Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cold Fronts and Crack Addicts (PDC Day 6 and 7 - Jan. 19th and 20th)

Bull shark waiting for me.
Saturday, January 19th: I was miserable this day because of my cold. I was sporting the drippy nose, sneezing, drippy/red eyes crack addict look. It was not pretty by any means. Dad dove with the bull sharks in the morning. I was really disappointed to miss that dive. It was the main reason we came in January since the bull sharks are around the area from December - February. I am consoling myself with the fact that I was able to do two reef and four cenote dives. Plus, this gives me a reason to return next January. The bull sharks and I will meet one day!

I did some shopping and headed to the dive shop to retrieve Dad. We came back to the hotel and had some rest time before venturing out for dinner. Dad wanted Subway so we went there first. I was a bit burnt out on Subway so I had fajitas again at Las Delicias. Excellent food there! After dinner, we headed to a shop on the corner where I picked up a couple of small items for some friends. Back at the hotel, I had the Chips Ahoy and A&W Root Beer treats I had picked up for myself earlier in the day. I headed to bed hoping for a better night's sleep than I had Friday.

Not what I ate, but close enough.
Sunday, January 20th: The better night's sleep did not materialize, but that is no surprise considering how ill I was. The day started with a big breakfast at the hotel restaurant, Mayan Bistro. I had pancakes, fruit with whipped cream, tea, toast, bacon and ham. It was around 8:30 and I knew I wouldn't eat again until at least 6 since this was the day we left Playa. Travel days are always long stretches without food so I find it important to load up in the morning before heading out.

We took a taxi to the bus station because it's cheap to do so and because my Dad did not want me to have to walk with my suitcase considering the fact that I had to blow my nose every 10 seconds and I was still sporting the crack addict look. We got to the station with plenty of time and chatted for awhile then got on the bus. 

We got to the airport and we had to split up there since Dad was heading to San Antonio on a different airline than the one taking me to Houston. I always hate the end of the vacation and having to say goodbye to Dad, but I'll see him again soon. 

Chai tea lattes are awesome!
I got into the airport and checked my bag then got a Chai tea latte at Starbucks. You can get free Internet in the Cancun airport if you buy something from Starbucks. I settled at a table to talk to my wonderful boyfriend on the computer.  He kept me company until I had to head through security and then we talked again for another 15 minutes or so before I had to go to my gate. The gate changed about four times (literally). I'm glad I didn't head to it earlier, I would have had to move anyway. 

I'll be back Playa!
I got on the plane and dozed a little bit off and on for the approximately 2-hour flight. Thankfully, when I got off the plane, passport and customs was quick. I got my suitcase really fast from baggage claim and was able to leave. I got to my car, which I had left at Preflight Parking, and drove away. I stopped by Wal-Mart for chicken and dumpling ingredients and then headed home. It was a long day that ended with me making the chicken and dumplings and relaxing at home while planning the next Mexican adventure! Stay tuned amigos! :-)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Diving 911 (PDC Day 5 and 6 - Jan. 17th and 18th)

Dad and the best Dive Master ever, Andrea!
Thursday, January 17th: This day found us up early to get some breakfast before heading to dive the cenotes. The cenote dives are my favorite dives in Playa Del Carmen. I love the reefs in Cozumel and the cenotes in Playa. They are just so amazing! We showed up at the dive shop and got on the road shortly after 8:30. It was just me, Dad, and our very favorite dive master, Andrea. We got to the cenotes and got our gear ready to go. I had already dove in the cenotes we were going to, but I can't get enough of them.

Our first cenote dive was Kulkulkan. We entered the water by stepping in off the rocks and we were ready to go. This dive is so beautiful, there are rock formations under the water that are just incredible to see. These places would truly be a geologist's dream. Additionally, the way the light plays on the water is spectacular  It's a natural light show that is not to be missed! One of the most interesting things about this cenote is that it contains a halocline. This is basically where salt water and fresh water mix together. Cenotes are fresh water in general, but in Kulkulkan, there is a layer of salt water that shows up inside the cavern. It's interesting to see the two mix together, it creates a blurred effect in the water.

