Sunday, February 19, 2012

 

2 Years

Incredibly, two years have come and gone since our sweet baby Chloe left our arms. We think of her often and miss her painfully. Although we still ache to hold her and long for her physical presence in our home, time has helped to provide perspective. And Henry has been a divine gift for our family.

After her death, the familial troops circled round, and my sisters, mom, mother-in-law, and even Ethan helped put together three amazing scrapbooks of Chloe's life. On Sunday night, the anniversary of her death, we sat down with Henry and spent some time in them. It didn't last long, but for the time it did, here's a video.


video

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

 

Moon, Eyes, Pizza Pie... That's Amore!


I've put it off long enough... August was an amazing month and I haven't yet said anything about it! The last time you found us, we were in Geneva, Switzerland, enjoying some weekend expeditions and calm, methodical week days. At the end of July, we were closing in on the end of the term for Ethan, which also meant the end of our European experience. For now. But to give ourselves one final hurrah, we planned a trip to Italy.

 So, after Ethan's last final, we boarded a south-bound train and traveled beyond the rolling vistas blanketed in sunflowers, vineyards, green crop fields and the quaint country homes of Switzerland, to the sunny state of Italy. We arrived in Rome a little late and a lot exhausted, but were thrilled by our adventure.

 Our first day was spent in Rome, wandering a street market peppered with local artists and drowning in tourists, so we felt right at home. We saw the stunning Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, and drank in the general Roman ambiance. What a day!

 The Trevi Fountain was an impressive piece of art, to say the least. Learning a little about it's history helped us better appreciate what we were seeing.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain and the Blevins Family 

The Spanish Steps 

 Day number two was spent at the Vatican Museum. The amount of art in that massive museum was overwhelming, but we were able to spend a few good hours gazing in wonder at man's inspired genius, not only in the frames and on the pedestals, the the building itself was impressed with an artistic hand.



I wish I could remember what this is....


Maybe it's a little weird that I took pictures of this, but there was an entire section of Rafael paintings. This is The School of Athens, a huge mural on one of the Vatican walls which depicts quite a few Greek philosophers. Because the room just wasn't big enough for me to capture the entire painting with my beginner photography skills, here are the front-center features, Plato and Aristotle.

Ethan with his good buddy Anubis in the Ancient Egypt wing of the Vatican.


After the grand finale of the Sistine Chapel (where we weren't allowed to photograph) we sought out the sunny day on a patio where we ran in to a couple of Ethan's classmates from Geneva! They were kind enough to take this. 

 That evening we went to eat at Osteria Romana, a restaurant off of the Palazzo Di St. Calisto. Tasty!


Ethan ordered lasagna at every restaurant, just to compare. This is him with his favorite version at Osteria Romana. 

 Day three in Italy we trained an hour north to spend a day in Firenze (Florence).


We were given some great advice and purchased our museum tickets early and blessedly surpassed the snaking lines. Our first museum was The Accademia, which turned out to be our favorite. Maybe part of it's appeal was the absolutely incredible sculptures. Or the comparatively small size so we could better appreciate the art. But I'm convinced part of our devotion has something to do with the 20 foot naked Biblical figure featured there.

 Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pictures of Michelangelo's David, but it was one of the major highlights of our European jaunt. I wish I could provide words, but there are none. Suffice it to say, he was magnificent.

 In the hall with the David were also a series of unfinished statues unofficially called Michelangelo's Prisoners or Slaves. These were surprisingly powerful and worth going to the Accademia for, even if the David weren't there. My pictures didn't turn out well of these, mostly because I stopped photographing... I wasn't sure if we were allowed to or not. But here's a good link of some photos I found online.

 The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna was one of my favorite pieces. Not in a morbid way, but emotionally, it had a way of pulling you in and demanding undivided attention. The Accademia features a replica of true likeness, but the original is in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence.

The original Rape of the Sabine Women

Henry in front of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

 After the Accademia and a quick walk-by of the Duomo, we stopped for some lunch at a little restaurant down one of the hundreds of Florence side-streets. Of course Ethan had lasagna, his staple in Italy... and it never disappointed.

 Once satiated, we set out for the Uffizi, an imposing museum adjacent to the Piazza della Signoria. But I am embarrassed. I took so much time to write this post that I've effectively forgotten most of the Uffizi Museum, and, as pictures were forbidden, I have no visual guide to remind me. But I do remember being wowed. (Shameful, I know).


I also remember after the Uffizi making sure Ethan got himself a chocolate gelato cone. 

 After our museum expeditions, we spent some time walking around Florence before we boarded our train back to Rome.

