Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Kristall Palm Beach, Nuremberg, Germany

When your eldest child goes away to sleep over camp for a week, it's only fair to find fun things to do with your youngest!  And when temps in Bavaria reach the low to mid 90s and no one has air conditioning, you hit up the coolest and nearest water park... Kristall Palm Beach!

It's a waterpark, so obviously I didn't get a TON of pictures.  But maybe I can provide a few tips to the next person about how it might differ from other waterparks.  But first... a picture of my buddy Grant at the entrance!  

It helps if you know ein bisschen Deutsch before you go to Kristall Palm Beach.   The people at the front desk where you pay don't speak any English.  Which was fine, I got through that with no problem.  They will ask you if you want to purchase the extra package for the Sauna (just listen for the word Sauna, it translates.)  Just say nein!  It was about 38 Euros for Grant and I to go for the entire day.  He wasn't a huge fan of the slides, so we probably could have gotten away with the four hour package, but you never know.  When you get your ticket it, scan it, go through the turnstile and an employee will direct you to the locker room (before giving you the run down of the days activities, all in German!)  I just responded with, "Gut, danke!"  When you go into the locker room, you will need your ticket to get a (free) locker.  Enter it like this, then lock your stuff up and take the wrist band key with you.

The wave pool was one of our favorites.  At 30 C, even I would get in this!  In fact, nothing here was so cold that I wouldn't get in.  Which was great, because I don't know what Grant would have done otherwise!  The wave pool is kind of the heart and soul of the park, and the waves run for about 5 minutes on the top and bottom of every hour.

We rode a couple of the slides, hung out in the wave pool, and enjoyed the outdoor 32 degree C pool (it's like bath water! Heaven!) before we went outside for some lunch near the 29 C pool.  Uh oh Kristall Palm Beach.  You're starting to scare me with your "cold" pools.  Lunch wasn't bad - some currywurst and some pizza.

This pizza was massive and he ate all but one piece of it.  How does he do that???

Behind us there were trampolines, places to play in the sand and a big playground.   He loves jumping (I even call him my little jumping bean!)

After lunch, we did some swimming out in the 29 C pool (not as bad as I thought it would be) because it was one of those "crazy river" pools that they love so much here in Europe.  It's basically a big whirlpool, and you get caught up in the quick currents.  We had the best time and laughed so hard at how fast it was and how often we got separated!  

Then we came back to the wave pool and.... what the... is this spring break in Cancun?!?

"Mommy, take a picture!  I'm covered in soap!"

We went one more time back to the slides (which I didn't get any pictures of because phones and water slides don't mix.)  In the slide area (not pictured), there are some slides for younger kids (Voyager, Explorer and Black Hole) and then some faster slides for older kids.  While the younger kid slides are pretty decent, there isn't enough water running through them to push a human being, and they aren't sloped enough for gravity to do the trick.  So unless you're somewhat strong to manually move yourself along, you're likely to get stuck.  

Grant was very frustrated that he kept getting stuck in these slides, so I convinced him to go on Saturn with me.  I know, I know... we broke the rules when we rode the slide together -- and we paid for it when he bonked his head on the inside of the slide.  But this slide was GREAT!  I enjoyed Saturn and it's three slides in one feature.  If you lay back and get a good head start, it was really fun.  It was the last slide of the day for us, unfortunately.  Grant wasn't having ANY of it!  Next time, I'll bring my fearless daughter Natalie who will ride all the slides with me!

But we still had a lot of fun in the wave pool!  And the outdoor crazy river pool!  And the really warm outdoor pool!

A suggestion if you plan on going here:  Leave your larger bags in the locker room, but just inside the entrance to the wave pool area, there is a section of smaller lockers.  Your large bags won't fit in here, but if you want cash and your phone nearby, I suggest you get one of these smaller lockers.  Unfortunately, Kristall Palm Beach is not "up with the times" in that they don't have wrist bands that allow you to charge to an account.  You need to pay for everything in Euro.  But how does someone who has been in a pool all day keep Euro on them?  That's where these small lockers come in.  Leave your locker key, phone and cash in the small locker for easy access.  Meanwhile, you can leave your towels, sunglasses and shoes by the chair you select. 