Chac Mool Cenote. 
We took a break between dives as is the norm for diving and then began our second dive in Cenote Chac Mool. I love this cenote because it has many great geological features, there are a couple of places where you can see shelves of rock. It looks like you could almost sit in them and have dinner if you weren't underwater. There are also fossils in the rocks such as shells. It's really cool to see. 

After the cenote dives, we headed back to the dive shop and then on to dinner at Subway. I had the grilled chicken salad. We headed over to the Mega store and then to Wal-Mart in search of some Sudafed for me. I had woken up with a sore throat this day and I wanted to get something for my congestion that I knew would be coming so I could continue to dive. I got some Afrin, but it didn't help. I ended up with a full-on cold unfortunately, which cut my diving short. I am sad about this, but it gives me something to look forward to for our next trip.

Cenote Angelita
Friday, January 18th: I had the big-time congestion going on so I had to skip the dive this day. My Dad went to Cenote Angelita for diving. I headed over to the dive shop about 1:30 to meet him. The owner of the shop said "there's been an emergency at the dive site." There are no scarier words to hear when your loved one is there. As a diver myself, I know all the things that can go wrong. It wasn't my Dad thankfully. The dive consisted of the dive master, her parents, and my Dad. It seems that the dive master's mom lost her regulator and sucked in some of the water during the dive. This dive is 105 feet and the water has sulfur in it so this is a problem. The dive master got her to the surface and yelled for help. Another dive master came along and my Dad helped get her out of the water. The dive master and her dad took off with her mother to the truck so they could take her to the hospital.

I am so proud of my Dad! He helped get the woman out of the water and then took care of getting all the equipment out of the water too, all by himself! This is no easy feat at some of these cenotes. Usually, what happens is everyone gets out of the water with their BCD and tanks strapped to their backs so getting yourself in and out of the water is a chore sometimes, but getting yourself out of the water and then having to pull out BCDs with tanks strapped to them by yourself is rough. My Dad did it though because he is just that awesome! And of course, he thinks it's no big deal, but I think it's worthy of applause!!

Unfortunately, the second dive they would have made that day was abandoned since the dive master's mom had to be taken to the hospital. But that is small potatoes compared to the safety of a diver! One of the great things about the diving community is that everyone's first concern (in general anyway) is safety. And if your dive buddy has to go back to the surface before the dive is over or has to be transported to the hospital, you make that happen, no questions asked. 

My Dad and I headed back to the hotel and rested a bit before going to dinner around 6:30. We stopped off at the dive shop to let them know that I would not be going on the bull shark dive on Saturday. I was very disappointed about that, I had really wanted to see the bull sharks, but by this time my cold had gotten significantly worse so it just wouldn't have been wise to go diving. If you dive with congestion, you risk a reverse block in your ears, trauma to your ear drums, and even the possibility of fatal lung problems. No thanks, just not worth it. 

Anyway, the dive master told us where her mom was at and we went by to visit her. The doctor told us how she was doing. The good news is that the dive master's mom is OK. She was taken to the hospital and stayed overnight where they gave her some oxygen and antibiotics. She was released on Saturday.

Oreo Blizzard. YUM!
Dad and I continued on to have a great dinner at our mainstay restaurant here, La Vagabunda. It was great as always. I had the filet mignon and Dad had the chicken. Basically a repeat of the food we had there earlier in the week. Delicious!! After that, we hit up Dairy Queen. Dad had the chocolate dipped cone (they had gotten their chocolate shipment in) and I had an Oreo Blizzard. Delicious, again! We headed back to the hotel and watched a video of my Dad from a trip he took here in September. The video is awesome, he's underwater in the ocean with some fish surrounding him. Very cool to see, it's like a wall of fish. 

