Thursday, June 08, 2017

Coldplay in Munich

Remember back in January when I said that Rob and I were going to go on more dates this year? Well, this past week was THE BIG ONE that I had planned for this year. Rob and I left the kids at home with a sitter and drove the 4 hours to Munich to see Coldplay at the Olympiastadion. (I bought Rob the tickets for Christmas last year.)

We arrived, checked into our hotel and headed out to look for some dinner near the stadium.  Right near the Stadium is BMW Welt.  We had never been there, and Rob really likes BMWs, so we strolled in to check it out. We had fun looking at the Beemers, Rolls Royces, and Minis.  Rob picked out this gun metal grey $80k model for his next car.  Ha!! 

Also, it was raining out and cooler than we had expected.  (It had been in the 90s just a few days earlier.) And we were under-dressed and had no umbrellas, jackets, or ponchos so we thought we might find some in the gift shop. Well, they had umbrellas, but the cheapest one was 46 Euros!  Rob was considering buying one, and I was like NO, it's just rain, we won't die.  We did enjoy some light dinner at the food counter at BMW Welt though- salads and sandwiches and then decided to head over to the stadium, because surely someone there would be selling cheap ponchos, right?

Yeah, no.  There were no umbrellas or ponchos for sale anywhere.  So we got wet, and I was kinda wishing we'd bought that BMW umbrella. Now, we haven't been to a concert this huge ever before and there were a lot of things we didn't know. Like, our tickets said 6 pm, did that mean be there at 6 or concert starts at 6 or what?  We showed up at 5:30 and the gates opened at 6, but there were food vendors around so we snacked and watched people and tried to stay out of the rain.

Also, in light of the current world situation, and recent terror attacks at concerts, security was HIGH.  There were police everywhere, and a mandatory bag check, pat downs, etc. I had my purse, which isn't overly large, and wasn't planning to check it.  The line was sooooo long, and I could only imagine how long it would be to claim bags after the concert.  So what to do?  We threw my purse away.  I took out my wallet and phone and the few other things I couldn't easily replace, and we tossed it.  

When we went through the gate to enter the venue, we saw other women abandoning their purses rather than get out of line and go wait for bag check.  Also, umbrellas.  They didn't allow umbrellas into the venue so people were just dropping them before the pat down.  Rob was REALLY glad I talked him out of that 46 Euro umbrella then.

Our tickets were the cheapest I could get- standing room on the floor of the stadium.  We went down to check it out right away... even though Coldplay wouldn't end up taking the stage until 8 pm.  Everyone got a wristband with little led lights in it that would light up later during the concert. When we got down to the floor, this guy told us to get in a line for wristbands, and we were like, "we've got wristbands."  But he said we wanted other wristbands so we got in the line to see what was up.There we received these plastic wristbands and we still didn't really know what they were for. Then we went up to the top of the stadium to get out of the rain and dry out a bit until closer to 8 pm.

We came back down to the floor just before 8 pm.  And we were glad we had those wristbands!!  The floor had been divided into sections and our wristbands got us back into the closer section that we had been to at 6 pm. We were already getting tired and cold and we weren't sure all of the drama was going to be worth it. Thankfully it did stop raining right around 8 pm.

Then Coldplay took the stage and they were AWESOME! It was so fun to be down on the floor with the confetti, fireworks, and crowds dancing.  And yes, Coldplay was fantastic.  They played every song that we'd hoped to hear.  I took some photos and video clips, but there are way better ones out there on youtube, so here a re a few clips from the concert.

Adventure of a Lifetime- these huge balloons were a lot of fun.

Chris Martin had a fan come up to play Everglow with him.

And here is Something Just Like This.  
This video was taken from the back of the stadium, but you can see how the led bracelets worked really well. They were also filming during this song for a music video that he said would be out in a few weeks. 

