A Travellerspoint blog

All Roads Lead To...: Getting There is Half the Fun

Or Not!!

Update: All new posts can be found at http://thewanderingmind.net.

Whoever said "Getting there is half the fun" or "The journey is the reward" obviously never had a 12 hour layover at JFK. Or they are just liars. Let me assure you, getting from Dallas to Berlin with an unexpectedly long layover in between was neither fun nor rewarding. But first, back to the beginning when we were naive and hopeful and blissfully unaware of the impending fiasco.

The adventure began Tuesday evening. Our flight was at 6 am Wednesday morning, so we made the decision to stay up all night rather than sleep for only a couple of hours. Plus, Clay may have still needed to pack. And decide what he wanted to pack. And perhaps even still buy a couple items of clothing. We hoped that staying up all night would ensure that by the time we got on the plane to Berlin, we would be tired enough to sleep despite the discomfort of airplane seats and would arrive in Berlin (relatively) ready to go. Thus, we spent Tuesday night doing things like eating one final meal of Mexican food (it's an addiction, I tell you) and making trips to Walmart at 2 in the morning to buy last minute items.

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Although it was early in the morning, the flight from DFW to LaGuardia was uneventful. I was still buzzing from a combination of way too much caffeine and the excitement of a European vacation. Our luck continued as we transferred from LaGuardia to JFK. The taxi ride was less than $40 and took about 30 minutes. So far, so good. And then we arrived at JFK.

We knew we had a bit of a layover (about 6 hours at this point, so we thought...), so we were hoping to check in, get through security, and grab some lunch before finding a spot to settle in while we waited. Ha. Ha. Ha. Problem number 1: the Air Berlin desk did not open until 2 pm - 3 hours after we arrived at the airport. Unless we wanted to pay exorbitant amounts of money to store our baggage, which we could not check, and then take a taxi into the city, our only option was to wait. There were no seats and only a little snack bar outside of security. So we sat...

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and sat...

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and sat...

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until the Air Berlin desk finally opened. Problem number 2: As soon as we arrived, we noticed that our flight was delayed - by 6 hours. In other words, the flight that should have left at 5:30 pm and arrived in Berlin first thing in the morning was now leaving at 11:30 pm and not arriving until the afternoon. I will be honest, by this point I was a teensy bit grumpy. I may have even cried a little. We hadn't even left the country and things were already going wrong, I was exhausted (going on 30 hours of no sleep), I was not impressed by Air Berlin's customer service or communication, I was losing half a day of our time in Berlin, and I was hungry. Like I said, grumpy, although Clay may have used an alternative descriptor or two.

Once we made it through security, which was thankfully quick, the first order of business was to find a spot for lunch. After not too much debate given that we hadn't eaten since 4 am, we decided to try O'Neal's. It was a solid choice. We both had delicious burgers - Clay tried turkey and I went with veggie.

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It was during this lunch that we made the best decision of the trip. Seriously. Given the length of the layover, we decided to buy Admiral's Club Lounge day passes. At $50 apiece, we more than got our money's worth. For more than 7 hours, we enjoyed comfortable seats, wifi, electric outlets, drinks, and snacks.

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It was worth every penny! Finally, we got ready to board around 11:30 pm. Despite the exhaustion (approaching 40 hours without sleep), we were thrilled to be on our way.

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The flight took off around midnight. Air Berlin's coach class was reasonably comfortable with the typical amenities one would expect on an international flight. Not that I fully appreciated anything except the opportunity to sleep. Forty+ hours of not sleeping, plus melatonin, plus a glass of wine ensured that not even a coach class airplane seat could keep me awake.

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We were both able to get some sleep on the 7.5 hour flight despite the oddly timed meal service including dinner (at about 1 am according to our bodies) and breakfast (which was served at almost lunchtime in Berlin). The food was edible, but honestly more sleep would have been a better choice than waking up for dinner. Each seatback had movies and other entertainment options, but I was too tired to take advantage of any of them.

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After an arduous journey to Europe, we were excited and relieved to finally arrive in Berlin at around 1 pm. Now the real fun could begin!

Posted by cgplatt 16:39 Archived in USA Tagged planes airport europe_2013 Comments (0)

All Roads Lead To...: Packing

Update: All new posts can be found at http://thewanderingmind.net.

