A Travellerspoint blog

Meeting Hannah's French Family

BY ABBY

sunny 31 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Poirot and KZFamily in Nancy

Poirot and KZFamily in Nancy

We had scheduled our visit with Hannah’s French family as our last destination so that we could finish off with an experience that we knew everyone would love and look forward to. And today that day had finally come. We set off at eleven o’clock, hoping to arrive at their house by eleven thirty with some flowers along with us. On the way to their house Hannah kept pointing out things she noticed like “those flowers weren’t in bloom when I was here”, and, “this is where I bought my new camera.” It was strange to think of this being Hannah’s home for three months, as I had never had much to visualize when I thought about it. We were all excited, and a few of us a little nervous about meeting the family, but when we got there we knew that we had nothing to worry about. It was so nice to see Marine again, as it had been two years since we met her, and Hannah said it was really great to visit the rest of the family as well. The parents, Thierry and Myriam, are both very friendly and outgoing. They both speak a fair bit of English, and it was more than enough to keep a conversation going. Marine and her brother, Nicholas (Nico), both have excellent English and were able to translate anything we needed.

When we came inside we were greeted with two kisses from all four of them before we were ushered into their home. We had a little snack on chips, salsa, guacamole and some drinks while we talked and caught up on many things. It was over 30 degrees outside, and we all agreed that it was too hot to do any sightseeing until it had cooled down later in the day. We ate lunch on their outside patio under a large umbrella, and were treated to a style of barbeque we’d never seen before. In the middle of the table they had set up a portable barbeque with a flat grilling surface, on which we were able to cook meat and vegetables. There was much more than enough for all of us and we didn’t even get to the salmon and prawns waiting for us in the fridge. We were all getting quite hot in the midday sun so we headed inside for our dessert of fruit and ice cream. We spent the majority of the afternoon talking, and the four of us kids went upstairs to play Wizard, a game we had given Marine after she had fallen in love with it in Canada.

Place Stanislas

Place Stanislas

After it had cooled down, at around seven, we went out into Nancy for a walk around town. We went to a little zoo, not much bigger than our petting zoo in Beacon Hill Park, and looked around at the animals. They treated us to yet another ice cream before we walked down into nearby Stanislas Square for dinner.

Our food was very tasty, and we were able to try some food from the area such as Quiche Lorraine and fois gras (and yes we know how this is made so there is no need to give us a lesson on ethics. Although, the majority of us did think it was very tasty). At quarter to eleven there was supposed to be a light show on three of the buildings located in the same square as our restaurant, but given our luck, we should have known something was going to go wrong. We walked into the middle of the giant crowd that had gathered and waited. It started to get later and later and we would look at our watches seeing 11:10, 11:15, and 11:20. Finally at half past there was an announcement made saying that they were unable to show the lights that night. We had noticed earlier that there had been a man with a flashlight on top of one of the buildings, working with one of the projectors, so this wasn’t too much of a surprise. But the majority of the crowd wasn’t as flexible as we were. People had started yelling and getting upset so the eight of us grouped together and tried to make it quickly back to our cars. I heard my dad say, “Let’s get out of here before anything happens” and I grabbed on to his hand as tightly as I could, thinking we were going to get shot or something. We made it back to our cars in one piece, even after my mom had almost been run over and Thierry had been “misplaced” in the crowd. We said our goodbyes and arranged to meet again tomorrow, and then we finally went home to our stuffy little apartment for a good sleep after a great day.

Posted by KZFamily 01:13 Archived in France Tagged food france ludres Comments (1)

Let Sleeping Lions Lie

BY MURIEL

sunny 26 °C
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Lion of Lucerne

Lion of Lucerne

When we determined that we would be going to Lucerne, my priority was to see the statue of the Lion of Lucerne. Ever since I saw the one modeled after it in Greece, I had been interested in visiting the original. Once again, I was moved by the pained, somber expression on the lion. Mark Twain described the lion as “... the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.” I have to agree. We didn’t plan to stay long in Lucerne but did want to see its old quarter. Much like the other towns of Europe, the historical Swiss town was very appealing. The high heat distracted us a bit from wandering far but we enjoyed crossing a few bridges and navigating cobble-stoned streets. In particular, the Chapel Bridge, a covered bridge stemming from several centuries back, was very appealing with its painted ceiling pieces depicting Swiss legends and long stretch of fresh flowers on both sides.

