Monday, 5 November 2007

We got up early, brought our bags to the breakfast buffet, and then hopped on a bus that took us directly to the Naples airport. The bus was late, and arrived at the airport even later. Good thing we had a two and a half hour buffer, once we arrived there was a long line to check in. No problems, this is Italy and I guess everyone assumes that everyone else will be late. We were late boarding the plane, the bus that shuttled us there was full and instead of taking the people it held to the plane and coming back for the rest of us, it just sat there for ages. Meanwhile, there were lots of phone calls made, presumably to find another bus for the rest of us. This was finally located and we all got on the plane, now taking off forty-five minutes late.

We saw the most amazing sunset while on this flight. I have never seen anything like it. It was like a bright neon red streak in the sky. We all craned our necks to get a good look out those little oval plane windows, and Clay tried unsuccessfully to get a picture that captured just how beautiful it was. We will just have to rely on our memories.

We arrived in London, where Christmas was in full swing. A Christmas tree and decorations made the airport festive, and the carpets made our feet seem silent as we walked down the halls towards the main terminal. We could understand the conversations around us. This was a dangerous place. Just when we got used to paying for a potty that may or may not have a seat to sit on, peeing with a man in the next stall, we got to London. I kept reminding everyone not to get too comfortable, we have many exotic places in our future. I said this while sitting in a cushy couch sipping a smoothie and eavesdropping on conversations all around me. A dangerous place.

Nate made a friend. He noticed a boy playing his DS, and saw he was playing Pokemon Pearl, so he got out his game and asked the boy if he wanted to “trade”. They can trade Pokemon, or go underground and explore together, just by being within like ten feet of each other, pretty cool. They spent a happy half hour playing before the boy had to catch his flight.

Our flight to Zurich was on time. We arrived to a quiet, orderly airport. It couldn’t have been more different than Naples. I felt no need to keep a grip on every piece of luggage when Clay went to find cash. Since we arrived in the evening, we had decided to stay in a hotel close to the airport, and then take off the next day. I was able to get a really good deal on a five star hotel on Priceline, and the kids just ate it up. The lobby had a small pond with fish in it, Benji got a real kick out of this and Nate declared one of the fish tried to attack him on several occasions. Maybe if he didn’t have his finger in the water . . .

We opted for dinner at the hotel, choking on the price but enjoying the food. I guess that’s better than the other way around! We toyed with the idea of coming back to this ultra-comfortable hotel before our trip is through. We hadn’t had the chance to use the bath salts or the gym or the pool or the terry cloth robes . . . but there’s always tomorrow. Checkout time: noon.


Tuesday, 6 November 2007

We definitely got our money’s worth out of that hotel. We used all the bath salts and toiletries in the morning. Clay and I worked out in the gym while the kids swam in the heated pool. Our check out time was noon, and we turned our keys in at the counter with thirty seconds to spare. Ahhhh.

We got on a train and an hour and a half later arrived in Bern. The ride was peaceful. Alayna and Nate read their books while Benji curled his legs up under him and stared out the window. What was he thinking about? Dinosaurs? Was he noticing the green fields and cows and farm houses and trees with green and red and orange and yellow leaves? Or was he watching his breath fog up the glass? His nose pressed to the glass, content to be quiet with his own thoughts. I loved watching him as much as I loved watching the Swiss countryside.

Originally we wanted to stay in the Interlocken area while in Switzerland, but after experiencing some “ghost towns” due to off-season, where no restaurants or sights were open, we decided to stay in a big city and take day trips to the things that interest us. Our hotel is only two blocks from the train station and it has a free breakfast buffet. We plan on tanking up in the morning, not many things in Switzerland are free. Or cheap. Or even reasonable.

Our hotel has an old-timey elevator. The woman at the front desk warned us that the kids could only ride on the elevator with a parent. Apparently the doors are held closed by weight, and if there isn’t enough weight they can open while the elevator is going up. It is in a sort of cage, and you can stick your fingers through and touch it as you zoom up. If you’re not thinking or don’t mind losing a finger. Another reason for a parent on board.

You may not realize this, but our boys, especially Benji, have been looking forward to Switzerland for over a year now. Not because of the Alps or the cheese or the cows with bells around the necks. Because of the pocket knives. Benji has wanted a pocket knife for ages, and we’ve been telling him, when we get to Switzerland, he can get a real Swiss army knife. Ever since, he has been getting Switzerland updates. “How much longer ‘till we get to Switzerland?” When we arrived in London, he asked the first day.

