Last week we spent a little time in the Japanese Gardens in Kaiserslautern. It's a serene little getaway in the middle of a busy city. (Yes, K-town is a city to me. Remember I'm from a tiny little town in AR!) After walking inside the gates, I instantly felt more calm and relaxed. Id been feeling a little frustrated over the inprocessing events (long lines, complicated answers, etc.), so this was a much needed break. J told me to find my zen. Here in the gardens, it was easy to do so.
The entry fee was about 3 euros per person, and well worth it. They have a cute little cafe near the back of the gardens with plenty of places to sit and admire along the way. Coming from the US, it is difficult to get into the European relaxed and unhurried lifestyle. They definitely move at a different pace here and we are trying to adjust, to take time, and to slow down. It's all too easy to get caught up in the PCS craziness around here. Spending a little time in these gardens helped me regain my center.
Friday we decided to visit the chocolate factory in Pirmasens, Germany. I found the info on FB of all places. An American guy runs a site called Buzz off Base which details fun things to do around Germany and he has a FB page. All morning and the entire 35 minute drive there, I felt like a little kid going to, well, a candy store. I love chocolate! I can usually have a couple of bites and be done (Im not big on sugar overload), but I savor those bites. I was also eager to see how the chocolate was made and what went into the process. Unfortunately, when it came to the tour of the factory, the FB page was a bit misleading and the experience, a bit disappointing.
For starters, the address on the website was incorrect. The one listed was for the corporate offices. Thankfully, the ladies there were nice, spoke some English and were able to give us directions to the factory. J & I have a sense of humor, so this wasnt a dark cloud in our day and we werent on a schedule. When we arrived at the factory we realized that the "tour" was really a self-guided walk down one hallway. That's it. It took approximately two minutes from start to finish and we didnt get to see much. Thankfully, this is where the disappointment ended.
Above the factory (which is in the basement) is a cute little cafe and a store that sells all of the chocolates that they make. They had a large platter set out with samples. We tried everything and then started shopping! As you can see from the photos, we loaded up on some great chocolates. We filled a large bag and only paid 9 euro! I guess thats the wonderful advantage of buying straight from the source. I would recommend coming here if you love chocolate and want to buy in bulk, but dont come just for this. Plan something else to do in the area. We chose to spend the afternoon at another castle!
From there we drove another 30 minutes or so to Berwartstein Castle, built in the 12th century. If you havnet figured this out yet, J & I love castles! For him, it's all about the history. While I love the history, there is an element of fantasy and excitement when it comes to castles that I just love. i would love to be able to see what life was really like back then, and not Hollywood or anyone else's idea of what it was like.
This castle was gorgeous with tons of original features and artifacts. It has been built and rebuilt, with multiple additions throughout the centuries, so it was multi-storied and so unique. I would love to live in a castle like this! A seriously cool part was the dungeon/underground passageway. It was so dark that you had to carry a candle with you to see at all! It was also cold, wet, and muddy, but definitely worth checking out. We bought the guidebook for 3 euro at the small gift shop outside so J could get the in-depth history on the castle. They also offer a restaurant with outdoor seating. We'd just eaten so we didnt sample anything, but had we have known about it, we would have waited to eat lunch there. Parking was free and it was only 4 euro per person for entry. Overall, we had a great day trip!
From the Washington Monument we walked to the World War II Monument. It was my first time to visit this memorial and I thought it was beautiful. The day we were there, a group of WWII veterans from Missouri were also visiting. Most were in wheelchairs and accompanied by family. Several people shook their hands and had their photo taken with them. They took a group photo in front of the portion of the monument dedicated to Missouri. This was a poignant moment for J & I as we thought about the service these men provided. It was also sobering to think that one day there will most likely be an Iraq War Memorial in DC. Just thinking about this made me want to hold his hand a little tighter that day.
Beyond the WWII Memorial you can see the reflecting pool and the Lincoln Memorial. It's a lot longer of a walk than it looks!
The Korean Memorial is just off to the left of the Lincoln Memorial. Ive seen it before and, while beautiful, I find it a little unnerving. We moved on to the Vietnam Memorial, which is simple and sad.
From there we went to lunch at Old Ebitt Grill. This place was established in the 1850s and still has the look of an old saloon. A really, really, upscale saloon. The lunchtime wait was 45 minutes for a table, but there was no wait at the bar. We were hot & tired of walking, not to mention hungry, so the bar was a very appealing choice. Our bartender was fantastic! Attentive but not intrusive, friendly, and made great mixed drinks. J had the Bloody Maryland (their take on a Bloody Mary) & I had a Pomegranate Mojito. They were both amazingly refreshing after our long walk. The food was delicious! The next time we visit DC, we will definitely eat here again.
The White House
After lunch we visited The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The ocean hall and the mineral & gem hall were my favorites. I loved looking at the jewelry!
On our way back to Union Station, we stopped to feed these little guys some nuts. They were not at all afraid of us, and would in fact come right up and beg for food. They were so cute I couldnt say no, even though I know better!
I could have easily spent a couple of hours at the shops in Union Station. As it was, we had time for one drink before our train departed for BWI. For anyone going to DC, I would give these tips: wear comfy walking shoes, wear sunscreen and bring water. I left DC with more culture, great memories, and one thing I didnt count on...an intense heat rash on both feet. =P
My first train ride! I swear I was like a little kid when I found out that we were going to get to ride the train from Baltimore to D.C. You see, I am from the South and we dont have a train system, or public transportation for that matter. Everyone drives their own vehicle. Sure, in Little Rock we have a public bus system, but Ive never ridden on it, nor do I know anyone who has. We also have a taxi service, but you'd be hard pressed to find one anywhere other than the airport. Public transportation just isnt very common there. So I was very excited to ride the train to DC.
