Monday, July 31, 2017

Bavarian Summer

The Bavarian summer is a little different than what we've been used to.  I don't really count last summer because we missed half of it and then were in a hotel for the other half waiting on a car and trying to find a house.  So this is our first summer of really having a summer and it's a little different!  
First of all, the weather is back and forth.  Tomorrow should be 94 degrees -- the hottest day we'll have had so far.  And we get some hot weather, but maybe for a few days and then it cools off for a bit.  Or we get really cold weather for a few days and then it warms up!  I'd had really high hopes of getting the kids in swimming lessons but I don't know that it would've worked with weather and rain.  So in many ways we've had a lazy summer, playing at parks when it's nice and staying at home when it's not.

A few weeks back we finally tracked down the pirate park with some friends.  This is a pirate ship basically in a sandy pond.  The water isn't deep and there are fun things other than the ship but the kids had an absolute blast.  And got really really cold in the water.  It was worth it.

 We took a Saturday to go to the Maximilian Grotto and explore.  The tour is all in German but I had been there before with some friends and we had pieced a good deal of it together.  It's a small cave and pretty self-explanatory really.
Abby under the eagle rock

And William

One of the narrow passages

A rare smile

There's a restaurant by the cave -- food's ok but the kids thought the bike parking sign was fantastic!

On a map of the area it looked like there was a castle ruin not too far so we set off in search of it and found that it's a partial ruin.  It had been a restaurant and then a hotel for a while but was too expensive to keep up.  You can't explore too much but it was fun to walk around and imagine what it was.

And it had some great views!

The kids loved the giant snail shell in the wall of course.

We had a day where we went back down to Regensburg to take William to a doctor's appointment.  Since I'm not familiar with the area, it helps to have another adult around rather than herd the kids myself!  The appointment went well and then we spent some time in the city.  One of the best things about living here is being able to explore places over and over.  We really like Regensburg and went to St. Emmeram's and toured the Thurn and Taxis palace (no pictures of that).  They are the wealthiest family in Germany and built their empire and nobility/royalty on the mail system!
Organ at St. Emmeram's

Friday, July 14, 2017

Finally FIVE!!!

William knew that when we got back from our trip it would be almost time for his birthday.  And he has very patiently waited through everyone else's birthdays!!  He has created a birthday list a mile long -- he tells me when he sees something he wants that it's for his birthday -- so we were a little worried about his reaction to his presents (or lack of in his eyes).

A few days before he decided Grandma needed to be here and since she was sending him a birthday package, he needed to send her a box.  This is waiting for mailman AND Grandma to come (separately).  In Germany the mailman only comes if you have mail delivered though and they don't take the mail so I just made the box disappear . . . it had paper airplanes in it Grandma!!

When we did our grocery shopping, this boy requested strawberry cake, frosting, AND ice cream!  He goes back and forth - if he wants to be like his sisters he'll choose pink or purple.  But then the other day at a friend's house, he refused to ride the bike his size because it was pink.  So I was surprised that his cake ended up ALL pink.  I ordered some lego molds online to make chocolate legos and it worked pretty well but I just used chocolate chips so that much of that kind of chocolate in one bite wasn't that great.  They'll be great for Jell-O though!

This strawberry frosting is nasty.  Pillsbury has failed me!  It tastes like chemicals.  Even the kids ate one bite and abandoned the cake.  From here on out, all cakes get homemade frosting.  And I did kind've fail on the decorating too.  You know what?  He didn't care.  He got to blow out candles and eat cake and ice cream and OPEN PRESENTS!  That was the important part.

He had to wait until dad came home and we did it almost as soon as he did.  Look at that smile!!  I never get grins like that!

Yep.  LOTS of Legos.  And Lego sheets and some cars from the Grandmas but everything else.  EVERYTHING ELSE.  Was Legos.  And he loved it.  And he didn't cry about what he didn't get.  And we had a Lego construction party afterwards.

We sang Happy Birthday and he blew out FIVE candles.

