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!

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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!

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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

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

 

Geneva 1

6 days ago we arrived in Geneva. Henry was a trooper on our flight from Seattle to Paris. But once we landed, he could contain himself no longer. Flying with an infant doesn't really have any perks compared to, say, flying first class by yourself. Or better yet, with a masseuse to keep your feet company... and a large bag of food lovingly prepared by a master chef. But I digress. Pre-boarding and bulkhead seating are my touting point with infant flying. Often when you carry a baby on board, there's a chorus of mutters and groans, and when you're reminded how fun-sized the seats are, you join in. But compared with toddler flying, babies are a breeze.


Henry in his new sunhat a la nana

Including our airport waiting, Seattle/Paris/Geneva flights lasted about 19 hours... not bad for a romp 1/2 way around the world. Yet when we arrived, I still felt like a stray dog. We were tired, smelly and starving. After a long shower and a heaping plate of Bolognese, I felt comfortable again.

Since our Swiss arrival, we've moved in to our temporary home, a nice hotel just a few blocks away from the UN. Henry and I spend our days on wandering walks and in the hotel room while he naps.



Ethan's hard at work in his classes and is really enjoying the change in scenery, although the pace is on par with other semesters.



Last night we were all invited to attend the reception dinner and I was able to meet a lot of Ethan's classmates, who ogled over Henry. He made fast friends. We got home late and after a bath, Hank was asleep by 11:30. He had such a good time, when he got home he was acting like a total goof.



But today he's been a big crab- this is about as close as anyone would want to get to him.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

 

Thinking about my little girl

Sleep hasn't been easy to come by since we arrived in Geneva 4 days ago. The first night I can rightly blame on cute little Henry who is quite dedicated to his schedule. Jumping forward 9 hours was rough. But exhaustion soon overcame him and he's completely adjusted to Swiss time. I move a little slower.

As my boys sleep away, my thoughts settle on our little girl. Tonight I look around our dark hotel room and wonder where she would have slept and whether she would be walking and what she would be saying. I wonder if she would still be bobbing her head around when she listens to music or wrapping her arms around her stuffed kitty as she drifted off to sleep. I can tell you she would still be smiling; A truly beautiful little girl. I miss her every day and tonight, with Henry's little rustles as my background noise (and an occasional snore from Ethan) I can take some time to think about and miss my little Chloe.

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