26 March 2009

Home again, home again...

Back from the States to our Berlin home.

We actually got back Wednesday morning (plane touchdown at 9 am, arrived at apartment at 10:30) but since we left for the airport in Orlando at 9 am the day before we were a bit tired when we arrived.

It was an epic return, of sorts. We had mistaken the time of our departure on Tuesday by an hour (earlier, not later, which was unfortunate). The day before, the German had run off to Downtown Disney to exchange some Cinderella shoes (size marked incorrectly) and to pick up a Dornroschen dress and because the time was not listed on the website (and no one answered the phones at the store when we called) we didn't realize that they were open until 11 pm while Tar-jey was open only until 10 pm, missing our window of opportunity to return some items there.

So we packed all night (discovering that there were two driers in the house because neither actually worked- made me think of you, Diane :-)). Then we set the alarm for 8 am, and when I checked our flight schedule again, discovered the discrepancy. Oops. We ran around like mad while our friends, who left about an hour later and were domestic not international, looked at us. Then we dashed to Tar-jay where I returned items (a wrong size swim suit for Dad, unopened bottled juices and Mott's for Tots, etc) and the German picked up two cheap duffles to carry our overflow.

Then we ran to Lenscrafter's to pick up my glasses. We had gone there on Monday and gotten my prescription done. Strangely enough, the dr. found no astigmatism in my right eye, unlike Fielman's. Perhaps that explains why I kept having a hole in my field of vision in my right eye as Feilman's insisted that I had a severe astigmatism there?

It was such a relief to have a prescription that worked. When I told the dr. about my problems here I said that I felt that I was giving the wrong answers to the dr. here and I was grateful to be tested again with the US tests that I have been used to since my first pair of glasses (about 40 years ago...) and when I described the tests here he was astounded. Said that he hadn't used or seen those tests seen he was an intern, that they were not used in the US as they gave poor results. So now I know. He also dilated my eyes and checked their structure. We chose a new pair of frames and then ate lunch at Panera Bread (man, I love their Greek dressing. I now have a bottle in the refrigerator).

While we waited for my appointment, we took the kids to KoolKuts, where they both had their hair trimmed and both for the first time. The hairdresser was terrible, but the kids had a great time (and I was so afraid that Thing1 would have hysterics- she didn't want a cut) and sat in trucks with seatbelts while watching videos. Since it was just a "trim", the fact that it was uneven wasn't so bad. At least the ends are healthy now and we will find a place in Berlin to even it out in a few months.

After we got my glasses (no time for any adjustment) and filled the gas tank we lit out (as much as one can in a Sienna LE with two small children) for the airport.

I thanked the Lord aloud when we got to curb side and saw that Orlando allowed international curbside check-in (JFK does not).
We got a skycap and unloaded:
  • 7 suitcases and 1 duffle to be checked.
  • 2 car seats to be checked.
  • 1 double stroller, check at gate
  • two backpacks, adult
  • 1 purse
  • 3 carry on duffles
  • 2 kids' rolly back packs (Disney princess')
  • 1 kid's back pack, small, Tinkerbell
  • assorted foods and drinks to be swallowed or discarded before security
  • 1 case of Passover matzah to be hand carried
  • 1 Costco size carton of Goldfish (cheddar)
What a great skycap. He took our passports and went off to handle everything while the German ran to return our minivan rental ($424 for 8 days versus lowest offer of $1400 when we called all the companies ourselves: I love you Priceline!). The skycap even came back after giving me all our tickets and claimchecks to see if he could help me through security, but I told him the German wouldn't be able to find us (only 1 American SIM between us). (I had tipped him quite well.) We arrived at the curb at 10:58.
The German came back and we were 35 minutes before our flight (per the car receipt of 11:18 and 7 minutes for him to get back). Also fortuitously, the security line was light (flying on a Monday at noon) and we went in the family line and moved quite expeditiously. Everyone was just so nice. We grabbed a monorail to our gate area (it's a hub and spoke design in Orlando which never leaves you too far from your gate) and we actually arrived at our gate after boarding had started but before our zone had been called.

Can you imagine my relief when we actually got settled into our seats? There was a "deadhead" airline officer sitting behind Thing1 who was helping settle carryons in (the plane had the "extended" overheads, which was nice. Then nothing but calm (and giving the kids toys to play with).

We had a 5 hour layover at JFK and it was all fine. We piled our masses of stuff at the gate and made forays out for food and bathroom visits. The kids played fort under the stroller and bags and Thing1 sat for a while in the window and drew (she is really great) while T2 napped in my arms and then the German's (she is too heavy for me!). The German and I were both a bit ill (stomache and head) but we survived.

