Paris: Day 1

My final term in Switzerland has just begun- only 10 weeks to go! I can’t believe how quickly the time has flown! The spring holidays were really fantastic. I got to do a lot of traveling! I’m going to start with a couple of blogs about my time in Paris. This was over the end of the first week/beginning of the second week of out two week holiday. At the start of the first week I was on another really cool trip, one which I’ll talk about later [not very chronologically accurate of me, but then again, PARIS!!!].

Thursday, 10th of April

So I took the train from Zurich to Paris at nine thirty on Thursday morning, and arrived at one thirty. There I met up with Ruth, a friend from England and my [luckily French speaking!] travel companion. We went straight to the hotel, dumped the luggage, and went straight to Notre Dame. On the way we walked across one of the city’s many padlock bridges. Fun fact- every now and again the authorities have to give the bridges a ‘haircut’, as it were, because obviously the weight of so many little bits of metal isn’t really helping the bridges stay up. So there’s quite a big chance that if you put a padlock on a bridge in Paris it’ll end up in a governmental garbage dump. Eternal love!

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

I saw quite a few combination locks on that bridge- just in case things don't work out!

I saw quite a few combination locks on that bridge- just in case things don’t work out!

 

Anyway, Notre Dame. It was a beautiful sunny day, and there was quite a long queue, so we decided to go to the Sainte Chapelle first. This gothic chapel, right in the heart of Paris and right next to the Notre Dame, was commissioned by King Louis IX to house his collection of ‘Passions Relics’, including Christ’s Crown of Thorns. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crown_of_Thorns

The Sainte Chapelle has famous and beautiful stained glass windows, telling stories from the Old and New Testaments. When we were there around a quarter of the windows were behind scaffolding and canvas, being restored, but the ones we could see were amazing- I was very grateful for such a sunny day! There was also a video explaining the restoration work, which was quite interesting. We agreed that neither of us would have the nerve to handle such old/precious sheets of glass!

 

The roof of the lower Chapel.

The roof of the lower Chapel.

The lower chapel- we saw a lot of blue, red, gold and fleur-de-lys.

The lower chapel- we saw a lot of blue, red, gold and fleur-de-lys.

The incredible stained glass windows.

The incredible stained glass windows.

Telling stories from the Bible. There were also many themes of kingship and royalty woven throughout- just to please old Louis IX!

Telling stories from the Bible. There were also many themes of kingship and royalty woven throughout- just to please old Louis IX!

After that we went back outside and to the Notre Dame, where we decided to queue up. After only about ten minutes [not so bad!] we managed to get inside. There’s not much that I could say about it that you couldn’t find out from Google, but I was interested to learn that Victor Hugo’s book, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, basically saved the cathedral. It was crumbling and old and nearly in ruins, and people were debating whether or not to get rid of it and build something else in it’s place. And then fans of Victor Hugo’s book started to visit the cathedral in such numbers that eventually the authorities decided to do it up a bit [this was in 1845].

While we were leaving, somebody started to play the organ, and a service started. I have to say, there was a lot of incense used, but it was lovely.

These robes were part of an exhibition in a chamber off the side of the main cathedral. Displaying relics, jewels, clothes both ancient and modern.

These robes were part of an exhibition in a chamber off the side of the main cathedral. Displaying relics, jewels, clothes both ancient and modern.

Rose window.

Rose window.

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JOAN OF ARC yessss!

JOAN OF ARC yessss!

And then, just as the sun was starting to edge towards the horizon, we walked to the Musee d’Orsay, specifically to see an Impressionist exhibition that was currently on.

One of my favorite books as a kid was the ‘Katie’ series, [ http://www.amazon.com/Katie-Meets-Impressionists-James-Mayhew/dp/0439935083 ] and specifically this book where she visits an art gallery, and ends up jumping into all these Impressionist paintings and just hanging out with the people in them. Seeing a lot of these paintings in the flesh, as it were, was amazing. I didn’t realize how strongly a lot of them were imprinted on my memory, whether from that book or from where I’d seen them of posters and postcards and calendars. It was amazing to just wander through as the sun sunk lower outside. The strangely shaped bean bag couches at the end were a relief though! We collapsed onto them just as a lady announced over the loudspeaker that the museum was closing very soon, and everybody was slowly ushered out.

One exhibition hall.

One exhibition hall.