Allegedly, the largest rock crystal in the world at 7500 kg.  It was purchased by the sister company of the German Gemstone Society in Stein (the town this water park is located in.) from the Minas Gerais part of Brazil.  I literally can't find anything to back up this claim, but it certainly is big!  And you know I love superlatives, so I'll just pretend this is true!  This just sits in the lobby area, so if you want to see it, you don't even need to pay for a ticket to enter the water park.

Finally, at about 4:45, we decided to call it a day.  We had spent over 6 hours there, and if you aren't riding many slides, that can be enough!  Even Grant admitted he missed his sister today (wait, Mommy isn't fun!?!)  I can't wait to go back with the whole family!

Until next time, Kristall Palm Beach!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Padua, Italy

If you are Roman Catholic, you likely know all about the patron saints and which ones you pray to for intercession for certain reasons.  The patron saint of lost things/lost causes is St. Anthony of Padua (in Italy, they call it Padova).  Since Padua is just a quick half hour train ride from Venice, we decided to do a little day trip to see one of my favorite patron saints! 

Padua is a VERY old city.  It was founded in 1183 BC (yes, I said BC) although it didn't really become a part of Rome until the mid 40s BC.

Graduation refreshments, because the University of Padua is nearby.  Are the plates of spaghetti that big, or are the students just really small????

We decided to go to the church first, since it was why we went to Padua. The Basilica of St. Anthony (also known as il Santo) was built in the early to mid 1200s, just after St. Anthony died.

My cuties have lost a LOT of things over the years, so it's only fitting we go give thanks to St. Anthony.  See those glasses on Natalie's face?  That's pair #2.  We're still waiting to find pair #1.

Photography is not allowed in the Basilica.  But I love a good tender moment when my hubby is praying.  (Sorry St. Anthony, I know this isn't your rule though!)  Anyone can walk right up to St. Anthony's tomb and get some quiet reflection time and pray.  You can even touch the marble that he lies in.

Ooops, my phone must have accidentally taken a picture of the ceiling above the grave of St. Anthony!  Isn't it beautiful!?  St. Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal with the birth name of Fernando Martins de Bulhoes to a privileged family.  He died at the age of 35 in Padua, and is buried here.

This is what St. Anthony's burial place looks like from the side.  With a woman who is appropriately dressed in front of it.  Remember to cover your knees and shoulders, women!  There's also a drop box (on the left) for prayers to St. Anthony.  Behind me, you can write a note, and then leave your prayers in the box.

St. Anthony died young from ergotism, which was a fungus found in certain grains, such as rye.  Noticing the skeleton at the top of this, I thought maybe this had something to do with his death.  But then I noticed a couple of sad looking men, a chicken, a bunch of books, and two busts.  It could be a statue dedicated to the things St. Anthony is patron saint to... such as shipwrecks, poor people, animals (lower animals... is a chicken considered such?) and of course... the books representing his importance as a preacher.

St. Anthony was known to be a fantastic preacher.  Thirty years after his death, his coffin was opened and while his body was gone (except his bones), his tongue remained intact.  It now is on display for you to see in a gold reliquary (behind the glass in the picture above) along with his jawbone and his vocal chords.

The outside of the Basilica of St. Anthony is as pretty as the inside, with it's diverse mix of Gothic, Byzantine and Romanesque features.

I know in 15 years or more, we will have no idea what the war between the pigeons and the seagulls means (in fact, I'm not quite sure what it means now... but it's something Grant has invented).  Apparently this pigeon, with his purple hue hanging out outside of the Basilica of St. Anthony, is one of the generals of the pigeon gang. The more rare the color, the more important they are.

I had a plethora of blue hydrangea at my wedding, on my centerpieces and in my bouquet.  It's definitely my favorite flower.  I have a fantastic mess of them at my current home. (Exhibit A:  This picture was taken before the 95 degree heat in Germany took most of my flowers.)

