We went to Hawaii to celebrate my birthday. I turned the big 4-0, and wanted to take a trip to celebrate. Since I had never been to Hawaii, and beach vacations are always relaxing, a Hawaiian vacation sounded perfect. We stayed on two islands, Oahu and Maui. This post is about Oahu, and a second post will be about our time in Maui.
We traveled from Dallas to Honolulu, Oahu, and stayed in Honolulu for three nights. We arrived on a Sunday evening, so that day was a long travel day. My mother and stepfather traveled with us, so them and us (Michael, Gavin, and me), were all exhausted.
We didn’t have anything scheduled for our first day in Oahu. I figured we would be tired from the long day before, and not up for too much activity. So, we walked over to Waikiki Beach and checked out the beach, had a leisurely lunch, and did a little shopping.
On our second day, we went to Pearl Harbor. We went in the afternoon, and had plenty of time to see the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Bowfin submarine and museum. We didn’t go to the USS Missouri or the Pacific Aviation Museum. We didn’t want to schedule too much, since we were traveling with a three-year-old.
We had fun sightseeing in Waikiki, but only spent a couple of days there. I’m glad we spent some time in Honolulu because Pearl Harbor was special to see. Most of our trip was spent in Maui, where we spent a week.
We had a fun December. Getting ready for Christmas is always fun with Gavin. Hanging out with a three-year-old is a sure fire way to get into the spirit of the season.
We went to see Santa twice. Once at a Breakfast with Santa and once at the mall. Gavin does great with Santa. All smiles. So, we got two cute pics with Santa this year.
Now that Gavin is a little older, I wanted to start an Advent tradition with him. Since we read a lot of books, I thought a bookish Advent would be great for us. I wrapped up 24 Christmas and winter themed books, and Gavin opened one each night and we read it. I didn’t have a particular order for the books, so we read which ever one he picked. It was a fun new tradition for us, so I think we will continue to do it in the future.
While sitting in the pew, waiting for Mass to begin on Christmas Eve with Gavin, this happened:
Gavin: Ladies and Gentlemen.
Gavin: (a little louder) Ladies and Gentlemen.
Gavin: (holding Hymnal) Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to read you a story.
Me: (whispering) No talking. Be quiet or we’ll have to step outside.
Gavin: I’m talking to the Gentlemen.
Me: (whispering) That’s it. Let’s go.
Gavin: Sorry, Gentlemen.
Sometimes it’s hard to keep a straight face. As a side note, we were really early, so it was asking a lot for a three-year-old to sit in silence for that long, and still last through Mass. Also, fortunately the people around us were more amused than irritated by our chatty boy.
We had a very Merry Christmas, and enjoyed a relaxing end of 2017.
We had a very low-key November. We stuck to our favorite activities: parks, library, and staying in. I didn’t take any photos this month, except for our trip to Hot Springs, AR.
We went to Hot Springs for Thanksgiving. We enjoyed our time visiting with family, and we went on a few fun outings.
We did the National Park Duck Tour, which was a first for us. It was neat to ride through town and then out on the lake. It was one of those fun for one time things, so I doubt we will do it again.
Gavin also got to go on the lake when his Grandpa took him for a ride in a boat.
One of our favorite things was Garvan Gardens. They were decorated for Christmas, and it was spectacular. We went on the Friday night after Thanksgiving… we were not the only ones with that plan. We must have waited in the car line for 45 minutes before being able to park, and go wait in line to buy tickets. They were well organized and kept the flow going, but they were very busy. Due to the large crowds, they stayed open later so everyone would have enough time to see the decorated gardens. Michael and I had been to Garvan Gardens once before for the Christmas lights, but it was Gavin’s first time. We walked the entire gardens, and I think Gavin had a lot of fun looking at the lights.
One of our favorite stops while in Hot Springs is the Superior Bathhouse Brewery. They have a lot of beer on tap, and it’s always fun to try some new ones. The food is good, and we like to sit at the counter seats by the window and people watch while we enjoy our food and drinks.
We enjoy walking around downtown Hot Springs. The shops are fun to check out, and we like to go in the Arlington Hotel and see the gingerbread house. We always stop at the hot springs and marvel at how hot the water is. A fun town to wander around and enjoy a stroll and some people watching.
