Saturday, May 31, 2008

One Long Layover

I'm sitting at Heathrow airport at the beginning of what will be quite a long layover. I was originally scheduled to fly home via LAX but when I had the opportunity to get a direct flight to Seattle I jumped on it! Unfortunately that also meant a very long layover but I am more willing to endure a layover (especially since my dad used his frequent flyer miles and we are in business class and can use the lounge!) than deal with LAX. Not to mention I am only arriving home about an hour or so later. So here I am. And I figured since I do have scads of time I would write up a quick synopsis (or not so quick - they seem to get longer and longer) of my trip as I doubt I will have time in the next few weeks based on the flurry of activity my blackberry has received the last few days. I'm not sure when I will have pictures. I probably should also mention I'm exhausted, so forgive me if I start rambling and my sentences become incoherent.

Day 0/1
This was mostly a blur as our flight didn't leave Seattle until 10 p.m. and the connecting flight to Paris was also delayed so we didn't get to our hotel until around midnight. Waiting in Seattle to take off, the TV in the lounge was turned to the Dancing with the Stars finale so I was able to watch at least the first part! Landing in CDG I said "Bonsoir" to the passport control officer and he looked at me with an astonished look on his face and asked if I spoke French. Little did he know that is about the extent of my French (along with hello, goodbye, please & thank you, and 1 - 10 and a few other phrases) and I had to tell him that no, I did not speak French. The hotel room was nice, if on the small side, but the bathroom seemed decent.

Day 2
We didn't fully close the curtains and so I awoke with the sun, which was around 5 a.m. or so. I tried to go back to sleep and was somewhat successful. Dad (Tom) was not and he got up and walked around the neighborhood, bringing back croissants for breakfast! I love French bread, pastries, etc. We took the train out to Vernon and caught the bus to Giverny to look at Claude Monet's house & gardens. Monet is probably my favorite painter (Renoir is a close second) and the gardens were amazing - his paintings in real life! Back in Paris we visited the Eiffel Tower before having dinner at a pizzeria where I had what else but margherita pizza! When we finished dinner it was dark and close to 11 p.m. so I headed back to the Eiffel Tower to see it at night and to see the twinkle lights which happen on the hour. I love the Eiffel Tower, especially with the twinkling lights!

Day 3
Today was museum day!! We started at the D'Orsay, followed by the Cluny, Notre Dame (not really a museum), we got in line for Sainte Chappelle but the line was extremely long and not moving and my dad is not the most patient so we went to the Conciergerie (where prisoners awaiting the guillotine were held). Next up was the Lourve and the Orangerie. Between the Louvre and the Orangerie we were approached twice within the space of 10 minutes with someone trying to sell us a "gold" ring. I had read about this scam before we went and so told my dad to keep walking. The gist of the scam is they "find" a gold ring and ask if it is yours. When you say no they either try to sell it to you or ask for money. I wouldn't be surprised if there was an accomplice in the background waiting in case you do pull out your wallet. Dinner was again at the pizzeria and on our way back to the hotel I realized it was already a couple days into our vacation and I hadn't had any dessert! We passed by a bakery and I got an eclair - yum!

Day 4
We had breakfast at the hotel before heading off to Versailles. It is an amazing palace!! And this time the hall of mirrors was open - it was fantastic! After touring the palace we wandered through the gardens waiting for the fountains to begin. We were sitting on a bench and a few minutes before the fountains were going to start we got up and walked toward the main fountain - good thing too as behind the bench we were sitting on was another fountain and we probably would have gotten soaked if we had stayed. We oohed and ahhed over the fountain before continuing on to the Grand Trianon (a smaller palace) where the King could retreat from palace life when it got to be too hectic. A bride & groom were there having their wedding photos made. Next was the Queen's Hamlet, a little village where Marie Antoinette could escape from reality. There were several more brides & grooms having their pictures made in the hamlet. We walked back to the palace, having lunch on the grass. It had started drizzling by this time. We walked back to the train station and caught a train back to Paris. We got off at the Abbesses metro stop and started up the stairs. The stairs went on forever! Finally we emerged and made our way over to Sacre Couer where we climbed more stairs up to the church, 200-ish or so. Walking through Montmarte, I found a gelato place so of course I had to stop for a gelato. It started pouring not too longer after this so we found cover to wait out the rain. When it looked like it had stopped we made a run for it, but halfway down the stairs it was raining again. A little tired of stairs at this moment, we decided to keep going to the metro station. I counted the stairs on the way down and came up with about 150 (give or take 10 - I got to a point and wasn't sure if I was on 80 or 90). We emerged from the metro at the Arc de Triomphe and it had stopped raining! We started up the stairs and when we got to the top it was raining again. We quickly took a few pictures and headed back downstairs.

