Sunday, May 23, 2010

Costa del Sol

Earlier this month we spent a week on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain, or as we now like to call it, the Costa da Chuva. Boasting more than 300 days of sun per year, and average rainfall in May of only 20 millimeters, we timed it perfectly wrong. It was chilly and rained 5 out of the 6 days we were there, and we were bookended by weeks of beautiful sunshine and the week after us was downright hot. Luckily the rain was only a portion of each day, and we still managed to do quite a bit of exploring and Amelia didn't mind that when she played in the "dirt" (sand), the sun wasn't shining on her.

We stayed near the small town of Sabinillas, had an easy walk to the beach, and a slightly longer walk into town. We spent much of our first day exploring some of the small and picturesque white Andulusian hill towns (los pueblos blancos), including Casares, Gaucin, and Ronda. Ronda is particularly popular, since it is set high on the hillside and split right down the middle by a high gorge. Amelia wasn't as enthralled by the setting, but she loved the playground in the park at the top of the town, and we loved the cliffside views.

On Tuesday we were off to the city of Jerez, birthplace of Sherry wine and home to the Andulusian Royal School of Equestrian Art. We saw a dressage performance from the schools students' and professors (sorry, no photos allowed), and after letting his horse-crazy girls have their fun, we treated Dan to a sherry tasting, though we agreed that Portugual's port wine has more to offer.

Wednesday we explored some of the local coastal towns, and went for dinner in Gibraltar, which was pretty much a really big rock with a British town and some pubs with bad food at the base, though the biggest disappointment was that the Brits feel the need to lock up their playgrounds at 7 0'clock, so our promises of playtime that evening had to go unkept.

Thursday we took the ferry to Tangiers, Morocco, which if we recollect correctly, was Amelia's first time on a boat (and officially her third continent before her second birthday, although it's sort of like going to Tijuana and saying you've been to Mexico). Since she is just learning some of her transportation words (plane, boat, truck, car, biiiiiig bus) she was pretty excited, and we heard the word "boat" about 200 times that day. We hired a guide to walk us around the city through the markets and the Casbah, had a great Moroccan lunch, and made it through the obligatory shopping sales pitches before taking the ferry back to Spain for the evening.

Friday we finally got some sunshine, and stayed close to home for the day with some pool and beach time. And then Saturday it was time for the long drive home. We stopped in Seville for a nice tapas lunch and took a carriage ride around to see a few of the sights. Now I wish we had planned to stay a few days, as it was a beautiful city, and had a great vibe to it. Amelia was a champion traveler yet again, with over 8 hours in the car each way, and I was quite happy that I got to satisfy my Thai food craving on two separate nights, since we don't have any in Aveiro. So overall, a successful trip that could have been enhanced by a litle more sunshine. For more photos of our trip, click here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Alec

What do you say to someone who is not here anymore, but is anything but forgotten? I love you, I miss you, I think of you often, I wonder what it is you would be doing today? For some reason the anniversary of your death in March did not hit me nearly as hard as the anniversary of your life. Today you should be alive. You should be doing all of the things that 24 year olds do, plus so much more. Today I am sorrowful that you are not here to celebrate with me. However,

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for all that has been your delight. ~Kahlil Gibran

You brought so much delight into my life and into this world with your smile, as big as whatever room you were in. Your ability to not merely accept peoples faults, but instead to find the strengths within everyone. To see and love them as they were, and to not expect them to be different based on any outside expectations. Your wisdom was indeed beyond the short years that you were among us, and I count myself lucky to not only have been your sister, but to have been your friend. Rest well little brother.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Saying Goodbyes

Amelia isn't quite old enough to really understand good-byes yet. Sure she knows to wave and say bye-bye when we leave and she loves to blow kisses, but to actually comprehend good-bye for an extended period is still beyond her. So it is too bad that she has two long-term good-byes this week.

The first is to her friends at Gymboree. We were quite sad when they announced in April that as of May 1 they would be closing. Nuno and Filipa started Gymboree here in Aveiro when Amelia was only 3 months old, and we have been going weekly ever since, so they have been a wonderful presence in her life. While they think that it will likely open again in a few months under new management, we had to say good-bye to Gymbo on Friday not knowing, and Filipa and Nuno are heading back to Lisbon, so it was a sad day.

And tomorrow we are off to Porto to send Scout, aka "New Doggy" off to the US to live with Dan's brother and his family. So a happy ending, but we will miss her quite a bit, as she has been a lot of fun to have around, though we definitely have learned that three dogs is one too many for our family, especially in addition to a cat, a toddler, and a baby on the way.
For those of you that don't know about Scout, we took her in as a temporary guest at the begining of March. I had noticed her for a couple of weeks visiting the school across the street from our house looking for handouts. When I saw her over there one weekend day I felt the need to provide her with a good meal, and of course that is how it always starts.

She was sickeningly skinny, but a real sweetheart, very easy going, friendly, gentle with Amelia, and now very grateful to have a constant source of nourishment and attention. I took her to the vet to check for a microchip and to pick up flea and de-worming medication. Then we found out she was pregnant. Due to her malnourishment, the vet did not think it was wise to allow her to have the puppies, so we decided to have her spayed and let her stay with us while she recovered and we tried to find her a new home. At first she stayed outside, and was very nervous when we tried to coax her to come into the house. Then she started to come in and lie down in a corner where she would collect soft things (Amelia's stuffed animals mostly) and take them to sleep with her. The vet thought they were her surrogate puppies. Now she is one of the family. Going on walks with us, relaxing on the couch, getting Tazzy and Biju (and even Blaze sometimes) running around to play for their daily excercise.

We decided she would be the perfect addition to our family, if only we needed another addition to our family! Since we did not, we found the next best thing, and we are very happy she is going to live with our extended family where we can visit her again in the future. We originally didn't give her a name, since that could only mean she was staying with us, so she was dubbed "New Doggy" for the first few weeks, and got Amelia also referring to "New Tazzy" and "New Da-Da." Once we found New Doggy a family of her own, our niece Isabel named her Scout, and now she is off to live with them in Vermont and enjoy all of the pleasures the Green Mountain state has to offer our four-legged friends.

For some more photos, click here!