From the moment I first learned of the destination for my graduation trip, I began doing what I do best: planning! Sadly, Clay demanded that he be the one in charge of planning the trip because it was a gift to me for completing grad school. What kind of gift is that?! (Just kidding - a trip to Europe is an amazing graduation present). With no accommodations to search for, no tours to book, and no little known restaurants to discover, I turned to the one thing I could plan - my wardrobe. In February. For a trip that would occur in July. And okay, maybe I gave Clay a small (ish) handful of suggestions about the trip.

Things I needed to consider when packing were:

  • The trip would be 2 1/2 weeks
  • We would be going to Germany, Italy, Greece, and Turkey
  • Part of the trip would be a cruise, so I would need clothes appropriate for both daytime and evening, including formal wear
  • It would be hot (although not quite as hot as Texas)
  • There would be walking; LOTS of walking
  • And, for real, it's Europe - I had to look at least reasonably cute!

So that's how, in February, I ended up taking pictures of almost 30 outfits. My goal was to be able to wear each piece at least 2 times. Thus, I had to not only plan what I was packing, but also plan the order in which I wore things. Seriously, I was not going to re-wear a shirt in which I had sweated all day in Athens and I certainly wasn't going to take out a loan in order to afford laundry service on the cruise ship. Because I love lists (almost as much as I love Mexican food), I gleefully planned out exactly what I would wear each day. On the trip, I actually adhered to the list reasonably well. Of course, after spending all of that time arranging and taking pictures of outfits, I got the brilliant idea to just take a picture of my outfit each day of the trip. Which would have worked wonderfully if I had actually done that the entire trip. So some pictures are of me having fun in said clothes in Europe, whereas others are much less interesting.

What I Wore:

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My travel day outfit - yoga pants (the kind that don't scream "I'M WEARING COMFY PANTS"), coral Columbia shirt, and a scarf; I also had a gray cardigan along for when I got cold. Good thing my outfit was comfortable, because it ended up being a loooong trip to Germany (more to come on that fiasco).

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When we finally got to Berlin, I could not wait to shower and change into this brown maxi dress with a teal tank top and scarf.

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Bonus picture for Berlin day 2 because one picture has my name and one picture has Brandenburg Gate, both of which are awesome. I wore navy pants (Berlin was so amazingly cool), a brown tank, and mint cardigan.

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The first day in Rome I wore black capris and a gray and white striped shirt. It was comfortable for the flight from Berlin to Rome (with yet another delay, ugh!), yet also worked for walking around once we arrived.

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Sightseeing in Rome was toasty - I wore blue capris and a floral peplum shirt.

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This was my perfect embarkation outfit - white linen pants, purple cowl neck, tan and white striped cardigan. And bonus - it was nice enough that I didn't have to change for dinner that evening.

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The first day of the cruise was a sea day. I explored the ship in tan capris and an olive shirt. That evening was our first formal night.

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Our first stop was Santorini. It was only right to wear white linen pants. I paired mine with a navy, polka dot top. That evening, we got back on board late, so we quickly showered and changed for dinner where I wore the brown maxi dress with the tan and white striped cardigan. Notice the repetition?

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Another sea day - tan linen capris, blue shirt, scarf. We just went to the casual dress restaurant that evening because we didn't want to spoil a lazy day at sea by doing complicated things like getting dressed for dinner.

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Istanbul! Blue capris with a tribal shirt (knees and shoulders were covered). That evening I wore navy pants with a floral shirt for dinner and a wine and cheese concert on the lawn (like an actual lawn - there was real grass on the cruise ship).

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I'll be honest, I don't actually remember what I wore for the second (partial) day in Istanbul. Maybe brown shorts with something? But that evening I wore black pants with the floral peplum top, a fact I only remember due to this picture.

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In Ephesus, which was probably tied with Athens for the hottest day, I wore black capris and a Columbia shirt. That evening I wore black pants, the purple cowl neck, and a black cardigan. I also added a gorgeous scarf that I had bought in Istanbul.

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In Athens, I wore brown shorts, a teal tank top, and the mint cardigan. That evening we were so tired we didn't even leave our room - we ordered room service.

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On Mykonos, we spent the day on the beach, so I wore this over my swimsuit. For dinner, I wore this brown dress.

The next day was a sea day. And again I can't remember what I wore. So much for that take-a-cute-picture-of-my-outfit-every-day-of-vacation idea. That evening was the second formal night, but we opted not to dress up and ate in the casual restaurant.

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Our last port was Naples. I wore brown shorts and another Columbia top. That evening I wore black pants and a blue and off-white top. Obviously I am running out of words to describe clothing by this point.