After that, it was time for sleep. Dad was diving on Saturday and I was just tired from my cold so it was rest time. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Meeting Mr. Ed (PDC Day 4 - Wednesday, Jan. 16th)

Wednesday, January 16th: We booked horseback riding on Tuesday evening, but never received a confirmation voucher as is the norm when booking online. The ride was scheduled for 11:45 a.m. and we were on the phone at 9:30 in the morning with the tour company trying to get it straightened out. Both Dad and I were sure we would not be going on the ride because it was getting later and later and the guy on the phone was being super helpful, but had no record of our reservation. 

He took our information and said he would call back in 5 minutes. 5 minutes was actually 15, but when he called back he had found our reservation and e-mailed the voucher to us. Brad with Cancun Vista is awesome, just for the record! We had to go over to the Gran Porto Real hotel to be picked up and we headed over there quickly since we didn't have much time at that point. I stopped at a drug store on the way and got us Chips Ahoy for breakfast. You know you're on vacation when you eat Chips Ahoy for breakfast.

The van picked us up and we were on our way. We picked up some other people at different hotels and headed to the horses, who were located at Maroma Beach along with other activities such as ATV rides, snorkeling and scuba diving. We arrived and were directed to a bar area on the beach where we waited about 30 minutes and finally were taken to the horses. 

The ride was great! It was about 90 minutes through the jungle and sand. We passed by a lake with a fake crocodile in it that looked real. We also went by the ocean. It was a beautiful way to spend the day. Dad was smart and wore a light, long-sleeved shirt. I should have done that. I got a slight sunburn on my arms and neck, but it wasn't too bad. 

After the ride, we headed to the restaurant where we had chips and salsa, and sodas. That was included with the ride package and was very good. We then loaded back up in the van and went back to the hotel. We showered, rested, and then went to Las Delicias for some excellent fajitas! We returned to the hotel and rested for the dive that would take place on Thursday.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Full of Air (PDC Day 3 - Tuesday, Jan. 15th)

Tuesday, January 15th
We started the day early with some breakfast at the hotel restaurant, the Mayan Bistro. We made our way to the dive shop arriving at 8 a.m. We got ourselves and the equipment ready to go for the cenotes we would be diving. Everything was loaded in the truck and we were off. 

A SCUBA diver in full gear.
The cenote dives take a maximum of four people plus the dive master. We were diving with two men from the UK. They were nice and we chatted with them on the way to the dive site. The dive master was Andrea who is fabulous! I adore her, she's very personable and very knowledgeable  She is safety conscious, but balances it with the fun aspect of diving. It's clear that she loves what she does and that always makes for a more enjoyable experience.

After a bumpy ride down the entrance road, we arrived at the Dreamgate Cenote. We do two dives with an intermission between them. We first took our fins and mask down to the starting point of the dive. Dreamgate is located down a very steep ladder so you need both hands to hold on when you go down with the full equipment on your back - the BCD and the tanks. Therefore, you have to take the flippers and mask and whatever else you might need, such as a towel, before you are in full gear going down the steps.

The steps at Dreamgate Cenote.
We got our fins and such on the table and Andrea gave us the briefing that precedes each cenote dive. We headed back up and got our tanks on and went down the stairs. We had to walk backwards down the stairs because that was easier than going forward. Thankfully, my Dad had already dived this Cenote before so he gave me the helpful tip of going backwards. 

We got to the starting point and entered the water. The dive was beautiful as always! It's just amazing what is under the water in our world. We are not physically equipped to enter it, but Scuba gear allows us to see that incredible part of God's work that would otherwise be closed off to us. I am always in awe of this no matter how many times I dive. 

Dreamgate Cenote contains a lot of silt that is kicked up when you move your fins and this causes issues with visibility. Therefore, you must kick your fins like a frog. This is literally how we are told to do it. You would think I'd have no trouble kicking like a frog. But it is harder than it seems. I will have to practice this. 

As part of the first dive, we entered a cave structure where you can come up for air and see the roots of the trees growing into the ground. The roots stop just before the water. They sense the water and they quit growing right before they hit it. On one of the roots was a huge spider. There is life everywhere, even underground!