 Our last day in Italy was a Saturday. We let Henry enjoy a morning nap on his make-shift bed.


Then we got him dressed for our last outing in Roma.


We deliberately planned less in to our schedule while in Italy so that Henry wouldn't hate us for lack of sleep. And we didn't want to put ourselves through the torture of a screaming baby again. No fun. So our only agenda item for the day was the Colosseum, a 2000 year old, truly colossal, amphitheater that was originally used for gladiatorial events. In it's completed state it could seat around 50,000 people, along with under chambers for prisoners, animals, etc. Although earthquakes, time, and men have taken their toll on the structure, we were still in awe. Very impressive, ancient Romans!


At least Ethan and I were impressed. Henry looks unaffected. 

 After the colosseum, we browsed around Rome a little more and saw the Trevi Fountain again at night. It had a romantic charm, although it was just as crowded at night as it was during the day. After our last Italian supper, Italian style, we bused back to our hotel and got a little shut eye before our train ride "home" to Geneva.

Arriverderci, Roma!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

 

Our Foreign Home: Deutschland!

Where to begin?!

It's been almost a month since our German weekend! Where has the time gone?

So, to recall our hop up to our homeland of Deutschland, I will have to part the sea of recent memories and extract that weekend of fun.... ok, here it is.

Based on an experienced recommendation, Ethan and I decided Germany was a must on our Tour de Europe. Not only is Germany The Swiss' northern neighbor, but it's also Ethan's and my ancestral home (among many others). So we boarded our Friday afternoon train and 7 hours later found ourselves in the nicest "Pricelined" hotel in Koln, Germany. On Saturday morning we secured ourselves a little european rental car for the day then began our exploration of Downtown Koln.


Henry and I at Gaffel-Haus, our first plunge into local eats. German fare, you ask? Amazing!!

We had planned to take a boat trip along the Rhine, but it was a soggy day and we felt like it might be too much for our little man. But it wasn't too difficult to be sucked in to the beauty of the Koln Cathedral, which was dripping with gothic style.









We had booked a hotel in Frankfurt that night and were hoping to make it there for a tasty plateful of wiener schnitzel, but it took over an hour to shake ourselves from the labyrinth of one-way streets, people, and construction detours of downtown Koln, and until almost 11 pm to actually walk in to our Frankfurt hotel.

On Sunday our original plan was a leisurely drive south a few towns, but after church we resolved to content ourselves with Frankfurt to ensure we caught our train back to Geneva. So we chose a very traditionally German location close to the river to explore but were surprised by the major detours and the crowded streets between us and our destination. I guess we should have done a little more research on Frankfurt's calendar of events before making plans. But even though it wasn't the Germany we were planning to find and we missed our train because of it, it was still an exciting thing to accidentally spectate!

video


Adorable Ethan!

Our short weekend in Germany gave us just enough culture, landscape, and cuisine to make us hungry for more! It felt like home to both of us- a home where we didn't speak the language. Lucky for us almost everyone there spoke our mother-tongue. We hope that someday Germany will be on our itinerary again. Thank you, Deutschland!

 

Ha Ha, Henry!

video

I love this kid! We had a fun time watching him watch the light. By the way, excuse the messy background- we're in the middle of packing. Enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

 

Lyon, France

I'm a little behind on my blog posts... I felt like I should catch up before it became impossible.

The day after the tomato festival, we decided to head to Lyon, France. We caught a 9ish train and after a short two hours, arrived in the beautiful city of Lyon. Instead of making this post word-heavy, I think I'll let the pictures tell the bulk of the story.


Ethan and Henry on the train ride to Lyon.


After finding an ATM, food was our first order of business in Lyon. We found a little cafe that served up some mean crepes- ham, sun-dried tomato and cheese. My mouth waters whenever I think about them. Oooo, good.


After lunch, we caught a bus to St. John the Baptist Cathedral (large building in the foreground), which was undergoing some renovations, so we headed up to the Basilica (on the hilltop).




A few pictures of the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourviere, built in the late 1800's.


Built on a hilltop, the view from the Basilica alone was worth the effort.


A few minutes walk from the Basilica are the ruins of two Roman amphitheaters, first constructed about 15 BC. If you look closely, you'll see a little Henry sunhat peeping over one of the walls.


We were impressed with the imprints of generations in this spot; The Basilica towering in the background, the ancient ruins of the amphitheater around us, and a modern stage with the lighting, sound boards, and speakers rising up in front of the sweeping view of Lyon.


Henry and I found a little cave on our way down from the amphitheaters.