Musee d'Orsay used to be a train station, and this clock is a rather lovely reminder of that.

Musee d’Orsay used to be a train station, and this clock is a rather lovely reminder of that.

At some point we walked through a lovely flower market- on every day except for Sunday, upon which foresaid day there is an animal market :/

At some point we walked through a lovely flower market- on every day except for Sunday, upon which foresaid day there is an animal market :/

If you want to know what my brain looks like, it looks mostly like this flower market.

If you want to know what my brain looks like, it looks mostly like this flower market.

That night we ended up eating at an Italian restaurant, inappropriately enough, but it was good enough! And then we got the first and only early night of our holiday, because the next day- we went to Versailles!

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Bedtime Stories and Other Such Things

Never mind exams, never mind marks on a piece of homework, never mind memorizing verbs- the ultimate test of ones progress with a second language is given by very small children, and their disapproving eyebrows when you don’t understand is far more hurtful than those of a teachers.

I’ve babysat a couple of times while I’ve been in Switzerland- this was my third time, and with a family that I’d only ever seen at a local eating place before [that’s how they met the Wehrlis, actually. It’s a small village!]

I’ve always really liked babysitting- it’s a relatively simple way to earn money, and the kids [however difficult] are always fun; It’s always an honour to be trusted with other people’s kids. I think I’m also a little bit nosy- I like seeing how people live, what books they have on their shelves, how they arrange their kitchens. [Especially if I don’t know the family; especially when it’s in another country].

This particular family lived in quite possibly the more gorgeous house I’ve seen so far. It, like so many Swiss houses, was wooden and old and set in the tangled back alley ways of Ennenda- reached more by crooked footpaths than roads. Inside there were three or four floors, reached by narrow staircases worn smooth by years of feet climbing them. The decor reminded me of a lot of our friend’s houses back home- there were wind chimes and bundles of herbs and bookshelves and a big sofa couch bed in the middle of the living room. Roughly three minutes after I arrived I was pulled [barely out of my coat] onto this sofa couch bed by the two little girls [one under ten and one under five] to read a selection of picture books. But oh no, wait, I needed a tour of the house! The parents were leaving to go to a party over the street, but they first showed me the little tea tray with a teapot and some chocolate and almonds and a selection of herbal teas that they’d laid out on the kitchen table for me, and then they left, with a promise to return at half past ten. It was Friday night, so I wouldn’t have minded staying later, but it was very thoughtful of them! I hope my parents don’t read this- I’m sure they’ll be shocked by what scandalous wild weekend parties I’m having. Such debauchery, so much alcohol and drugs. Such a cool teenage daughter [I thought to myself whilst drinking herbal tea and doing homework to the sounds of two kids snoring upstairs]. 

But anyway, regarding those two children, there is nothing guaranteed to bruise your ego more than a seven year old correcting every single pronunciation error you make whilst reading a picture book. Like, at least five times a page. And we’re talking books with four words to a page! 

The older girl could speak High German, and she was delightfully astute when it came to talking to me. The younger girl spoke Swiss German, and I, as ever, was smugly proud at how much I understood. And yes, I maintain that I did understand what I was getting into when I let her give me a ‘hair makeover’. Totally. No regrets. Although as I was leaving two birds definitely flew down and tried to nest on my head, so she has a bright and promising career as a hairdresser!

When they were both tucked into bed [probably at least half an hour later than normal] I told them about the kiwi bird. In Switzerland kiwifruit are known as just ‘kiwi’s’, and I remembered Gabriella saying that her kids at the wild kindergarten were interested to hear about the kiwi bird. The older girl was very interested, and asked lots and lots and lots of questions about if I’d ever seen one in the wild, and where they lived, and what they ate and so on. It got to the point where I began to suspect that she might have an ulterior motive- perhaps the motive of trying to stay up as late as possible [Runa, their usual babysitter, had warned me of such a crime], so I turned off the light and just sat quietly with them for a while. When the younger one had drifted off to sleep I crept downstairs and made myself a cup of tea and sat and did some work on my computer for a bit [it’s amazing how productive one can be without internet], until the mum came home. We chatted for a bit before I left to walk home [only five minutes away]. The two little girls really were adorable, and their family ‘vibe’ was really similar to that of a lot of our family friends back home [well, as far as what one can know from an evening of babysitting!]. And now I know what I should do next time I need to practice my German- just ask a seven year old!

