24 April 2015

RECAP :: Belgium

A month out from moving back to the States and I can easily admit that I am not ready for our European travels to come to an end. My heart sinks a little bit when I hear friends planning their summer leave trips and I mentally add on more countries and cities to my already lengthy list of places to visit. We have been to more places than I ever thought I'd see in my lifetime. Unfortunately for Ross, I want more. :) The wanderlust is bad and I don't think it'll go away anytime soon. But back to our trip... We got lucky and were able to sneak in one more last minute trip over Easter weekend. Brussels was one of the cities I visited during college and it did not leave the greatest impression. To be fair, it was sandwiched between a few days in London and Paris. So did it really have a shot of blowing me away? Not really, but I will tell you one thing. I did not forget about the food. True Belgian waffles may be one of the greatest things I've ever eaten and nowhere else cooks fries as perfectly crisp as Belgium. 

Now onto the details... 
  • FLIGHT-- LUFTHANSA :: I love flying with Lufthansa if only for the fact that I can use the Passbook app and download our boarding passes directly to my phone. It is so convenient! 
  • TRANSPORTATION :: We arrived in Brussels pretty late in the evening so we lazily took a cab from the airport. In Brussels and Brugge we walked. In Ghent we had to use a tram to get from the train station to the city center. On our last day we took the train to airport. It was so simple, quick, and cheap. Always the way to go we you have sufficient time to plan your routes!!
  • HOTEL-- NH BRUSSELS GRAND PALACE ARENBERG :: Qualified for a genius rate through Booking.com. Great location for day trips to other cities. A 5 minute walk to Brussels' central train station. The Grand Palace and Mannekin Pis were also equally close by. A little overpriced for breakfast, but boasted one of the larger spreads we've seen offered. 

Day Trips to Brugge and Ghent

Our entire trip could really be summed up in 5 words; Belgian waffles, french fries, and beer. It was a delicious and carb heavy weekend. :) We used Brussels as a hub and took day trips to Brugge and Ghent. I was really pleased with the way our trip turned out. Everything was so enjoyable. We had a quick walk from the hotel to catch the train. We read during the entire length of the train ride and then arrived in two very unique and beautiful places. Without the pressure of hitting major tourist spots we wandered down streets that looked like they'd have a lot of potential. Brugges led us to a quaint town with beautiful architecture, hoards of chocolate shops, and the "best frites in town". Ghent was as equally quirky as Brugges was beautiful. To my surprise we stumbled upon Graffiti Alley where in the 90s in an attempt to keep the rest of the city tag free, the local government made it legal for street artists to work on this one street. It was a stark constant to the cobblestoned streets, but added to the quirky attitude of Ghent. It was a lively city with so much to take in. At one point while Ross was inside in a chocolate shop I stayed outside and soaked up the sunshine and listened to the street musicians playing on a bridge over the canal. I adore the atmosphere live music creates. Another highlight of the trip was the 10 minutes we spent literally following our noses to find a waffle stand so we could meet our waffle quota for the day. The aroma is surprisingly strong and the goofy looks we were getting with our antics was totally worth it. 

I don't know if it was the better company or the way we approached the trip, but I had a much better time in Belgium this time around. Here's to second chances! :)

13 April 2015

Life in Germany: Final Edition

I've been trying to write this post for 6 months now. Organizing my thoughts and summing up my time in Germany is not easy as there are a lot of ups and downs (which I'm sure will be true with any post we are stationed at in the future). Many times I've felt like my life was on hold in Germany. I didn't feel like I really had to opportunity to do the two things I would be most happy doing; have a career or be a mother. The first was due to the limited job market on an overseas Army post and the second due to the fact that having a child overseas never felt "right" to either of us. I've had a major lesson on patience and prayer while being over here.  It may sound silly, but I've found it hard to find my personal identity under the parameters of being an Army wife. I know this is something that I'm probably going to battle with no matter where we go as long as RC is in the Army, but I feel like it will be a little more manageable on American soil. So with that hope I am very excited to be leaving Germany and going back to the States.

As with any move it's bittersweet to be leaving. Germany has given me so much. I have learned so much about myself, especially during our time in Schweinfurt. I was forced to create a life solely by myself and I look back on that forced independence with fond memories. Living alone with out my husband was excruciating, but having a little piece of Germany to myself is something I will cherish. RC left approximately 6 weeks after we arrived in Germany. Our household goods, our beloved possessions, boxes upon boxes of things came a day before he left. I knew only a handful of people and many of them decided to go back to the States during the deployment. I had no real friends yet, but for some reason I felt the need to stay. I can't really explain it, but I felt like it was where I was supposed to be. Grafenwoehr has been full of great memories as well. It's where we got Zeke after all, but Schweinfurt will always have a special place in my heart.  

I think perhaps one of the greatest gifts Germany has given us has been the opportunity to travel. It is without a doubt my favorite thing about being in Germany. Sure the culture is great here and I love the wine fests, volksfests, beer fests, and Christmas markets. Thanks to Germany I will be probably be such a food and beer snob when we get back to the States, but being able to travel so easily takes the cake. We have been to places I've never dreamed of going and I am so so grateful the Army has allowed us this opportunity. But everything comes at a price, right? We are here because of RC's job and his job requires a lot from him. He is in a fantastic unit, but they are kind of like the first responders for Europe and are tasked and trained heavily. We have forfeited many months of travel and precious time together. Close to half of our time in Germany we have been apart. Not only do I miss RC incredibly, but we are smack dab in the middle of Europe and so many amazing places are in sight, but just out of our reach. It's been so frustrating to see the time slip away knowing we are not going to be able to visit certain countries. I think I've had such a hard time letting go of the traveling opportunities because that has always been my  "reward". So when that "reward" is taken away after dealing with all the sucky aspects of living overseas I get a little frustrated. I know you're probably thinking I'm playing the world's tiniest violin right now, but I just wanted to show that living in Germany isn't so glamorous. The Facebook albums and Instagram photos may look it, but day-to-day life is definitely not. We are not galavanting around Europe all the time. In fact the majority of my time here has been at the gym or sitting at home with my dog. Not so glamorous! :)

Being on an entire continent away from our family and friends has been incredibly challenging. I hate missing out on seeing my nephew grow up, meeting up with friends, and just hanging out with my family. But if I'm searching for positives it has been great for our marriage. We have created such a good team and support system for each other. We are still learning new things about each other and learning how to live together again after each deployment, field rotation, and school. It's been almost 4 years since we got married and I can honestly say I am more in love with RC than ever before. Going through such crazy circumstances has made me so thankful God has blessed me with this man. I truly do feel like we are a perfect fit for each other.

So there you have it. I start to write one negative and it ends up turning into a positive at the end. I start to write one positive and a negative ends up taking over. But I think that's life and I especially think that's Army life. You have to try to make the best out of every situation. Once we've been in the States for a few months I'm sure I will start to feel a little homesick for Germany and so many aspects of the European lifestyle.

Auf wiedersehen, Deutschland! I can't say I wouldn't be happy to visit you again! Keyword: VISIT. :)