, and I go chain smoke.  Seriously I was so...ARGH.  It took about an hour but finally everything was all hashed out, papers were filed, fault was deemed (ours), a fine was charged (35euro) and then we were free to go.  The diesel driver shook our hands which was really nice.  I know that truck drivers get shaken about this stuff just as much as the passengers in the car involved.  It is something they fear greatly.  Or any of the good ones at least.  I know all of this stuff because my ex-Step-Dad was a truck driver the entire time I lived with him, from 7 to 21.  I know a good bit about diesels and truck drivers.  I know a good bit about the lifestyle, the mindset.  The laws.  The tricks about getting around weight limits.  Oh, I know how to "adjust" log books back when they were hand written.  I know allllllll sorts of fun stuff.  I was worried about them too, and I think they appreciated it.

Denise was intent on driving but I didn't think it was a good idea.  She was still pretty shaken.  I mean, it was her car...and it was just scary in general.  So I stepped up.  I remember saying, "I got this." lol.  And I did, I was totally fine.  I drove very slow because everyone in the van was a bit traumatized.  And we made it home safe and sound.

All in all, it was a great experience.  I can even see the positive in the accident.  Who survives an accident, on the autobahn...involving a diesel? That is a definite experience I will never forget.  We lived, we're awesome and so so so lucky.

Plus, I went to POLAND!!! One more country on my list.  I want to go back when I'm healed and spend more time there, perhaps overnight.  See more than just the pottery places and the food place (which really was delightful).  The company was great...everything was just wonderful...except that last bit.  I'd really rather not experience that again, once was enough.

So that's my bit trip and adventure.  I am exhausted beyond belief so I'm going to bid adieu and hit the hay after I add a few photos here for your viewing pleasure :)

Something in Polish :)

GIANT Polish Pottery

Walking further into town

The pottery tree!! This place was cool.

I don't know why, but I really liked this house.  A lot.

Taylor being weird...in front of the pottery tree


Taylor with Marilyn Monroe outside the scary store with the closet.

A Polish Pottery palm tree!! those are all plates.  So cool!

Taylor and I at the restaurant

I'm not going to lie, even though I knew this was a toothpick, the word threw me off big time...

Taylor's Polish Coke.

Myself and my glorious beer!!

My pierogies...in Poland...it excited me greatly.

My Greek Salad...in Poland...tryin' to get some extra culture.

Apple fritters with Kiwi, icecream, and hot fudge sauce...Taylor and I shared this...ohhhh yum

So that's all.  I HIGHLY recommend a trip to Poland, for pottery or just to wander about.  It's beautiful and completely amazing.  I will be going back and I will just pray very hard that there aren't any accidents on the way home.  Cause that was terrible.

I hope everyone enjoyed my blog and I hope that my J-Boys and Milf know how much I love them...I wouldn't do things like this for just anyone!! <3 <3


December 8, 2012

Skipping ahead: ENGLAND!!

I'm skipping Croatia and all the shorter trips around Germany, Christmas Markets, Oktoberfest...I want to get to England...then I'll go back when I have time.

The journey began on the 2 hour drive to Munich airport.  It's not a bad drive and since I wanted to fly Lufthansa, it was worth it.  I got to the airport and breezed through security and customs.  Customs used to terrify me, but I'm used to it now.  It wasn't bad and the people are nice.

Tip: If you are Military related stationed in Europe and traveling outside of your base country, take both your tourist passport (A MUST, even for "open borders"), and your no-fee or "official" passport.  Also, your Military ID.  They will ask you where you live, you will say Germany...they will look at your blue passport and hear your American accent and ask why or how.  Showing your no-fee and Mil ID will get you through the line quickly and with little to no hassle.

I boarded my flight and was lucky enough to be sitting in a row of 3 seats with no one between me and the man at the window.  We used the middle seat to hold our reading materials and such.  They brought us a snack even though it was 9ish in the morning, a half of a vegetarian sandwich and a half of a turkey one.  Both delicious but the vegetarian one was the best.  The first time around I asked for water with gas, they also have water without.  The next time they came around I ordered a beer.  Sounds weird, but beer and wine are free on the Lufthansa flights.  And I needed to relax.  The flight took a total of 1 hour and 40 minutes.  When I reached Heathrow...WOW.  Big airport.  I found my way to luggage and then made it through customs very easily, got my stamp and headed towards the area where you declare items if you have them.  I do not...ever.  I exited that area and almost immediately found Shannon!! Her Dad was there too.  He took my bag (which was great cause it was heavy and I was in a bit of pain).  We went out to the parking structure and Terry loaded my bag into the back of the British specs red car.  I can't remember if it was a Saab or a Volvo.  I'm thinking Saab though.  Either way, Terry commenced to drive on the "wrong" side of the car and the "wrong side" of the road.  It took about 2 hours to head to N'hants, where we were headed.  N'hants is short for Northamtonshire.  Best I could figure is that's like the state? Or maybe county? It's hard to figure these things out in foreign lands.