Basel

Last Saturday Gabriella and I went to Basel, another city on my list to visit.

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Basel sits right at the intersection of France, Germany and Switzerland.

Basel.

Basel- where the red A is.

We arrived quite early in the morning, having taken an early train in order to make the most of the day. Our first stop was at a theater [I don’t know specifics, but it was old and beautiful].

The old theater- old meets new with some modern art installations outside.

The old theater- old meets new with some modern art installations outside.

 

just some randon stranger i bumped into.

ooooh

ooooh

And then we passed a famous fountain, created by the Swiss artist Tinguely. He specialized in making working, moving machinery-like art.

The Tinguely fountain!

The Tinguely fountain!

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And then we went to the Cathedral, and then I took a small boat across the river, to the old part of the city. The boat was very cute, merely pulled across the river by a wire decorated with flags.

THE CATHEDRAL

THE CATHEDRAL

cathedral

cathedral

yeah just more photos

yeah just more photos

this is not a real bird

this is not a real bird

it had this lovely little spring garden courtyard in the middle

it had this lovely little spring garden courtyard in the middle

The Little Boat

The Little Boat

Views of both sides of Basel- the old town and the new

Views of both sides of Basel- the old town and the new

View form the boat

View from the boat

The 'old' part of Basel in the part that been around for hundreds of years-

The ‘old’ part of Basel is the part that been around for hundreds of years-

Ooh there was a boat with my name on it!

Ooh there was a boat with my name on it!

After that we went to visit Gabrielle’s brother for tea and crackers, and then went to the Tingley [the fountain guy] museum, which was amazing! It was mostly pieces of artwork from him- my favorite was the shadow room!

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DSC01556DSC01555DSC01554The shadow room- all the machines moved to create shapes and figures dancing on the ceilings and walls!
The shadow room- all the machines moved to create shapes and figures dancing on the ceilings and walls!

And there were a few other pieces of modern art by other artists- my favorite from those was undoubtedly the sticker room. When you entered you were given a sheet of stickers, and told to just stick them anywhere! I can think of quite a few kids who would have had a hell of a time there. Gabriella and I had quite a bit of fun too!

There were rows of stickers hanging from the shelves...

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The tv…obviously showing some very colourful programs!

Yes, I couldn't help it- I played a bit on the piano. Some of the keys were very stickered down!

Yes, I couldn’t help it- I played a bit on the piano. Some of the keys were very stickered down!

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Tinguely’s artwork was very interesting, mostly made from garbage and things that had been thrown away. They were all quite old [he made most of them in early second half of the 20th century, 50’s, 60’s and 70′, and some were amazingly delicate and intricate.

 

We could climb up on top of this and walk around...so cool!

 

Tinguely.

Tinguely.

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Made from old farming equipment.

This one played a tune every ten minutes- can you guess how?

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And then it was back to Gabriella’s brother’s tiny bohemian flat, where he cooked a delicious vegan dinner [Gabriella said she found it quite delicious- ‘und ohne Butter oder Rahm!’ ]

Gabriella stayed the night at her brother’s house, and cycled part of the way home on Sunday, but I took the late train back to Zurich. I would definitely recommend visiting some of the other museums in Basel- we didn’t have time, but there were some that sounded interesting- an old toy museum and so on. Basel is an industrial town, but there’s a lot of cultural aspects that stand out- it holds one of the biggest and most famous [broadcast on Swiss TV, even,] Fassnacht celebrations in Switzerland. The streets were still blanketed in confetti when we visited, and there were masks in every shop window.

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The Basel dialect is also very sweet and folkish. An elderly lady on the bus told me I had a ‘scheoene Haaertili’- a nice hat!

Until next time…Hannah x

Frühling und Fasnacht

Well, it’s been an embarrassingly long time since my last blog post- yes, this was intended to be a regularly updated thing! But no, I’ve just been doing other things, which is generally good. I think it’s the opinion of most people who are reading this that the less time spent on one’s computer is better…

Wow, not since Christmas! Ok, what have I been up to?

Well, I went skiing, for what wasn’t the first time, but my first time ‘properly’ skiing.

PHOTO

Me looking cool and not falling over.

Me looking cool and not falling over.

And then I went with my school a second time, which was fun. I didn’t have any poles, but I kind of managed to make it down an entire slope very slowly and cautiously, like a very old dog walking down stairs. Like I said, fun, but I don’t think I’m one for adrenalin inducing sports.

