Our first week in Switzerland!

What a whirlwind of a week it has been as I reflect on all of the beauty we have witnessed, jet lag we have overcome, and overwhelming sense of gratitude I have for all of these lessons we learned last year to make our transition of 9 time zones that much better!

We arrived on Tuesday at 8am and took a black car to our new apartment in Kilchberg right along Zurich's Silver Coast. The girls slept on the plane, but when we opened the apartment door, they immediately found their beds and claimed them with a quick power nap while Grant and I unpacked and got settled. Soon after we went to the trainstation to pick up some food and necessities and explore the local parks and Kilchberg bade (Lakeside Pool Club) which I joined today for a brilliant afternoon of relaxation and taking in the beauty of Lake Zurich and the Alps Cascading behind it. 

Aside from grocery shopping where eggs come in ten packs and you have to pay for shopping carts, our big adventure early in the week was taking the 165 bus up to Park un Gruene with the Migros restaurant which was a delightful morning where the girls and I played with so many other families and enjoyed the sunshine and big open spaces.

I also took a day trip to the city of Zug with the girls which was such a treat as we explored the shops (great shopping right of the train tracks!) art throughout the city and the lakeside which led us to the charming old town and even a beautiful aviary. Just 25 minutes away, I will be back with more energy to explore as we loved our time adventuring about.

We unpacked a bit more and explored our own neighborhood the next few days as Grant was at the St Gallen's Leadership Conference until Friday night when I met up with some fellow members of the World Economic Forum at Frau Gerold Gartens followed by dinner at Viadukt which is a hip restaurant built into the railway arches! It felt nice to get away and have some adult conversations (mostly blockchain and FinTech Related) but the highlight may have been when I stumbled upon the CucumBAR by Hendricks and had an opportunity to plant my own cucumber plant! (On June 14th I get to go back and trade it in for a drink at the bar!) 

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Saturday we did what all new expats probably do and hit up IKEA for some of the essentials missing from our executive apartment, you know, all of those things you don't really need but you get anyway! The kids both went to the kids club which may have been the highlight of their week as they played and played and even got to go in the kids cinema and watch Mickey Mouse for a bit while we knocked off our to-do list! Ikea may be the only place you can get breakfast for under $5, we will take it! My favorite part is the rolling tray carts, we don't have them in the states but I adore them so I can add a tray for each of the girls and myself and seamlessly push it through the restaurant - they are most everywhere here!

Sunday we went to Lichtenstein for a day trip and were constantly "wowed" by the beauty of all of the small lakeside towns on our quick 1 hour, 15 minute drive there. We fell in love with the town of Valduz as an Orchestra played and food was cooked al fresco while we awaited getting our passport stamped and bought tickets for the tiny train tour of the city. The vineyards surrounding the castle and city were both breathtaking and surprsing, adding charm to the city whose streets are filled with fascinating sculptures, shops and delicacies abound! The girls even found a castle shaped bouncy house to jump in with new friends at the foot of an actual castle!! Toddler dreams do come true! 

Speaking of castles, we were driving home as the girls were exhausted when we saw the Gutenberg Castle in Balzers, Lichtenstein which was a great work out to climb up, and we found ourselves winding again through vineyards on the way down after marveling in the beauty of the castle which was constructed around 1100 AD. Just 1000 years ago...

Today was a big day as Emerson Claire had her first day of pre-school ever, as she and Grace will now attend the Double Decker bilingual preschool in Kilchberg a few days a week. We decided to enroll them as last year we found the girls and I were looking for more of a community and knew that a school would help solve for that, and after only orientation day, it certainly has! The school welcomed us so warmly and the other parents as well! After school I took the girls to the Lindt Chocolate factory next door to pick out a chocolate treat (the air literally smells like chocolate all day while they are in school!) and then we went down to the Kilchberg Bade where we swam and played at the gorgeous lakeside playground. Ya'll, this life I am living right now is an absolute dream! 

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I'll start my own classes on Wednesday (well Technically Thursday, as my classes will be from 12midnight until 4:30am, thanks Vanderbilt University and central time!) but I didn't want to risk taking a semester off of my doctorate work so here goes nothing!

Hope each of you are finding the blessings in each new day! Lots of love from the Allen family in Switzerland... Tschuss! 

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Mainau - A wonderland for Families near Zurich

While doing a quick look at possible stops on our way home from the Bavarian Castle Crawl, I spotted information about a little Island Mainau off of Lake Constance in Germany and with vivid pictures of glorious flowers, a cafe, and lots of playgrounds - I knew we were in!

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Driving from Fussen, we were wowed by the wine country on the East side of Lake Constance but unfortunately couldn't sneak into any of the tasting rooms. After a few failed attempts, we took the car ferry over (be sure to bring Euros, credit card not accepted) which was fun for all seeing the beautiful lake from the comfort of our rental car! 

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Mainau was all that I read and more - it was absolutely glorious and I would recommend for families of all ages! The girls were in heaven as we walked in and saw a playground that seemed to just keep going and going with water features, climbing structures, swings, diggers for sand and more! It was packed but offered so much for everyone. Grant enjoyed the cafe at the entrance, hungry after the drive.

