Thursday, June 3, 2010

Brandi's Visit...Etc...

Oh geez...I really need to be better about updating this thing in a timely fashion. Brandi's been gone since Saturday and I still haven't filled ya'll in...

It was great having her here-I needed the morale boost, but this was as much a vacation for me as it was for her and our differing vacation styles were a point of contention almost the entire time she was here. Apparently, when she is on vacation, she just likes to lay around and relax, which is all well and good when we are in Gulf Shores or down in Florida next to a pool. But this is EUROPE-so much to see and do and who knows when we'll ever get back here again. And she seemed really game to do a bunch of sightseeing when we were talking about her coming here so it was like super disappointing when she got here and didn't actually want to do much more than sit along the Rhine and feed the ducks.

All that being said, we did do SOME travelling-we made it to Pontresina, Lichtenstein, Lake Lucerne and Insel Mainau, as well as a boat trip to Stein am Rhein, but this was NOTHING compared to what we had talked about. =P I have 2 weeks vacation in July; anyone want to come visit (I have access to $500 RT tickets out of Chicago and the Euro is super weak right now-GREAT exchange rate) and do some actual travelling?? I'm thinking France...Paris, Normandy (specifically Omahah (sp?) Beach and other WWII sites) and then maybe a couple days in the south...maybe visit a vineyard and do some wine-tasting and a trip to the famous beaches in the south of France. This is an open invitation to ANY friend(s) of mine. So c'mon! Somebody must have the time/money. Don't make me go alone, people!

So back to Brandi's visit....we were really blessed to have decent weather the entire time she was here (as opposed to now-it's barely 60 and rain) We had a few gorgeous, sunny, hot days and a few cooler, cloudy days but absolutely no rain!

She came in on Tuesday the 18th and immediately bonded with the boys. (Thanks in part to a suitcase full of gifts for them.) We didn't do much the first day as she was pretty tired. She had a long nap after lunch and once the boys were in bed I introduced her to the magic that is Glee. In the time she was here, we watched every episode from season 1 and now she is completely caught up.

I had to work Wednesday and Thursday, so we spent most of our time with the boys. On Wednesday, we took them to the RheinFalls and up to the Munot (the two most important places to see on a visit to Schaffhausen) She agreed that the RheinFalls were gorgeous, but wasn't really all that impressed by their size. They may be Europe's highest waterfall, but it looks like a trickle compared to Niagra-or even Tahquamenon in Michigan. And she loved the view from the Munot....she probably took 300 pictures that day!

Thursday after lunch we took the kids down to the playground and then over to the river. It was pretty chilly that day, so we weren't out for more than a few hours, but we did spend a great deal of time watching people dock their boats in the river for summer. The boys were absolutely enthralled by this and could've stood there all day watching, but the boat launch has a bit of a pigeon problem and as Brandi is terrified of them, I was worried that her fear would rub off on the boys and I don't need that. They are already afraid of snails, dogs and cloudy days (well, they aren't afraid of clouds-they just constantly worry about the threat of rain and it drives me crazy) I didn't need another fear added to their list or they may never want to leave the house again.

Friday we went down to Pontresina (an 11 hour train ride roundtrip) and it was disappointing at best. I have wanted to visit this town in the Alps since I was a child and I was sorely let down...
For those of you who aren't familiar with Pontresina and it's connection with Gaylordm, let me give you a quick lesson. Gaylord sits on the the 45th degree latitude line (or 45th parallel) as does Pontresina, Switzerland. Back the 60's Gaylord and Pontresina became "sister cities" and in a ploy to attract tourists, Gaylord created the Alpenfest. For 5 days in July, we celebrate all things (supposedly) Pontresina. We dress in dirndls and lederhosen, eat weird food like schnitzal and strudel, dance to polka music and participate in a bunch of "Swiss" events. More than that, Gaylord has a "Swiss" theme, with Alpine style architecture and growing up everyone EVERYONE knew what Pontresina was and it was engrained in us how amazing this place was supposed to be. Well I won't break it down piece by piece, but basically Alpenfest is a bunch Polish decendants dressed like they just walked out of Heidiland and eating/doing GERMAN things. While the architecture was pretty much the same, nothing about this place reminded me anything of home. We stopped by the tourism office-I figured they must know something about our relationship or be able to reccomend a place in town that would. They had NO IDEA what I was talking about! While Gaylord is obsessed with this tiny Swiss village, they don't even know we exist!

