Marybel Grace, June 11

Let me preface this post by saying that if you follow me or read my posts for the travel info, this is NOT one of those posts–it is a personal post about the newest addition to our family.  If you are interested in the newest addition to our family, by all means, continue 🙂

I was looking back at my post from when Benjamin was born, and ironically enough, he was about the same age then as Marybel is now that I am finally getting around to posting. I will try to make this short and sweet, but many of you know that I can be quite a rambler, so I apologize in advance.  If you aren’t interested in my hospital story, go ahead and skip down to the good stuff: stats and pictures 🙂

If you didn’t get to read about Benjamin’s birth, I ended up having to have a C-section because his heart rate kept dropping and it ended up that his umbilical cord was wrapped around his chest under his armpits.  Well, this time around I was hoping to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).  Mind you, I am not one of those mamas who is hardcore set on natural this or that and my way or the highway.  I was just hoping to experience a “normal” {in quotes because I don’t think that non-vaginal births are abnormal, I just didn’t know what other term to use…] birth with a *hopefully* quicker and easier recovery, especially since I had a 19-month-old as well.  Anyway, that was my goal: VBAC. Because I wanted to cover all of my bases, my doctor and I also planned an ‘eviction date’ so that should Baby Herbie #2 not decide to join us by a week after my due date, we would have a schedule C-section, as they would not let me be induced with the second.  So.  Due date was June 9, eviction date was set as June 15.

I was planning on working basically until I went into labor, or obviously until June 14 (the last day of school for teachers was June 17, so I would only be missing a few days).  Benjamin ended up getting a virus the week before school was out, so Brandon and I traded off staying home with him that week.  So I was home Friday, June 10 (obviously baby had not made its appearance yet) with Benjamin, and had an appointment to sign all the paperwork for my scheduled C-section if I made it to then.  After my appointment, I started feeling contractions all afternoon.  I had been having contractions for awhile, just as I had with Benjamin, so I didn’t think too much about it.  However, as we got later into the afternoon and evening, they were indeed becoming closer and more intense, so I thought maybe it was time!  We got in touch with our friends here who were going to be watching Benjamin to give them a heads up that it might be happening.  They picked him up around 8:30pm, and I continued to pace and bounce on my yoga ball for another hour or so.  Around 10, we decided we should maybe head to the hospital and see if they would admit us.  I was between 3-4cm dilated, so they kept me for a few hours to check some things out, then around 1:30am, told me they really would like me to progress some more before they admitted me, so we headed home 😦  They wanted me back in two hours {yay. 3:30 in the morning}, so I took a HOT HOT HOT HOT bath to help with the contractions, then woke Brandon back up to head back to the hospital around 3:30.  I was making progress and still having regular contractions, but they didn’t want to admit me right way. They also didn’t want to send me home, so I was put in a room, but not officially admitted. I later found out that this was because I was a VBAC candidate, and I would need a 1-on-1 nurse, and they just didn’t have the manning as there were a lot of people having babies (lucky me right?!).  Anyway, since I wasn’t admitted I wasn’t allowed to have an epidural yet, so I settled for some anti-nausea medicine and just handled my contractions like a boss 😛

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Finally, around 6am, they were able to admit me.  Initially I decided to wait for the epidural, but when I finally did ask for it, the anesthesiologist was back with a C-section patient, so I had to wait another hour or so to get it.  The next few hours were kind of all a mish mash of trying to get some sleep since I didn’t get any through the night, eating lots of ice chips that my husband so graciously went and got me every 30 minutes, and hanging out.  They eventually decided to break my waters (no idea what time that was), and my contractions started to get stronger (which is what they hoped would happen).  After awhile, however, I heard the dreaded sound….the sound I had heard when Benjamin’s heart rate started dropping.  I immediately knew what it was and what was in store for me.  They told me I could try to adjust to make baby happy, or we would have to go back for a C-section again.  To quickly recap, the next hour(s?) included trying to switch positions to make baby happy, tons of doctors and nurses in and out of my room, most with super concerned looks on their faces, laying/crouching/kneeling in awkward and uncomfortable positions while not being able to feel my legs, and just getting generally irritable.  Nothing was working well, so I finally just told them to take me back {because, let’s face it, I just wanted the damn thing out of me by this point–I was overly tired and emotional, and just knew that this baby was going to be stubborn like its older brother!}.

