Saturday, October 22, 2011

Exploring Shakespeare

We spent the last two weeks walking along the Avon, seeing the sights of Stratford, and exploring all of the houses that have a historical link to Shakespeare. 

It's a fantastic village-- there is so much to see and do!  Kitty Bill's favorite part was helping sieve through dirt at the archeological dig going on at Nash's House.  Moonshine loved Anne Hathaway's cottage, and Sunburst couldn't get enough of the falconry and animals at Mary Arden's Farm.

The girls had questions about everything, and Moonshine had to walk through some of the houses more than once to get her fill of them.  We're leaving Stratford in the morning to head to another village, but we're taking a big part of it in our hearts.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Summer, goodbye-- fast-forward

Well that was a longer blogging break than I had intended to make.  Sorry about that.

We were literally on our way out the door to Spain when I made that last post/announcement.  The kids and I had the pleasure of accompanying Einstein to a conference in the Pyrenees.  Because we had been studying Roman history, Sunburst got an extra kick out of being there.  After seeing the northern terrain of Spain, she was better able to imagine the horror of Hannibal's troops when they reached the Alps.  In comparison, the Pyrenees were much less daunting.

We did some swimming up in the mountains and fed Sunburst's geology lessons with a tactile experience of geothermal springs.  It was nice to bring two subjects together in one place, although admittedly there wasn't much that fell in line there with Moonshine's studies.  However, all was not lost, because the best part of a sulphur pool is that it's warm enough to swim around in for hours at a time.  Her swimming skills vastly improved in a matter of days, as did her bravery in the water.

We a made a point of taking a couple days in Barcelona to tour some amazing buildings designed by the genius Antoni Gaudi-- our final hurrah of the summer!-- before heading back to Switzerland to prepare for the move.

After that, everything else just blurred into a heap of moving preparation... the countless house-showings (and therefore cleanings!), farewell dinners/parties/hugs/presents, and last-time-just-once-more-please-can-we trips to walk along the Rhein or see the Goetheanum or our favorite toy store.  Almost every night we walked through the countryside and took in the views near our house, trying to absorb every molecule of light and color, from the sun setting behind the row of cherry trees to the sparkle of corn tassels in the moonlight.  Nearly every morning we walked, taking in the smells and the sounds, basking in the mythical, ethereal beauty of the sunlight breaking through the heavy mist. The Swiss sky did not disappoint.

We played soccer with the limousine cows, cheered Kitty Bill through his first and only t-ball game in Germany, accompanied Sunburst on her last horse ride on the hillside, and silently watched her say goodbye to the land and the animals she has grown to know as much as she knows herself.  (But that is a post for another day...)

When we finally hit the road it was bittersweet.  This country of Switzerland, that had on numerous occasions been more of a nemesis than a friend, was still home.  I hadn't bargained on missing it, on the goodbyes being difficult, on the teary eyes of neighbors.  I hadn't realized how easy and normal life had become there.  Somehow I had missed noticing that our German had improved to the point where we were actually communicating better, reading more, understanding things, and above all, Sunburst had begun speaking in Swiss German on a daily basis.  The immersion had finally stuck, just in time to leave.

We stopped in at the local shops and farm stands to load up for the long drive ahead.  Everyone had their last wish-- gnome-shaped cookies from the Reformhaus, "cat chips" (Swiss paprika potato chips, that, while tasty to some, carry the distinct odor of cat food), olive tofu, dark chocolate-covered rice cakes, Swiss bread, and black grapes.  We gassed up the car, ate a few grapes, and managed to make it across the border into France before the vomiting started.

Kitty Bill and Moonshine took turns emptying their small bodies over the course of the day.  It was not pretty.  Our six hour drive into Belgium became a nine hour hurling fest.  Once we got to the hotel room the fun continued into the night and the next morning.  We made it to our ferry booking at noon with only minutes to spare, and the children managed to hold it together enough to sit on deck and watch the white cliffs of Dover approach as we crossed the Channel into England.

As if sensing the weight of the moment, six-year-old Kitty Bill took one look at the cliffs and pronounced, "England looks boring!"

I'm happy to report that he has since changed his mind.

We have arrived!  The first two weeks were spent simultaneously overcoming stomach flu and searching for housing.  Luckily, we found a house that everyone could be excited about, and now we're just waiting for everything to come together: credit checks, lease-signing, utilities, movers... We have about another week or so of this waiting and finger-crossing business before we can start to unpack and teach ourselves to feel at home again.  Waiting for normal life to start is not for the faint-hearted.

Meanwhile, we're shacked up in an old cottage near Stratford-upon-Avon.  The kids and I are enjoying our break from homeschooling and taking advantage of the opportunity to learn a bit about the area and take in the sights.  I'm learning not to scream when driving on the LEFT side of the road-- it feels terribly wrong!  And the kids are remembering how to occupy themselves for hours at a time with only a few sticks and seeds in the small garden-- the toys from nature are ever-plentiful and still the best!

This weekend, as part of the waiting fun, we change to a different cottage and lose internet access for a few days.  Hopefully I'll be back for a post or two before then.  Fingers crossed!
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