Suzu and me, secretly exhausted.

Suzu and me, secretly exhausted.

Yay!!

Yay!!

PHOTO

Hardi, Lionel and I went to St Gallen, a city a couple of hours from where we live. We visited, among other things, a very beautiful library with some very old books [my favorite- a book of Irish Grammar from the Dark Ages, a book with a monk scribbling swear words in the margins about how boring and difficult writing that particular book had been, a tiny book the size of a finger]. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any pictures, but I took some of the cathedral adjacent to the library.

"This one doesn't have any clothes on!"

“This one doesn’t have any clothes on!”

The cathedral.

The cathedral.

Hardi and Lionel.

Hardi and Lionel.

PHOTO

It snowed occasionally in January, but people kept telling me what an oddly warm winter it was- the third warmest in the Kanton in 150 years! I am mildly disappointed that I didn’t get a proper snowed in freezing Swiss winter, but secretly grateful- when it dropped below zero in December I instantly starting squawking about how ridiculously cold it was, and how I couldn’t bear it.

On the 22nd of February Runa, Gabriella, a friend of Runa’s and I went to the Fasnacht Carnivale celebrations in Luzern. Fasnacht is an old celebration, happening approximately on the days leading up to Lent, with the earliest records dating back to the 1300’s. After the reformation [Protestantism becoming the major religion] it was banned. But the Swiss people were so determined to keep it happening that it was officially reinstated, but as a Protestant holiday. Today, in different Kantons, it happens on different days, with varying traditions and rituals, but there is always a fantastic parade, and many amazing costumes.

In Luzern they have a tradition of these incredible masks, gigantic and grotesque, often paired with beautiful, elaborate costumes, everything from full skirted period dresses to goat costumes [with hooves!] to frighteningly realistic devil costumes, or giant birds with wings.

Runa, Sirka and I went dressed as The Three Musketeers, and Gabriella was a chicken!

We wandered around for a while, just admiring the amazing costumes and throwing confetti at each other [ a time honored tradition, I was assured] and having spontaneous sparring sessions. We watched a spot of, well, not street theater, persay. Balcony theater would be more accurate! And then we watched part of the parade.

Our "Mother Hen"!

Our “Mother Hen”!

All for one, and one for all...

All for one, and one for all…

Masks!

Probably a mask.

Balcony theater!

Balcony theater!

Violin people!

Violin people!

Arwen, from Lord of the Rings.

Arwen, from Lord of the Rings.

Hmm...

Hmm…

The Three Musketeers!

The Three Musketeers!

If you are ever in Switzerland around this time, please please PLEASE go to a Fasnachts celebration. The Luzern one is amazing, and I hear the Basel one is pretty cool too. There are heaps of smaller local ones- we even had a parade in Ennenda, which I didn’t go to see, but I heard it! Actually, that might have been the Glarus one- I think that one got pretty wild! [You know, for the Switzerland equivalent of Feilding.]

SPRING

And now it’s March, and spring is arriving! Gabriella says that it’s very early, unusually so. Spring is so beautiful here, there are flowers springing up all over the place, and the evenings are getting longer, and the days are getting warmer. I hope it’s not just a warm spot, I hope it lasts.

Flowers are 'springing; up all over the place

Flowers are ‘springing; up all over the place

SUN O GLORIOUS SUN O VITAMIN D O HOW GLORIOUS

SUN O GLORIOUS SUN O VITAMIN D O HOW GLORIOUS

Spring flowers!

Spring flowers!

Title: Dog Looks at Flowers Art Style: Modern Price: One Millions Francs  Awards: Nobel Prize for Photography.

Title: Dog Looks at Flowers
Art Style: Modern
Price: One Millions Francs
Awards: Nobel Prize for Photography.

The sun here is kind of misty at the moment, and it is so beautiful.

The sun here is kind of misty at the moment, and it is so beautiful.

SUNSET

SUNSET

She's thinking about how much selfies are overrated, and how much she wants the treat that i'm holding above the camera.

She’s thinking about how much selfies are overrated, and how much she wants the treat that i’m holding above the camera.

PHOTOS

Runa and I have a grand new project on the go. If you’ve never heard of cosplaying, it’s where people recreate the costumes of their favorite characters, whether it be movie, book or television. And then get all dressed up in wigs and make up and just, hang around, I guess?