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So we went back and it was definitely a replay of my C-section with Benjamin, except that it took longer because I had a ton of scar tissue from my last one.  The dry mouth, shaking, nausea, anxiety, etc, etc, was all worth it at 3:35pm though, as they pulled my little nugget out.  We hadn’t found out the sex of our baby again, so I was beyond anxious to know whether Benjamin had a little brother or sister.  I was convinced this one was another boy, as I felt so similar to how I had when I was carrying Benjamin.  I was in absolute shock and overwhelmed with excitement when Brandon told me it was a girl!  One thing that was a thousand times better with this C-section than with Benjamin’s was that I got to have immediate skin-to-skin with Marybel.  My nurses were amazing and brought her over and covered her with warm towels on my chest.  With Benjamin, I just got a quick snuggle while he was all wrapped up before they whisked him away.  Marybel was with me for much longer, and even tried to feed, which we didn’t have time for, but was exciting!  Those moments definitely outweighed the previous hours of pain and anxiety!

And that, my friends, is how miss Marybel Grace made her grand entrance into the world!  She was and is absolutely perfect: 7 pounds, 5 ounces and 20 inches long.  She came into this world with a head full of hair, and it has only gotten curlier!

While we were at the hospital, Benjamin stayed with friends of ours, and had a ball!

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I don’t have any photos of when he came to the hospital to meet Marybel, as it was incredibly hectic.  He was not a fan of me being in a hospital gown and in a hospital bed, and not really able to hold him or move around much.  He was kind of indifferent to Marybel in the hospital.  However, once we got home, he completely warmed up to her- he has been the sweetest big brother- he loves to hug her, kiss her, and love on her, albeit a bit tooooo much sometimes!  But seriously, he has been amazing!  I don’t know whether he is just too young to be jealous or if it’s just because he is so laid back, but he has been so good!  We of course have our toddler moments, but I think it has more to do with being a toddler than having a baby sister.  He was pretty upset with me for awhile because I couldn’t pick him up since I had a C-section, which absolutely broke my heart at times.  I felt horrible not being able to carry him up to bed or let him crawl all over me.  Now that that stage is over, though, he is back to his normal lovey self.  Transitioning to a family of four has been much easier than I expected.  Both the babes are pretty laid back and easy though (I am sure I totally just jinxed that).  Marybel is a pretty low-key baby; she only really gets fussy when she’s really hungry, really wet, or really tired.  She sometimes lets me get 6 hours of sleep at night, but even on the nights she doesn’t, just literally just wakes up to feed, then nods right back off to sleep.  I really can’t complain {although I sometimes do!} about how things are going.  I absolutely LOVE seeing Benjamin and Marybel interact, and I am looking forward to seeing them grown up together.

Oh, and having a girl is so much fun!  I am such a sucker for girl clothes (and shoes…I have a problem.), bows, and PINK PINK PINK!  Haha.  Brandon even loves buying stuff for her, and he is definitely wrapped around her little finger!

Sorry so long….I feel like I have so much more to write, but I suppose that is good for now…

 

Göteborg Getaway: My Solo Sweden Trip

Yes, this seven-month-pregnant lady waddled her way solo around Gothenburg, Sweden this past weekend!  First of all, if you’ve never taken a solo trip, DO IT!  Sometimes I just like my “me” time, whether that is in the bathtub with a good book or in another country with my travel journal 🙂  I’ve read a lot about women traveling solo, and while I have done it before, I read that Scandinavia is one of the safest places to do it.  {I travelled to Tanzania when I was 23 for three weeks on my own, so I wasn’t especially concerned about safety, other than the fact that I am indeed seven months pregnant…}  Anyway.  I love the thrill of being somewhere alone with my thoughts and my own agenda, so I was excited for my adventure.  I am definitely the planner {I am typically the one booking flights, finding hotels/accommodations, planning must-sees, etc.}, possibly partially due to my control freak nature and OCD tendencies 🙂  For solo trips, I like that I don’t have to wait around for anyone and can literally change my plans at the drop of a hat.

So, what did I do in Sweden?  Well, I was only there for maybe 36 hours so it was kind of a whirlwind.  After work Friday I drove directly to the airport to catch a 6:55 flight.  I used this meet and greet service to meet me at the terminal at Stansted so I could just drop my car and be on my way.  I had gotten a Groupon for it, so it ended up being about the same price or a little bit cheaper than a normal parking spot anyway.  While it was convenient not to have to worry about actually parking and walking or shuttling to the terminal, I don’t necessarily feel like it would’ve been worth it had I paid full price.  One of the things I didn’t like about it was that you have to call 20 minutes before you get to the airport, then right after you clear customs on your return.  I didn’t like the added stress of making that call while I was driving, and my phone doesn’t get great service in the airport, so coming home I wasn’t even able to call until I was outside anyway.

