Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trip to Germany: Mainz and the Rhine

I just don't think I'm up for trips like this anymore, I told Josh in Edinburgh.

It was a hilly city.  Lots of walking everywhere.  Lots of sights to see.  I was exhausted a lot of the time.

Um... what are we going to do about Germany? he asked me.

We'd already booked plane tickets for a trip three weeks away.  Josh had a business trip to take in Mainz (outside of Frankfurt) and Caroline and I were planning to tag along/extend the time there as our last "hoorah" before baby #2.  Plus, Caroline's second birthday is in November, and at that point we will have to pay full price for her airfare.

So we did it all differently in Germany.  Praise Jesus.
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First, we chose not to do a city vacation.  Instead of a hotel we chose to stay in a teeny little cottage in a teeny little village located on the Mosel river.  We explored the countryside in a rental car, stopping at will and exploring castles, vineyards, and old little towns as we chose.  We even took a side trip to France.  And each night we headed back to the rental house, put Caroline to bed in her own bedroom, and cozied up on the couch. 

(It was actually from there that we watched the Tigers sweep the Yankees and Michigan beat Michigan State.  A great sports weekend, and quite different from this past one, where both of our teams lost.)

And despite the fact that we were all a bit sick, we had an absolutely fabulous time.  It was the perfect speed for a 7-month-pregnant woman and a toddler because we could both nap in the car as necessary.

Okay.  Germany.  It wasn't high on my list of want-to-go places.  I didn't know very much about it, or what there was to see there.  But I fell in LOVE.  Get ready for way-too-many pictures of the countryside and way-too-much gushing about it from me.

It probably helps that it was around 60 degrees the entire time we were there, and that the fall colors were at their peak of brilliance at exactly the time we visited.  Score.

So Caroline and I boarded a plane for Frankfurt and met Josh in Germany.
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Our first day was spent in Mainz, as Josh was working there.  Our hotel was a short walk away from downtown, so Caroline and I enjoyed the opportunity to wander about and buy some necessities.  Germany, like England, seems to be chock full of darling historic towns/cities, and Mainz was no exception.  Cobblestone downtown area.  Stands selling pretzels. Darling German architecture everywhere you look.
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There was a large park located next to the hotel, so we enjoyed some time running around in the leaves as well.
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By mid-afternoon Josh was done with job responsibilities and we all headed out on a riverside drive up the Rhine.


The landscape was simply stunning.  Praise God - He does amazing work in that corner of the world!  And to make it more fun, you drive past all of these castles, just perched up on the hills so quaint.

We stopped to do some exploring at Burg Rheinfels.  It was built back in the 13th century, and was partially destroyed by the French around 1800.  1018_8423

We had to take turns because we had a sleeping toddler in the car.  Josh went in first and walked around for a bit, climbing higher and higher.

Then it was my turn.  Unbeknownst to me, they were closing the castle at that very time.  I somehow got in without anyone knowing, and heard a SLAM as the door shut behind me.

I totally panicked.  I had visions of me trying to find a warm spot in a corner while I camped there all night.

But someone heard my shouts for help and let me out.  Gratefully.

More gushing to come.  Stay tuned.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bath and other adventures from Jamie's visit.

My friend Jamie comes to visit me every October.

She's come to Indiana, Michigan, Ohio - and now, London!  What a friend!  She's also the type of friend who doesn't come empty-handed.  Her suitcase must have been half-full with some of my favorite goodies from the US:

Pumpkin pancake mix from Trader Joe's
Oyster Crackers from TJ's
Candy Corn
Pumpkin bread mix
Baking cocoa

And I'm sure I'm forgetting something here!  In any case, it didn't even occur to me to miss these things.  But when they arrived, I was like...




Jamie remembered that I loved this and brought me 2 boxes.  She also brought bread mix, oyster crackers, salted chocolate covered caramels, and candy corn. Let's just say she's a good friend to have. Jamie is here!

Jamie visited us for just over a week, and we were able to pack in the fun.

Her first order of business was very wise: a walking tour of downtown.  That way, she figured, she could get a good lay of the land and hit the major sites quickly and easily.  I'm totally going to adopt that plan with the next major city I visit, and recommend it for our visitors in the future.  The one she chose was free, too - bonus.  The guides just work for tips.
Wellington Arch. Changing of the guards.

