Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Finley's German progress

As you know, Finley is in a Bilingual school.  It was a tough transition for her last year, and we had a lot of tears the first few months of school.  She spends half of her week with classes in English and half the week in German.

Little kids have such pliable brains, and she has picked up the language quickly.  We saw a big change in her abilities with German this fall - something has definitely clicked.  She will easedrop on conversations on the tram and understand what they are saying and no even realize that she is doing it.  I have seen her speak to youngest kids at the tram stops in German and understand what they say in response.  We are proud of her progress.

She brough home a story she wrote for school and wanted me to see it.  When she handed it to me - it was all in German.  She had to translate it for me, but this was our proudest moment because she wrote this without any assistance.

I hope, even after leave Switzerland, that she keeps the language.  That we can find a way for her to continue to learn German when we return to the states because what a gift - to know a second language so well.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Family Visit

Shortly after we returned from Ireland, my parents came for a visit.  They stayed with us for two weekends, and during the week went to Prague for a visit while the kids were in school.

We did a few fun things while they were here.  We went to a Basel Soccer Game, and we had a blast.  I had no idea that Basel could be so rowdy!  Soccer is something they definitely care about.  We lucked out with the weather and even had some warm sun during the game.

I took my mom with me on my Monday "Basel Walkers" group.  Every Monday an English speaking group here in Basel gathers and does a hike around Basel city and Basel Land.  It is great exercise and I love all the people in the group.  There are people from around the world, and it is fun to talk to them as we walk anywhere from 6-15 miles through the countryside.  I knew my mom would enjoy it because she walks almost every day back home.  This walk took us through the hills of Riehen, where we live, and into Germany with some gorgeous views.  She also got to spend time with my closest friend here, Marta.

The weekend they returned from Prague we took them to our Herbstmesse festivities for two days.  They were here during this fall festival last year, and really enjoyed the food, so they were glad to have a chance to do it again.  The food is SO GOOD.  It is one of my favorite things in Basel.  IT is right around Halloween time, and such a nice replacement for that holiday (not my favorite).  Rides, food, fun - can't beat it.  It draws over 1 million people a year, but I don't even mind the crowds.

My mom also taught me how to make pie crust from scratch.  This is something I have not been able to find over here - pie isn't really a thing.  But we love to have pumpkin pie and even apple pie around the holidays, so while she was here, we made two pumpkin pies to enjoy.

It is always great having family visit and their time with us always ends way too soon.  But we will see my parents again in a few months.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Ireland - Day 8

Today was our 8th and final full day in Ireland. We had a fabulous last day. We saw Leap Castle, Durrow High Cross, and the most fabulous stop - Newgrange (a 5200 year old passage tomb that took our breath away). We are back in Dublin and we catch our plane home tomorrow. Mat has taken to calling the kids "Wee Lass" in a bad Irish Accent, so it is time to go home.

We met Sean Ryan, the current owner of Leap Castle. And old Irish gentleman that has been trying to restore this 700 year old masterpiece. Highlight of our day was listening to his stories by the fire and him playing an Irish Tin Wistle. It was the coolest experience. We drove up, knocked on his door, and he let us in to tour this castle and share his stories.
Inside Leap Castle.  Built in the 1500s by the O'Bannon clan, it has quite the history of murder and ghost stories.

 The O'Carroll clan were the second owners, and while they owned it, it is said no castle was safer. A lot of murders took place here in the dungeon (which was at the TOP of the castle, not underground. Sean, the owner, will tell you that underground is Hollywood style).

 View high from the tower in Leap Castle.

 I took this to show how actually dark it is in the castle without a flashlight.  This is how they would have lived.
 This is the room where there was - for this castle - the famous Bloody Chapel. Here one O'Connell brother murdered another (who was a priest) while he was saying mass because he started the church service before his brother was present.

 The stairs in the home are original, and very trecherous. And fun for a little boy

 The outside of the castle.  I highly, highly recommend you put Leap Castle on your itinerary for Ireland.  It is only 6 Euros a person to tour the castle and Sean uses it to help continue the rebuilding.

