Here in Lisbon, tonight, we are putting up our feet in the hotel suite living room after a day of walking 15,000 steps. We have seen so many sites and listened to so many stories, it’s hard to choose a story to tell you, dear reader. We will be here two more days before flying to Naples and starting on another trip. So tonight’s down time gives me the chance to focus on what makes a trip Grand. Obviously, it helps if you start with some grandchildren, though there would be other ways also.

Owen and Julia in a climbing tree near the riverflront in Lisbon.

Owen and Julia in a climbing tree near the riverfront in Lisbon.

Recipe for a Grand Trip (designed for grandparents who live far from pre-teen grandchildren):

  1. Be open to an invitation. In our case, it was “Would you like to join us for spring break in Portugal?” (Alternatively, you can propose a trip. It doesn’t have to be far.)
  2. Pack light. Wear good walking shoes.
  3. On their “monthiversary”* phone calls, talk to each grandchild about the research you and they are doing. What do you look forward to?
  4. If you are meeting at the airport, start sending texts to the children as soon as you leave home. When you see them in the airport, give them giant hugs.
  5. Include many modes of transportation. Count them as you go along.

    Today we two versions of trams. One old and wooden. One more modern.

    Today we two versions of trams. One old and wooden, like this one. One more modern.

  6. As you look at new vistas, try to see what they see. Encourage photography as a way to share perspectives.
Rooftops, towers, castle walls all offer one type of perspective.

Rooftops, towers, castle walls all offer one type of perspective.

7. If they find amazing things, pay close attention:  like miniature cork lunch buckets, daisies in a field, a peacock in full feather, picking up a lemon from a tree, hedges made of rosemary, mason’s marks, Jesus in a nativity scene wearing a tutu, a snail (more fascinating than the neolithic dolman behind it), a chapel full of real bones, a street full of umbrellas, and so many more. Here are a few images from many I observed catching the eye of the children.

Peacock, more interesting than the fake ruins from the Romantic period.

Peacock, more interesting than the fake ruins from the Romantic period.

Snail on the ground next to a monolith.

Snail on the ground next to a monolith.

Julia loves to eat lemons. This one was came from a tree on our first hotel, a farm.

Julia loves to eat lemons. This one was came from a tree on our first hotel, a farm.

A street made to delight children, and the child

A street made to delight children, and the child within.

All of us overlooking red tile roofs in Lisbon.

All of us overlooking red tile roofs in Lisbon. The air was yellow with dust from the Sahara. A strange weather occurrence.

We still have many adventures to go! Looking forward to a day in Sintra tomorrow and a walking food tour tomorrow.

For discussion: Have you ever had a Grand Adventure? Feel free to define it anyway you like and to share a highlight.

* A “monthiversary” phone call is a way to schedule a special one-on-one time with a grandchild who lives far away. It is the number of their birthday each month of the year. If the birthday is July 7, for example, the phone calls would be Jan. 7, Feb. 7, . . . etc.

Shirley Showalter


  1. Marlena Fiol on March 16, 2022 at 5:05 pm


    • Shirley Showalter on March 16, 2022 at 5:27 pm

      Thank you, Marlena. You responded in record time!

  2. Diane on March 16, 2022 at 5:38 pm

    So sweet. I’m guessing the parents liked having you along as well!

    • Shirley Showalter on March 16, 2022 at 5:49 pm

      Hi Diane. Thanks for this comment. It’s good to see you here again. Yes, there have been a few times when we have lightened the load of the journey for the parents. And, of course, being with them is a treat also!

  3. Laurie Buchanan on March 16, 2022 at 6:12 pm

    Oh, wow. Just WOW! I’m thrilled to pieces for ALL of you!

    • Shirley Showalter on March 16, 2022 at 6:15 pm

      Thanks, Laurie. There have been many wows indeed. Wishing you wows also.

  4. Marian Beaman on March 16, 2022 at 6:43 pm

    “A spring in your step and a song in your heart:” That sums it up for both of us when we have Grand Adventures.

    I can tell you are enjoying every second and recording the best. The grands are at a perfect age for travel. 😀

    • Shirley on March 17, 2022 at 1:15 pm

      Yes to the song in the heart even though the steps have noticeably less spring in them. 😀 These ages (9 and almost 11) are wonderful for curiosity and present moment experiences. Thanks, Marian. We are getting a few minutes of down time now.. That feels great too.

      • Marian Beaman on March 17, 2022 at 3:32 pm

        By perfect age for travel I mean this: young enough to express wonder and joy–and old enough to realize their privilege.
        (Yes, to down time!)

        • Shirley Showalter on March 17, 2022 at 4:20 pm


  5. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on March 16, 2022 at 7:25 pm

    The monthly phone calls on the date of grandchildren’s’ birthdays is a great idea! What a lovely holiday you are having. We did these trips with our children when we would return from Congo and had stop overs, but have not done so with our grands. We haven’t seen the ones in Ontario for two years because of Covid! We hope to go at the end of March when granddaughter Julia (almost 17) has a big part as Diana in an Anne of Green Gables drama.