Halloween is one of my favorite times of year. It’s fun to dress in costumes and go out to celebrate, and it’s even more fun with a little kid. Gavin loved Halloween this year. He was really into all the spooky decorations. It seemed all the stores we shopped had ghosts and monsters on display, which Gavin thought was fun and it was all he wanted to talk about while we shopped.
We celebrated a few different Halloween events this year. First up was the library storytime. The kids could dress up and they received a free book. A fun event, and all the kids dressed up were really cute. Gavin dressed as an astronaut. He loves space stuff and we had bought the astronaut suit earlier in the year when we went to NASA.
Next was a Halloween event at a local brewery. We dressed as pirates, another of Gavin’s favorite pretend play characters. The event was fun, they were selling food and had live music.
The last Halloween event was trick or treating. We had planned to go as pirates, but the weather turned cold and rainy. Since Gavin’s astronaut costume was warmer than his pirate costume, he went as an astronaut. Michael and I usually wear something to coordinate with Gavin’s costume, so since he changed costumes, we did too. The family costume was an astronaut and two aliens. Gavin had a blast trick or treating, and he keeps talking about it.
Our October was kind of busy. We had fun going to different events and places, plus we started a home remodel project.
Early in the month, Gavin and I went to the Red River Revel with his Grandma and Grandpa. We had fun looking at the arts and crafts, and eating all the junk food.
Also early in the month, we went to Dogtoberfest. The combination of animals, beer, and family fun was irresistible. Lots of places that have animals for adoption were set up, and had animals with them ready to adopt. We’re not looking for any new pets, we already have two crazy dogs, but it’s nice to look at the animals and talk to the different rescue groups. The beer portion of the event was pretty good. They sold tickets for entry and you got 10 beer samples. Most of the breweries represented were from Texas, and lots of good craft beer is available in Texas. We enjoy trying new beers, and like events that offer different things we can’t find in the stores. The family fun portion was great for Gavin. They had a fire truck and firefighters there, and Gavin was able to get in the truck and talk with the fireman. He loved that. They also had face painting, which we tried, but she ended up painting his arm instead of his face because it tickled.
Speaking of firefighters, the library had a firetruck and firemen there one day at storytime this month. The kids got to talk to the firefighters, see what they wear, and get on the firetruck. One fireman put on his firefighting gear, which was a great way to introduce kids to a fireman in gear in a safe and friendly environment. A fireman in full gear (boots, pants, coat, gloves, mask, helmet, and tank) could scare young children that don’t know that is what firefighters wear. The firefighters were great about talking with the kids and letting them touch the gear.
Gavin went fishing for the first time. His Honey and Pappaw took him fishing, and I think they all had fun.
The weather was nice in October, so we went to parks a little more than usual.
One pretty day, Gavin and I went to the zoo. It had been a while since we went, and it was a fun outing. We walked around, looked at the animals, had lunch, shopped the gift shop (Gavin got binoculars), and played in the playground area.
Our home remodel project is in our living room. We hired someone to remove the paneling and built-ins, and put up drywall. We did not have new built-ins installed. I’ll post photos of the finished room in a future blog post. For now, here’s what it looked like while under construction.
We celebrated Halloween a few times. Gavin dressed as an astronaut for the library Halloween storytime and we dressed as pirates for a Halloween event at a local brewery. For trick or treating, Gavin dressed as an astronaut and Michael and I were aliens.
Our September was really quiet. We stayed in a lot and enjoyed our home. We swam in the pool, played outside, read books, built things with LEGOs, and just had fun. We did get out and go to storytime at the library each week and visited a few parks.
The East Texas State Fair was this month, so Gavin and I went to check it out one day. I think his favorite thing was a kiddie pool with magnetic fish to catch with a little rod and magnet. I had a hard time getting him away from that activity, but he had fun with some of the other stuff too… there was a robot that he was really interested in and the petting zoo is always fun.
We did have some sad news this month, Michael’s father passed away. There was a nice Celebration of Life visitation. Thank you to our friends and family who were able to make it.
Happy Almost Fall!
Our August was fun and relaxing! Gavin celebrated his birthday in early August, and we took him to Dallas for a couple of days to have some family fun. I wrote about our Dallas trip here. We were home on Gavin’s birthday, so we celebrated the day with lots of pool time and by going out to eat.
For the solar eclipse, we went to the local science place. They were handing out viewing glasses and had a few informative and fun activities. Gavin had fun, but he didn’t really understand the whole solar eclipse thing. We also went to the science place another day when it was less crowded. Gavin loves playing with the different activities they have available for kids to learn new things.
