Three months gone

Time is crawling and flying all at the same time. Big D deployed on Valentine’s Day and if all goes as planned – here’s a first! – he’ll be home soon! Much earlier than expected!

I’m trilled (of course!) and I’m so thankful for great friends that helped me pass the time.

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Hometown tourists

We were lounging on the couch with big cups of coffee this morning when I turned off the television and declared today was the day we’d finally see the US Constitution at the National Archives – our attempt last summer was thwarted by a HUGE crowd and a mile-long line in the sun on a blistering day.

Today’s first stop was the Air Force Memorial:
Air Force Memorial

Air Force Memorial

Who knew the District’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade was this afternoon? All of the participants and crowds making their way to the parade route, that’s who. The detour took us past Union Station. I snapped this from the car window:

Union Station

We changed our plan (will we ever see the Constitution? Hopefully, the third time will be the charm?) and spent the afternoon at the Newseum

Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall section

Flight 105 engine
9/11 United Flight 175 engine

Richard Reid's passport
Richard Reid’s passport

On notice!
Indecision 2004!

Tim Russert's office
Tim Russert’s desk – a real highlight of the day for me. If it’s Sunday, it’s Meet the Press!

Stay Classy!
Ron Burgandy and Big D – You stay classy, DC!

We stopped by the Maine Street Fish Market on our way home. And now: time for dinner!

upload

Tonight's dinner.

Reunited and it feels so good!

One great thing about the Army lifestyle is the friends we meet along the way.  An equally terrible thing is that eventually, we all say good-bye to each other when its time to move to the next duty station.

It seems too good to be true:  our very good friends from Germany just moved less than two miles from us – our new neighborhood is their new neighborhood!

Tricia and I have been to eight countries together in the three years we’ve known each other. I think it’s funny that we just snapped our first photo together in America last week:

Our first time together in America!

She and her husband Lee got here just in time to help me retrieve Fletcher from the vet and kept me company during his first week of recovery from major surgery.

IMG_0070

Last night Big D and I corralled the dog and headed over to their house for dinner. It was just like old times: great food and drinks (potent margaritas, and we had too many!) lots of laughs, and for the first time ever: a total dessert failure!

We were trying to make these:

Things started out as planned:
not our best dessert effort

And it all seemed to be going fine:
not our best dessert effort

But somehow (perhaps the aforementioned drinks?) we ended up with these:
not our best dessert effort

And this:
Not every dessert plan works out.

Messy and ugly, but they tasted great!

not our best dessert effort

Today, while our dudes relaxed (read: slept off the previous night’s drinks) Tricia and I walked a few miles of the Mount Vernon Trail.

Jones Point

Jones Point

Its great to be in the same city with our friends! Who knows what trouble we’ll get into here?

Alexandria

Final Europe post (for now)

I learned a lot of things in our three years in Germany. Please enjoy some handy tips I picked up along the way.

American Arms
Make the most of your accommodations – no matter how bad they stink, someone has had it worse than you.

Jen's olive pengins
A party just isn’t a party without Jen’s olive penguins.

poor Deaner!
Or until Deaner is on fire.

Angie & me
Make sure your BFF visits at least every six months.

what's better than one dotted bag? Two!
If one Riesenthel bag is good, two must be better!

snoozing in the GA line
Nap whenever you can. You’ll need the energy later.

which way to the castle??
Download your GPS updates or things could get confusing.

a house full of friends makes me happy!
Host parties, even if your apartment is tiny.

meanwhile, vandals broke into our bus
Don’t tempt thieves: keep your GPS and iPod out of sight.

snowball fight!
Play in the snow.

Lee got creative w/ Pretzels
Be creative.

cheers!
Treat yourself like a Princess.

concentrating!
Pay close attention.

Gary and his breadstick plea for help
Ask for help.

Don't they look a little like Lady and the Tramp? Big D and @slyarch sharing a special moment :)
Share.

renaissance night
There are plenty of costume opportunities.

Deobrah & me
Plenty.

Big D, Brian & YMW
You might even see someone wearing a cape!