After the concert we headed toward the metro, but it was PACKED.  Our back-up plan was to hail a cab, but yeah, there were a ton of people waiting to do that too.  In the end we decided to just walk the 2 miles back to our hotel using Rob's phone gps to get us there.  It was a LONG night!  But we had a great time spending time together.  And the date of the concert was actually the 12th anniversary of our first date. I don't know that we'll be going to another huge concert anytime soon.... but who knows?  Maybe we will. 

Monday, June 05, 2017

Legoland 2017

Over Memorial Day weekend, we spent two fun days at Legoland.

Day one started with some Star Wars fun.

The kids love checking out all of the items in Miniland.

Our kids met several important heights this time around... Amelie was just over 100 cm (41 in.), which meant she could go on all but the big roller coasters with an adult, Jake was just over 120 cm (48 in.), so he could go on nearly every ride, and Charlotte and Toby are both over 140 cm (57 in. and 56 in.), so they could go on every ride in the park- without an adult.

We rode nearly every ride (we skipped one that we didn't like when we were here two years ago)- some 3 times over the course of 2 days. Jakey drove me around the pond in this boat. (He was really driving it, they only go slowly, but are not on a track or anything.)

While Amelie and Rob drove this one as a team.

Ninjago-land was new this year and had a couple of fun things.  Here Rob and Amelie are testing their Ninja reflexes by hitting the lights when they light up.

We liked this dragon outside the Ninjago 4D ride. The ride itself was interesting.  You had to move your hands over a sensor to fight the bad guys, and we didn't do so great at that.  The second day I rode it with the big kids again though and Jake KILLED all of us, scoring 145,500 points!!  For comparison, I scored 80,000 points, and only after realizing he was doing so great and copying his technique.

It was a hot, HOT day in Germany- over 90 degrees.  We stopped for a late lunch at the pizza place after playing in Duploland, which has a splashpark.  Amelie came very close to falling asleep while waiting for her pizza and fruit, but her stubborn desire to not miss anything won out.

Sometimes I forget how little my kids still are, because they are physically so big.

Amelie wanted to meet Kai, but she didn't want him to touch her.

When it was time for the park to close (it closes early- rides shut down at 6 pm, and the gates close at 7 pm) we drove over to the Legoland resort.  We ate dinner at the buffet and settled in to our castle themed cabin for the night.  The kids love that there is a bin of Legos to play with in the room, but we were all sad that there was no air conditioning. We left the windows open and it did cool down eventually, but nobody slept very well.

We got up early the next morning though, enjoyed breakfast, checked out, and were waiting at the gate when the park opened at 10 am.

We walked directly to one of our favorite rides- the Flying Ninjago ride, and Rob, Charlotte, Toby, and I rode it a few times before there was a line to wait in.

Amelie and Jake both said their favorite ride was the small dragon roller coaster, so next we rode that a few times.  This silly catapult photo op is right next to that.

The log flume probably had the longest lines both days we were there, because it was so hot out.  We did ride it a couple of times though- Jake and Amelie really did great for a 5 year old and a 3 year old!  I know I wouldn't have ridden some of these rides as a kid, but they wanted to go on every ride they could.  

Day two we ended up leaving the park a bit earlier because we were soooo tired, and hot, and had really done the whole park.  So we headed on the 2.5 hour drive home and stopped at McDonald's for dinner. I have to say, it wasn't the grown-ups favorite weekend ever, but the kids LOVED it.  Maybe we'll go back one more time before we move.  Maybe.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mother's Day

I am such a pampered Mama. 

I woke up on Mother's Day to Rob making pancakes- some of which the kids brought me for breakfast in bed.  I told them it was very sweet, but I'd rather eat breakfast with THEM in the kitchen.  I was then completely drowned in homemade cards, coupons, bath salts, treats, and flowers from the garden. Jake even gave me a toy car.  I love their heartfelt and homemade gifts!

And this!  This is the act of a husband who knows and appreciates me.  Rob and the kids washed every dish, all weekend.  My least favorite chore, and the most thoughtful gift.