We continued the dive and then took our intermission out of the water. During that, I was talking to one of the gentlemen from the UK. Everyone has a story if you're willing to listen! Turns out this guy, who looked perfectly healthy, had been in a horrific car accident about four years ago. He was on a motorbike in Germany on the Autobahn and a car came onto the road and spun out of control across three lanes of traffic. The UK guy was going toward the car when this happened. He went over the car at 70 miles an hour and flew off the bike. He broke his neck and his left side was essentially shattered to the point where the doctors thought at first that amputation of his left leg would be the only option. Both his lungs were collapsed. 

He managed to recover from that and had a great story to tell about the kindness of strangers as well, but that will be shared another day. 

Parts of the Scuba Regulator
Back to diving - we started the second dive and it was gorgeous. About 5 or 10 minutes into the dive, I realized that something was wrong with my regulator. The air was coming out whether I was breathing it or not. With the regulator, the air comes out when you breathe in your mouth and then you breathe out through your mouth and the air escapes. In this case, I was getting a continual flow of air from the regulator. 

I realized what was happening and decided to ignore it. Had this been a longer or deeper depth dive, I would have alerted the dive master and in all actuality, that is what I should have done anyway. But, I knew I would have enough air for the duration of the dive and should there be a problem with low air, I could use my father's secondary air supply or the dive master's. So I didn't panic, I just continued on with the dive. Toward the end of the dive, Andrea (the dive master) realized what was happening and came up behind me to try and fix the tank. It didn't work, but I appreciated the effort. The problem with the air didn't bother me, the dive was gorgeous! I love the Cenotes, they are fascinating and always beautiful!

Once the dives were completed, we went back to the dive shop and then on to Subway for a light and filling dinner. We had a very fattening (and delicious) dinner on Monday so we decided to be a little conservative with the food on Tuesday. We talked for quite awhile at Subway. My Dad and I are lucky in that we are not just father and daughter, we are friends and we enjoy each other's company so we always have things to chat about.

We headed back to the hotel and I ventured out a little later for some late night snacks before coming back to the hotel and getting some much needed rest.

Monday, January 14, 2013

That's a Moray! (PDC Day 2 - Monday, Jan. 14th)

Mayan Bistro Restaurant
Monday, January 14th: I was up and downstairs in the Mayan Bistro (hotel restaurant) to meet my Dad for 9 a.m. breakfast. He had been up earlier and had already eaten, but he had some tea while I ate. We walked back to the Mega store and also visited Wal-Mart in search of some T-shirts and granola bars. We found both. We headed back to the hotel and rested a bit before going to the dive shop around 12.

That's a Moray!
Our first dives today were reef dives. The boat takes us out into the ocean and we dive anywhere from 30-50 feet looking at reefs. Today, we saw several stingrays, two eels (one a moray), and many beautiful fish. A couple of the stingrays were a little angry that we were invading their home and they quickly scuttled off to show their bitterness, but others were passive and welcoming. I like the reefs in Cozumel better than Playa, but it's still interesting to see what hangs out under the surface of the water.

The restaurant with delicious food!
From getting to the shop to the completion of the dives is about four hours. We left the shop around 4 and headed back to the hotel for much needed showers and change of clothes. We then started walking in search of our favorite restaurant in Playa, La Vagabunda. This restaurant serves different kinds of food (chicken, beef, Mexican food) for a good price. I had a virgin strawberry margarita and filet mignon. The filet was 10 ounces so it was huge. I actually had to send it back because it was served rare when I ordered it medium well. It was so big, they had trouble cooking it all the way through. But it was delicious once it was served. After the restaurant, we had Dairy Queen again. I had the Oreo Blizzard and Dad had a tropical Blizzard. They were still out of chocolate. Weird.

After Dairy Queen, we stopped in a shop so I could buy some souvenirs and then we took some photos as we walked along 5th Street. Finally we were back at the hotel to rest because tomorrow we will be diving early in the morning. We are going to dive the Cenotes, which I really enjoy! They are beautiful!

