Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Postcard from Alaska

Dear Blog, 

Alaskan Autumn Sunset
I haven't seen you for so long!   Come to think of it, it has been way to long.  To put the lapse in time into perspective:

************

  •  This Swiss Story has come to an end
  • We returned to Alaska once again to continue our adventures and our blog from This Alaskan Backyard
  • the 2012 Olympic Games came and went, 
  • Lance Armstrong has been stripped from all his Tour de France titles
  • the 2012 presidential campaign wrapped up 
  • and the election concluded 

**************
Small Fish in Autumn

Hey blog, I have thought of you often.  We have so much to share once more.  We spent the whole summer in Anchorage, slowly adjusting to life up North.  We are back in Fairbanks now.  Big Moose and Small Moose are loving hockey.  Small Fish is crazy about sheep (random fact).  And Big Fish has become a thespian.

Switzerland was wonderful to us.  We are still buzzing from the millions of flashbacks from our travels.  Then again it is wonderful to be back home as well.  

As the year comes to an end. we are beginning to reflect on all these transitions.


Small Moose above the Tanana Valley, Alaska
Thank you Switzerland for all the good times.  

Thank you to our families for all the help and encouragement given.  

Thank you Alaska for accepting us back into your loving arms.  

We are grateful, and ready for 2013.  

Dear Blog, consider yourself resuscitated.

Big Moose and Small Moose in Arles, France


























Sunday, March 18, 2012

Paris



Small Fish at the Louvre
Two weeks ago we drove to Paris, a mere 5 hour-drive to spend a few days with relatives in Versailles.  This being the first time for J and the young ones, we made all the touristy stops we possibly could in three days.  This included climbing the Eiffel Tower, visiting the Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles and taking a scenic boat tour on the Seine. We also spent 1.5 hurried days in Disneyland-Paris (a first for our children).   No matter how many times I visit Paris, it is always like the first time.  The presence of the tower amazes me each time I catch a glimpse of it on the city horizon, and I feel so small when I stand beneath it.  I love coming to the Louvre, and walking along the Seine.  The only exception to this love affair would be Paris driving.  It is a state of mind I can't seem to get into.

At the Palace of Versailles
Since pictures speak a thousand words, and because expat life can be utterly exhausting, I will leave you with plenty of images but few words.  By the way there are machine-gun-clad patrols not only at the Eiffel Tower, but outside Disneyland also.  This was a strange sight.  The other curiosity for me was the car elevator that provides access to the underground garage of my cousin's loft apartment in Versailles.  Either this is a genuinely clever, space-saving invention or I am too easily impressed.  It was so much fun indeed that I posted a video of the car elevator here.  For another, more typical flavor of Paris, you can view a street artist playing the cello at the courtyard of the Louvre.  And finally, to hear a beautiful hymn from the mass at Notre Dame we happened upon, click here.

I hope you enjoy these Parisian postcards from us.

Versailles morning

A noble statue, Versailles








































Inside the Hall of Mirrors

Big Moose with a lunch of foie gras, Palace of Versailles

Royal hot chocolate 










Notre Dame
Our hosts

Big Fish shopping on the Seine 

Louvre



The star of the Louvre

XVI. century Italian art on a grand scale

Small Moose and the City of Lights

Montmartre cafe




Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weekly Digest


Seasonal maintenance in Lausanne



All the fun and awesome adventures have gotten in the way of blogging once again.  The coldest winter in recent history has been letting up and we have found ourselves getting out more to enjoy our Swiss story.  A quick observation I've been wanting to share has to do with how much manpower the Swiss invest into proper maintenance of their urban greenery.


I am still in awe of all the systematic winter pruning that has been done all around town.  Sometimes the tree line along an entire street is speckled with crimson, as these crews busily work away.  Of course this diligence goes hand-in-hand with other forms of care-taking of public  infrastructure.  Streets sweepers constantly canvass the sidewalks for litter and street signs are carefully hand washed.


I walked past a worker not long ago carefully removing the remnants of an old sticker someone deposited above / on the hood of an ATM machine, using a razor blade.  In most places outside Switzerland, this weathered, faded old sticker would have become a familiar sight for customers, a stable fixture of the ATM.














On Sundays we have been making regular pilgrimages to the Monterux-Vevey region to take in the sites of the beautiful Swiss Riviera.  I love the atmosphere of Montreux and getting lost in the old town area.


                                                                                                  
Montreux rooftops
A few weekends ago we drove to the Neuchâtel Museum of Art and History to visit some of the oldest automata ever built by famous 18th century Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz. These three androids (The Writer, The Cartoonist, and The Musician) are also considered by some to be the oldest examples of the computer. On the first Sunday of each month, these fine historic pieces of precision technology are demonstrated to visitors at certain hours of the day. While they are on exhibit daily, available to visitors in a silent, motionless state, we went to see them in action. The demonstration revealed amazingly complex mechanisms, which, back in their time attracted world-wide attention from emperors and kings, and captivated public imagination (e.g.Andersen: The Nightingale) 




This is the mechanical hand behind the Musician.  Her chest rises and falls with breath as Jaquet-Droz also built-in subtle details such as head and eye movements. 