I digress.  I arrived at Gothenburg Landvetter Airport at around 10pm (two hour flight plus an hour time difference), and hopped on the Airport Coach to the city centre, getting off at Nils Ericsson Terminal next to the central station.  From there, I used my Gothenburg City Card to hop on the tram toward my AirBnB apartment.  Unfortunately, I have a horrible phone, so it died on my way there….which made finding the actual apartment difficult.  Luckily, I had printed out the address and other information regarding how to get into the apartment, and luckily most people speak English in Sweden.  I stopped into a restaurant to see if they could help point me in the right direction–they were kind enough to look up directions and even print them out for me!  Finally, I made it to the apartment around midnight!  The apartment was actually much more spacious than it looked in the pictures, so I was pleasantly surprised by that.  The bed was pretty small though, so it definitely was perfect for a solo traveller like myself!  I pretty much fell into bed and didn’t get up until the next morning!

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To preface the rest of my overview, I will say that Gothenburg was definitely not a city that I just fell in love with like many other cities I’ve visited.  While I really enjoyed the various things I did there, I wasn’t smitten with the city overall.  I think part of the problem is that I have this idea in my head that all European cities should be quaint and cute and picturesque, full of beautiful architecture and cobblestone streets.  Gothenburg did have those things in small doses, but in general, the city was much more modern and grungy than I expected.  I think another contributing factor was that I was in the city for such a short period of time that I really didn’t get to ‘get lost’ in it, which is one of my favorite things to do.  There were definitely areas that I would’ve loved to explore more, but time was a pressing factor for this trip.

Since I only had one full day to explore, I had made a list of things I hoped to see and do while in Gothenburg.  To start the day, I wanted to head to one of the archipelagos before the rest of the sights opened in the city.  Again, I used my city pass to hop on one of the trams to take me the 30 minutes to the Saltholmen Ferry Terminal.  I had looked up the time schedule ahead of time, and knew that there should be a ferry leaving for Aperö around 9:05.  Being ever the early bird, I arrived at the terminal well before then, and enjoyed taking some photos and catching up in my travel journal before the ferry departed.  The ferry was really nice (and the fare was included in the city pass as well, woohoo!), and I enjoyed a muffin and a coffee in its upstairs cafe area.  The ride was only about 10 minutes, so by the time I finished my food I was on my way off the boat and onto the beautiful, serene, car-less island.

While on the island, I mostly wandered around, taking lots of photos of the beautiful landscape and taking in the quietness of the place.  I didn’t see a lot of people there, but those I did see were incredibly friendly, all saying “hej!” with a welcoming smile.

I decided to climb to the top of Valen Hill to get a great view of the island, other archipelagos, and even Gothenburg!  I took a rather unconventional route up the hill, unaware that there was a path on the opposite side (probably not the best thing for my pregnant body, but hey, I made it!).  The views were worth it though!

I took the path back down the other side of the hill, which was much easier and flatter!  It took me all along an uninhabited portion of the island, and I ended up by what I thought was the other ferry terminal that would take me back to Gothenburg.  It was pretty much deserted though, so I wasn’t sure that the ferries were operating from that terminal.  I headed back toward the neighborhood area of the island {mind you, the tiny island only has around 450 inhabitants, so it didn’t take long!}.  The next ferry back to the Gothenburg wasn’t set to leave for another hour, so I took advantage of the extra time to rest my achey body and again catch up in my journal.

I arrived back at Saltholmen early afternoon after a light lunch and a quick ride on the ferry.  [This time, the ferry went from Asperö to Brännö, another of the archipelagos, then back toward Gothenburg.  I wish I would’ve had time to explore Brännö as well, it looks fantastic!]  Once I returned, I pretty much headed straight into town, as my main two destinations were both near the city center: Gothenburg Art Museum and Universeum Science Centre.  Both were included in the city pass as well.  I first visited the art museum.  While I am an art teacher, I am pretty particular about the type of art I enjoy viewing at museums.  There were a lot of older Nordic artist exhibits which I wasn’t particularly interested in, but I did love the self-portrait gallery, sculpture display, and the impressionism/modernism exhibits.  I spent about an hour there before heading out toward the Universeum.

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As I mentioned before, my phone sucks, so most of the time I was in Sweden I didn’t have access to anything (maps and clocks included!).  Luckily, the paper maps I had were decent and I was able to pretty easily find my way to the science centre.  Other than the archipelagos, the Universeum was my other “must see” in Gothenburg.  It did not disappoint!  Even for a single adult, it was really cool.  This was one thing I wish B and Benjamin was there for–they both would’ve LOVED it!  The centre has several different levels and includes everything from both fresh and salt water aquariums to a space exhibit to a rainforest {most of which was being renovated, bummer}.  There was a ton to do and see there and would highly recommend it, especially for families with kiddos!

