Germany-October 2018

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I used to be convinced that once I visited a city, that it would be better to go somewhere new, versus returning to places I have already been. Well cities evolve, so that is just dumb thinking on my part. I LOVE visiting Germany, especially for the Christmas Markets. Since I was attempting to learn the language, I thought what a better way to force myself to speak, then to spend a week immersed.  So Hallo Deutschland! 

First stop was Koln or Cologne.  I had flown to Frankfurt and took the train to Cologne. Which sounded like a good idea when I booked it, but the reality I should have flown. I was traveling for 30 days, so I had 2 suitcases and a laptop bag. And they were heavy. Lifting them onto the train, was interesting. So yeah, trains are not the best idea if you have lots of bags!  But Cologne was just beautiful in the fall. 

This is the part where I should tell you all the great sightseeing that I did and culture I took in. Sorry nope. I walked a lot and just enjoyed the beautiful fall weather. I caught with a friend Laura, who lives close by.  Apparently this my new way of traveling, just not making plans and going with things.  Fun note, I saw Shania Twain in the hotel lounge. 

We took a day trip to Dusseldorf. With the amazing weather, it was great to just stroll around. I would like to visit again in the summer, as the river front looks amazing. 

After spending a week in Cologne, I attempted to head south to Frankfurt. There was a fire on the train line, so I was told to go main train station and take the regional train. And then the adventure began, I had to take a train to the other station, found the regional train that was chocked full, and it was going to Mainz, not Frankfurt. While the train ride was scenic, along the Rhine, it was not ideal to stand for 3 hours only to arrive in Mainz, and find that the trains to Frankfurt were still having issues.  I gave up and took a taxi!  By the time I arrived in Frankfurt, I was pleasantly surprised.  I had been once before, but only vaguely remember walking over a bridge. I really enjoyed walking around and taking in the varied architecture.

I really only headed back to Frankfurt, because I was scheduled to fly out of there on Monday night. Rather then stay all weekend, I headed down to Heidelberg to meet up with some friends, Kevin and Lisa. I had met Kevin while living in Brisbane, so it was nice to meet up in his home country. I continued to be super lucky with the weather. Heidelberg is an idyllic college town. Perfect for a weekend visit. 

Too soon, I was on the train, heading back to Frankfurt. In hindsight, I should have just gone straight from Cologne to Heidelberg. Or even better, try not to cram in some many cities into one trip. But it worked out in the end, lesson learned. It was worth getting to catch up with my friends.  

I’ve normally try to visit Germany in late November because I love Christmas market. But now having visited in the Fall, I think I may need to make this an annual thing. It was just a magical!

Stay tuned…. next stop back to Australia! Until then Safe Travels!

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30 day Trip- October 2018

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When I first started traveling, I would take really short trips. Mainly due financial and time restrictions.  But now I am older, I am just not in a rush. I really enjoyed my trip to Paris in June, in which I had no agenda other then to just enjoy. I recently started to learn to German, so I thought spending a week there would force me to actually speak. (It did not). Most people I interacted with preferred to practice their English. And honestly native English speakers will rarely corrected a non native speaker because we are used to a million different ways to say the same thing. However native non English speakers prefer their language spoken exactly the same way they say it. So while you may think you are saying it correctly, they will correct it.  Go ahead test this theory out…….

My original plan was to fly to London, buy some boots and then head over to somewhere in Germany. I had found a free ticket to Gatwick, using Qantas points for only $8.  Which was a surprised because Heathrow charges a hefty fee to arrive there. I was also able to find a free return on United from Frankfurt.  Luckily I am frequent flyer and was able to cancel those flights with no fee.  No sooner had I finished booking, did I get a text that Oliver and Rowan had finally set a wedding date. Great, since I was going to be in Germany. Oh the wedding is in Australia……

I do have a job and I had a conference to attend in Tucson, Arizona in the beginning of October and one in Las Vegas at the end of October.  So Flo logic decided to spend the entire month on the road, as it did not make sense to keep changing time zones. Note I said “FLO Logic”. I was able to throw in a side trip to San Francisco to see my friend, Madison’s video premiere. So what was meant to be a week in Europe, morphed into a 30 day trip.