Pesos and some Weeping (PDC Day 1 - Sunday, Jan. 13th)

Sunday, January 13th: I was up early and drove to the airport so I could be there two hours ahead of the 10:41 a.m. flight. International flights usually require being at the airport two hours prior to the scheduled flight. I made it through baggage check and security very quickly so I spent the waiting time surfing the net and talking online to my wonderful boyfriend in Germany. I bought a banana nut muffin before boarding the plane.

Shuttle between Terminals at Cancun Airport
The flight was easy and uneventful. The two seats next to mine were empty, which is always nice. It gave me some room to stretch out and put my stuff all over the place. The flight is a little over two hours and I spent that time watching Sex and the City, Season 2, on my laptop and drinking some hot tea as well as resting a bit here and there. The plane landed in Cancun and I made it through passport control, baggage claim, and immigration pretty quickly. I caught the shuttle bus from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2 where my Dad was waiting for me. He had flown in from San Antonio and was about 30 minutes ahead of me.

Mexican Pesos
We caught the ADO bus to Playa Del Carmen. This is the most efficient and cost-effective way of traveling from Cancun to Playa. It costs $11 per person. The bus ride takes about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the traffic. We made it to the bus station in Playa Del Carmen and stepped out into 5th street around 3 p.m. We found a place to change dollars to pesos and got that done. We already know what a good exchange rate is so we look for that. You can change money in the bus station itself (this is usually the best rate), but the street exchangers are comparable. NEVER change your money at the airport. It is a horrible exchange rate and you lose a lot by doing that.

Once we changed the money, we found Subway and had something to eat since we were both hungry. We followed this up by having some Dairy Queen ice cream. Neither my Dad nor I eat Dairy Queen except when we are in Playa. We love it, but it's not healthy so we save it for vacation. I had a Blizzard and Dad had a vanilla cone. Dad usually gets the chocolate dipped cone, but they were out of chocolate. This was quite a surprise to both Dad and me since that is just weird for an ice cream store.

Hotel Aventura Mexicana. You can see my room on the right.
We made our way to our hotel, Hotel Aventura Mexicana. It's beautiful and perfect for what we need since it's only a couple of blocks to Dive Shop Mexico, which is the dive shop we always use here. It's a great, family-owned, operation with some wonderful people and very experienced dive masters.

We got settled into the hotel and later in the evening decided to head to the Mega, which is the major grocery store here. We bought some water in gallon and a half jugs and then stopped at a mini-mart on the way back to get smaller water bottles so we could fill them from the jugs as needed.

The pool we swam in. 
After we returned to the hotel, we got in the pool that is right outside my room and right below Dad's room. It was SO cold! But eventually we got acclimated and spent some time lounging in the pool and chatting. After awhile, I headed back to my room and took a nice warm shower and changed into my comfy sweats and T-shirt. Later in the evening, I heard what sounded like someone weeping. I couldn't tell where it was coming from, but it sounded very close. I went into the hall and found nothing. Finally, I realized it was coming from the room next door to mine. I knocked on the door and asked the woman if she was OK. She said she was. Perhaps I shouldn't have disturbed her, but I felt that she might need help so I had to ask.

Finally, after my weep patrol, I went to bed and slept well.

Playing in Playa - Mexico!

This week, January 13 - January 20, I am hanging out in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico with my Dad. We are scuba diving here and doing a little shopping as well as some good eating. The usual Mexican vacation items. As always, I will blog about our adventures for those who are interested, bored, or need something to distract them at work. :-)

First dive is a reef dive in the ocean this afternoon. SCUBA FROG!!! Have a great day all!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Germany - 10 Things Christmas Edition

I've decided to wrap up my second Germany trip with another 10 Things About Germany post. Perhaps this will become a tradition when I return from European trips.

