February 2020 Wrap Up

One again, February was a busy month away from home for us (I swear things are starting to slow down!) We spent the first couple days of February at our favorite local getaway, Gaston’s White River Resort. If you aren’t familiar with Gaston’s check them out HERE. As always we enjoyed our cottage, trout fishing, the peacocks and turkeys, and the restaurant. The weather was absolutely beautiful and surprisingly warm for early February!

We then spent a few days at home catching up on some preschool work and getting ready for our next Disney World trip!

We have spent the second week of a February at Disney World for the last 4 years now. We really love this time of the year because the weather in Florida is great! It’s not the super rainy season and it’s not really hot! Sunny and 75 most days! I’ll dedicate a post to this Disney trip later!

Disney marked the end of our 3 month span of nonstop travel! We spent the last 2 weeks of the month wrapping up the twins first year of preschool and doing a lot of playing at home.

One big event at the end of the month was getting a new puppy! We picked up a Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy the last week of February. He’s had several names since we got him but I think Yoda is going to stick. He is soooo cute!

We are rolling in to March with lots of big things going on! The twins are starting a new year of homeschool preschool, our new farm shop construction is underway, and farming season has started!

Paris France January 2020

If you have a fantasy like dream of visiting Paris sipping espresso and eating macaroons beneath the Eiffel Tower in a picturesque setting then I advise you to stop reading now.

I too had romanticized Paris. I took French throughout school as my foreign language and was smitten with it. When cheap flights to Paris popped up and we were open for time I was so excited to book that trip!

Our flight to Paris was uneventful. By this point our kids are pros at long haul flights. We try to book our longest flights for overnight so that we can feed the kids dinner as soon as we get on and get settled in and sleep. This has worked out very well for us with our kids sleeping eight or nine hours on an overnight flight.

We arrived in Paris at 10 o’clock in the morning. We walk straight out the airport and found a taxi that could accommodate our family. There are lots of taxis outside the airport there’s a little area where you wait and the attendant will get you the next taxi in line or call for a taxi that fits your family.

We were quickly disappointed in Paris though. The city is disgusting. The sidewalks were littered with trash, panties, dirty clothes, dog poop, and puddles of urine (the human and domesticated animal kind). We saw men peeing on the sidewalks, steps down to the river, and even in front of the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately this nastiness wasn’t limited to one neighborhood, we experienced it all over the city. I would venture to say that Paris is Europe’s equivalent to New York City.

We stayed in an Airbnb apartment right in the city center. The apartment was wonderful as was the host. It was in a great location just a short walk to the Louvre Museum and several Metro stations.

Getting around Paris using public transit is fairly easy. Their bus system is not that great, but Metro is accessible almost anywhere. The metro stations do not run on the honor system like Germany and they’re a little complicated to use. First not all stations have ticket kiosks and you have to have a ticket to even enter the station. This caused a problem for us on our first day because our nearest station didn’t have a ticket kiosk. We ended up having to walk until we can to a metro station with a ticket kiosk. Once you have tickets you slide them through and go through the doors one at a time. This is hard to do with a bunch of kids because the doors do close on you quickly! For us Andrew would go through first and wait on the other side while I scanned and pushed each kid through! The mentor station lines and stops are posted on the walls of the stations and easy to read. Once inside the train you can watch the map or listen to the overhead audio of which stop is next. If you can’t hear or see the maps each station has the station name in huge letters on the wall so you will be able to see if it’s your stop when you pull in.

Paris metro stations and just Paris in general is not stroller friendly! We didn’t have strollers with us so this wasn’t an issue but I know most people travel with their strollers. There’s a lot of stairs and if there is an elevator it’s most likely not working. Also keep in mind if you are traveling with someone in a wheelchair or mobility issues.

Along with not being stroller friendly, Paris is not very big party friendly. Our kids were welcomed and accepted everywhere, but we found almost all restaurants just had tables for 2 and it was hard to find places to eat that could accommodate 6 people.

Our first day in Paris we stayed close to our apartment and just wandered around a bit getting familiar with the area. There was a national worker strike going on that day and protesters out in big public areas so we decided to steer clear of most places. This also caused a breakdown in public transit due to no workers so a lot of metro lines were down that day.