Exhibit B:  But look at this picture in Padua of the vibrant neon pink colors!  What Ph do I need to get those colors!?  So many colors!  I wish I had a green thumb.  I'm an expert at killing plants!  My hydrangeas were pretty, but not as pretty (and as long lasting in the heat) as these are.

I know summer is supposed to be high season in Italy but... this.  

We strolled past some of the buildings at the University of Padua on our way to find some lunch.  The university was founded in 1222 and is the 5th oldest (still active) university in the world.  Galilleo taught here in the late 1500s and early 1600s.  Did you know that the first woman to ever receive a Ph.D. earned one at the University of Padua?  Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia got her degree in philosophy in 1678.  

Walking through Padua, we passed a travel agency.  AWWWWW!  They were advertising the ship we had just been on (although with a different stops.)  The kids were sentimental.

The Torre delgi Anziani is the first thing you see if you are heading toward the Piazza della Frutta.  In English, it means the Tower of the Senior Citizens (or Elderly.)  It was originally likely built in the 1100s, but of course, due to earthquakes and other various reasons (sewer systems!) it had to be rebuilt several times.  A lot of the materials are original, however.

Between the Torre delgi Anziani and the Palazzo Bo stood a few pieces of contemporary art by Gaetano Pesce from the 1960s.  The sign next to it said, "La Maesta Tradita is a monumental sculpture of a woman wrapped in a mantel (that's coat in German, so I guess that's what they meant) of shreds of flesh, a sort of maternity mat.  A queen of a chain, a symbol of slavery to which thousands of women all over the world are sadly still subjected.  In its forms, the sculpture reflects those of the iconic armchair and mother, seated on a throne but suffering, as suggested by the ball tied to the foot by an Up 5, designed by Gaetano Pesce in the late 60s of Paleolithic Venus, symbol of fertility and sacredness."  Well, that's the translation, anyway!  The title translates to, "The Betrayed Majesty."  It references the "iconic armchair and mother" which was one of his most famous works of art (that will turn 50 years old next year in 2019.)

On the other side, with the ball and chain.

Interestingly, Pesce is a bit more known for his architecture than his art.  He was obviously quite controversial when it came to art (which I love!)  I read up a bit about him after our trip, and his views on art and life were fascinating.  In one interview with Damn Magazine (yes, that's the name! Awesome!), he said, "The specialisation is a castration. It happens in your life that you have curiosity, and curiosity can go everywhere, and if you are curious about space you do a project of architecture, if you are curious about music you make a piece of music. The idea that you must respect and stay in a certain area is very American. And I wonder if this is a need for security, because you want to keep knowledge only here, and then someone else is there, and there is never a transversal connection, which is very bad." 

I love what he says above, because I have the gypsy gene.  I don't want to stay in one place and learn just one thing.  The world is too big for that.  He goes on to say, "The most important characteristic of our time is communication. We have so much information that it allows us to move between one media and another. I was always like that – also because I am bored easily, and so when I do something for a week or a month, then I need to change. It’s also a way to stay fresh. Interrupting routine is a way to have new ideas. In my life I’ve been involved with music, with the theatre, I was involved in other things. I believe they give me a capacity to have a work that is not superficial." 

Although he might be known for his architecture, he certainly didn't stay in that field permanently.

This is SUCH a funny story.  Another of Pesce's works was next to La Maesta Tradita, and we all stood around contemplating what we thought of it, and perhaps the meaning of the work of art.  At last, I announced, "I think it looks like a headless mermaid on a cross!"  And Grant (age 8) stops and says, "Mommy, that's Italy!"  (And then I face palm and walk away slowly with a tucked tail.)

He was right, of course.

Notice how the meaty (and mighty) Sardinia has fallen on the ground beneath Sicily.

Palazzo Bo is the center of the University of Padua and the location of the anatomical theater.  Galileo's chair/podium is here!  