1. Windows in Germany open in two ways. You can either swing them open or you can open only the top portion. It depends on how you turn the handle. This very short video shows this: Windows in Germany.

2. The handle of the toilet is usually built into the top of the toilet and is flush (pardon the pun) with the toilet so it doesn't stick out at all.

3. In some public places such as the train station in Frankfurt, you have to pay to use the toilet. It costs .50 Euros, which is about 65 cents.

4. Cigarettes are sold from vending machines on the street. You can purchase them everywhere. It's odd to be walking down a quaint village street and see a cigarette vending machine on the sidewalk in front of someone's house. They do have an age requirement for smoking and to buy from these machines, you must scan your passport or driver's license to prove your age.

5. There are no bills for Euros until you reach 5 Euros. 1 - 4 Euros is given in change.

6. Aldi and Lidl are the big grocery stores there.

7. There is no Wal-Mart in Germany. They were in Germany for several years, but left when they realized American business practices and merchandise did not always translate well to the German culture. Being greeted at the door and having someone bag your groceries (among other things) is not the German way.

8. Electrical items have a higher voltage in Germany. Here, ours is usually 110-120. Theirs is 220-240 volts.

9. Everything is closed on Sunday. Bakeries are usually open for a few hours in the morning, but that is it. Sunday is considered a day of rest/family day.

10. American products are sold in grocery stores sometimes, but can be insanely expensive. For example, a pint of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream cost over $6 in one store. A can of A&W Cream Soda cost almost $2.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Germany - New Year's Eve and a couple of days before and after (Dec. 29 - Jan. 2)

Saturday, Dec. 29th
I suggested shopping in Darmstadt this day and Thomas agreed. He’s good that way – he doesn't mind going shopping with me and holding all my bags. Have I mentioned he’s an awesome boyfriend? No? Well, he is!

I slept in and we caught the bus/train combo to Darmstadt arriving around 1 in the afternoon. Darmstadt has a large shopping area called Marktplatz. We wandered the stores there including the European version of the dollar store and TK Maxx, which is basically Germany’s TJ Maxx. Thomas found a pair of shoes there for a great price. We then decided on lunch and had some Thai food at a place called Bubblo. It was not very good. Thomas had a noodle/beef combo that was filled with salad at the bottom. It was a rather odd combination of food and didn't make for a very good taste. I had chicken and rice, which was good. I gave the vegetables to Thomas. I don’t like to eat stir-fried vegetables generally, but Thomas loves them so I always give what I don’t want to him. It works out well.

After lunch, we did some more shopping. I picked up a couple of small things for some friends and we then scouted out Eis Cafes in search of my very favorite ice cream, Spaghetti Eis. We found two Eis Cafes, both of which were closed. I was still hungry after lunch since I didn't eat a lot so we found a place with schnitzel and potatoes. It was OK, but not the best schnitzel I've ever had. I've eaten so much schnitzel recently that I’m becoming quite a connoisseur of it. So far, the best I've found was in the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (train station). You just never know where you’ll find great food.

We had some time before we needed to catch our bus home so we went over a bridge to the library, which had a great metal sculpture outside it. There were also some castle ruins just outside the library. History is everywhere in Germany!

We spotted an ice cream shop. They had no spaghetti eis, but they did have some other good ice cream so we both got some and sat in the park watching the kids play for a few minutes before we headed back over the bridge to the bus stop. We still had some time and it was cold so we went to a café and I had some hot chocolate while Thomas had some tea. It was a good way to warm up and wait for the bus.
After we got home, we watched TV and talked before heading to bed. It was a good day of shopping.

Sunday, Dec. 30th
One of Thomas’s friends picked us up in the morning and we did a little sightseeing by car before heading to a nice restaurant. I had a great steak and potato lunch while Thomas had schnitzel. We then went to Schloß Auerbach, a local castle. It was really amazing. We walked around the castle taking photos and climbed to the top of the tower. It was very windy and cold, but we had a good time. You can’t find history like that in America. We have our own brand of history, which is just as good in many ways, but it is amazing to see the ruins of places people lived centuries ago.

