Monday, 1 January 2018

ClonClan European Vacation

We have a bit of catching up to do so I am choosing to fill this one with pictures and captions more than a bunch of story telling.  The internet here is not so great and we are leaving tomorrow so we will get on with this.  We have to start back near Halloween and our time with our beloved Holly in Alabama who was here from Japan.  So get ready for many captions to read. 

Holly had a school to go to to and flew to the States from Japan.  We took a detour to see her and missed the rest of her beautiful family but we loved on her and spent some really great time her.  We also trick-or-treated on base and enjoyed the amenities.  We said bye to her for a bit and also saw the Thomas Jefferson house and some other historical sites while we were in the area; more National Parks.  So much great history in Alabama.

We left Holly and moved on to see our other marvelous friends (the kid's RV Grandparents) on another part of Alabama.  We had a great stay with them and headed to our cousin's house in South Carloina.  This is where the Europe idea really starts coming together but more on that in a minute.  We stayed there overnight and were welcomed wonderfully and did much eating and talking.  Then, we headed for Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base.  This is where we really decided to try and put a trip together to Europe...leaving in the next few days.  So, with a great lack of planning, which fits into our current lifestyle, we did just that.  We planned on leaving on a hop out of Viginia (yes a "few" miles from where we were) a day or two later.  So we stopped at Seymour Johnson, bought a mini suitcase, winterized the camper and headed for Virginia to catch the hop.  We sat for four hours and found out that there were only two seats left so we opted not to take it.  Instead, we took our mini suitcase and three backpacks, went to a hotel, and bought one-way tickets to the cheapest place we could find the next day; Frankfurt Germany.  The only issue was that we were in Virginia, and the RV was in East-North Carolina.  We would have to fly out of West-North Carolina.  So, in our normal fashion, we headed out and left our truck and RV in totally different places and headed to the other side of the world on a one-way ticket.  This is where the real "lack of planning fun" begins.  

I will try to tell more of the story through the pictures and not so much through words this time because we did so much in such a short time but God blessed us with an itinerary that we loved.  He also allowed us to meet people and share quite a wacky story that many people just don't understand.  We stayed in hotels, hostels, apartments, and with a good friend.  This trip was absolutely amazing!  We met people from the States that thought we were crazy because we only had a few backpacks for at least a month's trip; we didn't have a real itinerary, and we didn't know how long we were staying.  We said 2 to 6 weeks.  I do admit that it does sound crazy but it was quite normal for us.  It left so much open for us to do and we could do what we wanted, when we wanted.  Anyway, we flew into Germany and the European Vacation began!

I'll give more of an itinerary here and talk more about the trip in the pictures.  We used only public transportation, our feet (more than you could imagine) and it was great.  Keep in mind each of the cities/countries were for a different number of days; mainly three to six days each, but I won't bore you with that tedious info.  We flew into Frankfurt, Germany and then headed to Berlin.  Berlin to Wittenberg, Germany where Martin Luther hung his 95 Theses.  Off from Wittenberg to Leipzig and then to Dusseldorf to see our lovely friend and her daughter.  Then from there to Paris, France and back to Frankfurt we could catch a flight to London, England.  After that, we flew to Rome and then took a train to Venice.  From Venice we went to Naples and took a hop from Naples to Rota, Spain to Virginia.  Then we had to rent a car to get our truck from the western side of North Carolina.  Then we were able to get to our RV on the eastern side of North Carolina.  Again, all of this with a few backpacks, a mini suitcase, marvellous kids, determination, and much prayer!  I really can't make you understand ALL that we saw and did there.  We absorbed as much culture and history as we could and loved it.  It had it's ups and down but are thankful that the Lord allowed us to have the experience of a lifetime as a family.  

The home of Jefferson Davis
She just loved the kids and had a great conversation.  It was her birthday and we sand Happy Birthday to her.  

With our Holly.  (It's Halloween people. That's why Holly is dressed like a 5 ft teddy bear.)

Back with the RV Grandparents again.  Out on a stroll in the woods of Alabama.  

Visiting cousins in South Carolina for the night.  Great food and drinks...and the laundry rocked also!

Yes, this is what we took to Europe for 5 people for 2-6 weeks including extra shoes, name it.  
Stopping for dinner on the way to catch a hop.  Or so we though.  

Waiting to be called for the hop.
Sleeping in a cheap hotel after you only get 2 seats on the hop.

The kids having a little fun in the cockpit before our flight.  

Hanging out in the USO waiting for our second flight from the US to Frankfurt.  
We were a happy bunch...and Singapore Airlines ROCKS!!!

Our first room in Europe.  

Hanging out in Altstadt; Frankfurt's historic district.  