Yay! Ice Tony is here!!
Never pass up a visit from Eis Tony (he has booze in that truck!)

collar: popped!
Pop your collar.

Eric: the big winner
Cheat (but someone else will win anyway.)

The biggest kids to sit on his lap
You’re never too old to sit on Santa’s lap.

late night? Or early morning?
Late night laughs are the best.

uh oh...
Sing.

Wiesbaden Wine Fest
You can never have too much fest food (or wine!)

Fragile!
There is no such thing as too much pottery.

Moose vs. Mousse
There is a difference between a moose and some mousse.

Zum Wohl!
It’s always the right time for some sekt.

Smile for the camera:
Opa!

Team Virginia-Straße

Karin, Heather, Dana, Chasity & me

Greg, me & Dana

me & Heather

Virginia Straße Ladies plus one

Dinner at The Gallery Restaurant

Gary, Big D, Jen, me & Angie on the Rialto

Venice self portrait

looking good!

me, Jen, Kirsten & Fabiana

Sarah, Barbara & me

Big D and the ladies

Saturday shopping

It’s not home anymore, but we have fantastic memories and close friends regardless of geography. My heart is bursting thanks to all of you!

Home

The survival tip I’ve come to live by: don’t dwell on the good-byes, anticipate the hellos.

Helau!

I’m not specifically referring to anyone in this post. But if I did, their names would be changed to protect the guilty.

Fasching is Germany’s version of Carnival. The season begins each year on November 11th at 11:11 a.m. and finishes on Ash Wednesday. Wiki says this about Fasching: “In the Rhineland festivities developed especially strongly, since it was a way to express subversive anti-Prussian and anti-French thoughts in times of occupation, through parody and mockery.” We didn’t know any of that when a neighbor invited us to a Fasching party, and we had no idea what to expect. We should have guessed by the pandemonium at the costume store that things were about to get crazy.

The details of our Fasching story are a bit fuzzy.

Here’s our group at the start of the evening. Think of this as the “before” photo.
ready for the fun to start

Thankfully, there are a lot of fun “during”, but no “after” pictures to share.
Jen & some bees

What the... what!?

their pyramid headgear lit up!
These “Egyptians” were wearing light up pyramids.

Fasching party
This guy was dressed up as a Wine Stand!

Fasching party

The evening ended with one of our partygoers in the emergency room thanks to a suspected broken ankle, and another resting her head on the cool concrete sidewalk outside the hospital.

But everybody was in good enough shape to check out the Wiesbaden Fasching Parade later that weekend:
Big D, Gary and Jen

In addition to lots of marching bands, there were some crazy floats:
Google Street View float

And some things we just couldn’t figure out…
Wiesbaden Fasching Parade

The party continued late into the night, at Big D’s favorite bar.
the party went on late into the night

What were the chances I’d run into another guy with a crustacean hat?
my Crab Hat twin!

And the next day, a bunch of us checked out the Rosenmontag Parade in Mainz – it was huge, lasted for hours and hours, and we came home with giant bags full of candy and treats.

Mainz Fasching Parade
GAH! CLOWNS! No, thanks. Man, I hate clowns.

Cindy had a lot of fun!

There were some political floats that I didn’t understand:
political stuff I didn't understand...

And more inappropriateness:
Mainz Fasching Parade

Mainz Fasching Parade

I loved this PacMan dude:
Mainz Fasching Parade

Mainz Fasching Parade

This year’s festivities are right around the corner. Who knows what will happen!?

More pictures from our first Fasching are on Flickr.

Fletcher the Wonder Dog

Today’s post comes to you while Big D stretches across our brand new couch and I’m perched on the matching love seat. Not purchases we planned, but thanks to Fletcher, necessities. Earlier this week our four-legged family member was relaxing in comfortable style when he got sick, and ruined the couch we were trying to make last through our remaining time here. Luckily, finding replacement furniture wasn’t as big of a pain as I anticipated, and they were even on sale.

Our poor little guy is sick. I’ll spare you the details, but I had to wash our bedroom curtains at two o’clock this morning. And we had to sleep with the windows open though the overnight temperatures were in the low 30°s. The things we do for dog love.

