2017 in review

2017 in review

Ah, another year of travel and experiences, and only a few blog posts to show for it… sigh. Well, at least we’ll do another recap, so we know something actually did happen! (See here for the recap from 2016.) We do post a lot on Facebook, but just on our personal pages. Will try to do better in 2018…

Anyway, here’s this year’s Google map:

Or not. Grr, Google’s timeline feature has apparently changed since last winter, and now if I specify only 2017, it shows me “Trips” rather than all the places visited. And for some reason it only starts in mid-August. If I view ALL places visited (presumably since I began using this Google account on my phone), then I can see the places earlier in the year, but if I specify a year it only begins in August. I also use Swarm to check into places, but the map there is also “all-time”, and can’t show only 2017 (as far as I can tell). Guess I’ll have to create something myself!

… A week later…

So I took all the Google timeline data and put it into a spreadsheet, so here’s Al & Sandy’s 2017 in facts and figures:

Countries/States visited, shown by the number of days we spent there:

(Ireland and Texas were only me, for SharePoint events.) (Georgia the US state, not the country.) We also passed through Washington DC, North Carolina, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Slovenia, Austria, Iceland, and Minnesota in transit only.

Cities and towns we visited (more than just passing through) or stayed in at least one night (in chronological order): Arcata CA, San Juan PR, Vieques PR, Naples FL, Rincon GA, Siesta Key FL, Philadelphia PA, Cranberry Twp PA, Austin TX, Bradford PA, Ambridge PA, Columbia MD, Copenhagen, Gedser (Denmark), Bad Oldesloe (Germany), Grossenkneten (Germany), Hannover, Split (Croatia), Komiza (on Island Vis, Croatia), Zagreb, Plitvicke Lakes (Croatia), Bremen, Hamburg, Rostock, L√ľbeck, Berlin, Cambridge, Crick (England), Higham Ferrers (England), Stanwick (England), West Haddon (England), Oxford, Letcombe Regis (England), Avebury, Bristol, Bath, Perrysville PA, McKinleyville CA.

We stayed in 16 Airbnbs, 7 homes of friends and family (we keep warning people we’ll land on their doorsteps some day!), 9 hotels, 1 real estate rental, 1 condo, 3 house-sitting homes (caring for a total of 5 cats and 2 dogs), 2 guest houses, 2 pubs, and 1 B&B.

It’s no wonder we sometimes wake up unsure of where we are ūüôā

We used a lot of different modes of transportation…

  • We traveled 17,400 miles by air together, and I did another 12,660 with my trips to Austin and Dublin. We flew on United, American, Southwest, Norwegian, Germanwings, Ryanair, WOW, Delta, and Aer Lingus. Not much particular loyalty here, I’m afraid, as we go for the best deal – but then don’t get much in the way of award miles.
  • We drove or were driven 7,300 miles by private car. We rented cars in Florida, England, and California, borrowed my sister’s car in Germany, and borrowed my car back in Pennsylvania.
  • We rode 2,700 miles by train, mainly in Germany (including a long trip by train from Zagreb, Croatia, to northern Germany). And 1,300 miles by bus, mainly from San Francisco to Arcata
  • We walked or hiked 460 miles.
  • We took Ubers or cabs for 142 miles, mainly in Puerto Rico.
  • And in addition: 196 miles on ferries, 78 miles by bike (in Germany), 57 miles by subway, 42 miles by boat (around Island Vis), 28 miles by sailboat (in Naples FL), and a couple miles by kayak (on Vis).

… For a grand total of 42,450 miles traveled in 2017.

Here’s a quick recap by month:

January – Flew from California to Puerto Rico for SharePoint Saturday Caribbean (which I spoke at and helped a bit with organization), and spent 3 weeks seeing San Juan and the island of Vieques – beautiful!! We got to liking the island life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

February – Flew from Puerto Rico to Miami and drove to Naples, where I did some consulting work for about 5 weeks. And got to visit with my sister a lot! That’s where the sailboat came in.

