Thursday, March 16, 2017

Cleveland Trip

Our most recent trip to another country was to a familiar place - Cleveland! Our friend Chris got married and asked Carson to be a groomsman and we thought that was the perfect reason to visit our old stomping grounds - so over the pond we went!

March 8Here we are at 5:30am (11:30pm EST), ready to begin our journey.

The morning sky at the train station was just beautiful. Our trains to Dusseldorf got us there quickly, and then our flight out to Amsterdam was delayed a bit. 

We had to rush through the airport to catch our flight to Atlanta once we hit the Amsterdam airport and went through customs - there was a guy wearing a Beaufort, South Carolina shirt on both of our flights, and we chatted about my hometown (he visits Dataw every year). 

Our flight landed in Amsterdam after our next one had begun the long boarding process, so we got to skip a bit of the wait as we hurried to the plane, which was nice since it was over 9 hours. I snoozed on and off but don't truly know if I slept - I felt like I just had my eyes shut. We watched movies (Girl on the Train for me, Jungle Book for Carson, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for both of us) and we ate. I think they fed us every two hours or so and it was mostly good food. The Delta flight attendants were friendly and kind, and honestly although it was definitely a very long flight, it wasn't so bad. 

I've never seen self-service passport control, but Atlanta has it and it was kind of fun. You scan your passport, answer some questions (like, have you been in contact with livestock and are you carrying over 10,000 worth of merchandise - both no) and then take your picture. A receipt prints out and then you hand it to a border agent who stamps your passport and you're on your merry way. The process was pretty fast!


Our first stop? Chick-fil-a! We made a list of foods we wanted to eat in the States and mostly completed it while we were there, but this first stop made sense. 

Chris and Megan (the bride and groom) picked us up from the airport and took us to Evan and Heather's house. 
Now if you have a good memory or are a person reading this who knew us in Cleveland, you know that they now live in our old house! We all lived there for about three weeks when their lease ended and before our move to Tallahassee (posts here and here). So we got to stay upstairs in what was at one time our bedroom (we eventually moved to the downstairs bedroom)! We caught up with Evan for a little bit and then went to bed. 

March 9
The next morning, Carson drove Heather to work and then she let him borrow her car for the day. This was really very kind of her, and we got to do a few fun things! This day was my birthday, so Carson let me sleep in (I woke up before 8 but then was just lazy for a while) and brought me a bagel with cream cheese (it was on the "food list") and gave me my birthday present - a new watch. Since we had the car, we hit up Target, the mall, had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory and stopped by Walmart before picking Heather up again. I didn't take very many pictures of our day for some reason!

When we got back to the Storey's, Heather needed to get ready for Community Group. We'd decided that since we aren't members of the church anymore, that we shouldn't attend, but we helped get ready by taking down their Christmas tree. Somehow, that thing was still alive with green needles in March - apparently if you need a quality fresh tree, they know the place! Heather had promised her community group the week before that she'd have the tree down, so she was able to keep the promise!


Megan picked us up and took us to Chris' apartment where he and Carson moved some heavy things out for him to move into Megan's place. After the heavy lifting, we went to Dewey's Pizza for dinner. It started snowing while we were eating! (no pictures of any of this - I'm going to blame jet lag for this one)

After our first dinner, Deanna picked us up and we went to a second dinner at 8:30. We were going to go to Barrio, which just opened in Cleveland Heights, but the wait was going to be an hour and a half, so we went down the street to The Fairmount instead, which was a lot quieter and had no wait. I struggled to stay awake but really enjoyed catching up with friends!

After dinner, as if we hadn't had enough to eat that day, we enjoyed the piece of cheesecake we'd taken to go. 

March 10
The next morning, Carrie picked me up and we went to her house to hang out! We got to sit on her couch and hang out while her baby girls played. It was so crazy being there because just three years ago we sat on the same couch and watched Call the Midwife together and just before we moved, she told me she was expecting the first of those two girls. Since then she's moved to New York City and back again, had another baby, and is getting ready to move to Indiana. She's definitely been busy! We tried to get a good selfie of the two of us, but the lighting was a problem, so we just tried our best.

It snowed that day, and I recalled not all that long ago when we lived here and this backyard had snow that went over my knees. I'm glad that wasn't the case this time (also the garage has been rebuilt since we lived there which is good because it was on the verge of falling down).

Not too long after we got back to the house, Chris and Megan picked us up to drive down to Columbus for the wedding! I will recap that in another post, but the drive down there was nice - Carson slept and I talked with Chris and Megan!

We checked into our hotel (Columbus Marriott Northwest - for some reason we were on the concierge floor and it was fantastic! Our tv had Netflix on it and tons of cable stations, plus the room itself was wonderful!) and freshened up and then headed to the venue for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. I'm not sure why I didn't take pictures of it, but the food was amazing. They had a taco bar (tacos were on our food list too!) and a really terrific dessert assortment. The jet lag and probably our breakneck schedule had me really tired, so I hitched a ride back to the hotel with Joel and Allison who had kids that needed to get to bed early. Carson stayed and hung out with the bridal party at the venue and then later at the hotel restaurant. 