Imagine their excitement as we located the superior Swiss army knife store in Bern, found it on the map, and began our approach. The statue of the man eating babies was hardly worth a second look. The pedestrian –only streets made it easy to cut across squares, saving precious minutes. When Alayna and I dared to linger at a Claire’s, in search of some Starfish earrings for me (we had matching earrings until I lost one of mine), they soon set us straight.

Then we saw it. Knives. Not just cute little red pocket knives, but dangerous looking wooden-handled knives, adorned the shop window. They chose their knives carefully. The woman came and slid them out from under a glass case. Benji chose a large blue one that includes a knife with a rounded tip, a dangerous saw, a bottle opener, some tweezers and a plastic toothpick. Nate’s is smaller and blue with no saw, but with a light and scissors. Alayna even got one, pink, from “The Rose Collection”. She’s made good use of those scissors, creating a couple books with lift-the-flaps and snowflakes from napkins.

Benji carries his proudly, either from a red strap around his neck, or from a chain that hooks to his belt loop and then attaches to the knife which goes in his pocket. He looks like a little gang member. Nate loves his light. He uses it in the morning to read his book, only I think it only illuminates about two words at a time. He doesn’t care, he’s using a gadget. We have had to crack down on knife usage, making rules like, “You can only take out your knife with permission. They are not to be used for sword fights.”  That night at dinner Benji demonstrated the cutting abilities of his saw but cutting a wooden chopstick in half.

That’s what our first full day in Switzerland was all about. We got the knife. Bern is a fun city to walk around in, and now that we got the knives out of the way (Benji has the words backwards, he has a “knive”, he and Nate have “knifes”) I hope we find some time to just wander a bit. The roads are wide and don’t seem very busy. Lots of trolleys, no motor scooters. The sky is laced with wires for the trolleys, the wide streets are mostly flanked with four or five story buildings with store fronts on the lower levels.

The weather threatened to get nasty later in the week, so after we got the kids bedded down Clay and I made a plan for the next couple days. They may be the only ones with sunshine. In this hotel we’re all in the same room, an open doorway separating Benji, who sleeps on a fold-out chair, and Alayna in a twin bed, from mine and Clay’s double and Nate on his fold-out couch. The lamplight and quiet planning didn’t seem to keep the kids up, they all drifted off to sleep easily. Clothes dried on the ample radiators. Pocketknives lay resting on the side tables, within easy reach for morning tasks. You never know when you might need to do some cutting.


Wednesday, 7 November 2007

This morning we decided to go 10,000 feet up. We donned every layer we possessed, from long underwear to long sleeves to fleeces to rain coats. We carried along gloves and buffs and hats as well. It would be a miracle it we returned with 100% of the things we took.

Our trek started with an hour long train ride to Lauterbrunnen, then a bus ride and gondola ride to reach Murren. From here we had hoped to hike on the Children’s Adventure Trail, but when we arrived, Murren was one of those aforementioned ghost towns. There was absolutely nobody around, every shop was closed, no people but the ones that had been on the gondola, heading down the mountain for a hike.

To get to our trail we needed to take a ride on a funicular, which was also closed. The whole reason this trail was appealing to us and the kids is that it was supposedly laced with playgrounds and zip lines and all sorts of obstacle challenges for kids. God was watching out for us, though. As we wandered a little forlorn from the closed funicular station, what should we see but a playground, covered in a light dusting of snow. The kids took off with a yelp. All was well.

Nate and Clay partook in a rousing snowball fight. Alayna and Benji took a turn on a fun merry-go-round made from ropes and swings. They clambered all over the playscape and through a few snowballs. Then they all began rolling their tiny snowballs through the snow to make them bigger and bigger. A snowperson must be created with their exceptional snowballs, and so we began to create her. We decided to make a girl after Clay found some pine boughs that made great pony tails. Check out the picture, we were very proud of her and judging from the amount of people around, we estimated she might live until spring.

Actually, it was quite apparent that this is a happening place once ski season starts, and a beautiful place in the summer when hikers and families abound. November is just not either of these things. The snow was really falling by the time we finished with the playground. We look funny in our buffs, Alayna and I look like Muslim girls with our heads all covered up, and the boys pull theirs up over their noses and look like bandits, but they keep us pretty toasty. The only part that got really cold on me were my toes, they were just about frozen, so we found a nice, cozy place where we could tank up on some food with lots of warm, gooey, melted cheese.