Upon arrival at Shannon's beautiful home, I was greeted by Apollo!! And her Mom, of course.  Apollo is their chocolate Lab and immediately he sensed "doggy sucker, I can get anything I want from this lady!".  It's like something I wear or something.  They just know.  Give me puppy dog eyes and I melt.  Throw in the fact that he's a Lab? And I'm done.

Shannon and I ate some Thanksgiving leftovers and talked like our normal insane selves.  I was so glad to learn that her parents are silly like us because I was really afraid that our insanity would scare them and I'd get banned from Shannon.  When Shanny and I get together we become ridiculous giggling machines.  And we laugh at the most juvenile things...but more on that later.

After all of that we began to get ready for the party.  The whole point of my trip was that I had been invited to Terry and Sandra's joint 50th Birthday party! It was a 60's theme and I was totally prepared.  I wore some crazy bellbottom pants, a flowy shirt, a faux leather vest, the headband...the whole 9.  After we were all good and ready, we piled into the Land Rover (yes, Land Rover...I am still jealous) and headed to the old beautiful Inn that the party was being held at.  Oh the heavens were with me, we had an open bar!! I drank two beers, I was so exhausted from getting up at 4am that had I drank anymore I'd have passed out right there.  The first portion of the party was mingling in the bar area.  There was another party at the Inn that night, but those people were dressed very classically, almost like ball wear.  It was their Christmas party.  Every time I went out to smoke I made a new friend from that party.  The first was an English man and an Irish man, they were impressed that I knew that the Irish man was indeed Irish.  C'mon now, I'm not a complete stupid girl, I've been to Scotland and England...I know a different accent when I hear it.  Not to mention, I love me some accents.  Another time we went out, I struck up a conversation with an older woman who had been stationed in Berlin with the RAF way back in the day.  We discussed a lot about that.  When she went back in the man that was out smoking said, "Was that a man?" And we kind of looked at him.  "It's a part of my party...but I'm pretty sure it was a man in a dress..." he said.  Shannon and I started giggling, as horrible as it was.  The accent made it funny.  I enjoyed talking to him so much! When he told me he was gay, it clicked.  Duh, of course.  Silly me.  Then he invited me to live in his flat with him because I mentioned how much I loved it there, he said he was in the market for a new hag.  I loved that.  Often being called a hag would make me pretty mad...but when it's said lovingly by a gay man, it's a pretty good compliment.

We ate dinner then out came the (late) DJ.  Around that time Shannon, her brother Chris and I were about done.  We were exhausted and felt SO lame.  All of these people, most of them nearly double our age, were still going strong!! It was barely midnight and we were ready to call it a night.  Had it not been raining, me in flipflops of course, and then that pesky pain, we'd have walked home.  One of Terry and Sandra's friends overheard us and offered to drive us home.  He had just gotten a new Challenger and was keen to drive it any chance he got.  I must admit, that Hemi...very nice.  It was a fast, short trip to the house where I loved on Apollo a lot, drank some water...changed into PJ's and we headed to Shannon's room.  We were laying in bed, near time to fall asleep, when Sandra came in to check on us.  She let us know that she was heading back out, Terry was already at a neighbors in the hot tub.  STILL PARTYING!! And there we were completely lame and absolutely ridiculous.  We didn't mind, we went to sleep.

The next morning was spent sleeping in.  Really late.  I don't think we got up until after noon.  Which was okay.  We had plans but they were plans to stay in the area.  We were going to RAF (Royal Airforce, by the way) Alconbury.  That is where Shannon attended middle/high school and where many of her fondest memories are.  At the last minute, Terry decided that I could drive us to base as long as I could drive manual and thought I could master that whole wrong side of the road thing.  WHOA.  I can drive manual, no issues there.  And once Shannon told me the trick (the driver is always nearest the dividing line on the road) it was not so hard.  Except for one thing.  The shifter was on the wrong side! I kept going to shift and I'd knock my right hand on the door like a dummy, then remember it was on the right.  The little red car was cute and fun to drive but the gears were a bit tricky without even the oddity of it being on the right.  Shannon was so cute.  "You're doing fine, you're doing great...look at you! Oh, uhm, you are a bit close to this side of the road..." haha.  We made it to the base and I signed her in...as an ID holder I had that power.  YAY POWER!

