Thursday, January 28, 2010

Helicoptering it

We are currently in Chateau d'Oex, a town near Gstaad in the French part of Switzerland. I decided to book a vacation here with my family to celebrate my birthday (this weekend!) during their Balloon Festival.

I'll write more later on our lovely trip to the mountains, as Marion likes to call it.

What I wanted to write about now is the helicopter ride we enjoyed yesterday. I'm not sure what compelled us to take a helicopter ride but Brian and I decided to just go for it. So we found ourselves waiting in line with an impatient toddler

and a not impressed infant

for our turn in the 'copter.

Finally we all loaded in and we were off!

And off pretty much sums it up. The move our pilot made to get into the sky almost made my lunch come up. And my ears popped right away. But it couldn't have been that bad. Marion continued to yell and look out the window

and Betti just chilled.

During our short trip I tried to snap as many pictures as I could out of the windows. It was gorgeous up there. Gorgeous and CLEAR! I love clear, sunny days. We don't get enough of them in Zurich in the winter.

Anyway, my frantic picture taking paid off. The pictures came out much better than I expected.







After a landing that almost induced my lunch again, we were back on the ground where I rounded up the fam for a quick picture before the helicopter took off again.

So glad we dragged the kids up there. :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Snowshoeing!

On Saturday we went snowshoeing in Sattel to celebrate our friend's birthday. Coincidentally, his birthday is on the same day as mine. Small world, even in Switzerland!

We started things off with a bang in the minibus- cans of prosecco, mini bottles of kirsch, and wine.


Once we arrived at the ski shop, Brian took a moment to work.

An accountant's work is never done.

Next we all were given our snowshoes and instructions on how to put them on.
We were told the snowshoes were a one size fits all thing. Then they saw Brian's feet.


With shoes and ski poles in hand we rode the gondola up the mountain.


Once at the top we got our shoes on and prepared for our hike.



And then we were off!

Here's Mt Rigi at the beginning of our trek.

We continued into the night.


We were very lucky with the weather though- it was a crystal clear night and we could see our path thanks to the moonlight. Halfway through our hike we stopped to admire the view.

I promise it was gorgeous. Picture mountains lit by moonlight and lights twinkling in the distance.

We hiked some more and then came to our decision point, according to our guide. In my mind the only decision I was going to have to make Saturday night was what to drink with my fondue but our guide surprised us.

Continue down the groomed hiking path or go off piste down the hill?

We chose to go off piste.

Halfway down we realized the hill was bigger than we all thought it was.

But we all made it, save for a few falls, and hiked back to the restaurant where Brian removed my snowshoes for me. I was beat.

Then it was time for some gluhwein and fondue!


It was a great night for a good friend. Happy Birthday Marjan!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Therme Vals

Last weekend I went to Therme Vals with some girlfriends to celebrate my upcoming birthday.

First impression, not so hot. The hotel hasn't really been updated since it was built in the sixties. Everything's clean and the rooms were functional but it screams sixties, which I wasn't expecting.

Then we went to the spa.

Wow.

Gorgeous doesn't cover it. This spa, well known because it was designed by architect Peter Zumthor, is amazing. Truly breathtaking. And unfortunately I can't show you everything because pictures were not allowed in the spa.

But I can snag some pictures from the web.

Here are the stairs down into the pool area.

There were six pools in total. A 32 deg C main pool,

fire and ice pools (41 deg C and 14 deg C), a flower bath (33 deg C), a sound bath (35 deg C), and an outdoor pool (36 deg C winter, 30 deg C summer).

The sound room was my favorite and is shown in the middle picture above. It was enclosed except for a small passageway. Light reflected up through the water and onto the stone walls while relaxing sounds were played. Basically relaxation in a stone box.

The entire spa was constructed of Valser quartzite, a stone local to the area. So local that everything is built from this stone, including a local bridge.

In between spa trips, we enjoyed a walk around the small town of Vals.


Afterwards, we went out to dinner at the Hotel Therme's Red Restaurant.

The dinner was fabulous and, at the end, the girls surprised me with a birthday dessert platter!

It was a great weekend. We came home relaxed and wondering when we would go back- always a good sign of a fantastic trip.

So if you get a chance, go! Be sure to book early- hotel and spa treatments. This place books up early! And enjoy!

Music: It never gets old

I've been listening to the radio again because, let's face it, you can only listen to the same mix CD so many times before it drives you absolutely insane.