We had lured Hannah out of the house with the promise of a ‘day at the lake’ so I was starting to feel guilty when we had not yet arrived at the lake by 1 PM. She says we have this habit of getting distracted in Europe by the little towns’ architecture and scenery. Guilty once again, we made our way to Lake Sempach, a very picturesque spot a few kilometers outside Lucerne. Once we got in the cool water, all was forgiven (I think) and the three of us enjoyed a wonderful swim. The rest of the time was spent picnicking and gaming (not the video kind). Families and friends were scattered on the lakefront but it still wasn’t very crowded so we felt fortunate to be able to enjoy time away from the busy tourist spots. And making the most of the country we were in, we purchased a Toblerone despite it being a no better deal than in Canada.

We arrived back at our place to find that Abby had appreciated time to herself (scarce in the last few weeks). For supper, knowing it was a faux pas, we still persevered with our strange summer tradition and had another Swiss fondue. I can have that anytime as it is so good. Even though it has been such a quick visit in this pretty country, we are glad we made the decision to come here (Moe was happy too as he received yet another pin).

Posted by KZFamily 01:09 Archived in Switzerland Tagged lake switzerland lion lucerne Comments (2)

Our Last Visit to France

BY BEN

sunny 34 °C
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Colmar: Little Venice

Colmar: Little Venice

Our brief foray into Switzerland ended today and we returned to France for our fourth and final time of this trip. Our final destination today was Nancy, in the northeast of France. Nancy is just a few kilometers from the small community of Ludres where Hannah lived for three months with a French family as part of an exchange program.

On the way to Nancy we stopped in the historic town of Colmar. This city was one of the last to be liberated in World War II and despite a prolonged occupation and having been in close proximity to wars throughout its history it has been spared the ravages of such conflicts. It has many medieval era buildings in its large historic quarter. The oldest buildings are reminiscent of structures one would find in Tudor era England. It was a town well worth visiting but had we truly appreciated the heat and humidity that we were to encounter today we might have had second thoughts about stopping. As it happens Colmar is the town with the most sunshine and highest temperatures in all of France. It even surpasses the Mediterranean towns of Provence in the clear skies department.

We slowly wandered the streets keeping to the shaded side when possible and favoured the narrower alleyways. It is a popular destination among tourists but everyone we saw looked a bit wilted and more interested in taking in sites that sold frosty drinks rather than examining the 800 year old building standing right next door. The heat so addled Muriel's brain that after a couple of hours she could not make sense of our map and starting wandering somewhat erratically through the town. Hannah was eventually able to relieve her of the map and guide us with haste back to our air conditioned car. Within in a few minutes Muriel had regained all her faculties but may not have gained a true appreciation of Colmar.
Hannah thought it somewhat surreal to be returning to the area in which she lived a little over a year ago. We look forward to meeting the Poirot family tomorrow and entering a world we have heard so much about from Hannah but have yet to experience first-hand.

Posted by KZFamily 00:03 Archived in France Tagged france nancy colmar Comments (1)

Snowball Assassins

BY ABBY

semi-overcast 16 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Pretzel Face

