Friday, August 30, 2013

RV Life: Scenes from Corsica

We spent six of our fifteen days of vacation on the island of Corsica.
We visited three cities – Bastia, Porto and Calvi.
You can see pictures from Porto HERE.

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Hannah and Finley: 5 years old and 5 months old.

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The salt air and humidity did amazing things to Finley’s hair.

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We ate all of our meals in the RV, except for one night when Hannah and I put on dresses and we went to dinner at a true Corsican restaurant.

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We call her “Mother’s Helper.”

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This is “Vacation Shawn.”
Totally relaxed and a few days worth of facial hair.

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On this day in Calvi, we ventured into town and stopped for ice cream.  The shop owner came outside and sat down with us.  She didn’t speak much English, but she told me where in town to pick up groceries and the best place for fresh produce.  One thing I learned about Corsicans: they’re loyal to their island and don’t really feel much connection to France.  We told her we were Americans living in Luxembourg and a bit about where we’d been and where we were headed on our trip.  She said that she’d been to France and Italy, and with a wave of her hand, as if to dismiss both places, said, “But everything I need is in Corse.  There is no need to leave.”

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On another day Hannah and I bought a red and white hair ribbon in one of the little shops.  We tied her hair back and after walking around for a while, we realized that it had slid out and was gone.  We retraced our steps, but had no luck so we went back to the shop to buy another one.  I explained to the shop owner that we lost the first one and wanted another.  She picked up the basket, took out a silky polka dot ribbon and handed it to Hannah.
”Un cadeau,” she said.  A gift.

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Then I noticed this little sign and took out my camera to snap a picture.
“Eets ok, zee English?” she asked.
”It’s perfect,” I told her.

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We wished we had a few more days to spend on this beautiful island, but we had reservations for the ferry to take us and our RV to the South of France.

To be continued…

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sweet Tooth

It’s been a big time around here for teeth.  First, Finley cut his first two.
You can see them HERE.

Around that same time, I started noticing a bit of tooth sensitivity, mainly on the left side.  It wasn’t painful, but randomly sensitive when I ate something sweet and I couldn’t even tell you if it was coming from the top or bottom teeth.

I ignored it for a while and then we left on vacation and it wasn’t a huge concern until it started happening more frequently.  I figured it was a cavity and that I needed to call the dentist when we returned.  In the meantime, I started to get into a bit of a panic because I just don’t like going to the dentist.  The smell and sounds of a dental office makes me edgy.  I think it stems from an unfortunate orthodontia incident in the early 90’s.    
 
By the time I had made the appointment with Hans Henrick (that’s his first name – he’s Danish), I’d had in depth text message exchanges with my sister who relayed my symptoms and questions to her dental hygienist friend, emailed another friend to confirm that they use anesthesia in Europe and had convinced myself that I needed a root canal and a crown or possibly a tooth extraction.  It only takes a few clicks on Google Images for this crazy train to leave the station.

This morning I went to my appointment with Hans Henrick, who comes highly recommended in the Luxembourg expat community, by the way.

I have a friend who also went to him and on the way out said to the receptionist, “Well, he was just lovely.” 
Then she leaned in close and filled her in on a secret.
“All the moms at my daughter’s school talk about him.” 

“I’m glad everyone likes him,” the receptionist said. “He’s my husband.”

Anyway, Hans Henrick is lovely and did a thorough exam, x-rays and announced that I do not, in fact, have any cavities and my current fillings are in good shape.  He finished up with a cleaning and a polish, and you know that gritty toothpaste that they use to professionally clean teeth?  Well, it sort of tasted like…gravy…turkey gravy.  And when he said the word tarter, he pronounced it “tar-tar.”  It was precious and I just never have the heart to correct those types of things.
Hans Henrick’s conclusion: pregnancy and breast feeding have caused my teeth to become sensitive.   He gave me a sample of toothpaste for sensitive teeth, the name of a rinse to pick up at the pharmacy and sent me on my way.

And now, on to the REALLY exciting news.
Hannah lost her first tooth!
It happened while we were in Corsica, but the tooth fairy found us nonetheless.

”Does the tooth fairy only collect American teeth?” she asked us.

In French speaking countries, there’s not a tooth fairy, but la petit souris, a little mouse that comes to take a child’s tooth when it falls out.  We decided to ignore the mouse and stick with the fairy, since we had brought a tooth fairy pillow with us in anticipation.  Sometimes it’s just best to go with what you know.

