GERMANY, FRANCE, AND THE CZECH REPUBLIC
World Cup soccer, history, and birthday strudel
“We were in the middle of a sea of US fans and never sang the Star Spangled Banner with more exuberance,” West University’s Wiley and Valorie George say. Attending the US-Italy World Cup soccer game in Kaiserslautern, Germany was the genesis of their family’s three-week trip to the area in June and July.
A HYSA soccer player, Natalie, 11, particularly enjoyed the World Cup, but she also liked the “excitement and history” of Berlin. Garmisch was tops for Trip, 7, who delighted in playing in the snow at the top of the nearby Zugspitze—the tallest mountain in Germany—and then swimming in the lake below it. Both children liked the hands-on Story of Berlin museum, and give high marks to the playground at the Berlin Zoo. Wiley’s unforgettable birthday celebration at the Hofbrau House in Munich included candle-topped strudel and a table of Brazilian soccer players joining in singing Happy Birthday while an oompah band played.
“Seeing my daughter—and my young son to a certain extent—really get the varied history of Germany was the overall best part of the trip for me,” Valorie notes. Natalie’s upcoming study of the Holocaust will be greatly impacted by her visit with her mother to the Dachau concentration camp, and both children will remember seeing the last remaining stretch of the Communist-era Berlin Wall. Valorie discovered personal history when she visited Hanover, home of her great-great-grandfather before he immigrated to La Grange, Texas.
In addition to exploring Germany, the family spent a few days in charming Colmar in northeastern France with its 14th-century half-timbered homes and towering Gothic cathedral. They also visited Prague via night train, an adventure in itself for the children. Valorie enjoyed shopping for garnets and crystal, and everyone liked exploring the Prague Castle; but the family delighted most in getting a “Tex-Mex fix” of queso and chips at Buffalo Bill’s restaurant.
When asked what he enjoyed most on their vacation, Trip replied, “I liked being with my family.” Valorie agrees, describing their trip as a family honeymoon.
SAN JUAN ISLANDS, WASHINGTON
Kayaking, relaxing, and flying high
With free Southwest Airlines passes in hand, Bellaire’s Barbara and Kevin Crotty and daughter Colleen searched for a destination that would be cool in late June and early July. A friend familiar with the Seattle area suggested the San Juan Islands. Because of the surrounding ocean water and mountains, the San Juans enjoy a temperate climate with half the rainfall of the Seattle area to the south of them.
Of the 175 named islands—and some 600 smaller ones—only San Juan, Lopez, and Orcas Islands really cater to tourists. Electing to stay on Orcas Island at the comfortable Cascade Harbor Inn (www.cascadeharborinn.com), the Crottys reveled in the variety of outdoor activities. They kayaked at sunset, and saw baby seals, a nest of bald eagles and a few of the “neighborhood” Orca whales on a whale-watching cruise.
Barbara and Kevin especially delighted in hiking in Moran State Park, which she describes as “just incredibly green with beautiful flowers, waterfalls, and lakes.” Maps of the varied trails are available from helpful volunteer guides. From an observatory tower atop Mount Constitution, the tallest mountain in the San Juans, the Crottys could see Victoria and Vancouver.
Soaring over all of the San Juan Islands in a biplane was the trip highlight for Colleen (www.magicair.com). For Barbara, “It got to be a lot more fun after I realized that we probably weren’t going to fall out of the sky.” Afterwards the family enjoyed dinner at the Lions Club annual salmon barbecue at the nearby VFW Hall. In addition to salmon, crab “every which way” is a specialty on Orcas Island.
Barbara notes that “places stayed open later and had more to offer after July 1.” Even then, Verne’s in East Sound was the only restaurant that stayed open until 9 p.m. and the bar a little later. Summer days are long, with the sun finally setting at around 9:30 p.m.
When asked about misadventures, Barbara said, “I think our only problem was wishing that we had more time to stay there.”