After the Universeum, I didn’t have anything really planned, so I started to sort of make my way back toward the apartment.  I stopped down by one of the canals to see the “fish church” (a fish market).  It was closed, but the building was pretty cool, and there were tons of people out and about enjoying the beautiful weather [it was sunny and upper 40s, which was much warmer than I expected for Sweden!].  As I made my way back to the apartment, I stumbled upon the Haga neighborhood.  This was an area that was mentioned in several of the blogs and websites I scoured before my trip, and I am glad I happened upon it!  The area was super cute, filled with street vendors, adorable shops, and yummy cafes.  I picked up a few souvenirs and devoured a delicious kanelbullar {Swedish cinnamon bun} and headed back to the apartment to rest before dinner.

My plan was to head to Spisa for dinner, a restaurant nearby that my AirBnB host had recommended (also the place that was kind enough to give me directions the night before!).  However, they were hosting a party, so I was sadly not able to eat there.  I ended up next door at Bistro Italiano.  Dining alone has its perks- they didn’t have any tables available, but were able to seat me at the bar for my meal.  I had an absolutely delicious pesto pasta meal and an equally delicious tiramisu dessert 🙂  I cannot say enough about the staff that I interacted with there- they were so friendly, attentive, and wonderful!  I am a bit bummed that I didn’t get to really try any traditional “Swedish cuisine”, but my Italian meal was pretty darn good!

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I returned to the apartment and was oh so thankful to lay down- between the hiking on the island and walking around town, my body was beyond tired!  I woke Sunday with enough time to grab a quick breakfast and coffee before hopping on the bus back to the airport.  On the way to the airport, I got a glimpse of Liseberg, the amusement part in Gothenburg.  I was incredibly surprised to see that it is pretty much situated right in the city, and backs up against the Universeum!  It was closed for the season [not that I could’ve enjoyed much in my pregnant state], but I have heard great things about it!

Goodbye Gothenburg!  I hope to see Sweden again someday….I would really love to do a Scandinavian cruise and see the beautiful fjords and more archipelagos!

Gothenburg Travel Journal

“Babymoon”: Porto, Portugal

I’m back.  Finally.  It’s been a busy year.  Benjamin turned one (!), I finished my master’s degree, I worked two different jobs (and am currently teaching art which makes me incredibly happy), and am now pregnant with Baby Herbie 2.0!  I have also done quite a bit of traveling, which is probably going to be the focus of most of my blogging from now on (don’t worry, I will still post pictures of my incredibly cute baby boy and other adventures in my life, traveling will just be the main focus.)

I was going to progress chronologically through the last year with my travels, but I think I might just kind of hop all over the place instead, starting with our most recent out-of-the-UK travel to Porto, Portugal.

Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal, and is located along the Douro river.  Its western area extends to the Atlantic Ocean.  One of the things it is most famous for is its wine- Port wine.  I will get into that later!

While Benjamin has traveled with us quite extensively, we decided to make this a baby-free trip.  This proved to be a great choice, as Porto was not especially child/stroller-friendly.   B and I arrived in Porto mid-morning Saturday, January 16 after an early flight from London.  We decided to check a bag this trip, as we knew we wanted to bring back some wine from the area (being 4 months pregnant prevented me from fully enjoying the fruits of the Douro valley…pun intended 🙂 ).  We hopped on the metro from the airport and enjoyed an easy 40 minute ride into the city centre.  There, we met up with the owner of the AirBnB apartment we were to be staying at for the weekend.  The apartment was not ready yet, as it was still morning, so the owner was kind enough to take our bag and meet back up with us when the apartment was ready.  He also was incredibly helpful in providing us a map of the city and outlining all of the top sights and some delicious restaurants.

B and I wandered off into the city for a bit, armed with our map and a handful of Portuguese words (which, by the way, is nowhere near as similar to Spanish as I expected!).  We stopped at the Mercado do Balhao first, an open market with food, fish, etc.  Compared to many of the markets I have been to throughout Europe, it was very dilapidated and old, but still had an air of charm and beauty.

 

 

A lot of Porto’s buildings are quite dilapidated actually, which I think I was surprised by. I was also surprised by how hilly Porto was!  I knew Lisbon was hilly, but I didn’t know quite as much about Porto, and hadn’t really paid much attention to the photos I had seen.  It was a little rough on this pregnant lady’s body, but it was worth every step (all 25 miles we walked that weekend)!!  The beautiful tilework, cobblestone streets, and colorful buildings were breathtaking as well.