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The next morning, Hannah was pleased to find the tooth was gone and had been replaced with one shiny Euro.  

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He got his first tooth.
She lost hers.
I love these smiles.

Monday, August 26, 2013

RV Life: It Takes A Village

“As soon as I started to make that turn, I knew you’d be writing about it on your blog,” Shawn told me.

Oh, you mean this turn?  The one that was just a wee bit too tight and steep and caused the bottom of the back end of the RV to drag and scrape along the ground until it jammed and wouldn’t budge? 

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We sure created a scene.  
Doesn’t it look like Shawn’s setting up to do some big presentation?  Or a magic trick?
Actually he was just getting his tools out, but apparently to the people of that small town in Corsica, it was fascinating.  Utterly fascinating.

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And also - it makes it so much easier to get the skidplate of a 29 foot RV unjammed when you have an audience of people offering suggestions and shouting commands to you in French.
(Shawn told me it was called a skidplate, lest you think I am familiar with the undercarriage of an RV.)

I think the whole little town got involved. 
Do you see that car with the kayak on top?
The owner zipped it backwards down the street and told Shawn to get his tow rope because he was going to pull us out.
I probably don’t need to tell you that plan ended before it even started.

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Oh, see that man kneeling on the right?  I like to call him Self Appointed Team Leader.  He pretty much named himself as the chief of this little project.  And the other man kneeling next to him?  Thank goodness for him – he was the only one in the bunch that spoke English.

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There was a lot of noise, spinning of tires and general grinding of gears so I took the kids out of the RV and a woman who was watching the ruckus from her porch waved us over.  She and her husband invited us into their home until Shawn (and the rest of the town) could get the RV out.  At first I was hesitant because MAFIA but they soon put my mind at ease.  They spoke not a word of English, so we made do with my little French.  I learned that they’d been married 40 years, had adult children and grandchildren, had lived in Corsica their entire lives and rarely left the island.  Can you blame them?  I mean, look at the view from their porch.

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Now, never mind my videography skills here, but pay attention to what Hannah asks.
If you can’t see the video, click HERE.


”What are they gonna do with that rock?”

This is where I started to get worried because if my engineer husband’s common sense approach and, you know, conventional tools had failed to dislodge the skidplate of a 5 ton vehicle and Self Appointed Team Leader was resorting to using A ROCK, well, this was probably more serious than I realized.

And by the way, the shouting you hear, that’s how Self Appointed Team Leader commanded the troops the entire time.  It was charming.

After about thirty minutes, they were able to push the RV backwards off of the skidplate and Shawn maneuvered it to a less steep part of the turn.   Once the RV was unstuck, the onlookers erupted in applause.  What I wanted to say was halleluiah and the Lord is worthy to be praised, but I didn’t know how to say that in French, so I said the only French expression of exclamation that I know:
Ooooh la vache! which literally translates to “Oh, the cow!” and is akin to “Holy Cow!” in English.

The sweet couple burst into laughter at my attempt at sounding like I know what I’m doing in French and I figured that it must’ve been the right thing to say for the situation.  They kissed us on each cheek, as you do in Europe and we were on our way.

To the people of that little town in Corsica: Merci mille fois.
Thank you a million times.
(And sorry for the burnt rubber.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

5 Months

Interrupting my regular posts from the road to say that Finley is five months old!

I know I say this every month, but he is such a joy.
He’s so calm and happy.
And apparently, he’s the newest Browns fan.
I hope there’s room in the Dawg Pound for him.

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So, what’s he up to these days?
Well, he’s rolling over – from back to front, and once from front to back.
He’s not all that thrilled with being on his stomach, though.  He also tries to scoot around by pushing his feet against the floor.

He has his two bottom teeth and I suspect more are coming because he’s been drooling and chewing and rubbing his tongue over his top gums.

Finley loves to be in his exersaucer.  The first time we put him in it, he got really serious and looked at me like you’re just now telling me about this?  What else are you holding out on?

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We don’t have a doctor appointment for a few more weeks, so I’m not sure how much he weighs, but I’d guess he’s getting close to 17 pounds.  He has no trouble filling out his 6 month clothes. 

