Saturday, April 30, 2016

Part Two: Germany

The first time Chris and I visited Germany, we wanted to see "the real Cinderella castle" or Neuschwanstein, but it was closed for the winter. When we realized our friends were only three hours away from the castle, it was on our list.  We took a sleeper train (one of Abe's favorite parts of the entire trip) from Venice to Munich. We rented a car and jumped on the Autobahn.  Chris did an amazing job driving in a new country and navigating our way.  Fussen was a cute little town, but it was cold! These Hawaiians were bundled up! 

In Fussen, freezing, but still smiling. 
Besides the castle, another fun sight we visited was a treetop bridge that was on the border of Germany and Austria. You could have a foot in both countries at the same time.  The view was amazing and it was fun to run and be outside after many hours of trains and cars.

The map of the bridge. The line in the middle separates the two countries. 

One foot in Germany and one foot in Austria. 

Abe just took off running. 

It was beautiful! 
Of course it was too cold for gelato, but we quickly found Fussen's famous treats... these amazing dough balls that were covered in chocolate and came in all different flavors. Amazing!

In the morning we drove to the two castles. In addition to Neuschwanstein we also toured Hohenschwangua. Both of course were spectacular!

With Neuschwanstein behind us!

A view of Hohenschwangau as we were walking up to Neuschwanstein

Before our castle tour

Of course we had to ride the horse and carriage back down. It was only fitting...

Just stunning!
After touring the castles we drove to see our sweet friends, the Cochrans. We met the Cochrans while living in Japan. We went to the same church and we all became quick friends.  They knew us at the beginning stages of our adoption and they prayed for Abe before we were even matched with him.  Jessica prayed with me over the phone while Abe was in the hospital after his surgeries. She was also one of the first friends I called to tell her I was pregnant with twins.  We were so happy to see them again and introduce Abe to them. Abe had a great time playing with their children, Molly, Jack and Sadie.  And Jessica and I were able to catch up and laugh together about our families!

Now, Abe's second favorite part of the trip was the sleeper train, but his first favorite was going to Playmobil Park.  It was amazing and we all had a blast. The park was in Nuremberg, which was an hour from our friend's house.  The way I describe it is as a park filled with life size playmobil toys.  There were no lines, it was just a massive park! Perfect!

You can tell Abe is excited!

At the pirate ship

Digging in the quarry

Climbing up the rope structure

Noah's Ark

Concentrating at the water tables

Jumping on the massive trampoline!

So fun!

Paddle boats

We had an amazing day! The next morning we drove to Munich to spend our last two days in Germany.  The boys toured the BMW museum while the girls sat in the cafe and chatted over coffee and pretzels!

After the cars, we went to an art museum.  Abe was noticing all the crucifixion pictures but then we noticed a series of pictures by Rembrandt about the life of Christ. They were amazing and they included the resurrection. They were our favorite!

That night we had dinner at the famous Hofbrauhaus! It was huge, so loud and can hold 5000 people! They don't even seat you, you just push around till you find a table.  Sounds crazy, but it was so fun! The music and food were great! 

We finally found a table!

Listening to the music while eating a pretzel! When in Germany...

The next day we took a walking tour of Munich (Chris loves those things). The must see on our list was the Marienplatz clock tower.  The clock has 32 life size figures in it that dance around every day at 11am, noon and 5pm.  The show lasts for 15 minutes. Now, this was a must see because the first time we were in Munich Chris had to see it, but we missed the show.  We were thrilled to see them dance this time!

Watching the figures dance! We made it! 

Our last family picture on our trip.

We had an amazing time on our trip to Italy and Germany. Abe did way better than we ever thought he would and it is so great to hear what he remembers! Next time our trip will definitely include Jack and Luke. Thank you to my sweet parents for keeping them for two weeks and for celebrating their first birthday with them! 

***Chris would also like for me to mention our famous tourist buy, the selfie stick.  It was the best $5 we spent on the trip. Even though it was bright lime green and all the venders were attracted to us every time we took it out, it allowed us to take so many great family pictures. He would like to encourage all travelers to invest in one.  You're welcome.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Our First European Trip with Kids (okay, one kid, but it counts!)