A new bookstore opened in town at the end of the month. Of course, we were there on opening day and managed to find a few books to buy. I got a lot of reading done in August, and have started reviewing books.
We also spent a lot of time at home this month. We enjoyed the pool on nice days. We played with toys inside when it was too hot or too rainy.
Gavin turned three years old earlier this month! To celebrate, we took a short trip to Dallas to do some fun stuff. We spent two days (one night) doing fun-filled activities with Gavin. We went to the Legoland Discovery Center in Grapevine and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in downtown Dallas.
We drove over on a Wednesday morning and did Legoland Discovery Center, which is in the Grapevine Mills mall. That took a few hours for us to do everything and give Gavin plenty of time to play. He was too young for a couple of the activities, but he did play in the Duplo Village and with the earthquake tables, walked around the Miniland, rode two rides (Merlin’s Apprentice and Kingdom Quest), and saw the 4D movie. They have a coffee shop inside, so we had a snack break while we were there. Of course, Gavin got a couple of new Duplo sets on the way out. Lego Duplos are his favorite toy, so we knew he would have tons of fun with all the Lego stuff.
When we left the Legoland Discovery Center, we walked through the mall to the Rainforest Cafe for a late lunch (okay food and service). It’s a fun restaurant to eat in, and we all enjoyed looking at the animals. We didn’t shop the mall, but it was busy and seemed to have a lots of good shopping options. Okay, I may have dragged Michael and Gavin in the Books-a-Million, but that was the only store we shopped. After the mall, we went to check into our hotel and rest a bit. After getting our second wind, we headed out for dinner – we ate at the Uncle Buck’s Brewery & Steakhouse (okay food, great service) that is part of the nearby Bass Pro Shops. We spent the night in Grapevine, and stayed at the Hyatt Place near the mall. We were exhausted after a very full day of activities!
We headed to the museum on Thursday morning. The Perot Museum of Nature and Science was very nice! Gavin had fallen asleep on the drive to downtown, so we put him in his stroller (he’s really too big for it, but we’re still making it work) and Michael and I enjoyed looking at some of the exhibits that wouldn’t have been much interest to Gavin. Those were the exhibits on the second and third floors that were about discovering life, being human, engineering, energy, and minerals. We woke him up to go to the fourth floor, which were the exhibits on space and dinosaurs. After seeing the fourth floor exhibits we went to the children’s museum on the lower level. We spent a lot of time in the children’s museum while Gavin played and explored. This area of the museum was designed for kids under the age of five, and has a wonderful selection of activities for the little ones to learn and play.
After we left the museum, we drove over to the Spaghetti Warehouse (good food, great service) and had lunch. It was a good restaurant choice for us because Gavin loves pizza and pasta.
It was a busy two days, but lots of fun. Gavin really enjoyed the Legoland Discovery Center, and I think it’s somewhere we will take him again. The same is true for the museum. We’ll definitely be going back. They had an amazing selection of hands-on activities for older kids, so I think Gavin would really love it in a few years.
Happy Dog Days of Summer!
Our July was great! Early in the month, we went to Germany. We stayed in Heidelberg for a week and had so much fun! I already wrote about our trip, so for more about what we did and tons of photos, click here and here.
Michael’s birthday was in July. We celebrated by hanging out at home around the pool and going out to eat.
With our big trip early in the month, we took it easy the rest of the month. We took Gavin to see Despicable Me 3, and Michael and I went to see Wonder Woman. We did a lot of swimming and relaxing around the pool. Gavin and I went to the Center for Earth and Space Science Education to watch a couple of shows in their dome theater – Astronaut and Ocean Wonderland. I worked in the flower beds around the house. I’m working on the area around the pool. That’s about it for our July 2017.
Last week I wrote Part 1 of our Heidelberg trip. It included information on our day in Frankfurt, where we stayed in Heidelberg, and restaurants we visited. This post is all about the sightseeing we did while in Heidelberg. We stayed a week in Heidelberg, and had plenty to do and see while we were there. Since we were traveling with a toddler, we didn’t want to cram our schedules with lots of activities. So, we took our time sightseeing, but we did see everything we wanted to see.