After viewing the castle ruins, we headed home and had some tea. We talked and rested, watched TV and just relaxed. It was a good way to end the weekend.

Monday – New Years Eve, Dec. 31st
We went to the post office in the morning so I could mail my post cards. Unfortunately, they were only open until 11:30 and we arrived at 11:40. Oh well, such is life. Thomas will mail my postcards for me on Thursday. We then headed to the store to pick up some grocery items.

Thomas made banana bread and we had some of that for lunch/snack before heading to dinner later in the evening. We had decided to have our favorite food, the döner, for dinner. We went to the döner restaurant and had a lovely candlelit, romantic dinner. We were the only people in the restaurant so that was nice.

We went home to rest before going up the hill so we could view the New Year’s Eve fireworks over the three surrounding towns. Thomas had some of his own fireworks to set off as well so we had fun with that. We started off for the hill around 11:40 and made it about five minutes before midnight. We met some other people who had the same idea. They had some fireworks so we watched theirs, set off ours, and saw the show put on by the surrounding town. It was fantastic, really beautiful to see!

We headed home, I had some tea and banana bread and we relaxed a bit before going to bed very late.

Tuesday – New Year’s Day, Jan. 1st
My last full day in Germany. I always get depressed on the last day. It’s hard to leave Thomas, although we will see each other again soon. Still, we miss each other terribly so we made the last day one of rest and spending all the time together we could.

Thomas showed me the Wii Personal Training Program he has. Wow, that looked so hard! Don’t know if I could do it on a regular basis. I’m sure I could with some practice, but it would definitely take a lot of time.

I started packing some of my things in the evening and we looked up the schedule for the bus/train to get to the airport. I had to be at the airport at 6:15 a.m., which meant we had to leave around 4:30 in the morning. I couldn't sleep and finally fell asleep around 2:45. I had to get up at 3:45 so the morning was rough.

Wednesday – Jan. 2nd
Thomas and I got up early and he made me some tea and toast while I finished my packing. We were out the door and going down the slick, icy streets about 4:30. The bus came at 4:36. We got off the bus in Reinheim, caught the train to Darmstadt, and then took another bus to the airport. It’s sometimes complicated getting where you need to go, but I must say the public transportation is amazing in Germany. It may take some time, but you can get wherever you need to be.

We arrived at the airport and Thomas stayed with me while I checked my bag. We then had to say our goodbyes, which is always hard for us both. I don’t even like to call it goodbye, I refer to it as “see you soon” because we will see each other soon and it’s helpful for us both to remember that when we have to part.

I wandered around the airport and picked up a couple of souvenirs for some friends, hopped on the Internet quickly before going through security. I got a cookie and some hot chocolate before sitting down and waiting for my flight. My first flight went from Frankfurt to London and took about one hour and 10 minutes. I had roughly a 90 minute wait in London. I had to take a bus to the right terminal so that took up some time.  I laid down on some benches for about 20 minutes and got a bit of rest. I looked through some of the shops and bought a sandwich and some chips as well as a Mountain Dew Energy, which apparently has more caffeine than the standard Mountain Dew. Because that’s totally necessary what with Mountain Dew not having enough (side note for those who don’t know – Mt. Dew has the most caffeine of any soda on the market).

Finally, it was time to board the plane. I got on and got situated for the 10-hour flight. Based on the departure and arrival times, I thought it would be an 11-hour flight, but the captain announced that it would be 10 hours. One hour may not seem like a big deal, but when you're trapped in a steel tube with hundreds of other people, believe me, it matters!

And that brings us up to date. I am writing this in the airplane. I will post it when I am in Houston. I touch down in Houston in about four hours. I will drive myself home and be a bit morose for a couple of days because I miss Thomas. But I remember that I will see him again soon and then I feel better. I also have some fun things coming up in the next couple of weeks. So that helps too. Auf Wiedersehen Germany, thanks for the great time as always! See you soon!