Chris and I have always loved to travel.  We decided a long time ago that when we have kids we don't want to stop traveling, we just want to take them with us.  Chris was able to take some time off work, my parents were willing to watch the twins and Abe was old enough to remember places so we decided now is the time.  We knew it would be different with him with us, but we also knew it would be some good one-on-one time and that we would make some wonderful memories.  

Our style of traveling is simple. See as many places as possible and each person is allowed one backpack.  The rules didn't change with Abe. We packed our backpacks and we were off! Our original plans were to go to Turkey then Germany but at the last minute plans changed and our itinerary changed from Turkey to Italy. We were off... First up, Milan!

Taking the train from the airport to the city. Abe was a great traveler!

Our first stop in Milan was to see "The Last Supper." It was pretty spectacular. We thought it was perfect timing because we had just finished celebrating Easter and Abe had been learning all about the events leading up to the resurrection in school.  He knew what the bread and wine represented, who Judas was, and why he was holding money.

In front of the beautiful Duomo cathedral.
Then we boarded another train and a boat and toured the city of Bellagio on Lake Como. Even though it was cold and there were no George Clooney sightings (he has a house on Lake Como) it was the perfect Italian city.

Bellagio on Lake Como

The story of Pinocchio originated in Florence, Italy so these puppets were everywhere. Of course Abe pulled them all to watch them move. 

Our first Italian meal of pizza and spaghetti of course!

Yum! Eating wasn't a problem for Abe in Italy!

I loved this colorful pasta. I wanted to bring some home but I was afraid it would smash in the backpack!

A quaint street in Bellagio.

We quickly learned when you are traveling with kids and you see a park, you stop to play!

Abe's favorite Italian meal... gnocchi! 

The next morning we boarded our next train and headed to Rome.  When we arrived and dropped off our bags we set out on a walking tour of the city to see some of the important sights. Chris was in heaven. Abe and I were just looking for gelato! 

We learned that these fountains which were all over the city had fresh, cold water. Perfect for filling up our water bottles.

In front of the Pantheon. Abe wasn't to sure of the performing clown.

Inside the Pantheon

Taking a gelato break! One of many...

The next morning Chris let us sleep in a bit after walking ALL around the city, treated us to a yummy breakfast and then we set off for the Colosseum.

You have to have a cannoli when you are in Italy! Delicious!
When we got to the Colosseum, Chris and I were trying to be content with just seeing it from the outside. There were only two ways to get inside. Either stand in a 2 1/2 hour line or take an hour long guided tour.  None of which we thought Abe would do. Then we decided we are only here once and we needed to go inside. We chose the tour.  To our surprise, Abe did great! We gave him one toy and he was as happy as a clam.

My favorite picture of the whole trip! 

Abe (and Chris) enduring the guided tour. 

We made it inside!!

Abe will be happy if he doesn't see anymore ruins for quite awhile. He's happy here because he knows what awaits him...

His gelato treat!

The next morning, we had an afternoon train to catch so we woke up early and headed to the Vatican so we would miss the lines. Our plan worked! There were only a hand full of people there and it was beautiful to watch the sun rise over Vatican City.

Outside St. Peter's Basilica

Beautiful morning at Vatican City

Inside the Basilica. It was amazing!

On the way back to the hotel to grab our bags Abe had to stop at this fountain because you could "get inside." So fun!

We were off to our third and final city in Italy... Venice! This was my most favorite city of our entire trip. It was such a unique and different city. There are no cars, just boats! You took water taxis everywhere. I loved it!

Outside the train station in Venice

Venice is famous for their masks. They are everywhere and Abe was in heaven!

On one of our many water taxi rides. 

Being serenaded at lunch. Perfect! 

Being silly in front of the faces made out of pizza dough. 

Of course while you are in Venice, you have to splurge on a gondola ride and we are so glad we did. We found a gondolier who took us on a great route and gave us some interesting facts about Venice on our ride.

In front of the Rialto Bridge. The first bridge in Venice (1591).

Abe loved the gondola ride!

I love that our gondolier is waving in this picture!

After we finished our last Italian meal of spaghetti and lasagna, we boarded a night train. If you asked Abe his favorite part of our entire trip he would give you two answers. This is his #2. He loved sleeping on this train. He was so giddy!

Boarding the sleeper train

In our cozy room with three tiny bunk beds. But it was perfect for us! 

Next stop... Germany!