  • Chicago to San Francisco- 2 nights
  • San Francisco to Tucson -2 nights
  • Tuscon to Houston- 1 night
  • Houston to Dallas to Frankfurt to Cologne- 6 nights
  • Cologne to Frankfurt- 4 nights  ( including one night in Heidelberg)
  • Frankfurt to Dubai to Sydney- 8 nights
  • Sydney-Brisbane-Sydney-Day trip
  • Sydney to Dubai to Frankfurt- 1 night
  • Frankfurt to Dallas to Houston to Las Vegas- 4 nights

It sounds as awful as it reads. I tried to fly non-stops as much as possible.

But here are some fun facts:

  • I had too much sugar on the 1st flight. Which then made me make better choices the rest of the trip.
  • I only ordered room service 4 times in Tucson, Cologne and Las Vegas.
  • I DO NOT recommend Uber in Tucson. One of drivers were too busy texting to see oncoming traffic.
  • I had the best night of sleep at the Marriott Houston Airport. I actually complained about the quality of the bed, I mean who has the most ridiculously comfortable bed at an airport hotel?? Seriously I had to set an alarm to make sure I was awake for my 12pm flight!
  • I was in Sydney during the Invictus Games, and I stayed at the same hotel as the athletes.
  • The Bellagio in Vegas allows smoking in the casino. You have to walk thru the casino to get to your room.  It was gross.
  • I have a lot of friends all over the world and was lucky to catch up with them in various cities, all over the world.
  • I fly thru Dubai airport, wear your joggers, I think it rivals Heathrow in terms of walking at least a mile to get anywhere.
  • I had a migraine in Tucson, which I think was allergy related, but other than the sugar debacle, I did not get sick.
  • I did have to buy a new suitcase in Frankfurt, to get the goodies I had accumulated home.

In the end it was not ideal to travel like that for 30 days, but it worked.  Stay tuned, more details to follow!

Flo’s Birthday July 2016-Part 5

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Hello 40

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I had grand idea of going to the beach. But the weather god’s had other ideas.  But a few of my friends were still interested in going, so off to the beach we went. We headed over to Travmunde, a coastal town located on the Baltic Sea. Of course, it started to pour rain as soon as we decided to leave the house. Which was actually ok, because we got some great pictures with our brollies!

Then it was party time! As previously mentioned, the party theme was Oktoberfest. Which was bit odd, since it’s July and we were in Northern Germany. But Jan had asked if we could have a traditional German, throw the bone, fest. So there you have it 25 people, dressed in dirnd’s and lederhosen in Northern Germany in July. I had my dirndl made by Rare Dirdnl in Chicago. Erika is a phenomenal seamstresses. I highly recommend if you have a need for a dirnl anytime soon.

This party was definitely one for the books. I guess I can let the pictures tell the story. Too many to share. But memories I will cherish for a lifetime!

The next day we all stayed local and some of checked out the local town of Lubeck.  Which is a quintessential German town. Including market stalls in the town square.   That evening we went a lovely fish place on the Ratzenberg See .

And then it was time to head home.  Words can not describe how amazing this whole trip was. I am so blessed to have such amazing people in my life!   To my fantastic family and friends, Jon, Lesley, Cassandra, Carrie, Rebecca, Laura, Breno, Sheila, John, Michael, Katy, Natalie, Natasha, Lena, Jan, Christianne, Norbert, Michelle, Alexis, Barry, Regine, Jovelt, Sebastien, Nicolas, Jocelyne, Bruce, Will, Sea and everyone that was there in spirit, THANK YOU!

Until next time…. Safe Travels!

 

 

Flo’s Birthday-July 2016 Part 4

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Flo’s turning 40. Let’s have a ball. No seriously,can we wear ball gowns? This one I blame on Natasha. Since Natasha and Jan were having such a fine time planning my party/trip, I agreed to a lot of their suggestions. Hence how a random group of people from all parts for world, ended up Bliestorf, Germany dressed in dirndl’s and lederhosen.

Tuesday morning found us saying goodbye to some of the group and heading up Bliestorf for part 2 of the trip. It was about a 3 hour drive.  We arrived early afternoon to Herrenhaus Gut Bliestorf.  I wasa little nervous because all the correspondence had been done online. Well I had nothing to worry about. WOW. Just WOW.

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The house has with 13 bedrooms and 11 en suites. It was perfect, as everyone had their own rooms. As a gift to me,  Jan, Natasha, Christianne and Norbert, arranged to have a  Roman, a massuese come to the house  It was perfect.  We spent the afternoon just hanging out at the house, getting massages and just enjoying each other’s company.