After our respite, we were ready to continue onwards up Schilthorn, the name of the mountain we were ascending. We took a really long gondola ride up, which would have been terrifying if we could have actually seen how high we were. The snow got heavier as we went higher, and by the time we got to the top it was white all around. Not much of a view, but still a thrill to think how high we were. We got hot chocolate and went outside the revolving restaurant to take some pictures on the blustery terrace, but for the most part stayed and looked out at the snow.

We went down, down, down, retracing our gondola rides and bus rides and train rides, until we ended up back in Bern. It was a long travel day, and while we didn’t see the view we had hoped for, we had played in the snow and ridden a gondola, and we came home with 100% of the things we left with in the morning, right down to the last glove and buff.


Thursday, 8 November 2007

Today we headed to Lausanne on Lake Geneva, taking advantage of what might be our last pretty weather day. It was just gorgeous when I pulled back the drapes this morning, the sun was shining and the sky was blue and beckoning.

The train ride went smoothly, they are always right on time and somehow we are, too. When we got to Lausanne we headed down to the lakeside, where we discovered, gasp, joy, a playscape! What could be more perfect! While the kids trundled off to run and romp a bit, Clay and I played Nine Man’s Morris with giant game pieces. The game board was painted on the ground. Next to it was a giant chess boards and pieces.

Nine Man’s Morris is a game we discovered on our little mini-magnetic game board. It has several games we had never played before, and has been a wonderful little $8 investment, we’ve spent many happy hours playing. Apparently this game is popular here in Switzerland, we came across a boy in downtown Bern playing an older gentleman on a similar painted board in a square. I have to record that I stomped Clay, since that rarely happens and I want to remember it.

I took a walk around a pretty square with flowers and trees with bark that peeled in appealing colors of grays and greens and light blues. I’ve never seen a tree quite like that before. There were statues and people spending a few quiet moments on park benches. It was nice to take a few minutes by myself to walk and admire the world. Clay and Nate played a few rounds of Nine Man’s Morris before we left. While Alayna and Benji only wanted to play on the playscape, Nate desperately wanted to play chess, and then Nine Man’s Morris when we protested that chess would take too long. He’s definitely got his daddy’s competitive spirit, and the Davis drive to play games.

When we were ready to move on we ambled along the lakefront to the Olympic Museum, our original destination. While we walked Clay proclaimed that of all the places we’ve visited so far, he would want to live in Lausanne if he had to live somewhere else. The lake is beautiful, the city is clean and friendly, mountains and outdoor activities abound. If it weren’t so darned expensive . . .

The Olympic Museum was one of my favorites. Whenever I see Olympic footage, with all those motivational stories and amazing triumphs, I get all teared up, so I walked through the museum with a constant case of blurry eyes. We saw the different torches athletes have carried across the continents (the torch is always lighted from a flame kindled in Greece). We examined the funny gloves speed skaters wear with shiny stones glued to each finger so they don’t get friction when they touch the ice on curves. We picked our favorite highlights from past Olympics and watched video footage. Clay told the story of the first time he really paid attention to the Olympics and it was the Americans (the young underdogs) versus the Russians (who were paying their more experienced athletes to remain “unprofessional” and qualify for the Olympics). Of course the Americans won in a close, hard-fought finish and the crowds went wild. More blurry eyes.

I didn’t know this museum existed until we check our Rick Steve’s a few days ago, looking for places to visit in Lausanne. I am so glad we found it. There was a quote that really stuck with me, something the founder of the modern-day Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, said. He that asking nations to love each other was naïve, but asking them to respect one another is a realistic and worthy goal. I thought that was a nice way to describe our trip. Our kids won’t love every place we visit, or every person they meet, but they can respect the differences. Recognize them, realize there are differences, and if they don’t like them, at least acknowledge and respect that there are different ways to live in this world.

When we left the museum the sky looked very forbidding. A dark wall of clouds was moving in over the town, but I still wanted to visit the Cathedral, and I urged the family onward. Clay kept casting worried glances heavenward and quickening his pace. The walk was uphill and our calves were burning, but we beat the potential storm and admired the huge pipes on the organ and modern-looking art nouveau stained glass. So different from anything we saw in Italy. The stained glass made pretty, colorful patterns on the stone columns and Clay got some great pictures. There were straight-backed chairs with wicker seats instead of pews, and we were able to walk on the pulpit and admire the lone small table with a huge bible sitting on it. This church was simple and quiet, a pretty place to worship.

