Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A taste of home

Through rolling verdant countryside, mountains and lakes, my bus brought me from the Czech Republic to Switzerland. The signs changed from Czech to German (in Austria and Northern Switzerland) to French in the Southwest corner where my cousin Heidi lives. It has been about 26 years since we saw each other. I remember her as a spunky, mischievous and clever girl who intimidated me a bit with her daring. Seeing her all grown up, a mother of four, and a good partner to her husband Ralph, she is still full of spunk and life. Her intelligence and daring shine through the eyes of her kids as well.

Heidi and Ralph (a gentle, even-keeled, native Swiss man) live in a beautiful big country house. The house is 3 stories tall, with strong bones and old wood. The rooms connect together in a network of cozy burrows. When Ralph talks to the kids, it is often in German, and they will answer in German or French. In their play, they speak together in French. Heidi can speak both, but uses English with the kids. The primary language of the region is French. Fun to hear such a mix of languages. Old high school French has begun appearing from the language closet in my brain, dusty and sleepy. I understand a lot more than in Mongolia just getting around, and when people speak to me I can get the jist of simple things. Sentences and phrases occur to me to say, but usually after the opportunity to use them has passed.

Ralph and Heidi took me with their family for a weekend in the Alsace region of France. Curving byways linked little villages that looked like scenes you would see on the wrappings of fine chocolate. Every town featured a chapel with a spire surrounded by rows of brightly colored row houses with tile rooftops, wooden shutters, and flower boxes. The rolling vibrant green countryside a perfect backdrop for the towns and little castles nestled in comforting hills. We stayed in a cute little apartment in Eguisheim http://www.visit-alsace.com/eguisheim/. I was able to spend some time on my own in Colmar, wandering the cobblestone streets and walking along the little canals that are the reason that area is called “little Venice.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colmar)

Heidi and Ralph traveled widely before they started their family, so we had many good conversations about travel. Heidi and I were able to take a day and do a beautiful long walk through vineyards and get reacquainted after the long time apart (the photo is from that walk). I very much enjoyed their company and hospitality. A chance to rest and feel at home.

My idea to go overland to Ireland couldn’t work due to ferry schedules and expense, so I took a cheap flight to Dublin. I have about 2 unfettered weeks here, I plan to wander the southwest coastline. It feels really good to be here again. Ireland was my first trip out of North America in 2001. I wanted to see if I liked to travel on my own. On that trip I met many inspiring women that were traveling the globe alone, and found that I did indeed love traveling. It is fun to return 10 years later, one of those well-traveled women.


  1. What a great picture of you two! Glad you got to see Donneloye and experience a little of the Alsace too. Great area. I have been a lurker on your website. Interesting trip. Thanks.
    See you in November. Love S&C

  2. Ok, so all of the flattery will get you everywhere. Glad you enjoyed your stay :)

  3. Let me know, I will also be first in line to buy YOUR book