Stair count: 150 up from the metro, 200 to Sacre Couer, 283 to the top of the Arc de Triomphe!

Day 5
Last day in Paris! We stopped by a bakery on the way to the train station. We arrived in Reims (capital of champagne) and stopped in the cathedral before walking over to Martel to tour their champagne caves. However, they were not having another English tour until a lot later in the day so we walked to the next champagne house, Taittinger. At the end of the tour, we got a sample of champagne and I noticed the model of a ship - it turns out it was the Sovereign of the Seas, which was the ship I took in March on my cruise! What a small world! We walked back to town, stopping at the Museum of the Surrender, where the Germans officially surrendered in WW2.

Stair count: 107 up from the champagne caves

Day 6
We woke up on the early side and made our way to the airport to catch our flight to Hamburg. Hans (my dad's cousin - my dad's grandfather was Hans's grandmother's brother) picked us up from the airport. My dad's grandfather, Emil (my great-grandfather), was who I was named for! No one knows for certain why Emil left for America, but there are three popular theories - 1) he was avoiding being conscripted into the army, 2) he was avoiding the police (for what I'm not sure), and 3) he had thought British Columbia was beautiful and wanted to live there. I have my doubts about 3) as he ended up in Moxee (outside of Yakima, WA) which in no way, shape, or form resembles British Columbia. The other story Emil is known for is he asked his sister to find him a bride and send her to America. The ticket he sent was not a one-way ticket though! But it worked out. Marietta (Hans's wife) made us lunch and then Hans left for a school reunion. Marietta dropped us off in town while she went to an appointment and after doing a bit of shopping we walked back. Three of Marietta's children (Elisabeth, Beate & Olav) and three of her grandchildren (Lucia, Laurence & Solvie - Elisabeth's children) came over in the evening and entertained us. Sorry if I misspelled anyone's name!!

Day 7
Marietta showed us around Hamburg the next day. We saw St. Nikolai (a church bombed in WW2 and now a memorial with an elevator inside the ruined spire), the Chamber of Commerce, the Town hall, St. Michel and the beginnings of the new Concert Hall. Beate joined us in the afternoon and we took a boat trip around the harbor. We met Olav and his girlfriend for dinner. The restaurant was on the river and we were quite entertained by the parade of ships coming in and going out. Olav, Beate and my dad are all involved in shipping. Obviously I'm getting tired as the descriptions seem to be getting shorter.

Day 8
We took the train into Hamburg and enjoyed a boat ride around the Alster (two lakes in Hamburg). The weather was beautiful so driving home from the train station Marietta put the top down on her convertible. Hans was there when we got home and after lunch we (Hans, Tom & I) were off to the town of Luebeck before boarding an overnight ferry to Sweden. The ferry ride was really neat, and we got to go on the bridge of the ship! Yes, shorter and shorter as I sense the end - not only in the written form, but also literally as the clock keeps ticking towards my flight!

Day 9
We arrived in Sweden at 7:30 a.m. (or as I like to call it #1 on my 31 Things list!) and off we went, up to Helsingborg where we took another ferry to Denmark where we visited Kronborg Castle (supposedly where Hamlet took place) and then Fredericksborg Castle. We drove back over to Sweden via the massive Oresund Bridge to catch a ferry back to Germany. The ship was late so we ended up sitting in the car for a long time! Finally we were underway. We arrived in Rostock (where my dad's family is from) around midnight.