SOME say that Ragione Palace has the largest roof in Europe that doesn't have any support columns.  I'm not sure of that. It was originally built in 1218, but got a bit bigger in the early 1300s.  Ragione means "reason" in Italian, and it's named this because it used to be a courthouse.  "The law is reason free from passion." (Come on, name the movie!)

This palace sits in the Piazza della Frutta, or Square of the Fruit because the market is here, and has traditionally sold plenty of fruit (and vegetables!  And now fish!)

If you think you can't find a quiet street in Italy in the summer, you're wrong.

Piazza dei Signori with the Torre dell'Orologio in the background.  That translates to "Square of the Gentlemen" in Italian.  This is where a lot of political celebrations occurred. This clock tower was built in the early 1300s and the clock was installed in 1428.

Back to the Ragione Palace to have a drink.  Come on.  Don't you know by now this is how we operate?

I know.  You probably get tired of this.  But I truly think they are the cutest (only when they aren't fighting).  You think the same about your kids, and that is ok!  Your kids rock, too!  I only hope my kids can appreciate someday that we had sodas in the piazza in front of the Ragione Palace in Padua.

Blinky and Inky.  Or Natalie and Grant with Blinky and Inky.  I'm fairly certain they called these guys some other names.  Do they have other names? 

In Padua, Roman ruins still stand from the turn of the millennium.  (Not surprising since they became a part of the Roman empire not long before that.)  Did you know that Padua was the setting for a good part of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew?

After our short ride home, we grabbed some local dinner in the Mestre area (at the Hostaria Vita Rossa) while the kids had McDonalds … and then, after they were in bed, we watched some World Cup!  France played Belgium and beat them 1-0.  There were a bunch of French people there and they were super excited (although we watched most of the game from our room!)

Until next time, Padua!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

San Marino, San Marino

Did you know that in Europe, there are five micro-countries?  These are five super tiny little countries that exist in the eyes of the United Nations.  Liechtenstein (been there), Vatican City (been there), Andorra, Monaco and San Marino (and now we can say... been there!)  It's the fifth smallest country in the world - and the third smallest in Europe, behind Vatican City and Monaco.

It's not a long train ride from Venice, but you do need to change trains in Bologna.  The Bailey's are ready for another country!

She's 11.  And this is her 25th country.

There are no trains to San Marino.  It's a tiny country that exists on a mountain, for the most part.  So there are no trains to San Marino.  It's really not an easy country to get to. It's not difficult... but it's not easy.  If you are coming from Venice or Bologna, you take the train to Rimini.  Then you cross the street and hop on a bus near the Burger King.  You'll see it.  It says San Marino.  You can buy your ticket on the bus, but I recommend you buy it from the little shop next to the Burger King.  It just saves time when you get on the bus.  The prices are the same. The bus is comfortable and air conditioned.

The drive up to the capital of San Marino (also called San Marino) is very curvy and takes about 45 minutes.  Take your Dramamine if this bothers you!

San Marino is known for its spectacular views.  This will be evident as soon as you step off the bus!

Our first stop was to our hotel to drop off our bags.  In Venice, we were staying at the AO Hotel/Hostel and they were generous enough to allow us to leave our massive suitcases at their hotel for the night since we were going to San Marino for one night, then returning back to the AO Hotel for another two nights.  We only brought two backpacks with us, plus a day pack and my Vera Bradley bag which carries all of the "mom stuff" like medicines, snacks, the camera, cords and plugs, etc.

We arrived in San Marino to find the (red) Albanian flag everywhere.  Now I know this is the Albanian flag because I was just in Albania a few days prior to this.  So I was VERY confused.  It turns out the President of Albania was making a visit to San Marino.  Thus, Albanian flags were flying everywhere!

San Marino is not for anyone with major health problems.  I would also not recommend it if you are in a wheelchair or have a large stroller.  The entire capital city was built on a mountain so everywhere you go, you're either walking up a steep hill, or down a steep hill!

There aren't too many cars in the capital, and definitely none in the old town area.  Just plenty of feet and buildings that seem to extend into the blue sky.