I listened to the radio when we first arrived here. Unfortunately, I couldn't listen to the radio while pregnant because German had a tendency to make me nauseous. I can't explain it. The sounds of words I didn't understand just made me want to hurl. I just don't do pregnancy well.

Now is a good time to get back into listening to the radio.

And I love it. Listening to the radio here never gets old.

Now that I know some German words everything sounds like "Blah blah blah - word I know- blah blah blah blah - another word I know - blah."

So I get a real kick out of the radio because it tends to go like this: "Blah blah blah - Aretha Franklin - blah blah - Respect - blah blah blah - Bruce Springsteen - blah blah blah - word I know - blah."

Then an English song comes on. This morning I heard Bon Jovi's Who Says You Can't Go Home while I was driving through our Swiss town to drop off Marion to her Spielgruppe.

I love it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An odd morning sight

We had to make a morning run by the Aldi the other day. Betti needed some diapers, stat.

While we waited in the parking light, I saw the following.

Chickens in a compost pile on a smidge of land in between the grocery store parking lot and the train station.

Huh.

We aren't in Baltimore anymore.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

10 months.


Ten months old.

Well, my littlest monkey is getting in to everything these days. She is a fan of anything electrical so tends to go for laptops, the TV, DVDs, the DVD player, etc. Just when I think everything is out of the way, she shows me that I don't have a clue about babyproofing and finds something to eat/chew/destroy.

Betti is so close to walking it scares me. Marion was starting to crawl at this age. Betti is crawling, standing, cruising, and walking when holding onto hands or anything that can be used as a walker. She is exhausting!

As she gets older, her personality shines through even more. She is a happy baby but is definitely more shy and apprehensive than her older sister. She also has some separation anxiety. I wonder if it is because I was working when Marion was a baby and now I'm not? Who knows.

Here's a great example of the difference between my two girls.
video
Now Marion would have loved this as a baby. She would have laughed and laughed. Betti? Well, not so much as you can see!

They continue to enjoy each other. And I continue to try to teach Marion the word 'gentle'. It's not an easy thing for her. She is definitely her father's child.

This is what I deal with about a million times a day.

Sometimes it ends with a giggle. Other times it ends with a scream.

Today Betti wasn't so sure about things.

Anyway, just two short months before Betti's first birthday. Where has this year gone? She has grow up entirely too fast. Insane. Cliche, but insane.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Learn from this guy kids

Don't speed in Switzerland. And definitely don't get caught speeding repeatedly in Switzerland. Especially if you are worth millions.

The Swiss don't mess around.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Our trip back to Zurich

We decided to fly back over New Year's Eve, hoping that the flight wouldn't be full and the airports wouldn't be crowded.

Apparently every family needing to fly had the exact same idea. There were twelve infants on our flight. TWELVE! And that's only the lap kids, aged two and under. There were a ton of kids older than that as well.

Economy was fully booked. So, when we arrived, we got super lucky. We were there three hours before our flight and got upgraded to World Traveler Plus. It pays to be early! It made up a little bit for Brian's hellish trip to Baltimore during the snow storm.

After checking our seven bags, carseat, and stroller (and that was packing light), we had dinner with my family outside of security. Soon it was time for goodbyes and we made our way to security.

Security wasn't as bad as we were expecting. Seems they are more concerned with flights going to the US rather than leaving it- security was really bad for flights going to the US at Heathrow.

Anyway, we got through security and waited to board. Soon we were airborne and about 45 minutes later, the first kid crashed.

Due to the excessive amount of kids on the plane, cots and baby seats wer ein short supply. So we set up Betti in the empty seat next to me and, surprisingly, she crashed soon after Marion.

Brian celebrated our triumph with a few small bottles of wine.

Then Betti woke up after two hours. But honestly, I was thrilled with the two hours. What more can you expect from a nine month old who is all "Oh what's that?" or "I see a light, pretty!" or "Who is walking by? Who is coughing? Who's baby is crying???"

Brian and I spent the rest of the flight trying to get her back to sleep and fighting the interruptions- turbulence and seat belts, the guy who kept wanting to serve drinks to passengers using an extremely bright flashlight, the kid who would not sleep but rather wanted to scream... it was definitely a battle with her. But Brian soon triumphed and we got a little bit of sleep.

We arrived in Heathrow and the place was empty. It paid to fly on a holiday there. Terminal 5 was as close to peaceful as I think it ever gets.

Soon we were in Zurich. Gray, rainy, cold Zurich. Some things never change.

Right now we are working on recovering from jet lag. We are hoping the girls get back on track tonight, Brian and I need our sleep!

Hope you all enjoyed your New Years!!!!