We came outside and the sun had reappeared. We walked downhill back to the train station and arrived back in Bern with plenty of time to do some pants shopping. I don’t think I’m mentioned my shrinking pants. At first I was alarmed when I pulled on my green pants and they seemed a little tighter across the booty. “They’re shrinking!” I declared, trying to forget all the chocolate I’ve been consuming. Luckily, my ankle bones gradually began to show after a few more times in the drier, and I was able to breathe a little easier (when not in my pants), they really were shrinking. It was getting downright painful to stuff my passport down my waistband, and I was finding myself wearing my looser khakis four or even five times before I had to finally relinquish them to the dirty clothes and pull on the tighties.

So, we passed a Jack Wolfskin (Clay makes fun of that name, it sounds like a dorky name for an outdoor clothing store) and I made a mental note. We wrote it into our day’s itinerary, and made it back to Bern before it closed. I found them! A pair of pants that will wash well and fit just right. I also got myself a new shirt, and one for Alayna, too. We are so excited, and can’t wait to pull them on in the morning and admire each other.

That night we went out to celebrate. No, not the new pants, though I was celebrating. This was our 100th day on our trip, and we got Mexican food for dinner to have a taste of home. It was actually pretty good. They called guacamole “avocado mousse”, but it tasted just fine. They used less cheese and there were carrots in my enchiladas, but it was good. Expensive, but good.

It’s supposed to snow tonight, and tomorrow is forecast to be cold and a mix of freezing rain and snow. We got in our mountain day and our lake day, so we’re prepared to have a school day. A stay-in-the-room-and-play day. A catch up on the journal and eat lunch on the hotel floor day. It is good to have those days every now and then.


Friday, 9 November 2007

The sun was shining when we woke in the morning. What’s up with that? Where was the light dusting of snow and the wind howling around the eaves? We kept an eye on the window and were gratified with some snow flurries and eventually some little ice pellets on the roof. Ah, cozy day inside. I did make several forays to the outside world. We’re out of soap and deodorant and pencils and a few other necessaries. Benji and I made a trip to a nearby McDonald’s in the train station and brought it home for lunch. I enjoyed these little outings, snow drifting down in an orderly fashion, sticking to my hair and eyelashes.

Alayna and I admired our new shirts, so spiffy! We got some school out of the way. We caught up on journals. The kids made stores out of their meager possessions and “bought” each other’s things. Clay took the kids out and they bought each other’s Christmas presents (check that off the list, the most painless Christmas shopping in my adult history). After reading Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie, I’ve decided to write a mystery to help myself learn how to plot better, so I worked a little and thought a little on that.

It was an ordinary day, in a foreign place. A nice thing. Clay is teaching the kids how to do tae kwon do kicks, kicking a pillow out of Alayna’s hands, in preparation for his workout with the luggage (his new version of free weights) interspersed with some cardio revving kicks and punches. Before he begins he hides the camera, including his phone, so you will just have to imagine what that looks like. I think I’ll work out, too. Maybe that would justify a little cheese fondue for dinner . . .


Saturday, 10 November 2007

Paul Klee was described in our guide book as a modern artist whose paintings seemed almost “child-like”. There is a Paul Klee museum in Bern, and they have a children’s museum that was offering art classes for kids, so we thought we’d give it a try. There was only one other little girl in the class, and the instructor was able to speak in English as well as German. (They speak mostly German in Bern, but mostly French in Lausanne, it depends which country you’re closer to in Switzerland as to which language is most widely used. Strange that in such a small country more than one language would be used.) After donning aprons, the kids sat on a couch where the instructor showed them some Paul Klee paintings, ones that he did using pointillism. Our kids were familiar with this technique from the Seurat’s and other pointillists they’ve seen at museums. She then let each of them choose an easel with paper already taped on, so they could try their hand at some pointillism.

Our kids had their own ideas. Nate’s painting looks kind of like a Quentin Blake face (Quentin Blake is the illustrator for all the Roald Dahl books, one of my favorites), Alayna did a giant cartoon looking pink puffball face, and Benji did a dinosaur scene. I think they are marvelous, who needs pointillism? We’re going to try and get the paintings home so the kids can hang them up in their rooms, a most excellent souvenir from Switzerland.

An hour later, when their class was over, we decided to check out the Paul Klee museum upstairs. This was some strange art.  A lot of it looked like doodles and sketches that were never meant to hang in a museum. None of it looked very happy, I found only one that made me smile. Klee was also a big fan of the theater, he made some scary looking puppets for his little boy. One was titled “Mrs. Death”. They all looked a little like creepy voodoo dolls made from old rags.