Day 10
We drove out to Pappendorf to see the summer house of Emil's sister (which makes her my great great aunt, I think). It had been expropriated by the Russians at the end of WW2 and returned to Hans's family after the end of the Cold War. Olav is in the process of renovating the house. Right now it is a bit of a mess but you could see the old, faded beauty as well as the beauty it will be once the renovation is complete. We then toured Rostock and enjoyed some gelato before driving back to Hamburg. Marietta made us a lovely dinner (pizza!! how perfect since I hadn't had pizza since we left France!) and Elisabeth came over as well.

Day 11
aka today! We woke up at 4 a.m. and Hans drove us to the airport to catch the first flight in our journey today. Which brings us to now. I know I'm leaving a ton out but as I'm fading fast I figured I'd end this and start walking around to wake myself up!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Au revoir

Where in the world am I going now? I'm sure to no one's big surprise I'm off across the pond again. This time it is Paris and Hamburg with my dad. We've been talking about visiting relatives in Hamburg for years now and finally decided to do it this year. First stop will be Paris - while Paris has now moved down to about #4 or #5 on my favorite city list (depending on if it is day or night), it is my dad's favorite city. We are going to try and make it out to Giverny (Monet's house) which I am very excited about as it is spring-ish and the flowers should be blooming. I'm also excited about cappuccinos and crepes! :-)

Saturday, May 17, 2008


It wasn't that long ago I decided to embark on this somewhat crazy endeavor and before I knew it, I was preparing to board a red-eye down to Orlando. My brother has never been to a Disney park (amazing, right? Especially considering he is related to me - a certifiable Disney nut!) so he ended up coming down with me. We ended up sitting at the gate for probably about an hour or so as the plane had an electrical issue. Fortunately for me, I was dozing most of this time and didn't notice too much. We landed, grabbed breakfast at Chick-fil-a (yum!!), and got on the Magical Express. I was ready to drop our stuff off at the hotel and hit the parks but John needed a nap so a nap it was. And then we were off to Animal Kingdom! We fastpassed Kilimanjaro Safaris and headed to Restaurantasaurus for lunch. Honestly, I think one of the reasons I like Restaurantasaurus is the name!! After lunch we did Dinosaur, Expedition Everest, and the Kilimanjaro Safaris. With it being so hot, I wasn't sure how many animals we would see but there were still a number of them out and about. We headed for the exit and got on a bus for Hollywood Studios.

We arrived at Hollywood Studios just in time for the High School Musical 2 Pep Rally!! I was probably one of the few adults singing in the audience who wasn't a parent, but who cares - I love High School Musical! After the pep rally we wandered over to Star Tours, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and finished up the day at Rockin' Rollercoaster. You will notice I did not mention the Tower of Terror. And that would be because I am still way too chicken to try that ride. I should have put that on my 31 Things to do Before I Turn 32 list! Then I would have gone on the ride! Ha! I don't like rides that drop you straight down, but I have promised Michelle I will try it at least once in my lifetime. But apparently not this trip.

Next stop was the Magic Kingdom for the Pirate & Princess party! There were so many people (young and old alike) dressed up. I looked for a tiara so I could at least be somewhat princess-y but didn't find one, or at least didn't find one I liked. We did Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, Space Mountain, met Minnie & Daisy, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Indy Speedway. We finished up the night watching the Magic, Music & Mayhem fireworks. We were able to walk back to our hotel. The hotel was nice, but the location was fantastic!!