Finley seems to have a favorite toy.  It’s a little stuffed donkey with a rubbery strawberry that he likes to chew on.  I’m not sure how it got started, but Shawn and I call it Don Quixote.  I have no idea why, because I’m pretty sure that Don Quixote rode a horse and not a donkey. 

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Hanging out in his swing with Don Quixote.

Sleeping and feedings are still going really well.  We’re on a nice schedule.  He naps from 9-11 in the mornings, from 1-3/3:30 in the afternoons, and then takes a little cat nap around 5:30 in the evening.  He’s been sleeping from 8PM until around 7AM each night.  If we are home all day, naps go pretty well, but if we’ve been out and about (which is often) sometimes he falls asleep in the car and then it’s hard to get him to go back to sleep once we’re in the house.  The good news is that Finn sleeps 11 straight hours at night consistently, so I can’t complain!

Baths and his big sister are still two of his favorite things.

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On his five month birthday, we’re in Corsica, which is an island that is geographically closer to Italy, but owned by France.  Here’s Finley and Shawn under the big, red umbrella.

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Happy five months, Finley! 
I think it’s fair to say that we’re smitten with you!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

RV Life: Corsica and Also a European Version of The S’more.

Did you know that the island of Corsica has the highest number of murders per capita than anywhere in Europe?

I came across this bit of information while reading up on the island before our trip.
Upon further research, I found that it’s mostly mafia-related so we have nothing to worry about, right?
I mean, is the mafia really going to be concerned with some Americans driving around in an RV with German license plates?

After spending the night on the ferry, we docked in the morning and just like the embarkation, it was the most unorganized and chaotic thing ever.  Once we were off the boat, we regrouped and headed for Porta, which is on the other side of the island.  But we didn’t mind because this was our view from the road.

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Once we got settled in at the campground we decided to go to the beach.  I wish I had a picture of the big, red umbrella, and more importantly, Shawn setting it up.  As he was putting the stake in the ground, an older man said to me, “Trop de vent. Trop de vent.”
To my American ears, the French words for “windy” and “wine” sound awfully similar and I thought he was asking if Shawn had had too much to drink.

And then the big, red umbrella blew inside out and lifted out of the ground.
I think he was trying to tell us it was too windy for le grand parapluie rouge.
So we walked a bit further down the beach to a little place with rocks along the side and set up the umbrella.  It was the perfect place to set up our spot for the day.

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This guy loved it.

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But soon he became powerless to the cool breeze and calming sounds of the ocean.

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He napped for a few hours while Shawn and I took turns playing in the sand and waves with Hannah.

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When we were worn flat out from the sun, sand and waves, we headed back to the RV.  Shawn grilled burgers while I bathed kids.  After dinner, we made s’mores and when Finley went to bed, Shawn, Hannah and I had a game night outside.  These are sweet, sweet memories.

And also, I had to get a little creative with the s’mores, because you just can’t get the right ingredients here.  I couldn’t find Hershey’s chocolate but I did find Reese’s peanut butter cups.  And the marshmallows here are far more sugary than in the US, so roasting them on an open fire was more like making bite sized crème brulee.  As for graham crackers, a woman at the little shop in Luxembourg that sells American and British items told me that these would be a fine substitute. 

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And they were. 
So that’s what we had.  Crème brulee and Reese’s cups on a digestive biscuit.

Fancy.

Anyway, we’re packing up now and are off to our next stop in Corsica.

(If anyone from the Corsican mafia is reading this, we are NOT headed to the town of Calvi.)

Monday, August 19, 2013

RV Life: On the Road and On the Sea

Next we drove from Zurich through the Italian Lake area to Genova. 
I was totally keeping my eyes peeled for George Clooney.
I’m kidding. (Not kidding.)

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The GPS said the trip was 5 hours, which is the perfect amount of time for our family to travel in one day.  We made a few stops for feeding Finley, eating lunch and just to get the kids out of their seats and stretch.

We made it to Genova, Italy earlier than expected, parked the RV and Hannah took a quick shower and Finley got a bath in the kitchen sink.  Because when else will they ever have the opportunity to bathe in an RV that’s parked on a ferry loading dock in Italy?  Never, probably.

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This is probably going to embarrass him someday, but I couldn’t resist.  Because THOSE THIGHS.