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We had a full day of touring when we got back to Rome before flying home. I wore navy pants, and this tank and cardigan combo (my shoulders needed to be covered for the Vatican).

What I Didn't Wear:
Despite my meticulous planning, I ended up packing just a few things that I didn't end up wearing. Namely, one dress for a formal night and the accompanying shoes and then one dressy shirt that I had packed for dinner. All in all, not too bad and both were things that could have easily been worn if our plans had been different.

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Shoes and Accessories:
I have to brag a bit - I am pretty proud of my shoe selection for the trip. I only packed a pair of Toms, a pair of Chacos, two pairs of heels (one that I didn't wear), and flip flops. I also wore one pair of shoes, which I affectionately call my "travel shoes" on the plane. Seriously, I deserve a pat on the back, or at least a high five!

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I packed a handful of accessories, including scarves, necklaces, and bracelets. They were easy to pack and I did not bring anything valuable. I also brought a rain jacket and my new PacSafe bag, which was the perfect bag for this trip. Along with pjs, my swimsuit, a few cosmetics, and some other miscellaneous items, all of this fit into a carryon and half of a suitcase. I realize that perhaps the most helpful thing to do at this point would be to actually share my packing list, but I'm feeling lazy. So instead - more pictures!

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Before the trip, we also bought packing cubes, which were admittedly awesome, especially for the repeated packing and unpacking that we did before the cruise. Here is all of my stuff packed and ready to be put into suitcases (I think the shoes are hiding):

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Not too bad for a 2 1/2 week vacation. At this point, it does not seem conceivable to have left anything out about what and how I packed for our European vacation, but feel free to ask questions! Up next will be the (hopefully) more interesting stuff about the trip!

Posted by cgplatt 17:51 Archived in USA Tagged packing outfits europe_2013 Comments (2)

Panama City Beach

Update: All new posts can be found at http://thewanderingmind.net.

Panama City Beach, Florida. What probably comes to mind is intoxicated college students and tacky tourist attractions like miniature golf and giant beach stores selling airbrushed t-shirts. And you would be exactly right.

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PCB is all that, but to me it is also something entirely different. For me, PCB was the place I grew up going. I literally stayed at the same condo year after year until my grandparents bought a condo in the same complex where my family and I then stayed year after year. At least once a year, we would pack up the minivan, usually with a couple of friends in tow, and make the 13+ hour drive. We would play silly games or sing silly songs and my brothers would try their best to annoy me (usually successfully – they were pretty robust when it came to The Song That Never Ends) as we eagerly anticipated our first glimpse of the beach. And then we would arrive, feeling the simultaneous excitement and relaxation that quickly set in as we unloaded the van. My parents would make a trip to the grocery store to purchase all kinds of unhealthy and delicious foods that we would never eat at home and “the kids” would scurry to put on swimsuits for a first dip in the pool or swim in the ocean. Every year we would do the same things: swim, spend time at the beach, take a boat to Shell Island, eat really good food (usually at the same restaurants), watch movies, play the tackiest mini golf course we could find, and swim some more. Year after year. And that’s what I loved. Don’t get me wrong. I love exploring a new place or doing something I’ve never done before, but for me, PCB was a place of familiarity and comfort. I knew exactly what to expect and knew that I would have an amazing time. But here’s the thing – I hadn’t been in 9 years. Nine years!!

Nine years ago, I was a skinny, blond college student who was falling in love with some guy named Clay who tagged along for the spring break trip with my family. I can hardly remember being that person. I’m a couple months away from being Dr. Platt, my hair vacillates between brown and red, and I can’t exactly be described as skinny. And I married that guy 7 ½ years ago. Life happened. I’ve been many different places since then, but haven’t made it back to PCB. So when I had an unexpected opportunity to spend a few days there with my family, it just felt right. I could not wait for the knownness of being there and doing again all the things I’ve done so many times before.

So we did what we always did.

We spent time as a family and put up with each others' tastes in movies:

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I spent time with one of my best friends, Shannon:

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We ate at our favorite restaurants (plus some new additions – it had been 9 years):

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Obviously, we spent a lot of our time eating!

We spent plenty of time sitting on the beach and playing in the ocean while trying desperately to avoid getting sunburnt:

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I even had the added bonus of seeing Shannon at work – she is incredibly talented.