    • Shirley Showalter on March 17, 2022 at 1:30 pm

      I liked that monthiversary idea as soon as I heard it from another grandparent. I’ve only done it twice with each child so far, and it could be that they will prefer texting. I feel so sad for you with the long separation from one of your precious families. You must see that play and your Julia. I hope you blog about the experience.

  6. Sarah Buller Fenton on March 16, 2022 at 7:56 pm

    What an amazing trip and you aren’t even back home yet! Your grandchildren will not forget this and neither will you. Enjoy the rest of your trip and as we say in our family – “Have a large time; don’t come back till you’re done!”

    • Shirley Showalter on March 17, 2022 at 1:33 pm

      I love that expression, Sarah! I’m going to try to remember it. We are about to head off to a food tour of Lisbon, after walking another 12,000 steps again already today. So I think I’ll be done soon!

  7. Phyllis on March 16, 2022 at 9:59 pm

    So, so wonderful, Shirley & Stuart!❤️

  8. Maren C. Tirabassi on March 17, 2022 at 7:22 am

    That’s so wonderful!!!

  9. melodiemillerdavis on March 17, 2022 at 7:53 am

    No fair, you get a spring break and you’re not even teaching. I take that back, you ARE teaching, all of us. And your grands. Wondering why they chose Portugal? An intriguing place for sure–and sand from the Sahara? Interesting. You may recall the Phoenix Mennonite assembly in 2013 where a sandstorm blew by. Thanks for the mini-trip here.

    • Shirley Showalter on March 17, 2022 at 1:55 pm

      I like the idea of blogging as teaching, Melodie. Especially in the comment section where we get to discuss each other’s observations. I think the parents chose Portugal, but I didn’t ask. I’ll do that tonight on the food tour. I was at Phoenix in 2013, but I didn’t remember the sand storm.. th
      Asks for the reminder.

  10. Shirley Showalter on March 17, 2022 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Carol Bodensteiner on March 20, 2022 at 2:33 pm

    You’re having a wonderful trip, Shirley. It will be interesting to see what enduring memories the grands have as they grow older. I bet it will be surprising.

    Our most recent grand adventure was burning our prairie, something we do every 3-4 years.. The girls were old enough this time to be given the torches to light the prairie on fire. The burn only takes a few minutes, but is always amazing to all of us.

    • Shirley Showalter on March 20, 2022 at 3:47 pm

      What a great experience to share with your granddaughters, Carol! Travel is not the only experience that enlarges the heart and mind. Farm life does that too. You have found a way to keep the country girl alive in you and now you can share it with your young girls. A rite of passage. I am sure they will have enduring memories also.

  12. Alicia Miller on May 8, 2022 at 1:40 pm

    Dear Shirley,
    I just finished reading your wonderful. Well written book, Blush.
    Wow I was taken back to my own childhood. I have always appreciated my Mennonite Hertiage. I can feel the warmth of a Grandma made quilt, market days, farm life, fresh baked sugar cookies. I could go on. Everyone has a story. Our stories are different. I notice a common thread. Our roots are German-Swiss, Lancaster County born and raised. I was a farmer’s daughter., married a rebellious Mennonite boy, with a nice car, born to be a farmer. 53 years, a farmer’s wife. Three daughters.
    I am blessed.
    My parents left the Mennonite church when they married in 1927. My Dad said, “ He could not live the Mennonite Style”. They joined St. Mark’s EUB church, Mount Joy. My self and 3 siblings attended . My Mennonite Husband transferred his membership to my church and we stayed on. My membership is there for 70 years.

    I hope to see you around the Moravian Manor campus. Warren and I moved here from the farm in 2012. Sadly, Warren died in 2013..

    I enjoyed your presentation Tuesday evening very much. Had conversation with other attendees, hearing about the comforter project. What a comfort to me to learn that, there are other residents with similar interests, that can be traced back to Mennonite roots.

    Take Joy,
    Alicia Miller

    • Shirley Showalter on May 8, 2022 at 3:25 pm

      Alicia, I am so glad you found me here and that we got to talk at the book launch. Lancaster County if full of other people with stories like yours. There was a film called Silence at Bethany, which was shown on PBS in the early 90’s about a Mennonite family who left the church over too stringent rules. My family found a way to stay as the church itself (our version of it at least) changed. At the comforter knotting days, there were many different women with a connection to Lancaster Mennonites in the 1950s and 60s. Some are still Mennonite. Some are not. But the values and skills were were taught in the Mennonite community run deep. They will be passed to the next generations. I hope we have many occasions to meet and thank you so much for your interest and support.

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