The next day we found a little bakery right down from our apartment that served breakfast and cappuccinos. We ended up eating breakfast here every day because it was so good and close!

After breakfast we took the metro to the Eiffel Tower. We had planned on eating lunch in the restaurant inside the Eiffel Tower but it was closed for renovations. Most likely because January is freezing and dreary so not exactly a popular tourist month. Nonetheless we were about to go up in the Eiffel Tower and the kids thought that was really cool. You have the option of taking the stairs or paying extra for an elevator ticket. We definitely opted for the elevator, I didn’t see anyone using the stairs as that would be a hefty climb!

Although there was a pretty long line to get in and buy tickets I didn’t feel like it was too crowded overall. As I said earlier though January is not a very popular month for tourists.

We had lunch at a very traditional French restaurant on the corner across from the Eiffel Tower and then walked over to the Arc de Triomph. The ADT is a hugely famous monument to celebrate Napoleon’s victories of war. It is also surrounded by an enormous chaotic roundabout that would give me nightmares to drive through!

Because of the national strike The Louvre museum was closed the entire time we were in Paris which was a bummer so we decided to spend a day at Disneyland Paris! There is a train that goes from Paris city center directly to the gates of Disneyland Paris that is about an hour long ride but very comfortable, convenient and cost effective. I’m going to dedicate an entire post to Disneyland Paris later, but I will say it’s definitely not up to par with Walt Disney World!

Our last full day in Paris we had breakfast at our favorite little bakery then decided to at least walk over to the Louvre and have a look around even though it was still closed.

We then walked down the Seine River to Notre Dame Cathedral. Unfortunately the cathedral caught on fire just 9 months before our trip so we could not get very close as they had the entire block closed off with walls up. Our walk down the river between the Louvre and Notre Dame was probably the highlight of our entire Paris trip though. There were so many artists set up along the river selling their paintings, artwork, and other goods. We had the beat time admiring all the stuff and even came home with several paintings!

The next morning we got up early to head to the airport. For our trip to the airport our apartment host set up an Uber for us with a friend that was a driver. Our trip to the airport with him was the same price as our taxi from the airport on arrival but took less than half the time! Instead of driving us through all the crazy side streets like the taxi driver did, he took us directly to the airport. We accidentally left our paintings at the apartment and didn’t realize it until we were already at the airport. Our Airbnb host was the sweetest and she mailed the home to us! They arrived safely a few days later! Her name is Julie and her apartment is listed on Airbnb right in the city center. If you need the direct link to it just ask, she was wonderful!

January 2020 Wrap Up

It seems like I get more and more behind every month with these posts. Better late than never, right?

January 2020 started off with major jet lag! We spent the last 15 days of 2019 in Germany and arrived back in the States just in time to catch the new year and be totally thrown off in time for days. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t that bad. The kids just woke up at 3am for about a week straight. When we went to Thailand Andrew slept for a solid 24 hours because he couldn’t function. I haven’t let him live that down yet because it’s never affected me or the kids that way, we adjust much better.

We were home for close to 2 weeks between our Germany trips and Paris trips so we spent that time getting stuff together for the 2020 farming season and working on building our new shop. The weather has not been our friend through this as it has rained almost every day!

We took all the kids duck hunting. It was Maggie Mae and Belle’s first time. The twins love to go hunting with Daddy! MM really enjoyed it and well Belle, she slept through it. Seriously, she slept through our entire morning of hunting. She slept through the shooting right next to her and everything. The kids have noise cancelling headphones so the shots don’t hurt their ears and apparently they work really well!

