Saturday, August 29, 2009

Whew!!

It took over a week to finish all that!

Marathon training is going okay. Last Saturday I ran my first long run. 12 miles!! It's the longest run I've done so far. (That will change in a few weeks... October called for 22 miles!!!) I've been doing a lot of group runs. On Tuesday/Thursday's Tim, Thomas and I run together at Bonita Lakes. They are also running Memphis! I usually run alone on Mondays. The last two Saturdays, I have run with John (our news director). He's running the Atlanta Marathon on Thanksgiving. It's much easier running with a partner. I don't think I could have made it through the first long run alone. I was only supposed to do 7, but I felt really good so I kept going. Slightly regretting it because I got a big water blister on my foot (in my arch). I nursed it this week and the skin was hardening, so I felt good about running with it today. It started bothering me about mile 4, and then on and off the rest of the run. I came home, showered, napped, went to visit Papaw, and it began to really hurt. I had to go to Walmart too. It was all I could do to walk around Walmart. I was seriously limping. Right now, it's wrapped up in a wet cloth. I may sit out on Monday if it still hurts. (Sunday is a rest day already)

Papaw is doing okay. He was in the hospital while we were gone. He isn't wanting to do anything for himself and Aldersgate has some limitations. He is able to help himself to the bathroom and eat, but got to where he didn't want to. They suggested he go to Newton to their Geri/psych unit for evaluation to determine exactly what he can and can't do and what he's just not wanting to do. He's doing much better. (He went there on Wednesday)

Mom & Dad are in Montana...threatening not to come back....

uh oh.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Germany Trip... Part 8 - Continued Airport/Hotel Monotony

Tuesday 8/18 (The day I was to return to work)

Wake up well rested and ready for day three.... We took the shuttle bus to the airport. We got some nice views of the front... Nice looking airport. There was a large arm holding a Samsung cell phone. (and another Euro symbol)

We get to the gate, sit down... you know the rest of the story. So we wait for the next flight(to Cincinnati). The day before we tried the JFK flight, but they were asking for volunteers to give up their seats. We thought we should try for Cincinnati today because it "looked better" the day before. We could only try for Atlanta then chose between JFK or Cincinnati because the later two left within an hour of each other and there wasn't enough time for our bags to be rerouted. Some other standby's were arguing with the gate agent about this the day before. We wanted to get home too, but we stayed out of it. The Cincinnati flight was at the same gate, so we got closer to the window and read for a few hours...

As the gate started filling up with people, we heard those heartbreaking words yet again, "This flight is oversold. If your travel plans are flexible..."


(audio is terrible on this...don't know why.)

video
We just hung our heads. "Friendly Lady" looked over at us. We were both thinking the same thing. The CA couple were upset too. (They had a young baby and a boy about 10 or so-and LOTS of luggage) We began to discuss our options. Friendly Lady befriended another guy (who wasn't a standby, but gave up his seat) and used his laptop to look at hotels and flights. We found out that there was a much better chance to cross the ocean if we left from Paris. We first asked the gate agent to look at Dusseldorf and Berlin (which would have been impossible because the World Championships were going on there). We even thought about Amsterdam and Brussels. We decided on Paris because there were about a dozen flights to the US throughout the day and at that point, we would have flown to Canada or Mexico...anything to just get over the ocean. We would have sat in the Toilet! Really. We headed for the Last Minute ticket counter to see what we could do. I learned of a 12 HOUR train ride to Paris for real cheap(One standby lady-Big Curly-haired Lady had taken advantage of it). 12 HOURS on a slow train to Paris! UUGGHH! I went and got our bags while Wes talked to the ticket folks. I mentioned the cheap train ride to him, but he had already bought tickets for us on Lufthansa. (We learned when we got home that a bullet train would have cost hundreds less then the plane tickets. Hindsight..again. We didn't have access to the internet to search for anything though.)

So we got our tickets on Lufthansa, headed out of the International Terminal. We had several hours to kill before the flight to Paris left. We said at least we knew we were getting on this one... We planted ourselves near the window and read some more... I continued my notetaking for our trip...


Lufthansa is the major airline for Germany. It's like Delta is to Atlanta.

We had to take a bus from the terminal to the airplane. There were dozens of planes lined up away from the terminals like this.

