Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Day by the Lake

The weather is somewhat nice, it's a Saturday, and there is a big lake with two beaches nearby. Needless to say, we joined our neighbors, jumped on our bikes, and rode a couple of miles through the forest to the Unterbacher See. Even though the temperatures were not scorching hot, it was a perfect place for kids. A beach with a water play area, shallow water and life guards. 
 Sophie and her friend Andrés spent three hours in the water and on the beach.

What a perfect afternoon in fun company.
The kids were so tired by the end of it that they fell asleep in their bike seats on the way home. 

Did I mention that there is a nudist beach right next to the beach we went to? Had a not so nice view of some fat old Germans airing out their jewels. The hot young guys must not have been out that day. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Oh Say Can You See...?

... is that an American flag I spot over there right on the Burgplatz in the Old Town of Duesseldorf?
"Vote From Abroad," sponsored by the Democrats is doing a bus tour through Europe to get US citizens living abroad to register for the elections. And they passed through the metropolis of Duesseldorf today. Enough reason to don the rain gear and make the trip downtown.
 If nothing else, it felt really uplifting to be speaking to fellow Americans for a few moments. Sophie and I had our picture taken and were filmed and interviewed twice once for the Vote From Abroad You Tube video and once for the local German TV station. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to watch it a few days later. 
Afterwards, I promised Sophie and myself some ice cream. We tried another parlor on the top five list. Huge portions of creamy gelato. Yum.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

G5 Summit in Geldern

Cousins Talea and Thore were spending a week with Oma in Geldern and the two other cousins Luca and Kiron were going to be dropped off as well this weekend. So we thought it would be a brilliant idea to add Sophie to the mix. After all, Talea needed some more girl support. In order for Oma not to get a complete nervous breakdown, Berit and I stayed around to help. But the kids actually entertained each other very well.
 Two princesses and a knight
 OK, so one evening Berit and I were able to escape to watch one of the football euro cup games (Germany : Greece) on the big screen. 
 Like a production line
 Special movie treat while Thore is napping. At one point, Sophie had her arm around Talea.
 Yes, who would have ever thought? I actually started knitting. My ultimate goal is to knit the Royal Family. 
No comment. 

It was definitely a very fun weekend. This here is a huge reason why we moved to Germany. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Puppet Show, Gelato and Playground

Sophie and I had a special afternoon out to the puppet show (there is an excellent one here in Duesseldorf:
 We watched "Cowboy Billy and the Singing Pony." Very well done, adorable little theater, perfect for little people like Sophie. We will definitely be back.
 How convenient that there was an ice cream parlor just across the street from the theater. It looked a bit crummy from the outside, but their flavors were a cut above many of the other's. I found my favorite there: panna cotta crunch! (We have already been back since.)
 And even more convenient, a large playground just down the block. The local kids' club had provided extra toys for the children to play with. 
 This was just a split second before she fell off this vehicle. 
Fürstenplatz, Friedrichstadt, Düsseldorf

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More Sophie Photography

I found a couple more pictures taken by Sophie on my phone.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Strawberry Fields Forever

A friend of mine from my old college days in Munich, but who has been living in Minneapolis, was passing through Cologne for a couple of days on her way to Corsica. We have not seen each other since our wedding, so with Birgit's help, we rented a car and drove down to Cologne to see her (Uta) and her two boys Lukas and Dominik.
 Uta's family in Cologne had thought of the ideal activity for the kids and us: strawberry picking. I have to say, it has been ages for me and it was a first for Sophie. 
 Here is Dominik and Sophie showing their harvest so far.
 Sophie trying to catch up with Lukas. 
After the hard labor there was still some time to play lego and football in the garden, while Uta and I were catching up on the past few years.

These strawberries were turned into strawberry jam with black pepper and fresh mint. Yummy!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Very Special Guest

Back in Duesseldorf, Andrew back to work, back to routine - except that we had a very special visitor coming from a long way away. My very good friend Birgit was in Germany for a couple of weeks on a visit from Australia. She managed to add a few days to her business trip and spent them with us. 
 One day we went to Duesseldorf's largest book fair right on the Königsallee. At one stand, they were giving out tongue tattoos. Very entertaining!
 We did not really manage to browse the books and watch Sophie at the same time (it was probably a good thing for my wallet), but we found a tent with children's story time and a stand with very elaborate instruments. When Sophie recognized one of the odd-looking instruments from preschool, we found out that they were actually supplying her school with them. Sophie was fascinated by the collection of gongs. Must sign her up for music classes!