We were not accustomed to being home for very long, seeing as how we had been gone since the middle of November, so we decided to get away for a few days before we left for Paris. Our go to quick getaway spot is Gaston’s White River Resort in Lakeview, AR. If you’ve never been to Gaston’s you absolutely should! They have private cottages in all sizes from single bed cottages to large lodges that can fit parties of 10 or more! We love their 2 bedroom/2 bath cottages with a full kitchen and real wood fireplace. Gaston’s also has an amazing restaurant that’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They open for breakfast around 6am so no worries if you’re an early riser like us! Also, one of my favorite things about Gaston’s is that pets are welcome! My kids would say their favorite part is the peacocks! Gaston’s has walking trails through the woods and a large bird enclosure with peacocks, turkeys, pheasants, and other gamebirds. Some of the peacocks and turkeys roam free around the enclosure and come are contained. They love to eat potato chips! There’s also a playground for the kids and a swimming pool when it’s warm. If you prefer to get there quicker, Gaston’s has a private airstrip right in front of the main building for fly ins. Gaston’s is famous for their Sunday brunch which many people fly in just to eat on Sunday’s and leave. Overall Gaston’s Resort is a real treat. The owners Clint & Nicole Gaston are wonderful people. I’ve known Clint since I was a little kid and they’re working hard to keep their family resort in excellent operating order.

A couple days before we left for Paris Belle rolled off our bed and gave herself a beautiful black eye. The very next day she fell in our driveway and cut her other eye! She was quite the spectacle for a week or so!

I’m working on a full post about our trip to Paris so be looking for that soon, but we spent a week there towards the end of January.

The rest of January that we were home was filled with church, finishing up duck season, and some homeschool days.

Baby Jogger City Mini Double Stroller Review

A few years ago in 2017 we were at Disney World with one of our old crappy double strollers (we’ve had a few) and we saw a man get on the bus and fold his stroller flat so effortlessly. I spent the rest of the bus ride trying to figure out what kind of stroller it was and online shopping for it because Andrew and I were both amazed. That stroller was the Baby Jogger City Mini double. We immediately bought 2 of them and never looked back.

The stroller drives like a dream! It is so easy to push and maneuver. The wheels in the front can be locked in place or they have a full 360° swivel. Since we have 4 kids under 4 we have 2 of these strollers and I can easily push them both side by side at the same time!

The stroller seats have a 5 point harness with shoulder straps and belly straps or you can just use the belly straps. I really like The 5 point harness because toddlers can easily crawl out of just the belly straps.

Each seat fully reclines separately of the other. This is probably my kids favorite feature because it makes the stroller perfect for naps! You can adjust the angle to recline to any position you want so you can recline it just a little to accommodate smaller babies or lay it flat for a nap.

The sun shade canopies also adjust separately from each other and they come down really far! This offers great sun protection and creates a dark environment for sleeping. The canopies come out in stages so you don’t have to pull it all the way down if you don’t want. The canopies also have 2 clear peakaboo windows on the top so you can peak in on your sleeping kiddo without pulling the entire canopy back and waking them.

When the seats are reclined the back panel can be opened up to just a mesh backing which allows great airflow through to keep your baby cool and comfortable.

The handlebar is not adjustable like the newer models, but it comes out pretty far back from the rear wheels and I’ve never had an issue kicking the rear wheels. I’m 5’8 and Andrew is 6’3 and that’s not a problem for either of us. The wheel brake is located on the rear wheel frame with a foot flip piece. It’s easy to flip up and down but it does stink if you have on sandals.

The absolute best part about these strollers is how they fold! There’s no buttons to push, pieces to remove, etc. you simply pull the handles in the middle of the seats and the stroller folds in half! It is seriously so easy and it folds down pretty flat for easy storage.

My only major complaint with this stroller is the bottom storage basket is hard to access because there’s a bar to the farm that runs through the middle of the opening. If you can fit stuff in around the basket the basket itself is pretty large.

Our 2 strollers have been to Disney World about 15 times and gate checked on about 20 flights. They are still inreally great shape! They don’t have any rips or holes in the fabric and aren’t stained up too bad. We don’t bag the strollers for flying either so they have been completely exposed to the elements of airline travel.

The video below is much more detailed and shows the features I talked about above! We just upgraded to the brand new body style of these strollers and we are taking them to Disney World next week so I’ll be back soon with a review of those!

Getting Around Germany by Train

Germany has an amazingly efficient and expansive country-wide rail system. You can go basically anywhere in the country quickly and cost effectively. Your public transportation options include high speed ICE trains, regional trains, S-bahn, U-bahn, Trolley/Street cars, and city buses. Germany also has long distance buses but they are not as efficient as train travel and I have never utilized them so I won’t be discussing them here.