The flight was relatively short. Maybe an hour or so. We land in Paris. We didn't see anything but the usual from the windows. (No Eifel Tower). Our standby friends in Frankfurt said that Charles De Gaulle airport is the worst place in the world. We were somewhat skeptical about this. Since we weren't getting on a connecting flight that day (we landed late afternoon), we weren't to worried about it. When we taxi'd in, we saw this spaceship looking thing with "orbiting" gates around it. It was rather strange looking. (Here's a map.. the spaceship is top left. Here's an aerial view). It was real strange. We got off the plane, went down this long moving sidewalk that went underground and then back up into the "Mothership." I really felt like I was in another planet or maybe in Star Trek or something. (Mom, you would have loved it!)

video


Here's a sign to prove we weren't on a different planet... (It was just France)

(The " information board" for flights and trains.)

We found an information desk and ask where we can find a hotel. They direct us to another information desk. The man gives us a list of hotels and prices...in French. We had gotten pretty good at reading basic German, but this was truly another planet! Neither of us had any idea what we were looking at. (I took one semester of French in high school... Sorry Mrs. Dunnam, I don't remember a thing!) We decided to go find the train station thinking their might be someone else we can talk to. We find the lovely TI sign (Tourist Information) with a friendly multi-lingual lady who helps us. She deciphers the list and makes us a reservation. It's the cheapest place on the list. (We welcome the cheap places at this point... starting to get worried about our money situation...I did't get paid again until Friday and we had nearly depleted our vacation account. Wes's job still issues paper checks.) Anyway, she shows us the way to the hotel shuttle bus area and we get on the bus. The shuttle bus take people to a number of hotels. We are looking for Premiere Classe. We see it and get off the bus. It's seems small but nice. Kind of reminds me of the small Comfort Inn near Sams in Meridian. Several other people got off the shuttle with us. We wait in line to check in. We get to the counter, the lady looks at our reservation (also in French) and says, wrong hotel. Wha?? (Luckily, she spoke good English.) We tells us to get back on the bus and get off at the "next stop." So we do. We get to the right hotel and realize, yeah we weren't at the cheapest one on the list... THIS is the cheapest one on the list. (Even the staged pictures on their site are bad...) It truly was a roadside motel. We were a bit worried at first. The lady at the desk wasn't real friendly. She didn't speak English that well. (There was a man that was nicer). We got whats called a Triple room (three persons). We were expecting much more than we got! (hotel reviews)

The bathroom smelled like pee. It was nothing but a fiberglass enclosure with a normal looking door on it. (The shower floor was the floor to the whole bathroom!) We felt like we were in a prison cell! There wasn't even a closet. Just a few hangers hanging on the ladder to the top bunk! We were so tired and ready to get home, we didn't really care at this point. I began cleaning out the carryon bag to rid of the junk we didn't need anymore. I piled up most of our train tickets and itineries, airplane seat requests and tickets, baggage tickets, hotel keys, etc... This isn't all of it! (Lufthansa airlines gave each passenger a gold token worth 2 euros off any purchase at the duty free shops in Frankfurt's airport. We didn't use them.)

We get settled in the hotel and look at the area map for our dinner choices. (It's 8:30 pm by this time) We saw an IKEA sign nearby, so I ask the desk lady where it is. (Not much help) All I got from her was "left." We give up on it because we were tired and we thought they closed at 9pm (The one in Atlanta does). There was a restaurant next to the hotel called the Hippopotamus. We decided to take our chances. Our waitress didn't speak hardly any English. Luckily, the menu had pictures. (No English menu) We both ordered a hamburger and fries (French Fries! Haha), but we had to chose how we wanted it cooked. There were four choices. We went from right to left and chose the third one, think it was medium well or something similar. The burgers were barely warm! I couldn't eat it! It was awful. I scrapped the raw meat out of the middle and ate the outside part. It still tasted bad... It wasn't satisfying... Anyway, we headed for bed.
Wednesday 8/19
We got up and got to the airport on time. (We were in a different terminal this time). It was really long area. Wes learned later that after this terminal was built (in the early 2000's) the roof collapsed near gate E50. Several people were killed. They closed it down and rebuilt the entire roof. It looked pretty cool.
Here's a big Air France jet...

So, we get to the gate and hang out for a while. There's a screen with a list of people that need to "see a Air France ticket agent immediately." So we don't pay any attention to it. They begin to board the plane (everyone waits in line on a long ramp). We sit and wait. No announcements. We get a little nervous. The line drops down to nothing and still no announcements. So we decide to go ask. (We've heard they do things differently in this airport) We stand up and the screen shows our names on the list. So we go to the counter and show our passports and they point us toward the guys checking tickets... (progress). We give him our seat requests and he gives us..... (drumroll).... A SEAT ASSIGNMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I started crying. I really did! And guess what... We had seats up front!!! Even better. It was a gift from God! Truly a miracle!!
Here's a picture of us smiling and goofing off...in ATLANTA!!! We had 7 hours of layover time in Atlanta. We walked around the whole place looking at the confiscated items (you know endangered animal byproducts, wierd stuff...) We also looked at satellite photos from space. Then we ate at Qdoba. (our favorite burrito place) We made it home around 9pm... All is well.... :)