I figured we would not want to have to hunt down a place to eat on the first night, so I arranged to have dinner catered that night. Well, I asked Jan to arrange the dinner. He told me it was going to be a BBQ. Something clearly got lost in translation. We had FEAST.

There a no food shots, because we were all too busy stuffing our faces. I said to Jan, this is your idea of BBQ? He claimed that he asked for ” a lil meat”. I was crying because I was the idiot that had us all wearing tight outfits the next day. Pretty sure I heard some buttons popping that night. It was amazing. The food was  farm to table and could not have been any fresher. It was nice not having to drive anywhere, or even have to walk far to get our rooms.

Stayed tuned for the next part of this adventure… The actual birthday party!

Flo’s Birthday July 2016- Part 3

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Spotted some Qantas Roo’s eating Dello Mano brownies  on a United flight heading to Germany. Something is off with this picture…

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Thank you to the fantastic flight crew working UA 907 on July 8th. We had a blast on the flight!  Yes, I am referring to United Airlines, close your jaw. I , myself, was quite surprised. Graham, the purser was fantastic.  I was horribly sick when I returned from Scotland. Since I still was not feeling well when were heading out, so I opted to upgrade myself to business class. (Yes, only me, myself and I) To keep it classy, I made sure I had the last row,  which is rear-facing, so I could wave to my friends while I enjoy my business meal. (It’s a wonder I had any friends willing to travel with me with this type of behavior, SMH)

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Unfortunately, we all had a little too much fun on the flight so there not much sleeping. There was a rapper, The Game, and his entourage were on our flight.. They arrived late and there was a problem with the rapper’s seat belt. So we were delayed departing Chicago,  we arrived in Frankfurt with about 30 minutes to get our connection. Of course, we came into a remote gate, so we had to be bused to the terminal. We made our flight to Berlin, but our bags did not. The lucky ones that were traveling with carry on’s were able to refresh while the rest of us were sporting the latest in eau du travel funk.

We had a free afternoon and some of decided to do a bit of site-seeing.  The sun kept trying to hide behind the clouds, but it was quite pleasant when it made it’s appearance.

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That evening the majority of the group headed over to Borchardt for dinner.  We took a stroll after dinner and enjoyed the fact it was still light out at 9pm.Our missing bags finally showed up at midnight. I was so excited I tried to hug the delivery guy.

Sunday morning came too quickly. 1/2 the group went on a bike tour of Berlin with Fat Tire. And well some of us were just lazy

On Monday, the original plan was to go to the Porsche Factory in Leipzig. But it was closed for summer holiday. So option 2 was to take the train out to Potsdam. Well that did not happen. So option 3? Just walk around. The group met up again in the early afternoon for a boat cruise along the canal that runs thru Berlin. Really it was a reason to afternoon drink.

I liked to say we did something fantastic on Monday night, but it appears we were too busy playing on our phones……..

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Photo by Alexis Eckersall

Just kidding, sort of. We hung out the lounge at the Hyatt for a bit before heading out to a nice beer garden for dinner.

This was the last night in Berlin. A few friends were heading back to the States and the rest of the group was heading up Bliestorf for the next part of the trip.

You may have noticed the fantastic photos. I, of course, did not take them. Alexis, was the party photographer.  Thanks again, Alexis. The pictures are amazing.

Stayed tuned for the next part of this fun adventure, which includes dirndls and lederhosen.

 

Flo’s Birthday July 2016- Part 2

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I am solo traveler. I do what I want when I want to do it and well frankly I kind of of prefer it that way. I was little worried about traveling with 20 of my friends.

So how where we getting to Berlin?  Well before moving to Australia, I was very loyal to United Airlines. So I had a healthy amount of frequent flier miles. (If you want to learn more about earning miles, check out The Points Guy.)    Add in my 1k status and the choice was easy, Chicago to Frankfurt on United connecting to Lufthansa to Berlin.I was one of the last one’s to book my ticket. It was primary because I was not sure if I would be coming from Australia or the States.  After booking 6 friends on  one flight from Chicago, I realized it would make sense for me to book myself on that flight. Fun Fact: Lesley was the first one to book.

I’ve been fortunate to be able frequently fly in Business Class, alot. Most airlines provide a in flight amenity kit, some like Qantas and Virgin Australia give pajamas. Since part of this trip was for my friends to experience a “Flo” trip. I made special amenity kits for them. I was even able to include pajamas from Qantas. ( Thanks again Qantas!)

