Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Day Four in Basel

Today was our last full day in Basel.  Arlington and Finley spent this morning in their new school getting to know their classmates.  While they were there, Cainan, my mom and I went with our guide Kaya around the Basel-Stadt area.  She showed us Rhein, and I fell in love with the area.  It was very similar to Muttenz, but closer to the city and the girl's schools.

We spent quite a bit of time there - and talked about what Cainan going to the International School of Basel would mean for finding a place to live.  His school is so far from Mat's work and the girl's schools that we would be hard pressed to find an area where someone wouldn't have a terrible commute.

So we started to talk about different schools for him.  We visited the Swiss International School and it was lovely.  Seemed like a great fit for Cainan, and he was interested in the school.  Unfortunately, their incoming 5th grade class is full for next year.  They offered to put him on the waiting list, but in the mean time, we talked about one other school - the Early Learning Academy.  It was similar to the Swiss International School and the girl's school - Academia - but we didn't have time to visit it.  It is in a good location and would solve a lot of our "finding an area to live" problems., so we are going to talk to the school and see what we think.

At lunch time, we picked up the girls and had a chance to hear all about their morning at the school. Both were 100% convinced this was the school for them.  Finley was swarmed by 8 little girls in her class who were all excited to meet her.  Several were American and some spoke perfect English, so she was relieved.  She thinks she is going to be fine and so do I.  Arlington's class is very small - but she did feel good about her classmates and is definitely sold on this school.  So that was a relief.

After lunch, we had a chance to visit an example of company housing.  Roche is giving us a place to live for 6 months while we find where we want to settle.  IT will come completely furnished and with everything we need except clothes and toiletries.   That is going to help a lot.  The apartment we saw was lovely and bigger than I expected it to be. Finley wasn't impressed and didn't feel she could fit her belongings in the apartment, but we explained that it would be temporary until we found a permanent place to live.

After the apartment, Kaya showed us an example of a house.  It was really, really nice.  Unfortunately, it is in an area that is too far away for us to live, but it was nice to see an example of a house.  It was very lovely, and not small in the least.  The kids loved it.

In the evening, we had reservations to eat at a very nice restaurant near the Rhine.  It was after our guide dropped us off, so we had to get ourselves there.  We found out we could take public transportation.  This time it was a bus.  We got a bit lost looking for the bus, but we finally got there.  What we didn't know  - if you don't push the "stop" button on the bus, the bus will not stop, and will pass up where you want to be.  And that is what happened to us.  We got off two stops after we were supposed to, and had to walk a few blocks to find the right bus stop to turn around.  It was an adventure, but what a way to learn how to use the system.  What we understand is - when we have our cell phone service hooked up in Basel, we will have an app to help with transportation.  I am going to need that.  And a miracle.

Dinner was lovely.  Again - the menu was all in German, but we took some chances and ordered and had a wonderful meal.  It was a nice way to spend our last day in the city.  We all talked at dinner about the trip and I am looking forward to coming back and getting settled.  This trip makes it easier to go home and pack and get ready to move.  I am so glad Roche agreed to let us make this visit and spoiled us so.

We are ready.

This is the Swiss International School.  A very beautiful school.  Maybe some day:
 Throughout the city, there are three gates that still are in existence from when there was a wall around Basel:

 Part of the wall that used to be around Basel that is still in existence
 Roche!!  We had a snack at a little cafe on the Rhine and this was our view
 Cafe on the Rhine

 We rode this little ferry across the Rhine for fun.  You see the cable and small Swiss flag on the right?  That is how the ferry goes back and forth - there is no motor.
 You have to ring the bell to get the ferry to come back across the Rhine.  Cainan gave it a try
 Cainan on the ferry.  The girls were at school when we rode the ferry - so he got to do this alone
 View of the area from the ferry
 Cainan at dinner
 Dinner on the Rhine.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Day Three in Basel

Today was back to business.  I was picked up at 9:30 and taken to the man who was going to help us with our health insurance.  In Switzerland all people are required to have health insurance yet no company is required to cover it for their employees.  And it is very expensive, so that was a fun little gem to find out.

The meeting was painless, and actually kind of fun.  The guy works for Roche and only does insurance for expats, so he was very knowledgeable.  We got a lot of good information to review.  We cannot apply for insurance until we get there, but at least now we know how it works and what it covers.  It was great to do have a chance to meet with this department face to face.

Once the insurance meeting was over, Kaya restarted our tour.  Today was about the schools.  We first visited the school that Finley will attend.  It is called Academia International School.  We have been communicating regularly with this school especially since Finley (who is my youngest) is vision impaired.  This school has been very open to having her and also had done all the leg work to make sure she got a braille teacher, and aide, and a mobility specialist.  They have been very easy to deal with and talk to and have answered all of our questions.  Finley was in love with the school from the moment she saw it.  It is small and quaint - there will only be 16 kids in her class (that is the ENTIRE 5th grade).   She wanted a small, intimate setting because with her vision issues, she tends to be a little shy and unsure.

This school is a bilingual school.  They will teach the lessons in English and German.  We were excited about this because we really are moving here to immerse in the culture.  We will all be taking intense German, so for Finley to have it daily at school - she will be fluent in no time.

Arlington will also be attending the Academia International School, but on a different campus.  She will be in the College (which here means high school).  She did come along on the tour today because her next year's classmates are still at this campus.  She had a chance to meet some of the kids she will be with next year, which helped.

After a successful tour of the Academia school, we had a very nice lunch at a nearby restaurant.  It was so hot that the kids didn't want to eat much.  We have found that many of the menus are ONLY in German with no English translation, so we were happy to have our guide with us.  My mom had ordered scallops thinking she was getting fish, but scallops in German is a veal.  That was a bit of a surprise, but we learned something!

