anecdotes

May we travel a lot?

It’s hard to believe May is going to be over in eleven days.  This morning, as I was looking at Facebook’s “On this day” feature, I noticed that May seems to be the month Bill and I most often choose for our adventures.  Even when we lived in the US, we always seemed to be in Europe in time for Eurovision.

Tomorrow, we leave for this year’s May trip.  We’ll be driving, so I’m going to take my laptop with me.  There will be blogging aplenty in the coming week-and-a-half.  Since my travel blog has been pretty quiet lately, I thought I’d take a look at some of our trips of Mays past.

2012–  Our very first military hop!

In 2012, Bill and I were living in North Carolina.  For years, I’d been bugging him about trying to take a hop somewhere.  My dad was an Air Force retiree and he and my mom took Space A flights several times when I was a kid.  I never got to go with them, though, so I wanted my turn.  In May 2012, Bill finally gave in and we drove from our home in Sanford, North Carolina to BWI near Baltimore.  That night, we were on a flight to Germany.

I was very excited because we’d lived in Germany from 2007-09 and I was pining for it.  We spent about $32 to get on the Patriot Express and by the afternoon, we landed at Ramstein.  I had never been to Ramstein before, so that in and of itself was exciting.  From Ramstein, we went to Cologne, where we spent a night.  Then I got a Blind Booking on Germanwings (now Eurowings), thinking that we’d get to go somewhere cool because the Cologne airport offered more choices.  We ended up with a flight to Munich.  No matter, though, because we had a blast.  We got train passes good for all of Germany and certain border areas, so while we were in Munich, we visited Salzburg.

Bill enjoying a Maibock at the Hofbrauhaus.

We spent three nights in Munich, then flew back to Cologne, where we hopped a train to Trier.  Trier is located very close to the Luxembourg border, so we were able to visit Luxembourg and get close enough to the French and Belgian borders to walk across if we’d wanted to.

A very pretty church in Rodanthe, Luxembourg, right across from a Portuguese restaurant where we had a cheap and delicious lunch.   Minutes after we passed this church, we ran into a hen party.  One of the women in the party was wearing a rubber phallus on her nose and an adult diaper.

That first trip was fairly short.  We were gone about a week.  But with that first success came bravery and we’ve since done two more “hops”.

2013– SeaDream cruise–Italy and Greece!

Back in November 2011, Bill and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary on SeaDream I.  That was our second cruise on the small luxury mega yacht and we had a great time in the southern Caribbean.  During that trip, we pre-booked another cruise and ended up choosing to visit Italy and Greece.  Although Bill and I visited Italy during our first Germany tour, we never made it to Venice, Florence, or Rome.  We also never went to Greece together, though Bill did get to go to Crete on a business trip.

Venice!

Amalfi coast from the ship.

 

Capri from the tender.

Because Bill had never been to the “holy trinity” of Italian cities, we made plans to see Venice and Florence on the way to Rome, which was where we’d be picking up our cruise.  On the other side of the cruise, we would spend a couple of nights in Athens.  Although I love SeaDream’s cruises and that particular one was a lot of fun, I ended up getting sick with a nasty cold.  We still managed to have a fantastic time.  I am wondering when our next SeaDream cruise will be.

2014– Our third military hop!

In May of 2014, we lived in Texas and Bill was preparing to retire from the Army.  Because he had terminal leave, we decided it was the perfect time to take another hop.  We had taken our second hop in January and ended up in Spain and Portugal.  This time, we were trying for Germany.

We got to Germany and stayed a night in Ramstein, where we met some Americans who had come from Belgium to play sports.  The Americans were based at SHAPE in Belgium and Bill ended up talking to them.  They gave him pointers on how to get us moved back to Europe.  I remember telling Bill that night that I had a feeling we’d be moving back to Germany.  Sure enough, weeks after we came home to the USA, Bill had a job offer in Stuttgart.

Boats in Nice

Lyon…

Beautiful sea in Nice!  Everything’s nice in Nice! 

On that trip, we visited Champagne country (Reims and Epernay), Dijon, Lyon, Nimes, and Nice.  While we were in Nimes, we visited an old American friend of mine from high school and college.  I hadn’t seen her since the 90s.  She’s lived in France for about twenty years and has three very French kids!  I loved Nimes and want to go back, not just to visit that city again, but to see some of the surrounding areas.  In fact, we very nearly decided to go back to France this year, but then I realized we’d not been to Slovenia yet and that’s been on my bucket list for awhile.

We really enjoyed Nice, though it’s quite a big city.  I’d love to go back there during the summer when swimming in the beautiful blue water is feasible.

From Nice, we flew back to Germany via Vienna, then took a day trip to Bacharach, on the Rhein.  We ran into some drunken fathers and sons at a biergarten.  Bill ended up talking to one guy who tearfully told us how the Americans had helped his family escape East Germany.  That really turned out to be a very special day…

Bill and me in Bacharach among many drunk German guys…

2015- Stuttgart

We didn’t go anywhere in May last year, though we did take trips in April and June.  I count it, though, because we had not yet been back in Germany a year as of last May and being in Germany still felt like a vacation.  Last May, we visited Triberg and Calw, two places I never visited during our first tour here.

