All Across the Land

SWITZERLAND

Laax

Lac Neuchâtel

Sierre

Photo courtesy of Adam

Zermatt

Etzel

Rhine Falls

Zürich

My Village

Not Pictured: Basel, Einsiedeln, Luzern, Rapperswil

ITALY

Pidemont

Milan

Como

Cinque Terre

SPAIN

Granada

Not Pictured: Cadíz, Madrid, Seville

ENGLAND

Manchester

Cambridge

 

IRELAND

Dublin

Belfast

Not Pictured: Galway

 

SCOTLAND

Edinburgh

 

PORTUGAL

Lisbon

 

Photo Courtesy of Adam

Porches

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

 

GERMANY

Munich

 

TURKEY

Istanbul

 

FRANCE

Paris

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

 

AUSTRIA

Vienna

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

There it is. Ten countries in eleven months. At least thirty cities within those countries. I may have had some really tough days in there, when I seriously questioned the sanity in choosing this job, but in the end, it was worth it. Absolutely, one hundred percent. Look at all I’ve done.

So Fresh

I haven’t been feeling top-notch these last few days as I was hit hard with whatever sickness is floating around the two-year-olds in this community. A stuffy nose, queasy tummy, pounding head, and feeling of total exhaustion are my symptoms. Sounds like fun, no? I’ve been back in bed these last few days, resting as much as possible to restore my poor self back to health. I just can’t seem to catch a break. I’ve got a big weekend ahead of me– all three kids, by myself. Yes, the stories will run rampant.

Hot off the cutting room floor! My friend Adam has a “Burst” setting on his camera, which allows him to take several pictures in rapid-fire succession. To say we took advantage of this setting in Portugal would be an understatement. Before going out to dinner on our second night, Allie, Phil, Adam, and I made a dance party in the living room of our apartment and put his camera to the test. Adam then made a video showcasing the righteous photos that were taken. The background song is the one I chose to get my groove on–we each could choose a tune to inspire greatness. It’s impossible not to move your hips while you listen. Just sitting here in bed typing this I can hardly contain myself. Enjoy watching us bust a move! (Be sure to watch it in Full HD 720p for highest quality awesome).

Song: “Baby I’m Yours” by BreakBot

It’s ALIVE!!

Phew! I can’t believe my personal game of Cruising the Continent has finally come to an end. I remember sitting down in May with the Mom and planning the calender through today. As we put our planners away I thought, Self, this summer is going to fly by and all the sudden it will be mid-August. And here we are. I’m not sure where to start as there is simply so much to cover. Chronological order has worked for me in the past so I suppose that is the route I will take. How does one compress the past four weeks? I figure pictures will do the job better than even my master wordsmith-ing could.

IRELAND & SCOTLAND

I anticipated this week for a couple months. I can’t fully explain how excited I was to see my family. It had been six months since I last hugged dad and although I adore our regular Skype sessions, there’s nothing like a big bear hug from him. I last saw mom in March, but again, I just wanted to give her a hug and have her call me her “Angel Bunny.” Of course, I always enjoy hanging out with Matt and Courtney and it was so great seeing them as well. We were long overdue for a dinner triple date. They put together a stellar holiday and it was so nice to just sit back and experience what they had in store. Ireland and Scotland are rife with history and stories. I loved seeing the new countries and, guiltily, hearing my Muttersprache was an excellent change of pace. Overall, it was exactly what I wanted: a chance to put some distance between the host family and I for a bit and, forgive me for the blatant cliché, “recharge my batteries.”

After discovering the art of Guinness brewing. Who knew I loved it so much?

Location of a tradition High Tea we had in Belfast

Edinburgh Castle; pretty major.

Dad, Mom, and I in front of Salisbury Crags in Edinburgh. Dad and I climbed them the next morning.

Sir Walter Scott Monument that Matt, Dad and I climbed up. Over 200 steps if you were wondering.

Dad and I in the largest private collection of Whiskey in the world--over 3,000 bottles.

LAKE NEUCHÂTEL

High on a week spent with my family, I boarded a train bound for the western part of Switzerland. The family has a holiday home on the lake that was built by the Dad’s grandfather. In previous discussions, this location, which I never been to prior, was referred to as a châlet. Now, I have never taken French, but if I am to use any deducing skills based on what I saw I would have to presume that this translates roughly as “camp cabin.” The house was hardly larger than my room here at the house. When someone walked in the hallway-width kitchen, I could feel it in my room located on the opposite corner. But it wasn’t the indoors that mattered so much, as the outdoors were simply too good to be true. This is what a lake should be like. Before you go defending the Lake of the Ozarks scroll down a bit and see for yourself as that public toilet bowl has nothing on this lac. The two weeks I spent here were some of the most relaxing I’d had in quite some time. We laid around in lounger chairs, took baths in the lake, lazed about, and life generally felt much slower. It hardly felt like work. I also had a lot of time to go running. I averaged about 3-5 miles a day and loved having some new territory to explore. Each afternoon the parents would ask where I had been running that day and I was lucky enough to tell them a new route almost every time. I was cutting through fields, running along the highway, and jaunting down the marina. In some languages I think this type of running might be called “trespassing” but I prefer to write it off as “exploring.” True to fashion the Dad thought of some ingenuous adventure I could take. One morning he asked if I wanted to take the bike out for a spin. Oh that contraption hanging on the side of the house? Yes, I thought that might be fun to cruise around on. The words were barely out of my mouth before he had it down on the ground, tires pumped up, seat adjusted. No turning back. I wasn’t sure where to take it, but thankfully the Dad had the perfect place. I kid you not, these were the directions he gave me: “When you get to the roundabout by the post office take the road on the right and go uphill. You will go for a while and then take a left. After that you should take a right. Then go some more and at some point take a left and then there will be a right some time after that. Then just keep going and you will be there.” Riiiiight. So I set out with my rudimentary directions and the spirit of adventure. Turns out, it was a great ride. I almost forgot how much I enjoy pedaling around. The bike only had one operable gear so no matter the incline I had to pedal with the same ferocity. This made for some comical huffing and puffing as  I made my way up the first, and only, steep hill. When I got to Estavayer I found that I had covered 13 kilometers. Not bad for an amateur. The way home was without incident and it was the perfect day for a ride. All in all, it was a great holiday with the family and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to spend time relaxing such a beautiful location.

