Saturday: The planetarium at Ahhaa, somewhat disappointing. A lecture rather than a show, dry-ish and uninspiring. Presented by a guy picked for his knowledge rather than his presentation skills. Since he only gives a scripted talk his knowledge of astronomy is no use; I would have preferred someone with better diction and more charisma, or even a recording by a professional actor.

Sunday: drove to Tallinn. Got stuck in a massive traffic jam at Ülemiste due to some bicycle race that we didn’t know about. We could have taken an alternative route but the traffic authorities didn’t have the sense to inform drivers of the road blocks in advance. After half an hour we finally got to a place where we could escape the jam and zig-zag through Lasnamäe to Pirita where my friend V lives. Spent a most relaxing afternoon with V and family – the kids entertained each other, Adrian picked through their toy box, and we adults just lounged on the deck and ate and talked.

Monday: in Tallinn’s Old Town. The town was overrun with large guided tourist groups; they were everywhere. Both kids were in a bad mood, tired, didn’t want to eat at mealtimes and then complained of hunger a short while later, and generally complained about stuff all day long. We hardly enjoyed any of the stuff we saw.

Tallinn Flower Festival: small scale, low-key, pretty and fun.

Finally saw the much-discussed Victory Column with my own eyes.

Lunch at Olde Hansa: menu unchanged over the past 10 years, food still good, portions smaller than they used to be.

Climbed to the top of the tower of the old City Hall: good views but very windy; had to go down almost as soon as we got up because Ingrid wouldn’t keep still and got in everyone’s way, while Adrian squirmed all the time.

NUKU muuseum, the museum of Tallinn’s puppet theatre: far larger and more interesting than I had expected. But it was a total labyrinth, a tangle of rooms with confusing signs.

Kultuurikilomeeter, a kilometer of culture: “a lot of kilometer and not a lot of culture”. Instead of one kilometer the path is 2.2 km long but the culture along it is very, very sparse. From its name I had expected it to be lined with sculptures, installations, outdoor art… all we found was an “eco-island” (a cheap-looking café on some sort of floating island), a stage and some graffiti and another café in the old Patarei prison, a construction site which will at some point become a museum for sea planes, and a couple of historic ships. A lot of urban decay – hip and edgy, I know, I know, and quite nice-looking in places, but depressing in others – but very little of what I would actually term “culture”. We gave up about halfway through since Ingrid and Adrian were both bored as there was nothing at all to hold their attention.

There was a festival in Tartu this weekend. In fact there were two festivals at the same time: Hansapäevad (Hanseatic days) and Europeade, a folk dance & music festival. Since the first one mostly consisted of a large marketplace for (mostly traditional) crafts and some fairground activities (bouncy castles for kids, some crafts and games), the singing and dancing of the latter complemented it very well. They sort of matched each other in their traditionality, and you could walk around among the market stalls while listening to folk music. And see lots of people walking around in traditional costume, which I like a lot. Nice. (We enjoyed it last year, too.)

Today we went to Ahhaa keskus, Tartu’s newly-opened science museum, together with a friend and her kids. A large section with water-related activities (pumps, spouts, water wheels etc) and a mirror labyrinth were the kids’ favourites. I liked their chicken hatchery but the chickens hatching today were very lazy and barely made any progress during the hours we were there (even though the exhibit intro text said that they can hatch in as little as 15 minutes).

Traditional entertainment

Traditional crafts, modern design

Bungee trampoline: totally modern fun

We took the overnight ferry from Stockholm to Tallinn and this morning continued our trip by driving to Tartu. In Tartu we checked into our guest apartment and then headed out for some urgent grocery shopping – the pantry was stocked with salt and pepper, cooking oil, and some flour and sugar, and not much else. Oh, right, there was some flax seed and flax seed meal, too. I didn’t even know that flax seed meal existed, but even so, it definitely didn’t get us any closer to lunch.

The kitchen this year has both a proper modern stove and a water kettle and a microwave oven – quite luxurious compared to what I got last year. On the other hand there is exactly one saucepan, about one litre in size, and no serving spoons or ladles of any sort. Tomorrow I’ll see if our host can lend us some more equipment.