Pretzel Face

We woke up early today as we were going to be spending our time in the Swiss Alps and we wanted to get as much time there as possible, especially since we had a long drive to get there. Our drive to get to the mountains took about two hours, so we stopped at a lake for lunch on the way. We explored around the lake a little, looking at all the rock piles from a quarry as well as the large and fast river that fed the lake with water. From here we drove on again until we reached the beginning of our mountain pass. We stopped a little further on at a dam which we could walk across and get a great view of the valley and the lake which had been created. Everything around us was so green, and there were still patches of snow here and there on the ground. My dad was surprised at how jagged the tops of most of the mountains were, and even compared them to porcupines. We drove on through the mountains, climbing higher and stopping at most of the pullout spots to take a few photos. At each stop we got out at, we noticed how the temperature was decreasing and the winds got stronger, but that obviously didn't stop my parents. At the highest point on our route we got out again, and upon finding a large deposit of snow my dad formed a snowball and threw it right at my back. Most of you probably don't know this, but I'm not a very big fan of the cold, and the only thing I like about snow is when it gets you out of school. And when that happens, I stay put inside my warm cozy house. So when snowball fights happen around me I usually don't participate. But my dad still doesn't really understand the rule of "if you won't throw one, I won't throw one", because he knows that I'll never be able to actually hit him anyways. So obviously, I turn around at him, with my mouth wide open, only to see that he is in mid throw. I turn and run, but obviously not fast enough, as in seconds a cold, wet, ice ball smacks me right in the back of my head. From here I decide that he's not going to quit so I might as well try to get my revenge, and I try to move close, picking up little bits of snow here and then and tossing them in little showers in his direction.

Snowball fight in the Alps

Snowball fight in the Alps

However, when all this is happening, my lovely darling sister whom I love so much is creeping up behind me with two large handfuls of snow. And I'm sure you all know what's going to happen next. She takes her load and rubs it right into my hair and in my scarf, where it starts to go down the back of my sweater. This was my limit though, and I made my escape, running up the side of the hill and taking refuge by a group of tourists who were enjoying the view. I watched as my mom got into the action too, failing miserably to do any damage to him, as he would just catch every one she threw. When I saw them heading back to the car I thought I'd be safe, but nooooo, never around these people. My dad acted all innocent and held his hands up in retreat, only to have Hannah throw another one, and then him another two that he was hiding. After this I ran to the car and didn't speak to them until the next stop

.Snowball fight outrage

Snowball fight outrage

This next stop happened to be a snack break, which I tried to nap through, only getting up for some dark chocolate. We saw some more sheep as we drove, and my mom and Hannah looked as if this was their first time seeing creatures like this as they pointed and squealed whilst taking dozens of pictures of them. After the sheep we started to go downhill again, and down the other side of the mountains. Once we were back driving in the towns I slept until we reached a lake for a bathroom break, and yet another snack. We had just over an hour to go from here until we reached home, so we decided to make it a quick stop as we had made plans with our hosts to visit the farm on which he bee keeps and has a cherry orchard.

When we got home we had a quick dinner of sausages, salad and potato dumplings before we drove to Chris's farm. Hannah and I were able to fulfill our dreams of wearing beekeeping uniforms, while my parents had to sacrifice themselves to the killer bees which we were introduced to. We were given many interesting facts about bees, like how queens are made, how they find their way back to their hive and other things. He was even able to find the queen for us to see, which he had marked in red marker the day he found her. She is a little larger than the rest, and she is longer than them as well, but other than that there are no visible differences. He says that the only way you can tell is by looking at them, as she acts no differently that the other bees from what you can easily see. After the bees we went to the cherry orchard, which wasn't actually his. He shares the farm with a friend of his who owns the orchards on the property. They have an agreement that our host will not charge him for taking care of his bees, but he is able to pick cherries whenever he likes. We thought this was the end of our tour, but he got us to follow him to another one of his friend's farms and we were able to see his pigs. At this farm they keep the pigs when they are pregnant, and when they know the date of which the pig will give birth, they return it to the owner ten days before so they have the pig when it gives birth. We were given a tour of the barns where the pigs stayed and were given lots of information on how everything was done.

Nice hats!

Nice hats!

Today has been a very interesting day, which was full of things that I would never get to experience otherwise. As we are in the final countdown of the days on this trip, I'm both excited to go back home, but wonder what it will be like without the new and exciting experience of this new "everyday life" which we have been living these past nine months. But one thing I do know is that I'm really happy we did this, even though some parts have been hard. Although there are things that I'm going to miss, like all the adventures we get to go on, I know that I definitely won't miss having to write this blog... sorry.

Posted by KZFamily 00:02 Archived in Switzerland Tagged snow farm switzerland alps bees pigs cherries swiss_alps beekeeping Comments (0)

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