After a long week of exciting experiences and new knowledge, we had a day off to relax and gain new energy for the upcoming week. Many of us used that time to explore the area around Norfolk’s Downtown and its waterside. Every now and then, I saw a sculpture of a mermaid in front of businesses, schools, hospitals and some in homeowners’ yards. I was curious about their meaning. In the afternoon, I sat on a bench next to an old lady. She told me that the mermaid is the symbol of the City of Norfolk since 1999. In 2002 Kevin Gallup sculptured 130 fiberglass mermaid castings. They were sold for $2000 each at an auction and are now spread all over the city.

Every mermaid comes with a sign at the bottom of the cement rock. For this special one it says: LOLA ~ The Mermaid’s true love

The Princess told the Queen, “I will travel to a city with a magic trail. A place where I can go when I have shed my trail.” Said the Queen, “If this is true, it’s what you must do each and every day!” Shed your trail. Walk the trail and lookout for your love. A cute wise saying is engraved to make the passengers smile and rethink about their life. Going a little bit further, I ran into a Taiwanese garden.

The Pagoda and Garden Foundation is a small hidden park in Norfolk’s downtown. The beautifully maintained garden with relaxing water features and sculptures is a perfect spot to meditate, go for a walk or just pick a spot in the shade and read a book. If you’d like to have something to eat, there is a nice Taiwanese restaurant right next to it (with one of the mermaids).

The tower was a 1989 gift to the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Norfolk honoring Taiwan’s trading ties with Virginia. The Pagoda is the centerpiece of the Oriental Garden. This unique building provides a panoramic view of the beautiful Oriental Garden, the USS Wisconsin and sunsets over the Elizabeth River.

All of us were interested in the history of Virginia so we were looking out for historic places such as the waterside. Alex F. was interested in the seaside and came along the 34 foot high King Neptune Statue at VA Beach. The restrained pet loggerhead turtle under Neptune’s left hand defined his water world from the waist down. Dolphins, fish, lobster and octopus are part of the 12 foot rock base and swirl around Neptune in his ocean while in immediate touch with the Lilliputian land folk.

But not only Alex F. met up with an American friend. Another group went out with our new friends from the German class. They had a look through a bunch of shops (since almost everything is open in America on Sundays), grabbed some food and ended the day at the beach.

It was a beautiful Sunday for all of us, either we went on our little adventures in groups or on our own. We were very lucky with the weather since it was warm and sunny. Perfect for exploring the area by walking, enjoying time at the sea or hanging out in parks to soak up the sun rays. I appreciated the free time as we spent it all well and had a story to tell the next morning.