 We spent a bit of time wandering around, I got some excellent pictures of her in front of her school.  After that we headed to the bowling alley.  Shannon had grown up in the bowling alley, her parents bowl and so does she, plus she worked there.  When I drug Shannon to Salt Lake with me, we went to Area 51.  Where it was like being a local celebrity, everyone knew me.  Well that's what the bowling alley was like for Shanny.  Just walking in the door she knew everyone there and was being bombarded with hugs and "OMG SHANNON!!!"s.  It was really fun to watch.  We went and talked to the men that did the cooking, she had known them her whole life.  The one guy was very nice, a bit of a smart ass but I enjoy that.  The other was a dirty old English man...so perverse but completely hilarious.  I love that too.

 Then we were off to do what we had originally set out to do.  But Shannon's friend Pete.

Now, those of you that know me...even a little bit...know about my obsession with gingers (although apparently they're not fond of being called that, I think it is a pretty description but I am testing out others).  I don't want to call it a fetish...but the moment I see someone with natural copper/ginger/strawberry blond/titian hair <--- sticking with titian...I go a bit...wobbly in the knees.  I don't know.  It's just pretty.  It's something that I'm fond of.  There are people that only date blonds or brunettes or definitely prefer them.  I prefer those with titian hair.  I have two tattoos that are unfortunately in black and grey but I was drawn to the pinups because of their titian hair.  I just love it.   Prince Harry, the Weasleys, Shaun White...even women with titian hair (though it's less sexual and more envy with them).  So there is the background.

Well Pete.  This lovely tall gentleman...he has titian hair.  All I wanted to do was stare at him and listen to him talk (English accent AND titian hair? Double score).  So that's mostly what I did.  It was good cause it gave he and Shannon to catch up some and for me to figure out how to talk to this person...as mentioned, Shannon and I are totally ridiculous and I didn't want to scare one of her more important friends.  Turned out it was a silly worry because he was pretty good at keeping up with our ridiculousness.  We spent a good...6 hours or more at the bowling alley.  One of the most amusing parts was that we got evacuated.  There was a kind of gasoline like smell coming from somewhere so Pete called the fire department and they made us evacuate.  It was league night so there were some non-happy bowlers.  It was fine for me, I was super outgoing on this trip and managed to make friends while we were evicted!! I made a wonderful friend named Garry, we had some great discussions.  I also met two of his sons, one of which is Taylor's age.

Speaking of, in the bowling alley there was this adorable girl...turned out her name was Willow.  She had a bit of a crush on Pete -it was fairly obvious- and I was trying to distract her.  It turned into a 30minute conversation in which I learned her entire life story.  She told me so much, and so many sad things, I couldn't just stop talking to her.  She was Taylor's age as well.  It came in handy because at least I know how to talk to an 11 year old girl.  Easy-peasy.  And it wasn't hard to understand some of her concerns about her father deploying in the future.  I like to think that I helped her, even if it was just by allowing her to verbalize some of the stuff she was thinking about.

We went back to hanging out with Pete after that, but we needed to let him get back to work (he was working while we were bothering him, but it was closing time and he had things to do).  I had made the mistake of mentioning things about my "ginger" affections...which...like I said...apparently offensive term.  It doesn't help that I insinuated (unintentionally) that all English gingers must know each other by asking him if he knew where I could find Prince Harry or any of the Weasleys.  "Do you think there is a club or something?" he asked.  "I certainly hope so! If there is can you give me directions so I can show up wearing nothing but a bow?" That one kind of took the edge off I hope, cause I felt horrible.  Then I asked him how to achieve catching myself a titian gentleman to which he replied, "Promise him you won't give him any ginger children." My reply was a very excited, "I CAN MAKE THAT PROMISE!! SCORE!!"...you know...no uterus...can't make babies...therefore they can't have pretty hair.

Right before we left I was taking pictures of Shannon and Pete (hilarious by the way because he is like 6'4" or taller and she is about 5'4"...or shorter)...and I finally asked for a picture...since I didn't suppose I'd be finding Prince Harry, he would be my English titian.  I know, I'm absurd.

So we drive back to the house with zero incidents...except for almost sideswiping a parked car less than 1/2 a mile from Shannon's house...yeah...it was on the right side and it was hard for me to judge.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  As soon as we got in the house we settled in with some left over birthday cake.  Let me tell you, it was DELICIOUS.  And I'm pretty sure it was filled with laughing gas or something because Shannon and I laughed so hard our lungs hurt and we were in excruciating pain, couldn't breathe...but were still laughing.  Part of it was that Shannon, at the bowling alley, had said "Like the boss".  Well for those of you hip to the terms of these days, it's actually "Like A boss".  So I could not stop making fun of her and posting videos to her FB wall...while lying in the same bed as her.  We woke her Dad up with our insane giggling but he didn't come to yell at us so it was okay haha.

