Friday, August 14, 2015

Day 1: Arrival

Venice watching Frankfurt during landing.
The flight to SFO was uneventful, but a bit choppy. Not your rolling turbulence, but slightly jarring, enough for Xander and me to get a little nervous. The flight to FRA (not France, but Frankfurt!) was much smoother. Even so, the beginning of this trip was a little nerve wracking for some, as it's hard to imagine a large 747 getting off the ground, gliding through the air without issues, and landing softly.

But, this flight, too, was uneventful. Just a crazy 10 hours-11 minutes long. This translates to 3 movies, several 30-minute sitcoms, and a few documentary shorts. We all skipped Tomorrowland (although Venice watched the beginning and then guessed/narrated the rest) and Insurgent (want to see it without skipping and good sound throughout), but we all watched Home (pretty cute, even with all the skipping video.) Most of us tried to use the in-flight free wi-fi to watch a show of our choice, but the wi-fi was sketchy. I tried to watch Into the Woods and only got about half way through (that one hour of watching too about two hours of stop-n-go with the spotty wi-fi.)

And, by the way, it's faster to go over the "top" (over Canada and Greenland) than to go "around" (over the U.S.A. and western Europe.) Only having flat maps to look at, I am curious to see a globe to visualize better. Is it a shorter route or better winds?

We may have left the smokey air of Oregon, but we have landed in 95 F here in Germany.

P.S. Chris and Diana maybe napped a total of 30-60 min. Neither Venice nor Xander slept at all.
Leaving the SFO-FRA flight. Stepping on German ground for the first time.
Here, in the Frankfurt airport, we made a bit of a mistake. After going through customs (we later think we went through the "wrong" customs), we followed the airport signs to gates A, Z. I can see how we made the mistake now, but at the time, we really were just following the signs. There were lots and lots of arrows pointing to gate A, and NO signs saying, "YOU ARE LEAVING A SECURE AREA"... but that's what we did. We basically made a U-Turn, after leaving the secure area, and had to go through another security check. This wasted about 45 minutes. Not too bad in terms of time (I thought we might miss our connecting flight, but Chris said we would be ok), however, it was definitely an ordeal. We seemed to get stuck in the line that took forever. Murphey's Law at this point. And then poor Xander was very nervous to go through the giant scanner (where you stand like a jumping-jack and are scanned). THEN, before it's my turn to go, I see Venice getting a full pat-down (thank goodness by a female agent.) THEN, we forgot there was a Kindle in Venice's backpack, so we hadn't taken that out. Thus, her backpack was taken to the side to get completely emptied and repacked. 

After doing all of this, we followed more signs to gates A, Z and this time we found the right path one level down. It was a looooong walk in the heat. We finally made it to our gates. Got sodas and pretzels (I asked the kids to not judge all German pretzels by the airport pretzel. Xander gobbled his up. Venice's is hardening in her backpack.) As soon as we finished our snack, we boarded our flight to Berlin. 

Xander on the flight to Berlin. He took the photo of the engine and windmills. Then, a photo of our landing and the airport.

This was our last flight of the trip. Also uneventful. Venice might have caught 15 minutes of sleep, although she doesn't remember falling asleep. Other than that, no one else slept. We arrived at around 9:45am, local time, having left our Oregon home around 9:15am the day before!

We had to wait about 45 minutes for luggage. We're not sure of why it took so long, as our plane was just one gate away from the baggage claim. Once they started to put luggage out, ours were among the first, as Chris has priority with the airline. All five-checked bags made it! And, we found a taxi that could fit all our bags and all of us. Not a surprise, out taxi driver spoke English and pointed out a few things on the way to our apartment.

As we piled out of the taxi, our contact for our apartment came out to the street (he was watching for us!) A wave to our taxi driver, and we were heading up to our apartment. We had brief hope of relief as the hallway was super cool, seemingly air conditioned. But none is available in our apartment, so we're baking for a while.

After a tour of our home and a hand off of keys, our first task was to switch from pants to shorts and from socks and shoes to sandals. Our second task was to head to the market to be sure we had a few things so we wouldn't starve in the next few days. The market is only two blocks away. It's small, but has almost everything we need. We look forward to exploring other markets and farmer's markets, but I can see using this market every week as it's so close and we won't have to carry items too far. One of the first things we bought were paper towels (we'll have to get cloth napkins later, but for now, we needed something.) And, how nice, they are super cute. We bought one more reusable bag, filled up two bags and took our groceries home.

Side note: We used a rolling-hand basket to shop (we have these at our Rite Aid at home) as we couldn't figure out how to get one of the regular carts. They were all daisy-chained-locked together and we couldn't figure out how to unlock them. But after we checked out, Venice saw another shopper unlock one and figured out how to do it, so for the next time, we're set to shop with a cart if we want to!

Ok, second side note, we did stop by a beverage market on the way home from the regular market. We had one empty bag left, so Chris could only buy a few beers and sodas. But he mentioned, with a grin, how cheap it all was!

After the market, we came back to the apartment and rested. Did a little more unpacking, but mostly rested. We also decided to put off the conversation of "who gets which bedroom" until later. The kids plugged in and rested. Chris napped on the living room couch. I laid on the floor with my legs against the wall (trying to un-swell my feet and cool down) and I actually fell asleep for 20 minutes. We are all tired!

Spring Rolls and Schweppes Bitter Lemon (I may drink this every day!)
We decided on a nearby restaurant, Lemongrass Scent, for dinner. Asian fusion. I really liked the food, and since it's only 3 blocks away and economical (about 30 Euros), I can imagine going there a lot. The kids may be thinking otherwise. No air conditioning, so we melted. Open air, so bees wanted to share our meal. And Venice practically fell asleep at the table while Xander couldn't sit upright. Did I mention we are all tired?

Back to the apartment with our leftovers (more commonly called Take Away here) for cool showers and baths, opening the windows to cool the house down (it's currently 87 F outside and 9pm), and rest up for some exploring tomorrow!

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