Deutsche Bahn (I’ll be referring to it as DB now) is the nationwide company that runs the German train system. With the exception of city metro and buses they control city SBahns, Regional, and ICE trains. I found it really nice that one company runs everything because everything is streamlined and easy to navigate from city to city. The DB navigator smartphone app is an absolute necessity for getting around Germany! You can choose any starting and ending location in the country and it will show you every public transportation option available to get you there! For example if I’m in Berlin and o want to go from my hotel room to the Natural History museum I just plug in the two locations (you can even select points on the map if you don’t know the name or address) and it will pull up how to get there like “walk to ubahn station ____, take U6 to ____ transfer to U4 to ____”. It’s so helpful and very easy to read!

Let’s start with ICE trains because they require the most planning. ICE trains are very very fast trains that travel long distances. Most of their routes are about 4-5 hours long but they make many stops along the way. Seat reservations are not required, but popular routes and times will be very full and you don’t want to get stuck standing in a doorway for 4 hours! Seat reservations for ICE trains can be made 3 months in advance on the DB website. ICE trains have a first class section and a second class section. We chose first class for all our train travels so I cannot speak on behalf of the regular cars but I did walk through one and it seemed to be perfectly suitable. The seats and foot room was smaller and more people crammed into one car but otherwise just fine. I mainly chose the first class cars because you can get quiet enclosed rooms (perfect for families with children so you don’t disrupt the entire car!) and seats of 2 or 4 with tables between them.

We took ICE trains from Munich to Köln, Köln to Nuremberg, Nuremberg to Munich, and Munich to Berlin. Three of those four trips were about 4 hour long rides that went across the country. ICE trains are a great way to take in all the beautiful scenery and get to your destination in a timely fashion while still allowing you to take potty breaks whenever you want and relax.

ICE trains have bathrooms in every car much like airplane bathrooms. There is a restaurant car that will have drinks, pizza, sandwiches, snacks, etc. There’s overhead bin space above each seat and also luggage racks for large suitcases at the back of each car. Some cars are equipped for bike and stroller storage and those will be marked with signs.

Buying tickets for ICE trains is very easy, they can be purchased on the DB website. Since DB runs ICE, regional, and Sbahn services I highly recommend buying a multi day ticket that covers all 3 if you plan on using multiple lines during your time in Germany. We were in Germany for 15 days so I bought a 15 day ticket

When you are in the main train station read the boards or check the DB app to see which platform your ICE train will be leaving from. When you are at your platform and your train arrives the outside of each car will be numbered so you just find your assigned car number. You should have either a picture of your reservation or you can view it on the DB app. It will tell your car number and the seats you have reserved. One in your assigned train car the seats are numbered above them like an airplane. There is a small digital screen by the seat number that will let you know what legs of the journey the seat is reserved for. For example if you are traveling from Munich to Berlin and the digital sign says “Munich-Nuremberg” then that seat is reserved until Nuremberg then free. It the digital sign doesn’t say anything then the seat is not reserved. A DB staff member will check your ticket at least once, maybe a couple times during your journey.

I have no personal experience with regional trains in Germany, but they’re operated by DB so your DB ticket works for them too. You just need to find the correct train you want, platform number, and hop on.

Metro/subway/Sbahn/Ubahn are a little more complicated but super easy once you figure them out. The DB app will be your best friend with what trains to take and what transfers to make. Sbahn trains are operated by DB so your DB ticket will cover them. They are above ground subway lines. Underground subway lines are called UBahn. You can buy tickets for them at little ticket machines at the stations. Nobody ever checks tickets on S&U trains so they simply rely on people to do the right thing.

S & U trains have 2 lines that make the same stops going in opposite directions. It is critical that you make sure you are on the correct side of the platform or else you will go the wrong way. For example if you need to take U4 you go down into the U4 station and read the “map” posted on the wall. The “map” will list every stop that U4 makes. You need to find the correct U4 map to your destination and enter that platform. There will be 2 sides to U4 so you have to find which side is yours. It sounds confusing but it’s really not once you’re in the station.

S&U trains are usually very crowded. There are seats but you will most likely have to stand. Be sure to keep an eye on the screen inside the train that shows which stop is next because you will have to press a button to open the door to your train car when you get to your stop. The train stops and the doors open and close in a matter of a minute so be prepared to get on and get off very quickly.