I wish he could talk, so he could warn us when he’s not feeling well. But the look in his sweet eyes lets us know he appreciates how we take care of him.

It’s not just the people in our household adventuring in Europe – this dog gets around and has a lot of fun.

Fletch takes a dip
Taking a dip in the Wiesbaden Kurpark

Road trip!
Always ready for a road trip

Balcony dog
Enjoying the Alps

Hotel Zum Türken
Checking out Hotel Zum Türken in Berchtesgaden

relaxing at the hotel
Cillaxing in a hotel bar

poor Fletch wanted in on the action
Spying from our balcony

I scream, you scream...
Snacking during a neighborhood barbecue

What you can't tell in this fall photo is that IT IS SNOWING!
Crunching through some leaves yesterday

Joined by a friend...
We are all going to need naps this afternoon.

Entirely too many photos of our hilarious dog (like this old favorite) are on Flickr.
he looks happy?

Citius, Altius, Fortius

The London 2012 Olympic Ticket application process was long, confusing and included tedious tasks like changing our Visa Card information to our German addresses.  Jen and I submitted separate applications on April 13, 2011 hoping for seats at the Opening Ceremony along with Swimming, Tennis and Football events totaling £2,042 (about $4,000!) Requesting those tickets meant committing to paying for them, should we win the lotteries. I was fairly certain we wouldn’t be quite that lucky but was prepared to say, “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity!” if we were. We kept a close eye on our Visa statements and when in June 2011 we were both charged less than $300 we correctly deduced we were both allotted four seats for football. I was secretly a bit disappointed but mostly thrilled that we’d be making the trip and seeing at least one event.

We booked our flights and hotel accommodations in February. When the Football Draws were announced in May we learned we’d see Uruguay vs. Senegal and Great Britian vs. the UAE. This was great news since Jen and I became big Uruguay fans during the 2010 World Cup (see also: Diego Forlán – we’re Team Headband!) and we were thrilled we’d be seeing the home team, Great Britian, too. Sadly, Diego and David Beckham were deemed too old/slow/whatever and weren’t selected to play on their teams.

was SO excited to finally get these in the mail

After almost 16 months of planning and anticipation I can honestly say our time in London last weekend far exceeded my expectations!

As usual, Big D is away (this time in the States for training and a few days vacation with his family) so Tricia was my partner in crime and Gary was a saint to travel with three excited, wacky girls.

We made our way from Frankfurt to London on Thursday and were surprised at the speed and organization of the immigration process at Heathrow. We were through passport control, had our luggage, were greeted by a brass band and were in a black cab headed to the hotel less than 90 minutes after we landed. We were also surprised to discover our hotel was hosting the Badminton World Federation officials.

Tricia and I shared a room that had a fantastic view of Wembley:

View from our hotel room

We headed to Trafalgar Square to find some lunch and while we were there, Gary read something on his iPhone that tipped us off – Prince William & Kate and Prince Harry would be receiving the Olympic Torch at Buckingham Palace later that afternoon! We finished our fish & chips and Pimms and headed over to the torch route, walking past the Horse Guard Parade, 10 Downing Street, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey and other famous sights on the way.

The two hour wait gave us time to wander around the fountain snapping photos, to make friends with fellow tourists and to buy Union Jack flags.

peeking through Buckingham fence

Jen, Gary, me & Tricia

The Olympians that stood with the royals blocked our view for almost the whole (very fast) event but we got a few good glimpses.

best photo of William I was able to snap Kate and Harry

Though we were in town less than five hours and had three full days still to come, we already declared our trip a success! A walk across the bridge, by the Eye and along the river to dinner at a Greek restaurant (not easy to find a place to dine during such a busy time) rounded out the night.

Friday morning found us up and out the door early, heading to the Olympic Park to get a lay of the land and see what we could find. Even though we basically spent a decent part of the day at a mall, palpable excitement abounded. We shopped, shopped, shopped, tried to peek into the park, and had lunch at a fun Brazilian steakhouse that felt more like a party than a restaurant. The British ladies at the table next to us chatted about their Opening Ceremony tickets. The Australian guys at the table behind us (affiliated with their swimming team) gave us tastes of their appetizers. Everyone was jovial!

