We’ve had two weeks of school holidays over Easter. School holidays are intense. Maybe it’s just me. One of my friends said she loves the time off from the usual routine. I said, ‘Really? WTF? Are you serious?’ My children are my beloveds, the highlight of my existence and the apples of my eye so I feel guilty that I really enjoy the three hours when they are at school every day.
School holidays are nonstop go go go. Megan and Jessica’s stamina astounds me. Their energy could power a jet or send a rocket into outer space. By bath time, I’m done for the day and I crave backup. I use the app called Find-my-iPhone to track Al’s progress home. While the children splash about, I watch this little dot moving slowly along a map. At 19h00, it’s bed time (for them, mine is only slightly later). One of my friends posted this on Facebook and it sums up our evenings:
Easter Sunday was good fun. Megan and Jessica gorged on eggs and then I suggested we put the rest in a Tupperware to save for another day. It’s been about two weeks and they still haven’t enquired as to the whereabouts of their chocolate. Isn’t that weird? I’ve been contemplating how bizarre this is as I nibble through their eggs and Lindt bunnies every evening.
We went away for three nights. After Al’s busy season at work and this never ending winter, I so appreciated the change of scenery and the quality time together.
As we drove back home, Al said he had a superb time but didn’t feel relaxed. Every day the children were completely and utterly exhausted from glorious, happy, busy days. Alastair and I wondered if they may sleep late and if we might score a bonus lie in. Not a chance. When children go to bed early, they wake up early. When they go to bed late, they wake up early.
It wasn’t a true break where we detached from all daily responsibilities, enjoyed leisurely lie-ins and veged on a lilo in the pool while drinking a cocktail with a mini umbrella sticking out the glass. Travelling with three small children is like going away with three chimpanzees. It’s a tall order to expect to be relaxed by the end of it. Happy and bonded, yes, but not revived and zenned. For now, we don’t have holidays as such; they are more like family trips.
We spent two days at Europa Park, the big amusement park in Germany and one day in Colmar in France.
During this trip, I remembered a snippet out of the very interesting book called ‘The Band of Brothers.’ The book is about the group of American men that landed in France on D-Day and then pushed eastwards until they finally stopped at Hitler’s country home town of Berchtesgarten. The author interviewed these men and asked them which country they liked most out of all the areas they passed though. They unanimously agreed the Dutch were tops. Second in line was … Germany. Even though they were liberating Europe from the German clutches, they actually enjoyed and identified with the German culture and way of life.
They said that when they bombed the living daylights out of a German city, the following day the citizens emerged from their bunkers and were all hands on deck to repair the damage. In contrast, the French didn’t give a toss and waited for someone else to eventually get round to filling craters and repairing smashed up buildings. I think that mentality endures to this very day. I remembered this when we were in Germany last week because I like Germans too. They are so organized and productive and motivated.
Europa Park is in Germany on the border with the Alsace region of France. Alsace Lorraine switched between France and Germany a few times over the years. This makes it my favourite part of France because it is French but with a structured, disciplined German influence. There is a marvellous two-room museum in the basement of a building in a village just outside of Colmar. It is very unassuming but it’s one of the best war museums I’ve ever visited. Unfortunately I didn’t explore it in any detail because my three little chimps aren’t interested in history or the Second World War.
I love German food. They are aces at cooking pork and I enjoy spatzle and a good schnitzel. We rarely eat out in Switzerland. It is too expensive and the food is generally underwhelming for the price. This sacrifice and deprivation means that when we are away and go to a restaurant, it’s a major thrill. These days it’s easier to eat out with Megan and Jessica as we tranquilise them with colouring, cards or the iPad. Kate is the challenge because she bounces and wriggles around like a hooked fish. Al and I take turns to hold her so one of us always eats at high speed and the other has cold food. It’s a pity the children don’t enjoy restaurant food as much as we do. They only eat marguerita pizzas, french fries and their body weight in mayonnaise and ketchup.
Europa Park is magical. We loved it. It is divided into different sections each representing a country in Europe. The children were so happy and that made us happy too. I can’t wait to go back.
It astounds me the way Europeans are so tolerant of dogs in public places. Do you know dogs of all shapes and sizes are allowed at Europa Park? I can sort of understand a poodle or a little lapdog but we saw big, fierce looking dogs there too. While we waited for Al on a rollercoaster, I spotted this man and his massive dog. It was taller than Megan and had testicles the size of tennis balls so I had to take a sneaky photo:
I like visiting other countries in Europe because it boosts my confidence with French. I’ve now expanded my repertoire enough to offer French as a communication option in addition to English. I don’t understand a lick of German and I hate that lost, clueless feeling. I don’t understand how people live for years in a foreign country and not learn the language. I used to have this thick tongue and deer-in-headlights disorientation when I first moved to Switzerland but that has gone now. It is only when I am away that I realize how much I’ve progressed and this gives my self-confidence a nice boost.
When we were in Colmar, it suddenly poured with rain for about 20 minutes. The wind blew with an end of world fury that turned my umbrella inside out. We ran in search of shelter but the tiny patisseries and cafes nearby weren’t suitable. They wouldn’t look kindly on our double pram (dogs yes, prams no). We ran around like rats in a burning building and then we noticed a homeless man who beckoned a crowd of us into the cathedral. We sheltered in the church while the rain pounded outside. I’m sure there’s some deeper symbolic meaning in that. It felt special, as if we were characters in a real life picture of how God gives sanctuary and refuge from the storms and greyness of life. It was one of many spontaneous Happy Moments during the trip.