March 11
We got to sleep in! After we'd gotten up, we watched Zootopia on US Netflix (they don't have it in Germany).
While Carson had plenty of groomsman duties to perform, I had nothing planned, so when Lana texted that she was in Columbus, I was free to spend the afternoon with her! Her husband Mark dropped us off in Westerville and we had lunch at Uptown Deli and Brew which had delicious sandwiches. We got all caught up on life and it was so good to see her! They dropped me off at the hotel so I could get ready for the wedding, and we took this picture inside. 

I went to the wedding after that, but I'll share that post later!

March 12
We started the morning off at church! We were initially a little afraid that we'd slept too late because we didn't know if our German phones would automatically "spring forward" on airplane mode, but they somehow knew what to do and we made it! It was so good to be back singing songs we know in a familiar place, hearing a sermon in English, and seeing what's changed at Heights Church! The first service wasn't very well attended, but I heard that it was spring break and also of course Daylight Savings, which probably meant that some people showed up an hour after the fact. We didn't see a ton of people we knew there because of this, but it was still so great to be back.

Our good friends John and Rachel (old post about their Spokane reception, although they're in a lot of these posts) drove down for the weekend from Grand Rapids in part because we were in town, so we got to enjoy lunch with them and Heather and Evan (Rachel and Evan are siblings) before they had to head back up to Michigan. It was so good to see these friends again. The six of us planned a Disney trip for the sometime future and I hope some sort of reunion actually happens!




After lunch, we'd intended to do things with other people, but since we didn't have phone service unless we were on wifi, we couldn't make plans. Instead, we took what felt like a very deserved nap. It was glorious. 

After we woke up, the Storeys drove us to the Wilson's house on their way to the evening church service. We enjoyed dinner with the Wilsons, whose children are now huge (picture of us with them at our going-away party here - and everyone looks so little!). We really loved our short time with them, and they made a fantastic Southern meal (Cory is a fellow southerner, from Mississippi). The time with them felt too short, but we are so thankful for this family!

Our whole trip was basically one meal after another, so to continue that trend until the end, we went directly from the Wilsons to Chris and Deanna's house, where Deanna hosted a joint birthday party for Evan and I (he's 366 days older than I am). We enjoyed even more food (Deanna knew I'd been missing cheddar cheese so she had some for me) and good times with friends. 
I finally got a proper picture with Carrie, one that wasn't taken on a propped up iPhone (and this is when I regretted this being the first time I'd used my camera all weekend - way better pictures!).

Carrie and Abe's oldest daughter Rhoda (their baby, Alice, was in her carseat, but I got to hold her for awhile too).

Jen! I got to meet her son EJ for the first time (everyone had kids after we left!).

Claire (she visited us in Tallahassee too - here)

And Deanna, who got married two weeks before we visited and then hosted this shindig in her new house!

March 13
We packed up our suitcases, which were very full. We'd stocked up on snacks and other things while in the States (taking advantage of those free checked international bags) so we had to really cram things in there, but we got it done! 

Claire picked me up and we went to Grumpy's (or Lucky's? I can't remember. We talked about both) for breakfast. We both got this massive meal, mostly because pancakes were the last thing on my food list, and I'd been thinking about them the whole time. This was way too much food and I didn't finish it all but still ate too much. I blame the (delicious) pancakes. It was good to really get face time with Claire and to hear what's going on in her life as we ate. 

Hello, downtown Cleveland!

After we quickly stopped by Walmart for bagels (they're hard to find here which is just so weird to me!), Claire dropped us off at the airport in Cleveland. Bye friend!

A snowstorm was coming, so we were worried we wouldn't get out of Cleveland at all when our flight was delayed two hours. We never saw a flurry of snow, but I guess they got quite a bit not too long later. 
Our flight was supposed to have landed at JFK in New York at 5:30pm, but we didn't leave Cleveland until after that time, and when we finally got to New York, they didn't let us land and then when we did, they didn't have a gate for us. Tons of people on the plane missed their next international flights, which was a big deal because that same snowstorm was coming for New York. I heard that 5000+ flights were cancelled that night. By the grace of God, we barely made it on our plane. It was scheduled to leave at 8:25 and thanks to Carson sprinting ahead while I waited for our gate-checked bag, we made it on there at about 815. We were the last to board, and they shut the door behind us. Whew. 

Here's Manhattan from the sky though! 

We watched The Secret Life of Pets and then Carson watched a couple others. I thought this movie was cute!

March 13-14 (our flight left at 4pm EST but landed at 9am CET the next day)
Our flight from New York to Amsterdam was much shorter (a little over 6 hours) than our flight from Amsterdam to Atlanta had been, so Carson was disappointed because it meant less food. It also meant no sleep for me. I was tired, but just couldn't seem to nod off. 