And that was it!  Super low key, no decorations, one balloon (he picked out giant ones that said Happy Birthday on them and of the two in the package one decided to pop randomly and woke everyone up -- it was that loud!), no friends -- just us and cake and ice cream and presents and he loved every minute!!

I'm so excited he's five!!  He'll go to kindergarten this fall and he's becoming more independent although I think he's actually my most dependent child - especially when he's in a bad mood.  He becomes a slug when he's whiny.  He is still such a boy -- fascinated by cars and vehicles of all types and is really developing a love for Legos.  He wants them built as they should be at first, but eventually they fall apart and he rebuilds them into his own creations.  It's fun to see his creativity at work.  He plays a little too hard (still has the hardest head known to man) but can be so wonderfully sweet.  He really likes to cuddle and will declare "cuddle party!" and climb on you with all his bony knees and elbows digging into your soft spots.  It does NOT feel like a cuddle party but his intentions are good!  He still crawls into bed with me in the mornings and he wants me to put my arm around him.  But he only stays that way for a few minutes and then I get pummeled awake.  His speech is improving and he's learned a lot in preschool this year.  I think we'll start him in sports too to help him with his sportsmanship and because he really does want to play something!  We love him a lot!

Also, we've now been in Germany for a year!  Crazy!!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Our Sacking of York

Throughout our trip people would ask us where we had been and where we were going.  The town that got the best response overall was York.  So many people told us that it was lovely.  We had booked a retro style apartment that we were excited for as well and walked into this:

Sadly, although it looked fantastic, it wasn't a great stay!  Well it would've been fine except that you could hear EVERYTHING from the other apartment and I don't mean that they were loud or anything, just that when they came home (later than us -- no kids) we could just hear them puttering around, watching tv, etc.  And I think the bed was literally from the 70s.  Just not the greatest sleep we've ever had.  Honestly, we also were all starting to unravel a little bit more.  18 days was probably too much in the scheme of things.  The kids and I held it together really well but it was good to go home.  But not before we sacked York!

York has so many layers of history!  Viking, Roman, Norman (French really), English, etc.  Everyone was right -- it is a lovely city and so much is concentrated in a pedestrian friendly area so it was wonderfully accessible to us.

York Minster is their cathedral.  Cathedrals and Minsters are different things -- this is both.  It is also MASSIVE.  It was probably the biggest church we've seen.  You couldn't even hardly take it all in.  It was afternoon when we arrived and so we mostly just walked and admired and saving the insides for the next day.

Constantine was apparently crowned emperor in York.

We stopped for an ice cream because you can't ignore signs like this.  
Just in case you're wondering, gelato is better and cheaper.  Hey it was still good but this is definitely false advertising.
 The York Museum is set in some beautiful gardens with Abbey ruins, some Roman wall, and a path by the river Ouse (pronounce that ooze).  We just let the kids run and play for a bit while we sat in the grass and talked.  It was really nice!  Also it wasn't nearly as cold as it had been in Edinburgh.  Amazing what going 2 hours south will do to the weather!

I always find it funny when it's an old building on top and modern retail on the bottom.

A British friend who had been following our adventures on Facebook said that I needed to have a Yorkshire pudding.  Which honestly, Yorkshire would be the best place for that!  So most English puddings are a steamed cake basically, usually with a sauce over the top.  The Yorkshire pudding is more of a bread that you bake in oil or grease and it puffs up beautifully and then falls down in the middle so you get a a little cup.  On Sundays particularly, it is part of the Sunday lunch -- roast, mash, pudding, and veg.  I looked up places that would serve it and one was a pub called The Golden Fleece that we found pretty easily.

Turns out that this has a reputation for being the most haunted building in York.  They had a whole bunch of stuff written about it and I'm just glad that we didn't stay in their rooms.  The building itself was crazy wonky - I'm pretty sure there wasn't a level floor or square corner.  The tables were all tipped one way (each one differently though practically).  It was a really fun building actually.

See how the tables tilt higher in the middle and lower on the ends?

My Sunday lunch!  That's my pudding in the top left -- I think a little overdone but it was still good.