We are making the costumes of our two favorite lady elves, Arwen and Tauriel from LOTR and The Hobbit. Considering that our dressmaking/sewing skills are, well, not seasoned at best, it’s an interestingly challenging challenge. Also recreating a costume from just a few blurry screencaps is fun! So! fun! and! easy!

But actually, all sarcasm aside, so far it’s been really fun and dare I say educational? I find myself doing more math than I have in a long time, and my masking tape/pinning skills are through the roof. It’s really great to be so enthusiastic about a project, something that you’re doing purely out of love for something- in this case, an elf. But like, mostly just her aesthetic.

I’ll make another blog post just about this as some point, because there have been quite a few steps so far, and we’ve barely begun. But for now, here is what I’ve got so far, plus basic designs for the sleeves, undersleeves, skirt and underskirt.

Bodice without elven collar.

Bodice without elven collar.

Bodice + elven collar, draft with old cotton sheets and newspaper and lots of masking tape.

Bodice + elven collar, draft with old cotton sheets and newspaper and lots of masking tape.

And I think that’s all from me for now. I’m going to Paris in a couple of weeks, so…yeah. Feeling pretty happy with my life choices right now. I hope you all have a wonderful week, and if I break all of my promises to myself and don’t write another post for two months, I hope you have a nice spring!

England!

Christmas, for me, has always been in summer. Which, in it’s own way, is nice enough, but I’ve always wanted to have a Proper Cold Traditional English Christmas. Unfortunately, there was no snow, but everything else was pretty much perfect.

****

Travel day.

I left at six thirty in the morning and walked to the train station in the dark. It was raining lightly, and as the train came into Zurich I saw Christmas lights gleam dimly through the mist. I felt very much in the Christmas spirit. Got to the airport, booked in my bag, and went straight to the gate.

The plan was tiny, two seats either side of the aisle. It felt even smaller when we hit a batch of turbulence, and I’ve never been more grateful that I’m relatively tolerant of bumpy rides. People clapped when we landed- I’ve never seen that happen before. As we were waiting to leave the plane, a sinking feeling hit me. I’d had rather bad cramps all though the flight, and when I stood up, well, let’s just say I wished I’d worn red jeans. You know, camouflage. Yep.

Of course, the queues were rather long, I was right at the back, and forgot that I had to fill out a landing card until I was nearly at the desk. Finally managed to find a bathroom and, ahem, ‘bandage the wound’. And take painkillers and weep over pair of jeans. But yes, that was the most memorable part of Day 1.

Gr8 Aunty Hazel met me at the airport, and then we traveled via train back to their London house, where we lunched, and left left with Gr8 Uncle Dave and Quiddy to drive down to Devon. I actually fell asleep- it was very grey and rainy outside, but I woke up in time to see the sun come out over Stonehenge. It was actually the winter solstice that day, and we saw groups of people wandering around and among the stones.

We arrived at their house in Teignmouth in the dark and rain, and after the Strictly Come Dancing finale, I fell asleep.

The next few days were a haze of family, rain, Good British Tv, and endless cups of tea. Becky [Haze and Dave’s daughter] arrived, as did Joe and Penny [H and D’s son and his girlfriend]. I visited Great Granny Joan to chat and drink tea, and then on Christmas Eve we went with Mike and Wendy [another great aunt and uncle pair] to Midnight Mass. I have to say, if I’m still trotting around in the rain at 1 in the morning when I’m 93, I’ll be very pleased.

Christmas was lovely. We had a great big pile of presents [I had a stocking from both the English Santa and the Kiwi one], a big proper Christmas dinner [parsnip and nut loaf for me…very good!], The Queen’s Speech at 3, and the Doctor Who Christmas Special. Still not sure if that was the highlight of the day, or if the BBC has some continuity errors to answer for. Hmm. But yay for Peter Capaldi!

CHRISTMAS PHOTOS

Stonehenge on the way up.

Stonehenge on the way up.

CHRISTMAS TREE O CHRISTMAS TREE

CHRISTMAS TREE O CHRISTMAS TREE

I know it looks warm...it wasn't.

I know it looks warm…it wasn’t.

there were actually people surfing like omg it's FREEZING

there were actually people surfing like omg it’s FREEZING

Christmas Day selfie, of course.