Here we are in all our glory about to land. We needed sleep! (Carson got a few hours, but plane sleep isn't like real sleep)

We landed in Amsterdam and got our passports stamped again before we made our short connection to Dusseldorf. 

I tried my best to sleep on this plane but it was less than an hour's flight, and I couldn't do it.

We had two hours until our trains left Dusseldorf for Muenster, so we hung out in the airport McDonalds. Carson told me to smile and I gave it all I had. I look like I'd been crying, but that's all lack of sleep. 

Our trains were delayed, and by the time I made it onto mine (we take separate trains sometimes because Carson can only take regional trains with his student card but those aren't always cheapest for me), I was barely awake, so I set an alarm and fell sound asleep. I don't usually sleep in public when I'm alone, but I was OUT. I would not be surprised if I'd snored or even drooled. It wasn't much, but it was nice to have a little rest for about 30 minutes. We walked home probably slower than ever before and made it back by 4:30pm. 

Carson's friend Brandon was at our apartment when we arrived, so we said hi, Carson showered, and they headed out to see the city. I couldn't stay awake, so I showered and then took a nap from 6-9pm if you're doing the math, that's 1pm EST (the time changed in the US but not in Europe yet so we're five hours difference for a few weeks), which means we hadn't changed, showered or had really great sleep since we woke up at 8am EST the day before - very little or no sleep for almost 30 hours. I woke up and hung out with them again for a little bit and then went to bed at 10:30... 13.5 hours later, I woke up. Sooooo I guess I was pretty tired. 

The trip to Cleveland was so fun! I wish we'd have had longer, but in our short stay we got to eat great food, see great people, and attend a wedding! We couldn't ask for more! Next time we come, I'd just really like it to be warm!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Karneval

 On November 11, Karneval season begins in Cologne and all over North Rhine Westphalia. There are celebrations in cities all over the state with the largest in Cologne. This season lasts until Lent begins, which this year meant until the end of February. Everything culminates in a huge Karneval celebration the weekend before Lent that's basically a cross between Halloween and Mardi Gras, but on an even larger scale. It's one big party, where people dress up in costumes, drink from dawn to dawn, and just have a big time with friends and family. On Rosenmontag (Rose Monday), there are big parades to end the Karneval celebrations. There's one in Muenster and I think many cities have them as well, but the big ones is in Cologne, so we decided last minute to head down there and see what the fuss was about. We left pretty early on Monday morning, and for some reason my brain would not shut down the night before so I pulled an all-nighter on accident, but this was still pretty fun.

Stores were boarded up and closed along the parade route (which was basically all the stores), swarms of people were everywhere, and we were among the odd men out because we weren't dressed up at all. A few days before, we'd considered going to Karneval and allllmost bought some cheap masquerade masks but didn't, and we sort of wish we had!

We moved around a few times, but here are some parade things we saw. For the first hour or so, I'm not sure there was a parade or if we were just witnessing random groups walking along. They were very dressed up, but they came in groups sporadically with lengthy intervals. I think the actual parade started pretty far from where we were and just took its time getting to us.


These people weren't part of a parade... just really dressed up.



There were quite a few political statements and even when we couldn't understand them all, we knew they weren't exactly pro-Trump. This sign says "There is no such thing as Climate Change"

And that's Hilary Clinton's face.

Once the main parade started, there weren't any gaps. There were lots of marching bands, large floats, and groups of people walking. They threw so much candy at the crowd (and at those watching from windows and balconies) and handed out flowers at times. I got hit in the face many times by candy raining from the sky. We knew about this, so we'd brought a bag to hold all of the treats. They were throwing big candy bars, lots of gummy candy, and some full boxes of chocolates among other things. Everyone was screaming "Koelle Alaaf!" or "Camelle!" (which means candy) and having a good time.

And true to form, the Germans know how to party. It seemed that everyone was having beer or shots or wine or all three and no one batted an eye at the fact that it was 10 in the morning. I'm sure the crowd got rowdy from all that at some point, but everyone I saw was jovial and happy, which has pretty much been the case with German drinking from what I've seen. Even those marching in the parade or on the floats had flasks or even full bottles of whatever and were taking sips as they rained down candy from above.











I loved this little baby popcorn costume. Very creative. The people watching here was really excellent.

And a picture with the Kolner Dom as we wove our way through crowded streets to the train station.


We made a stop in Essen to go to Primark (the one in Cologne was closed) and when we got out it was pouring rain. It was a rainy walk to the train and then when we got off in Muenster it was a rainy and cold walk home and then a block from our house, the paper shopping bag broke from the rain and we had to carry our things home. It wasn't a lengthy walk from that point, thankfully, but we felt like wet rats and shivered our way home.

Here's our haul. Most of it is mystery candy and probably a lot of it is milk chocolate which I don't love, but it's very much a fun adventure to try, and it was really fun to attend the parade and yell for candy and get it. We're both very glad we made it to Karneval and got to add another very German experience to our year here.
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