A Travellerspoint blog

Sunshine in Munich

Zoo, biergartens, playgrounds, and sun!

Day 5

We had a relaxing last morning in Dornheim packing and saying goodbyes before heading to Munich. We were excited to take the ICE to Munich! We arrived at the Frankfurt airport early to enjoy the 1st class lounge. I purchased our train tickets far in advance when 1st class was nearly the same cost as 2nd class. Why not?

The Frankfurt DB lounge offered great views of the train station as well as free drinks and snacks. We had our own compartment on the train. At one point, we hit around 300 kilometers per hour. Smokin' fast!
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We arrived in Munich and got a little confused with the subway system. After a few extra stops, we found our hotel for the next three nights: Hotel Brack. Our room had plenty of space at the top floor. The kids enjoyed the tiny elevator and getting little packs of Haribo gummy bears every time they walked past the front desk.
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The hotel concierge suggested a great beer garden only 10 minutes away. We had to walk across Bavaria Park where the huge Oktoberfest is held to get there. We enjoyed a massive German meal! Delicious and located right by a great playground. It's so wonderful that nearly all biergardens have playgrounds for kids.
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DH headed out to the BMW Welt for some Saturday night pictures while I attempted to get the kids to bed. Despite great effort, they are getting to bed late every night. Oh well, eventually everyone got rest.
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Day 6

I got up first and went for a nice run along the Isar River and through the Marienplatz. I always enjoy seeing a city as it wakes up. On Sundays, many businesses stay closed all day. We were all ready to go around 9am. We had a fabulous breakfast at our hotel. DD#2 said, "this is more like a feast!" Kids had hot chocolate among many other delicious bread, meats, cheeses, fruits, yogurts, etc... Definitely enough to sustain us for hours!
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We took the U Bahn just a few stops to the Hellabrunn Zoo. Animals were easy to spot and it was relaxing to wander around. DH and I joked at the lack of zoo personnel especially in the children's petting area. Not a worker to be seen. It was kind of a free-for-all with all those goats! Unlike the US, there were were no hand sanitizing stations around. Funny little differences. I suppose one of the big ones was all of the dogs at the zoo. That's right - people can bring their dogs to the zoo!
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After several hours at the zoo, we took a bus just a few stops to a beer garden, Hinterbruhl. It was located right along the river with another entertaining playground. We had a snack and watched the many party rafts travel down the river with live music and lots of whooping it up! Looked like a ton of fun!
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We were hot and sweaty and decided to take a break back at the hotel to recharge. After an hour or so, we took the U Bahn to Englischer Park to the Seehaus Biergarten. We grabbed a couple doner sandwiches along the way and had a nice casual dinner right along a lake in the park. We walked around the park a bit more, grabbed some ice cream for the kids, and called it a day. It was hot in Munich and we are definitely missing AC in our hotel room. Last time we were here, it rained much of the time so I am not complaining. I'm looking forward to another lovely day in Munich tomorrow.
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Posted by familyineurope 14:08 Comments (1)

Dornheim, Mainz, and Oppenheim

Running, biking, ferries, trains, oh my!

Day 3
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We awoke to sunny skies around 5am. Gotta love jet lag. Luckily, the girls were quite the opposite. They slept for nearly 13 hours! We finally woke them up around 10am. It was relaxing hanging out around the home for a few hours before beginning our day. We enjoyed their fancy Saeco coffee machine and some yogurt and muesli.

