Monday, August 29, 2011

Signal de Bougy

We had a nice weather forecast for this past Sunday so we took advantage of it and drove an hour away to go to Signal de Bougy, which is a huge park that overlooks Lake Geneva. We wanted to make it a "cheap" day so we decided to picnic (instead of going to the restaurant at the park). But this being Switzerland a "cheap" picnic cost us 50 chf (or $60) for 2 packages of sausage, cheese, chips and drinks! (Of course, if we ate at the restaurant we would have spent at least double for the same amount of food and drinks). 

Setting up the BBQ
Ready to eat!

This park was great for kids! They had a ton of fun things to do
Jack in the maze

Scootering around

One of many play areas

Another play area

Fun spider web
Jack loved the water play area!

Two tired guys
 There was even a small zoo with goats, donkeys, rabbits and ducks.

Riding the bumper boats
 The little coin cars were closed, so Jack and Luke took their scooters out on the track. Jack is so good on his scooter, it is amazing! I love watching them ride together. I was sitting on the grass watching them ride and Jack came up with this game where every time he passed me, he would stop and give me a kiss. Then he told Luke to do the same thing. I sat there for a long while watching them scooter together and soaking up all the kisses. So far 3 years old has been my favorite age! I love how sweet Jack can be.

Getting dizzy on the spinning wheel

View of Lake Geneva from the park

Another view of the lake and the town of Rolle
It was a perfect day. We are trying to enjoy our last few weekends as a family of 3 because soon everything will change :-)

"Where do babies come from?" Explained the Swiss way

Jack's newest friend is a Swiss german girl named Mabel. She is a little younger than Jack, but they get along great! One day when we were at her house he brought me this book to read. It's actually the 2nd time I've seen this book at a friends house here in Switzerland. I guess this is the typical way Swiss parents explain the birds and bees to their toddlers... 

I have yet to translate the words, but I don't think words are necessary

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Another belly shot

35 weeks with Jack
36 weeks with Lily

Friday, August 26, 2011

Our cruise ship experience

I know this post is WAY overdue, but I still wanted to write it so I can always remind myself of how disappointed we were with our first cruise ship experience. 

DISCLAIMER: I take full responsibility for my views and do not expect anyone to agree with me. I am sure that some people would have loved our cruise ship and had a great time. I am also sure that there are cruise lines out there which are much more suited for children. I am only going to give my opinions about this ship and this experience so that it will be recorded in my blog for the next time I think about taking a cruise. 

Full of anticipation for our first cruise

The cruise in Greece was the first cruise for both Luke and myself. I guess we both had a vision of what a cruise would be like and we only heard wonderful things about the greek cruises, so our expectations were pretty high. Unfortunately we did not like the cruise at all. In fact, I don't think I will ever get on another cruise again. I can see how a cruise would be nice for some people, but here are several of the things that bugged us about the whole experience.

1. Cold pools.
We looked forward to spending lots of time at the pools and letting Jack play in the shallow pool while we relaxed. But we quickly found out the pools were freezing! They were so cold that you could only swim for maybe 5 minutes before turning blue.

There were 2 jacuzzis where we could get warm but then these were too hot for a pregnant lady or a toddler to stay in for long so we had to get out after 5 minutes before getting too hot.

2. No other kids on the ship
Even though the cruise ship was marketed as a "family ship" Jack was the only child we saw. The cruise ship even had a dedicated kids play room, but it was closed the entire time. I don't know if they only open the play area if a certain number of kids show up, but with cold pools and a closed playroom, there was NOTHING for Jack to do on the ship.

3. Cruise food
I loathe buffets and I knew that the cruise would have buffets but I also read that they had 2 restaurants so I figured we could escape the buffets and eat there every night. But the restaurant served the buffet food. It was the same exact food, just served restaurant style. It was terrible. I couldn't escape the soggy, industrial, lamp heated, and 100x sneezed upon food.

4. "Cruise People"
We discovered that cruises attract a certain type of person. I would say that the average cruise person had the following qualities:
(a) Over 70 years old
(b) Like to dress up for each other
(c) Wear fanny packs or money belts
(d) Enjoy buffet food
(e) Annoyed by children
(f) Like tour busses and following in a huge tour group
(g) General grumpy attitude and facial expressions
Please don't be offended if you fall into these categories. In fact, if this sounds like you go ahead and book a cruise! But, this is not us and we stuck out like a sore thumb on this ship. When all the grannies were dressing up for dinner we would show up in flip flops and shorts, when everyone else was faithfully following the tour guide we were the ones trying to chase a 3 year old around and barely made it to the busses in time, and the list went on and on. It seems we do not have "cruise ship etiquette" which in my mind must be similar to a cross between casino and convalescent home etiquette.
Typical cruise ship passengers
5. Subpar rooms
I guess I expected cruise ship rooms to be similar to hotel rooms, only smaller. However I found that these were among the worst I have ever stayed in. I'm sure I was extra picky being pregnant... but several things bothered me about the rooms. First of all, everything felt old and dirty. The comforters were disgusting and Jack even threw up one night and I had placed it on the floor for them to wash and they put it back on our bed, throw up and all. But the thing that bothered me the most were the bathrooms. It was basically a shower with a toilet inside in the fact that every time you took a shower, you flooded the whole bathroom. And that wouldn't have been so bad, except that the drain would back up and then old, icky water (from who knows where) would start pouring onto our bathroom floor as well. I tried desperately to avoid using the bathroom at all costs. 
Extremely uncomfortable and dirty beds