I am so grateful for my sweet family and these years that we have all together.
My cup runneth over.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Great British Road Trip: London

We visited London for the first time about 7 years ago, when Toby still fit in a crib and did SO MUCH on that short 3 day weekend, that this time around we just wanted to spend our day strolling and not doing a lot of what you might think of as "must do" sightseeing.

Our first stop was the Harry Potter store in King's Cross Station.  We had planned to do the photo op at platform 9 3/4, but even first thing in the morning the line was an hour deep.  Charlotte said she didn't really care, and would rather see the city, so we didn't hang around.

The kids liked riding the tube and the big red double-decker buses around.  Transportation + entertainment = win.  The British Library was our next stop but it was closed for Good Friday! Dang it.  We had visited there before, but both Rob and I were looking forward to seeing their treasures again. 

After that disappointment, we trudged on to the British Museum.  Charlotte and Toby have become quite the experts on Greek mythology lately as they've been reading the Percy Jackson series together.  Toby says he most wants to visit Athens, so we'll have to try to make that happen, but I told him that some of the most famous Greek sculptures are actually in the British Museum.  
The "Elgin Marbles" were originally part of the pediment, or top of the Parthenon in Athens.  They have been displayed in the British Museum since the early 1800s.  Charlotte and Toby read the description beneath each sculpture to see which God or Goddess was being represented.  They know way more about this than I do.

Jakey mainly wanted to see a mummy.  He was also asking me a lot of questions about the mummification process and wanted to make sure that the mummies could NOT come back to life and chase him.  It was really crowded in the Egypt area, but we saw some mummies and managed the experience without having any nightmares that night.

London was so incredibly crowded!  We decided to try and escape the crowds for a while in St. James Park.  The flowers were beautiful, and while there were a lot of people here too, we got an ice cream and headed to the playground.

Our kids love going to playgrounds and meeting other kids that speak English.  But we heard so many different languages in London... more so than anywhere else we have visited recently.

And you can see Buckingham Palace from the playground.  No big deal for these mini-globetrotters.

Next we headed toward Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and Parliament. The kids insisted on getting into one of the phonebooths.  It actually still had a pay phone in it!  Very novel to our little ones growing up in the smartphone era.

Big Rob and Big Ben.
From Westminster, we next headed toward the London Eye which we had tickets for that evening. The most direct route was across Westminster Bridge- site of a recent terror attack.  We stopped to listen to this bagpiper and watch the boats in the river.  Before going to the Eye, we found a nice Italian restaurant called Locale and sat down to relax and enjoy pizza and pasta after all of our walking.

Then it was on to the grand finale.  The London Eye!  Tickets are timed to a 30 minute window, and you have to get in line 30 minutes before your assigned time.  The line moved quickly once we finally got in it, but Amelie did manage to take a nap with Rob and I taking turns holding her.

The Eye does not stop very often.  You get into your pod while it is slowly moving with the river just below you.  At this point, I was questioning my judgement. I don't like heights much, and I especially don't like ferris wheels.

It moves slowly and you make one trip around the wheel.  It hardly felt like it was moving and it was completely enclosed which made me feel safer- no one could fall out.

Nearly to the top, I took a photo of the pod next to us.

And Rob took this shot of Parliament from the top.

Final group selfie of the Great British Road Trip! 
The London Eye was a neat experience, but not one I feel like we need to repeat.

Nearby we found a carousel and playground so of course we had to visit those before heading back to our hotel for the night.  I find it hilarious when Rob forgets to smile in these selfies because he is concentrating!  But he did get Toby, Jake, and Charlotte all into the picture.  (London was the only place where I found two triple hotel rooms cheaper than an airbnb accommodation.)

