Saturday, April 10, 2004

I finally have a few quiet moments to start blogging some of the details and photos of our adventures last week. Fred's brother Frank arrived on Thursday, April 1, with his family--wife (Teresa) and kids (Elliott and Ethan). As Fred was still in Kuwait until that evening on a last-minute trip, I went up to Frankfurt on my own to pick them up at the airport. I am pleased to report that I am getting quite handy at this driving-in-Europe thing.

We were blessed with amazingly nice weather for their first day in Europe, and we decided to take advantage of it by going over to Heidelberg. So we set off on streetcar number 5R for the circle tour to Heidelberg by way of Weinheim and home again over downtown Mannheim.

We walked through the pedestrian zone in Heidelberg, and I introduced them to the pleasures of Italian ice cream, which is quite the thing here in Germany. Mike and I favor a dish called Spaghetti Eiß--vanilla ice cream pushed through a pasta press so as to resemble noodles, served with strawberry sauce (which is the spaghetti sauce) and topped with either shaved white chocolate or slivers of coconut (for the parmesan cheese). Thursday's was topped with white chocolate and was especially tasty!

After we walked the pedestrian zone, we hiked to the castle high on the hill. Even little Ethan was able to climb all 300+ steps! Before we launched upwards to the castle, the kids were excited to play on a merry-go-round that we found in the square:

As we walked back up the Hauptstrasse, Frank and Teresa posed with the kids for a family picture in Europe:

Fred arrived home Thursday night shortly after supper, and we all got packed to set off on our whirlwind journey the following morning. We arrived at Legoland by train and bus in the midmorning Friday. Walking up to the front gate from the bus stop reminded me of the scene in National Lampoon's Vacation where they arrived at Wally World only to find it closed. I had figured that the place would be a mob scene, as it had just opened for the season the day before. But it was next to empty, which was perfect.

First we headed for the big rollercoaster, and Frank and I hung out with Ethan and Annabelle while braver soles ventured forth. Here they are playing on a Lego car as we waited for the rollercoaster riders:

After that, I took the 3 older kids on the spinning ride. As you can see from my triumphant expression, that is much more my speed than a rollercoaster. The kids seemed to enjoy it too, and as there was no line, we got to ride twice in a row without having to get off:

We mosied through the miniland on our way over to the Legoland Skyway. As always, the structures that they have created out of Lego are nothing short of amazing. As much as we had enjoyed them on our first visit (on our third day in-country last August), it was even more meaningful this time, because Mike and Annabelle were able to identify so many places that they have actually visited: "Look, there's the wooden bridge in Luzern! Look, there's the bombed out church in Berlin! Look at the Amsterdam canal houses!"

Here's a shot of Teresa and Frank with their kids on the Skyway:

After lunch, Mike got to have a 45-minute private lesson at the Mindstorms pavillion. Mindstorms are a branch of the Lego product line in which you build robots and program them to complete various tasks using the computer. If the park had been busier his private lesson would have been a group class, so this worked out much better for him. He had a blast and now knows what he wants for his birthday. Here he is with one of his robotic creation:

The only downside to our day at Legoland was the SNAFU with the bus and Teresa and Ethan feeling kind of rotten by the end of the day. Our hotel, however, was truly perfect: Hotel Gasthaus zur Post in Leipheim. We enjoyed a delicious dinner and were thrilled to tumble into our comfy beds.

Next post: Venice!

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