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Berlin To Frankfurt To San Diego

DSC00929-COLLAGEOn Sunday, June 23 -- Conrad and I left Berlin for Frankfurt (photos).  We arrived late in the evening in Frankfurt and stayed the night at the Marriott Hotel next to the airport.  We wanted to stay in hotel that was in the actual boarding area (bod hotel) but it was closed by the time we got there.

The Marriott Hotel was great though and probably the best "hotel" that we stayed in.  Unfortunately it was for less than 8 hours.

After getting up on Monday morning (6/24), we made it through security and immigration with no issues.  We had some time for some last minute shopping, food, espresso from McDonald's (not bad), and some time to see a bunch of airplanes.

The flight home was smooth sailing on Lufthansa and it was really good to finally get back home.  Immigration control in San Diego was also a breeze.

Here are some photos from our last day in Germany:

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Experiencing Berlin

DSC00888-COLLAGEConrad and I made our way to Berlin on Saturday (June 23) from Amsterdam (photos).  The trip from our hotel to the airport was very straightforward: walk to the ferry, take the free ferry to Central Station, and then take the airport train from Central Station to the airport.

Here are two sets of pictures from Berlin:

One of the super fun parts of Sunday afternoon was hanging out with Conrad's girlfriend Skye's family (aunt, uncle, nephews, and niece) who happened to be in Berlin at the same time:

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At the end of the day on Sunday, we headed back to the Berlin Airport for a late evening flight to Frankfurt.  The trip to Frankfurt from Berlin had no major issues.

Some thoughts about this part of the the trip:

  • We managed to take the bus from the airport to a stop near our hotel (short 10 minute walk), and hotel was very close to a Berlin City Train Station.
  • Our flight from Amsterdam to Berlin was on KLM.  They had a great little snack step-up (photo) that was pretty well engineered and tasty.
  • Conrad really wanted to buy Birkenstocks in Germany.  We found some but the selection was not great.  And they cost more plus the taxes made them even more expensive then buying them in the U.S.  So we skipped those purchases.

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Experiencing Amsterdam 2019

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SUMMARY -- Amsterdam was one of the cities that we spent more time than others ... mostly because I was attending Getting Things Done (GTD) Summit 2019.  The conference was 2 days (Thursday and Friday).  We arrived on Wednesday from Rome.  We left on Saturday for Berlin.

Here is a collection of photos from Amsterdam:

Some additional thoughts about Amsterdam:

  • The train from the airport to Central Station was pretty easy to navigate.
  • The airport in Amsterdam was pretty nice and easy to move around in.
  • Taking the bus from Central Station to the GTD Conference was super easy.
  • Our hotel was on the other side of Central Station and required a ferry ride.  The ferry was free and left every 15 minutes.
  • The hotel we stayed in worked for us but it wasn't super great. There was no air conditioning so luckily for us it never got very hot.  I think the room we had would have been less than ideal if the weather got warm.
  • Rain comes and goes in Amsterdam.  Even that big storm on the first night was basically over in 15 minutes.
  • Lots of bikes.
  • Walking in Amsterdam to and from our dinner and after GTD Conference events was good.
  • There is a subway system that we used the last day that worked out pretty well.
  • More info about Little Delirium.
  • More info about Castels.

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Getting Things Done (GTD) Summit 2019

GTD Summit 2019 Collage

The Getting Things Done (GTD) 2019 Summit was held in Amsterdam from June 20-21, 2019. 

BACKGROUND -- My family and I had already purchased our airplane tickets by the time I confirmed I was able to attend, so we ended up re-arranging and making some adjustments so I could attend. My son Conrad could still get to his major city requests, and Carson could fly home "early" but still spent time in Germany, Belgium, Normandy, and Paris.  It was an answer to prayer that it all worked out. Here is our complete trip summary.

The conference was amazing!  I still need to summarize all my notes (Part 1 - Day 1 PDF is DONE!) [Still working on Part 2], but here are some links to some online content about the conference:

GTD Roadmap For Summit 2019


Experiencing Rome

Rome

We arrived in Rome late in the afternoon on Monday (June 17, 2019) and made it to our AirBNB via a reserved driver.  This worked out great as our time in Rome was actually the shortest overall at this point.  The driver was waiting for us as we left the luggage area and drove us straight to the AirBNB.

Here are some pictures of our AirBNB.  I would recommend staying there again.  The location was good and it had a good kitchen and sleeping arrangements for us.

We did a walking tour the evening we arrived And then had dinner.