We were met in Tartu by a most unpleasant heat wave. 29°C with high humidity, “feels like 35°C” according to the weather report. I had flashbacks to last summer’s trip. Luckily this time I’m not 7 months pregnant and can take the heat slightly better. Adrian on the other hand was really suffering. Tomorrow we’ll be fleeing to the countryside to escape the worst of the heat.

Gran Canaria was not the vacation I’d choose for myself, but the best we could do right now. It was nice to have sun and warmth, to do no cleaning or cooking.

I’m happy with our choice of both vacation destination and hotel. Maspalomas this time of the year was quiet and low-key, and convenient in many ways. The hotel, Tabaiba Princess, left nothing to be desired, and turned out to match our needs well. We weren’t the only family with kids (quite): I’d say the guests were 80% retired couples, 10% families with young children, and the rest was a mixed crowd. Not a single teenager in sight.

Having my mum with us made all the difference. Now the adults outnumbered the kids, which meant that each of us got some calm moments. And I could let Ingrid sleep in my mum’s room rather than ours, which led to much better sleep for me.

Ingrid also enjoyed the trip. As soon as we started talking about going home, she asked if we could go back to “Gran Kanaari” another time. I said yes of course, even though we will probably find something similar but new for next year.

Ingrid has been complaining so much and so loudly about having to walk, especially the last day or two, that we changed our plans for today. No visit to the beach, no Palmitos Park, we’ll just hang at the hotel again. Eric took a walk with Adrian to see the dunes, though.

Another dinner at the Restaurant Rustico: grilled bacalao. I’m a bit sad that I never got to try their desserts – just like the past two dinners, we’ve taken turns walking around with Adrian, and I’ve hurried back to the hotel to put him to bed as soon as I’ve finished the main course. Even so he’s been crying because it’s past bedtime, and at night he wants to sleep lying in a bed, in the dark, not in the sling.

We thought we’d take a quiet day after yesterday’s activities, so we mainly stayed at the hotel. Adrian and I took a long nap; in the afternoon Eric and I took a walk (leaving Ingrid and my mum at the hotel pool) and had ice cream.

We had a really nice dinner at Restaurant Rustico, the first meal here that I really enjoyed. This was clearly a restaurant aimed at people who want to enjoy fine dining: they had no children’s menu, nor highchairs. We didn’t let that hinder us, because the place looked so nice and the menu options sounded delicious. They were as delicious as they sounded. (John Dory baked in a sheet of parchment, with fennel, orange peel, and herbs – juicy, flavourful, beautifully presented.) The atmosphere was quiet and the service attentive and personal. I wish we had tried this place earlier.

Adrian learned to roll over from his back to his front and can reproduce this trick at will. He has also started pushing strongly enough with his arms to move backward. I guess we can no longer just leave him on a bed unguarded. He also managed to back himself into a corner where he got stuck and very upset.

Cool dude… except for the breadcrumbs on his face

For today Eric had wished for a visit to Aqualand for his birthday. This morning it was windy and there was a haze of cloud, so we hesitated for a while. But we know that Ingrid won’t be cold almost regardless of the weather, and neither will Eric, and the rest of us can just wrap up in fleece jumpers and stay out of the water, so we went after all.

On the plus side: off season and a coolish day, meant no crowds. There were no queues and no shortage of sunbeds. On the minus side: it was a bit chilly when a cloud passed in front of the sun, and the water wasn’t very warm either.

Ingrid stayed in the children’s area all day. Running up the stairs and down the slides she had no time to feel cold; me and my mum standing in the pool spotting Ingrid were shivering at times. Ingrid was cautious and didn’t want to go on any slides at all at first. Then she tried one and found it OK. Then she tried another one that she loved and stayed there for a long time. Finally in the afternoon she tried a third one that was even better. She kept going down the slides until closing time, pausing only for lunch and toilet breaks.

I got three rides, and Eric also got a handful. The swimming pool we usually visit at home has some slides as well, but nothing this large, and they have none with floaters. Slides with floaters are a bit odd: there is water in the slides to make the floaters slide, and a bit of splashing when you land, but really you don’t come into contact with much water at all. So they’re more like a special kind of amusement park rides. Fun, though.