So the brochure about the place mentioned a ghost cat and said it was on the wall outside the pub.  Turns out there's a whole cat tour of York with a map and clues to find cat statues.  We found the ghost cat (in white coming out of the wall) and then found the store that had the maps and went on a little evening tour looking for cats.

And we found some fun shops and the shambles in the process.  The shambles is a really old street where the tops of the houses overhang the bottoms so that they almost touch each other.

That was probably the best tour we could have gone on.  With everything except food closing at 5, streets empty out significantly and we spent a really nice evening sight seeing without crowds and looking for cats!

This is a Roman pillar they found toppled over when they excavated a building.

The courtyard of where we were staying is the remains of a Norman house -- the oldest in York.

Playing Uno

The next day we went inside York Minster.  It was so big!  The kids were given explorer packs with "treasure maps" to discover special things about the Minster but I enjoyed it too.  There was so much that it was nice to get little bits of information.  These are flag signals - I don't know what they say or why they're headless. 

York Minster is also known for their stained glass.  This one is the Heart of Yorkshire.

Beautiful organ.

Hilarious wall of kings

Massive ceilings and the rose window up there on the left

This was a simple clock that chimed the quarter hours but had a beautiful tone

This room was my favorite -- it's a council chamber and the floors and ceiling were amazing.

More fun statues - hey maybe these are the heads for the signal guys!

After the Minster we went on a short boat cruise on the Ouse.  It didn't really show much but the guide talked about the development of York and it's river shipping industry over the years.  It was very soothing.  Abby fell asleep.  The rest of us almost did!

Then we did some antiques shopping (yes I bought a teacup) and some art shopping -- couldn't help ourselves!!  There were a lot of interesting shops and our kids are good at not touching!

Last but not least we tried to go to the York Chocolate museum.  They don't make York peppermint patties - they make Kit-Kat!  No lie!  But they had sold out their tickets to school groups.  So instead we went to Jorvik DIG!  Jorvik is the viking name and where the modern equivalent York comes from. They have a museum where you learn about the vikings and one where you learn about archeology.  We did the archeology one.

After talking about archeology in general, they take you out to 4 dig sites.  These are replicas of actual dig sites in York from different time periods and the things they found there.  The "dirt" is like little bits of eraser and the kids had so much fun!  There was only one other family there so they really got to do everything.  They dug in a Victorian site (chamber pot, doll, and kitchen remnants), a medieval church (skeleton of a priest with the communion cup and bowl), a Viking site (remnants of bone and stuff), and a Roman site (more bone and a hidden cache of money!).  Then we looked at actual fragments from digs and tried to identify them.  The kids even got to hold fossilized poo.

Our last night in England we were all kind've done with pub food.  We were going for french when we saw a Mexican restaurant and detoured in!  And it was good!! Maybe not the best ever but there's NO good Mexican in Germany so it was the best I've had in probably a year!  And it carried our favorite Brazilian soda so that was a plus!

As we went to the train station the next morning, I glanced at a taxi and saw the sign on their side.  As a fanatic for historical times this cracked me up:
A Hackney carriage is a hired carriage -- I think it's awesome that they call their taxi's that!!  Oh literary/historical humor . . . 

So then it was a 2.5 hour train ride back to London King's Cross, a 45 minute bus ride across London on a double-decker to Paddington, 15 minutes to Heathrow airport on the Express, 2 hour flight to France, 2 hour layover, 1 hour flight to Germany, home about midnight.

Epic, awesome vacation.  Would I do it again?  YES in a heartbeat!  We hope too!!  If we never go to Great Britain again though, it's ok.  We saw so much we wanted to see that I would be content.  There is of course a million other things to explore and I'm not ruling it out.  I never thought we would be living here in Germany so I'm not ruling anything out!  Our time here is uncertain in some ways and so there are so many other places we want to go as well but because Germany and England I have now done my top two believe it or not.  Anything else is icing on the cake.  Although all of it is icing really.  There's so much left to explore and we'll continue to do so here and when we go back to the states!