Germany Trip... Part 7 Airport/Hotel Monotony

Sunday 8/16

Our flight was scheduled to leave around 9:30am. We set the alarm for 6:30. We slept pretty soundly (once the sun went down and the heat escaped our room). Wes woke up and freaked me out because he said we slept late (he was in charge of the alarm clock). We rushed through dressing and last minute packing. We had to get on the train to get to the airport, but Wes thought we wouldn't have enough time, so we called down to the desk and they called a cab for us. It was kind of expensive (55 euros!!), but necessary for us to get there in time. When we were checking out, Wes realized we had woken up at 6:50, instead of 7:50. This whole time, he was thinking we were extremely late. Oh well. So we got to the airport and checked our bags because we didn't want to carry them all over the airport. Got to the gate on time. And then...watched the plane take off without us. The gate agent said that due to "weight restrictions" they were not issuing any seats to standby passengers. Yeah. Time for waiting. (This is when it became not fun...later it will become funny and then just plain frustrating.) We got our bags back and checked out other flights. There was really no chance of us getting out of Munich that day or the rest of the week, the ticket agent told us. (Wes' dad told us later that recently people had been there for over a week trying to get out.) She checked Stuttgart and the results were the same. We looked into Frankfurt. There were three flights a day to the US (Atlanta, JFK, and Cincinnati). We decided to take our chances there. (There were only two flights daily from Munich I think). The first flight available in Frankfurt was at 9:45 the next morning. We got on an ICE (Express) train to Frankfurt. (I feel asleep-it was a 3 hour ride). The cool looking ICE train. They were really fast. The red train are DB "regio" or inner city trains that usually stop at nearly every little stop. The ICE only stops at the major train stations. Burger King Ad in the Frankfurt station. We were both bummed because we were going to miss school on Monday. We were kicking ourselves for not planning our return a little better. Oh well...hindsight right?? Anyway, we get to Frankfurt and find the TI (Tourist Information) in the train station. They recommended a hotel near the station. (The airport was a 15 minute train ride away, with trains heading that way every 20 minutes or so.) We got a room at the Hotel Continental, right across the street from the station. It was really nice. We got a room on the top floor with the biggest balcony. (One weird thing: the neighboring room's bathroom had a window that was on our balcony. You could see right into their bathroom! Kind of odd.) We could see the enormousness of the train station (Frankfurt is obviously one of the biggest cities in Germany) and some great views of larger buildings in the distance.

(The front of the station) This is the first room we had with "air conditioning," a oscillating fan. Oh, by the way, I took a picture of the soap dispenser in our hotel in Munich (but those pictures were lost). It's the same brand as what you see here... It's called "Tricky Ricky." No kidding.

We got to Frankfurt midday, so we decided to make the best of it and explore a little bit. The city was massive. We walked to the city center, not to far from our hotel. It was a bit cheesy and small. Some of the buildings were built in the 80's and made to look historic Bavarian. (They really weren't fooling anyone.) This is the big "Euro" statue outside the "Euro" building(next photo). I guess it's equal to our Federal Reserve.





The Market Square. These are the buildings that were retrofitted in the 80's to look traditional Bavarian.
We walked around the area (Rick Steve's self-guided tour was really short because there wasn't much there.) We walked into St. Bartholomew's Cathedral (Kaiserdom) which was being renovated! In front of the church were some Roman ruins.
I tried to take a picture of it without scaffolding... I think I did a pretty good job.
The ruins of the Roman Baths




Another church nearby.


(My last clean shirt!)

We got McDonald's (yes! McDonald's and Burger King were in every Big city train station, along with the occasional Starbucks) for dinner because it was easy (Chicken nuggets were more rubbery than usual BTW).
Here's the lot of Taxi's (all BMW's) in front of the station.


Our hotel from the train station. Our room is the very top floor, on the right. The area without a covering is our balcony.


We took our food back to our room to relax. We couldn't relax to well, because again the sun set and heated our room up nice and toasty! We had to run the cold water again... Luckily, this hotel had small oscillating desktop fans in the rooms, which helped. We ate our McD's and took cold showers. As the sun set, the colors of the sky were beautiful. We took several pictures of the city lights. We had a clear view of a small rain storm coming across the area....

















It moved in in a matter of minutes and started raining pretty steadily. (It helped cool our room off too.) We watched some BBC and CNN international before hitting the sack (Duvets again...) Most hotels we stayed in had TV's in the room (The one in St. Goar didn't. Our Rothenburg room had a TV, but no International or American channels.)