Triberg…

Calw

2016- Austria, Italy, and Slovenia

Stay tuned for details.  I can hardly wait!  Incidentally, the first time we lived in Germany, we never took overnight trips to Austria.  This time, we keep going back there.  This will be our fourth time during our second tour!  On the other hand, last time we were here we went to Belgium and the Czech Republic several times.  This time, we’ve given those countries no love…  Ah well, maybe we’ll get back there next year.

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Hop dilemma…

So Bill and I really do want to take a hop.  It’s a good time to take one because he has all this time off and is still being paid.  However, he’s also still job hunting and probably should keep plugging away at that task.  There is no telling how long it will take for him to get work, though I hope his looming unemployment won’t go on for too long.

We’re trying to decide if we want to risk taking a trip.  If we do take one, he can still look for and apply to jobs as long as we have Internet access.  But what if someone wants to interview him?  Again, if it’s over the phone or even via Skype, he could probably do it if he had to.  But an in person interview might be tough… and then there’s the issue of the money we’ll be spending.  There’s food, lodging, and boarding the boys.  And there’s the fact that we want to get out of this house and that will involve spending money too.

We probably shouldn’t take a trip… but boy do we want to.  And the time is right, even if there are a number of issues that may make traveling unwise.  I want to go to England and Ireland in the worst way.  But I don’t want to be broke.  So we may have to wait on this plan…

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military hops, Space A

Tentative travel plans…

So Bill and I are seriously planning to take a trip somewhere… anywhere the military takes us, really.  We have a date on Saturday to take the dogs to a local “doggie camp”, where they will be “interviewed” and will hopefully pass the test so we’ll have a place to put them when we leave town sometime around the 10th.

We’ll either get a “hop” from Lackland Air Force base somewhere or we’ll take a commercial flight to Baltimore or Charleston, South Carolina and pick up a hop in one of those cities.  My money is on going to BWI, which has a dedicated terminal for military folks.  Last time we did this was in May 2012 and we ended up having a blast.  Taking a military hop is a crap shoot, though, because you never know if they’ll go off according to plan.  But then that’s part of the fun of the whole thing.  Last time we “hopped”, it cost about $40 round trip for transportation to and from Germany.

I have a feeling we’ll go to Germany again, even though we could also go to The Azores.  If we go to Germany, we may do another Blind Booking with Germanwings, which is a cheap airline in Germany.  We have done three blind bookings thus far and they have landed us in Barcelona, London, and Munich respectively.  Basically, you pay a cheap fare and end up going wherever they have tickets.  It’s a fun way to see Europe.  Last night, I was researching Manchester, England and trying to determine what we’d do on the off chance we ended up there.  That’s just one of many cities, though… We could go to Milan, Vienna, Salzburg, Lisbon, Zurich… the list goes on and on.

Or we could just go to Germany and stay there… or go to France by train.  It’s truly travel by the seat of your pants.

I worry that the weather will really suck during our trip, but I’m also really eager to get out of Texas for awhile.  And I know that soon we will not have as much liberal travel ability as we have right now.  We could wait and do this travel in a few months, when Bill is on “terminal leave”, but I think we will be more focused on getting Bill employed at that point and making sure we can pay our bills in the interim.

There’s a great military hop forum that recently switched to a new place.  It’s also gone from being a free site to a pay site.  I paid $39.95 for a “premium” membership last night.  I think it’s worth it.  The flight schedules are posted there as are trip reports and other handy tips.

My parents did a lot of military hops when they were younger and more mobile.  I’m guessing those days are over now for them… but Bill and I will enjoy them for as long as we can.

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The Azores…

As I sit here pondering the last year of Bill’s active duty Army career, I realize that soon he will likely have less leave for good trips.  He will also have lower priority for trips on military hops.  I have never been to Portugal.  Neither has Bill.  The Azores, which is a group of islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is part of Portugal.  It’s also stunningly beautiful.

Bill and I noticed that there are regular flights going to the Azores every week that usually have seats available.  Looks like they also have regular flights back to the US with seats available.  So last night, we were talking about visiting the Azores.  One of my friends lived in Portugal in the 1980s and visited the Azores.  He said it wasn’t a very interesting place to visit.  Having looked around on the Internet, I am inclined to disagree.  From what I’ve seen in photos, the Azores look like a cross between Hawaii and Ireland.  Parts of it are very green, with deep blue ocean and volcanos.  There are hydrangeas everywhere.  And anywhere there’s that much ocean, there is bound to be great seafood.

I have a friend who visited the Azores courtesy of a military hop.  She said when they visited, she and her husband were able to pick up some delicious port.  I am also a port fan.  I like laid back vacations, beaches, friendly locals, and unusual non-touristy places.

I don’t know if that’s where we’ll go next… I do think our next trip will probably be via a military hop, though.  We don’t have as much money in Texas as we did in North Carolina.  We will in February, when we’re done paying off my car… Then things will temporarily be better… but we will also be preparing for Bill’s retirement.  I was hoping we could take a good trip after he retired.  I think that a hop may be the best way to do that.

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