After lunch we visited the school that Cainan is interested in.  It is called the International School Basel.  This school could not have been more American.  And it was HUGE.  It would be a perfect fit for Cainan, but it is very, very far away from the school for the girls and Mat's work, that we are having second thoughts.  Cainan loved it because it is exactly what he is used to.  Cainan doesn't like change  - loves his routine.  So I could see him here.  We need to think about its distance.  Especially with taking public transportation......his commute would be very long.  But the school was beautiful.  Most of the teachers were American or British.  They did teach German in this school, but it is not a bilingual school.  We shall see.

After seeing the International school, we stopped at the Academia College so Arlington could see where she will be attending classes next year.  This campus is right in the city, but is moving in about a year to even a more central location.  This school is growing and the new building will be bigger and have more amenities for the teenagers it caters to.  Arlington talked with the teachers and she asked a lot of really good questions.  AFter that meeting, she was 100% sure this was the school for her.  Some of her classes will be bilingual, but at this age, Switzerland is doing the opposite - making sure most of their students can speak English.  So Arlington will take some intense German classes outside of school to catch up to her peers.

Kaya dropped us in the town of Muttenz at the end of our day because we wanted to explore their downtown and get some dinner.  We walked the streets and stopped in a bakery/sandwich shop to eat.  We were able to get ourselves back to the hotel on the public transportation (and patted ourselves on the back for not getting lost) and are now in for the night.  It was a full and great day.

Enjoy the pictures  (you can click on them to make them bigger)

Outside of Finley's school.  This school is very close to the German and French borders.
 A large part of Finley's school.  Very Swiss and really beautiful.  The building is 350 years old.
 The International School Basel.  This school is huge.  The elementary school is home to 600 students
 Arlington's school - not a great picture.  This is its temporary house until their building is finished next year.
 The bakery/sandwich shop where we had dinner in Muttenz.  Most businesses close at between 6-6:30pm daily.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Day Two in Basel

Sundays in Switzerland are strictly for relaxation.  This was a down day/non guided tour day for us here, and we were grateful for it.  We slept in and had a late breakfast at the hotel.  My mom and I decided to try out the public transportation with the kids and go into the city to explore.  (Mat isn't with us - he is wrapping up his current job, so Roche was nice enough to let my mom accompany me and the kids on the trip).

Public transportation is quite amazing here in Switzerland.  We understand that it is very important here to have really good transportation for the citizens - worth the extra cost in the federal budget.  We wouldn't even need to own a car - it is that good.  We have actually decided to start off our stay in Basel without one and see how it goes.

My mom, the kids and I got on the public transportation close to our hotel.  Even though the tram system is great - my sense of direction is not, and we got a bit lost trying to find the station.  Once we got on, we road into the old town area of Basel and explored the oldest church in the city, put our feet in the Rhine, had a snack, got a little more lost trying to find the right tram back to the hotel, and then spent the rest of the day swimming in the amazing hotel pool.  We are going to bed happy and relaxed tonight.

Enjoy the pictures (click on them to make them bigger)

The kids on our very first tram ride.  The trams are the cleanest I have ever seen.  You could eat off the floor.  They are air conditioned and have free wifi.  People who ride the trams are very quiet and reserved.  You have to push a button to get the doors to open to let you on and off.  (but the tram does stop at every scheduled stop).
 First view of the Rhine once we got into the city:
 You can see Roche where ever you are
 The kids put their feet in the Rhine river.  They enjoyed relaxing and watching the swimmers and boats
 View from the Rhine of the buildings around the city
 My mom put her feet in the Rhine and discovered that it was very cold!  Big Baby. :)
 This was neat, so I had to take a picture.  Our guide - Kaya - said that these folks are floating with something called a Fisch (Fish).  They put their clothes and belongings inside and then it acts as a flotation device.  They float down the Rhine river and when they are ready to get out, they get to the side, take out their belongings, hop on the closest tram and go home.  We are definitely doing that when we get here.
 View of one of the bridges over the Rhine
 Everywhere we go - we find locks on a bridge
 Art Basel is going on right now in the city.  This is the largest art show in Europe - people come from all over the world to buy the 20th and 21st century art here.  It is also on display for anyone who wants to take a look.  Most of the art is in the convention center, but there are many displays around town that people can enjoy for free.  Art Basel goes on for about 1 week each June.  This display was outside of the courthouse.  It was Ghost.
 Finley took a picture of me filling up a water bottle at one of the many water fountains in the town.  These fountains are found all over the place for free public use.  What a novel idea.
 More inside the courtyard of the courthouse.
 A nice statue in one of the round abouts in town
 Example of the buildings in the city.  Almost all of the buildings look like this - stucco with thatched roofs - so pretty.
 A Square in the older part of the city.  So pretty - I really love the buildings
 Another piece from Art Basel that was in the square.  This square  has never been built on -it has always been an open space.
 Statues on the outside of the oldest church in Basel
 Oldest Church in Basel
 Inside the oldest church.  It is designed in the medieval style.  This church dates back to the 1100s but has some statues from 600BC
 Stopping for a snack and to take a break.  It was so hot we had to stop for ice cream.
 My dessert.  Ice cream and fresh raspberries.  YUM
 To cool off we spent the afternoon in the hotel at their enormous indoor waterpark called Aquabasilea.  It is free for hotel guest, but the public may use it for a hefty fee.  It had several pools (all very very warm) a lazy river, water slides, was wonderful.  We didn't want to leave.