 

 

 

March – Drove up to visit my sister near Savannah for a few days, hosted our son and his wife in Naples for a few days, and visited our daughter and her husband (and baby) when they came to Sarasota for a funeral. Flew to Philadelphia, stayed with our son one night, and drove my little Fiat back to Pittsburgh. Hung out in Cranberry Township PA (near Pittsburgh) the rest of the month waiting to hear about a consulting job for Al. We did blog about some of this, here.

April – I went to Austin for SPTechCon, while Al drove to Bradford PA for field work on his project – I joined him there after a week, and we were there for about 2 weeks. We got in some hiking up there in the northern woods of Pennsylvania. Drove to Ambridge, PA and stayed there for a couple weeks while Al wrapped up his project at the office.

May – We moved a few miles to Cranberry Twp, and were joined by our daughter and granddaughter for a week there before driving us all to Philadelphia for our son’s law school graduation. Stayed in Philadelphia for a couple weeks – and I drove down to Columbia, MD to speak at SharePoint Saturday Baltimore in there. Took trains to JFK and flew to Copenhagen (and actually blogged about it). Spent one night in Copenhagen (see this blog post), and 2 nights in a little Airbnb on the southern Danish coast. Took a ferry to Rostock, and trains to my sister’s house in Bad Oldesloe (near Hamburg).

June – Took trains to our very first house-sitting gig, in Grossenkneten, in rural northwestern Germany. Spent all of June tending their yard and garden while they were on holiday.

July – Flew to Croatia for 2 weeks. Flew into Split, took a ferry to Vis for a week. We’ve never seen such beautiful clear water. Back to Split, train to Zagreb, and a bus to Plivicke Lakes (photo), which were stunning. Hiked around there for a few days, bus back to Zagreb, and train back to my sister’s house.

August – Stayed at my sister’s house and cared for her cat for 4 weeks while she and her daughters made their annual visit to Pittsburgh. During that time I took trains to SharePoint user group meetings in Bremen and in Hannover, and we took day trips to L√ľbeck, Hamburg, and Rostock, and a weekend trip to Berlin. Also, I began working again with Lightning Tools, this time as Global Partner Manager, which I’m very happy about!

September – Flew into Stansted airport, and rented a little white Fiat 500 like mine. Spent a couple days in Cambridge, then several days in Crick so I could go into the Lightning Tools office, then a week watching 3 cats in Stanwick. During that time I drove into Cambridge for a day to speak at the SharePoint Saturday there. Then I popped into the office another day, and then we drove down to the North Wessex Downs (stopping in Oxford for a tour), and spent a couple nights in a former manor house dovecote. Hiked a bit of the Ridgeway trail, which was very cool (photo). Drove to a friend’s house just outside of Bristol for a weekend visit, stopping at Avebury on the way to see the ancient stones(also very cool). Spent a day in Bath before flying back to Pittsburgh to a 3-week house-sitting gig for a friend of a friend, while we did some visiting with my mom.

October – Still house-sitting, and then moved to a suites hotel in Cranberry for a week, before flying out to California toward the end of the month. Got to babysit our granddaughter for 4 days!

November/December – We stayed at 2 different Airbnbs in Arcata, each for a month, while driving back and forth to visit with our daughter pretty often. In November, I flew to Dublin for the European SharePoint Conference, which was a long trip, but a good one. Our granddaughter turned one year old, we took some hikes, had Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts, and enjoyed the mild weather.

Overall, another very good year!

2016 in review

2016 in review

We‚Äôve had a pretty exciting and eventful year, full of lots of family, friends, hikes, and SharePoint events! Big highlights were welcoming our new (first) grandchild in California, and selling our house near Pittsburgh. [I started writing this post in early January 2017, but am finishing it in March, as we’re recently finding we’re having trouble remembering when we did what last year ūüôā ]

Here’s where we’ve been during 2016, mapped by Google, which scarily knows everything about us:

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And Sandy went to South Africa also:

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2016 Timeline

January

– Rang in the new year with Sandy‚Äôs sister and family in Bad Oldesloe Germany‚Ķ lots of fireworks and a birthday dinner for our niece in a cool restaurant in L√ľbeck.