View of the lake from the front porch

Another view from the front porch

Final Destination of my bike excursion

The kiddos watching a movie in bed. One of the quieter moments.

PORTUGAL

After three weeks of holiday one might presume I would be burnt out on travel. But one would be WRONG. I was beyond ready for this trip to Portugal for many reasons, one being that I had not taken a trip with friends since Italy in May and I was ready to macht a holiday with others. Another au pair, Allie, went on Friday and my friends Adam, Phil, and I met her on Saturday in Lisbon. For the next couple of days the four of us cruised the (mostly uphill) streets and took great advantage of the thriving after-hours scene. The lifestyle demands a late dinner, which usually didn’t start until 9:00 or 10:00. We were treated to many a great meal including a memorable steak with peppercorn sauce (Phil’s) and slow-roasted pork cheeks (mine). After a pre-dinner ritual of drinking local wines in our apartment and snacking on cheese picked out by our own cheese monger (Adam) we headed out to take on the night. This usually consisted of us finding a bar (or three), picking up some drinks, and dancing like maniacs. Besides the castle and, oddly enough, the Oceanarium, we didn’t see too many sights, but needless to say we enjoyed the nightlife enough to make up for whatever we passed by during the day. Unfortunately, Allie had to come back to Zürich so Adam, Phil, and I stole a rental car and made a run for the southern coast. OK, so we didn’t steal it, but we definitely headed down the coast and made our way to a little beach town, Porches. We spent the following four days tripping along beaches and soaking up as much vitamin D as possible. At the beach closest to our apartment the guys decided to follow in the footsteps of some local youth and cliff jump. After extensive research and mathematical equations it was determined that their jump was approximately 60 feet. Pretty impressive if I do say so. Their level of manhood jumped about at an equal distance in my eyes as well. The nightlife was considerably more quiet and we contented ourselves to sit in the apartment, drink more local wine and play cards. We ended the week with a bang by venturing to the nearest “big” town and cruised up and down the streets with a couple with befriended that same night at Albufeira’s finest kebab shop. Somehow karaoke got mixed into the night and although I made a tremendous fool of myself, it was still great fun. In the end it was a great holiday, filled with good company, food, drinks, and memories. It was the perfect end to a string of holidays and prepared me to settle back into the routine of work.

Lisbon crew: Allie, Phil, Adam, and myself, tearing up the streets.

Cool "wall-art" outside our apartment

Beach platz for the afternoon

This is the cliff off of which the dudes jumped. Yikes!

Sunset on the beach

The Time Has Come, the Walrus Said

Actually, it was my host parents who said it, but yes, it’s time for more holiday. Finally, I get to see my family. It simultaneously feels like forever and yesterday that I said goodbye to my parents; ages ago since I saw Matt and Courtney at dinner. Today I will travel to Dublin and I cannot wait to see them. I’m jumping out of my skin. I’m psyched out of my mind. I’m going a million miles a minute. Tired of my hyperboles? We batted around a few ideas of where to go, and ended up deciding on a UK tour: we start in Dublin, hit a few more spots in Ireland, scoot on over to Scotland for Edinburgh and Glasgow, and wrap things up in Manchester. At this point it doesn’t even matter where we go as long as I can soak up as many good times with my next of kin as possible. For the next 9 days I will be cruising around with them, relishing in a reprieve from the family that is more than welcome.

Following this small slice of heaven I will commence holiday with the family at their other home in Portalban, on Lake Neuchâtel. I’ve never been to this little cottage, but I’ve heard it described as rustic, charming, quaint, and teeny-weeny/itty bitty. It will be a tight squeeze with all of us in there, but I’ve always been fond of the lake so I believe it will be a nice time. I’ll be here for just shy of two weeks, drinking in the solitude and “getting back to nature.” I guess the Internet is rather slow so I won’t even bother with my computer. Technology and I had a little talk and we agreed that it would be best if we took a break; re-evaluated our relationship.

Finally, to wrap up my 4 weeks of holiday, I will be heading to Portugal for a week with some friends. We’ve made plans to stay in Lisbon for a few days and then cruise down to the southern coast, the Algarves region. Here, the most strenuous activity I plan on doing is flipping from my tummy to my back in the hot, hot sun. To say that I am looking forward to this week of zero obligations would be an understatement. It’s just what I”ll need before beginning another couple of months without a holiday.

So. I will be out and about for the next several weeks and I’m not sure when I’ll be back to update. There will be the odd day or two when I have access to this device we call the InterWeb, but I can’t promise anything. Hopefully I can throw some pictures up here and a crazy story or five. I’ve set up a few songs here that I’ve been drawn to recently. Some are old and some are new, but hopefully they will keep your toes tapping. Bis Später! Tschüss!!