City buses are not part of the DB system but they’re very easy to use and the DB app will also show you bus routes available to your desired destinations. Buses work the same as the subway system. You can buy tickets from kiosks at the bus stops and you just hop on when your desired bus comes. The driver may look at your ticket if you get on at the front of the bus but most likely no one checks the ticket.

After WW2 Germany spent a lot of time and money building their public transportation system and it is truly awesome in my opinion and I can’t same the same for many other countries including my own. Trains and stations are very clean, well kept, and user friendly.

Munich Germany December 2019

We arrived in Munich on December 26 to find that the city was all but shut down. Apparently this is called the second day of Christmas and is still celebrated as a national holiday just like Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Who knew? We had planned on visiting some of the museums and monuments in the city that day but instead found ourselves looking at the architecture and I was just happy we found somewhere to eat that was open! This was a German Beer House where we had traditional food consisting of pretzels, goulash and bratwurst.

With rain in the forecast we thought it would be best to find some things to do indoors so the next morning we headed for the German National Museum. We stripped for breakfast at a cafe on the corner right across the bridge from the museum and I highly recommend it! The museum itself is massive spanning several stories. It’s filled with nautical history, aviation history, space exploration, a physics lab, metals history, a children’s museum, and even an entire floor dedicated to the history of coffe complete with a coffee shop! We tinkered through the museum for the entire morning and had lunch in the on site restaurant.

We spent the rest of that day dodging the rain and sightseeing. We were staying in a great Airbnb apartment right in the middle of the city center in Marienplatz. The first floor of our apartment was part of a large pedestrian only shopping center.

One of the only things I wanted from Germany was a real cuckoo clock. I did some research and found Max Krug, a well known clock shop in Munich that sells real handmade in the Black Forrest cuckoo clocks. They had so many clocks to choose from I was completely overwhelmed. I did know that I wanted a mechanical clock that had to be wound and not a battery powered one because I wanted it to be traditional and authentic. I should warn that these clocks are not cheap. They are hand carved, hand painted, and hand assembled. There’s so many minute details on each clock the craftsmanship is amazing. I chose a mid level clock and it still cost close to €1,000.

I was also able to find a beautiful nutcracker in the Max Krug shop and that was another one of my must have souvenirs.

We had dinner that night at Pasta e Basta which was the sweetest little Italian restaurant. The staff was so friendly with the kids, even MM who doesn’t like anyone, hugged the owner before we left!

Our first impression of Munich was rocky because nothing was open and we couldn’t even find places to eat, but once the city came back to life and we got used to our surroundings we really loved Munich! We left Munich by high speed ICE train back to Berlin to catch a flight home the next day.

Nuremberg Germany December 2019

Nuremberg is a cute town right in the heart of Germany. Probably most famous now for it Nazi history and the home of the post-WW2 Nuremberg trials. We chose Nuremburg as our location to spend Christmas because it’s also world famous for its huge Christmas market!

Spread out all across the city center is a Christmas market for all ages offering food, drinks, rides, toys, crafts, and goods of every kind. Complete with horse drawn carriage rides and live music. Don’t forget to try some roasted chestnuts and mulled wine!

We picked up the kids Christmas presents from vendors here and the kids were smitten with them on Christmas morning. Rhett got traditional German toys, a wooden fire truck and ambulance. The 3 girls got the most precious hand made teddy bears. The woman who made them was so sweet to us! She helped us find the perfect outfits for each bear for the girls while they slept in the carriers. The bears are made from moleskin, stuffed with sheep wool, and hand sewn.

Nuremberg has several beautiful churches and of course a medieval castle that still stands with a large part of the old city wall boasting beautiful views of the city.

We really wanted to go to the Nazi rally grounds where Hitler would host his huge Nazi party rallies and also where prisoners were sorted and sent to their assigned concentration camps. Unfortunately it was closed from the Christmas holidays which in Germany is celebrated for 3 days from December 24-26.

We stayed at a great Airbnb apartment right by the main train station. It was perfect for big families with 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and was very reasonably priced. Leaving Nuremberg we took a very quick ICE train to Munich.