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– Returned (via Amsterdam) to our winter lodgings in Husbands Bosworth, a village in the Midlands of England. Took a weekend trip to the Cotswolds.

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– Sandy helped out at the UK Community Day (dev edition) in London.

February

– Took a weekend trip to Cornwall with friends, including lovely tea and scones.

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– Flew to Austin TX for SPTechCon (SharePoint Technical Conference) with a colleague from Lightning Tools, where we worked at the LT vendor booth.

[This is where I stopped writing in January. We’ll come back later and add photos to the rest (maybe). Or, who knows, maybe we’ll actually write posts about places!]

– Drove to Houston, and spent about a week with friends. Al got to brew beer for the first time in a while!

– Sandy went to Bad Oldesloe, Germany (via Charlotte/Frankfurt, then by train via Hamburg to Bad Oldesloe) for a few weeks with her sister, while Al flew to Philadelphia to hang out with our son and his wife.

March

– Sandy flew via Oslo to JFK, then by train to Philadelphia to meet back up with Al. We borrowed back our little Fiat 500 (Bianca) from our son, and drove to Pittsburgh for a long weekend to leave our “winter in England” duffel bag and get some warm-weather clothes from our storage unit.

We posted a bit of a recap of the year to date here, with photos.

– Drove back to Philly, spent a few more days there, and flew via Denver to Santa Cruz CA. Spent 3 delicious months in perfect weather. Stayed some of the time with our daughter and her husband, and some of the time in a couple of Airbnbs. Got to see whales, waves, and woods.

April/May

– More of Santa Cruz. See our Live Oak post. For Mother’s Day, I (Sandy) got my first tattoo, a little wave symbol on my ankle, in honor of the Santa Cruz ocean waves ūüôā

June

– Al flew to Pittsburgh for a funeral, while Sandy attended SharePoint Saturday Silicon Valley near San Jose. We met back up at SFO, and flew via Calgary to Manchester, England.

– Stayed at a cool Airbnb apartment in Nottingham for about a week, where Sandy gave a presentation about Yammer at a UK Community Day event.

– Flew from Manchester via Munich to Hamburg to spend some more time with Sandy’s sister in Bad Oldesloe.

July

– Flew from Germany via back to England, and celebrated American Independence Day in Rugby ūüôā Rented a cute Fiat 500 for the month, almost like driving Bianca again, but on the wrong side of the road ūüôā

– Worked in the LT office for 4 weeks, living 2 weeks in a hotel in Rugby, and 2 weeks in an Airbnb terrace house in Northampton.

The grand plan at that point was to find a house sitting job or two somewhere in the UK or Europe after that, staying on that side of the pond until it was time to go to South Africa in early October. But at the end of July, our house in Ellwood City finally sold after over a year on the market! So we had to quickly fly back to Pittsburgh (via Paris)¬†to take care of divesting of the remainder of our furniture and stuff (which we had left at the house for our Airbnb guests). We had about 10 days to do that before the closing. I’ll try to write about that, because it was an exhausting but relief-filled time.

August

– In addition to clearing out our house, Sandy gave a presentation on PowerApps and Flow at SharePoint Saturday Pittsburgh.

– After the house closing, we decided to hang out in the city of Pittsburgh for the rest of August, partly because my sister and her daughters were on their summer visit to Pittsburgh from Germany, and partly because we’d never actually lived IN the city. We spent some time at a brand new apartment in the Strip District, and some time in a big old house on Observatory Hill – both pretty cool stays in different ways.

РSpent a weekend camping in the woods with friends, which was sorely needed.

September

– Went to a big family picnic on Labor Day weekend, and then flew from Pittsburgh via Atlanta to Fort Myers FL to spend the month in Naples near another of my sisters. Stayed in two Airbnb condos, both very nice. Went sailing a couple of times, and spent time on the beach.