Christmas Day selfie, of course.

Quiddy

Quiddy

A sunny Christmas Eve...

A sunny Christmas Eve…

Photo courtesy of Gr8 Aunty Wendy...Christmas Dinner!

Photo courtesy of Gr8 Aunty Wendy…Christmas Dinner!

A couple of days later I got on the train up to Yorkshire- no, wait, I missed my train to Yorkshire. So, that mistake will haunt my memory for a while  :/ But thankfully because of the weather being awful enough to mess up the train services, I was able to get away with using the same ticket late that day.

I arrived in Yorkshire at ten, and Gr8 Aunty Jo sent a taxi to meet me. Half an hour later I got to her tiny, chocolate box cottage, but in the dark, so I only knew it was chocolate box like in the morning. She greeted me with a quick hug and warm cauliflower soup, and hurried off to bed. I did, after all, arrive much later than expected.

The next day we did a tour of both local second hand shops and the surrounding countryside, all the while talking about literally everything. It’s amazing to meet a family member that you’ve never met [well, technically we had met, but I was a baby], and immediately click. Thirsk, the village we went to, was gorgeous- classic tiny beautiful Yorkshire village. And the sun was out! I’m so glad we had beautiful [albeit cold] weather.

The second day we drove out to Whitby, by the seaside. We climbed up 299 steps to the ruined Whitby Abbey, up on the cliff. It had an assortment of ancient graves scattered on it’s doorstep, drowned sailors and visitors from ‘foreign lands’. The site has been a religious one since 657 AD, but the monastery there was ‘de-established’ by Henry the 8th when he went round ‘de-establishing’ religious places during his reign. This was partly because of the new Church of England, but he also took a lot of the riches from the monastery’s, so that may have had something to do with it. The abbey itself has been in ruins for a good few hundred years, and was badly damaged during World War 1. The area is also believed to have inspired Bram Stoker in his creation of Dracula- the windswept clifftops, the beautiful but ruined abbey, all those graves…and sure enough, we saw at least two shops selling polyester cloaks and plastic teeth, so definitely a very gothic atmosphere.

After fish and chips we wandered back the car, and drove home in the setting sun [yes, another beautiful, freezing day]. We got home just as night fell.

YORKSHIRE PHOTOS

Old State House near the local village.

Old State House near the local village.

Sunny moors...but REALLY COLD

Sunny moors…but REALLY COLD

Captain Cook statue...he lived in Whitby.

Captain Cook statue…he lived in Whitby.

The Abbey

St Mary’s Church

Gravestones feat. stranger who walked into my picture.

Gravestones feat. stranger who walked into my picture.

Me and Gr8 Aunt. I can't keep my eyes open in face of the sun.

Me and Gr8 Aunt. I can’t keep my eyes open in face of the sun.

dead people buried here.

dead people buried here.

Old ruin, probably inspired Dracula.

The Abbey, probably inspired Dracula.

Beautiful.

Beautiful.

The next day Gr8 Aunty Jo drove me to the train station, where I took the train to Cheltenham, near Oxford, where my mum’s cousin Vicky lives. Her and Ella met me at the train station, and we drove back to yet another gorgeous little village, Northleach.

The next I took the bus by myself into Oxford, about an hour away. I planned to go on a free [with tipping at the end] walking tour at two, so I had a couple of hours wandering round. I bought a backpack [floral] and a diary [embossed]. It wasn’t really raining, just grey and overcast and glorious. Yes, I really do love that kind of weather.

The walking tour was great- http://www.footprints-tours.com/oxford-walking-tours/2-hour-free-oxford-walking-tour/

There only about five of us, so it was very laid back and casual and funny. We went round to the library, a few different colleges, St Mary’s Chapel, and just around the general center of the city. I learnt a bit about the history of Oxford, and oh my god I would love to go there one day. A very interesting history and culture.

After that I got sucked into a bookshop for around two hours [why does that keep happening to me???] and caught the bus back when it was dark. That day was New Year’s Eve- Vicky and her husband Andy were going to a party at a local pub, so me and 15 year old Josh were babysitting Ella. I was exhausted, to be honest, so I watched Storage Hunters [possibly the best show on television and i’m not even sure how sarcastic I’m being when I say that] until the fireworks came on. And then I went to bed.

OXFORD

The exact patch of cobblestones where the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, was burnt alive in 1556. I love history.