The next morning we were on the road by 7:30 am and headed home!  We took the ferry from Dover back to Calais and I got one last photo of England- the white cliffs of Dover. By the time we got home that night we had driven 2,960 miles!  Everyone was exhausted and Rob and I were both starting to get sick.  But we made a TON of memories on this trip, and it was really a once in a lifetime experience. I love it when a plan comes together.

The Great British Road Trip: Edinburgh and Hadrian's Wall

On our one full day in Edinburgh, we got up early and walked up to the Castle. So early, in fact, that we were there 30 minutes before they opened.  We walked around the square and were third in line when the gate opened.
Cannons are cool.  They have one there called Mons Meg, that I didn't take a picture of, that is the largest ever used in battle.  It was built in the 1400s.  It could fire a 300 lb. ball up to 2 miles.

Did you know that the national emblem of Scotland is the thistle?  We saw this symbol all around, and I kinda love it. Anyway, we walked all over Edinburgh Castle, saw the Crown Jewels (no photos allowed), and enjoyed the prisons (which were most recently utilized in WWII, which is crazy to me.)  And then headed out to see some more Edinburgh and buy a bit of Anderson tartan.

Our next stop was down the Royal Mile a little at St. Giles Cathedral.

The cathedral dates from the 1300s and is the seat of the Church of Scotland.  I love the Gothic details!

We paid our 2 pound donation for the privilege of taking photos inside and enjoyed a stroll around the interior.  It is simpler than some we have seen, but had some neat accents.  See that blue ceiling in the background? And the stained glass, dating from the 1800s, was lovely.

Amelie favors the comfy seats over the common pew.

In case you were wondering, St. Giles is the patron saint of Edinburgh, and also of "cripples and lepers."  He was very popular in the middle ages.

This is just a shot looking back up the Royal Mile toward the Castle.  Blue skies and sunshine!  Yay!

And bagpipers. 
We only saw a few on this trip, I actually thought there would be more.
The last place on my "must see" list was the National Museum of Scotland.  I imagined we would learn all about Scottish history, but after a few rooms of that, the kids were over it.  The museum is like a mini-Smithsonian with everything under one roof and we dabbled in the interactive technology wing, the art and fashion area, and Rob took the big kids into an extensive exhibit on primates while Amelie and I took a break and watched people.  It was VERY crowded inside and I didn't take any pictures. Oh well.

After the museum, we went out to dinner near our apartment at Nando's.  The kids and I had never been to Nando's, but Rob had in Maryland and said it was good.  It was, we ejoyed our yummy dinner and then headed down the hill behind the Castle grounds because it looked like there was a city park there.

The park was lovely with flowers blooming and people strolling.

And a great playground!  So that was pretty much a perfect evening activity for our family.  

We were just getting ready to head to our apartment for the night when I realized I had left my purse under my chair in Nando's! No bueno!  I ran back to the restaurant while Rob headed to the apartment with the kids.  It wasn't there, so I asked a waitress, and she got the manager, and he came out of his office with my purse.  Everything was in it and "all's well that ends well," but boy can I be a space cadet sometimes!

The next morning it was time to leave Scotland and head south toward our London finale!  We stopped at the border for a stretch and a photo.

Just a little further south we stopped in at Housestead's Roman Fort and to see part of Hadrian's Wall. There was an itty bitty museum with some interesting info and then we headed out to the wall.

Hadrian was the Roman emperor around 122 AD who kinda consolidated Rome's empire and fortified it's borders. This wall originally reached all the way across England- 74 miles coast to coast- and had Roman Forts along the way.  The kids are actually standing on a segment of the wall that it is okay to walk along in this photo.

Housestead's Roman Fort was a place for the Roman soldiers to live- but many of them also had their families with them and seemed more like a modern military base than I imagined it would before we visited.

Those soldiers really would have been at the last frontier of the Roman empire looking north into the land of Barbarians.

We love places like this- history out in the open.
And you get to climb on it.

The kids were tired after hiking around the wall and fort for some time and we were all ready to get back on the road to London.