I recorded this brief  video for you so you don't have to go all the way to Neuchatel in order to admire this amazing talent of a watchmaker. Then again, you might just want to anyway. The Writer was out sick, but the other two worked very well:



The public fascination with automata hasn't died over the centuries.  Robots are now a fact of life, and a new Scorsese movie Hugo, based on Brian Selznick's novel also prominently features an automaton.  It was really fun taking a trip back in time when this romance with androids all began.







Wednesday, February 8, 2012

C'est une catastrophe!

‎"Madame, Le matériel scolaire de Big Moose est dans un état catastrophique! Avec mes salutations,  Teacher"

There you have it.  It really is more fun receiving notes in French from the kids' teachers, even when said note is meant to be scolding.  I just love how polite written communication always is here.  

Big Moose's teacher communicates in writing, and Google Translate has been a good friend.  And actually, she is quite fun.  She even took the children to Lausanne's Circus School on a field trip.  The kids spent a morning learning all things circus.  I mean, wouldn't you have loved to have a teacher who does that? J'adore!


source: http://www.ecoledecirque.ch

Friday, January 27, 2012

Small signs we are not in America

Somehow January is a slow month for this blog, no matter what the venue.  The children are in a routine of now-familiar school days and local discoveries / travel on weekends.  The weather has been quite pleasant, save for a few foggy  days, we had tons of sunshine and blue skies. I have been silent for a while and have a few posts to catch up on.  In the meantime: some small everyday observations:


Wine bottle apron: corrupted toddlers?
 This handsome wine bottle apron was handmade by Small Fish at preschool.  It was her Christmas present for her Dad.  So cute!  For me she made an equally cute kitchen towel decorated with her own hand prints.  This is all so very cute, right?

Yes it is.  It is adorable indeed.  But there is a greater lesson in all this.  It is funny what things stand out to one when living abroad.  It got me thinking: I just can't imagine this happening at an American preschool.  The wine apron, that is.

Inevitably there would be that parent (or two) who would be outraged that toddlers are creating craft works with a purpose that serves, or aids wine consumption.  These parents would no doubt be vocal and would make sure such a thing as this never happened again.

 I love it.  It is a beautiful wine bottle apron.  And I am glad to be a part of this community where no one bats an eye that school teaches children that wine - this historically and culturally significant and enjoyable drink - is a part of life.

Now onto a more funny school project, and this one is also from Small Fish.  What would you think Swiss preschoolers cut out of paper?  What paper doll would decorate the mantel at home?  Yodeling Heidi?  Alphorn Julian?

No, Small Fish came home with an ice fishing Eskimo Girl.  The irony doesn't escape me.  We had to move to Switzerland to make one of these.  Still, very cute.

Swiss Miss


Small Fish is thriving, learning new words and growing bigger every day.  The wine apron she made, I suspect, will be a treasured kitchen item for years to come.  I raise my glass to common sense and to a society where knee-jerk overreactions are not the norm.




And here she is, the artist herself.  Small Fish came home with face paint from preschool the other day (super cute).

Sweet Small Fish 









Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Mediterranean New Year on a whim

Le Grau du Roi streets
December 31 started out as an uninspired day, rainy, lazy yet full of guilt for there was so much to do.  J got up to move the car to our parking garage a few Metro stops away, a side effect of living downtown with strictly regulated and metered parking system.

Then came the first inspired thought of the day: maybe we should go for a drive to somewhere sunny.  Then came the mad internet search for the nearest place of warmth offering an escape from foggy Lausanne. And finally, a plan was born, and we packed to go to Montpellier and Arles in the South of France.

Big Fish and the Sea
Le Grau du Roi

Le Grau du Roi



Small Fish in the sun


New Year's Day 

A mere four-and-a-half hour drive later we arrived in Montpellier.  We had a gorgeous, sun-filled day by the sea in Le Grau du Roi, a place of palm trees and pink flamingo-filled lagoons.  We went on a stroll on the sandy beach and did some people watching before taking a paella lunch at an Andalusian-inspired cafe, complete with an impromptu musical act.  Below is a brief sample of this scene.


video


In the evening, we drove to nearby Arles, a place with Roman history complete with a 1st century B.C amphitheatre. Vincent Van Gogh notably lived here for a year or two, and completed some very famous paintings his style coming into full bloom while here.  This is also where he famously severed his ear, and the hospital where he recovered from his wound is featured in his work:

Small Moose in the hospital's courtyard

We planned to visit the locale for Cafe at Night, but as luck would have it, we ran into fellow Alaskans in a hotel lobby, and spent way too much time talking and eating crepes.  We arrived late, cafe closed - perhaps it was closed all day for New Year's Day- but here it is anyway, mysterious and deserted.

Van Gogh's Cafe at Night


Arles 

Arles Amphitheatre


Montpellier


French highway scenery


Happy New Year to all!  In case you're wondering, taking a trip to the South of France on a whim is likely to turn out to be a good idea.  I highly recommend it.






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