Grapes in Texas

In France, Greece, Chile, Argentina, Australia, California, Oregon, and South Africa we visited wineries, tasting rooms, and vineyards this year, so, when we saw that we were in Texas in time for the Grapevine Grapefest, we knew we could not miss it.  Boy is an expert on grapes, now, and the event promised a free kids activity area.

  

To avoid the 90+ F/ 35+ C temperature, we got there in the morning when the gates opened.  We enjoyed the festival music and food, playing some games of skill to win a few prizes before trying any wine.  The event featured areas spotlighting Oregon wines, Argentinian wines, and USA sparking wines from various regions.  The main area, however, was the Texas producers.  We wandered through the festival and sampled a variety of Texas wines.  Many were very sweet, as Texas wines traditionally have been, but some winemakers have been experimenting with Spanish varietals to make a dryer wine.  After our year of vineyard experiences, we decided Texas wines were not our favorite, but we still found a glass to enjoy with lunch.

An old-time weekend with lots of bull, and baseball

  Rodeo was the draw in Fraser, Colorado.  That’s pronounced ROE dee oh, for the uninitiated, not the Spanish inflected ro DAY oh.  Every Saturday night during the summer, crowds gather to watch the barrel racing, calf roping, and bull riding.  It was family night, the Saturday we chose, so there were also toddlers riding sheep and bigger kids trying to grab a ribbon off a calf’s tail for a prize.

With childhoods in Texas and Oklahoma, Dad and I were quite familiar with the events, but it was Boy’s first rodeo.  We sat next to the families of two teen boys who were participating as one of the calf roping teams.  Boy had several questions about the event and the teens’ parents were happy to chat.  We cheered loudly as the boys made a good effort in the team roping, but didn’t win the prize money this time.  Boy’s favorite event was the barrel racing.

The bull riding was also very exciting.  We watched the bull riders trying to hang on for 8 seconds, and only one managed to last until the buzzer.  Unfortunately, we also saw a rider injured when a bull stepped on him after his fall.   An ambulance was required.  Despite the injury, we all agreed that we preferred rodeo to bull fighting.  The rodeo clowns used very similar skills to the bullfighters we watched in Spain.  They waved banners, danced with the animals,  demonstrated animal management, and showmanship, though in a much less bloody form.

  

Our second weekend event was equally old fashioned.  The Fraser sports complex hosted the Colorado Vintage Baseball Association for an 1860s base ball game (yes, that is 2 words, base ball.)  Following the 1860s rules and wearing civil war era uniforms, the local Winter Park-Fraser team took on the Central City Stars.  We joined the cranks (1860s slang for fans) on the bleachers for an up close view, enhanced by popcorn, of course.  The Winter Park-Fraser team won the match.

  
  

Something stuck in his brain!

After a year of our road schooling adventure, we know Boy has been exposed to a great deal of world art, literature, history, and architecture, though it can sometimes be difficult to know how much of it has embedded itself in his brain.  We had an amusing weekend, however, that showed just how much he has absorbed during our travels.

We crossed the mountains to Denver to attend the Colorado Renaissance Festival, a family outing we have done in other places in other years with Boy and always enjoyed.  He was determined to watch the jousting and buy a toy weapon to add to his collection.  We did both.

  

It was his side comments throughout the day that were more telling of what he has learned through the year.  

“Nachos!  That isn’t food from the Renaissance.”

“That painting is Medieval, not Renaissance.  Don’t they know?” This said with all the disdain a tween can muster.

“The band is not playing Renaissance music, they are playing modern music with old time instruments.”

“No, I am NOT riding that camel! It is a Dromedary with one hump, I can only ride a camel with a two hump saddle.”

When told his axe made him look like a Viking, “Vikings were before the Renaissance.”

Of course, he was unphased by the numerous dragons, fairies and steampunk costumes wandering the fair, but at least we got something to stick from our travels this year.

Language, or How to Say Hello

With so many stops on our European tour, we were asked how we get around in all the different languages.

I had many years of Spanish in high school and college and remember enough of it to call a taxi, order in a restaurant, or have a brief conversation about our travels. Just don’t ask me what I did last week, as I can’t recall how to conjugate the past tense of verbs. Boy has also had a very small amount of Spanish at school in his preschool and Kindergarten years.

Before we left on our trip, we hired a French tutor for a 12 week travelers French class for our family. So, we are all able to manage basic greetings, numbers, directions, restaurant, hotels, and train stations in French. Boy was pleased to be able to ask for chocolate in French. Our tutor told him that if he could ask politely, she would give him a piece of chocolate whenever he asked.

Beyond that, we have tried to learn a few words of the language in each country we have visited. While traveling, I like to be able to say hello, goodbye, please, thank you, and, the numbers one to three, child and toilet. Excuse me is also useful.

I find that if I can say “three, please,” for example, I can get a table in most restaurants. “Two and one child,” covers entry tickets for museums and attractions. “Toilet, please” is another most useful phrase.

