Switzerland: Geneva

The one day we had planned for Geneva was cold, rainy and windy, which is the downside of going in November! Still, we did as much as we could handle with a 3 year old.

It was difficult to see all the grandeur of Geneva as the mist and rain created a cloud of fog over the lake and surrounding countryside. However, the magic of the city was not entirely lost on us.

We made our way into the historic town of Geneva and wandered through the narrow, lined avenues that were largely absent due to the weather. The historic city was much larger than I expected, and it was fascinating to think that once theologian John Calvin had walked these very streets.

The highlight of the historic city was going into John Calvin’s church and standing by his chair. To be in the very spot where a large part of the Reformation began and where I, as a Protestant, trace my history, was a special moment. Unfortunately, due to time and Philip, we were unable to go to the Reformation museum. Also, underneath the church is an archaeological site where remains of two 4th century Roman Christian sanctuaries have been discovered. We really wanted to visit this site, but again were unable. I guess we will just have to go back!

Next, we drove a few miles to a “suburb” (not how we understand suburb in the States but rather like a village) of Geneva to visit the Martin Bodmer Foundation. This place is amazing! Martin Bodmer was a wealthy man who collected important historical manuscripts. He is now deceased, but his collection is in a museum for people to see.  Unfortunately they would not let us take pictures inside, but he had pieces from ancient Egypt, Greek and Roman periods, early New Testament manuscripts and Jewish/Old Testament manuscripts, just to name a few. If you ever had of the Bodmer papyri, that is where they are (Gospels). When we visited, only one other person was in the museum with us. This meant that we could take our time and enjoy the pieces. The museum had free wi-fi and lots of seating areas for Philip to sit and watch videos while we walked around. It was a neat experience.

We left Geneva after our visit to the museum as the weather turned worse and Philip was ready for a nap. While there are not many pictures from our day, I hope you will enjoy these few.

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Evangelical Lutheran Church in Geneva

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Switzerland: Lausanne, Part 2

Picking up from where I left off in Part 1, after our visit to Ouchy and a quick drive around Lausanne (seeing the cows), we went to the old city of Lausanne to visit its cathedral and walk around.

At the cathedral we finally had a good look at the Alps. After visiting the cathedral we visited a bookstore and had a delicious pastry and coffee. For lunch every day we made sandwiches from a baguette, (real) Swiss cheese and some deli meat to take with us. Eating out in Switzerland is VERY expensive. By making our lunch we were able to cut costs, plus the cheese was delicious.

I love Lausanne. It is such a beautiful place.

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Switzerland: Lausanne, Part 1

Early in November, a little ahead schedule, Osvaldo finished his book. We wanted to visit a couple places in Europe while we were there, and we thought him finishing his book was a good reason to celebrate.

The weather was turning colder and the days getting shorter so we were looking forward to some time away. We were fortunate to find plane tickets on RyanAir to Basel, Switzerland for 8 GBP, which is about $15, each way. We couldn’t pass up such cheap tickets so we made plans to visit Switzerland for about five days.

Even though we flew into Basel, we wanted to visit the French side of Switzerland, staying in Lausanne. Osvaldo lived in Lausanne for a few months doing post-graduate studies after finishing his PhD dissertation, so he wanted to take us there to see it.

After we flew into Basel we rented a car and drove to Lausanne. It was a lot of fun driving from the German side to the French side, watching the signs change from German to French. Also, this allowed us to see more of the country. We rented a flat in Lausanne we found on Airbnb.com, and it was great. The apartment was clean, modern, and open. It had a flatscreen TV,  in-floor heating and a washer and dryer! We felt like we were living in the States again.

Here are some pictures from our first day in Switzerland and half of our second day. The morning of the second day (or first full day) was spent down by Lake Geneva at the port of Ouchy. On clear days I am told you can see Evian France (home of Evian water), which sits across the lake from Ouchy.

Despite the cloudiness and rain, early November was a great time to be in Switzerland. It was chilly but not freezing, Christmas lights and decorations were beginning to come up, there weren’t very many tourists, and there was still a lot of color in the trees and plants. Winter had not yet fully come.

Although the Alps stayed hidden that first morning in Lausanne (see if you can spot them in some of the lake and cow pictures), they were breathtakingly beautiful and one of my favorite sights. Also, the Swiss cows with their big cow bells around their necks was another favorite sight and sound!