РAl took a short trip to Missouri, to have meetings about a project there.

October

– Al flew to Missouri to work on the above-mentioned project for a month. Sandy was already booked to speak at SharePoint events in South Africa during October, so she flew there via Toronto and London, with a one-day stop in the LT office.

– I (Sandy) posted about the SharePoint events in South Africa on my blog, but I’ll try to write something here as well about South Africa in general, which was gorgeous and very interesting.

-Al was working in northern Missouri doing some commissioning work for Dyno Nobel, but managed to spent time in Hannibal and various other Mississippi River towns.  Quite a lot of history there!

October 7 marked 1 year since we started this adventure! I toted up the stats, and noted on Facebook:

One year ago today, Al and I left home with our 2 pieces of luggage and a desire to see and experience life in different places. We’ve flown about 60,000 miles on 15 different airlines, visited 30+ cities in 7 countries and 5 US states, lived in 15+ apartments/houses, tried a couple hundred new beers, and literally walked 500 miles. Looking forward to what the coming year as nomads will bring!

November

– Sandy flew back from South Africa via Frankfurt and San Francisco, to McKinleyville CA (in the far northern part of California), and Al arrived from Missouri a few days later. Our granddaughter was born on November 5, and it was so special to be able to be there!

– We stayed at a cute “tiny house” Airbnb in the redwoods, and did lots of hiking. But mainly spent time getting to know our granddaughter! Had a nice Thanksgiving dinner with friends of our daughter and her husband.

I lost my job with Lightning Tools early in November, due to a downturn in business. I was pretty sad about that because I loved my job and the people there, but on the other hand it gave me time to do that hiking and granddaughter¬†cuddling. We also did some volunteer work at the McKinleyville Family Resource Center’s food pantry.

December

– I had already planned to attend SPTechCon in San Francisco since I’d be within driving distance, so I went anyway, but now to network rather than work at the LT booth. We spent the weekend in the city in a cute place near Haight-Ashbury, and then had a great time with SharePoint friends at and outside of SPTechCon.

– After driving back from SF, our friends from Houston visited for a long weekend, which was lots of fun!

– Our son and his wife flew out from Philly, so we could all spend Christmas and New Year together, along with our new addition ūüôā We stayed at a nice little house in Arcata, a great little walkable town. Took some more hikes and drives in the woods and seashore.

 

And that was 2016! We’re still loving our lifestyle, and the flexibility to go places on short notice.

Sorry for the lack of info…

So it’s now the end of March 2016 and we haven’t written anything new for quite a while.¬† Sorry about that, though we have both been posting to Facebook regularly so have not been totally quiet.¬† I’ll just summarize what’s been going on to date and maybe we’ll fill in details later.

Last posting was about Crick, where we first landed in the UK Midlands.  At the beginning of December 2015 we moved to a house in Husbands Bosworth. It used to be the village blacksmith shop many years ago, was fixed up quite nice and had a full kitchen.  It was nice having additional room and a different village to explore, but was a longer drive for Sandy to work.  We stayed there until we left the UK at the end of February.

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Not our house but best thatched roof in the village!

For the holidays, we went to visit Sandy’s sister in Germany.¬† Stayed for Christmas and New Years.¬† Very nice visit!¬† Hamburg shopping trip with the nieces, Christmas eve mass in a very old church in Lubeck, quite amazing fireworks for New Year’s Eve celebration, and nice walks around the moor.

We took several more trips in the UK. First we went to the Cotswold area where we stayed in a flat right on the local stream (the apartment used to be the village wash house) and enjoyed walking in the countryside and visiting some new pubs! We hiked some on the 100 mile Cotswold Way hiking trail, which eventually ends in Bath on the coast

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In February we went with friends to the Cornwall area for a long weekend.¬† This area is along the southwest coast.¬† It was very stormy during our visit, the waves coming into the harbor at Polperro were quite impressive and the winds were fierce at times.¬† Had a nice high English tea complete with scones and clotted cream in a little shop as we sheltered from the weather.¬† Yumm!¬† I’m thankful that Brett did the driving as some of the roads were so narrow there were cutouts for cars to pass.