All that being said, Pontresina was a pretty place. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and coniferous forest, it reminded me a lot of Park City. Unfortunately, most of the businesses in town were closed as May is a month of repairs/cleaning before the busy summer season starts, but I think it was worth the train ride just to be up in the mountains again. I may just have to go back there before I go home.

Since Pontresina was kind of a bust, we left around 3PM and went another 30 minutes south to the tourist haven of San Moritz. Again, most places were closed, but it was absolutely STUNNING there. The hotels are built into the side of the mountains and the entire town overlooks a crystal clear lake. Stephanie said that this town is a popular vacationing spot for the super wealthy and I can absolutely understand why.

Brandi's jet lag caught up with her on Friday night and she had a mini-meltdown, so I made the decision to sleep in on Saturday and we didn't really get moving til lunch time. We went downtown and had lunch at Schaffhausen's beer garden and did some souvenier shopping. We spent most of the afternoon just sitting by the river and we watched several hours of Glee that night.

Sunday we took the boatride up the Rhine to Stein am Rhein which was absolutely packed with tourists. On the boat we sat across from a honeymooning couple from South Carolina who were estatic about having people to talk to in English. Stein am Rhein is my favorite place in Switzerland-it looks like a village from a fairytale-but Brandi's asthma (and the fact that she insists on carrying 75lbs in her backpack) prevented her from seeing much of the place. I was all jacked to hike up to these castle ruins that overlook the village and the river, but after lunch when I suggested it, she basically laughed in my face. *sigh* We did eat some fantastic ice cream sundaes though. And when we got back, I took Brandi for her first (and last) European cocktail. We had what were basically mimosas and she was not a fan. She prefers a fifth of vodka and 2 liter of Country Time lemonade to actual drinks. She also only drinks to get drunk. I couldn't really judge her for this, because I was the same way at 19. I spent most of my time roaming around the campus of Saginaw Valley with a bottle of UV Blue in my backpack.

Monday, as the weather was perfect, super sunny and warm enough for tank tops, we took the train over to Lake Lucerne for a day of aimless wandering. The lake was wayyy too cold to swim in, but we were able to take a bunch of gorgeous photos (clear lake, lots of sail boats and snow capped mountains as a was like looking a postcard) We bought sandwiches from some roadside stand and spent a few hours just soaking up the sun and watching the sailboats cruise by.

Monday night, we used the money our grandparents sent and had "fancy dinner" at an Italian restaurant in Schaffhausen. Well, I had "fancy dinner" having put on a dress and doing my make up. Brandi refused to play along and wore capris and her fleece jacket the whole night. And we fought almost the whole time. How........nice. On the upside, I had bass and vagetables and she had spaghetti with prawns and the food was delicious! Expensive, but delicious! So, thank you Grandma & Grandpa Platte for the fantastic food and wine and gelato for dessert!!

Tuesday we went over to Lichtenstein-which is a princpality, NOT a country. Our only reason for going there was to get our passports stamped but it turned out to be a gorgeous day and the town of Vaduz (the capital of Lichtenstein) was adorable. It was here that we saw the only dirndls of the whole trip (not people actually wearing them, but dresses for children for sale at one of the gift shops) We wandered around for awhile, trying to get as close as possible to the royal family's palace but it seemed that every path leading to it closed to visitors about halfway up. (The palace sits on top of a ridge overlooking the town.) We stopped for lunch and had the sweetest-albeit most frazzled waitress I've encountered in Europe. Right after we ordered, the place filled up with eldery tourists from England, Austrailia and some Asian country. They were all super rude and grouchy toward the waitress (demanding to order, complaining about the temperature of their Coke, complaining about the service time, claiming they couldn't understand the waitress' English, etc) so I told her to take her time bringing our bill as we had nowhere important to I was covertly photographing old Asian men wearing socks with sandals, safari hats and fanny packs. When things slowed down again, she brought the bill, thanked me for my patience and made some small talk with us about Michigan while she made change. As she walked away, some old lady snapped, "We're from England-thanks for asking." Brandi and I went to the bathroom right after and as I was in the stall, I was telling her, "Of course the waitress doesn't care where that lady is from. She's an epic bitch. It's probably miserable waiting on her and her friends." I walked out of the stall and came face to face with that same woman!!! She gave me the death stare and told me to go to hell and I literally started laughing as I walked back outside. She was a bitch. She needed to know. It's just too bad she had to find out from me. HA HA.