After the market, we popped into Estacion Sao Bento, a functioning train station filled with the blue tiles the area is famous for.  It was gorgeous!

 

 

We stopped for a light lunch at a cute cafe near our AirBnB- Taberna do Largo – then headed to our AirBnB apartment to rest for a few.  The apartment was absolutely amazing!

Despite being pregnant, we booked a wine tasting at the highly recommended Ferreira Wine Cellar for that evening.  Before crossing the impressive Luis Bridge to get to the “wine cellar side” of the Douro, we wandered along the Ribiera, which is lined with gorgeous shops, buildings, and restaurants.

 

 

Our wine tour was fantastic- our guide was incredibly knowledgable and funny, and even B, the non-wine-drinker, enjoyed it!  I actually learned quite a bit about wine (especially Port wine, which I am not a huge fan of…).  We had a tasting of two types of Port wine at the end of the tour, neither of which I really liked- much too sweet and strong for my liking.

 

 

After the tour we took a “leisurely stroll” (aka a long, steep, arduous hike) up to a building right above the Luis Bridge.  Did I mention Porto was hilly?  It was worth it though for the amazing view of Porto all lit up at night!  We walked back across the top of the bridge to get back to the other side of the Douro to make our way to dinner.

 

 

Our AirBnB apartment owner recommended a restaurant called Cantina 32, so we ended up there.  It did not disappoint- we split beef steak, potatoes, and salad, as well as delicious pumpkin soup.  A detour on our way back to the apartment led to some yummy ice cream to top off the night.

Sunday we ate breakfast at a hotel restuarant near our apartment before hopping on the old Port Tram City Tour.  The tram was super cool and old-school, and gave us great views of the river.  We got off where the tram ended, near the western coast where the Douro meets the ocean.  B and I found a mini golf course and decided to play a round.  The course was crazy, but a lot of fun.  Next to the casual mini golf course was the “Petergolf” course, which was a professional course (yes, professional mini golf, who knew?!).  There was a tournament going on while we were playing, which was both interesting and hilarious to witness.

 

 

B destroyed me, as usual (thanks to a 20-shot hole I had, oops!).  We then headed down to the beach area and took a walk along the coast.  It was half rock, half sand, and almost completely littered with trash, which was a bummer.  It started to rain a bit, so we headed back toward the tram to take us back into the city centre.  We ate lunch at a restaurant along the river, sharing the Porto-famous “Francesinha” sandwich.

 

 

Since it was mid-afternoon, we decided to head back to the apartment to rest and come up with a game-plan for the evening.  Our plan was to check out the San Francisco church, then get dinner at a nearby restaurant.  The church ended up being closed, so we tried to go directly to the restaurant.  Being silly Americans, we didn’t realize it wouldn’t be open for dinner yet (they opened at 7:30 and it was only 6ish).  Most of Europe certainly runs on a different time schedule than America, and even somewhat different than where we live in the UK.

It ended up being a bit of a blessing in disguise that both the church and restaurant were closed as we ended up wandering around, running right into the Livraria Lello, a famous old bookstore in Porto.  It was high on my list of things to see in Porto but I thought it was closed on Sundays, so we were planning on going the next day before we left the city.  I am so glad we stumbled upon it, even though they were closing in 20 minutes.  It was absolutely beautiful!  It is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal, and often makes the list for most beautiful bookstores in the world!  Rumor has it that JK Rowling used to frequent it when she lived and taught English in Porto.

 

 

After a bit more wandering, we ended up at another highly recommended restaurant for dinner, Traca, which was right around the corner from our apartment.

Monday was our last day in Porto, but we didn’t leave until afternoon, so we did a bit of exploring in the morning.  Before leaving the apartment in the morning, we headed out for some coffee and also bought some local olive oil to bring back to the UK.  The owner of the shop we went to was beyond kind and helpful- forcing allowing us to try all the different types of olive oils they sold.  We also stopped at a wine shop and stocked up on some (non-Port) Douro Valley wine to bring back for me to enjoy this summer.  We also bought some for our amazing babysitter, since she had to put up with Benjamin all weekend ;).  We carefully packed our goodies into our suitcase and headed to the train station to store our bag until we headed to the airport.  We checked two more things off of our “must see/do” list by the afternoon- the famous and delicious Majestic Cafe, and the Dos Clerigos tower.