This means we have had to learn those words so far in Italian, German, Greek, and Norwegian.

Interestingly, with all of our use of local buses and metros, we have also learned the word “next” and “arriving” in all those languages. The train and bus stations usually post “next train” or “train arriving” near the platform. This is usually accompanied by an announcement of “next train.” We are hearing and seeing the new words at the same time, and hearing and seeing them repeated multiple times a day. So now, “naeste” and “proximo” are no longer meaningless syllables.

I am looking forward to South Africa. While they speak English, and I do not worry about basic communication there, with so many official languages, I am sure we will pick up a few new words.

Of course, we have also found, that throughout Europe, shopkeepers, waiters, and even people on the street, will often respond to us in English, regardless of the language we begin speaking. I assume, that is because our accents still need a lot of work!

Madrid, Part 3, Art, Art, and the Americas

Keeping with our studies of Spanish exploration of the New World, we went to the Museum of the Americas (Museo de America). This collection, begun in the 1700s with items brought back from the Spanish colonies, is extensive and covers both North and South America. Now housed in its own building, the museum was recently renovated. The highlights include a series of panels showing Cortes defeating Montezuma and the Madrid Codex, one of only 4 known Mayan books in the entire world. We had the complex nearly to ourselves, as it is a bit off the main tourist route.

The Prado Museum was our next stop in Madrid. As it is now late September, we found the crowds have lessened, and there was no wait for tickets when we arrived mid-morning to the Prado. There was no formal children’s activity, so we made our own art scavenger hunt with a list of museum highlights from the Gallery guide and a map. We spent an hour going through the permanent collection and took a lunch break in the cafe before checking out the temporary exhibit.

The temporary exhibit focused on El Greco, and his influence on painters of the modern era. Boy especially liked a series from Picasso, where the original El Greco paintings were hung next to the Picasso interpretations of the same picture. Very crazy, mixed up versions!

We followed this up on another day with visit to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, home to modern and contemporary artists. The collection here included more Picasso, along with Dali, and other surrealists.

Before leaving Spain, we decided to take in a bullfight. We debated this long and hard, but ultimately decided that it was an historical and cultural spectacle that had great influence on Spanish culture. We also did not feel fair judging the event without actual knowledge of it. We booked seats in the shade (it’s is more expensive than seats in the sun), and settled in for the afternoon. It was indeed bloody. After one fight Boy (and I) had enough. I much prefer rodeo as a means of showing riding and animal management skills.

Our schoolbooks for the week:

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The Museo de America

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A Guide to the Bullfight

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Eating and Food

Several people have asked what our diet is like while we are traveling. As this is everyday life for us, and not just vacation, junk food every day just won’t cut it long term. You can’t live on chicken nuggets and fries!

We are staying in apartments whenever possible, and that allows us to cook our own meals. This helps both with making healthy choices and the budget. Nonetheless, we still find ourselves out at a lot of restaurants, by choice as well as necessity.

We have a family rule, one that we had in place before our travels began, that we ALL must have “no thank you” bites of unfamiliar foods before we can reject them. While this has helped, and ensures we all try the local delicacies, we still have to make sure we get enough to eat and don’t neglect our veggies. Boy is on board with the “no thank you” bites, but will often still reject the food as too weird or inedible after tasting. As our budget can’t support buying him multiple meals, this has led to some short term food fads, like spaghetti with tomato sauce twice a day in Italy or ham and cheese sandwiches throughout Europe. One day, he even had ham and cheese sandwiches three times in one day. Getting vegetables other than French fries is always a struggle.

Some of Boy’s food fad highlights:

Spaghetti with tomato sauce and bread with oil and balsamic vinegar in Italy
Souvlaki and hummus in Greece
Schnitzel in Germany
Open face shrimp sandwiches in Norway
Pain Au chocolate in France
Chocolate con churros and Albondigas (meatballs) in Spain
Gelato is a favorite wherever we find it as are ham and cheese sandwiches

Generally the favorites fall into the categories of meat, bread, and chocolate. Honestly, those would probably have been his favorites before we began traveling, too.

Madrid, a second visit

With the summer coming to an end, we entered Spain for our final European stop, before our visas expired. We found flights to Madrid far cheaper than the train, but struggled finding a place to sleep, as the city was full for the World Cup of Basketball. We managed to find a small apartment right on the Plaza del Sol in the city center. While well located for getting around the city, the location right on the main plaza, in a city where dinner restaurants often don’t begin serving until 9PM and the parties go all night, has meant an adjustment to our daily routine.

We are doing our best to join the stay out late and take an afternoon siesta crowd, but have yet to make it to dinner after 8:30 PM, sticking mostly to snacks and tapas.

We have enjoyed the excitement of the basketball World Cup, and were excited to come across the NBA House, basketball experience, just a few blocks from our apartment.

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We are studying Spanish exploration of the New World and taking the time to catch up on spelling and science, topics that have not gotten as much attention during our European history tour.

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