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Once we finally pried the girls off of the playground, we checked it the petting zoo where Emery was mesmerized by feeding the very friendly goats. Grace enjoyed watching the ponies but from afar. From there we climbed trees and then checked out some of the much touted floral exhibits which were positively spectacular, all with a setting sun behind us. There was a restaurant at the top which we only looked into but tabletops were decorated with such gorgeous florals I wish I could come back with girlfriends and enjoy some wine!

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The butterfly exhibit was a must-see and while it was very hot, the girls loved seeing all of the butterflies, flowers, and birds. It was probably the biggest butterfly sanctuary I have ever seen and was a nice note to end our journey on.

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I would recommend the 45 minute trip to anyone- it was a lovely lovely afternoon! 

Castle Crawling with Kiddos under 3

Let's be honest, when we found out we were going to be spending the summer in Europe, of course the inner princess in me immediately was day dreaming about bringing my fairy princesses to castles! At the top of the list was Neuschwanstein Castle.

Located in Germany, there are three castles of King Ludwig II of Bavaria that are famous with over 6,000 tourists visiting a day! The two primary castles Linderhof and Neuschwanstein Castle are bustling, and we wanted to get in on it! With Neuschwanstein being the castle that supposedly inspired Disney's castle for sleeping beauty, Grant was finding his way into all of our hearts with a surprise trip with a little Disney magic. We rented a car and drove through Austria to Germany where we settled into our hotel is Fussen on a very rainy Friday night.

While we had hoped to explore the charming town of Fussen that evening, Grant was on a call until very late and the girls were starving so we enjoyed some room service of Wiener Schnitzel, spatzel and Bavarian apple tart. The view from our room at Hotel Sonne was amazing, and the quirkly little hotel was overflowing with charm  - the perfect setting to get our girls ready for a princess weekend! 

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The next morning, we awoke very early and did the hotels amazing buffet breakfast that was included with the stay -- this buffet was so good - reason enough to stay there! Attentive staff, so many choices of food and they refilled my coffee 10x which never happens in Zurich! 

We walked around Fussen for a little bit and then headed to the castles - you have to show up an hour before your tour, and our tour was at 9:15 so we got there by 8:15. We parked, hiked up a hill to the ticket office, and then found out we were going to have to do a lot more hiking. Other moms had warned me we couldn't bring our stroller so we each tackled the venture with a baby bjorn -- and a 30+ pound toddler :)

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We hitched a ride with a horse and carriage that took pity on us that was filled with tourists from Shanghai that were more inclined to take pictures of our blonde babies and family than the gorgeous setting as we rode up to the castles. We are talking hundreds if not thousands of photos from strangers. When we exited the carriage - these strangers all picked up our girls and took pictures with them. We were stunned and paralysed with disbelief, unsure of what to do. Normally I don't let anyone touch my kids. The best part was they didn't speak English, but all insisted on air dropping the photos to us -- so strange but goes to show technology transcends all language barriers! 

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We got to the top of Neuchwastein Castle only to discover that we were supposed to be at Lindenhof Castle at 9:15 and the information lady at the top of the mountain was of no help, saying we were out of luck. So $60 later, we opted to just hike the bridge with sleeping babies on us and explore what we could -- stopping for fresh donuts of course.

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Overall Experience: The castle experience was beautiful if not overly welcoming for families. I'd highly recommend exploring - but if you have toddlers, I'd skip buying the pricey tickets - you arent allowed to bring carriers into the castles or strollers or backpacks, the tour is 3 hours, and apparently they are strict on the behavior of kids. Also, no photography and if you don't instagram it, it didn't happen - right?! (kidding, kind of)

From there we ventured to Maipau - more on that adventure to come! 

Sponge Blocks for the Plane Ride

In her first year, Gracen took 14 flights and we were fortunate to have no major meltdowns. We travel VERY light (will save that for another post) and I think the combo of being prepared and maintaining a laid back attitude lends to the whole family enjoying a trip.

This weekend we are headed to Boston to celebrate two of my dearest friends, Jessica and Mike, and we weren't planning on traveling with Grace, but as something came up with my parents who are no longer able to watch her, we pulled a last minute itinerary change and got her on our flight, a crib set up in our room, now just need to pack!

Having entered the toddler stage, I have no doubt this flight will pose challenges in keeping our curious little one entertained. Enamoured with musical instruments these days, as I surveyed the playroom, I realized we didn't have too many plane-friendly (I.e not noisy!) toys to bring.  

Picking up prescriptions at CVS this morning, I saw they had their $1 spot bargain buys on sale for 75% off- and on the shelf a pack of four colorful sponges ringing in at just $0.25. I picked up two packs, got some scissors, and In about 60 seconds was able to make some silent, baby and plane friendly blocks that are light-weight and squish able making them easy to pack! If we lose a few on the trip, no big deal- they cost just cents to make!  

 

 

Just cut them into logs- or get creative with different shapes! 

Just cut them into logs- or get creative with different shapes! 

When they tumble, you don't have to worry about dents or marks! The scouring pad adds some stability for building  

When they tumble, you don't have to worry about dents or marks! The scouring pad adds some stability for building