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Friday, December 09, 2005

Farewell to the Luisenpark 

Long-time readers may remember one of the very first excursions the kids and I made off-post after we arrived in Germany--the Luisenpark in downtown Mannheim. We decided that we needed to make a point of getting Fred to the park before the move, so late this past August we all set off together to explore it one more time. Even though several months have passed since that day, I wanted to post some of my favorite pictures from it here so that it might seem a little more real and a little less like a really nice dream.

Never forget the storks and their nests high in the trees:



Never forget how willing German kids are to strip off their clothes and frolic in any available water:



Never forget how pretty the water lilies were:



Never forget how much fun it was to live in a country that's not dominated by fear of lawsuits and rising insurance premiums:



And most of all, never forget the warm air, the beautiful colors, and how good it felt to be together again:


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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Our very own D-Day 

For our last adventure in Europe, we launched our own invasion of the beaches of Normandy. This had always been high on Fred's list of places to visit, so naturally we had to wait for him to be able to go along. Given that the trip was a good 6 weeks ago, and we're still in the throes of moving hell, I'm just going to offer a few of my favorite photos and some of the high points.

We stopped at a gas station for lunch on our way into France, and AB chose an entire loaf of French bread for her meal. I never thought she would be able to eat the whole thing, but she did:



We visited the museum at St. Mere Eglise, and as we were leaving, Mike had an especially thoughtful look on his face. "So we were also at war with France?" he asked. Not at all, we assured him. "But we INVADED them!" he insisted. Yes, to liberate them from the Germans. You could almost see the lightbulb pop on over his head. "Wow!" he exclaimed. "I THOUGHT they took a little too much pride in getting their butts kicked."

Of all the beaches, Utah was our favorite. There weren't many people, and it was just very tranquil and beautiful. I took this picture of a horse and buggy along the water's edge.



Mike and Annabelle and I went wading in the shallow water, while Fred held our shoes:



I thought this picture of the kids at Point du Hoc came out especially nice:



This church outside of Omaha Beach was the site of our attempted carjacking. OK, so it really wasn't a carjacking, but it's not as exciting to say that a distracted British tourist climbed into the shotgun seat of our van, thinking he was getting into the driver's seat of his own car. I had hopped out and left my door hanging open while I went to take a picture of the church:



I found myself taking pictures of cars in France, such as this one:



And, of course, I had to take a picture of the big car from Florida parked next to the little French car:



The morning after our visit to the beaches, we found out that we had stumbled into France on the number one busiest tourist weekend of the year and that we would NOT be able to find a hotel room for that evening. We decided to drive out to Mont Saint Michel and then head for home.

We stopped at a roadside french fry stand, where Fred demonstrated the fine art of eating frites with a knife:



Once we got to St. Michel, tourists took pictures of us taking pictures of the kids with the rodents:



Annabelle had made this stinky cheese costume for Stinky. Get it? France. Stinky cheese:



St. Michel was gorgeous, way out of the way but worth every extra mile. We didn't stay for long though, as we knew we would have a long drive back to Germany that night. Fred and I did pose for one shot together though in the parking lot before we started off for home:


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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

New digs! 

I'm not done here, I promise. I never did post my pictures from our journey to Venice last spring, and I still have our Normandy trip to cover as well. I'm ready to start writing from the States though, and I don't want to mix my American stories up with my European ones. So I have started a new blog, which you can find here. See you there!

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

London, Day 5: Waiting to go home 

Our flight back to Germany didn't leave until well past supper time, which gave us most of the day to just float about London, taking random photos. Before we checked out of the hotel, I snapped this shot of the rodents enjoying a final moment in our upscale neighborhood.



We left our luggage with the concierge and headed out on foot. We stopped by Shepherd's Market, where I took a picture of this rather quaint pub. I'm sure they'd never let us eat there though:



We made one last trip to Harrods and then wandered around in a science museum for a while before enjoying one last meal at Pret. We did a little window shopping, a little real shopping (hooray, Borders!), and Fred found a little cafe that called his name (literally):



Our trip to the airport and our flight home were nicely uneventful. I'm sure there are lots of little details that I'm forgetting--it was, after all, almost 2 months ago--but it truly was just kind of a this-and-that day.

