In an effort to see some old friends and maybe make some new ones, a few of us decided to have a mini meet up in Hannover. The German thought that a short weekend in Hannover would be the perfect first "family vacation" in which all three of us would sleep in a hotel.
It went . . . great!
Saturday morning we left for Hannover. We took the back roads and made really good time while enjoying the scenery. Just as the Dude had had enough of being in the car (two hours), we arrived at our hotel. The Hotel am Entenfang is actually outside of the city, but close to an SBahn that took us directly into the city. I would definitely recommend this hotel to families. Although not spectacular, our room was HUGE and clean, the reception was modern and airy. Everyone at the reception was very friendly and they put a crib in our room, and the breakfast the next day was fresh and filling.
We got a family package via the Hannover Zoo that was only 105 Euro for our room, breakfast, two tickets to the Hannover Zoo and a complementary bottle of mineral water. We arrived at 9:30am and thought we could at least park the car, but they let us check-in, drop off our bags and freshen up.
Off to the city we headed. We were met at the train station by Mausi and Dixie. Sadly, the rest of the gang (Jen, Alice and G) had to cancel at the last minute. "Should I take it personally?" the German asked. "No, sweetie, you know how it is; kids happen."
The four of us though walked and laughed and talked and were utterly charmed by the Dude. I was actually able to let go and just enjoy myself. If the Dude did not want to sleep, I considered it his problem. However, he is such a good kid, he took two 30 minute naps in his stroller; just enough to recharge his battery. First, we went to the park at the spectacular "new" Rathaus.
Lunch was scheduled at the Block Haus, which was just a short walk away. We went early as we were all starving! The restaurant was also super family friendly. The Dude flirted with the waitress and walked out with free toys!
As nice as the waitress was, she was also one of those Butt-in-skis who comes over to tell you how to parent your kid. The Dude still gets his pacifier as a soothing mechanism, and after he started to get fussy and I tried to finish my lunch, I popped it in. The waitress came over twice (!!) and took it out of his mouth and said, "Now don't you look better." I wanted to say, "It keeps him calm, but if you are comfortable with a screaming baby, so am I."
We headed to the Marschsee next and watched the carp fight over the rest of the Dude's breakfast roll. He got a real kick out of that; kept pointing "Oh! Oh!" As the four of us sat and enjoyed the sun and a beverage, I noticed smell coming from the stroller. Off in search for a changing table I went, but all I found was a shifty bathroom. When God gives you lemons . . .
I proceed to change the Dude while he was still strapped into his stroller. The back of the chair does not go all the way down, but I was able to pull out his butt and take off the diaper. Of course it was a big, stinky one. I used all of the wipes in my bag to get him and the stroller cleaned up. Two elegantly dressed women with large hats walked in. One of them actually wrinkled her nose when she saw the Dude's diaper. As I was about to get defensive, their dog walked into the bathroom and tried to sniff my crotch! That brought them down a notch.
After a lovely afternoon, it was time for us all to head our separate ways. We took the SBahn back to the hotel, and then came the biggest test of the weekend: How to Handle Bedtime.
Because the Dude has slept in his own room since he was 3 months old, I was not sure how he would handle being in a room with mom and dad. Neither of us wanted to go to bed with him at 7pm, which is his normal bed time. So we decided to let him roam the room as we sat on the beds watching TV. By 8pm, he needed to go to bed. We turned off all the lights and put him the crib and laid on our bed. The Dude stood up, stared at us and started crying. Do you blame him?
After 30 minutes, I decided to take a different tactic. The German got two beers and we went into the bathroom and closed the door. We drank beer and read the free newspaper. Within 10 minutes the Dude had gone to sleep. At 9pm I snuck back into the bedroom to go to sleep. Unfortunately, the German's snoring habit was a problem. He decided to take one for the team and sleep in the bathtub.
The Dude slept through the night no problem and I also got at least a good six hours. By 6am the Dude was awake, and I knew I would have to get up. I rolled over and saw the German. Huh? Turns out that the temperature of the bathroom kept going up and by 3am he could not take it anymore. I felt terrible that he did not come into the room earlier.
After showers and breakfast, we headed to the Hannover Zoo. I know that at a year-and-a-half the Dude cannot really appreciate it, but we wanted to do something as a family. It was so much fun!! The giraffes were the most impressive for the Dude, as well as the goats at the petting zoo. A 6 year old was terrified to go in, but our little one has no fear.
The Hannover Zoo is large. Between the feedings, shows, play grounds, boat tour and animals, you could easily spend a day there. But after lunch at 1pm we hit the road and headed home. The Dude slept the entire way.
It was, all around, one of the best ways to spend the 4th of July weekend, by making new memories with my family. There were no fireworks, but I could not have asked for more.