Snow season, sad season

Winter in Nyon is depressing. It took me until just recently to wrap my head around why we are all cranky and depressed by the time February rolls around. For two years in a row, we have hit that month and spent the whole time talking about how much we hate it here and want to leave – often with no good reason. Well, some good reasons, but mostly no good reasons. Now that it’s summer, it’s easier for me to look back on things from my state of happy, sunny days and realise the problem was the weather, not us, obviously.

In Ottawa, the winter is long and cold. But it’s bright – even the short days are offset by at least one or two days of full blue sky, shining sun, and sparkling snowfields. Heck, the nights aren’t even what I would call ‘dark’, since the snow keeps the light even through the evening.

In Indonesia, the equal 12h-12h days on the equator do seem shorter, and we always missed the evening light. But there was a regularity to the schedule that kept us on track, with lots of sun in the morning to keep us going even through weeks of dark, rainy evenings.

Somehow it’s the worst of both worlds here. We get the short days AND we get the dark, rainy evenings (and mornings), and then the fog rolls in. And that’s it. Weeks and weeks of misty skies, barely-there sun, and depressing dampness. It’s dark when you get up, dark when you get home.

This year was slightly better since we got about two weeks of snow to break up the monotony of grey. We tried to make the most of it, although not being skiiers and having a fussy sportscar that can’t drive into the mountains put a cramp in those plans. We built snowmen, buried into the snow like wolves, went for walks in the winter wonderland fields, and even managed one nice trip into the hills for a sledding trip with friends.

Moral of story – please set an alarm to remind us about this post in about 6 months. So maybe we can make it through the next winter without as much agonizing depression!

Springtime visitors

At the beginning of this year, B was doing a lot of travelling. The best thing about it was I had plenty of visitors coming to stay while he was away. It might not have been the most amazing vacations for my visitors, but it was great for me! I got to work as usual while someone else was doing chores and kid care and I had the added bonus of enjoying their company. Well, I guess that’s how it is with B at home anyway, but, you know, that gets boring after a while.

First, Grandma came to stay in February. The city was just barely starting to wake up – the winter fog was still hanging around, and it was hard to convince her that there were actually mountains across the lake. Luckily the sun came out for a short moment and we managed to catch a few photos on the water’s edge. We took a day trip into Geneva as well, but we mostly just saw swans and ate some chocolate… Actually, that sounds pretty good!

We also took the kids up to a skate park, where LittleB mostly looked at the jumps and J slid on them like slides – no extreme scooter athletes in the making, clearly. And J, turning into a bit of a pianist, got an early birthday piano. I had to drive into Geneva to pick it up, to an apartment right near the UN, and I managed to get a quick picture of the building from the car. There are so many tourists that there are permanent police stationed at the intersection out front, directing traffic so the bus loads of clueless visitors don’t get hit – luckily they didn’t see me taking this photo while driving!

A few weeks later my sister came to stay. It was meant to be a repeat of sister trip 2015, but when B had to travel again suddenly, she was gracious about being my housewife for a few days instead of seeing the country. She also got the wonderful fog and rainy days, but we tried to make the most of it: with a trip up to Saint Cergue and a tour around the Prangins museum, she managed to see more than Grandma L. And we capped off the week with a fun night of make your own sushi.

So the short version is, come and stay with us to watch our kids and see lots of fog! It’ll be great, we promise!

Lovely Leuven – catching up

We are back online after a little break. Time to catch up on some recent adventures!

The best thing about living in Central Europe is being able to visit nearby cities easily by car. So at New Year’s, we decided to take a quick weekend trip to see our friends in Leuven – one family lives there now and another was visiting from Indonesia for the holidays, a perfect excuse to go!

We woke up (very) early on New Year’s Day and hit the road. Personally, I was excited to see the sights as we drove up through France, Luxembourg and into Belgium. As we set off, up and over the Jura mountains, the sky started to lighten and we caught glimpses of beautiful green valleys and misty fields. Then the fog rolled in. And in, and in… It was so foggy that we could only see a few meters ahead of us on the road. And it stayed with us, as we drove up through France, Luxembourg and into Belgium. We saw no sights. At one point, we decided to stop for lunch and the only thing we could find – literally – was a McDonalds. Thank goodness for those glowing golden arches. We couldn’t even see far enough off the road to find a gas station when we needed one.

The sun appeared for just this one moment on the drive up!
The sun appeared for just this one moment on the drive up!

But we made it to Leuven safely with a joyous reunion (and well-deserved beer) at the hotel. That night, we grabbed some Italian food with our pile of extremely tired kids and planned our city touring for the following day.

Top of the Belgium bucket list was beer. The guys were keen to try all the Trappist beers that Leuven had on offer and they made a little dent in them – unfortunately, the brewery that they tried to visit only gave tours to 8 or more people, so they had to settle on simply drinking all the beer in the bar instead of on the tour. I think that was an acceptable compromise. The rest of us wandered the city, checking out the remnants of New Years parties and explaining to the kids every five seconds why there was so much confetti and empty bottles on the street. But we topped it off with some gourmet hamburgers, so all was forgiven.

We also found a delicious chocolaterie with amazing handmade truffles. The owner let the kids dip their fingers into the chocolate fountain – I’m really not sure how sanitary that was, but the kids were thrilled. Then we bought some pies and books in the market, and gave ourselves a walking tour of the amazing city architecture.

That night was dinner with the whole gang – and more joyous reunions took place! The kids went wild while we tried our best to have some adult conversation. And J was lucky to have a sleepover with her bestie that night. Note to self: don’t ask the kids to take the photos of you and your friends because they will all be out of focus.

The next day we said our goodbyes and headed back on the road for another foggy drive home. We decided to take the long way around the Jura, heading up through Geneva instead of over the mountains – good choice, since we could now see the snow that had fallen over the weekend and blocked our way. Phew!

Looking forward to our next trip!