At the base of the hill we found ourselves in the middle of Old Town, Lyon. Offering cobblestone streets, crowded buildings, and outdoor eateries, it was quintessential France. I felt pretty successful getting this shot. An old town in a French city in the middle of tourist season on a Saturday afternoon... a picture with little or no people is priceless.


After Old Lyon, we caught a bus to Tete D'Or, the most amazing park I have ever had the pleasure to enter. We initially went for Henry's sake and we were rewarded with ample coos and smiles.


This park was huge, boasting a little lake, multiple fields for games, play grounds, a carousel, giraffes, long horn cattle, a variety of interesting birds, an amazing rose garden, and a running path surrounding this family paradise. This was by far my favorite part of Lyon.


Ethan had done some initial research, and we had a pretty impressive dinner, if food was the only consideration. By this point, Henry was finished with Lyon, traveling, smiling, and even his pacifier. Our waiter wasn't sugared up by Henry's cuteness and gave us the cold shoulder during our visit to his table. And to top it all off, we were eating al fresco under an umbrella and it began to rain. So Ethan and I took turns eating while the other one walked the screaming Henry around the narrow passageways. It was still a delicious meal, but by the time the check came, all parties were ready for us to move on. (Note to self: don't expect miracle behavior out of a sleep-deprived 4 month old.)

Our train ride home was, let me be completely candid, a continuation of dinner, except no food was involved. Poor Henry! But all things considered, we loved our trip to Lyon and look forward to someday making our way back to that beautiful city!


Sunday, July 17, 2011

 

A Fruitless Tomato Festival

After poking around online, I found something I was really excited to experience in Geneva. Every July they hold a Tomato festival, with dozens of growers and a wide variety of tomatoes for the tasting. We had already planned our Saturday excursion, but the internet confirmed that the festival was Friday evening and Saturday. So we set off on Friday evening for a tomato extravaganza and after a round-about bus route and half an hour of wandering through "the ugly side", we arrived at a miniature fair ground proclaiming itself to be the Tomato Festival.


Henry and The Tomato

I was expecting a farmer's market feel, but instead it was a bona fide festival on the relatively small plot of ground allotted to them. There was a churro stand (gotta have fried food at a fair), a carousel, one midway game, a couple food booths, and a live Swiss band playing American country, and singing in French. Yee-haw!

But I was undeterred. The familiar smells in the foreign land could not depart me from my mission- to taste some really amazing tomatoes. After searching, Ethan spotted a few tomato plants weaving up lattice work under a huge tent in the rear of this toe-tappin' party, so we wove our way through the crowd to find...


nothing.

What the internet failed to tell us was that although the fair was Friday and Saturday, the tomatoes were purely a Saturday affair. We bought some peanuts from the only vendor in the tomato tent, then we drowned my disappointment in bbq and churros. It was hard to stay too despondent, watching the growing crowd enjoying the music, food, and other fun. And of course, before we left, Ethan got to play his midway game... and won Henry a little star.


All in all, a pretty successful night!

Monday, July 11, 2011

 

Enjoying the Swiss-ness of it all!

This last Saturday marked our first out-of-Geneva experience since our arrival almost two weeks ago. The interns at the University of Geneva planned an outing for the Duke Students (plus tag-alongs like me and Henry). We traveled to Montreux, then took a train specifically used for mountain climbing, and climbed the Swiss Alps from the comfort of our train seats. The scenery was stunning, with Lake Geneva below and mountains all around. We spent a few good hours on the top of one mount, and ate our lunch with jutting peaks, sloping fields of wildflowers and two mountain cottages as our view. Our mood music was clanking cow bells from a small herd of cattle. Needless to say, our "daily bread" was not the breathtaking part of our meal.



After our mountainous adventure, we chugged back down to Montreux where we visited our first European castle, the famous Chateau de Chillon. By this time Henry was beyond exhausted, hot, and poopy, so our visit may have been a little distracted. But even with a squirmy boy I felt like we could appreciate our visit. This chateau was built on a little island of rock just beyond the natural beach line, with an idyllic mote surrounding it's thick stone walls. Our guided tour took us through the gallows, storage areas, bedrooms, great halls, and even a two-seater toilet where many a medieval hiney addressed it's needs while its owner chatted with their potty mate. Built over 1000 years ago, I believe it's the oldest structure I've ever entered.

Saturday was not our day for picture taking. We took heaps of pictures on the Alps, but the camera only remembers us taking about 8. And after a 1/2 hour video of Ethan's pocket, our battery had had enough. We've been promised some pictures from friends, but until then, here is a pic of the Chateau from the internet!


http://193.105.21.101/image?id=6985&hsearch=chateau

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