The Majestic Cafe was just that, majestic!  It was beautiful and old and served the thickest, richest hot chocolate I have ever tasted in my life!  The french toast was delectable as well- definitely a good choice for brunch.

 

 

To work off our breakfast, we headed to the Clerigos tower church exhibition to climb the bell tower.  After many, many stairs, we made it to the top, where we were greeted with stunning views of the city.  It was definitely a nice little time-filler and photo-op before we had to head back home.

 

 

Overall, we really enjoyed our “babymoon” getaway!  Porto is a sweet, beautiful, old city filled with charm and character.  I am so thankful for the opportunities that I have to travel living here in Europe!

Porto Travel Journal

Look for more soon, I hope to post about the following adventures:

*Girls day trip to Bruges, Belgium

*London (our many experiences there so far!)

*Exploring the UK (Dover, Canterbury, etc.)

*Dublin, Bruges, and Amsterdam with family

*Dublin (again) and Northern Ireland

*Hiking in Snowdonia

*Thanksgiving in Barcelona

Movement! And Köln, Germany :)

I promise I will get to my exciting Koln adventure, but first, I FELT BABY HERBIE MOVE!  Wow, what a strange, incredible feeling!  I don’t even really know how to describe it!  I have been trying to explain to B what it feels like, but words just seem to fall short.  I can’t wait until he can feel it!

Ok, so onto Köln!  Köln is the German way of spelling Cologne, Germany.  Some family friends of mine were headed to Dusseldorf, Germany for work for a week, and asked if they could come visit us first, then asked if we would want to spend some time up in Germany while they were there.  We of course took them up on the offer!  They got into London May 2, and we met them down there for the weekend.  Lots of sightseeing and train craziness (tube strikes and shutdowns), but it was fun!  They then came up and spent a few nights with us in Brandon.

Wednesday, May 7 we left for Köln (well, Weeze really) early in the morning.  I was under the assumption that we would be staying in Dusseldorf, as that is where Wayne’s work conference was, so I booked flights to Dusseldorf-Weeze airport.  We caught a flight out of London Stansted (about an hour from our house) for about £40 per person round trip (about $60).  When we arrived in Weeze, we realized we were actually pretty far from Köln, which is where the hotel ended up being.  We took a bus from the airport to the train station, then a train from Weeze to Dusseldorf (with no help from the angry very-little-English-speaking bus driver), then another train from Dusseldorf to Köln.  The trip wasn’t bad, especially since B and I have learned to pack light, and we ended up in Köln early afternoon.  B and I got to check into our hotel room, which was super fancy shmancy, thanks to Connie & Wayne!  It was nice to set our backpacks down and relax for a minute.  We decided to just stroll around town and grab a bite to eat…

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Our fancy shmancy hotel, Hotel Mondial am Dom, Cologne

Image   The view from our hotel doors!  That is the Köln Cathedral!

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Streets of Koln…

So, German food is really good.  I could eat me some schnitzel, sausages, kraut, taters, and pork all day, every day.  And I could probably drink me some German beer all day, though I didn’t get to on this trip, sadly.  I suppose we will have to make another trip to Germany once Baby Herbie is here!  I did have a few sips of Brandon’s Weiß beer, and boy was it tasty!  Instead of beer, I indulged in gelato every night we were there…yea, yea, I know gelato is Italian, but goodness, it is so delicious!

I love the Köln Altstadt (old town) area of the city, it is where the colorful buildings and cobblestone streets along the Rhine are:

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We of course wandered over to marvel at the Cathedral (Kölner Dom), but I will post pictures of the Cathedral at the end, because I have so many.  It was so incredibly breathtaking!  Construction began in 1248, and it took over 600 years to complete!  As you will see, it is clearly Gothic and dominates the Köln skyline.  Here is a ton more information about the Cathedral, if you’re interested 🙂

http://www.colognecathedral.net/

We made it an early night that night, as we were all exhausted from traveling all day, and Wayne had to be up for work the next day.  Thursday, B, Connie and I ate a delicious, full meal at the hotel then set out to explore.  The Schokoladen Museum (Chocolate Museum) was first on our agenda, and I’m glad it was, as it was getting busy by the time we left!  The museum was pretty cool and I think it was well worth the 9 Euro entrance fee.  It tracked everything from the production of cocoa to the factory process to the history of ads for chocolate.  A bonus was, of course, the CHOCOLATE itself that we got!  They gave out a free piece as part of the tour, then we bought some at the gift shop 🙂  I found some absolutely delicious Sea Salt Chocolate, and some chocolate-covered gummy bears too.  [I know, I’m pretty sure I’m the only person on the planet that likes them, but whatevs.  Also, they totally reminded me of the the candy store Mr. Bulky at City Center in Columbus, as I used to buy them there in like middle school.]

