So it's been quite an interesting few days for us. We got to BWI at 1:15pm on Sunday and had to wait around until 10:40pm to find out if we go on the flight to Ramstein, which we did. We were supposed to board the plane at 1:40am, but the crew wasn't there and they were fixing a valve on the plane.... So.... we FINALLY boarded the plane around 6:30am on Monday morning. We pretty much felt like Tom Hanks in the movie "Terminal" by the end of it. It was very eye-opening because there were probably 200+ people on the flight and at least 90% of them were military members in uniform, who were deploying. It was very hard to not imagine my Mark in one of those uniforms, sleeping on the floor in the terminal, waiting to board the plane to deploy. Experiencing something like that really puts things into perspective. Here we're all excited to get over to Europe for an awesome vacation, and these men and women - many of them our age - were going to a warzone for 4 months.... But the flight was good, except for the damn screaming kids (not crying, SCREAMING) and the 4 yo that sat behind me and kicked my seat when he got bored. Nice. The plane was decent - bigger seats than normal, more leg room and the food was decent. And they handed out hot towels before both of the meals. I felt pretty special.
We arrived in Ramstein, Germany 9:15pm here, which is 2:15pm there. We didn't have any hotel reservations and the car rental place wasn't open until the next day so we spent a good half hour trying to figure where we were going to stay and how we were going to get there. All of the close hotels were booked, but we finally found one about 20 miles away (read $75 taxi ride) from Ramstein AB (air base for you non-military people) at Sembach AB. Sembach was like a little TDY (temporary duty assignment - aka - mini deployment) base that was mainly a bunch of dorms. I'm really not sure what they did there. But the room was decent - 2 single beds with a shared bathroom. Sharing a single bed with Mark brought back memories of when we were in college and he had a single bed. Luckily we were both so tired we passed out quickly and didn't have any problems sharing the little bed. I'm pretty sure it's because we're used to sleeping with our two weina dogs so we only get that much of the bed on a normal basis anyway. =)
We got up at 7:30am on Tuesday not sure how we were going get to the car rental place or where we were going to spend the night in Paris, but we soon found out that Sembach actually had an Avis car rental place, but it was only open from 11am-1pm. So we walked around base, ate breakfast at the bowling alley, picked up some things at the commissary (grocery store) and then got on the internet and booked our hotel for Paris.
At 11am we got our rental car and loaded our junk into it and were on our way. (Note: we bought a Garmin GPS and the European software for it before our trip and that by FAR was probably the best $500 we ever spent, with exception to our weina dog #1.) The GPS worked GREAT, but Mark thought that it would be a good idea to put it on shortest distance mode, instead of fastest time mode, in hopes that that would save us on gas money. Wrong. It took us right through the middle of Paris... Literally took us about 2 hrs to go 20-25 miles. But we actually had a great time weaving in and out of the NARROW streets and CRAZY drivers. The motorcyclists around here are literally nuts. They ride in the middle of the roads on the lines, between cars, cut people off, go through lights, etc. It's insane! We had a good time watching them though. Mark is a genius when it comes to driving in crazy traffic. He did amazingly well in all the roundabouts and cars randomly pulling out and cutting you off. It was crazy.
We got to our hotel around 6:30pm. It's on the northeast side of Paris - away from all the hustle and bustle. It's little, but decent. The bed is really low, and there's not much to the room at all - a bed, 2 nightstands, a tiny desk with a lamp, a 8in TV and a little bathroom, but it was cheap and we're happy with it.
Our next challenge was to figure out how the heck to get back to downtown Paris by train, bc we sure as heck weren't about to drive back down there. The train station is about a 10 min walk from our hotel and then we have to take it to the metro station to get to the center of Paris. After studying the maps we had and a lot of blank stares, we finally figured it out. We made our way downtown and ate at a pizzeria and then went to see the Eiffel Tower at night, which was really neat. It was a lot bigger than I was imagining, and there were a bunch of guys underneath it trying to sell you things. They were annoying because they didn't take no for an answer but we managed to get out of there without buying anything.
We got back to our hotel around 1:15am, and now I'm ready to go to bed. Tomorrow we're going to rent bikes hopefully and see Notre Dame, the Pantheon, the Latin Quarter and possibly the Catacombs. Good times!!