How cute are my kiddos in San Marino!?!  We stopped for a seat while Daddy went to find an ATM.  I feel like we are always on the hunt for an ATM!  (Gee, I wonder why!?!)

The view from Piazza della Liberta, in panorama form.

This kid. He makes the strangest faces, and I know him... he does this on purpose.  He's feeling a little badass here, so he went with this face.

The "Statue of Liberty" (San Marino style) in front of the government offices of San Marino.

We like Lady Liberty, even if she doesn't look like our Lady Liberty.  This is the spot where all of the official ceremonies take place.  The two Captains Regent, which are the heads of state that are elected every 6 months in San Marino are announced here and work here.

San Marino is known for (and honestly, this is the worst photo ever except it made me remember how much I missed Target!) a place that you can buy air rifles and all of the fun (???) that comes with those!  There are so many stores that sell what most people would consider guns and all of the accessories that come with that.  But it's all air rifles.  Look at the sign that is on all of the doors... I promise, it's not as bad as it looks.

You know I love me some flower boxes.

These kids.  And you know from this picture how much sunscreen I put on them, versus me.

Before we hit up this cute little piazza, we went to the tourism office to get our passports stamped.  San Marino is not a member of the EU (it is a member of the UN) and it's not a member of the Eurozone, meaning that while it uses the Euro as currency, they cannot produce their own paper Euros.  They are able to produce the coins, however.

For five Euros, you can get this very beautiful and very delicately placed stamp in your passport!  It's not required, but it's really pretty!

Around the corner from the tourist office, you find some spectacular views from what feels like the edge of San Marino (it's not.)  What a lovely view.

Looking out over Italy to the Adriatic. Amazing that you can see the sea from here.

Wait... one more time... is that the Albania flag!?  Yes it is!

By the monument to Bartolomeo Borghesi, there are some lovely flower beds, sitting above the nearby mountains.

The monument to Bartolomeo Borghesi who was one of the founders of numismatics, or the study of money!  He wasn't born here, but he died in San Marino.

Living in Massachusetts or Germany (as I have for the past decade), we only really see pretty flowers for a few months of the year, so pardon me if I take too many pictures of them.

There's a funicular that originates from WAY down below at Borgo Maggiore. For 4.50 Euros, you can take it up to San Marino, which sure beats that winding drive.

Although it wasn't as hot up in San Marino as it was down in Greece, the kids wanted some ice cream so of course, they got some.  Are you kidding me with this kid!?!  He's something else!

It's hard to tell from this picture, but this is an outdoor theater (for plays, shows, etc.) called Cava dei Balestrieri.  The Crossbow Corps (a small group of around 70 volunteer members of the military) often do demonstrations here!

More air rifle and tactical equipment.  Or perhaps you'd rather have a Santa Claus or a commemorative plate?  That's one stop shopping!  It's duty free shopping, so there are also a million perfume shops in the capital.

When you are walking around San Marino and you have your picture unknowingly taken by your husband.

As the capital city of San Marino is fairly small, you can see a lot in a day.  They even have a little wax museum which is downright hilarious.  It honestly looks like mannequins from a department store that they dressed up.  Here we have Hitler and Mussolini, together again.  

I think we made this face a LOT in this museum.

Let's see if you can identify these 1960s Beatles members....errrrr… I mean... historical figures from any era!

Do you give up?

Are you sure?

Charlemagne, Ludovico il Moro (the guy who commissioned Da Vinci's The Last Supper; he was the Duke of Milan), Louis XIV (of France, and the longest reigning king in Europe), Ben Franklin, Napoleon, Beethoven, Garibaldi, Verdi, Rasputin and Einstein.  I mean, if that isn't the biggest bunch of randoms thrown together in a wax museum, I don't know what is!

Old Abe must know that John Wilkes Booth is lurking in the shadows behind him (Best part... how they misspelled it "John Wilkel Booth")!  That's just the saddest looking Abraham Lincoln I've ever seen, but with the sweetest lettuce!