After the book fair, Birgit took us on a tour of her favorite shops and boutiques in town. She used to live here.

In one of the shops, we ran into Daddy! (I wish I had had my camera ready.) He had left for work early in the morning to be on call 3 hours from here. As he arrived he was given another 24 hours off and decided to turn around and surprise Sophie. Success!
With Andrew home, we had a babysitter for a girls' night out. Thank you!
 The next day, Andrew was really on his way, and we decided to explore another part of Duesseldorf: Kaiserswerth. It housed the rebuilt ruins of a once large and impressive castle, the Kaiserpfalz (imperial palace), built in 1045. It lay right by the shore of the river Rhine. For Sophie, the ruins made an excellent spot for some climbing (she is my daughter after all). 
 Balancing along the outline of the former keep. She could not get enough of this place.
 We managed to bribe her away from the rocks with the promise of a waffle at the adjacent beer garden.  We are in Germany after all. 
 Then we scrambled down to the Rhine shore. We spotted a lot of shells on the beach and many excellent skipping stones. Unfortunately, we also found a lot of glass, so we dragged Sophie back to the bike path.
 Two elves.
Sophie finished off the day in style with a good old water fight in the garden with Lina.
Blue sky in Duesseldorf.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Skye Is The Limit (at least for us on this trip)

The weather had turned quite a bit cooler today, so we had made a wise decision in moving our trip to the Isle of Skye from yesterday to today.

 At Mallaig harbor, on our way to the ferry, Grandad showed us his boat. In the row of four, it's the second one from the right. 

 I asked Sophie to pose in front of our ferry...

 ...the she asked me to pose in front of this bus. 

 Leaving Mallaig. It was about a half hour ferry ride to Armadale - enough time to walk the entire ship once, via the cafe and the souvenir shop. 

 Between the Red and the Black Cuillins. We ordered some tea and scones in a restaurant at the crossroads just before a busload of French tourists arrived.

 Debra and I

 We drove past Talisker Whisky Distillery, erroneously thinking that it was closed for construction, on our way to Dunvegan Castle. I was impressed to find a castle like this in so remote a spot. 

 And such elaborate gardens!
We wanted to have an "inbetween" lunch/dinner in Portree (the main town on Skye), but found out after walking the entire "downtown", that every restaurant was closing between lunch and dinner. We thought we were cutting it a little close for the last ferry to the mainland, only to find out that the ferry was delayed coming in.

Ben could spot his home from the railing.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sophie's Favorite Day of the Vacation

When we asked Sophie at the end of our vacation what was her favorite part of our trip, she said it was the day at the beach. I can see why. I will let the overload of pictures in this post speak for themselves.
This is the view to which we woke up in the morning.
As the weather forecast was better for a beach day today, we decided to postpone our trip to Skye to the next day and headed to the local beach after breakfast.
Sophie started out in her full outfit of clothes.
I quickly took off her skirt when I saw that she was actually venturing into the water.
The beach used for the movie "Local Hero."
Taking off another layer. Ben, the dog, was enjoying the beach too.
And another layer gone. Looking for shells.

Just looking at this, it could almost be Hawaii, except that we had the beach almost to ourselves.
We just rescued a fish who had got stuck on the rocks.
There was a local agricultural fair behind the beach today. We hiked over the dunes to have a look.
There were girls doing some stunt horseback riding.
Sophie was clearly enthralled.
Yet another face painting.
The Highland cow.
It was like the movie "Babe."
After we had fueled up on ice cream, drinks and snacks, we returned to the beach to slowly stroll back to the car.
This really is Scotland.
Later we cleaned up from the beach and dressed for our very fancy dinner at Arisaig House. This was the view from the back terrace where we had our drinks.
There were only about six tables in the entire restaurant.
My dessert: lavender-scented panna cotta with home-made peach vodka. 
It was terrible!
On our drive home.
Mallaig harbor

Scotland showed itself from its best side. Truly a memorable day.