Köln Germany December 2019

After our leisurely train ride from Berlin we made it to Köln around noon. Köln has really easy to use public transport, but we had accumulated so much stuff in Berlin we were over loaded with bags and decided to just take a taxi to our apartment.

We had a really amazing airbnb apartment in Köln. It was on the outskirts of the city center in a really adorable neighborhood that was full of amazing restaurants!

After getting settled in to our apartment and dropping our bags off our first order of business was finding the post office to ship all our stuff from Berlin home! There Deutsche Post office right down the street and even though no one in there spoke English, we managed to figure out how to mail our stuff home. Köln was one of the few places we went in German my where not many people spoke English, but they were by far the friendliest and most welcoming!

Our apartment was located in Rudolphplatz which had its own little Christmas marker where we spent our first evening exploring and eating sweets for dinner!

The first floor of our apartment was a wonderful little cafe called Salon Schmitz where we had breakfast every morning. It was a little quirky in that you ordered your food at the counter 2 doors down and then found a table and ordered drinks in the main restaurant. Every morning we had lattes, bacon, pancakes, toast, fried eggs, and chorizo & cheese scrambled eggs. They also hand squeeze fresh orange juice right there for you!

Köln is most famous for its cathedral which houses the Shrine of the Three Kings. The remains of the Three Wise Men who came to the Virgin Mary after Jesus’ birth have been housed in many places, but were ultimately given to the Archbishop of Köln in 1164 where they have remained to this day. Construction of the magnificent Köln cathedral to house the tomb began in 1248 but was not completed until 1880, it was however still built by its original plans. The Shrine of the Three Kings has made Köln cathedral one of the largest Christian pilgrimage sites in Europe. It is an intricately detailed gold sarcophagus kept in the very back center of the cathedral. The cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is absolutely worth further research.

Right outside the cathedral entrance is what’s left of the city wall and main gate. The wall dates back to the early 1500s and once protected the city.

Germany is covered with Christmas markets from the beginning of December through Christmas Eve. You can find one on every neighborhood square lined with booths of local craftsmen selling their goods and food. The Christmas markets are full of stuff for kids too. Carnival rides, Ferris wheels, ice skating rinks, live reindeer and Santa Clause himself!

I never dreamed we would end up at a Zoo in Germany, but everyone had great things to say about the Köln zoo and a lot of the exhibits are indoors so when we were faced with a very rainy morning that’s where we went and we were not disappointed! We ended up spending way longer there than we had intended but it was worth it! The best part about the zoo? They had a raccoon exhibit! It was the funniest thing I have ever seen and I never would have thought other parts of the world would find our nuisance trash pandas intriguing! The Köln zoo is huge! It has tons of amazing playgrounds, snack shacks, a restaurant, and amazing exhibits. I’ve never been so close to penguins before as they are there! You can literally touch them, although it’s frowned upon.

Leaving Köln involved the most amazing train ride down the Rhein river toward Nuremburg. The Rhein river is dotted with picturesque old German villages, grape vineyards and Medieval castles on hilltops. There are river cruises out of Köln that will take you down the river to see the landscape but they didn’t have the best reviews so we decided to skip them since we knew our train ride out of town would take us down the same path. We took a high speed ice train from Köln to Nuremburg that was about 3.5 hours long and beautiful every minute of the trip!

Köln was by far our favorite German city. The people were so friendly, the whole atmosphere of the city was laid back and welcoming. We were in the cutest neighborhood and had amazing meals all at restaurants we just randomly walked into on our street.

Berlin, Germany December 2019

After a whirlwind of a process trying to get to Germany we finally touched down in Berlin at 11:30pm on a Tuesday night in mid December. Berlin has an awesome public transportation system, but Tegel airport is pretty far out of the city center. For our family of 6 with 4 of those being 4 years old and under, getting to the nearest bus stop that late at night with 4 toddlers was not worth my sanity. Instead we opted to walk 5 steps out the door to a waiting taxi. One of the things I loved most about Germany’s public transportation is that their taxis have car seats and booster seats! Yep, you read that right! Germany’s taxis are all ran by one company, I think it may even be controlled by the government. Anyway, they have convertible car seats and booster seats. We obviously needed a van to fit 6 people and never had a problem finding one with multiple car seats! I had read this ahead of time but wasn’t sure if it was really true or not. I’m here to tell you now I have experienced it myself and their taxis really do have car seats. We had to use a taxi 3 times during our trip and 2 of those times were in different cities. Each time we were able to find a van with multiple car seats for us. This was a huge relief since we didn’t have to lug all the kids car seats with us! Our trip to and from the airport to the city center was €31 and it was the same price when we went back to the airport 2 weeks later.