The house in Dornheim:
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The kids are especially drawn to the friendly fish:
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After the kids awoke happy and ready to go, we headed to the nearby Dornheim bakery for delicious pastries. My almond/marzipan creation was still warm so delectable! Four fancy pastries cost around $5. After grabbing a few German snacks and beverages from the nearby store, we took the train to the town of Mainz.
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Mainz was bigger than I expected with a lovely old cathedral and lots of shopping. DD#2 was most impressed with her special blue slushee drink that turned her tongue blue. It was a hot day! We enjoyed stopping for bratwurst and beers while we wandered the town. Mainz is situated along the Rhine River.
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My step-sister (I'll call her C) picked us up at a nearby train station and took us back to Dornheim so I could get ready for a a 5K run in Groß-Gerau beginning at 7pm. It was nearly 90 degrees and running after my beer/brat lunch seemed a bit crazy. After seeing nearly 1,200 eager Germans ready to run, I became pretty excited! I ended up placing first in the 40+ women division and averaged 7:22 per mile. That is not my normal pace! I was pretty surprised. There were no kilometer markings along the way so I really didn’t know how much further I had to run. I ran on a team representing C's boyfriend’s (I’ll call him R) work team.
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The kids had fun playing at a playground during the race.
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After the run, I had a bunch of water and refreshing free beer. First time I’ve seen a bunch of runners drinking beer right after a race! We then ordered döner kebab from a nearby place. It was our first time enjoying this huge massive speciality that is found all over Germany. So messy but delicious!

Day 4 - 4th of July!

We all slept in until nearly 9am. We all needed it! We couldn’t help but return to the bakery for breakfast. Yummy! We were eager to bike to the nearby village of Oppenheim. C & R had arranged to borrow kid bikes from the neighbor. After making some adjustments on the kid bikes, we headed off. The kid bikes were bigger than our daughters were accustomed and they had hand brakes (they are used to coaster brakes). After the first few kilometers, we found our groove and headed through the wheat fields to Oppenheim.
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We had to take a ferry across the Rhine to get to the town. Kind of fun! On our ride back, a newly married couple was aboard. Everyone honked and the ferry spun a circle right in the middle of the river in honor of the couple. Neat!

Oppenheim was nearly 10 miles away by bike. We were tired and had to get ice cream and beer on the main square. A nice chance to catch our breath and take in the city.
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We walked to the large church that dominated the town. The stained glass was beautiful! We were most intrigued by the bone chapel behind the church. Around 20,000 bodies are stacked meticulously on display. Creepy but fascinating.
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Lastly, we climbed around 170 steps to the top of the church tower. We were the only ones up there! Fantastic views of Oppenheim and a ruined castle.
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On the ride back, we spotted deer, neat black and white birds, and bunnies. We stopped at a swimming lake for a quick dip. We were so fortunate to have R guiding us today. He took the day off to show us around. He is a volunteer lifeguard at the lake and helped us navigate on some narrow trails to access the lake.

We biked about 20 miles today. Wow! We were very impressed with the girls. They needed a few water stops but they were troopers and seemed to have a great time.
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We arrived back at Dornheim in time for a special 4th of July BBQ and World Cup soccer viewing. The streets of Germany were quiet as everyone was inside watching the big game against France. Germany won 1-0.

C & R had four friends join us for dinner. We had delicious salads and meats (and beer) for dinner. My step-brother gave me a great bier stein to take home. I enjoyed drinking from it on the 4th of July. We stayed up visiting until after midnight. The kids loved doing gymnastics in the yard and DD#1 managed herself very well after being stung by a bee. We look forward to visiting Dornheim again!
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Posted by familyineurope 13:24 Comments (2)

Reykjavik, Iceland Stopover

Sideways rain, wind, and a little chill didn't stop us!

July 1 - Reykjavik in 24 hours

After two lovely nights in Seattle visiting family, we began our 5 1/2 week journey to Europe! This time, we chose Icelandair mainly because of cheaper rates. The airline offers free stopovers in Iceland so we decided to stay one night and give it a try,
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The seven hour flight from Seattle was easy. Kids were happy with their individual screens and free kid meals. The adults managed with snacks. Icelandair is cheap because it's no frills. No one slept on the flight (Well, DH always manages a nap. Lucky guy.) so I knew jet lag would be interesting.
The look of jet lag:
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Upon landing, I was first struck by the smell of sulfer in the air. Iceland is known for its geothermal power beneath the surface. We took the flybus into Reykjavik - about 45 minutes. We were dropped off at our small guesthouse - Summerday. The room was not supposed to be ready until 2pm and we were there around 9am with very tired kids. The guesthouse earned HUGE points when they checked us in upon arrival. We all promptly crashed and napped just a bit.
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DD#1 and I wandered to a nearby store to find breakfast. Prices are steep in Iceland but much better at a grocery store. We found pastries and the famous skyr yogurty specialty that comes in liquid and more spoonable forms. Pretty good.
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The guesthouse earned even more points when they offered to drive us to a local thermal pool - Laugardalslaug. This was the best way to beat jet lag. The pool was fantastic! There were 3 different waterslides, several hot-pots ranging in temperature. One was empty because it was so hot. DH managed in that one for a bit. The kids particularly loved the ropes course over the water. Entrance to the pool was reasonable - I think around $13 for the family. We opted for this experience over the expensive Blue Lagoon. The kids loved it and I know that will be their fond memory of Iceland. They did not allow pictures in the pool so I'm including one I found online.

