Monday, June 22, 2015

Europa Park

Mickey Mouse Euromaus mascot
Last month we visited Fake Disneyland Europa Park in Rust, Germany, just across the border from the Alsace region of France.  Europa Park is Germany's largest theme park, and the second most popular theme park resort in Europe, behind Disneyland Paris.

under 3 hours by car
We are not "Disney People" or "Theme-Park People," but we thought we'd go anyway and surprise our kids with a trip on a day off from school.  Unfortunately, because we are not "Disney People" or "Theme-Park People" the kids had no frame of reference when we told them, so the surprise didn't have much effect.  It took a lot of explaining to help them wrap their little minds around the fact that they could go on as many rides as they wanted, as many times as they wanted.  We strictly ration rides at the annual Schuebefouer in Luxville, for example.  So we heard a lot of "Wait, you mean we've already paid for all the rides?  All of them? Are you sure? ….. But will the rides be too big? Or too fast?  Do I have to go on all the rides?  I don't want to go any big rides.  I think maybe I'll just choose one or two rides, Mom..."

See, we're just not very good at this.

But, it was a fun trip.  We drove on Sunday afternoon to stay the night at a small "hotel" 10 minutes away from the park, visited the park Monday, and drove back that evening.

Not an official Europa Park attraction.  This was just an random garbage house with chickens across from where we stayed. 
We stuck to the simple rides.
Elf / mushroom-themed boat ride
hot air balloons
And we went to the Children's World / Viking Land, with some more tame attractions for kids.

had this area to themselves

Manually pull yourself up then let go.  Watch out for rope burns when the ride suddenly ends.
Europa Park is divided into European country-themed sections.  So you've got your Italian-stereotype land, your French-steryotype land, your Russian-stereotype land, etc.  But Europeans seem fairly comfortable with country stereotypes so I doubt anyone is really taken aback or offended.

Italy.  I think.
Spain.  Rain.
Then you've got your shameless-ripoff rides, like the Mad Tea Party Koffie Kopjes...

and the Pirates of the Caribbean Piraten in Batavia

Pete and I haven't been to Disneyland since college, and I had only been a couple times before that when I was very young, so we're not really up on our Disney park knowledge.  But I'd heard and read that Europa Park wins out over Disneyland Paris in many ways.  I'm guessing that Disney Paris has less of that special Disney "magic" that people always talk about than Disney USA, and Europa Park probably has bit less than all of them.  But Europa Park suited us just fine as non-connoirseurs-of-amusement.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  Admission is much less expensive than Disney, which even our frugal kids can appreciate.  As a bonus, the food was good and way cheaper than we expected for any amusement park.   No doubt we're also accustomed to Luxembourg prices - Germany always surprises us on that account.  

So overall it was a good introduction to fake real amusement parks for our kids and we'll probably be back to try some bigger/faster rides.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Der König Der Löwen: James' 1st Play

May 20 was a day the Ts had been eagerly anticipating since the beginning of the school year.  James' first grade class performed The Lion King.

Back around Christmastime, James announced he'd been cast as Simba.  Daphne said she'd had a strong feeling he'd be Simba - because he's "very behaved" at school.  His teacher told us it was because he demonstrated skill at memorizing texts.

But whatever the reason, we were very much looking forward to the The Lion King in Luxembourgish, with our quiet, reserved little James as the lead role.

Rehearsals began around January, with James revealing only small pieces of what was going on.  They would take a chunk of time during class here and there to work on it.  We got the run-down of who would play who.  The teacher had written a script he kept in a special notebook.  There was a little music but no singing or dancing.  Everyone in the class of 12 had at least one line to say, which they were instructed to pretty much yell as loud as possible.  James refused to tell us any of his lines or what the script was like, wanting it to be a surprise.  

There were three performances the day of the play: one for the rest of the school, one for some classes from other schools, and one in the evening for friends and family.

Rafiki's mom made this cake for the evening performance, as well as most of the costumes.
sweet friends came out in support
After the opening scene in which Simba's birth is announced to the animal kingdom (in stuffed-animal form), James stepped out on stage as a young Simba for his acting debut.  Here's the scene:

He was good, eh?!  And loud!  Go James!

with Nala
with Rafiki
taking a bow

curtain call
All the kids did a really great job.  We were very impressed that they all did indeed have lines and spoke them well.  Of course it was especially fun, albeit a bit shocking, to see James so into it.

can't smear that makeup!
Simba & Nala
their very brave teacher
Apparently we will have the access to the whole show on video at some point.  I will update the post and link to it if I can.

cast photo

Monday, May 4, 2015

Road Trip to Spain: Barcelona

Previous Spain posts:
Road Trip to Spain: Costa Brava
Road Trip to Spain: Montserrat

On the last day of our trip to Spain, we finally made it to Barcelona.  Rather than driving into the city, we opted to drive to a nearby town (about 30 minutes) and park for free, and then take the train (about an hour).

As many a traveler knows, when you have limited time in a major city, the temptation is to cram in as much as possible to make the most of it.  Well, ever since we discovered Simplicity Sightseeing back in 2012, we know ourselves better.  Our goal was to see the cathedral, grab some food, and head home, tourist-guilt-free.  Anything else was just bonus.

But you must admit, if you're going to a city only to see a cathedral, the Sagrada Família is a pretty good one.

our favorite part, the columns designed to look like trees
The four of us listened to the children's version of the audio guide together.  Frankly Pete and I find we enjoy children's guides just as well as the adult ones; they're often less boring with less information-overload, while still giving you the general idea.
pretty crowded!

We bought tickets to climb one of the towers, but they were closed due to the weather.  Apparently our credit card has been refunded.

By the way, in Spain, the "grab a pastry" part of Simplicity Sightseeing = order tapas and sangria
a nearby restaurant for lunch
taken by James
After the visiting the cathedral, we walked over to Parc de la Ciutadella (i.e. pointed ourselves on the phone GPS toward a largish green space within walking distance)

That's about it!

Maybe next time we head this way, we'll arrange lodging in the city and see more. Meanwhile, we were happy with our mainly-beach vacation.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Road Trip To Spain: Montserrat

First Spain post - Road Trip to Spain: Costa Brava

Midweek, we took a day trip to Montserrat to go hiking.  You're better off googling it then having me explain, but it's an abbey on a mountain, an hour outside of Barcelona.  Here's the wikipedia to start.

You can take a cable car or rack railway up to the abbey from the town below (where the train from Barcelona stops) to add to the experience/expense.  Since we had the car anyway, we drove all the way up to the abbey and parked for 6€. 

from abbey-level
Once you're at the abbey, you can walk or take a funicular further up the mountain.

From the top of the funicular, you can hike further up and around several trails.