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Stay tuned for more pictures!

Fall in Cambridge

My mom and Wanda left a few days before Halloween. It was nice to have something to look forward to after they left so that we wouldn’t feel too sad.

With that said, however, Halloween is not a big deal in the U.K. In the States, Christians have “Christianized” Halloween. What I mean is that Christians have adapted the holiday into something else. It has become a time for fall festivals, dressing up and carving pumpkins. Although there are Americans who use Halloween as a dark holiday, Christians in the States tend to avoid those things.

In the U.K., however, Christians have not adapted the holiday but rather have separated themselves from it. While there are people who celebrate the holiday, it tends to be rather dark as a result of Christians not having any part in it.

After my first Halloween in the U.K. I understand why Christians do not participate in the holiday. However, I love some of our American traditions like pumpkin carving and dressing up, and I thought it’d be something fun for Philip.

Thankfully Aldis, which was close to our house, had some pumpkins for sale. Pumpkins, like Halloween, are not a big deal in the U.K. I was told of at least one farm outside of Cambridge that started growing pumpkins as a result of so many Americans looking for pumpkins! But it was still a far cry from any kind of American pumpkin patch. Canned pumpkin puree was even more difficult to find! Most Britons find cooking pumpkin gross. I was only able to find it at one Tesco with the help of some friends.

Interestingly, however, when we were in Switzerland a few weeks later we saw a lot of pumpkins.

The day before Halloween we carved a pumpkin and put it out by the door. Our home was the only one on our street with a pumpkin outside the door!

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For last Halloween I ordered a superhero costume off Zulilly for Philip, but we never used it as Philip was scared of masks and capes. So, I packed it with our things and brought it with us to England for this year’s Halloween. Thankfully Philip was into super heroes and was giddy over his new costume. The costume did not come with clothes, so I went to Marks & Spencer (M&S) and found these Superman pjs for him to wear under his garb.

Our dearest friends in Cambridge, who also were American, told us about a church in town that was offering a little Halloween party. Since there’s very little trick-or-treating (actually we never saw anyone trick-or-treating!), we set off with Superman on his scooter to the church. Thankfully the weather was nice and Philip loved his scooter because we walked over 1.5 miles to get to the church!

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Philip was glad to see his friends, Caroline and Amelia and had fun eating some sweets, but the festival/party was unfortunately not that great. It was small, unorganized and a little lame. After the party, we walked another mile into town and had dinner at an Italian restaurant. By the time we were done with dinner we called it a night and took the bus back home.

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Fall was such a bitter-sweet time for us. Bitter in that the days were getting shorter, the weather was turning, and our time in Cambridge was drawing to a close, but sweet in that the air was crisp, the leaves were beautiful and we had many play dates with our friends.

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One Saturday, Osvaldo, Philip and I went into town to John Lewis, one of Britain’s most popular department stores. It’s a very nice department store. I grew extremely fond of many of the stores in the U.K., like John Lewis and M&S. John Lewis had a really sweet Christmas commercial about a penguin and while visiting the store they had a photo booth/display based on the commercial.

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On this same Saturday, we walked over to M&S to eat lunch at its cafe. We had never eaten there and wanted to try it. On the first floor of M&S is a grocery store and on the second floor is a cafe that uses ingredients that the store sells. The quality of food at M&S is superb and our lunch that day was amazing. We had a typical British meal — pot pie and mashed potatoes with gravy. And, check out the view of the church and college from the window! Beautiful.

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Those last few days of Fall were really special. There were so many picturesque moments when walking across town. I tried taking pictures whenever I could so that I wouldn’t forget. I felt very blessed to get to live in that city.

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Finally, before the winter set in, Philip and I went and got haircuts. I took Philip to an old, classic barber shop in the city centre. It was fun to see Philip in an old, English barber shop getting his haircut alongside English men. One of the best gifts Ozzie gave to me while in Cambridge was paying for me to go to a nice English salon to get a haircut. I had a fantastic experience and received one of the best haircuts I’ve had. It was a wonderful experience for us both to get English haircuts!

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When we left for Switzerland shortly afterward, we said goodbye to fall in Cambridge for when we returned winter had set in. More on that next time.