We took the MARC train which you can catch at the BWI airport. We parked for $9/all day there at the station. Tickets were $6 each way, which we thought was amazing considering Amtrak tickets were at least 3x that! The ride to D.C. took about 25 minutes and ended at Union Station. From there we set out for the Library of Congress. Im a bit of a history nerd, as is J, so this was a must see for us. The building is absolutely gorgeous! Inside youll find original documents from our nations history- Thomas Paine's Common Sense, parts of the Bill of Rights, the Declaration, and the Constitution, and maps from hundreds of years ago. It was pretty awe-inspiring.
We were going to tour the Capital, but to do so, you have to take an official tour. We really just wanted to do things on our own time that day, so we satisfied ourselves with photos of the outside and moved on. (Ive been before, so it wasnt a huge disappointment)
So onward we went. I swear if we added it all up, we walked many, many miles that day. In flipflops. And 90 degree weather. As we headed towards the Washington "Mall" where most of the monuments are, we walked pasted the Smithsonian Castle. I want to live in a castle one day. Is that an unrealistic goal? I didnt think so! ;)
Up next was the Washington Monument. This monument is so simple, so beautiful, and has an interesting history.
Yay! I'm so excited! Thank you so much ACU's and ABC's for my very first blogger award! It made my day!
As per the rules, Im supposed to share 7 things about myself and then nominate other bloggers for the award.
Seven Things About Myself: 1. Im an organizer, a planner, and a list maker, but not a great cleaner! 2. Ive loved the color pink for years now, but hated it growing up. 3. I love, love, love to bake and decorate cakes & cupcakes! 4. I am a huge reader and can actually read very fast- thanks Mom! 5. My two greatest desires at the moment are to be a mommy and to travel the world. (Some think these two dont exactly go together. I disagree. =) 6. Im a healthy eater 90% of the time, but I love to splurge when we go out. 7. Im actually not a big shopper. Id rather spend my money on wine, food and traveling! (Shocking, I know!)
Of course this post begins with food! =) The first picture is of some fried pickles that we got in Ohio, yes, at a gas station. I thought they only sold things like this in the South! I know they look ridiculous, but they were so tasty! The second photo is of the yummy Greek food we had in Columbus, Ohio at Yanni's Greek Grill & Deli. The hummus was spicy, which is how I like it, and the gyro salad was incredibly good. The homemade garlic dressing was amazing! It'll give you stinky breath, but it's worth it. We stayed at the Ramada Columbus North. It was a very nice room, spacious, with a fridge and microwave. They had a decent breakfast, were pet friendly, and all for a great rate. I would definitely recommend them and stay there again.
Ohio was gorgeous! Lush & green with rolling hills. I had no idea how pretty Ohio is. We did run into some severe storms on our way to our hotel. It was raining so hard, we had to drive 30 mph on the interstate. When we woke up the next morning, we saw on the news that the previous night, Ohio had it's deadliest outbreak of tornados in 25 years. I guess we brought them with us from Arkansas!
We drove through a small portion of Pennsylvania & West Virginia. Both were gorgeous. WV was very mountainous with forests everywhere. Maryland was much of the same- beautiful country with cute little villages along the way. This was my first trip to that part of the country, and I liked it more than I thought I would.
Since I don't have the connector cord for my big camera with me (it's in the household goods shipment, of course), I am going to be blogging about our days out of order. I'm sure all of you really mind. ;) Up next...DC!
We're here in Germany! FINALLY!!! Let me tell you, it was a long process, but we finally made it. We are exhausted, but happy. I will post photos and tell you about our adventures getting here when I have a free moment. I have had so many "If only I had known" moments! We will spend tomorrow running errands, getting settled, and looking for a house. I should have some free time this weekend though. Until then,
All of the preparations leading up to our move have been many things: time consuming, stressful, chaotic, interesting, & altogether, not bad, but Friday, the fun really began. We left on our multi-day trip to Germany! We headed to St. Louis where we picked up our rental car. Due to franchising issues, it was much less expensive to rent from there than our own state. We had a whirlwind time there in about 18 hrs, then left this morning for our next stop.
This was the best I could do while riding in the car! We've been to the top before. The ride up = terrifying!
Today was our first time in Indiana. I was surprised by all of the farmland, though I dont really know what I was expecting. Their state roads are absolutely horrible! It was a really bumpy ride. Other than that, it really was beautiful. Tonight we are in Ohio, and all I can say about it so far is that its been rainy, as in torrential downpour rainy, since we entered the state.
Looking forward to tomorrow and the next leg of our journey!
Our big adventure begins on Friday, so I will be MIA for a bit while we travel to Germany and get settled. If I can get ahold of some WiFi, I will blog about the trip to Maryland, which should be an adventure in itself with the dog and enough luggage for a six person family! We leave for Germany in exactly one week! We will be staying in the hotel on base once we arrive and Im not sure if they have internet or not, but hopefully it wont take long for us to find a house to rent. We have our eye on one in particular, but Im not sure if they allow dogs. I have a feeling that everything in Germany will be an adventure, at least for the first few months while we get settled. Until then.....