Polperro Harbour

Polperro Harbour

Cornwall

Cornwall

We were surprised while having a bite at¬†the Red Lion¬†pub in Sibbertoft to discover the owner, Andrew, was a huge Steelers fan!¬† It was during the playoffs so we had a serious discussion about Big Ben and their chances for going very far.¬† Apparently Andrew doesn’t really like soccer and¬†found American football¬†back in the 70’s, liked the DEFENSE oriented Steelers and has been a fan ever since!

On February 21 we left the UK and traveled back to the US.¬† It was a direct flight from Heathrow to Austin, 11 hours! Sandy had a conference in Austin, TX so that’s where we ended up.¬† Nice to see some warm weather again.¬† Didn’t take me too long to get comfortable driving on the left side of the road again!¬† Austin was having their annual beard competition festival.¬† Interesting to see guys with things woven into their face hair (like cans of beer!) or plaited into a football facemask.¬† Very bizarre!

After the conference we drove down to Houston to visit some friends.  On the way we stopped at Bone Spirits Distillery.  What an interesting experience! Got a tour by the owner and did a sampling.  I found out I really like aged gin, especially in a martini!  We picked up some aged gin and oak-aged bourbon as house gifts.  Needless to say, they both went over very well.

In Houston we did some local sightseeing (Thanks for the Harley shop tour, Alan!) and enjoyed the nice weather.

Texas Drag Bike

Texas Drag Bike

I ended up going to Philadelphia to visit our son and his wife, Sandy went back to Germany for a couple weeks for a visit with her sister and nieces.  I enjoyed the time in Philly, it really does have a lot to offer (said grudgingly by someone who grew up on the other side of the state).  Touring the Yards brewery was fun, as were the Italian Market, GreensGrow, and the Schuylkill River trail. FB_IMG_1458417733168

Schuylkill Trail

Schuylkill Trail

I did try a Philly Cheesesteak from Carvers.  Very tasty.

Philly Cheesesteaks

Philly Cheesesteaks

Once Sandy got back from Germany we borrowed back our car , Bianca (2012 Fiat 500) which the kids had been using, and drove across state to Pittsburgh.  We wanted to take the opportunity to check on our house and say hello to some old friends while in town.  The house appeared to be in fairly good condition so we changed out some clothes from our storage locker, had some needed maintenance done on Bianca, made some surprise visits to a few friends (what fun that was!) and headed back to Philly.

Next stop….sunny Santa Cruz, CA and a visit with our daughter and her husband!

 

 

 

Germany to Italy

Germany to Italy

Although it was truly wonderful spending time with my sister C and her family, after 6 days in chilly and rainy Bad Oldesloe, it was time to head to warmer climes for a week’s vacation!

We’d¬†fallen into¬†a daily routine this past week in Bad Oldesloe… Because the hotel’s internet wasn’t working, I needed to work from my sister’s house. So each morning we would get up around 6:45, go downstairs for breakfast at 7 (their earliest time), the Afghan boys would filter in starting around 7:15 and we would all greet each other, we’d go back upstairs and get ready, then walk the mile or so past the school complex (a couple times we saw my nieces arriving on their bicycles among herds of other teenagers), and to C & K’s house in a nice little housing plan outside of town, where we would settle in for the day. After realizing the hotel internet wasn’t likely to be fixed, and that we weren’t too much of a nuisance to C and her family, I just left my laptop there each day rather than lug it back and forth. I’d work at their dining table, have second-coffee (with some sort of German treat), join them for lunch after the girls got home from school (it happened to be their “project week”, so they’d get home around 1 or 1:30), maybe do something with the family for a bit, and then work and have meetings some more before and after dinner (since many of our customers are in the US), while joining in with general family time. It worked out really well, so I’m actually kind of glad the hotel internet didn’t work, as otherwise I probably wouldn’t have spent so much time with family, even if it was often just peripherally.