We tried our best with a sign at the park, on the tube, and while walking, walking, walking many miles through the city:

trying...

We made our way back to Hyde Park that evening and attended the BT London Live Opening Ceremony Celebration featuring one band from each of the British Isles: Paolo Nutini from Scotland, Duran Duran from England, Stereophonics from Wales and Snow Patrol from Northern Ireland. What a party! The Red Arrows flew overhead and giant TV screens showed the first hour or so of the ceremony – the crowd went crazy during the James Bond / Queen Elizabeth grand entrance, we mumbled along to what what we know as My Country ’tis of Thee singing the only line we know, “God Save the Queen!”  and Snow Patrol finished just in time for us to watch the athletes light the flame.

Red Arrows flyover

Hyde Park Opening Ceremony Celebration

Duran Duran

Getting home through the crowd and after a few large beers was challenging (have I mentioned that Gary is a saint?) We were exhausted, yet it was so difficult to turn my brain off even though it was 3am!

Saturday had us up early and on our way back to the park, determined to get tickets to anything so we could experience it all… Armed with giant Starbucks coffees, adrenaline, and a new sign (“We want tickets to ANYTHING in the park”) we weren’t optimistic (others had signs) but waited just 10 or 15 minutes when a lovely Canadian gentlemen approached us and offered us swimming tickets for the following morning!

Jen: How much?
Canadian: £270.
Jen: Each? (starts counting money)
Canadian: Uh, no for all four.
Jen and me: (jumping up and down and acting crazy)

To say we were thrilled is a ridiculous understatement. At the end of our trip, when Tricia asked what my favorite part of our whole adventure was, I called it a tie between that moment, walking into the park, and actually attending the event. But that moment has an edge.

Saturday afternoon was relaxed and fun. Our ticket buying woes were over, we did some sightseeing, and we even sold our extra football tickets to some Americans we met at lunch.

with Mandeville near Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

We were up early yet again Sunday and took our now familiar route to Olympic Park, but this time, we got to go in!

Good morning from Olympic Park!

The Orbit

We saw Lochte set a World Record in his 200 meter freestyle heat.
(here he is in lane 5):

Lochte in lane 5

Grevers leading in Lane 5

After a rainy walk to the (closed on weekends) Today Show set and a final glimpse of the stadium, it was time for lunch and to make our way across town. (I wish we knew the milage we walked and rode – I’m sure its more impressive than I can even guess.)

Today Show Olympic Park set

Olympic Stadium

And after finding the right entrance and becoming accustomed to FIFA stadium rules (no drinks at your seats!) we were ready for some football.

UAE vs GB

Uruguay vs. Senegal

We finished our adventure in style, and lingered in the stadium to soak it all in.

finishing up in style

Wembley Stadium

Goodnight, Wembley

Wembley crowd departing

After waiting out the crowd, we had a final Pimms at (of all places) TGI Fridays, where we met friendly locals who were Civil Engineers involved in Olympic Park construction.

A few final thoughts:

– Thanks to our Badminton friends at the hotel, we worked the word Shuttlecock into conversation each day and giggled like little kids.

– I can not express enough how happy and friendly the crowds were! If only everyday encounters were always like that – smiling, asking where everyone is from, making light conversation, and offering to snap photos of each other.

– I hope the Rio 2016 Olympic Committee is watching! London could NOT have been more prepared. EVERYTHING throughout the city was clean and had a fresh coat of paint. The walking routes were organized and officials kept massive crowds moving together (left stairs up, right stars down, etc.) There were Olympic signs, employees and volunteers every few feet. Some were directing the crowds with giant foam fingers, all were cheerful, helpful, and friendly. Though we spoke the language (and what a treat that was for a few days!) things occasionally got confusing and there was ALWAYS someone to help. Really, London couldn’t have done it any better.

I was so sad to leave, but more than anything I was so very, very thankful for what was such a fantastic experience. Tons of  London 2012 photos are on my Flickr page.