We spent 3 nights in Berlin in an Airbnb apartment right in the heart of the city between the popular Potsdamer Platz and Alexander Platz. We were in walking distance to Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate, The Memorial for Murdered Jews, pretty much everything you want to see in Berlin we could walk to it.

Day 1 we walked across the street for breakfast at Hashtag Coffee Shop. It was a hip little cafe right outside our apartment. The staff spoke great English! Actually, pretty much everyone we encountered in Berlin spoke excellent English. All the signs in Germany are in German and English also. We had no trouble navigating the metro system as it’s well marked with English signage.

After breakfast we walked down to Checkpoint Charlie which is where the military crossing for the Berlin Wall which separated East and West Germany was located. I don’t want to get into a history lesson here but the Berlin Wall History is worth a quick internet search.

Next we made our way around the Christmas market in Potsdamer Platz. We had the best traditional German lunch there where I discovered my love for Goulash! We bought a few little ornaments and the kids rode the carnival swings. This is also where Andrew let the kids take a picture up next to part of the old Berlin Wall before we realized it was covered in old chewing gum!

Right up the street from Potsdamer Platz is the Memorial for Murdered Jews. It caught me off guard and we had no idea what it was when we first walked up on it. It was on my list of places to visit but I didn’t know what it looked like so it was not what I expected. It’s not enclosed, there’s no signage on 3 sides of it, and it’s huge. We had to walk through the entire thing before we made it to the information area and realized what it was. Honestly, I think it’s a pretty major design flaw that there’s nothing denoting it from the rest of the street and construction around it.

We stumbled upon the Murdered Jews Memorial on our way to the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag building. The Brandenburg gate was built in the late 1700s at the site of the old Berlin city gate. It’s huge and beautiful and barely survived WW2, but has been restored to its former beauty. On a side note, one of my favorite parts of our time in Berlin was all the WW2 history! Germany has triumphed over their dark past, but many buildings are still riddled with bullet holes, some patched and others left as living battle scars. Just a block over from the Brandenburg Gate is the Reichstag building which houses the German Parliament. It is an absolutely beautiful work of art!

That night we had dinner right across from our apartment at Fontana di Trevi and it was wonderful! Our server didn’t speak English but she understood us well enough to provide excellent service and we had an excellent meal. The kids had a Margherita pizza which was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. Andrew had lamb and I had salmon pasta in a cream sauce. The food was perfect!

One of the things Rhett was most excited about for our Germany trip was seeing the dinosaurs in Berlin’s natural history museum. They have the largest full skeleton brachiosaurus in the world along with several other Dino’s on display. Rhett was absolutely amazed! The entire natural history museum was awesome! I thought we would pop in to see the dinosaurs and then head out but we ended up spending several hours covering every inch of the museum because the kids and adults loved it all!

After spending the morning in the museum we headed over to Alexanderplatz to their big Christmas market. They had tons of vendor and food booths, an ice skating rink, several kids carousels, and a big Ferris wheel. It was an adorable Christmas market delight! We filled up on bratwurst and candies while we played and browsed the rest of the day!

Berlin was our first experience with public transportation and metro systems. All the signage is in English and it’s very easy to navigate. The DB Navigator smartphone app shows you all the train, metro, a bus schedules for all of Germany. You can select your departure and arrival destinations from a map and it will show you all the ways you can get where you’re going. It’s an absolute necessity for getting around using public transport!

There was a lot more we wanted to do in Berlin but since we missed our first day there we had to narrow it down quite a bit. I think 3-4 full days is enough to cover everything though.