Jamie also got acquainted enough with the Tube to be able to stay downtown and enjoy more of London on days that Caroline and I needed to head home for naps.  We're grateful we live relatively close to the Tube so our visitors can come and go and explore as they please.

We also enjoyed visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum, having dinner in Covent Garden, walking across the Thames on the Millenium Bridge and having lunch at Borough Market.

Untitled Lunch at Borough Market, our favorite substitute for Columbus' North Market. And a darned good one. Street music. Sightseeing pales in comparison to a cup of Cheerios. On Sunday night we signed up for another walking tour - a "Jack the Ripper" tour that involved walking around the East End at night and seeing all of the places that "Jack" murdered his many victims.  Honestly, it was fascinating.  Not only the mystery and story of "Jack" but also the history of the East End, a historic working class neighborhood that has seen numerous waves of immigrants over the years.  While it's easy to get caught up in the stories of the kings and queens and military victories here in London, I think the history of the lower classes is just as fascinating.  So this tour hit the spot, chilling as it was at times!

Jamie had requested a drive into the countryside for a weekend day trip.  Does she know us AT ALL?  Did she realize that we love our weekend day trips?  I think so.  But we all chose Bath, a classic day trip from London due to the fact that it's under 2 hours away and also boasts major history, dating back to the days when the Romans ruled the island, about 2000 years ago.


Bath is known for - get this - and old bath (assorted pools with an associated temple) that the Romans built in the town. For years it was a popular spa/resort-ish destination.  There is a hot springs that they were able to tap into, making for a nice warm spot for a dip.

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We weren't allowed to get in.  No baths for us!  But if you look closely you can catch the steam rising out of the pool.

They didn't allow strollers in the bath house, but did provide us with baby backpacks. Caroline was most displeased by the idea at first, but warmed up to it once she realized it meant extra cuddles with her dad. 1005_7518


In the 17th century, after years of neglect, it once again became a very fashionable spot to see and be seen.  Any Jane Austen fans out there?  You'll know she mentions Bath often in her books.  Actually, she's from there, so she probably had a soft spot for it.  A lot of the architecture made me feel like I was stepping right out of Pride and Prejudice.
Chim-chiminee Chim-chiminee Chim Chim cheree. Royal Crescent, Bath. Feels like I've been transported back to the time of Jane Austen.

This spot is known as the Royal Crescent, a group of 30 homes built all together in a half circle.  It's hard to capture on camera with a wide angle lens... too long!

We let Caroline out of the stroller for awhile to burn off some energy. She enjoyed it. 1006_7425-1 1006_7455



And of course, we can't pass up a church/abbey/cathedral. Bath Abbey, while perhaps lacking the full "wow" factor of some of the other ones we've seen lately, was stately and simply gorgeous. I appreciated the light stone they used, which brightened up the place so well. Oh, and the stained glass windows. 1005_7543

I take it back about the wow factor.  It had plenty.
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The ceilings... look at that stone work! So impressive. 1005_7548 428 315 640 471

Monday, October 22, 2012

Melrose Abbey

So, if you follow me on Instagram (jjbrown611) you'll know that we spent the last 5 days in Germany.  And yet this post isn't on that trip at all.  That's because I'm about three weeks behind on blogging.  No surprises there!

So I'll just jump back in time to the trip to Scotland, shall I?

On our way back we decided to stop at Melrose Abbey, which was founded by Cistercian Monks in 1136.  We went because we're suckers for church architecture and historical buildings.  And there's something about the ones that are no longer fully intact.  Extra charming?  Pretty?  Can't really describe it.


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Caroline viewed the entire experience as a fantastic place to run, climb, attempt to eat rocks, and get fabulously dirty.
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Can't blame her there.  After a weekend of "buggy time" (time spent in a stroller) in Edinburgh, she was more than excited for some space to romp around.
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It was raining the entire way down to Melrose, but the moment we pulled into our parking spot? Nice and sunny. Fantastic. 0929_5842

The place was just fabulous. We could really see the painstaking attention to detail and incredible stone work.  Josh climbed up to the roof and got a great view of the flying buttresses.  I stayed below and imagined what the windows may have looked like filled with stained glass.
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A worthy pit stop on our way home from Edinburgh.  Looking forward to visiting more churches - both half-demolished and intact.  0929_5897