And now I have successfully blogged our trip to London. Don't worry about me getting bored though. I still have to work through over a hundred photos from our Normandy trip the following week. Stay tuned!

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

London, Day 5: Be vewy quiet; we're hunting wabbits! 

Generally speaking, I don't like books that feature talking animals. Charlotte's Web is the one exception I can think of that proves that rule. Both Mike and Annabelle, on the other hand, adore such books. Last Christmas I decided to get Mike a copy of Watership Down (a book I thoroughly loathed in tenth-grade English class), and he loved it. One of his main goals for our time in Europe was to get to England to see the REAL Watership Down.

Did you even know there was a real Watership Down? I certainly didn't. But Mike found this website, The Real Watership Down (check out the amazing photos!), and he was determined to make a pilgrimage.

If Watership Down were in the United States, I'm sure they would be selling tickets to get in, as well as hawking souvenirs. In fact, there would probably be some unfortunate soul in a giant bunny suit selling stuffed rabbits and posing for pictures with the kiddies. In England, however, Watership Down is just in the middle of freakin' nowhere, and it takes a bit of determination to find your way there.

I got a lot of help in planning our trip from this site, The Blue Cathedral - Watership Down. I even wrote to the author for advice, which he very graciously provided. By and large, we followed his plan for getting out to Watership Down, except that we took the train out of London rather than a bus.

The train goes from Paddington Station to Newbury. While we were standing around in Paddington waiting for our train, Mike shouted out, "Look, there's Richard!" Richard? Who the hell is Richard? Well, sure enough, it was Richard, our tour guide from the trip out to Salisbury and Stonehenge! It felt very strange to run into somebody familiar in a London train station.

Once in Newbury, we took the 32A Basingstoke bus out to Kingsclere, which is a charming little town. I thought this storefront was especially picturesque:



I had hoped to pick up a map of the area once we got to Kingsclere, but we were out of luck. We stopped in at the Swan Hotel for lunch though, and the bartender as well as a couple of locals at the bar were very helpful. The bartender even lent us a brochure that had a wonderful map with the hike clearly marked. If you're going to try to find the down, I sincerely recommend that you find a copy of this brochure first!

After lunch, we pointed our toes out of town, assured by the folks at the Swan that we would see hundreds of rabbits on our hike. It didn't take us long to get lost, but it did take us a good 20 minutes to figure out that we were lost and another 20 minutes to unlose ourselves. The weather was gorgeous though, and I was having a grand time taking pictures of Fred and the kids from behind (I am always the caboose) as well as some of the pretty scenery:



Eventually, we found ourselves on the right path, and Mike and Annabelle set off at a run:



What you may not know (I sure didn't) is that a "down" is a hill. So you have to go up the down! The view from the top is worth it though:





We saw plenty of piles of rabbit poo on our way up the down to indicate to us that, yes, rabbits do indeed live there. Pellet the hamster was outraged to discover that his name means "rabbit poop," so he went into a sulk and renamed himself Dick Johnson. (Please don't tell him.) Ears, however, was truly in his element and happy to return to the family homestead:



We hiked up one end of the down, all the way across the top, and down the other end. On the way down, we saw sheep grazing in a field. Mike and Annabelle yelled "Baa" at them, but they didn't seem to mind:



Here's a picture of Mike and Annabelle with Ears with Watership Down behind them:



Given that we had only one day to devote to our literary pilgrimage, I was determined that we would also go by Nuthanger Farm, which is where--in the book--Hazel freed a bunch of rabbits from a shed:



We returned to Kingsclere absolutely exhausted. While we were waiting for the bus back to Newbury, we ate munchies from the small convenience store and chatted with 2 very friendly Jehovah's Witnesses who were collecting recyclable trash from around town.

You're probably wondering how many rabbits we saw? One.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

And so this is jet lag 

Well, we did it. We up and moved to Kentucky.

We left the house at about 6:00 Friday night and went to dinner with some friends a couple hours later. We meant to go eat almost immediately, but first we had to wait for the friend Mike invited to get done with football practice. Then, once we had taken the streetcar and hiked to our favorite schnitzel place for one last schnitzel, we found that THEY WERE CLOSED FOR VACATION!!!! How could they do that to me? Apparently, I had had my last schnitzel the week before, and I didn't even know it, so I was unable to properly appreciate it. If I were the type to pepper my blog with frowny faces, let me assure you that I would insert a frowny face RIGHT HERE. We rallied, however, and got back on the streetcar and headed in the opposite direction for Italian food.