We had sandwiches galore...breakfast , lunch, dinner.  We didn't care. We loved them!  

Loving the breakfasts in the hotel also!

Zachary having an espresso experience.  

Doing a little geocaching.  
I won't go into it, but I will say that if it wasn't for the guy we met from Sudan, we would not have figured out the laundry situation. 

One of few sit down meals in Europe.  The rest of the time we were go-go-go!  This night was filled with schnitzel and pork knuckle.  

If you have to pee, please don't pee on the tree.  Stand here and go.  We thought it was funny because I don't know what Caleb would have done...not to mention the ladies.  

Went to Berlin for the day and tried to take in as much as we could.  This is at Checkpoint Charlie.  
Obviously...a part of the Berlin wall.  Neater than that...we are all in a picture!

Only if you pay...everywhere!  You have to pay to go to the bathroom everywhere; even in restaurants.  We won't go into the story of this one...   

The Holocaust Memorial.  2,711 concrete blocks representing those killed during the Holocaust.  

Did I mention we liked sandwiches.  This was a 0600 morning run for breakfast down the street.  

Taking in all the history we can on the spot where the SS Headquarters building was.  This was an amazing display of history.  
Having the famous currywurst at Curry36

Chill out time in one side...

Chill out time on the other...

Zachary dressing as Martin Luther

This was an amazing room that has been kept original in Martin Luther's home.  

In Martin Luther's courtyard. not tired of seeing us eating yet?

We had one rule...we had to try something new each time...everyone did such a great job!  I know Kelly doesn't look excited...but she is.  Really she's just hungry.

These aren't the original doors as the originals have been replaced by these, but, this is right where Luther hung his 95 Theses.  We also went inside the church which was beautiful.  
This was in the hostel.  We really enjoyed this place!  There is another room also.  

The church where Bach is buried was great.  We also saw some of his handwritten work and his instruments.  

Loving the trains!

Walking the Rhine River with Dina.  

A little time to chill out and be goofy!

Being introduced to hot Gluehwein at a Christmas market.  

Went into a Tesla store and had a great conversation with this young lady.  We'll have to get out Tesla battery from her one day!

Zachary and Tenae hanging out at the basketball game.  

As the story goes, Dusseldorf is where the cartwheel originated.  These statues are everywhere.  

More train riding...

Very neat history and testing that states that these are the remains of  "the" three wise men (of many) that presented Jesus with gifts.   

Hanging out upstairs.  

Making dinner in one of our apartments.  

In the Louvre.  

Seeing the Mona Lisa.  

This was Caleb's idea people!
Yes, took the steps both ways in the Eiffel Tower.  

Went up during daylight and stayed for the sunset.  Came down in time to see the lights twinkle.  So cool.  

This was a crepes place that we found one day when we got lost on purpose.  We frequented it and the guy was so nice. 

Who doesn't love a crepe full of Nutella, bananas, and Grand Marnier?

Notre Dame.  Such a neat history to include the story written about it.  

A tour of how perfume is made.  Quite interesting.  

Our Thanksgiving meal.  Angus burgers...

...and Thanksgiving pastries to please all.  

We like the fast trains!

Greenwich...where all time begins.  

We walked across the London Bridge and the banks also.  So much to see.  
Westminster Abbey.

Standing out in front of Buckingham Palace. This was a neat occasion because this was the first time in the 357 year history that the Royal Navy got to perform the changing of the guards.  You can see one behind us in the distance instead of the typical guards.  

British Museum.  You could spend a week in this place and still not see it all.  We saw the Rosetta Stone, mummies, a section of clocks (Caleb loved that part) and so much more.  We were there for hours until we about dropped.  

We had to...

We surprised the kids with tickets for the Aladdin musical.  It was absolutely amazing.  We loved it!  

We were in the second row and had perfect seat.  The kids, especially Kamryn, loved the costumes and music. It was a blast.     
I will add one note here because I don't have the pictures.  Actually, we only but have one of us out front of Her Majesty's Theatre.  I bought ticket's for Kelly and I to see Phantom of the Opera, my favorite of favorites.  She didn't feel well the night of the show so Zachary and I went and had a blast.  We sat in the front row and it was absolutely iconic to be in the place where Andrew Lloyd Weber wrote this.  We left singing the songs and talking about it for days.  It was amazing to be able to see this in London.

We had a Zachary car day and went to the Jaguar, Bentley, Bugatti, Rolls Royce, Ferrari and any other dealer that exited with exotic cars.  We had a blast and Zachary was in heaven!


Goofin off!

Enjoying a Christmas Festival. 

We were in London when Prince Harry proposed (Kelly thought that was cool) but we went and did the Kensington Palace tour anyway.  Neat history but Kelly really enjoyed the end of it that commemorates all that Princess Diana did and who she was.   