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We ate Icelandic hot dogs for an after pool snack just outside the pool. Word is that they eat a lot of hot dogs around here! We hopped on a city bus back to the guesthouse to change. Did I mention how terrible the weather was the entire time? It rained, and rained, and rained some more. We were very cold in the brisk wind despite wearing rain coats and a few layers underneath.
Some random sights around the city:
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Neat sink had high speed hand dryers attached:
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We quickly regrouped after swimming and took a bus to the downtown area. We were lucky to catch a great organist practicing in the famous Hallgrimskirkja church. The kids were quite content watching him play for a while. We took the elevator to the viewing platform at the top of the church tower. Very windy up there! We wandered around some of the more touristy parts of Reykjavik. After popping in a few shops, we ate dinner at Icelandic Fish & Chips. Not a cheap meal but tasty and filling. We enjoyed hearing Icelandic being spoken. The language both sounds and looks very Scandinavian. The signs made me think of IKEA.
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We did not try the krap:
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We made it back for beverages at our hotel. I thought I had purchased two beers but one of them was a nasty non-alcoholic malt drink. Must be an acquired taste. It was easy to crash for the night to prepare for our 4am flybus pick up time.

July 2 - Flight to Frankfurt

Flybus back to the airport was easy. The flight to Frankfurt was no problem - just three hours. We took the train from busy Frankfurt to Dornheim to stay with family. We were all tired again but revived to see familiar faces who made us feel at home. The kids played with the fish, settled in to their own room, and we finally unpacked a bit for the first time. Showers never felt so good!

We went out for a special Greek dinner right along the Rhine River. A lovely location to watch the boats and view the vineyards across the river. The weather was perfect and quite the welcome change from Iceland! The kids were managing themselves really well at this point. I was shocked that they hadn't napped and were staying happy. Maybe the stopover in Iceland had helped with jet lag. It's only day three so one can hope!
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After dinner, we walked down to the banks of the Rhine where the kids spent around 30 minutes finding special rocks and climbing around. They could have stayed for much longer but we knew they needed sleep!
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Dinner was delicious and we really enjoyed catching up with family. We stayed up a bit getting advice for the rest of our stay in the Frankfurt area.

Posted by familyineurope 23:29 Archived in Iceland Comments (2)

We are headed back to Europe Summer 2014!

Our family is headed to Iceland, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Now our kids are 7 and 9. We can hardly wait!

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Here we go again. Back to Europe for another adventure! It's been three years since our seven week adventure through Germany, France, and Belgium. Our itinerary for summer 2014 hits a few favorites but will mostly focus on new destinations. Our daughters are now seven and nine. We are excited to travel with kids who can read, have longer attention spans, and are easier to reason with (usually).

This trip excites us for many reasons. We are visiting family and friends for nearly half the trip, we are focused on fun and local culture (not as many museums), and family time together without our hectic schedules.

I have spent loads of time planning the trip using online forums, guide books, and family conversations. We are budget travelers who average less than 100 Euro per night for accommodations, eat simple meals, and enjoy local sights such as pools, parks, and beer gardens! Our accommodations are booked and the basic itinerary is set. Now we're counting the days until liftoff!

Here is the itinerary:

Seattle - depart on Icelandair.