(Pictures from the next morning.)

We were intrigued by this building. It looked like half of it disappeared.


Monday 8-17
Day Two: Got up, got to the airport... At 9:45, we watched the plane take off... Actually, Wes was issued a seat assignment, but the gate agent said that there was no chance for me to get a seat, so he gave it up. (Wasn't that nice of him!) :) The next chance was the 11:30 flight to JFK. We sat near the window and read our books (I had a reader's digest, Wes had a book he's been trying to finish for a long time). Then the gate agent announced, "If your travel plans are flexible, we have an offer we would like you to consider. This flight is currently overbooked. If you can delay your travel plans, we would like to offer you ...." (We ended up hearing this several times over the course of these last days) If they were trying to get paying customers to give up their seats, then there was absolutely no chance for any standby's to get on. No luck! We watched the plane take off again..... (Day 2 picture-still smiling) We wandered around the airport some. The Duty-Free shop had free samples of Toblerone, Hariboo gummies, and some other chocolate things that tasted like M&Ms. I noticed the irony of this cigarette displays....

By this point we have seen several other standby's more than once and began chatting with them. We began to give them names. "Friendly lady" from Atlanta whose husband was hunting and would join her the next day; Asian lady(who was a higher priority than Wes); large curly haired woman; a black couple; A family of four heading home to California; young HS graduate guy in a shirt & tie; etc. We would come to learn their situations (and their priority levels) throughout the coming days. Friendly lady tells us that we can get the Delta rate at a nice hotel near the airport by going to the Delta Ticket Counter. (The Delta rate is the rate the airline has negotiated for their crew and/or stranded passengers. We had to pay for it of course.) It was a 4 star hotel with an excellent pool area. The hotel was called the NH Rhein Main in a small area called Rheinheim. We knew the minute we walked in that we were paying MUCH less than we the standard room rate. We probably would not have chose it if we were paying the standard price. This is the only hotel we had with a bathtub. We didn't use it though. We did use the pool...

It took us a while to figure out what this meant. I'm still not quite sure. I think they just offered a little more than little shampoo and shower gel bottles. (We weren't in this section).
We went in search of some food (and maybe some new underwear). Unfortunately, we were in a hotel village and there weren't many choices. We walked and walked and walked down the main road from the hotel through a little town. (I used google pedometer to determine it was exactly 1.3 miles!) After a while, we decided to turn around and just get food from the small bakery near the hotel. We ended up walking to the next intersection. Low and behold, there it was! A McDonalds!!! AND a Supermarket! (I was wearing flipflops because I didn't think we'd be walking that much. My feet were killing me!) We ate at the McDonald's and then walked around the store (It was similar to a super Walmart, but much smaller). (I later researched the name and found out that a German company purchased all of Walmarts stores inGermany. I believe this is one of them. The store's name was Real. It's considered a Hypermarket, the same catagory Walmart falls in.) While we were eating (the McD's was inside the store), we noticed that no one checking out left with bags. A lot of people were coming in with cloth bags. They had plastic bags you had to pay for.
We took our time in the store (we had all day-it was just 2pm or so). we got some sandwich meat and cheese, some really good "pretzel" bread, a few drinks and some weird stuff for dad. We found the "amerika" section. It was much like the Italian or Asian section you see here. It had Mac & Cheese, Hershey's syrup, Brownie mix and BBQ Sauce. The prices were much cheaper than we had been paying in the city (McDonalds was much cheaper.) We would pay 2.50 (euros) or more for a drink. They were .89 or 1.29 in the store.



We also got some new underwear (I had only one pair left and Wes had none. We anticipated needing several more...) We walked back to the hotel and headed for the pool. It was GREAT! Just what we needed to relax. We were both getting cranky, tired and stressed. The pool was just what we needed. We talked about our situation. Missing school. I would be missing work the next day. (When we got back to the room, I called the station...) We were hopeful that we would get out the next day. At this time, we were just planning day to day, while in the back of our minds, we knew our chances were small. I kept thinking, at least we're still laughing about it.

Anyway, the pool was great! There was a sauna and steam room. The pool had these jets around the side. One was really big. I think it was used for long distance swimming. We got in the steam room. It was awesome! While we were in there, two naked guys came out of the sauna. Unfortunately, the door was glass and had not fogged up completely yet... I had the priviledge of seeing them... yeah.
Showers were at the end of the hall(center), the steam room and dry sauna on either side. There was also a fitness center, women/men locker rooms and tanning bed.



After the pool, we went back to the room, took showers, and had our "picnic" dinner.

Off to bed, then back to the airport in the morning to try again.....