Several weeks ago some of the kids in Spencer’s soccer team went to play laser tag, and the kids (and I) got hooked. Today I finally bought a membership card so I can track my points between games. It is fairly exhilarating, and we all get very sweaty. It is also a good way to calm my mind, and focus on the present.
It turns out that the place in Würselen about 1 km away is one of the best around. Just another great reason to live in Würselen. In addition to a large area and several moving walls, they also have really cool art made from bicycle parts, like this alien figure.
After having a good experience on the train on Monday, we decided to venture further on Tuesday – a hike to the Regina Giovanna bath, to visit Roman ruins at the tip of the peninsula of Sorrento. We stopped by the grocery store again on our way out for some sandwiches, since we didn’t know if there would be any place to get food near the baths. When we arrived at the train station, there was a train on the tracks. It seemed a bit early, but we got on and waited. After about 10 minutes of waiting on the train, the conductor looked at us and told us to get off. The train was “kaputt”. So we waited another 30 minutes for the next one, which seemed to be working. Now we started to understand the reputation of the “worst train in the world”.
We only needed 2 stops to get Sorrento, at which point we first decided to try to find some goggles or snorkeling gear for swimming, since the kids had forgotten their goggles (fortunately Rob had remembered his, so we could share). We found some snorkles, got some gelato, and then headed to the bus stop. We had been told it is a good idea to buy round trip tickets for the bus, so we did so. The bus ride was fairly uneventful, but it was good that we had our GPS, because that way we could see where we were going on the map, since they didn’t announce any stops. Right as we got off the bus we found some vending machines, and decided to get some extra drinks for the hike.
We had read that the hike was quite challenging, but actually it turned out to be relatively easy for us. Most of the hike was on a nice cobblestone paved path, so the 1-2 kilometer within about 20 minutes. The trickiest part was when we finally got to the ruins, and could see the protected swimming cove – we couldn’t figure out which path to get down there at first, but eventually we did. The water was definitely a degree or two colder than by our beach the day before, but still quite swimmable. It was good that we got there when we did, as it started to get quite crowded shortly thereafter. After about an hour of swimming we dried off and found a place to enjoy our lunch. On our way out of the sea we saw an octopus hiding among the rocks; its head was about the size of a volleyball!
After lunch we looked around the ruins a bit more, then headed back up the trail. Going uphill was of course slower, but still not too bad. A bus arrived just as we got to the stop, but apparently not the bus we wanted – our return tickets were for the SITA bus. This was an EAV bus, which was not even listed as a possibility on Google Maps. We decided to wait for the next one. It zoomed by 20 minutes later without stopping. Then another EAV bus came, and we decided to just pay on the bus. Only now we didn’t know exactly where this bus was headed. We got off near the train station, and found a train back. It was about 5 p.m. when we got back to the apartment, and the kids had not had enough swimming. Clare went down to the beach with them while I made dinner and booked a boat trip for Thursday.
We got a relatively slow start again on Monday. After breakfast, we got dressed and headed up the elevator to town. There happened to be a market going on, which we perused, but nothing caught our fancy. We went to the basilica, which was fairly unassuming from the outside, but very beautiful inside.
After the basilica we found the train station, which we would need to use later, and then headed further into town. We found the Deutsche Bank ATM (just down the street from Hotel Klein Wien), and a very nice Gelateria right across the street. After some window shopping, we headed to the grocery store, and then back to the apartment.
After some lunch we had a little time for some swimming at the beach. Then we made some food for the kids, and Clare and I went off to a wine tasting in Sorrento. Our first experience with the so-called “worst train in the world” was actually not too bad. We did end up getting back after the elevator had stopped operating (after 8 p.m.), which meant we had to walk down the switchback road, but it actually was not too bad because there was not much traffic by this point. We stopped at a different pizzeria this time for another tasty treat to enjoy at home with the kids.
Sunday morning we slept in and had a lazy morning. After the long day of traveling on Saturday, we planned to simply relax and hang out at the beach. We decided to go to the private beach right by our apartment. We were worried it would be expensive, but it turned out to be only 2€ per adult; the kids were free. Whenever I told one of my colleagues at work we were going to Italy in October, they said it would be too cold. I think what they really meant, was that it would not be too hot. The water was a little chilly, but refreshing.
We spent several hours at the beach in the morning, then came back in for awhile for lunch. After some relaxation, we took the elevator up the cliff to the botanical garden to see the sunset. They also have a free museum there, with some Roman art they have discovered in the area. The sunset was very beautiful. They also had a large checkers and chess board, which we enjoyed.
After we enjoyed the beautiful sunset, we headed back to the elevator. As we were getting on, a man was getting out with some takeout pizza which smelled wonderful, and even though we had already eaten dinner, we suddenly had hunger again. We stopped at the restaurant right across from our apartment to get some takeout pizzeria margherita. We discovered that the waitress there lives in the same building we were staying in, and we were happy to support the ultra-local economy. The pizza was not quite as good as the one we had in Naples, but for 4€, it is hard to complain.
Saturday we woke up around 3:40 a.m., quickly got dressed, packed up a few snacks, and hopped into the car, heading to Charleroix airport in Belgium. We took a couple wrong turns, but made it there with a few minutes to spare for our 6:55 a.m. flight to Naples. The flight was fine. The kids like it when we go down onto the runway and up the stairs.
We got into Naples airport around 9 a.m., got a taxi to the (sea)port, which turned out to be much bigger than we originally thought, so we sort of wandered around aimlessly for a bit trying to figure out exactly where our ferry was leaving from. Eventually we found it, and also found the place to store our luggage. We got some breakfast at a small cafe, then headed over to the castle right by the port.