We watched the sunset:

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We enjoyed relaxing by the pool:

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And no Smith family vacation is complete without at least one member of the family being forced into tears by pushing them out of their comfort zone:

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I have most definitely been the one in tears, but this time it was my adorable nephew, Judah, who was cruelly forced to put his feet in the ocean! He recovered by throwing sand – he was mostly successful at avoiding throwing it at people.

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I got dressed up, hair and makeup courtesy of Shannon, for a nice dinner:

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And of course we couldn’t forget the pirate themed miniature golf:

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And I certainly couldn't end my vacation before buying at least one souvenir (this was for my dog, Sydney; she loves it, by the way):

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Some things never change. There was nothing pretentious, PCB was what it has always been. And that is just what I needed.

Posted by cgplatt 18:27 Archived in USA Tagged florida Comments (0)

Local Attractions: Hunstville State Park

Update: All new posts can be found at http://thewanderingmind.net.

For a while when Clay and I were dating, his voicemail message said something like, "I'm going to keep this short and sweet, just like Cora. Please leave a message." I could never decide whether it was annoying or flattering...

In honor of that totally random memory, I am going to keep today's post short and sweet, at least compared to my usual verbosity.

On yet another gorgeous Saturday during the wonderfully unpredictable weeks when the weather cannot decide whether it is late winter or early spring, I decided to check out the hiking trails at Hunstville State Park. This time, I braved the trails alone because I wasn't afraid of getting eaten by an alligator!

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My trail of choice was the 6.8 mile Chinquapin Trail.

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The trailhead was conveniently located (i.e., I didn't have to take too many turns inside the park to get there and there was a nearby building, thus my chance of getting horribly lost and driving around the park for hours was reduced - reduced, not eliminated) and the trail seemed to offer a nice overview of the park's scenery.

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Other than several mountain bikers and a few people walking in the area around the campground and lake, I was blissfully alone for most of the hike. The trail was mildly challenging with at least some change in elevation. Add in the opportunity for a lakeside picnic lunch and it was just about perfect!

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Huntsville State Park's longest trail is 8.5 miles, but if you're looking for even more adventure, you can head to the nearby Sam Houston National Forest where the 128-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail is located. This unexpectedly scenic part of Texas is definitely worth a visit.

Posted by cgplatt 18:23 Archived in USA Tagged hiking texas local_attractions Comments (0)

Local Attractions: Brazos Bend State Park

Update: All new posts can be found at http://thewanderingmind.net.

As much as I did not believe it would be true, my internship year in Houston has (thankfully) flown by. As winter turned to spring, I realized I could begin counting the months before moving home on one hand. Which was really exciting, but also reminded me that anything on my while-I-live-in-Houston to do list had to be done sooner rather than later. On this list was hiking in Brazos Bend State Park. One thing the park is known for is alligators. And I of course could not go by myself because, well, alligators! Attempting to hike the maintained and busy trails by myself would mean certain death by alligator, obviously. So, I convinced Clay that he should accompany me to Brazos Bend State Park during one of his weekends in Houston. Although, now that I think about it, it was less convincing and more telling...

Despite Clay's questionable willingness to spend a Saturday morning protecting me from alligators, we had a lovely hike through small portion of the park. After the one hour drive from Houston, we paid our $7 apiece entry fee and began deciding which of the 35-ish miles of trail we wanted to hike. We eventually settled on a combination of the popular Elm Lake Loop Trail and the 40-Acre Lake Trail. They are connected by the Spillway Trail and we added on a bit of a detour with the Pilant Slough Trail. I estimate we ended up hiking a little over 4.5 miles, but we could have easily made a day of it if we had not had other plans for the afternoon. The trails were not challenging, but the scenery was pleasant and surprisingly varied.

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We were there on a truly beautiful, if windy and cool, day in early March. Despite the lovely weather, the park was not crowded and we could enjoy the quietness that can only be found away from the city.

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Oh, and I am sure you're wondering about the whole alligator thing. Well, we saw one the entire hike. One! I was freaked out for nothing!

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Of course, maybe if it had been a few degrees warmer...

Even though I didn't get to see many alligators, we still enjoyed Brazos Bend State Park. If hiking isn't your thing, there is also horseback riding, camping, and fishing. The park also houses the George Observatory, which is open to the public on Saturdays. Although I won't be in Houston much longer (65 days. Give or take. Not that I am counting), I wouldn't mind going back to explore one of the park's longer trails before I move back to Dallas.

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Posted by cgplatt 18:42 Archived in USA Tagged hiking texas Comments (0)

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