Staying at the Contemporary, we were able to walk upstairs and catch the monorail over to Epcot. Our first stop was to get a fastpass for Soarin'. I have never been on Soarin' as the first time the line was horrendous (and no fastpasses) and the second time we had just gotten in line when we were told the ride had broken down. So I was really hoping third time was the charm. We grabbed breakfast and then took a ride in a clamobile to find Nemo. We watched the Circle of Life (an environmental fable) and then it was time to use our fastpass for Soarin'. I'm very happy to say we were able to go on the ride! It is a very cool ride! Next stop was Test Track before touring the "world". We headed back to the hotel, John to take a nap and me to check in for my race. Ever since I saw you could run through Cinderella's castle, I have wanted to do the Danskin at Disneyworld. And with me being in Germany in August, I won't be able to do the Seattle Danskin which is how I ended up in Orlando this weekend. I listened to the course talk and it was here I got my first bit of worry. And you know me, I need something to worry about! Because they have to open the park, if you haven't gotten on the run course by a certain time they will put you on a shorter course, but you would still run through the castle. Okay this wasn't too bad, I would still get to run through the castle. It would be a little sad if I wasn't able to do the whole race, but at least they let you finish! I checked in and headed over to the transition area to pick up my rental bike and rack it. I was hoping they would have the buoys out in the water but they didn't. But if I had seen them, it would have been something else for me to worry about so maybe it was good they hadn't placed them yet.

After checking in and racking my bike, I picked up John at the hotel and we headed over to Magic Kingdom. As we were passing the bus stop, a bus for Hollywood Studios pulled up. John had wanted to see the Lights, Motors, Action stunt show but we had missed it yesterday. The bus pulling up at the moment we were walking by was very fortuitous and we hopped on and headed to Hollywood. Walking over to Lights, Motor, Action show we ran across Kim Possible & Ron Stoppable so of course I had to stop and get my picture taken with them. After the stunt show we headed back to the Magic Kingdom. We fastpassed one of my favorite rides, the Jungle Cruise, and then rode Big Thunder, Haunted Mansion and Mickey's Philharmagic before heading back to use our fastpass. No Teacups as John told me since I didn't ride Tower of Terror he wasn't going to ride the Teacups. I suppose that is fair. We called it a night then as I needed to get some sleep. After all, I had a race to run in the morning!

My alarm was set for 4 a.m. but I didn't really sleep all that well. I kept thinking I was going to oversleep. Finally I just got out of bed and got ready. Heading down the hallway, I heard noises coming from different rooms - more triathletes getting ready. I ran into another woman walking over to the race. We walked over together, commiserating in our nervousness. Although I do have to say my level of nervousness has decreased with each race I've done. Not to mention this race was shorter (1/4 mile swim, 9 mile bike, 2 mile run). I found my bike and set up my transition area. After standing around and doing a few stretches I left the transition area and headed to the beach. Minnie Mouse came down to send us on our way. The race was supposed to start at 6 a.m. but as it was still dark, it didn't start until closer to 6:30 but finally the first wave was off! This year I was once again a pink swim cap. Finally it was my wave's turn to enter into the water. Sally Edwards came and cheered us on and gave us our mantra - this year we were "magic". I didn't realize how much I looked forward to this part until I got my word and I felt a little more relaxed and ready to go. 3, 2, 1 and we were off! I usually hang back because I am a slower swimmer but this time I had all these people around me and I was trying to pass them. I guess my swimming is improving! Out of the water, I ripped off my goggles, swim cap and nose plug and got my helmet and I was off on my bike. The bike I rented was really nice! The bike ride itself was not too bad - it was very, very flat. There was one very vocal, cheery woman behind me, shouting encouragement to other racers and thanks to the volunteers. That's what I really like about this race - everyone is generally very friendly and always encouraging. I finished up the bike course and started out on the run course - through the Magic Kingdom! We entered in near Adventureland continue on through Frontierland, Fantasyland, Toon Town, Tomorrowland, back up to Fantasyland and through Cinderella's castle (my favorite part!!!), down Main Street and out of the park over to the finish line. Hooray!! I had wondered if it would get too hot during the race, but it ended up being overcast until right around when the last runner crossed the finish line and then the sun came out as if on cue! So it wasn't super hot, which was really nice.