One thing we can say about Italy is that everything is even older than in Germany. The “new” castle (Castel Nuovo) was built in 1279. One of the coolest parts was a room with a glass floor exposing Roman ruins underneath the castle.
After touring the castle for a bit we headed to the Piazza del Plebiscito, a famous square in Naples, and then we looked around for a place to get some pizza. We walked through the narrow streets of the old town and ended up at a place that was really great.
Once we finally paid the check for the pizza, we moseyed back down to the port, stopping for some gelato first, which was incredible, and also fairly reasonably priced – 2.50 for 2 scoops. Our ferry was a few minutes late, but not too much. The ride was very pleasant and scenic.
Once we got into the main port of Sorrento we took a taxi to our apartment, which ended up being a bit pricier and longer than we expected, but it was worth it. One thing we hadn’t realized so much is that the ports around Sorrento are all surrounded by cliffs, which means getting into and out of the port itself is somewhat challenging, especially by car. After we got to the apartment, our host gave us a number of good tips, the best of which was that there is an elevator to get up the cliff, which means that you don’t have to walk down the narrow winding road that cars use. The elevator is 0.50€ – well worth the money. After settling in, Clare and I walked to the grocery store and picked up some things for the first couple days. We were all exhausted, and went to bed early.
Clare has a yearly retreat this Monday and Tuesday where all her colleagues present what they have been doing for the past 6 months. Most of her colleagues have spent the last 2 weeks working on their presentations, but we were on vacation, which means that Clare had to work some this weekend. The good news is that there were fun things to do for me and the kids, so we could give her some alone time to work. The bad news is that she missed them 🙁
Saturday the local movie theater Metropolis (which is in the old train station in Würselen) celebrated its 30th anniversary with an open house. They had food and games, short movies, and music. One of the games was a tall pole with several hooks on it at different heights, and you had to try to throw a bike tire to land on the hooks. It was quite fun (unfortunately I accidentally hit Meg above her eyebrow one time, so she has a rug burn there now, but it will heal).
Sunday was the 3rd annual soap box derby in Würselen. We missed the one last year for some reason – I think mostly just because we were exhausted from starting school and being in a new country. One nice thing about living in a small town is that whenever we go to one of these festivals, we see people we know – from school, or soccer, or something else. The soap box derby went from about 11:00-17:00. There were a lot of different cars and racers. And of course there was the usual food like bratwurst and french fries, and beer. There was also a bouncy house and face painting. I found it interesting that most of the face painters were only about 12 years old.
After a great 3 week vacation in the USA, it was time to come back to Germany. We spent most of Sunday morning packing, then enjoyed lunch with Drew, Haewon, Grandma, and Grandpa, and then Drew drove us to the airport. We said our farewells, got on the jumbo jet, and had a mostly uneventful flight. We all got a little bit of sleep even. We sat near the end of the plane where it curves down a bit, which meant we had 2 rows of 2 seats per row instead of 3, so we had a little extra room to stretch out, which was really nice. We caught our train at the airport with 20 minutes to spare, and were back in Aachen before we knew it. We managed to stay awake the whole day, to unpack, go grocery shopping and such, and watch an episode of Modern Family before heading off to bed.
Tuesday Rob went back to work, while Clare bravely took care of the tired and cranky kids, getting them prepared for the first day of school on Wednesday. Meg started 3rd grade at a normal time, but since Spencer is starting a new school for 5th grade (Gymnasium), he started at 15:00 with a special celebration put on by the older kids. It is a tradition in Germany to get kids a Schuletüte on their first day of 1st grade. It is a big paper cone which you fill with candy and other goodies. Since both of them did their first day of 1st grade in the USA, they missed out on this, so Clare decided to get them some mini ones this year. They liked them.
Another interesting occurrence on Tuesday was that our next door neighbors moved out. The moving company built a mini-elevator / electric ladder up to the balcony to move a bunch of their stuff. Much easier than the way we did it – trudging everything up 51 stairs of the winding staircase.
For our last full day in Colorado, we had another busy day. Spencer’s old flag football team let him play in a game. The coach even had a spare pair of cleats that fit him! They lost, but played well. I ended up holding the down marker for the game, so Bret took pictures. He got some great shots.
After the game Clare met her friend Nancy for coffee and picked up some more veggies to grill. Bret made his famous home made black bean burgers. We also had lots of ribs left over from the previous barbecue, plus eggplant, corn, coleslaw, and cucumber salad.
Monday morning Sadie and Erika came over to hang out. More cards were played. Sadie had a golf lesson at 2, so Rob and Spencer went with and hit a few more balls on the driving range while she was doing her lesson (thanks grandpa for getting us set up with clubs!). While we were golfing, Erika and Meg did some cool art projects with some blow paintings.
After golf we all met for frozen custard at Bob Jo’s, a Wyandotte staple since 1947. In the evening we stopped by the end of Sadie’s marching band practice. It brought back lots of memories. After that we played another round of hell, this time with Sadie and Clare (and almost Meg) tying with 10 points.
Tuesday morning it was time to pack up, but we were still able to enjoy each other’s company for a bit longer. Clare and Rob made Pfannkuchen (german thin pancakes) for breakfast, and we played a few more rounds of Hell before saying our final goodbyes. Thanks everyone for a great visit!
On Sunday we were scheduled to visit Will and Casey at Whitmore Lake and go out on their boat. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate, so we ended up going to their house in Saline instead. We still managed to have a great time, and the weather there wasn’t too bad until a storm blew in after dinner. We enjoyed their pool, some croquet, and some more corn on the cob and some tasty salmon.