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.
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I didn’t get as much reading done in July as I had planned, so I didn’t make as much progress on my reading goals as hoped. Though, I did finish the Popsugar reading challenge. I’ve been wanting to finish the Nancy Drew books this summer, but haven’t had much time to read them. For August, I hope to finally finish them. Below are the books I read in July. For more info on what I’m reading, click over to my Goodreads account.
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.
To start our vacation, we flew into Frankfurt, Germany, on a Wednesday. We took a train from the airport to the city center and walked around for awhile, had lunch, and walked to the main train station. We didn’t spend very much time in Frankfurt, but we did walk around enough to see the Zeil (pedestrian street known for its shopping), the Main River, and Altstadt (Old Town), including the Römer. Gavin was in his stroller, and slept through most of our walking because he didn’t get much sleep on the long flight.
We took a train to Heidelberg, which took a little less than an hour. It wasn’t very crowded, though there were several stops between Frankfurt and Heidelberg that picked up more passengers. Once at the Heidelberg train station, we went in search of the tourist information office to get a map of the city. The tourist information office was located just outside the train station. We purchased a map (€1.50) and got directions to our accommodations. We took a bus from the train station to the stop nearest the apartment where we stayed. Bus tickets could be purchased at the information center or on the bus.
Accommodations – Airbnb
We stayed the week at an apartment booked on Airbnb. It was a two bedroom, one bath apartment. We didn’t use the second bedroom since Gavin is too young to stay in his own room in an unfamiliar place. Posted check in time was after 4:00 pm and check out was 11:00 am. Our Airbnb host had said the apartment would be ready after 2:00 pm, so we arrived a little earlier than originally planned. The apartment was located on Hauptstrasse, and we couldn’t have had a better location! We were right in the center of Old Town and within walking distance of everything we wanted to see. Hauptstrasse is a main pedestrian road, and is full of restaurants and shops. The apartment building had an entrance off Hauptstrasse, and our place was on the second floor. Steps, no elevator. Not a problem for us, but something others may want to ask about when booking an apartment. The hall downstairs had enough room we could leave Gavin’s stroller, so we didn’t have to carry it upstairs.
The apartment was furnished with the usual items found in a German apartment. The master bedroom had a king bed and the second bedroom had a twin bed. The master bedroom had a large armoire and two nightstand to keep our items. There was no air conditioner, but there were two fans we could move around that provided enough air for us. We also kept the large windows open when we were there. The nice sized living room had a sofa and two chairs, coffee table, television, and a desk. The kitchen was well-equipped with a stove top, oven, dishwasher, refrigerator, dishes, pots and pans, and utensils. The washing machine was located in the kitchen. It was a small washer, that unfortunately wasn’t working while we were there. We had to hand wash everything during our stay, but it was only a week, so not too big of a deal. The dining area had a table with six chairs and a highchair in the corner. A family-friendly apartment. The apartment had wifi… I think most places provide wifi now, but it’s a good idea to make sure before booking. We had packed adapters, but we packed the wrong ones. Fortunately, there was one plug in the bedroom we could use, so we took turns charging our phones. Our phones were the only thing we had that needing charging, so it was fine for us. The bathroom had a tub/shower combo. They provided three towels for our use during the stay. We had brought all our own toiletry items, but they did have small bottles of shampoo and small soaps for us to use. Our host spoke English, so communication was not a problem. We were very happy with the apartment!
Food & Drink
Palmbräu Gasse – We had dinner here on our first day and a late dinner on Saturday night. The restaurant wasn’t too busy the first time we visited, but it was more packed on Saturday. On Saturday, we ate late because we ate after the fireworks, and most restaurants in this area were packed. We sat inside both times. This restaurant offered their own beers including a hefeweizen, dunkelweizen, helles, and schwarzbier. Our waitress spoke English, and an English menu was available. We had typical German food and beer with both our meals. The food and service were both good.
The Dubliners – An Irish pub located on Hauptstrasse. We stopped here a few times during our stay in Heidelberg. Once just for drinks, once for lunch, and once for a late dinner. We first spotted this place when we were walking around and sightseeing. It was hot while we were in town, so stopping for a cold drink and sitting awhile seemed like a good idea. We went back a day or so later because we had noticed the menu looked like it would be a good lunch spot. We ended up here one more time when looking for a place to grab a late dinner, this was one of the few places that had their kitchen open late. It’s a pub, so they had a good selection of drinks, but they had a good selection of food too. They offered Irish food, German food, burgers, and pizzas.
Vetter’s – We had lunch here and tasted their beers. They brew the Vetter 33, a doppelbock – highest alcohol by original gravity (OG 33, ABV 11.5%). The Vetter 33 was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1994. They offer three year-round beers and occasional seasonals. We tasted the three main brews (the doppelbock, a Helles, and a dunkelweizen), no seasonal beers were available.
Löwenbräu – Located on Hauptstrasse, it was a short walk from our apartment. They offered typical German foods and Löwenbräu beers. Our waiter spoke English, and they offered an English menu. The food and service were both good.
Snitzelbank – This was the most authentic German restaurant we ate in. We had lunch there, and the food and service were both very good. This place is located just off Hauptstrasse, and is very small. Fortunately, we arrived at a good time, so a table was available. They don’t have much seating, so it’s good to go at a less busy time.
Goldener Hecht – An Austrian-style restaurant located near the Old Bridge. This was the only restaurant we ate at during our time in Germany that we had poor service. The food was good, but I wouldn’t recommend the place to anyone. What’s funny is that this place had better reviews than most places we ate at.
Everywhere we ate gave large portions of food. I don’t think I finished a meal at any of the restaurants, and a couple of times the waitress even asked if the food was okay since I hadn’t eat the whole meal. We ate very well while in Germany. The food was good, and we definitely didn’t leave any restaurant hungry.
While in Heidelberg, be sure to get a gelato. There are several gelato places along Hauptstrasse. A small gelato is about €1, so you can’t beat the price. They offer lots of different flavors, so be sure to try a variety. We stopped a couple of different times for gelato, and it was always good.
Next week I will post Part 2. That post will include the activities and sightseeing we did while in Heidelberg. Lots of pictures to post in that one!
Signing off with a photo of the little man proudly displaying his first stamp in his passport!