Sunday, September 30, 2007

London get away

We spent the past weekend in London. Jim had to attend a training there Monday through Wednesday so we decided to go with him so that we could cross another city off our list. We flew in early on Saturday morning, dropped our bags off at the hotel, and purchased a 24 hour sight seeing pass. The sight seeing was on an open top bus and also included a boat ride on the Thames. Some of the sites on the tour included Big Ben (this is the Houses of Parliament Clock Tower – the nickname Big Ben actually refers to the 14 ton bell inside the clock tower), the Tower of London (this is not a tower at all, but a castle where the crown jewels are kept and guarded by the Yeomen Warders (more popularly known as the Beefeaters), St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, The London Eye (looks like a Ferris wheel, but is actually a viewing platform), and Buckingham Palace. The hotel was right in Piccadilly Circus, which is the Times Square of London – great location. We also managed to visit two museums – the National Gallery (saw some Monets and Van Gohs) and the British Museum (houses the Rosetta Stone – ancient tablet with text consisting of 3 translations of a single passage, one of which is Egyptian hieroglyphics – instrumental in deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics). While Jim was at training on Monday, I took the kids to the London Aquarium where JP touched a manta ray several times with no fear what so ever. He also made his debut as trip photographer – can you guess which ones are his?

J.P.'s birthday

J.P. turned 4 this month and we celebrated with friends at an indoor playground (since the weather is unpredictable these days). J.P. enjoyed this day very much surrounded by friends, playground, refreshments, and PRESENTS!  And if that wasn’t enough, a couple of days later, a package from Jim’s family came in with more goodies including his very own Spiderman suit. Thanks to all for celebrating with us, close and far.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

No pictures =(

This past weekend we satyed local since we have a busy week ahead of us. We will celebrate JP's 4th birthday this Wednesday at Planeta Magic, one of JP's favorite indoor playgrounds. We will have a party of 10 kids and 5 moms celebrating with us. We will also travel to London for an express 4 day trip; Jim has a training there so we will tag along for a long weekend.
It is amazing how time passes by.  Just a year ago, I was packing our things in Albany..... and now here we are, a year later still not speaking German (well Jim is doing better than me), enjoying the travels, the freindships, good food and great health. God bless.

Trip to Prague

On September 8th, We started the trip with an overnight train ride from Zurich to Dresden (Germany). We thought about exploring Dresden and traveling to Prague later in the day, but the weather was very cold, so we decided to hop another train and head directly to Prague. We dropped off our bags at the hotel and quickly booked a walking tour of the Jewish Quarter, which is in the north part of the city. Once the slums of the city, this sector is now a very upscale and exclusive place to live. Highlights of the quarter include 6 original synagogues from pre-WW2, a cemetery where tombs were in layers (up to 12 I think) and one of the tombs is for a dog, and finally the myth of the Golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a prominent Rabbi. The remains of the golem are thought to be buried in one of the synagogues called the old new synagogue, which some scientists claim exhibits unusually high levels of radioactivity. After the tour, we went back to the hotel, showered, changed, and went out for a traditional Czech dinner (we found the food to be delicious and very inexpensive) followed by a night at the opera. We saw Don Giovanni, which Mozart debuted and conducted himself in Prague. The opera was performed with marrionettes - it was very funny - the kids loved it - it was a great way for all of us to experience opera for the first time. The kids did so well that we decided to try real opera the next night. After another walking tour (of the Prague castle - which is one of the largest castles in europe and also in the guiness book of records for being the worlds largest currently occupied castle), we enjoyed another delicious Czech meal, followed by opera at the renowned National Theater. We saw La Travietta, and for about 60 USD we had our own box (there were other seats in the box, but fortunately these did not get sold, so we had the box to ourselves). The kids were a bit restless at the intermissions, but in general, they enjoyed the "real" opera more than the marrionette opera. From our vantage point, we had a birds eye view of the musicians in the pit as well as a clear view of the action on the stage. What was really helpful for Sandy and me was a small screen above the stage with english subtitles, so that we could actually follow the storyline. The Czechs seem to share a common goal of catering to tourists. Everyone is friendly and has a working knowledge of English, all menus are in English, it is easy to get around, food and drink are delicious and inexpensive, there are a lot of beatiful and interesting sights to see and things to do - Prague really tops our list of great European cities. Our final day, we took our final walking tour and saw sights such as Wenceslaws square (you probably know the Christmas song written about good king Wenceslaws - same guy - the funny thing is that he was never a king, only a duke), astronomical clock where Jesus leads his 12 apostles around the clock chased by the devil, bithplace of the famous writer Franz Kafka (unpublished during his life - at death (by tuberculosis), gave all his writings to his best friend with strict instruction to burn everything - his friend was a big fan of his work and instead published everything), and the Charles bridge which is the pedestrian bridge connecting the Prague castle with the old town. The are several religious statues along the charles bridge. Most of these are blackened by time and polution. However there is one statue that is said to grant wishes. As such, there is a spot on the statue that is very shiny (bronze statue) where people rub it to request their wish. On our way out of town, we stopped by the dancing building (not sure of the name origen). It is famous for its architecture, which only a picture can describe. We took a train back to Dresden where we walked the city a little bit before we caught our night train back to Zurich.

Listening to the tour guide
Jewish cementery

Wenceslaws Square

Outside the Prague castle (and yes, the guard is looking at the camera)

Taking the subway (way underground)

Prague castle and cathedral


At the opera (JP did cover his ears once saying "the lady is screaming!")

The dancing house


Friday, September 07, 2007

Insel Ufenau

Last weekend on Saturday we went to a local fair in Oberrieden where the kids enjoyed some rides.
Mini train ride

On Sunday we took a little boat trip to a small island in the upper stretches of the Lake Zurich called Ufenau. It was just under an hour trip and when we got there, JP was very upset and kept saying "we just went here!"; what happened was that JP was here on his first field trip back in August and he remembered the place.

It was a very small island owned by the monastery in Einsiedeln since the 10th century. There was a small church which was used for sermons for the upper lake region (now it’s closed).
After doing a lap around the island, we took the boat to a castle located not far from JP and Syd’s school in Au (just 10 mins. from home!)
Outside the Au castle

Ufenau island

On Monday JP and Syd took a trial gym class. It was oh so much fun. JP was the oldest of the class he did most of the stuff on his own (climbing, jumping, hanging from a rope, walking on 4 on parallel bars, etc). Needless to say, I got a workout just helping Syd and making sure JP didn’t get hurt.