Apr 252011
 
French frogs sound…. Different!

The Longest Day started around 7 AM in Riverside.

USA

I heard Mom up and about, but rested in bed about another hour.  Then it was up, shower, wake kids, and call 2 last businesses I needed to notify about our move.  Then we grabbed breakfast (at the Original Pancake House- YUM for Apple Pancakes that are really an apple upside down cake disguised as breakfast!).  Next off to say Good-bye to Grandma Connie at her retirement home, make a quick stop at the drug store for a last minute item or two, and return to Mom’s house to finalize packing and say good-bye to the cat.  We culled a couple heavy things from the bags (a couple books, DS’s razor scooter) and headed for the airport.

At the airport we checked in, weighed our luggage (had to rearrange things in the carry-ons but surprisingly we managed the checked luggage weight limits without incident), and proceeded through the maze of security (body scan *and* pat down?) and customs (just a quick passport check).  We had about 2 hours till the flight, so we grabbed a decent lunch and then went to wait by our plane.

Boarding went smoothly and we discovered our seats were advantageous because the family next to us had gone Cuddle Class and thus had bought the extra seat in our row to use when they had the other seats set up in bed-configuration.  This meant that through most of the flight our row of 4 seats only had 3 people in it- two of whom were DS and DD, so smaller people at that. Presumably because of cuddle class and the holidays, most of the plane was filled with families with small children. But other than the occasional diaper bomb or crying fit, it wasn’t really an issue.  Just made for more room, really!  The flight itself was pleasant, the food was rotten, the seatback gaming/movie system was awesome, and the service was oddly sparse and even somewhat surly.  Since it was air New Zealand we tied a New Zealand soda called L&P that mostly just struck me as less flavorful gingerale, though they claimed it was “lemon flavored”.  Sleep was elusive, especially since DS could not sleep.  Didn’t really sleep at all, though I closed my eyes a few times in effort! A tail wind allowed us to land 45 minutes early.  Which means that it was around 10 AM Saturday, London Time- 2AM EST.  DD had turned 14 in midair!

London, England

Heathrow has the longest walks of any airport I have visited.  You walk down mazes of passageways, double back, turn around, go downstairs, and hoof it from building to building with no end in sight. I think it was at least a mile from our plane to the checkpoint.  Eventually, you reach a security station full of pleasantly jovial agents and the usual “put your shoes in this box, now step through this scanner” set up.  Only the lady who pats you down is a 4-foot tall English matron who calls you “love”. The guy overseeing the process jokingly took my teddy bear out of its tub and stuck her on the monitor with a bag of potato chips and complained that she had stolen his “crisps”.  Hee.  He also told the kids to watch out for their mum since I almost left the passports with him.

Next you wind through more tunnels and eventually wind up at a central check in area with a variety of airlines stations.  From there you move on to a giant mall filled with duty free shops, restaurants and money exchange places with terrible rates.  There are, however, no drinking fountains, which sort of sucked since I had no pounds with which to purchase a bottled drink.  Since we were only going to be there 3 hours, I skipped dealing with the money issues and found us a set of benches to lie down on.  We tried to nap, but, sleeping in an airport is far from ideal.  Still, the rest was welcome- even when our flight was delayed significantly and we wound up spending 4.5 hours hanging out in the mall.  Eventually, they designated a gate for our flight and sent us trotting through an equally long set of hallways (back from whence we had come) to get to the waiting area for our actual flight.  They loaded us up relatively quickly (changing the kids’ and my seats in the process), and then our female German captain apologized in German and English for the delay.  1.5 hours later, we landed in Frankfurt!  That was about 6 PM Saturday, 9AM Saturday in LA.

Germany
We cleared customs and had our passport stamped without incident.  The immigration worker seemed to think my cheerful “hi” was cute and joked with me.  The kids happily told him we were moving here and he welcomed us.  The next, more difficult challenge was getting our luggage.  Two bags arrived, the other did not.  As we were waiting for it, people would exit the terminal via a set of frosted doors, whenever the doors would open we could see David standing there bouncing around, waving excitedly and waiting for us.  It was cute!
Unfortunately, the final bag was not forthcoming.  We found the right place to report this “baggage tracing” and they informed us that it was on a different flight and wouldn’t be arriving for 3 hours!  Doh!  They said we could either wait or file a claim and they would ship it to us.  They let me go get David to help make the decision.  It was Audric’s bag, so we decided he could share some of his sister’s t-shirts and manage until Tuesday, when the bag would be delivered.  Next we set about getting food.  A yummy but expensive (50 EU!  Ouch!) meal at the airport did brighten our mood.  Then it was off to find our rental car.
David had reserved a car and the check in went smoothly.  But, the cars themselves were kept in a massive structure worthy of Heathrow.  We walked and walked with our cart of bags, getting lost at one point where the signage was poor.  Eventually we asked a lone attendant in the wilderness of the auto zone and she directed us cheerfully.  We found our vehicle which wound up to be a huge white van built on a truck chassis.  We had to fetch the attendant one more time to show us a trick to the stick-mechanism, then we were off!

Now, mind you, it was night, David had never driven in Germany, and I had never read a German map.  So, there were some confusing moments, but we eventually made it down to Kehl, and then Auenheim.  David showed us around the house, and we all proceeded to collapse.  That was around 10:30 PM local time, 1:30 PM PST Saturday.  The kids and I had been up around 30.5 hours and I had a headache.

France

The next morning we slept in until around 9 AM.  Then we got up, showered (only 2 towels… need to remedy that!) and David made us breakfast- refrigerator waffles cooked in a skillet…. O.K.  No toaster and no ovenware, you think creatively.  Then we drove into town and discovered that while the shops were all closed, they were having a traveling carnival in town, an Easter Market set up on mainstreet (Hauptstrasse), and all the bakeries, restaurants and ice cream shops were open.  We took note of all that and then trotted off to the bridge over the Rhine!  It was just as pleasant as David said it was.  Lovely day, lots of folks out and about.  Swans on the river.  And frogs that sound… Different!  We crossed over into France and wandered around the gardens for a while before returning to the Easter Market for lunch and ice cream.  Then it was back to Auenheim for a seriously needed nap (and just maybe a little blogging)!

The kids- in France!
DS found one of several spinning toys/art around town.

David ad DD happily in Germany

Stephanie on the Rhine

Nifty Bridge

David looks at the Rhine

Nice looking church in town.  We were awakened Sunday (Easter) to the sound of many church bells.

  2 Responses to “The Longest Day and First Impressions”

  1. Hi Parises! Just a note to let you know I’ve been enjoying reading about the whirlwind. You guys are strong! – Susan K.

  2. Thanks, Sue! That is really kind of you to say. I am really glad that you are enjoying the blog. Some days I feel stronger than others. Still sort of in survival mode. As it turns out, building a life in a new country takes some work!

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