We stayed on Hauptstrasse, the main pedestrian street in the heart of Old Town. With that great location, we were able to walk everywhere we went. We didn’t want to worry with renting a car, so we had planned on relying on public transportation. We did take a bus when we first arrived in Heidelberg, and we took a cab on our last day, but otherwise we walked. The sights we wanted to see were all located in or near the Old Town (Altstadt) area.
Heidelberg Castle (Schloss Heidelberg)
The castle ruins are probably the most popular sightseeing thing to do in Heidelberg… and they are definitely worth visiting! We spent one day visiting the castle. We walked up to the castle so we could see more of the area surrounding it. Turns out, it’s a pretty good hike, so we got a workout that day. They do offer a train that goes to the castle, so I recommend taking it to avoid the hike. However, if you’re up for a workout and the weather’s clear, the walk up to the castle was nice… and not at all crowded.
Construction of the castle began before the 1300s. The part of the castle that remains today was finished before the 1650s. Unfortunately, lightning strikes and wars destroyed portions of the castle, leaving the ruins that remain today. I think they offer guided tours that allow visitors into part of the interior of the castle, but the only interior areas we saw were the wine barrel building, museum, and gift shop. The grounds of the castle are beautiful, so take time to walk around and see more than just the castle.
The Heidelberg Tun, or the World’s Largest Wine Barrel, was built in 1751 by Prince Elector Karl Theodor. It stands 23-feet tall and is 28-feet wide. The barrel holds 58,124 gallons of wine! The barrel was used to hold wine paid as taxes by the local wine growers. It no longer holds wine. The room where the barrel is housed has a staircase that you can climb and walk over the barrel. On top of the barrel is a dance floor.
Apothecary Museum (Deutsches Apotheken Museum)
Located in the Heidelberg Castle. This apothecary museum was very interesting! The museum has different rooms that display the history of pharmacy, including a pharmacist’s office, a laboratory, numerous pieces of equipment, plus over 1,000 raw drugs that were used in the 17th-19th centuries.
Castle Illumination and Fireworks
The town of Heidelberg hosts the Castle Illumination and Fireworks three times a year – June, July, and September. The illumination of the castle symbolizes when the troops of Sun King Louis XIV torched the castle in 1689 and 1693, leaving the ruins that remain today. After the castle illumination, fireworks are shot from the Old Bridge. This tradition is based on when the Elector Friedrich V arranged a fireworks display in 1613 to welcome his bride, Elizabeth Stuart, to Heidelberg.
Old Town (Altstadt)
The Old Town of Heidelberg includes Hauptstrasse, the University area, and the Old Bridge. This is the oldest part of the city, and has a wonderful mixture of historic sights, with the modern convenience of shopping and restaurants.
The main street through the Old Town. Hauptstrasse is a mile-long pedestrian zone. We stayed on this street, and most of the shops and restaurants we visited were on this street.
Karl Theodor Old Bridge (Alte Brucke)
The current Old Bridge was built in 1786. This is not the original bridge built here, but it is the first bridge of stone. The other eight bridges that once stood here were all built of wood and destroyed by floods or war. The bridge crosses the Neckar River and connects the Old Town to the Neuenheim district of the city.
The bridge has two sculptures on it, Prince Elector Karl Theodor and Roman goddess Minerva. Karl Theodor had the bridge built, so a monument stands in his honor. The other sculpture was dedicated to Minerva, goddess of wisdom, because Theodor was a supporter of the arts and sciences.
The medieval bridge gate on the Old Town side of the bridge was once part of the city wall. The two towers were once used as a guardhouse and jail.
On the Neuenheim district side of the Old Bridge is a Love Stone (Heidelberger Liebesstein) with Love Locks attached to it. Apparently, people sometimes attach locks to the Old Bridge, and the city was afraid of potential damage the locks could cause. For a compromise, the city had this monument put up, and people can attach locks to it. A love poem is engraved into the stone, plus the center of the monument has a hole for photo opportunities.
Bridge Monkey (Brückenaffe)
The history of a Heidelberg bridge monkey dates back to the 15th century. The current sculpture was built by Gernot Rumpf and installed in 1979. The bronze monkey is holding a mirror, and is supposed to symbolize that the city people are no better than those outside the city, and they should look over their shoulder when leaving the city to remember that. It’s a popular tourist attraction, and has a couple of superstitions associated with it. Supposedly, if you touch the monkey’s fingers you will return to Heidelberg one day, if you touch the mirror you will receive wealth, and if you touch the mice located next to the monkey you will have lots of children.
Market Square (Marktplatz)
This busy square is located between the Church of the Holy Spirit and the Town Hall. This square has a interesting history because of the many public proceedings that were held here. Some of the things done in this square included burning witches at the stake and putting petty criminals in cages to be tormented by the locals. In addition, it was the market square, where fruits, vegetables, flowers, meats, and crafts were sold. Markets still take place a couple of times a week. During the warm weather months, like when we were visiting, the square is full of tables and chairs set our by the nearby restaurants. In the center of the square is a fountain of Hercules.
Church of the Holy Spirit (Heiliggeistkirche)
The Church of the Holy Spirit is located next to Market Square. The foundations of the current Gothic church were laid in 1398. Over the years, the church has been used by Catholics and Protestants. It is currently used by Protestants.
Corn Market (Kornmarkt)
This once served as a market square and is still used today. One day we were there, the square was full of people selling crafts. In the center of this square is a Madonna statue. The statue was placed here in 1718 by the Jesuits.
This arch was built built 1775-1781 to honor Elector Karl Theodor.
Jesuit Church (Jesuitenkirche)
The Jesuit Church was built between 1712-1759, with the bell tower added in 1872. We could see this church from our apartment… it was at the end of the road directly across from the apartment we rented. This church is still used by Catholics.
This building was constructed during the early 16th century and is one of the oldest buildings in Heidelberg. It was originally built as an arsenal, but has had various other uses over the years, including use as stables, military barracks, and a hospital. The interior has been redesigned over the years, depending on the purpose of the building. It is currently part of the university and houses dining halls.
Old University (Alte Universitat)
Heidelberg University was founded in 1386. The Old University building houses the university museum and the Great Hall. The building was constructed between 1712 and 1728. The university museum displays cover the university’s history from it’s founding up until the end of the 20th century. The Great Hall was beautiful to see. This auditorium was redesigned in in 1886, in honor of the university’s 500th anniversary. The auditorium is currently used for ceremonies and special events.
Student Prison (Studentenkarzer)
The student prison is located behind the Old University. The prison was established in 1778 and was used until 1914. Though it was an official jail, it was less formal than most jails. For instance, the students were allowed to attend classes, as long as they returned to jail after class. The walls of the prison are covered in writings and artwork (i.e., graffiti) done by the student prisoners.
University Library (Universitatsbibliothek)
The university library’s history dates back to the 1380s, when the university started to acquire book collections. The current library was built in 1905 using the Renaissance style of the castle as influence. This library contains more than 3 million books and is one of the most used libraries in Germany.
St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche)
The oldest church in Heidelberg. No documentation states exactly when the church was constructed, but is was sometime during the 12th century. This church is near the University Library and it serves as the university church. Protestant services are currently held here.
Königstuhl Funicular (Bergbahn)
A train that goes up to Königstuhl. The train leaves Kornmarkt, and has three stops: Heidelberg Castle, Molkenkur, and Königstuhl. Molkenkur is a transfer station, so you have to get off the train from Kornmarkt and walk over to another train to take you up to Königstuhl. We didn’t explore this area, so I’m not sure what all they have to offer here.
King’s Throne (Königstuhl)
Part of the Odenwald Mountains that offers great views of Heidelberg. While we were riding the train, we saw a few people paragliding from the top of the mountain. Once we reached the top, one person was preparing to paraglide, so we stopped to watch the action. There are several hiking trails here. We walked on one trail for a little while to see some of the area.
River Cruise on Neckar River
This was our only excursion from Heidelberg. We took the three-hour river cruise that went to Neckarsteinach and back to Heidelberg. We sat on the sun deck and enjoyed a beautiful day of sightseeing… while giving our feet a rest! The cruise we were on offered food and drinks for sale, so we had a late lunch aboard the ship. The ship boarded at Heidelberg and had stops in Neckargemünd and Neckarsteinach. Neckargemünd is a small town that has the charm of a 17th century village. Neckarsteinach is best known for having four castles, all of which are visible from the river. The castles were built between the 1100s and 1335. The castles are Vorderburg, the Mittelburg, the Hinterburg, and the Schadeck. The Vorderburg is the oldest of the castles, it is privately owned and not open to the public. The Mittelburg was built around 1200, and is also privately owned and not open to the public. The Hinterburg was built around 1220, and has fallen to ruins over the years, but it is open to the public. The Schadeck was the last castle built, and is also in ruins and open to the public.