Jack loved the pull down bunk bed

The dreaded bathroom that was always flooded
6. Tours, tour groups and tour busses
Before this trip I had never participated in a tour group (except for a bike ride through Paris). But I had never stepped foot on a tour bus, or followed a large tour group anywhere. When booking the cruise I thought the idea of scheduled tours sounded great. After all they provided transportation, a guide and they took you to all of the interesting locations. But as it turns out, we hated the tours. We felt like cattle being herded around, told when to sit, when to stand, where to look, when we could pee, etc. There was no freedom in a tour and it was a little embarrassing being apart of those dreaded tour groups who I am always trying to avoid when we travel. Not to mention that these tours are in no way designed for children so trying to bring Jack along not only stressed me out, but annoyed the guide and the group as well. Hands down, the best days of our cruise were the days we avoided the tours and went off and did our own thing.
Our prison bus... aka tour bus

Why yes, I am apart of this tour herd. I even have my
red sticker to make sure the herd leader can find me.

7. Gluttony
Since you pay for a cruise package that includes food, you feel compelled to eat even when you are not hungry. And on our cruise they bully you into buying their all inclusive drink package, so now we are compelled to drink more than we typically would. Luke had the alcohol included package so he tried to take full advantage of it and drink as much as possible. I had the alcohol free package, but I still wanted to take advantage of it so I was drinking way more sodas and juices than any person should. It felt like all we did on the ship was eat and drink and eat and drink some more. I was pretty disgusted with myself (and the other passengers) with our nature to turn into a bunch of gluttons when given the opportunity.


drinking some more

8. Sea sickness
I was very surprised that I was affected by sea sickness. Since I practically grew up on a boat and had been boating in the ocean hundreds of times and had never been sea sick, I figured I would be fine on the cruise ship. And again, it's hard to say if it is because of the pregnancy, but when I was in the ship walking around I would get terribly dizzy and nauseous. I either had to sit somewhere (which led to eating or drinking) or go to the deck where I could be outside. Sometimes neither were a good option since it would be cold up top, but then if we were inside Jack would want to run around and inevitably disturb the "cruise people."

9. Annoying workers
At first the cruise ship workers were very friendly and the only ones who actually appreciated seeing a child. But their friendliness quickly turned annoying as everywhere we went the workers would stop and kiss Jack and hold him and get right in his face. It felt like we were traveling with a celebrity. We couldn't even eat a dinner without certain waitresses seeking us out and taking Jack out of our sight to who knows where. Thankfully, Luke would quickly follow them as any protective daddy would do and make sure we knew what they were doing with our child, but Jack seemed to love all the attention. They would fill his pockets with candy and kiss his face and treat him as if he were the greatest celebrity they have ever seen. It got so annoying for us that we ended up just having to avoid certain places on the ship altogether and if we saw "certain" workers we would have to turn around and walk the other way.  

Jack was overwhelmed by all the attention

Our little celebrity

As convenient as a cruise ship sounds, Luke and I are both 100% sure that we would rather be on dry ground. 
Dreaming of the next time we can get off the boat

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Europa Park - Germany

Since we were in the area, we decided to take Jack to Europa Park one day. Even though we had planned this trip after summer vacations had ended (for the kids in Switzerland anyways) we soon found out that the kids in Germany were just starting their vacations. The place was insanely packed and we even had to park our car way out in some fields miles from the park. Thankfully we were not expecting to ride any of the "fun" rides this day so we avoided just about all the lines. Instead, we hopped from kiddie ride to kiddie ride and Jack had a blast!

Big slide that Luke and Jack climbed
up at least 20 times
We went to Europa Park right around the same time last year and I took a picture of Jack by this same Viking. I guess we will have to make this guy park of our Europa Park tradition


Luke and Jack on the Viking Ship


I think watching Luke on the slides
is funner than watching Jack

 Since our trip last year, Jack had grown a bit so he was able to go on one new ride. This taxi ride was actually pretty crazy and spun around really fast. He loved it though!

This is a great park to visit in the summer because they have a ton of fun water things to do throughout the park. It was funny to see so many kids running around in their underwear since they didn't know to bring their bathing suits.
Thankfully we knew about the water and packed Jacks swimsuit

Enjoying some ice cream 
Another fun water area

The belly (and the face) continue to grow
 Jack with Europa Park's own version of Mickey Mouse
I really like Europa Park...probably more than Disneyland. The park is divided into the different European countries and they do a really good job of making each country unique. We were able to enjoy some delicious pizza in the Italy area, you can get crepes in France, sausages in Germany, etc. Plus, they sell beer throughout the park and prices are very reasonable. Even though we have been there twice now, we still haven't even visited all the countries or went on all the rides. I would love to make this trip a yearly tradition for us.