My times: My goal was to finish the race in under 1 hour and 40 minutes. I finished the race in 1 hour 25 minutes and 49 seconds! I improved my swim pace and my triathlon run pace (it was slightly down from my 10K run pace in March). I lost some time on my bike pace. And my transition times improved a lot! Of course, it wasn't pouring down rain and the transition area was a lot smaller. :-)

I turned my bike in and headed back to the hotel to take a shower and start the day over. After checking out of the hotel we still had time before our flight so we headed to, where else, but the Magic Kingdom. After lunch we headed over to Splash Mountain to get a fastpass but we saw the line was only 20 minutes long so we decided just to wait. And approximately 20 minutes later we were climbing into our log raft. It wasn't that far into the ride before I was completely drenched! And we hadn't even gotten to the drop yet. Needless to say I was soaked by the time I got off that ride. I was contemplating buying new clothes but ended up waiting to see if I dried off in the sun. Oh yeah, have I mentioned yet how extremely hot it had gotten? Since we hadn't used our fastpass for Splash Mountain we got one for Peter Pan's Flight. Waiting for the fastpass time to roll around we did Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, Stitch's Great Escape, and Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor. Last, but not least, we rode Peter Pan, did a bit of shopping and then headed back to the hotel to catch the shuttle. And just like that our visit was over!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Officially Official

The opportunity for me work in our German offices has been a possibility that has been floating around for several years now. And this is the year it is finally happening! It has now been announced that I will be going over mid to late July through August to help on several projects. I'm excited about this opportunity. To say I'm just a bit terrified would be an huge understatement. But it will be a great experience for me. Now I just need to learn German!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Why Was 6 Afraid of 7?

Because 7, 8, 9!!! Such a corny joke, but I love it!! Maybe because I'm a number person. Or maybe because I am very easily amused. I'm thinking it's the latter. The orange you glad joke is still going strong at work (examples include orange you glad the meeting was cancelled? and orange you glad I found that workpaper?) and I am still cracking up each time I hear it. Yes, I am very easily amused!

So anyway, the reason I am laughing at the 7, 8, 9 joke is my race number this weekend is 789 - so how cool is that? I'm flying out tonight to Orlando. I'm really excited to see Mickey (of course!). I am definitely making up for the fact I had never visited Disneyworld until last year (this being my third visit in about a year and a half).

As Mickey would say - See ya real soon!

Have a Blue, Blue, Blue Thursday

And last but not least - Have a Blue, Blue, Blue Thursday! I've enjoyed color week and I hope you have too! We'll have to do this again sometime.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Blushing Wednesday

Today's colors are pink & red!

Check out Mandi's Pink/Red In My Head. And watch this space for Have a Blue, Blue, Blue Thursday.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Orange you glad it's Tuesday?!

I'm totally stealing the post title from Mandi but it makes me laugh everytime I read it. And to make it even more funny (at least to me) this has been a running joke at work the last few days. It all started when my boss brought in some bananas and somehow it turned into the orange you glad I didn't say banana joke, except it was told wrong the first time (banana you glad I didn't say orange) which made it all the more funny. Anyway, enough about that and on to the pictures!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Training - Week 7

So this was my last full week to train as I am leaving Thursday at midnight for Orlando!

Monday I forgot my gloves so instead of kickboxing I headed to the gym and did the treadmill, which ended up being a good thing as I really haven't done too much running. Wednesday I went to the pool and Thursday was a bike/run brick. Saturday ended up being another pool day. There was a ton of kids at the pool, splashing around and making usually normally smooth pool choppy. This was a good simulation of what the actual swim portion will be like. Sunday was another bike/run brick. I really didn't notice the lead feeling in my legs transitioning from the bike to the run because I was too busy messing with my ipod.

I don't know if I'm completely ready, but I'm as ready as I'm going to be. Really, the distances of these triathlons aren't that long and I know I can finish - it's just how long will it take me to finish, especially after a couple of days of playing at Disneyworld! :)

Green Sunday

Mandi is doing a color week and I'm playing along! The colors will be - Sunday: Green; Monday: Yellow; Tuesday: Orange, Wednesday: Pink/Red, Thursday: Blue.

Here we go: