Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Catching up: Stop in Milan

Via train, Milan is halfway between Morges and Venice, so on the way home Pat and I made a very quick stop there before heading on to Morges. Tickets to see the Last Supper were all sold out and it was quite rainy, so we just went to the cathedral and then to Peck for some cheese (burrata--yum!) and miscellaneous other treats. The inside of the cathedral felt very dreary and grim to me, though perhaps that was partly due to the weather? But the top of the cathedral was amazing, and we had a lot of fun wandering around up there.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Catching up: Venice (sans enfants!)

While Pat's parents were here they gave us the fabulous opportunity to spend a few days away without the children. When Pat and I had first talked about doing this, months before the moving madness began, it had seemed like such a good idea. By the time the dates for this trip rolled around I felt traveled out and I was sorely regretting having planned a trip to Venice so close to our move back to the States. But because the tickets were booked and I knew I'd probably regret it later if we didn't, we went anyway. And sure enough, looking back now, I'm so glad we went.

It was hot, humid, rainy at times, crowded, and sooo touristy. But it was also beautiful, and amazing, and fun. We got to eat at restaurants, wander the city later in the evening, indulge in gelato at least three times a day (okay, that was just me. Pat was more restrained in his gelato consumption), and even took a cheezy gondola ride, which felt exactly like a Disneyland ride for grown-ups. I was actually able to read a little about the art and architecture we saw, though I still didn't fully understand or appreciate it. My photos seem a little bit empty to me without the children, but it sure was nice to take as many photos as I wanted, when I wanted, and at as leisurely a pace as I wanted.

Even though much of Venice was sadly over commercialized and overcrowded, in looking back over my photos I've realized that in the middle of all that there were still many completely enchanting corners.

Thanks so much, Ann and Mike, for watching the kids for us. I know we all had a great time!

More photos on Flickr!

Catching up: Visit With Grammie and Bumpa

Pat's parents came to see us one last time in Switzerland at the beginning of June. I've just realized that the memory card that holds many of those photos (and others, like the trip my little sister and I took to Paris) is not with me. I hope that it is with all of our other stuff on the boat somewhere. Anyway, so I don't have many photos of the very nice time we had with them.

We did one day trip to Zermatt, in hopes of getting a glimpse of the Matterhorn before we left. Unfortunately it was behind clouds the whole time, so it turned out to be another one of the gazillion Switzerland things we had to leave undone. But fun was still had--a scenic train ride, riding the cable car, hot chocolate at the top, sausages for lunch...good times. You might notice that we seem one short in the photos. This is because Muriel stayed behind with our babysitter, Audrey.

Monday, July 5, 2010

iPhone Images From Our Last Days in Switzerland

view from our hotel

Rowan and Niamh with our lovely babysitter, Audrey

napping in the hotel

R. in front of our hotel, the Mont-Blanc

the street our old apartment was on

Muriel, Zoe, and Niamh

playground antics

Rowan with Julie, a friend from school


Though our Swiss Adventure is over, this blog isn't quite done, as my big plans to get completely caught up before we left failed. So stay tuned!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Last Saturday in Switzerland

On Saturday we went to the market in Morges and got some snacks for the kids before taking the train to Lausanne.

After making a few farewell stops (chocolate shop, toy store, Ladurée, chocolate shop), we took the metro down to Ouchy and caught a boat back to Morges.

a view of Morges we didn't often see

Then in the afternoon our friends, the Girardins, drove all the way from the Jura for one last visit in Morges with us. It was so nice to see them!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Goodbye Apartment

As I write this there is likely a new family getting settled into our apartment. We had our inspection and handed over the keys yesterday, and I believe the new family was to move in today. It feels so strange!

The inspection went pretty well, with only one thing I feel we are being unfairly charged for (the paint on the ceiling above our shower is peeling). But even that is not a big deal, because apparently it's standard that insurance covers most damages to the apartment.

I do not know if it is like this in other European countries, but in Switzerland your apartment/house is supposed to be in pristine condition when you move out. We have heard horror stories of landlords going through with white gloves, counting dents in the floor, or even requiring that the entire apartment be refloored. With that in mind, most expats hire a cleaning service to get the job done. Do most Swiss as well? I don't know. I have been wondering if there's some sort of racket going on to take advantage of harried expats who don't have the energy to fight.

Anyway, It cost us 1,700 CHF ($1,600) to have our four bedroom apartment cleaned. This did not include the window blinds. They would have been an extra 200 CHF. I was not there when Pat got this quote and decided that cleaning the blinds would be easy, and we could do it ourselves, no problem. He bristled when I got angry at this, and insisted I wouldn't have to worry about it, he'd do it all by himself. In retrospect, I believe I can safely say he's learned
a) in regards to cleaning, one should listen to the person who does the majority of the cleaning in the family (AKA me)
b) ten hours of cleaning blinds in the midst of relocation madness is worth 200 CHF

From other families we have heard of quotes ranging from 1,500 CHF to 4,000 CHF, so I guess all in all it's not too bad, if you look at it as just another part of the exorbitant cost of living in Switzerland. And the apartment really was spotless when I went back to look at it one last time yesterday morning.

Quiet Time at Hotel Mont-Blanc

...not so quiet:

have just been informed that "adan" (aidan? adam?) is a boy at niamh's school who speaks english. hmmm...i didn't know that any of the kids there spoke english.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Morges Book Club

Monday was my last time going to the Morges book club. In fact, it was not only my last time, it was also two other members' last time as well, and we are all leaving within days of each other.

It was a great evening with talking, eating, and drinking wine late into the night. I will definitely miss being part of such a nice group! More pictures are on Flickr.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

End of the Year Spectacle (the sequel)

Last night Rowan had another end of the year spectacle at school. The first one happened when my sister, Georgia, and I were in Paris. I was so sad to have missed it, so was glad that they had another one. The first, that I missed, took place in Ro's classroom, and was only his class. This one involved the entire school. He was so nervous that he ordered Pat and the girls to stay home, and only allowed me to come. In spite of his fears he did really great, and there were no tears at this one, like there was at the last.

Here are a couple of not-so-good videos, for those who are interested:

Afterward he and I celebrated with some ice cream at the stand across the street from our hotel

Three cheers for a successful evening!

There are a few more photos up on Flickr.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Catching Up: Neuschwanstein & Playmobil FunPark

In May (Really? Only May? This trip seems ages ago.) we took a road trip over the Ascension holiday to Neuschwanstein and the Playmobil FunPark.

Neuschwanstein was fun to see, though it did rain the whole time we were there.

It was also one of the most touristy places we have visited. The courtyard was packed and there were tours going through at very regular intervals. In fact, I don't think there could have been more than five minutes between tours because Rowan and I stopped for a couple of minutes to linger over the "cave", and in that short time the next tour caught up to us and we'd lost our tour group.

Anyway, in preparation for our visit Rowan and Niamh (mostly Rowan) watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and read King Ludwig's Castle, The King and his Castle, and Stephen Biesty's Castles. I recommend The King and his Castle and Stephen Biesty's Castles, but was not so impressed with King Ludwig's Castle. But I'm afraid that not having looked at them in a while, as well as not having them on hand, I can't get more detailed on the books than that! One or more of the books mention the King Ludwig loved the story of St. George and the Dragon, and at least one of them had a picture of the wall in the castle on which a mural of St. George is painted. So knowing that story definitely helped keep Ro interested while touring the castle. But even with all our preparation, I'm afraid that the children's favorite part was probably not seeing the castle, but riding in a carriage up to the castle.

In fact, poor Neuschwanstein was not even the 2nd star of the show, because everyone's favorite part of the weekend was the Playmobil FunPark. Though the kids haven't been exposed to much Playmobil yet, Pat has very fond Playmobil memories, and was quite interested in going. It is a three hour drive from Neuschwanstein, and five hours from Morges. Because of the amount of driving involved we'd decided not to go, until my friend Laurie visited. Before coming to Switzerland, she and her children had stopped at the FunPark, and she couldn't stop raving about how wonderful it was for young children. When she pointed out that it was also the only one in the entire world (none of the other parks have the outside play areas, which is really what made it all worthwile), we were convinced.

I took a lot of photos at the park, but in looking back over them, I feel that I did not do a good job at all of capturing the park as a whole. It was huge, and there was just so much for the kids to do. There are no rides like at Disneyland, it was instead more like a giant playground, Playmobil-style. I wish we could have stayed for one more day. Thanks Laurie, for talking us into it!

More photos from our trip can be found, as always, on flickr.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Packed Up

a few select items waiting to be boxed up for the air shipment

The movers finished packing up today and the apartment is almost empty, except for a few items we still need to take to the hotel and very large herd of dust bunnies.

Niamh was too tired to be bothered by dust bunnies (the photo has been carefully framed to hide them), and took a nap on the bare floor. She's been running a fever all day. Rowan had it first on Monday night, then Muriel got, it. Fingers crossed that it stops at Niamh. She seems okay as long we keep up the children's motrin.

This afternoon I took the kids to the beach, leaving Pat behind to work on the apartment.

Niamh obviously feeling much better

But by dinnertime Niamh was burning up, and was sick enough that she not only didn't eat dinner, but couldn't even manage ice cream afterward. So I took Ro and Muriel outside the hotel for some ice cream while Pat stayed behind with Niamh.

Rowan showed Muriel how to walk through the sprinkler puddles, leaving footprints like a dog.

I have to say that this all looks fairly idyllic from the photos, but the reality has not been so much fun. Sick kids, Muriel not sleeping at night, living in a hotel, moving stress, and Rowan throwing the worst tantrums I have ever seen every thirty minutes or so, all have me looking forward very much to putting this all behind us.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Goods Shipment

Emily and I are trying to get a bit organized before the movers come to pack everything on Thursday. They will return on Saturday to load the truck. The air shipment will travel via Zurich and should arrive in Loveland on July 12th. I don't understand why it takes so long if traveling by air.

Our sea shipment will cross the ocean aboard the CMA CGM Rossini. The ship will depart Bremerhaven on July 4th and should arrive in Houston on July 27th. Customs clearance and delivery should occur by August 13th. Anyone want to take bets on when it will actually arrive?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Niamh's Pistol

The kids made lego pistols today. Niamh's can be seen below. The picture was taken prior to adding the trigger guard, but after adding the pilot.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rental in Loveland

We submitted an application for a rental house yesterday and should hear back sometime on Thursday.

The rental market for larger houses is very tight here. Agencies were calling and cancelling our appointments all morning, as their houses were now off the market. The general hypothesis is that people are being kicked out of their house due to foreclosure and are now looking to rent.

The house we are moving into has four bedrooms, three of which are fairly small. Rowan and Nimah might end up in bunk beds. The backyard is currently only partially fenced, but the agency indicated they would fence the rest if we asked them to.

The house is located here.