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November 12-13, 2004

Despite the German winter weather, we took advantage of our four day Veteran's Day weekend (shortened to two days since Joe ended up working Thursday and Sunday) by driving to Berlin. It was a six hour LONG drive, but in our Lexus, it was a comfy ride. We stopped often to give Chance a break from his car seat. The hotel we stayed at was the same one we had stayed in three years ago...before we were married and before our adorable Chance brightened our lives. What we liked about this hotel was that it was walking distance to the train station, the zoo and to the main city street, Kurfurstendamm.

After we settled into our room, we took Chance, bundled up in layers, for a long walk along Kurfurstendamm in his baby backpack. He seemed to enjoy watching all the hustle and bustle of the city. Kurfurstendamm is lined with many upscale and popular stores for the serious shopper, and for the avid tourist, lots of daily bus tours hitting all the major sights. At the Gedachiniskirch (church), we saw people decorating the city's Christmas tree and setting up wooden sheds for the annual Christmas Market. With all the holiday decor along the stores and street, it felt like Christmas was already here!

We got hungry, so we returned to our hotel after walking for two hours. After we freshened up, we headed to the Hard Rock Cafe, located only a few feet from our hotel. What was so neat was that we were given the same booth where we ate three years earlier. It was our unfortunate luck that several live bands were conducting sound checks and we were located right at the front of the stage. It was loud and obnoxious! Joe was concerned with Chance's hearing, so we moved to a table far away from the stage. We ended up near the front door at a table where people usually wait to be seated! It was obvious, Chance was mad at us for moving since he kept turning his body toward the stage! Despite the inconvenience, we had great American food.

Our night didn't end there as we should have known when travelling with a baby. We were given a huge playpen and a matching fluffy pillow and blanket for Chance. We covered one side of the playpen with a light blanket so he could not see us...well, it turned out to be a game of peekaboo. Chance was so excited, he didn't want to go to sleep. We would see his head peep out on top from one end of the playpen. Then he would duck down, move to the other end, and stick his head out on top to watch us. Joe and I pretended to sleep while trying to hold back our laughter! It was so cute and hilarous to watch Chance playing "peekaboo" from one corner of the playpen to the other for a good 30 minutes! Finally, he dozed off!

The next day started off with our favorite feature of the hotel. Breakfast served in our room! This was two trayfuls of food that included hardboiled eggs, scrambled eggs, bacon, plate of different cheeses, yogurt, fruit salad, 2 baskets of different types of brotchen, orange juice, a pot of coffee and hot much food that we couldn't finish it! A huge convenience especially when you just want to relax in the morning with a baby!

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Around 2 pm, we found a popular tour bus on Kurfurstendamm that took us to the major Berlin sights for 18 Euros each. We had the option of getting off at any of the 14 stops and getting back on another bus at our convenience. The baby backpack proved to be very useful. Although November is considered low season for tourists, the tour buses can still get packed pretty quick. We got off at Check Point Charlie to gets some photo ops. It was chilly and crowded with tourists. Nevertheless, Joe and I felt adventuresome, so we walked down several blocks rather than taking the bus to the next sight. What used to be East Berlin is now a modernized, sleek row of office buildings and ultra expensive stores.

We stopped at a Japanese restaurant to feed Chance (he tried some miso soup!!!) and to get a quick bite...Japanese food is very pricey anywhere you go! When we resumed our walk and reached the street where it would lead us to Brandenburger Gate, it started to rain! We were disheartened because we didn't bring an umbrella or a rain shade for Chance. So we waited it out. At one point, it started to hail as we watched unbelievably from under cover! The precipitation lasted about 15 minutes before the sky cleared up again. Typical crazy German weather!

We finally reached our destination, Brandenburger Gate! When Joe and I visited three years ago, it was covered by a sheet and under construction. I was so disappointed. The last time I saw it was with my parents and brothers in 1984 when we visited East Berlin. For some reason, this gate has stood out in my memory for many years. Having both Joe and Chance there made the experience even better! We finally decided to call it a day since we had six long hours of driving ahead of us. Berlin has so many historcial sights (such as Reichstag, Potsdamer Platz, parts of the Berlin name a few) that it's impossible to explore it all in two days with a baby in tow. This gives us an excuse to return and hopefully spend more days in this beautiful city!

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