The next morning...LONDON!! Now let me tell you.  I have dreamed of going to London for MANY years.  It has always been in the top 3 places I've wanted to visit outside of the US (London, Paris, and anywhere in Australia).  We got up fairly early and got on a train to take into St. Pancras station.  St. Pancras happens to be literally across the street from Kings Cross station...so I was DYING to have my Harry Potter moment.  We went there directly and found Platform 9 3/4 and took pictures...AMAZING.  After that we headed to the Underground and went directly to Piccadilly Circus.  Don't let the name mislead you, there is no circus.  There are, however, a lot of shops and restaurants.  We went to an Italian restaurant where I ordered an Americano Burger.  I know, ridiculous of me.  But it was on a Ciabata bun and tasted like no other burger I've ever had.  Delicious.  I had bought souvenirs already...so we got on a hop-on-hop-off double decker bus.  HIGHLY recommended.  It is 26pounds for the bus, but you have 2 days to use it.  You can take it anywhere in the city and it stops at all of the major sites, then you just wait for the next one to come by and "hop" back on.  The first place we hit was Buckingham Palace.  Completely awe inspiring.  Beautiful beyond belief and to pretend I was that near royalty (pretend because I have no clue where they actually were at the moment) was so cool.  We got some great pictures there.  We hopped back on a bus and then decided perhaps we should attempt to find the theater.  We were going to see Mamma Mia! at the Novello theater.  We saw/drove over London Bridge - it did not fall down - and then saw the London Eye as well as Big Ben.  We got a bit lost looking for the theater, but we did find it in time.  We settled into our great seats and truly enjoyed the show.  There was this titian haired gentleman in the play that I obviously wanted to marry.  The actress that played Rosie stole the show.  She was AMAZING.  And I decided right then and there, I am going to be Tanya when I grow up (partially because she hooked up with said titian, Pepper).

After the play we headed to the tubes and found some food in Kings Cross (at the Boots...kind of like a Walgreens) and headed to catch our train.  It was a long ride back to our stop, but we talked and talked.  When we got home we were cold and exhausted so we ate some more giggle cake and went to bed.  The next morning we had planned on getting up early and going back into London since our bus tickets were still valid...but I was in quite a bit of pain and we were just so tired.  We had to take the train back into town anyways, to get me on the plane.  It was my last day :( So I repacked a couple of times, weighed my suitcase a few times - all those souvenirs not to mention the developer Shanny had brought me! Then we headed off.  We were still in good spirits...only...well we knew what was coming.  We got to Heathrow and checked in my baggage, then went to eat at a cute little coffee shop.  As soon as we ate it was time for me to head through customs/security.  I hugged Shannon and told her to have fun for the rest of her time there, then we parted ways before either of us could get super weepy.  I made it back to the terminal before I let myself get really sad.  Then I promptly fell asleep on the plane.  I slept through the food, through the potential beer...I slept the entire flight.  I was just sad and in pain.  So sleeping was the best option.

It was a great trip.  One I plan on making again.  Taylor and I will be going this spring or summer, depending on prices.  It was only $150 to fly from Munich to Heathrow, which is less that I've paid to fly from Colorado Springs to Salt Lake City!

Here are some tips I figured out on this trip:

*Don't be afraid of the Underground/trains.  Even if you don't quite figure them out and miss your stop, there is another train going the other way shortly.  It is also not necessary to giggle loudly every time they say "next stop, Cockfosters".  Although Shannon and I were NOT able to master that.

*The pound is STRONG.  I thought the euro was painful conversion.  Ouch.  So what I did for this trip was decide I wanted 50pounds a day for spending money and 100pounds for souvenirs.  That meant I needed 300pounds.  I converted that ONCE and put that money into my savings account and didn't think about it again.  It turned out being about $500.  But if you think about it and let it get inside your head, you'll overthink it and possibly not have as much fun.  Just set an amount, and go with it.

*Go to a show.  There are SO many and it's such an experience.  The show across from us was called Our Boys and one of the main characters was played by Matthew Lewis AKA Neville Longbottom.  I was across the street from Neville! But seriously, there is something for everyone.

*Driving is not scary.  It's very similar to driving in Germany only the speedlimits posted are in MPH, not KmPH.  The round-abouts are the same, the laws are about the same.  And you get used to passing on the left and the right being the slow lane.

*I recommend the hop-on-hop-off tour.  You get to see all the sites but don't have to walk all over the city.  You can get off at any stop, then get back on.  It's absolutely amazing.

*All titians do not know each other, and there is no club - unless it's so secret he just couldn't tell me.  Hmmmmm.

If anyone is planning a trip to England, please feel free to ask questions.  There are so many things I didn't cover and so much advice on things to see (even things I didn't see) and things to do.

I hope everyone enjoyed the trip with me, I know it's not quite as exciting as being there yourself but I tried to be as descriptive as possible.

                                                     ^^ Representing BEES KNEES POMADE

Much love to all my readers,