It was amazing to me to see the calorie counts listed on the display menus of all the fast food places. This policy (is it NY only?) must be making a dramatic difference in eating habits. I know that it made one in mine as I considered what I wanted to order and I am a relatively sophisticated consumer who has actually requested calorie counts before! I think it's great and that it should be required everywhere.

As we boarded our plane (pre-boarding for folks with small children who need extra time- first plane since I have had kids to do that) I heaved a sigh of relief. Not least because they had changed our planes and instead of sitting 2x2 we were 3x1, which meant that I would be able to catch a few zzz'z myself:).

An interminable trip, with the kids eating only cookies and fishies, but relatively calm and quiet. The girls slept the last 4 hours and didn't wake up until we woke them after landing.

We gathered our things at Tegel. It took two luggage carts (important tip: American quarters work in SmartKarte slots), we dragged out our winter coats (I had put jeans on in the plane) and we trudged like overladen sherpas through the Zoll. I looked at the beamtor looking at our luggage and I could see him blanch. As he pulled over a perfectly inoffensive German with a single small bag, I could almost read his thoughts:" No way do I want to deal with that!".

The special large taxi/van home and within 40 minutes all our luggage was inside (the elevator worked!), a modicum of bags unpacked, our teeth brushed and the kids were in the bath. I love Tegel.

We then went to sleep for 5 hours, picked up Chinese for dinner, and had a late night again (hard getting the kids to sleep). Then a lie in today with several loads of laundry and lots of tidying (it rained- it's how I recognize Berlin:)). Kids had another bath, left-overs, and they are still wandering around like ghosts every few hours, although we put them down at 8 (at 11:45 the two just wandered past on the way upstairs to go to bed in "Mama's bed").

I hope to get some posts about the trip up over the weekend: not because I think it's so interesting to everyone else, but because I love my blog as a form of journaling with search capability and photos.


honeypiehorse said...

Wow. Epic trip. Welcome home and congratulations on the glasses. It's weird, everyone but about 10 people in Germany need corrective lenses, I wonder how you stumbled onto the guy stuck in the 70s.

G in Berlin said...

Bit it wasn't just a guy- it was three separate guys (and a woman) at Fielman's, a chain just as big here as Lenscrafters at home. Although A out in Duehlman says she didn't have this type of eye exam out there in the West....
It was very exciting today as I drove with my glasses for the first time and realized that I could read street signs from far, far away! Now I realize how bad "legal to drive" is versus having corrected vision (the whole reason I started trying to get glasses in January, when we got the car).

Anonymous said...

I'd also like more information of the type of test they gave you at Fielman's. I had my own difficulties with eyeglasses at an hour place here in Utah similar to Lenscrafters. Had to have a new exam at the University's Eye center where the Rx was very little changed--not even enough to warrant new lens. The first place made the Rx far too strong. Eye exams are an art, not a science. Glad you're pleased with your new ones. As for me I'll never go to an optician again.

J said...

Wow, what an ordeal!

A few comments:
"1 Costco size carton of Goldfish (cheddar)"

I just about spit my tea on the screen laughing when I read this. I'm glad it's not just me who loves cheddar Goldfish.

Eye exam:

I went to an actual optometrist instead of having my eyes examined at Fielmans and haven't had an problems with the prescription.

Family line at the airport? This is the first of time I've heard of that. Is it normal in the US nowadays?

Welcome back.

G in Berlin said...

Hi all.
Wintersong: It was a very strange test, with a circle comprised of multiple spots in different shades. They switched from circle to circle asking me which was "clearer". Apparently my answers produced a huge astigmatism in my right eye which does not actually exist.
J: We love the Goldfish:). Yes, it's been around for a while. I actually read the TSA blog and therefore know the theoretical basis but in actuality it's been in place since at least last February (14ish months)when we were last in Orlando:). It's based on ski trails, with green being family and black diamond being "expert" or frequent business travelers. Sometimes one self-selects the line but in our case, when they see us coming, they wave us that way:). I think it works very well.

The Honourable Husband said...


Yes, the calorie count is an NYC ordinance. They wouldn't dare do that in the heartland!

By the way, I tried to drop you a line about your summer trip south via your blog, but I suspect that your brush with robocomments has made you a bit wary of including an email link. By all means, drop me a line via my blog--which now has its very own URL. There's link from my old one.