On a giant screen on one wall there were videos running of different things, I’m not sure what it had to do with Paul Klee. One consisted entirely of a woman smearing her face up against the glass. We were all laughing hysterically, isn’t that what you are supposed to do when someone smashes their face on glass? But there were some people sitting very upright in chairs studying this film as if it were a serious documentary on face pressing.

The kids were entranced by a Charlie Chaplin film that was playing on a screen to the side of the museum. I’m not sure why it was there, again, Klee was a big theater lover so maybe he loved Charlie Chaplin. Since it was wordless, there was no language barrier. It was a scene where Chaplin is running away from somebody in a hall of mirrors, and he kept banging into the mirrors and getting turned around. When it was over, the kids all declared they wanted to find a hall of mirrors, so we’re adding that to our list of sites to discover.

When we left the museum, we stopped by the Bern bear pit. I read somewhere that the bear is a symbol for Bern because the first animal the founder of the city killed was a bear. So there is a giant concrete pit in the city with two very contented bears dwelling in it. It has trees and boulders and a shelter for them, and they sit up on their bottoms like a dog begging at the table, put their wicked looking paws together, and open their mouths for onlookers to drop them treats. Sometimes they lazily rolled over on their backs, mouths still open, catching whatever was thrown their way.

The weather was wet and cold, so after grabbing some lunch we headed back to the hotel. I took the kids shopping for Clay’s Christmas present, we played some Yacht on the magnetic board and Clay and I came up with a brainstorm. I went out and found some dinner and brought it home while he downloaded a movie on his computer. We had movie night while the rain dripped outside, all squashed together on a double bed with the laptop propped on our knees. We decided to expose the kids to a real classic, one with lines worthy of memorizing and repeating. Ever seen The Emperor’s New Groove?


Sunday, 11 November 2007

You won’t believe this. Lucerne has a hall of mirrors! After seeing the Chaplin film yesterday that took place in the hall of mirrors, the kids were thrilled that they could visit one while in Switzerland. So, under the guise of an educational trip to learn about glaciers and see the famous Lucerne lion statue, we set off for the hall of mirrors.

The train trip was an hour and a half, long enough to try out some new card games Clay had looked up on the internet. We’re really enjoying traveling by train. Short little jaunts through beautiful countryside, and we don’t have to consult a map or a computer to make sure we don’t make a wrong turn. Our new favorite game is called “Emperor”, I especially love it because I keep winning. Clay is quick to point out it’s based mainly on luck. Ha!

Once in Lucerne we walked along an old wooden bridge, part of it restored after a fire in the 90’s. It was really long, and paintings decorated the eaves along the way. Benji was especially interested in one of a giant, the city of Lucerne found some large mammoth bones and incorrectly determined they belonged to a fifteen foot giant that once lived there. After the bridge, we found the Lucerne lion. This was a really cool thing because we were able to tie it to all sorts of history that we’ve come across while we traveled.

The lion is huge, it lies dying on a shelf of a cliff across from a small pool. It’s such a forlorn creature, a spear sticking out of its side, you can’t help but say “ahhhh” and be sorry for it. It was built to honor Swiss mercenaries who gave their lives to help the French aristocracy during the French Revolution. We encountered these guards firsthand at the Vatican, where we were allowed the rare opportunity to take a picture of one standing with our kids. These are the only Swiss mercenaries still in service today. We heard all about the French Revolution while visiting Versailles back in Paris, so we were able to remind the kids of both these things, offering “bonus points” for right answers to our pop quiz questions.

Near the lion statue was the glacier park. Lucerne was once covered in glaciers, during the ice age, which Benji is quick to point out came after the dinosaurs. The museum was an interesting mix of fossils, explanations about glaciers, “pot holes” (made when glaciers melt and the seeping water underneath forms a sort of powerful whirlpool that drills right through the rock, leaving huge holes in the ground), an example of what a traditional Swiss home once looked like, and dioramas of the Alps. A little schizophrenic, but the kids didn’t mind and it was all very interesting.