Leaving Berlin we took a high speed ICE train to the other side of Germany to the city of Köln. Berlin’s main train station is huge and since it was our first experience with the train system there we were pretty confused how to find the correct platform. We were making it way harder than it was though because every train is assigned a numbered platform and there are no two platform numbers the same regardless of which type of train it is. For example the different train types include ICE, RE, S, U, trams, and buses and they all share the same station. If your ICE train is assigned to platform 8 it may have an ICE train there now and a RE train next.

Berlin and Köln are on opposite sides of the country, but the ICE train between the 2 is only about a 4 hour ride. Train travel is so nice because you can sit back and relax, move around as you please, use the bathroom as needed, or visit the train restaurant all while making it quickly to your destination while taking in the scenery!

9 Hour Layover in Lisbon, Portugal

Our 2 week trip through Germany started out rough. Very rough to be exact. Our first flight was 2 hours late which caused us to miss our connecting flight which caused a 24 hour delay in all our plans. Thankfully we were able to sip some sweet lemonade from those lemons and ended up getting to spend an entire day in Portugal which was not in our plans at all!

The sweet customer service woman in New York helped us pick the best flights to get us to Berlin but also a full 9 hours in Lisbon with minimal effort on our part. We actually made it to Berlin only a few hours later than originally planned! I didn’t even have time to google what to do in Lisbon before we were on our way there though!

Our flight left NY at 8pm and landed in Lisbon at 9am. With time change it was a 6 hour flight and all 4 kids slept the entire 6 hours. It was overnight flight bliss!

When we landed in Portugal we made a pit stop at the bathroom to change our clothes, which I’m so thankful I packed an extra set for everyone in my backpack! made our way through customs and walked out the main entrance of the airport where we found the AeroBus which is a public city bus that takes you from the airport to the city center and back. It makes several stops along the way, but getting to the city center was our main goal. It only cost around €13 for all 6 of us round trip. The ticket man outside the bus was very helpful and gave us an English map of the city too.

When we got to the city center our first order of business was to find somewhere to eat. Remember I said I didn’t have time to even google Lisbon before we left? Yeah, we were totally flying blind. So we did what we do best, we walked down the street until we saw a restaurant and we stopped at the first one that looked like it had an open table for us. In Lisbon this happened to be an amazing little Italian restaurant right on the main Rossio Square called LVSO Central.

After finally getting a real meal we wandered around the city center until we had to leave. We had about 4 hours to kill before we needed to catch the bus back to the airport. The square is filled with cafes, shops, a beautiful fountain, views of the medieval castle, beautiful old world buildings and a Christmas market!

If you’re planning your own layover and thinking this time frame doesn’t add up to 9 hours, you’re right! We only spent about 6 hours out of the airport and that’s because we had an infant traveling with us. Infants only get boarding passes from the main ticket counter so we went back to the airport 3 hours early to check back in and get Belle’s boarding pass, we already had them for the rest of us. My anxiety of missing a flight really paid off this time because we encountered a major problem and needed all 3 hours! Usually I get us to the airport way too early but this time it was absolutely necessary!

When we arrived back at the airport to get Belles ticket she wasn’t listed on the ticket manifest. Sounds simple, just add her, WRONG! It was a huge ordeal. We ended up being drug all over the airport to every higher up, up, and up person for the airline that you can imagine. What I couldn’t believe was she is just a lap baby so she didn’t actually need a seat, just to be added to my ticket, but apparently that was a big issue also. The flight was completely full so I couldn’t just buy her own new seat either. We spent hours getting this situation remedied. We ended up having to rebuy mine and her ticket and getting us all new boarding passes. It was a headache, tears were shed by me, and then we still had to go back through customs and security!

Lisbon airport has the most family friendly airport I’ve ever been in! They have a special security and customs area just for families with small children! We didn’t have strollers with us but they had a special area to take strollers through, the staff was so friendly and patient with everyone, I wish so bad all our US airports were like that! Going through TSA in the US is a nightmare. In Portugal they did the exact same security screening but it was so much less stressful!

We flew TAP Portugal airlines from Lisbon to Berlin and their entire staff was amazing! They were very nice and helpful getting our Belle ticket situation worked out and when we got to our gate to check in the gate agent rearranged our seats so that we had an empty seat between the kids so we would have more room! Our flight left Lisbon at 9pm and landed in Berlin at 11:30pm then we finally made it to the beginning of our Germany trip!

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