But on Saturday, it was time to leave, so we moved our breakfast routine about an hour and a half later (as did the Afghan boys it turned out), and C picked up us and our bags a little after 9 to spend a bit more time at their house before she & K drove us to the Hamburg Flughafen for our 1:10pm flight. They walked us as far as the security checkpoint, which wasn’t too crowded, as we chose the body-scan line. We had no problems – including the Leatherman tools K had just given us, which was good as they’re supposed to be TSA-approved (no knife). We just had to show our boarding passes, not our IDs, which we thought odd; otherwise, fairly standard: laptops out, jackets off, but shoes could stay on. We found at the EasyJet gate that we really could only have 1 hand bag each (i.e. our laptop bags), so we had to gate-check our normal carry-ons – luckily they didn’t charge us, though I see the website says it might cost ¬£50¬†to gate-check a bag. During boarding at the EasyJet gate they said to have IDs out, but they really only looked at our boarding passes. We boarded the plane via stairs, so we had to leave our poor lonely bags on the tarmac where a guy said to put them; we hoped they would get put on the plane ūüôā

The flight was delayed just a little, but otherwise fine, and pretty quick, about an hour and a half.

A bit of the Alps, with a glacier to the right.

A bit of the Alps, with a glacier to the right.

When we arrived at Malpensa airport outside of Milan, we had to collect our bags [which did make it into the hold – yay!] from baggage claim, something we rarely need to do! Again, no¬†customs, and no passport check, since we were arriving from another EU country – it just seems odd for us as Americans, who are normally flying from¬†or to the US. We had booked a room at the First Hotel Malpensa¬† after our Booking.com reservation in the city had not gone through. I tried¬†calling the hotel for shuttle service, but unfortunately I couldn’t make out the Italian phone message, to understand what number to press for what.¬†So after some discussion, we decided to walk there, as it was only 2.5km, but I wouldn’t recommend that – we lost our sidewalk pretty quickly, and¬†had to walk on the berm of a busy airport access road. So we were definitely ready for drinks at the hotel bar after checking in, and then had a delicious¬†dinner in the hotel restaurant – our first meal in Italy in nearly 10 years!
This was between Malpensa airport and the train station... Not sure if it's always like that, or something special for the Expo Milano, which is going on now.

This was between Malpensa airport and the train station… Not sure if it’s always like that, or something special for the Expo Milano, which is going on now.

Sunday morning we had breakfast at the hotel, which I had prepaid when I booked. We took the hotel shuttle to the airport and caught a train around 8:30 from Malpensa to Milano Centrale (Milan Central Station), which takes about an hour.

Milano Centrale

Milano Centrale

We had to hang around the train station for a few hours,¬†and found that there really isn’t much to do without going back out through a security gate, and we were too uncertain about getting back in, so we¬†didn’t try that. Nowhere to sit, either :-/ The only thing to do really was watch people and pigeons. We boarded the InterCity train around noon, and¬†had a bit of trouble with a couple of young women who were trying to get into my purse, but luckily it’s a pretty secure travel purse, so they didn’t¬†have any luck. The train to Sestri Levante on the coast took about 2 hours, going through a lot of tunnels, and past Genova. Note that this was NOT a high speed train by German standards, but scenic. We were in a 6 seat compartment. We just made our¬†connection to the regional train to Manarola, which took about another hour. Next stop: Cinque Terre, the five lands!

First stop Germany…

We’ve traveled regularly to Germany over the years so this is actually a good place for us to start.¬† Sandy studied German and can speak and understand the language quite well.¬† Al nods his head and smiles ūüėČ We get by.¬† Many Germans speak at least a little English, especially in the bigger cities¬† so getting around is not too hard.