After supper, both kids got pretty upset when we said goodbye to our friends. There was a moderate degree of wailing and gnashing of teeth, but they had calmed down and were feeling fairly positive by the time we went to bed.

The next morning, we had a taxi pick us up at 6:30 and deliver us to the airport. We had had numerous offers from friends to drive us up there, but what we discovered from leaving Hawaii (having friends take us to the airport) and from leaving Texas (sneaking out like thieves into the night) is that the sneaking-like-thieves method makes for a much less messy emotional scene. That held true for us in Germany, and we were able to get on the plane with no fuss or bother.

The flights were fine, the drive to Ft. Knox from the airport was fine, and we arrived here a mere 18 hours after we left Germany. We are staying at the St. George House, which is an absolutely charming 3-bedroom, 2-bath house that the woman Fred is replacing at work managed to hook us up with.

After we unloaded the luggage, we set off in search of supper and drove through our new neighborhood on the way. By this point, Mike's nerves were pretty much shot and he was not what you might call "positive" about the whole Kentucky thing. In fact, he was scheming to get his butt back on a plane to Germany ASAP and trying to figure out which friends would be willing to house him for how long. We dined at Applebee's and capped off the evening with a visit to the Walmart Supercenter (so THAT is where everybody hangs out on a Saturday night!) and fell into bed immediately upon returning back to our temporary home.

Perhaps you remember the book my Uncle Johnny and cousin Julie sent me to keep me occupied on the trip home? Well, I started it a few days ago, was about 100 pages into it when I got on the plane yesterday morning, and was within 30 pages of the end by the time we got to Ft. Knox. Unfortunately, I kept falling asleep last night when I tried to finish it off. So now that I'm up (at 6:00 a.m., thank you very much, and it's a miracle I got back to sleep at 3:00 a.m.), I think I'll go see what happens next.

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Friday, August 26, 2005

Ch-ch-ch-changes 

For the past several months, I've been following the anonymous blog Chez Miscarriage (subtitle: Who Says Infertility Can't Be Funny?). It's the story of a DES daughter who fought a herculean battle against infertility and won, having recently brought home her newborn son, the product of gestational surrogacy. She has announced plans to take a maternity leave from her blog to give herself time to enjoy her new baby and to figure out where to go (if anywhere) with her blog:

In addition, it's become clear to me that I need to reconfigure this blog, to develop a new direction and a new theme. That's going to take some time and thought. By definition, the blog can't continue to be what it once was - a journal of my trip through recurrent pregnancy loss. It has to become something new, and I don't know what that new thing is yet. Maybe I'll feel compelled to write about parenting. Maybe I'll feel compelled to write about parenting after infertility. Maybe I'll want to write about my internal conflict regarding trying to conceive another child, given the time and expense and potential heartache involved. I don't know yet - but I know that I need some time to figure it out.
I can relate. She started a blog that was sad and wound up with one that is happy. I started out with a happy blog, got sad, got mad, got a little bit goofy and a little political, got tired, got lucky, and got happy again.

In 24 hours, we will no longer be "The Taylors in Europe." We will be the Taylors in Kentucky, which doesn't sound half as exciting. Truth be told though, I'm looking forward to a little peace and quiet. The past 2 years have pushed the limits of my tolerance for excitement.

I do plan on keeping my blog, but--like the writer at Chez Miscarriage--I don't know what direction it will take. Maybe you'll get to hear more about the trials and tribulations (and, I hope, triumphs) of homeschooling. Maybe you'll get a lot of pictures of my cat. At this point it's hard to tell.

I have a few plans for the blog, a new name and maybe a facelift. My internet connection goes away this afternoon though, so any dreams I might have had for finishing off my European chronicles before then are not likely to come true.

Thanks for hanging out with me over here for the past 2 years. I really cannot express how much your supportive comments and emails have meant to me. I've rewritten this last paragraph a half a dozen times, and I just can't seem to find the right way to sign off. So I'll just say . . .

Auf wiedersehen!

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