Love,

Kristen

West Texas Says Goodbye to Cambridge

It has been fun sharing with you all the photos from my mom and Wanda’s visit. It feels like it was a long visit since it has taken me 3 months to share it all, so thank you for following along.

We began mom and Wanda’s last day by going to a nearby village called Grantchester for some morning tea and scones. (As an aside note, there is a new series called Grantchester that comes on after Downton Abbey on PBS on Sunday nights. I hope you will get a chance to watch it as it shows a lot of Grantchester as well as Cambridge.) The tea room is placed within an apple orchard and next to the River Cam. It was a cloudy, damp morning, which made for perfect weather for some warm tea and scones with clotted cream and jam. After tea, we walked around the orchard and picked some apples from the trees to take home while Philip zoomed around on his scooter.

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We left Grantchester and went to Tyndale House for mom and Wanda to see the place where Osvaldo had been working. We left Tyndale House and walked through Selwyn College on our way into the city centre. Although Selwyn is one of the smaller colleges, it is very beautiful and has beautiful gardens. The ivy on the grounds was a brilliant red on this day, which was a nice touch of color against ashen skies.

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The rest of the day was spent shopping and enjoying the little shops of Cambridge. We ate lunch at a Cornwall pasty shop and enjoyed some local-made fudge.

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We walked past King’s College one last time before heading home for mom and Wanda to pack and rest before their journey home to West Texas.

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By that late afternoon, we were all wiped out, including sweet Philip.

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It is always sad when something good comes to an end. We hated saying goodbye to mom and Wanda, but were thankful for their company and visit. We made such wonderful memories in those 9 days that we will never forget. Their visit gave us the fuel to make it the next two months.

Stay tuned for more of our time in Cambridge and our trip to Switzerland.

Love,

Kristen

West Texas Meets London

For those of you who kept up with us while we were in England, you know that we are now back in the States. There is so much to write about and reflect on from our sabbatical as well as to tell you about how our time in Cambridge concluded.

Even though we are now home, I didn’t want to leave the blog unfinished. Aside from the post written by Osvaldo about his book, I left the blog still sharing with you about my mom’s and Wanda’s visit. This is where I want to pick back up. I look forward to blogging about our sabbatical again as it will be nice to remember and to relive it.

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The second to last day of my mom’s and Wanda’s visit was spent touring London. We took the train from Cambridge to London early that morning and then took the metro or the Tube, as Londoners call it, to Trafalgar Square. At Trafalgar Square we picked up our tickets for The Original Tour Bus but decided to walk to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard at 11 a.m. before taking the bus.

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At Trafalgar Square.

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On our way to the palace walking up The Mall, we saw some of the Queen’s guard parading down it. Philip loved it!

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It was extremely crowded when we were in London as if it was high summer season. We discovered later that it was fall break for schools in England. Also, an NFL game was being played that weekend in London so there were many Americans in town for the game.

After the changing of the guard, we hopped on the bus and saw Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and The London Eye. We hopped off the bus at Covent Garden to eat lunch. Covent Garden is known for its street performers and market. It was such a neat place!

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The street performers in Covent Garden were Philip’s favorite part of London!

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After lunch we hopped back on the bus to St. Paul’s Cathedral. There we got off and toured this magnificent church. Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed inside. From there we took the bus to the Tower of London and enjoyed the poppies display. These ceramic poppies were placed around the Tower to commemorate the 100 years since the beginning of World War I and thereby remembering those who died. The sea of red was beautiful and yet a stark reminder of those who lost their lives.

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For all you Alabama fans out there.

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And that was the end of a very long day in London. Philip did amazing for a 3 year old who had been going strong every day sightseeing. I was really impressed. However, London did him (and to be honest all of us) in! It took about five days for us to recover after mom and Wanda left.

Up next, one last post from mom and Wanda’s visit!

West Texas Meets Ely

The day after we arrived from Paris I wanted to show the two West Texas women some more of England. So on a Monday we took the 10 minute train ride to Ely. It was a gorgeous albeit windy day. We enjoyed early Christmas shopping in the village, eating lunch at a cafe, visiting the Cathedral, watching horses and letting Philip run around in beautiful green grass. It was definitely one of our favorite days of the trip.

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Updates from Cambridge