Race car school, colleges, and a tarantula
In addition to checking out Arizona colleges this July with his parents, Memorial High School senior Alan McCallum attended a four-day Grand Prix Road Racing Course at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving Performance in Chandler, Arizona (www.bondurant.com). “Alan learned the ins and outs of maximum car control,” mother B McCallum reports. “and then got to put these skills into action on their road course in Corvette C5’s and open-wheel F-1 style Formula Bondurant cars.” B and husband, Dale—a racing enthusiast—enjoyed watching their son learn how to handle these powerful cars at high speeds.
Alan had a few fellow classmates who were his age or younger, but most were adult men. With temperatures hovering at 115 degrees most days, class began at 6:30 a.m. and ended in the mid-afternoon, with instruction alternating between the course and the classroom. “We were told that from October to April they enjoy much milder weather with sunny days and temperatures in the upper 70s,” B notes.
The McCallums highly recommend the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort in Chandler (www.wildhorsepassresort.com). B particularly liked the spa and relaxing at the saltwater pool. Seeing architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous home and school, Taliesin West, in nearby Scottsdale was also a pleasure. There are two theaters on the property, and B explained that it was Wright, annoyed with flashlight-carrying ushers, who designed aisle lighting near the ground.
Alan and his parents were impressed with Arizona State University, especially its automotive engineering and design program, and visited it again in September. Joined in Tucson by Houston family friend and fellow senior, Allie Baker, they also toured the University of Arizona. B loved their patio room at the Hilton El Conquistador resort in the mountains northeast of Tucson, but not the tarantula who greeted her from the other side of the glass patio door when she pulled back the curtain.
When asked which Arizona resort she preferred, B laughed, “The one without the tarantula.”
GREECE AND BEYOND
Ancient architecture, Byzantine icons, and Greek salad
Tanglewood residents Marion Hargrove and daughter Flo Ray try to take two trips together each year. They look for fun, interesting destinations, and as Flo notes, “It has to be someplace Mama doesn’t mind going back to—she’s already been everywhere!” Marion always loves visiting Greece, so for three weeks in July, they explored it by bus and boat with Grand Circle Travel. Marion says, “We have traveled with them a lot, and they really want you to learn.”
“I’m going to tell you two things that we did that I thought were lots of fun that maybe most groups don’t do,” Marion reports. “One was visiting the Palivou Winery in Numea and tasting wines, and the other was going to a factory in Kalambaka where they make religious icons in the Byzantine tradition.”
Both women were also delighted by the fabulous museums and ancient sites throughout Greece. Flo says, “You’re seeing things you’ve always seen pictures of.”
Ancient monasteries perched on pinnacle-type rock formations in Meteora were unique, and it’s not often that The Eyes of Texas is sung at the restored, acoustically-perfect theater in Epidaurus. At their small group’s losing a singing competition to test the theater’s acclaimed acoustics, Flo remarks, “We were not fully appreciated.”
Mykonos and Santorini in the Greek islands were quite picturesque, but mother and daughter were most interested in the archeological ruins of Corinth and Ephesus in Turkey. Flo says, “You know that somewhere in these enormous ruins, these things really happened. You know that Paul (the apostle) was there.” Religion Department Chair at Episcopal High School, Flo was also fascinated by the copper talents that they saw on Crete. She will have photos when she lectures next on the Biblical parable based on talents—ancient measures of weight and wealth.
Though the country of Greece was compelling to both women, neither is anxious to eat Greek salad anytime soon. “Everywhere we went, we had Greek salad,” both exclaim. At one point, they stole away to an Italian restaurant for pasta. Marion adds that since their return, “I haven’t come near feta cheese!”
Editor’s Note: Each month Staff Writer Laura Bellows features travel highlights from Buzz neighborhood residents in her column. If you have a travel scoop, travel tip, or advice you’d like to share with Buzz readers, please e-mail Laura at (firstname.lastname@example.org) info (at) thebuzzmagazines (dot) com for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue.