"One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Germany on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878." Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad


Weekend with Grandpa

Last weekend we had a very special visitor stop in. Grandpa came to visit us in Heidelberg on his way to meet his newly born granddaughter in the States. Even though our time together was short, we managed to pack in lots of Penelope-Grandpa time. Penelope was ecstatic to have another person to laugh at her antics and read books with.
Yes, these books are in Finnish (left behind by our friend Nina), of which we don't understand a word. We like to think of reading them as an exercise in creativity. Make up any story that you want from the pictures and Penelope never knows the difference.
"OH!" (Penelope's current favorite exclamation.) Grandpa's version must have been exceptionally interesting.
Before Grandpa arrived, I kept telling him how he would love the nice weather. Unfortunately, it was the hottest it has been this year the whole time he was here. Highs in the mid-80's probably don't seem too hot to you back in the States, but when you're outside most of the day and there isn't any air conditioning here and ice in your drinks is unheard of--that's really hot!
Fortunately there is a place on the Neckar where you can strip down and play in the freezing spring water.
A few minutes in the cold water and you basically lose all feeling in your toes.
The perfect antidote to a hot, summer day.
The next day we took a boat ride down the Neckar valley.
Penelope stayed entertained on the boat by sitting like a little lady in a big-girl chair.
We got off at the little town of Neckarsteinach.
It's known for its four castles perched on the hills above the town.
Back in October Penelope and I went on a trip with the University Guesthouse to Neckarsteinach where we hiked up to all of them. This time my travel companions weren't quite up to that task, but I did manage to convince Grandpa and the Father to hike up to two of the castles.
On our way up somebody thought it was a good idea to give Penelope two sticks to play with.
After nearly poking out both of our eyes, the sticks magically disappeared.
Castle in ruins
The joy of finally reaching the second castle.

What's a castle wall without a photo op?
At the castle gate.

Exploring the ruins.
Inside the castle courtyard.
View from the tower.
Quick snack.
After our hike we made a beeline for an ice cream cafe. We introduced Grandpa to the extravagant ice cream creations that Germans are so fond of. Penelope, however, was fascinated with the tingle of the mineral water in her mouth. She kept holding the water in her mouth, spitting it out, and then going back for more.
The next, and last, day of Grandpa's visit we took the Heidelberg funicular up to Königstuhl at the top of the mountain. Penelope got a front row seat.
Penelope is clearly not afraid of heights.

But she was a bit concerned by Grandpa's lack of hair.
After a bit of exploring and a picnic lunch up top, I had the brilliant idea of walking down the mountain. I mean hiking up would have been hard, but how hard could walking down be?
Hard. Especially when most of it were these steep, uneven stone steps. My calves are still aching from it.
Here is Grandpa afterwards. He's trying to smile, but really he's about to collapse from exhaustion. Penelope, on the other hand, is ready for the next adventure.
Our next adventure was hobbling to the closest Biergarten to watch the Germany/England World Cup soccer game. While we staved off dehydration with a few beers and cheered on the players, Penelope was content to play in the gravel.  
And when that got boring, there was always Grandpa's lap.
Thanks for a great weekend Grandpa! You did a great job putting up with my and mommy's shenanigans!
Love, Penelope


Neptune's Grotto

For our last day in Alghero (see these previous posts for the whole story of our Sardinian beach trip extravaganza) we took a boat to Neptune's Grotto. At the time we weren't too sure what it really was, but we had a good part of a day before we had to head to the airport to catch our flight home, and going to the beach and spending the flight home in sandy beach clothes wasn't incredibly appealing. Plus, if you start inquiring about the boat trips, it's sort of hard to get away from the boat guys. Before we knew it, they had carried our stroller with a sleeping Penelope onto the boat and were pushing the boat away from the dock.

Once Penelope woke up from her morning nap, she was in boat heaven. I'm pretty sure that if we would have let her, she would have taken over as the boat captain.

The problem with a boat ride and a toddler is that dangers abound everywhere--and that means having to keep a very curious, wiggly child semi-constrained at all times.

...Which didn't always go over too well... It was a wee bit difficult finding pictures for this post with a happy Penelope, because most of the time she was more focused on jumping in the water and swimming with the dolphins (pleeease mom!!) and dealing with our negative response than looking at the camera.

Ahoy! Land ahead!

Alghero is on the Northwestern side of the island of Sardinia. If you follow the coastline around to the very Northwest corner, you get to these cliffs that stick out into the sea. This part of the island is called Cappo Caccia.

(Look! Finally a quiet, sweet girl soaking in the scenery. Yes, we did have to eventually resort to the paci.)

There are lots of caves carved into the limestone rocks above and below the water. A big lighthouse is perched on top of the cliffs.

As we rounded the corner, it got even more impressive.

And the water turned a brilliant blue.

(I finally wised up and put the squirmy child in the Ergo carrier)

Still not too keen on the picture taking though--and it would have been such a great backdrop!

Finally we arrived at the famous 'Neptune's Grotto.' After the boat pulled up to the entrance of the cave, we got off the boat by walking on a plank that moved up and down with the waves (very scary with a baby strapped to your front!). Then the boat left us there to explore--I just hoped it would come back!

This marine cave system was discovered by fishermen in the 18th century. When you enter there is a large, clear-water lake that leads into a huge open cavern. When people first started visiting, the fishermen guides would row the tourists in little boats across the lake alit with little floating candles. So romantic! Now, there is a guide that leads you (and a hundred other tourists!) through the caves via stairs. Not quite as romantic. 

the entrance

The stalactite and stalagmite formations were amazing.

Penelope was a bit entranced by all of it.

And it kept going and going... It was much bigger and more impressive than either of us expected. This part reminded us of some cathedrals we had been in.

Penelope really liked the stalactites.

When we were done with the tour our boat was waiting for us. We hopped back on and enjoyed the ride back to Alghero. This time, we were a teeny bit more successful with pictures...

oops, side-tracked again


And then the subject started getting sleepy. Boat motors and rocking will do that to ya.

We pulled into the dock with a sleeping Penelope and thankful that some random Italian boat guys had talked us into taking this trip. The pictures don't quite do the cliffs, caves or blue water justice, but you get the idea.

So long Sardinia!

a kiss for daddy while waiting for our flight at the alghero airport to make up for all of her trying moments