September 1 – 9, 2018
After six weeks of French city and country experiences (and maybe enough practice to earn a prerequisite credit in farm animal husbandry), we were ready to say goodbye to France and move on to our next country. We had plans to see lots of friends and even visit with never-met-before family in Germany, and were ready for a change of scenery, language, culture and food.
We returned our rental car back to Toulouse and from there flew to Frankfurt where we would stay with friends for a week. Sue and John have been working at the Frankfurt International School and living in a nearby suburb with their sweet dog Bailey going on three years. We had so much fun catching up and spending quality time with them and witnessing their daily lives in Germany.
Our first afternoon Sue and John took us to a weekend fest in Bad Hamburg. John was the first volunteer to join Annabelle on the swing ride. I reluctantly followed.
After weeks of baguettes and cheese, we were soooo ready for bratwurst!!
We spent one day touring downtown Frankfurt, shopping for needed footwear and taking in some of the historic sites.
A little spot in the middle of downtown Frankfurt that reminded us of Fellsmere pond in Malden.
Jewish War Memorial
Drinks on the river.
Frankfurt Cathedral, one of the only structures left standing after Allied Forces bombings in 1943-44.
Wednesday was the first day of school back home and the girls were really sad to be missing this annual rite of passage into their new classrooms. Luckily Sue and John eased the homesickness that day by inviting us all to come see their school. They gave us a tour where the girls got to try out some of the impressive classrooms, and had arranged to have a couple of unicycles ready for them to ride. In Seattle the girls were a part of Whittier Elementary School’s amazing unicycle program. So a school setting combined with getting to ride and take photos unicycling in another country (an “assignment” given to them by Whittier’s PE teacher Bryan Pule) helped with the sadness of missing friends and all the excitement that comes with the first day of school.
Afterwards we enjoyed dinner at the local Brauhaus with schnitzel, sausages, bretzles and of course bier.
On Thursday we spent a very special day in Weisbaden visiting my mom’s cousin Renate and her husband Dieter. My mom was born in and spent many of her childhood years in Weisbaden, and Renate and Dieter were kind enough to show us around this very international city and take us to many of the places that were important in my mom’s early years.
When we arrived at their apartment and said hello and introduced ourselves, one of the first things Renate mentioned was that today (Sept. 6) was Lottie’s birthday. Lottie was my mom’s mom (Renate’s mom’s sister), and my German grandmother who died just a few weeks before I was born. Years ago when we drove from Boston to Seattle, we stopped in Arkansas (where her American Airforce-employed husband had been stationed at the time when she died) and visited her gravesite.
That her birthday (she would have been 95) was coincidentally the day we visited her hometown was an amazing and ironic surprise. I hope she was happy to see two of her great grand-daughters exploring her backyard.
Renate and Dieter spoke limited English, and Wayne is the only one of us that knows some German, but they were so kind and happy to have us for the day. It was tiring for all, but through the language barrier, we smiled, hand waved, repeated and said a lot of bittes and dankes to make for a truly special day.
The door of the apartment my mom lived in as a little girl.
The building Renate and my mom lived in as kids.
The church my grandmother Lottie got married in.
On Friday we did a river cruise starting from Rudesheim am Rhein and going north, seeing village and castle after castle after castle. It was the perfect way to experience the powerful Rhine and the small medieval villages that stretch along the river valley. We got off the boat at Saint Goar and explored the ruins of Burg (Castle) Rheinfels, one of the largest and most well-preserved castles on the Rhine.
Earlier we had sprinted from our parking space in Rudesheim (which we hope Sue didn’t get a ticket in the mail for later) to catch the boat, then sprinted to get out of a passing rain and catch a local river-crossing shuttle ferry from Saint Goar over to Saint Goarshausen, and kept up our serial lateness by sprinting yet again to catch the train from Saint Goarshausen back to Rudesheim. Adrenaline = fun!, we kept trying to convince the girls.
After much searching with growing hangry-ness, we found a great place for dinner where more schnitzel, spatzle and strudel were had. I got to try a Rudesheimer Kaffee, which uses flaming local brandy Asbach Uralt as a base for a hot coffee and whipped cream drink (or desert, really).
On Saturday we hiked and mountain biked near Sue and John’s school along what we’d call fire or logging road trails to a mountain top Brauhaus where we had biers, pommes (french fries) and kuchen (cake). Besides the day at La Dune du Pilat, we hadn’t done much hiking and were all a bit out of practice. It was fantastic to be back in the woods with mountain-loving friends (my opinion), Sue’s bike needs some rear suspension (Wayne’s view) and our hips and knees and toes hurt (A&A). If anything, we gave Bailey enough exercise for a week, and it was a much-needed warmup for Bad Griesbach, where we were headed the following week in the Schwalzwald (Black Forest).
Besides hiking, touring, family visiting, and unicycling, we managed a couple of hours of schooling on most days, or at least having some really good discussions with the girls about our goals, plans and expectations for homeschooling this year. It’s been a learning experience for us all, and we’re still experimenting while we go. The girls expressed that they are most fearful of being behind when we return and they go back to their normal classrooms. Wayne and I talked about our hope that they would eventually recognize some of the value of the experiences they are having outside of the classroom out in the world. They’re not yet convinced, so we essentially agreed to disagree and promised to do our best to mimic what we can of their current traditional curriculum so that they are doing the same things their peers are at home.
We also had lots of game and puzzle time with Sue and John – who truly love their work in that after long days with kids they would still come home and be happy to teach and play with more kids (and adults). We competed ferociously for the week at Bananagrams, Rummikube, and Exploding Kittens, and Annabelle and Wayne proudly completed a puzzle picture of Sue & John in their liederhosen and drindle.
Annabelle was committed to making a new stuffy for Bailey given that he likes to de-stuff his favorites, so she got an old pair of socks from John and in 24 hours Peter the Sock Monkey was born. Annabelle tells the story best here.
Sock Monkey referree-ing a Bananagrams match.
Huge thanks and lots of love to Sue & John & Bailey for such a fantastic week!