I was really pushing to go to Paris Tuesday/Wednesday, but Brandi straight out refused to go-told me I could go by myself and she'd stay at Stephanie's if I wanted to go so badly. Her reasoning? "I heard France is dirty. And I don't want to get kidnapped and turned into a sex slave." Okay, the first part is true, but you overlook that in favor of the Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysse' and the chance to see the Mona Lisa. But the second part? Seriously? SERIOUSLY?? She has been spending WAYYY TOOOO MUCH TIME WITH OUR DAD!!! That's the only explanation I can come up with. His view is that every person you meet either wants to rape you or sell you into sex slavery. He calls it being a realist. I call it being rediculous.

Since Paris didn't happen (I am absolutely going in July...even if it means maxing out my AMEX card...I may never have another to go. Who wants to come??) Wednesday we settled for Insel Mainau-a botanical island in Lake Konstanz. It was super super pretty there with so many things to see/do. We visited a butterfly conservatory, walked through a green energy exhibit, looked at an art exhibit featuring hibisbus (Jordan Reichard, you would've LOVED it) and fed some goats at a petting zoo. Plus there were so many trees and flowers everywhere to look at. And smell. =) It was a fantastic last adventure.

Thursday was Brandi's last day before her scheduled flight, so she decided we would visit the restaurant we had lunch at on Saturday again and finish her souvenier shopping. Then we went down to the river and fed the ducks before returning to Stephanie's to pack all her stuff and watch movies.

Friday morning she was SUPPOSED to fly out. I took her to the airport, got her all checked in (she was even upgraded to business class!) and came back to Schaffhausen. She returned to Stephanie's around 4PM and informed me that she had been bumped from her flight at the gate 20 minutes before boarding and had to find her own way back to Schaffhausen as the airport employees refused to be helpful. Because she had an employee ticket from Stephanie, she was the first one to be upgraded. She was also the first to be bumped when the flight filled at the last minute. I then had to spend the next 3 hours on the phone trying to track down her luggage and arrange a new connecting flight from Chicago for her while she sat in a chair and cried. My dad was pissed it cost another $130 (this is what happens when you buy non-refundable tickets) and she was pissed she didn't get to go home. Both of them were super grouchy and it took every fiber of my being not to say, "to hell with it" and go downtown and leave the two of then to figure it out. In the end, Swiss held her luggage overnight and then she flew out Saturday. She connected to Detroit and one of her friends came down to pick her up that night.

So that's about that as far as Brandi's visit goes...I'll have pictures up on Facebook soon and when I do, I'll post a link here.

In other news, the boys are as crazy as ever--we had a nice taste of summer and now that the weather has turned sour again, they get really restless and obnoxious during the day. And super whiney. Ugh! I much prefer working for them as opposed to say, working at the hotel--until they start whining. And on Monday, Liano was in a bit of a bike accident-he scraped up his face and skinned his knee-nothing too serious-but he cried (literally) nonstop for 2 solid days. I was so happy when Stephanie left on a flight yesterday, so I could say, "stop crying or go to bed" and suddenly he miraculously felt better. He knew he'd get no more sympathy from me, so he decided to save us both the headache. Though he still walks rediculously slow and with an exaggerated limp.

With spring came several problems around the house-more specifically spiders and martins. The spider thing is nothing new, I typically kill 3-4 a week...though now it's more like 2-3 A DAY! Ewww! And I can only kill the little ones, which means when Stephanie comes home tonight, I have one in my bathroom, one in the kitchen and one in the hall for her to deal with. Baby spiders I can handle, but big ones-no way. I nearly panic when the one in the bathroom watches me washing my hands. =(
The other problen, the martins, is one most Americans might be unfamiliar with. I tried to find a picture of a martin on google images, but I couldn't. Basically, they're a relative of the squirrel but 100X more annoying. They live in the rafters of the house and have had babies. They run back and forth across the eaves and you cqan hear them from upstairs. Plus, they make this noise that sounds like a woman screaming. Awful. And, as they are a protected species, nothing can be done about them (legally) until after July 15.

On a more positive note, I got the most kickass care package EVER from my cousin, Melissa the other day. She sent me, black licorice, jelly beans, 2 nail polishes, Hello Kitty stickers, lip gloss, coloring books and body wash from Bath and Body Works!! Yay! I was SO SO excited to get it! I hadn't gotten mail in FOREVER and this was easily the highlight of my day. (Maybe even my week)
Okay, I know this is running a tad long. (Okay, super long) but one more thing. Nope, two more.

#1 I've had over 2000 page views!! SOOOOOO COOOOOLLLLL!!!!!

#2 Eminem and Jay-Z are playing a show at Comerica Park in September and I am SO going. Unfortunately, this will mean no Lady Gaga (for now) but she'll go on tour again. When's the next time these two will perform together?? SO PUMPED!!