Our second day Tuesday (June 18, 2019) consisted of the following events:

On Wednesday morning we got up pretty early and made our way to the airport again using a reserved driver.  We had a relatively early flight to Amsterdam and we had read things could be problematic at the Rome airport. In our case it was not a problem getting through security, and things went very smoothly getting to our gate.  We had time for breakfast and some shopping at the airport.

Some other thoughts about Rome:

  • Walking around was very easy with Google maps.
  • No scooters.
  • The main events - Vatican, Colosseum, etc. -- had no tickets available at the last minute.
  • There is no way you could get me to drive in Rome.  Crazy!
  • There seems to be amazing history around every corner.

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The Big Travel Day

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SUMMARY -- Monday, June 17, 2019 was our big travel day - Carson flew home to San Diego from Paris. Once she was airborne, Conrad and I made our way to Rome (and then on to Amsterdam, Berlin, & back to Frankfurt to fly home to San Diego on Monday, June 24, 2019).

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MORE DETAILS -- The trip from our hotel in Paris (Hôtel de Roubaix) to Charles de Gaulle airport was a straight forward train/metro ride (RER B).  It took less than an hour and wasn't very crowded.

For some reason even though this was a "BIG" day I only have four photos documenting this part of the trip.

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Carson made it through security and then customs on her own in Paris, but it took much longer than we had anticipated. She was successful in flying home on United from Paris to Washington, DC (IAD), and then on to San Diego.

Once Carson was airborne we made our way to a smaller terminal to fly down to Rome via Vueling Airlines that was booked via CheapOAir. 

While we were waiting for our flight to Rome we found a store called Spencer, and as we were leaving we could see a Concorde airplane display from our seats on our plane.

The trip down was uneventful and we got to Rome without any issues. Our Airbnb host reserved us a driver who was waiting for us and we made our way to our Airbnb in Rome pretty efficiently.  After checking-in to a wonderful location we managed to do some city exploring and get dinner before bed (see next post).

Collection of all the photos of the day.

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Experiencing Paris, France

Paris-4-picts

When we arrived in Paris (Saturday, June 15th) it was still late mid-day (trip summary). We ended up dropping off our stuff at our hotel (Hôtel de Roubaix) and then started walking toward the Seine . We ultimately made our way to the Eiffel Tower.  We took a ton of photos.

Here is our collection of photos from the Eiffel Tower.

We ended the day eating at Hall S Beer Tavern (pictures) for dinner. We were super hungry, the food was excellent, service was pretty good, and sitting down for an hour or so was much needed.

The next day we headed to the Louvre for a guided tour (highly recommended), and then we had time to walk and see what we wanted.  We did that for about 2 hours. Once we were done at the Louvre (most of the morning) we made our way to the Arc de Triomphe, and Norte Dame.

We had lunch at L'Etoile 1903 near Arc de Triomphe.  The only picture I took was of the beer (I think we were super hungry and just started digging in before a picture could be taken of our food):

Leffe-beer-The food was good at L'Etoile 1903 and I would recommend eating there again.

After we were finished for the day we ended up eating dinner at Cafe March (photos). We all liked our food and the atmosphere was good. I'd eat there again.

Just before dinner though, I was able to meet up with Rolf Potts (travel writer) for a quick picture. He was in Paris at the same time teaching a class on writing.  I've been listening to Rolf's podcast for some time -- Deviate.  Some of his podcasts actually inspired parts of this trip.

Rolf&steve

Other pictures from Paris can be found here.

Some other details and thoughts about Paris:

  • The French people we met in the stores and restaurants were super helpful and accommodating of our lack of French.
  • There are a lot of scooters in Paris.
  • Taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower from the other side of the Seine was a great recommendation from our train companion from Brussels to Paris.
  • He also recommending going to an "unofficial" memorial for Princes Diana which we did.
  • The subway system while we were there was great.
  • The train system worked well for us also.
  • We probably could have done better on the hotel but we really weren't in the room all that much other than to sleep so any "better" setup would have been lost on us.
  • Having Carson leave us early was a bummer but it all worked out in the end.

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Normandy To Paris

BayuexOur trip from our Airbnb in Normandy back to Caen  to return our rental car included a stop in Bayeux.  If you are going to this part of Normandy I would consider Caen over Bayeux for renting a car.  The city is bigger and the rental agencies are all near the central Caen train station.

We stopped in Bayeux to see the Tapisserie de Bayeux. that was more than like created in the 11th Century and is over 70 meters long. The tapestry tells the "engrossing story of the conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy in 1066."  It was definitely worth seeing and the audio program was very well done.