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You probably already know about my love affair with Flight 001. So it should not be a surprise that I choose a Seat Pak for my amenity kit. I included stuff that I found to be helpful on flights. A pen, tissue, toothbrushes, hand lotion, lip balm, electronic glass cleaner, antibacterial wipes and in some cases a battery pack. My friend, Michelle made amazing travel cards that included the itinerary, contact information for the other travels, so Flo travel trivia and a crossword puzzle. She even wrapped them in vintage maps!

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As with any trip, not everything went according to schedule. Apparently the Porsche factory was closed the week were going to be in town. There goes my dream of doing hot laps on the track in Leipzig.  Someone got a new job and had to cancel, another had to change tickets due to a wedding etc. Lots of shifting and organizing up until the last minute, including a last minute cancellation that had me sweating. Let me be very fair in saying, I was very clear to my friends that I would completely and totally understand if they were unable to attend, for whatever reason.  So when one friend, who had been making excuses for months, said that maybe they could not go about a week before, I made the decision to cancel.Only because if we are all being honest, said friend never had any intention of going on the trip.  I had to cancel the ticket, rearrange hotels, update transportation lists, etc. It was not a 2 minute fix. Fast forward to day before departure and I realized, I had no heard from that friend. Oops. Luckily the cancellation text message came in at 28th hour. Whew. That would have been a bit awkward at the airport.

I used my points to book most of us into the Grand Hyatt Berlin. Hyatt has this amazing program called Be My Guest. It allows diamond members to use their points to book rooms for friends and family and they get your diamond status benefits.  So everyone was upgraded to club rooms and given access to club lounge. Which was just ideal given the number of people traveling together. It gave us an opportunity to get together and just hang out. DSC_0052

I had coordinated with the hotel to ensure that everyone’s names where on their rooms and that everything was sorted ahead of time. Then I got an email the morning we were leaving confirming my reservations, minus a few rooms. Nothing like last minute panic. A quick email sorted everything out. And on our way we went.

We were all so excited that we headed to the airport early.I told the group that was traveling with me, that I would meet them at the gate. I was excited but not excited enough to give up my TSA Pre-Check. Stay tuned for the next part of the trip, actually going!

 

Flo’s Birthday July 2016-Part 1

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In 2013, I made my first trip to South Africa. I LOVED it. So much so, that I remember asking my sister how old would my nephews have to be for me to take them on safari. I said maybe for my 40th?  That is how the idea of having a destination party came to be for my birthday this year.

I sent out announcement with Christmas cards, warning everyone to save the date and start saving pennies. I even started hoarding my airlines miles and hotel points.

Fast forward to July, 2015 and the questions started. Where are we going? What’s the plan?
The original list included, Maldives, Thailand, Seychelles, Russia, Alaska, Haiti, Italy, France,  Germany ,Australia.

My cousin, Natasha and her husband, Jan, were just tremendously supportive in planning this party.  I can honestly say it would not have happened without them. Jan become the official Party Secretary. I highly recommend his services for staying on task. I am pretty sure I would still be thinking about where to have this party, if had not been for him.

There were lots of phone calls, emails, texts, facetime and even in person meetings.  It was at one meeting, where Party Secretary 2 and 3, Christianne and Norbert, assisted in narrowing down the location. We were all in Boston, visiting Natasha and Jan.  At that point, the party was leaning towards Russia. Why Russia? Well, Katy wants a Faberge Egg Pendant.  As one does. Haha.  You can just imagine that conversation  Wait? Who’s Katy? What is this Faberge egg? And why Russia?   Thank you, Norbert, for pointing out that maybe going to Russia was not the best idea. (FYI-Faberge Egg Pendants are not available for purchase in Russia)

My friend, Will, had been helping me search Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway, for house rentals. We had found a manor house in Bliestorf, Germany, Herrenhaus Gut Bliestorf. It fit the bill. So the decision made we were going to Germany.

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Then came the fun part, how does one handle the logistics of getting everyone to Germany?  Very carefully.  Ironically the timing of my decision, coincided with my decision to move to Australia. I had some fun conversations. “Hi Lesley, how are you? It’s been a while. So my birthday trip location has been locked to Germany, and by the way, I am moving to Australia”

So passports were renewed, tickets were booked, guidebooks were purchased. And then we had to wait. Oh the torture, it was almost like having kids on a road trip ” Are we there yet?”  The months turned to weeks to days and then next thing you know we were heading to Germany!

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Stay tuned for Part 2 of this crazy adventure.