From here on out, things just got harry.  Now, listen. I’m not picking on the Italian way of doing things, but getting on to that ferry was downright unorganized and chaotic.  It was basically a crowd of RV’s, cars, cars hauling campers and boats and also some straggling passengers that obviously missed the pedestrian boarding call, inching along in no line or order that made any sort of sense.  It also didn’t help that the man directing vehicles had the English words for “right” and “left” mixed up.  And then he just got fed up with his job and yelled out, “You go right.  You go left.  You go on vacation,” and threw his arms in the air.

We were asked to show our confirmation (I’m surprised they even asked) and Shawn showed him the email we had received with the confirmation of WP and then a bunch of numbers.  The YOU GO RIGHT YOU GO LEFT YOU GO ON VACATION MAN  shouted our confirmation into his walkie-talkie: Whiskey Papa 2013773004.

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The Whiskey Papa family waiting to board the ferry
(Don’t worry – the kids are always buckled in when the RV is moving.)

We finally boarded and made it to our cabin, which, if I were being picky, I’d describe as a 1980’s broken down cruise ship stateroom.  But I’m not being picky, so it was certainly adequate for our needs.  We reclined the seat in Finley’s stroller, and put him to bed there.  The gentle rocking of the boat on the sea made the rest of us drowsy and we soon followed.

We woke to the sound of the captain announcing that the ferry was docking and to gather our belongings and report to our vehicles.

To be continued…

Friday, August 16, 2013

RV Life: Storage

"Hey, will you grab my laptop for me? It's in the oven." 
                                               - Shawn

Thursday, August 15, 2013

RV Life: WiFi and Camping in Style

I’ll be brief here because 1.) I’m sitting at a picnic table with six strangers accessing free wi-fi (pronounced WEE-FEE here.) We’re all plugged into one power surge strip and one false move, I fear, will cause the whole thing to blow and 2.) we’re just about to get on the road.

Ya know, when I saw the sign at the entrance to the campground that said “Free WiFi,” I sort of expected it to mean that you could access and enjoy the rights and privileges pertaining thereto from the comfort of your own RV.

I was wrong.

There’s a tiny little hotspot, apparently the size of this picnic table where one can access all the internets.

Anyway, WEE-FEE issues aside, I just want to say that if I had known that this type of camping was available, well, I may have considered it as a vacation option much earlier in my life.  Because just look at how some of these people camp. 

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Next we’ll be driving through Northern Italy to a town on the coast where we’ll take the RV onto an overnight ferry.  We’ll go to sleep in a cabin and when we wake up we’ll be on the beautiful island of Corsica. 

And also, read this.
Except for the Italian sausage bit, I couldn’t agree with her more.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

RV Life: Zurich, Switzerland

On y va!
That’s French for HERE WE GO!

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After weeks of planning and hours of packing and organizing, we were finally on our way. 
This kind of trip takes a lot of preparations, but more on that later.
The kids were so excited to get on the road.

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Our plan was to drive to Zurich, Switzerland, which is about 5 hours from Luxembourg.  We traveled South through Luxembourg, across the Alsace region of France and then on to Switzerland.  It took us about 7 hours total because we had to stop to feed Finley, stop for the rest of us to eat lunch and then a stop at the Swiss border to get a special registration that is required of all vehicles.

Shawn is truly giddy about driving us around in an RV and he’s really good at maneuvering, reversing and pulling into narrow spaces. 

Hannah: Is Mommy going to drive the RV?
Me: Probably not. 
Hannah: Yea, you might break it and then we’d have to sleep in a broken RV.
(She’s right.)

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Paying tolls at automated machines is a bit tricky.
We’re bigger than a car, but smaller than a semi truck.

When we arrived, Shawn set up the RV and I took the kids on a walk to the lake.
I think I’ve said it before, but I think Switzerland is one of my favorite places in Europe.  It’s clean, safe and the people are just so friendly.  And also – one of my favorite people that I’ve become friends with in Luxembourg is Swiss.

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At the marina on Lake Zurich

The next morning we ate breakfast and headed into the city.
We took a bus and then a train way up in the Uetliberg mountain, which is 2850 feet above sea level.
Then we hiked about thirty minutes to the most beautiful view.

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Finley thinks his dad is terribly funny.

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Ok, that’s it from Switzerland.
We’ll be passing through again on our way home.
Next stop…Northern Italy.