After this museum we made our way back to Caen and then turned in our rental car.   We then had a train ride from Caen into Paris (via the Saint Lazare Train Station) and then a Metro ride (subway) from St. Lazare to the nearest stop near our hotel.

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In Paris we stayed at the Hôtel de Roubaix (6 Rue Greneta, 75003 Paris, France).  I thought the place was average and good for our situation.  It was easy to get to and easy to navigate to the Louvre for sure by walking.  Also it was easy to get from the hotel to the airport via a big transit hub that was just down the street (10 minute walk).  We used Booking.com to reserve our rooms.

Here are all the photos from this part of the trip.

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Experiencing Normandy

Normandy-CollageOur AirBNB was excellent (photos). We would highly recommend staying there.

And the area around our AirBNB -- known as Les Bateaux -- was so historical and visually stimulating. It was a short walk down to the beach from the AirBNB.  As we walked there were still D-Day (June 6th) decorations in most of the yards. There was also WWII Jeep parked at the bottom of the road before the beach.

After our beach experience, we made our way into the nearest "big" town --Port-en-Bessin -- to get some supplies for dinner at the local market -- Super U.  After shopping we headed back to the AirBNB for our dinner and then some relaxing before bed.

The first thing we did on our first full day in Normandy was to visit the Overload Museum.  This is a great museum! Easy to access, tons of good info, and a large amount of physical hardware from both the Allies perspective and from the Germans.

Then we went to the Omaha Museum. I liked this museum a lot as it had a lot of personal items like all the types of firearms, uniforms, etc. There was also a good video documentary that they shared in their theater.

After that we spent some time on Omaha Beach. It was very low tide at the time we were there and the waves were very small. It is surprisingly long, but only a few ways up from the beach to the high ground.

Once we finished at Omaha we drove to Pointe du Hoc. Being up on the high ground and looking down to see what the soldiers had to accomplish to take over this area was humbling. The bomb holes are still there and they are massive. The German guns at this site could have dropped rounds on both Omaha and Utah beach, but they had been moved inland because of all the aerial bombing leading up to D-Day.

Then we went to Utah Beach. The drive reminded us that that there was almost 10K between each of the D-Day Beaches, and each beach covered a 10K operating area. I learned that Utah Beach went "easier" than Omaha Beach because of the tides and currents. The main body of troops landed in a place less fortified on Utah Beach than their planned location, and the units there captured more ground in the first 24 hours than expected. The drive from and between the two beaches -- Omaha to Utah -- had references to several locations were paratroopers and gliders landed and engaged with the Germans.

After Utah Beach we went to the Normandy American Cemetery just before it closed. This was a very somber place and well done. It is much smaller than I expected given how big it has looked in the past when on TV, but that was probably all angles and framing.

For dinner we went back to Port en Bessin. We found a great place for dinner and the food was excellent (La Marina). The beach was area was interesting because it was full of shells. And we learned some more about what happened in this area during D-Day. The city and port were liberated by British Commando Forces after battles on June 7-8, 1944.

Here is a collection of Port en Bessin photos.

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Traveling from Ottignies, Belgium to Normandy, France (via Paris)

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The trip from Ottignies to Normandy started out great.  We went from Ottignies station to Belgium Central station, and then took a high-speed train (French - Thalys) from Belgium to Paris, France.

Brussels To ParisWe were very concerned about our transfer from our arrival station (Gare du Nord) in Paris to the station (Saint Lazare Train Station) that goes from Paris to Normandy, but we were blessed with a great seatmate on our trip to Paris.  He gave us some great recommendations on what to do in Paris (stay tuned), and then when we arrived in Paris he took us personally from our station to the station we needed to go to via the Metro.  It was super easy with a guide, which would help us a ton when we came back to Paris -- and set the tone for the rest of the trip that we could easily take public transportation in Europe.  Wow a friendly French person helped the language challenged American!  Thanks!!

Metro In Paris

The trip from Paris to our stop in Normandy was pretty straight forward once we got on the train.  The WIFI wasn't as good as on the German trains, but that was OK.  We decided to end our train trip in Caen instead of Bayeux (which was closer to our Airbnb), because the Avis car rental company location was easier to get to.  It was a great decision because in Caen the Avis rental car location was a short walk from the train station and easy to find.

Fiat

In the end the drive from Caen to our place in Normandy worked out great. Deciding to get the rental car while we were in Belgium was a great decision as we would not have had a good time without it.

Drive In Normandy

Here are the full photos from Belgium to Normandy.

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