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.

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 Amphitheatre


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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