Adrian was unhappy most of the time, like much of the time here. We’ve tried sling and pushchair, lying down and sitting up, less clothes, more clothes, other clothes, cooler days and warmer days, quiet places and places with people to look at – and none of it has made any real difference. Today my mum suggested that we try Ingrid’s sunglasses on him – perhaps the bright light was bothering him. And indeed he seemed much happier afterwards. It may have been a coincidence but maybe not.

Today we all managed to eat dinner together, almost – we sat outside, and as soon as we’d ordered I went for a walk with Adrian. I came back in when the food arrived, gave him a few pieces of bread to munch on, and managed to eat most of my food before he tired. I went back to the hotel to put him to bed while the others continued.

Adrian’s second tooth appeared. Already he has figured out what to do with them and is using them to gnaw on breadsticks; when he lets go of one you can clearly see which side has been down towards the teeth.

Seen outside a restaurant in Maspalomas

For the non-Estonian-speakers among you, “lihavarras” means “meat skewer” in Estonian, and Estonian is just about the last (European) language I would expect to meet in Gran Canaria.

The lighthouse

We headed to the Maspalomas beach again this morning: yesterday’s visit was pretty brief, and I myself never got to even go in the water. While Ingrid and Reet were playing in the sand, splashing and what not, I tried the waves and the sea.

The waves were surprisingly strong, enough to push me over in just knee-deep water. The loose stones on the bottom didn’t make it any easier. I kept losing my footing and once took a real tumble: I went head over heels under water, rolled with the wave, with stones bruising not just my feet by also my shoulder and arm. Later, throughout the afternoon I kept finding sand in my ears and in my hair – I’d scratch my scalp and find sand behind my ears.

But once past the surf, when I could just float, the waves were very pleasant. It was nice to float in salt water – I normally don’t float very well.

For lunch, pizza without cheese. Sigh.

In the afternoon we stayed in the hotel pools again, and then had dinner at the Italian place (Il Canale Grande) again, while Eric stayed at the hotel with Adrian. Better service today; average food.

Ingrid wrote postcards for her friends: “I got to ride on a camel, I will be back soon”.

This morning we went to see the famous Maspalomas sand dunes. Since Ingrid generally refuses to walk any longer stretches, we did it on camelback. We sat in metal seats hung over the hump of the camel, one person on each side. (If the number of customers was odd, the odd man out was balanced by ballast, sacks of sand hanging off the other seat.) At first the rocking felt somewhat odd but when the camels settled into their slow and steady pace, it was pretty comfortable.

The dunes (the part we saw) had more plant life than I’d expected: enough bushes and shrubs of various sorts that you couldn’t see far across the dunes, even from atop a camel.

We also saw a baby camel, resting in the paddock behind the house, just 2 days old. All skin and bones. And lying down, not like lambs or foals who are up on their feet straight away. Then again, adult camels also lie down, unlike adult horses.

After lunch we tried out the beach. It wasn’t particularly swimmer-friendly: strong waves made it hard to get into the water without getting swept off your feet while still in knee-deep water. Much of the beach was covered with round rocks (ranging from roughly fist-sized to four times that) and some were strewn on the sandy sea bottom as well, which made walking even harder. The rocks made a continuous clattering & rumbling sound as they were rolled about by the waves. Ingrid, Eric and my mum spent a while splashing and dodging waves while I sat in the shade with Adrian.

On the way back we had ice cream and then I took a nap with Adrian.

For dinner we went to the Chinese place next to the hotel, Bamboo Garden. The food was lousy (flavourless veggies and meat, too-salty dough for the deep-fried stuff) and we’re not going back there.

Adrian has been generally unhappy these last few days. He’s not the most contented baby normally, either, but it’s even worse now. He takes lousy short naps, no matter whether it’s in the pram or in a sling. He is least unhappy when someone carries him around, but not very happy then either. Perhaps it’s a good thing he is too young to remember this – I don’t think he would have very happy memories of this trip.