Flying over the Alps
Another picture of all of us!  We are at Trevi Fountain...which had a cool story and is beautiful.  

This was the first

It's said that 21 ft below this spot, Peter, from the Bible is buried.  We loved spending time in this church.  It was huge!  We also visited St Paul's cathedral which was one of the most impressive places I've ever seen.  

Kamryn found some unicorns.  

I couldn't get over eating and a dog walking by.  Dogs were in many restauranst.  

The Pantheon, another impressive piece of history.  

This is a statue that it is said that Michelangelo used as a model for the Adam and God picture on the Sistine chapel.  We saw sculptures that were stunning.  I stood in awe at the detail and the kids seemed to have a bit of that same interest at times.

Inside the Colosseum.  

This is where Paul was imprisoned and wrote some of the books of the Bible.  

We ordered hot chocolate for the kids...the literally got a cup of thick, melted, mousse-like, chocolate goodness in a cup.    

Picture from the top of the Spanish Steps.

Doing a little first class homework on the train and loving it.

On a bridge in Venice.  

Standing on the Rialto Bridge in Venice.  

A five person picture in Venice!

A traffic jam and an argument.  

We got lost a few times, on purpose, in Venice and found what was Venice's Jewish Ghetto.  This began in 1526, said to be the oldest Jewish Ghetto in the world.  Again, we learned so much history and so thankful that we were able to do so.   
We saw a family watching us get on a train and minutes later this guy and our kids were chatting away.  We hung out with his parents while the kids played and talked for nearly 4 hours.  Hopefully, we will see them again in Washington.  

WE arrived in Naples Italy and wanted to taste where pizza originated....and a dog cam to our table.  Kamryn loved and yes, I reached down and petted this one.  

The pizza was amazing by the way.  I finally got my anchovie pizza!

Naples was crazy!  Cars everywhere, scooters everywhere, people everywhere...

Mt Vesuvius...we were just studying this a few weeks prior in our home-school books.  

Family picture with Mt Vesuvius in the background.  

Midnight run to the corner shop.  Zachary and I went down this night and the owner was talking in Italian and laughing across the counter.  I asked what was so funny and she told me that they loved us coming in because we were so nice and that they were keeping track of how many cheesecakes we bought!

Waiting to see if we will get a hop back to the States.  

Just waiting.  And then we found out we got on this flight.  We were very thankful and ready to come home.  We made it back safely and have so many stories to tell.  

Decorating for Christmas.  

We met up with our friends that we met a few months before and also saw in Maine.  We met them on the beach and hung out for a few hours.   

Theeeeeey're baaaaack...

So happy to see people they know.  

Sitting in Tampa Florida and getting some fishing in.  

We got to go and see our cousin not far from us.  We also spent Christmas with them and loved it.  This day we went to the power plant to find some manatees and saw a few manatees whole lot more.  


We went to a Christmas potluck in the Fam Camp and Caleb got up to sing a song.  

The kids had been asking for weeks if we could go caroling but we told them we would have to see but we would try.  When we got here, we got to go caroling and they were excited! 

We made our Merry Christmas Jesus cake and had a party!

Kamryn is yanking out her 4th tooth.  She lost two in different countries in Europe (and had her tooth-fairy money taken by housekeeping.  That was a good one to explain) and then another when she came back.  

We met another family next to us and went to the place where the dolphin from Dolphin Tale lives.  Cool day.  

There's Winter from the movie Dolphin Tale.

Hula Hoop contest on the beach in Tampa.

Caleb doing a little karaoke.  The DJ was a bit surprised by his choice of song but he smashed it...he sang The Devil Went Down To Georgia.  

Doing a little paddle boarding.  We saw a ton of stingray but I was out and saw a 5 ft hammerhead shark swim around my board in about 2 ft of water.  I chased him...

This is the couple that we met and went to the aquarium with. They thought they were going to leave us two days earlier than they did but they couldn't leave us!  The kids did so well together (and so did the adults) and we spend New Years together.   

Having a little bubbly.
We are blessed and one of the reason that I say that because even after seeing these pictures again and reading this, I haven't even scratched the surface of our last 6-8 weeks.  We are so thankful for the blessings we are given and the people that we meet.  We hope that we are always Light for them.

What's next you ask?  We aren't sure because of a cold front moving through the southern US.  We were heading back north to see my old (previous) boss and then to my brother's house.  Then, into Mississippi to see some friends and our old church.  We are meeting some people that we keep bumping into (on purpose) in Texas and then back out to Tucson at some point in February.  But, this is our plan of course and if we have learned anything on this trip, it is that His plan is greater than ours; we're okay with that.

Until next time...