The exact patch of cobblestones where the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, was burnt alive in 1556. I love history.

I think this is the library?

I think this is the library?

buildings in the sun

buildings in the sun

old and beautiful

old and beautiful

BEAUTIFUL

BEAUTIFUL

A building that used to be a brothel around 700 years ago, but is now a coffeeshop.

A building that used to be a brothel around 700 years ago, but is now a coffeeshop.

Oldest building in Oxford.

Oldest building in Oxford.

The next day was rainy and lazy and that was nice- it’s good to have a down day in the middle of a busy holiday. And then on the 2nd I took the bus to London, and then the Tube to Wimbledon. Ruth, a friend who we met via couch surfing and Aunty Hazel, lives there, and she was my final stop on this holiday.

That evening we went into London, and took a bus around the streets of London to look at the Christmas lights [stunning] and to avoid the rain. Then we went to have dinner at a super cool old underground crypt-turned-soup-kitchen-turned-very nice restaurant. We had to rush a bit because at eight we had tickets booked for Spamalot, which is a Monty Python parody of sorts. It was quite funny- at some bits I thought it didn’t quite have the same level of humor as the original sketches/scenes, but all round very good.

The next I spent in London by myself, a.k.a. Actual Heaven. I started by visiting The National Gallery, which was amazing, of course. I wandered around for a while, kind of lost track of time, and when I came out I realized it was nearly lunchtime. Oops.

Then I walked down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace and looked at Clarence House, which was surrounded by tour groups. It’s a very nice place to wander round, right next to Green Park. But then it started raining, and so I took the Tube to the Tate Modern. There were a couple of big exhibitions on so there wasn’t a lot else to see, but I liked a lot of the art. And then I walked across the Millennium Bridge [destroyed in the film Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince]. It was raining quite heavily by then so I got a coffee, and took the bus to Charing Cross, where I did a bit of shopping for shampoo and things because Switzerland is expensive and I had a bit of cash.

I also looked at St Paul’s, which was beautiful and had a long queue to get in.

Then I took the Tube back to Wimbledon. Me and Ruth had cheese and onion tart for dinner, and then went and saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Which was AMAZING. Like, REALLY GOOD. WOW.

The next morning Ruth came with me to the airport. I got home at around eight o clock. After such an amazing holiday I was tired, but glad to be home. Time has simply flown since I first came in June. Only six months left here! Thank you to everyone that I stayed with for having me, I had such a lovely time with each and every one of you 🙂 All the best for 2014, everyone…

LONDON PHOTOS

I didn't take many pictures in London, but here is The Mall.

I didn’t take many pictures in London, but here is The Mall.

Guard outside Clarence House, official residence of Prince Charles. [he wasn't in.]

Guard outside Clarence House, official residence of Prince Charles. [he wasn’t in.]

modern art. i thought it was cool.

modern art. i thought it was cool.

Millennium Bridge. No Death Eaters.

Millennium Bridge. No Death Eaters.

bridges.

bridges.

St Paul's.

St Paul’s.

National Gallery.

St Pauls’s, with a Christmas tree.

Flying home...

Flying home…

Thank you, Mum.

Today my mum is turning 44  24 and I thought I’d take a moment to write a sappy, emotional post about her because she’s on the other side of the world and very occasionally I miss her a little bit. Just a smidge.

Almost exactly a year ago, I remember Mum talking a lot about her idea of taking us kids traveling. I joined in with the dreaming a bit, at first- imagining where I’d like to go, what clothes I’d take [excuse you it’s a very important thing to think about !], and whether or not I could stand being around my family for that long. Ahem. But after a while I, the teenage skeptic, started rolling my eyes and saying “Mum, oh my god, that’s never going to happen, seriously. It’s a ridiculous idea!” I truly thought that there was no way she could make it happen.

And then one day she came into my room, and said: “Hannah, we’re going on The Trip!!!”

The Trip?” I asked [probably]. 

“Yep!”, she said, and I realized that I was never going to doubt her dreams again.

Because, you see, one of the first [and arguably the most important] lessons that I learnt from our big adventure was that it is SO important to follow your dreams, to chase the sunrise and not let anyone tell you that it’s impossible. That’s something that Mum’s been saying my whole life. She has ALWAYS supported me and always encouraged me and I am always going to be so grateful for that. 

