The day before Mario began his school year we went to the Cologne Zoo. Mario was excited to wear his new bright yellow sneakers that he got for the new school year. Sadly, although the sneakers were cute Mario outgrew them in only 3 months. Here is Mario proudly wearing his new sneakers in front of some of the murals on the outside walls of the Cologne Zoo. In 2011 thirteen artists or artist groups beautified the walls which had previously been covered with a lot of random graffiti until then. Different murals are painted on the walls depicting zoo animals and a competition was even held to choose the best mural after they were completed. The murals still remain today and we love to look at them whenever we visit the zoo. I have to admit that some of my favorite art is street art; I love to discover beautiful art on walls of buildings when we are exploring cities and love sharing art of all mediums with Mario.
Today is Earth Day and it was another sunny & beautiful day in Düsseldorf - except for the 1/2 hour of a torrential downpour type of rain. Luckily we did not get caught in the downpour and we were able to enjoy the sun by taking a walk to Rheinstrand, a beach in Düsseldorf on the Rhein River. Just like Mario's T-shirt says, "Earth Day Every Day" - I am making a point to celebrate and respect our Earth Everyday! Planet Earth is our home and I can't help but be concerned on how population, climate change and economic pressures are affecting the world's resources - we need to take care of our Mother Earth and we are teaching Mario to respect, explore and love the Planet that is his Home!
While we were in Scotland for Mario's Winter Break we visited several Castles, and today I am sharing with you Mario at Eilean Donan Castle - one of the most photographed castles in the world. When we arrived at the Castle, after driving through snow and sleet in the Scottish Highlands, I immediately realized why it's photographed so often - Eilean Donan Castle is a picture-postcard perfect setting on an island at the entrance of Loch Duich. Inside the Castle are many rare artefacts on display - you can't take photos inside of the Castle, but we did see a sword said to have been wielded at the Battle of Culloden - the final confrontation of the Jacobite rising of 1745. During the time we spent at Eilean Donan Castle we experienced sunshine, snow and sleet - when the sleet started to come down, we decided it was time to head back to Inverness - but we had an amazing adventure exploring the picturesque Castle!
While in Scotland for Mario's Winter Break - in addition to exploring the Loch Ness - we also visited several Castles. Urquhart Castle was once one of Scotland’s largest Castles, however after surviving many conflicts during its 500 years as a medieval fortress, the last of the government troops during the Jacobite Risings blew up the Castle when they left. Urquhart’s iconic ruins remain giving a glimpse into what it was like during Medieval Times as well as offering a glorious view of Loch Ness. We spent a beautiful sunny afternoon exploring the ruins of what Mario called "a Very Old Castle" and it's grounds where Mario had plenty of room to run with his stick ropes. Mario also loved seeing the full-sized, working trebuchet, stone-throwing machine, or catapult as he calls it - just like Angry Birds - very Cool!
To say that Mario is obsessed with the Loch Ness Monster is an understatement - he believes in Nessie and has been talking about going to Scotland obsessively for a while now. So we decided to take Mario to the Scottish Highlands for his Winter Break last month, and our family truly had an amazing experience. As usual, Mario packed his own suitcase with his Loch Ness Monster toys and he saved some space in the hopes of getting a new Nessie friend. We flew into Edinburgh, Scotland and we then drove into the Scottish Highlands through sunshine, rain, sleet, snow and what eventually became a full blizzard; but it was completely worth it because when we arrived in Inverness, it welcomed us with clear blue skies and the sun was shining down on Loch Ness - a large, deep, freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands that is allegedly home to the famous Loch Ness Monster. The first days activities obviously involved the Loch Ness Monster: we visited Nessie Land, the Loch Ness Exhibition Center and took a boat tour on Loch Ness with an interactive video showing us where on the Loch there have been Nessie sightings. We kept our eyes peeled on Loch Ness the entire tour, and at one point Mario was certain he saw a wave on the Loch that had to be Nessie splashing around and playing in the waters below us. What an amazing day we had together - it truly was an unforgettable experience for all of us, but especially for Mario.