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Can you taste the deliciousness?!?

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Adorable, no?  Also, chocolate noodles…who woulda thunk.

After the museum, we wandered a bit down the Rhine.  I found my favorite thing ever, a “street library” where people leave a book, take a book, as well as a pretty cool mural (very Dia de los Muertos-y):

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It’s interesting, because obviously parts of the city are super old (hence Altstadt), but other parts are super modern, like these buildings along the Rhine…

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That night we had another delicious German meal and the gentlemen enjoyed some German brews.

Friday was another eventful day, full of walking and sightseeing.  After breakfast, B, Connie and I headed out the opposite way along the Rhine, ending up at the Köln Sculpture Garden and the Köln Botanical Gardens, both of which were free!  The botanical gardens were in full bloom, which was fabulous (much better than our limited flower-viewing in Edinburgh!)

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One of the sculptures & a little baby bump profile pic 🙂

One of my favorite pics from the gardens:

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We found a nice little cafe after the gardens, and moseyed our way back to the hotel.  After a nap, we enjoyed some Italian for dinner, and of course, a little gelato!

Saturday was Brandon and my last day in Köln, as we had to leave early Sunday to get back to the UK for work and classes.  It was a rainy day, so it was perfect for a boat ride (on a covered boat!)  The tour was an hour-long ride up and down a little bit of the Rhine for 9 euro.  We didn’t see a whole lot of things we hadn’t seen before, but it was nice to be sitting and relaxing under the cover of the boat, rather than walking around in rain gear.  I will say that my North Face raincoat that I bought off of a yardsale website here is probably the best $40 I have ever spent–I have used it countless times in London, as well as during our trip to Edinburgh and this trip to Köln.

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The cathedral from the river…

Saturday was also Brandon and I’s first anniversary!  So we went to Peters Brauhaus for a late lunch/early dinner, which was delicious.   After dinner, B and I wandered over to the bridge pictured above, which was covered with “Locks of Love.”  I know there are a few places throughout Europe that have bridges with locks, but this was our first one.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to buy a lock, but it was fun to see them!

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We also stopped by the train station to check the train times for the following morning, since our flight was fairly early.  More about that later, as it was a bit of a fiasco getting back to Weeze!  Later that evening, we headed to the cathedral, as we were hoping to tour the belfry.  Apparently, we should’ve checked the times and gone earlier, as they were getting ready to start Saturday evening mass.  We got a quick peek of the inside of the cathedral though.  It was absolutely gorgeous, as all of the cathedrals I have seen over here are.  I wish we could’ve seen it all and climbed the steps to the belfry, that’s the only thing we really feel like we missed out on.  Since it was raining (pouring, actually), we had a fairly relaxing night, the boys drank some German beers and we packed up for our early morning of traveling.  As promised, here are some pictures of the cathedral, both in daylight and at night.

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I took like a million more pictures of the cathedral, so if you wanna see more, check my Facebook album.

Sunday morning B and I had to get up super early (in fact, the nighttime picture were taken early that morning before our traveling) in order to get to the Dusseldorf-Weeze airport in time.  According to the train schedule we were given (by the information desk, who had checked the computers, mind you!), we were supposed to catch the train at 5am to get to Dusseldorf by 5:30ish, which would then allow us to take the train from Dusseldorf to Weeze just after 6, getting us to the airport around 7:30.  Since our flight was at 9:30, timing would’ve been perfect.  So, we took the train to Dusseldorf and got there around 5:30, as expected.  Well….the information desk failed to mention that the 6am bus from Dusseldorf to Weeze didn’t run on Sundays.  The next train wasn’t leaving until just after 7, which wouldn’t have gotten us to the airport in time for our flight, so we ended up having to take a cab.  An hour and a whole lot of euros later (I don’t even want to admit how much the cab ride cost…), we got to the airport with plenty of time for a quick snack before waiting for our plane.  Our flight to Stansted and drive home was uneventful, which we were very thankful for after our crazy, dramatic morning.

All in all the trip was amazing, and I am so thankful and grateful for Connie and Wayne inviting us!  I can’t wait to check out different parts of Germany now!

Grab some popcorn, this’ll be awhile…

WHY do I always do this?  I procrastinate and procrastinate updating my blog, knowing that it is only going to mean more work for me when I finally do post!  And a LOT has happened in the last three and a half months!  Where oh where to start….