Reykjavik, Iceland - (will I ever be able to spell this city without looking it up?) - one night stopover. We intend to visit a local geothermal pool with waterslides, ride a boat around the harbor, and check out the city.

Dornheim, Germany (near Frankfurt) - stay with family for three nights. Visit sights along the Rhine and acclimate to Europe time. I plan to run in a local race, ride bikes, visit family, and rejoice that we are back in Europe!

Munich, Germany - We will take the ICE train to Munich where we will stay three nights. At the end of our stay, we will collect our new BMW that we will lease for three years through the European Delivery Program. We did this three years ago and LOVED the experience, and the car.

Reisbach, Germany
- We are staying at a small inn for two nights with the goal to visit Bayern Amusement Park. I might be more excited than the kids to visit a mid-sized local amusement park!

Prague, Czech Republic - We are staying five nights right below the Charles Bridge in an apartment. DH and I have spent time in Prague and are eager to explore the city more than a decade later. We will probably take a side trip or two and enjoy some sights off the tourist track.

Warsaw, Poland - We will spend 4 nights in Warsaw staying with dear friends. We have never been to Warsaw. I look forward to seeing how this city is rebuilding and changing.

Gdansk, Poland - Our friends will travel with us to Gdansk where we will stay in an apartment for three nights. It will be interesting to explore the Baltic Sea.

Berlin, Germany
- We have never been to Berlin and look forward to seeing another city that continues to reinvent itself alongside its rich history.

Adelsdorf, Germany - This town is not far from Bamberg, Germany. The Bamberg area has more breweries per capita than any place on the planet! There are also luge opportunities, amusement parks, and the historic city of Bamberg nearby. Did I mention we are staying at a small brewery hotel?

Bruges, Belgium - Seven nights. We are returning to the same farm we stayed at three years ago. Our kids are especially excited for this part of the trip. Our friends from Poland will join us for the week.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- We will stay three nights in an apartment just outside the city center. I have been to Amsterdam but the rest of the family has not. Hopefully we will ride bikes like the locals! We will fly home from Amsterdam.

Posted by familyineurope 19:13 Comments (1)

Mosel River, Frankfurt, and Home!

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We're back in the USA where I'm working on finishing the blog. We did not have Internet during our last stay.

July 31 - Drive to Longuich, Germany.

We reluctantly awoke early and left our wonderful little farmhouse outside of Brugge, Belgium. We had a three-hour drive to our next destination - Longuich, Germany. It's a little wine village just outside of Trier. Trier is the oldest town in Germany and has some amazing Roman ruins.

DH and I both enjoyed some fast driving on the Autobahn.
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We arrived at one of the many weinguts that are throughout the Mosel River Valley. The small town of Longuich must have had a dozen weinguts. We rented a spotless apartment for three nights. The balcony was a perfect place to enjoy a glass of white Mosel wine.

Our balcony is on the top left:
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There is a fridge with local wine at the bottom of the stairs. You can help yourself to wine on an honor system basis.
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We arrived for lunch in Longuich. DH had big plans for the day - the Nürburgring Nordschleife! He had arranged for a BMW Ring-Taxi. A professional track driver took him on a wild M3 ride around what is probably the most challenging track in the world. After the taxi tour, DH took a lap around in the new car. Yikes! One lap amongst many other track drivers and motorcyles was enough. I was never so happy to have him return to the sleepy Mosel River in one piece!

Here is the taxi just outside of the BMW Pavilion at the 'Ring.
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Someone caught a picture of DH driving our car around the 'Ring.
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Meanwhile, the kids and I were enjoying a quiet day in Longuich. We were able to walk the entire town and found a few parks along the way.
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We were lucky to stumble across a festival in the town. There was a live Germany oom-pah band! Naturally we stopped for a beverage and snack.
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The band was pretty good!

We were all safely reunited after having very different afternoons! We had dinner just up the road and started to settle in to the relaxed Mosel River pace.
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August 1st - Trier!

I started the day with a great run along the river. The bike/running path is really beautiful! I made a stop at the local bakery on the way back. We will REALLY miss the high-quality bakeries we have found all across Europe. Yum!

Today was all about exploring the nearby town of Trier. Here's the Porta Nigra gate. The best-preserved Roman city gate anywhere!
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The city was much bigger and vibrant than I expected. I love how you can stop in the middle of the pedestrian area for a glass of wine.
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It was a lovely summer day and we enjoyed walking around and exploring.
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The girls bought these cute bandanas with tooth fairy money.
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This is the oldest Christian church in Europe.
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We found a popular fast stop for giant bratwurst. Yum! We all ate every single bite.
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After all this sight-seeing, we found a playground and a great public pool with a waterslide, once again!
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Just love how you can get a beer - anywhere!
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We stopped for groceries on the way home. I'm already missing the double-sided row of yogurt products so common in European grocery stores.
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August 2 - Mosel River Villages

Today was spent meandering along the beautiful Mosel River just stopping wherever we felt the need and desire. It was a hot day - probably near 90 degrees. The first stop was at one of the plentiful playgrounds that we learned to appreciate in Germany. We love those zip-lines!
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We drove up to a castle overlooking the town of Bernkastel. Beautiful!
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Next stop was the town of Zell. I had read about their Black Cat wine. Since I love cats, I knew we had to sample the wine!
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Our last stop was in the pretty little town of Beilstein. DD#2 fell asleep while the rest of us enjoyed a refreshing drink. We also had an early dinner before returning to our little Longuich apartment.
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I almost forgot about our pit-stop just outside of Cochem. Cochem is the most touristy of the Mosel villages. We stayed in Cochem for a night about nine years ago and had this same picture taken. We had our kids recreate the shot!
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Now the kids have the same picture as well.
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Tonight was packing night in Longuich. It was quite a process figuring out how to cart home 6 1/2 weeks of stuff! Luckily, it wasn't as bad as expected and bringing that empty duffel bag was a terrific idea.

August 3 - Frankfurt, Car Drop-Off, and Family Dinner

We had an uneventful drive to Frankfurt today. DH and I were feeling a little melancholy about leaving and eager to go home all at the same time. We enjoyed the Autobahn and our lovely new car for the last time for a while. The BMW was checked into Frankfurt (after a wash) and will take around eight weeks to make it to Oregon.
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4898 miles on the odometer after 42 days with the car.
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DD#2 and I stayed at an airport hotel and played games while DH and DD#1 returned the car. Afterward, we took the train to Dornheim to visit family. My step-siblings live in this Frankfurt suburb.
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Sadly, I have no pictures to show from this amazing dinner of German goulash, dumplings, salad, etc... We were so excited to see familiar faces and catch up with family that we completely forgot about taking pictures. The kids were relaxed in their home and made a mess of yarn and who knows what else! We were so thankful to relax in a home and were definitely getting out of vacation mode and back to normalcy. We can't thank our family enough for taking us in and making us feel welcome! They even drove us back to our airport hotel after a long and leisurely meal and visit.

Despite having one bed in a very small hotel room, we slept soundly and were eager to get on the plane to Oregon!

August 4 - Our Journey Home!

We flew Lufthansa home on their largest plane, an Airbus A380. What a beast! We'd never seen such a huge plane. We were all thrilled with our own TV/movie screens and got into the travel groove easily. DH was the only one among us who napped on this 11 hour flight. I watched three feature-length movies!
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Poor DD#2 was out in the SFO airport. We were stuck there for nearly six hours due to delays.
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We were more than thankful to land at home around 9:00pm. My dad and stepmom were there to pick us up in a newly cleaned and serviced car along with grocery staples. What a welcome!

This blog is nearly complete. I've been compiling a list of last thoughts, things I'd do differently next time, favorites, and thank yous (especially to all you blog readers). I will complete that last post in a few days once I fully collect my thoughts and recover completely from jet-lag. In a nutshell, it's WONDERFUL to be home among family and friends. However, I'm already missing a few things about Europe and find myself thinking of our next trip across the pond.

Posted by familyineurope 19:41 Comments (0)

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