We’re starting in Munich because Sandy has a two day conference downtown in a hotel near the main train station (hauptbahnhof).¬† It’s very close to Marienplatz, a pedestrian only shopping area, full of shops, open plazas, and restaurants, with no cars to dodge around! It covers several city blocks.¬† Sandy was mostly working during the day, Al spent time walking around the Marienplatz between raindrops.¬† This is Bavaria so there was plenty of meat for dinner, great shanks of roasted delicious meat; along with beer, mostly pilsners and Weiss beers, but also some dunkels, oktoberfests, and other assorted German lager styles. Good thing there was plenty of walking.

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The entrance to Marienplatz. It was lite up pink for world girl’s day.

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On Sunday we had breakfast with Sandy’s co-workers and packed up for the train ride to Bad Oldesloe, a little town near Hamburg.¬† We were visiting Sandy’s sister and family there for the next week.¬† Sandy had made the reservations and had an e-ticket on her phone, which the conductor scanned.¬† This was a high speed train and we didn’t appreciate what that meant¬†until we noticed we were passing cars on the autobahn like they were standing still!¬† Al found this speed indicator, 248 kph translates to 154 MPH or so.¬† And it was smooth, quiet, and on time.¬† We did screw up a bit on reserving seats, had to stand for a while until some “frei” (free) seats opened up, but all-in-all a very pleasant experience.

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The high speed train took us to Hamburg¬†Hauptbahnhof where our niece met us to help with the transfer to the local train to Bad Oldesloe.¬† Again, pretty painless and efficient.¬† We stayed in a quaint hotel downtown within walking distance of Sandy’s sister’s house.¬† We visited with them during the week.

Turns out there were 22 Afghan refugee teenage boys staying at the hotel as well, learning German.¬† They spoke some English and¬†were very friendly to us, though a bit noisy at times!¬† We had seen other groups of newer refugees at the train station as well. (Note from Sandy: The difference between the English and German words for ‘refugee’ struck me… While the English is based on the “refuge”, the German (Fl√ľchtling) is based on the “flight” part of the experience. Language is interesting…)

 

Here are some pics in and around Bad Oldesloe.

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Our hosts prepared some samples!

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At a ratskeller in town

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In the pedestrian area, mugging

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Walking along the Trave River

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Part of our nieces’ school complex. They bike a mile every day to get there, rain or shine!

Our day with the nieces in Hamburg.

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At an art gallery that our nieces like

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Also at the gallery. It’s a wire mesh sculpture.

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Shopping

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Tesla electric cars are popular here.

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Hamburg is along the Elbe and Alster Rivers

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Sculpture hanging in a mall

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Vietnamese for dinner! Quite good.

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Pretty architecture.

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Chocolate!

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Our nieces

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Not a Starbucks!

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Al strikes gold (Cubans!)

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So it’s time to go.¬† Next stop Manarola in Cinque Terre, Italy for a big birthday celebration!

Crossing the pond

We turned in the rental car and buzzed through security (both of us now seem to get TSA pre-check regularly, so nice).  First flight was to Boston where we picked up our Iceland Air international flight. That flight went through Reykjavik, Iceland where we changed planes for the flight to Munich.  Never had done that route before, kind of nice that it broke the trip into a couple 4+ hour rides.  Bad part was the planes were smaller (2 x 3 seats per row) and you  had to buy any food other than snacks.  Al was still suffering from a tweaked back and was in a little discomfort.  He tweaked it carrying ice bags at our open house last week.  Other than that, uneventful trip.  We had time in Reykjavik for coffees and decided we would have to come back some day and explore.

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First-ever passport stamp from Iceland

We were a little surprised that there was only a passport control at Keflavik (the name of the airport in Reykjavik), no customs forms or checks. And when we landed in Munich, there was no passport check or customs, we suppose because we were coming from another EU country. Easy peasy!

Once in Munich we headed for the train to get downtown to our hotel.  A nice train concierge at the ticket kiosk helped us get the right ticket.

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Had a beer and let things relax a bit.

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