 This is Durrow High Cross. IT used to be outside of this church, but to help preserve it, it was moved inside as the church is redone. This cross is from the year 553AD. A lot of the markings are still on it - incredible.

 This the Trim Castle. It was built in 1174.

 The highlight of the day. This is Newgrange. A 5200 year old passage tomb built by Stone Age farmers. This is only 30 minutes outside of Dublin, so if you get to go - you must see this. You will not believe the stories the guides tell you. It is utterly amazing.
 This is the entrance to the tomb. This tomb is 1000 years older than Stone Henge. It sat dormant for almost 4000 years - it was abandoned and then growth took over and kept it hidden. All the stones (the small ones) were found scattered around the land. In 1699, the person who owned the land wanted to make a clearing for a road when these large stones were discovered. They escavated around, found the opening and found that the stones inside the chamber were all completely in tact.

 You are not allowed to take pictures inside, but I have to tell you - it was incredible. The ancient drawings, the alcoves where they cremated their dead - just amazing. And nothing has been touched. It had been so well built, that it has not fallen at all.

 The best part - the people who build it had alligned the entrance to the tomb and where they cremated their dead with the light from the winter soltice. Every year for 6 days around the winter soltice the sun goes directly from the entrance of the tomb to the very back illuminating it in bright light. The rest of the time, the tomb is in completely darkness. 28,000 people bid for 50 slots each year to see this incredible sight.

Ireland - Day 7

Today we are in the Galway area of Ireland. We are on the opposite coast of Dublin. (it isn't a very big country, so not hard to cross it!) We visited the Cliffs of Moher and Kylemore Abbey. Just two spots because we spent a lot of time at both and we then enjoyed driving around the Irish countyside along the coast. Just beautiful. We even came across some sheep in the road! (Mat had hoped to have to stop the car for sheep crossing, so he got his wish. Weirdo). Tonight we are staying in Galway, and preparing for the Storm Callum (which is supposed to bring the Ocean over the edge and onto the streets). Our hotel is right on the ocean, so this should be interesting.

Cliffs of Moher. Formed 320 million years ago. Aren't they gorgeous?

 It is hard to see in this picture, but there are the Aran Islands.  We had plans to go there tomorrow, but with the storm, all boats are halted for the next few days.

 Cliffs of Moher. Each spring and summer the largest migration in Ireland of Puffins (7000 or more total) come here to lay eggs before going back to sea for the winter.

 O'Brien's Tower. This was built in 1835 by Cornelius O'Brien as a viewing point for tourist.

 The Cliffs are a UNESCO site. Also - this is the background in Harry Potter when he and Dumbledore are searching for the Horcrux and apparate here.

 As we were riding from the Cliffs to Kylemore Abbey (which was north) the scenery started to change. The mountain tops became all rocks. Ireland is REALLY REALLY rocky. Puts Massachusetts and Connecticut to shame rock wise. Here is a rocky mountain top and also an abbey ruin in the distance

 Sheep in the road! These sheep - like most - are marked. With color. Although these ones got outside the fence so.....they are lost. 
 No he isn't bleeding - the sheep are marked with various colors.  We never did figure out what the colors actually meant.
 We passed mountain after mountain, lakes and just wide, vast areas on our way to Kylemore.

 Kylemore Abbey. This Abbey was originally the home of Mitchell Henry, his wife and their 9 children. His wife died of typhus in her 40s, and after that, the Henry family left the estate and it was sold to the Benedictine nuns in 1920. They have owned it ever since, and the nuns still live on the 2nd floor.

 There was a HUGE garden area on the Kylemore Abbey property. Flowers and plants, vegetables and herbs. Back in the early 1900s, the backside was covered in green houses that had all kinds of hot house flowers and plants. Only one remains.

 Inside the Abbey

 After Michell Henry's wife died, he had this small chapel erected on the property in her memory. It is still used for concerts today.

 The grounds around the abbey were gorgeous.  This abbey is in the middle of nowhere

 Taking some pictures while the sheep just graze around.  There are an enormous amount of sheep.
 They would not even let her get near them.