Mum is an ‘inspirerer’, a teacher, and a motivator. She inspires the people around her simply by existing, and by following her dreams and passions. She teaches by example- the amount of life lessons that I’ve learnt from you, Mum, is crazy. I’ve seen it happen to many times- people in your life are inspired to do things, to make changes and to improve their lives [in small and big ways].

You are a literal ray of sunshine in mine and so many people’s lives and I hope you have a wonderful 44th year! [not that appearance matters, or anything, but you are seriously working those grey hairs]

xoxo

 

Klausjagen in Kussnacht

Afternoon views from the minibus

Afternoon views from the minibus

Last Thursday, I went on a field trip with the rest of the exchange students at my school. We went to Kussnacht, a city near Luzern, to see the annual festival Klausjagen. It always takes place on the eve of St Nicholas’s Day, is attended each year by around 20,000 people, and consists mainly of a parade of about 1,500 participants.

The festival is believed to have pre-Christian, pagan origins, to do with the winter solstice. The earliest kind of the Klausjagen was very noisy and unruly, and was frowned upon by the authorities. In 1732 it was officially banned, but could not be successfully suppressed. In the late 19th century, the Klausjagen [ literally ‘Nicholas chase’] was ‘Christianized’, with bishop’s mitres [those hats] appearing in the parade, along with Christian designs and symbols. The Church then sanctioned the tradition as being in honor of Saint Nicholas, and it continues to today. The only other major historical change was in the 1920’s, when the still rather rowdy parade was bought under control by a committee of villagers, who set the guidelines for today’s rather more organized, modern event.

We left after lunch, in a hired minibus. There were eight of us, plus two teachers and two drivers [i think]. It was about an hour to our first stop- the Hohle Gasse, or Narrow Street. It’s most famous for being the place where, in the old legend, Wilhelm Tell shot the Austrian bailiff Gessler. Wilhelm Tell is an old Swiss legend, and we read a text about it in German class once. There was a little pavilion set up that told the story. I won’t go into it in depth, but he’s known as a revolutionary Swiss hero who was very skilled with a crossbow. We walked a little way further to an old church, and then up to the top of a hill where we drank hot tea that one of the teachers had bought, and ate traditional Sami Klaus food- peanuts, mandarins, little biscuits, and of course, swiss chocolate.

Then we walked down to the town, where people were bustling around setting up food stalls, and practicing cracking bullwhips for part of the parade [I’ll get to that later].

We ate dinner in a nice restaurant, which was half paid for by the school, and then wandered out to get a good spot. There were groups of around five men at a time in the main square, cracking bullwhips in perfect unison. Somehow they managed to make perfect rhythms out of the cracks. This went on until eight o clock, when a cannon sounded and all the lights in the city went out. Then the parade started.

First came the men with whips, all down the main street and around the square, maybe hundreds, and all cracking them in a rhythm. After maybe ten minutes of this came men wearing Iffelen, which are enormous, ornate paper lantern hats which resemble a cross between stained glass windows and bishop’s mitres. Some were as high as seven feet, and all lit from inside by candles. There were hundreds of men wearing these- the parade seemed endless! The hats were so beautiful and ornate, all handmade as well! So many colors and symbols as well.

Behind them walked Saint Nicholas himself, with four figures in black robes and hoods, known as the Schmutzlis. They are the people that kidnap naughty children in a sack around Christmas time. I found them terrifying, personally.

Then there came a brass band, playing the traditional four note Klaus song, followed by hundreds and hundreds of men in white shirts and hoods wearing those giant cow bells around their necks, and clanging them in rhythm. It really was an eerie experience, to be sitting in a pitch black crowd, just feeling this deep clanging all through your bones, and hearing it merge into a single buzz of sound.

Lastly, the whole procession is followed by men playing cow horns. Celebrations generally carry on all through the night, when onlookers generally head to taverns. But we headed home.

The festival was absolutely amazing- would definitely recommend it to any visitors around Christmas time. Such a wonderful field trip, even if we did get home around eleven thirty! Oh well…

more pictures

more pictures

Hohle Gasse

Hohle Gasse

Walking up

Walking up

Sunset!

Sunset!

more sun

more sun

COLOURS

COLOURS

probably me

probably me

The only picture I took of the lantern hats.

The only picture I took of the lantern hats.

Picture taken from Google of the beautiful Iffelen.