Da Vinci, dude... you're creeping me out.  Grant was DYING because he thinks Da Vinci totally just beat us in the Circle Game.   You create a circle with your forefinger and thumb which has to be below the waist.  Then you try to get someone to look at it.  If they do, they get to hit you in the neck.  We both looked. You win Leonardo. You win.

The museum wasn't JUST a wax museum. Oh no!  It was a wax and TORTURE museum!  So it didn't just depict famous characters from history.  It also showed various torture devices from different eras.  And I'm pretty sure they snuck a Tim Curry wax figure in this scene (the guy in front with the moustache and mullet).

Todd and I were both like... which one is Christopher Columbus!?!

San Marino and San Leo are depicted at the very end of the tour.  They are considered the founders of the world's oldest republic (superlative!) when in 301 AD, they founded a monastery on Mount Titano, or present day San Marino.  It's constitution wasn't written until 1600 and they were fully recognized by the Vatican in 1631.  It's only covers just under 24 square miles!

"I want to go to the vampire museum!" he said.

Well, at least it's more realistic than the wax museum down the road.

This is actually how I look when my kids start fighting.  Which is often.

A wonderfully vivid scene depicting Vlad the Impaler.

I vant to suck your blood!

The kids were very amused.  Oh Europe.  You and your love of nudity!  This countess believed blood was the secret to staying youthful, so she murdered people and bathed in their blood.  You probably could have just gotten a nice face cream and put some cucumbers on your eyes, but ok, whatever!

Each of these displays had a pretty lengthy description, but only in Italian.  If you let them know at the ticket counter, they will give you a booklet where it translates everything into English.  I think the entrance price was 8 Euros, but we had a San Marino Tourist Pass that our hotel, the Hotel Joli gave us and that entitled us to half price tickets for adults.  Our kids (ages 8 and 11) were free.

Mummified creatures of the night.  There's only a handful of rooms in this museum, and it wasn't super scary for my kids (maybe a bit for the 8-year-old.)   It's a bit cheesy, but actually full of stories (whether real or imagined) of vampires and werewolves.

San Marino is also known for its three towers, which you can climb to.  The one pictured here is the Guaita Tower.  It's the oldest tower, built in the 11th century.

The hike up there isn't super easy.  Hopefully you've got good traction on your shoes!  Natalie chose to sit at the bottom and wait for the three of us to hike up, take some pictures and hike back down.  Grant naturally ran up the hill.

 But those views, oh those views are worth it!

Scenes from the Guaita Tower.

I wonder if you could see Croatia on a clear day?  (I kid!)

See the little airplane flying around?  It's like trying to find Waldo!  Keep searching... he's about at eye level for us.

Yes, we are THAT couple with matching $10 sunglasses.  

This tower once served as a prison - all the way up to 1970!

Honestly, can you imagine the views for this guy?  Sailing past the three towers of San Marino?  I bet it was incredible.

Time to head back to get some dinner.  Even in the height of the summer, San Marino doesn't feel as touristy as other spots in neighboring Italy. In fact, San Marino is the LEAST visited country in all of Europe!

But WAIT!  There's a wiener dog!!!!!!  Eeeek, he is SO cute!  I'm obsessed!

After dinner, we walked down the hill back to our hotel.  I loved the shadowing and that fantastic thunderstorm in the distance!

There's a haunting monument to the children who were involved in the Beslan school siege in Russia in 2004.  If you remember, extremists sieged a school and took over 1,100 hostages.  In the end, 334 people were dead, including somewhere between 150-175 children.  Around 750 people were injured. The exact number remains unknown because... Russia.

Walking back to our hotel was one of my favorite moments of the day.

St. Quirino in the evening sun.

Ummmm… interesting choice for beer stickers.  San Marino, you are weird.

In the morning, we took the bus back down to Rimini.  Goodbye pretty towers of San Marino!

One more time for the Albanian flag at the border of San Marino and Italy!  It was a very beautiful, very scenic, very friendly, very quirky, yet very physical country!

Until next time, San Marino!

The Bailey Planet

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