All these random things ended up at the hall of mirrors, patterned after the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. We’ll see the real Alhambra in a few weeks, but I wonder if it will pale in comparison to this maze of mirrors. The kids loved it, they laughed and ran into themselves and tried to chase each other but found themselves chasing reflections. Upon leaving the maze, there were several mirrors bent to make you look either short or tall, distorting your body. I have not laughed that hard since last week when I cracked myself up with a croaky cough that would not stop, but that’s another story. We laughed and laughed until I had to cross my legs or risk peeing on myself. Nate said he laughed so hard he couldn’t breathe.

We finally tore ourselves from the mirrors and headed back to the train station. We found an English-speaking church back in Bern, and they had a 5 o’clock service we were determined to attend. We were really excited, we haven’t been able to find an English service since we left England. We got back to Bern with an hour to spare.

There was a band playing in the train station, all dressed the same in heavy green coats and pants, a marching band for winter climates. We caught just one of their songs. They were jamming, and we were sorry they weren’t playing anymore. They would have been a good way to while away an hour. We decided to head for the church. When we stepped out of the train station, I noticed two men dressed like fairy princesses. A little strange, but this is a big city and it takes all kinds.

A few blocks further on, we heard drums and encountered another marching band, this time actually marching. They were wearing some sort of strange costume, bright yellow with fur trim and spikes on the shoulders. Big silver spikes like the kinds on dog collars. They were playing a strange assortment of instruments. Steel drums, bagpipes, saxophones and drums. They sounded great, really loud. We followed along for a while, noticing that they were accompanied by the men dressed as fairies, and followed by a woman in a bright pink wig, yellow jacket, and high-heeled black vinyl boots. We had to turn back, but as we were making our way to the church we noticed another woman dressed in a witch hat made from different patches of material, and a long fur coat made from the same patchwork design. She was pushing her way through the crowds with great purpose, going the opposite way from the spiky marching band. A strange assortment of characters, I don’t know if we’ll ever know the whole story there.

It felt so good to worship that night. We sang songs we sing back home, we heard a sermon from Matthew, which we’ve been studying as a family at nights, and the kids got to go to a Sunday School and meet some English-speaking kids. The sermon talked about Joseph, Mary’s husband, and it was interesting since the kids often say, “Why does everyone always talk about Mary so much, what about Joseph?” When we picked up the kids we found all three of them in the “big kid’s” room. There were only two rooms, one for younger kids and one for older, but somehow Benji sweet-talked his way into Nate and Alayna’s room. They were all sitting around a table playing a new card game and jabbering away.

I read back over this entry and it looks like such a busy day, but it didn’t feel like it when we were living it. We did a lot of laughing and card-playing and we ended up in a church. I think God was smiling right along with us.


Monday, 12 November 2007

This morning Benji and I embarked on a laundry odyssey while Clay gave the kids their last math tests from our packet one (we get our next set of home school materials in Madrid, on Wednesday, so we finished just on time). I had to find bus #20 at the train station and get off at the right stop and find this Laundromat, which I prayed still existed, and it went just right. It was nice to know I could navigate myself. We spend most of our time following sure-footed Clay through cities, his sense of direction is much better than mine and he actually enjoys navigating and finding his way around new places.

We made it back by noon, to find Clay finishing up another workout and the kids reading after making 100’s on their tests. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and this was our last day in Switzerland. We wanted to go hiking, but when we discovered we wouldn’t make the last train to the peaks, we opted for Chateaux de Chillon near Lausanne.

We played more cards, we admired the amazing scenery out the train window, and we made our way to the Chateaux. It is right outside a city called Montreaux, and when we arrived they were assembling some mammoths and saber-toothed tigers from pine boughs in preparation for some sort of Christmas decorations. It is amazing how Benji attracts all things prehistoric to himself!

The Chateaux was awesome. The kids were a little skeptical about “another castle”, but this was one of the good ones. It is built on Lake Geneva connected to land by a bridge spanning a moat. No guards, no crowds, and we could wander to our hearts content. The kids raced from room to room, found cubby-holes to hide in and scare each other, and delighted in discovering the castle toilets. The rooms were sparsely furnished, the walls held traces of original paintings, and you could really imagine what it must have been like to live here. Lord Byron signed his name in the cellar on a stone pillar, nearby a prisoner languished for four years, chained to a pillar because he thought Geneva shouldn’t belong to Switzerland. Can you imagine living in the same place as a prisoner chained below in the freezing cold and dark night? I would have nightmares.

Another good day, and a great end to Switzerland. Finished math, finished laundry, explored a castle and watched the mountains and lake and sunset through the train windows as we glided on home. To top it all off, I won again in “Emperor”. I really love that game.