Well I guess I will start with the biggest and most exciting news….I’M PREGNANT!  Yep, it’s true….not that any of you don’t know this already 🙂  I am about 16 weeks along, due October 25.  I am getting a baby bump finally, as you can see in the pictures below.  We have had one ultrasound and there is only ONE in there [as far as we can tell right now!] and everything was all good at my appointment.  I have another appointment Thursday, but no ultrasound.  We will NOT be finding out the sex of the baby, so I’d love to hear guesses and name suggestions 🙂  B and I both think it’s a girl and have taken to calling it Baby Herbie and Gordita.  My mom and sister also think it is a girl {so I’m sure it will pop out a boy, right?!? haha}.  Anyway, here are a few pics, most of which you’ve probably seen if you are on Facebook or Instagram..

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I have been feeling fine, I was insanely tired for the first trimester, but no morning sickness (thank you good genes!).  I finally have most of my energy back and am excited to start the nursery and all that fun stuff!

TRAVEL….

Since I last posted, we have been down to London quite a few times, up to Edinburgh for part of my spring break, and we just got back from Koln, Germany (Cologne).  We have found our new favorite thing to do in London: Street Feast!  Basically, it is where a bunch of {fancy} food truck vendors set up in a designated area and have a little festival with food, drinks, and music.  The food is amazing and it is definitely not a touristy event, so we love it!  I have been keeping a travel journal, so I will have to post pictures of my journaling on here soon!  Edinburgh was amazing!  We were there for 3 days, 2 nights, and lots of walking!  Again, I will have to post pics of my travel journal, because looking at it is probably way cooler than me typing everything we did…. but as an overview, we went to some museums, checked out the Camera Obscura and World Of Illusions, took a ghost tour, ate delicious food, hiked to Arthur’s Seat, and visited Edinburgh Castle.  The castle was amazing, the coolest we have been to so far!  We ate traditional Scottish food, haggis, which is basically sheep stomach and innards mixed with oatmeal….B was a fan, I thought it was alright.  The weather was pretty nice for us, but I’d love to go back when it’s just a bit warmer!  Here are a few pics, though I suggest you go to my Facebook albums and check them all out!

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the castle, Edinburgh architecture (above), the view hiking to Arthur’s Seat (below)

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For my 29th birthday {shhhh, don’t tell anyone I’m that old!} in April, some family friends were in town visiting after a work trip, so we all went to Cambridge for the day.  B and I had only very briefly been to Cambridge and had not done any exploring really, so this was a lot of fun.  My favorite thing was punting (kind of like a gondola)– we went on a tour of all the prestigious colleges in Cambridge from the water.  It was nice and relaxing.  Having family friends in town was exciting- we got to show them our favourite things to do around Brandon and of course, our favourite places to eat!  Here are a few pics from Cambridge (again, many many more on Facebook!!):

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As I mentioned, we just got back from Koln, Germany, which was absolutely amazing!  Once again, we had family friends that came to Europe for work, so they flew into London, where we spent the weekend, then stayed at our place for a few days before heading to Germany, where he is working.  I will post again soon about Koln, as it is an entire post in itself!  Just know that it was fantastic!!!

Let’s see, what else has been going on…in between all of this excitement of pregnancy and traveling, I have managed to fit in work and master’s classes.  When I posted in February, I was getting ready to start subbing in the SureStart classroom.  Well, as I imagined, I LOVED every minute of it!  I was there for five weeks and truly feel like I got to know the kiddos and connect with them.  I even connected well with quite a few of the parents, and I was super bummed to leave them once the permanent teacher arrived.  I want [NEED] to post some of the super fun activities I did with them, as we had a Dr. Seuss week and other fun events!  I have now been back in my regular position and it is still pretty much the same as always.  I do work with a few additional students, one in Kindergarten, a few in first grade, and a few in third grade, so it is nice to have a change of pace throughout the day and week.  I am debating what I want to do next year as far as positions go.  I think I am planning on substituting instead of working as an aide, especially with the baby coming.  We will see as the year wraps up though.

My master’s classes are going well, I am really enjoying being back in the routine of learning, discussing, and all that fun stuff.  It is a lot of work but I feel like the program is a good fit for me.  The professors have been great and my classmates come from diverse backgrounds which makes the classes interesting.  I have a class this week, but am looking forward to my break after my June class.

Well I am sure there is more to report, but I definitely covered most of the important things.  I will post again much sooner I promise!

ALSO….HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO THE BEST BEST BEST MAMA IN THE WORLD!  If I am even half the mom that you have been, I will be doing something right 🙂 LYB!