Ghosts, The Globe, and Glühwein

On Friday morning we woke up to an overcast London sky, ate a leisurely breakfast at our hotel, and headed out for the day. To combat the cheesiness of the previous day’s activities, we decided to take in a few genuine historical sites in London. I have fond memories of touring the Tower of London from my first trip to England almost 30 years ago, so we hopped the tube to Tower Hill. 

The Tower of London mixes the best of all worlds for traveling families. There is enough culture and history to satisfy the parents, enough tales of blood and gore and grisly murders to keep the attention of the children, and a tour of the Crown Jewels to impress the whole family. We opted for a guided tour by a Yeoman (aka, a “Beefeater”), who being required to have a certain amount of military experience, are skilled enough to get children to listen, and fascinating enough to keep their attention. 

After the Tower of London we hopped a river taxi on the Thames to the site of the rebuilt Globe Theatre. The Globe was Shakespeare’s theatre, at least at the time of his death, but was essentially destroyed about 20 or so years after he died. Enough records exist of it that at the end of the 20th century there was a large movement (led by American actor and director, Sam Wanamaker) to rebuild The Globe to its exact specifications. If you ignore to fire exit signs, electrical lighting, and a few other modern amenities (required by code) I would say they have done a wonderful job!

Just down the street from The Globe we were starting to take the pedestrian bridge back over the Thames when we heard festive music and caught a whiff of deliciously open roasted meats. When we popped ’round the corner we found the last vestiges of London’s Weihnachtsmarkt (or “German Christmas Market”). We had stumbled on the last day of the market, and all of the vendors were selling their wares at considerable discount.

Sarah found some trinkets that she will turn into a Christmas tree ornament for home. Emily found some fancy nail polishes. Henry, of course, found a local young female vendor to flirt with. When we asked him if she was his girlfriend, he responded “No, we just like to wave to each other.” We enjoyed a dinner selection of roasted duck, roasted pork, and sausages. We ate out on a picnic table, just under the beginning of the pedestrian bridge that shielded us from the light rain that was falling over London.

When dinner was done we crossed the bridge to the other side of the Thames and caught a glimpse of St. Paul’s Cathedral. With our bellies full and our legs tired, we rode the Tube home and collapsed into our beds, ready to wake up and make tomorrow’s journey from London to Henley-on-Thames. 

Christmas 2015

It’s back… the Schwab Family Christmas video card. While it doesn’t show everything we did this year, it covers all the things we could think to video with our phones at the time. We couldn’t be more proud of our kids, and it’s great to get a chance to show off some of their accomplishments, along with their goofy sides. From all of us, we wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Christmas 2013

Chances are you got our Christmas card. You were either brave enough to type in the URL, or you have a smartphone with a QR Reader, AND you know how to use it. Either way, welcome to our 2013 Holiday letter. We’ve done digital before, but Sarah and I were feeling so pressed to “perform” on our letters, and we know that you’re mostly interested in how the kids are doing. So we decided to make the kids do most of the work for this year’s holiday letter. So here you have it… Emily, James and Henry summarize 2013 for your benefit. They’re ours, and we’re proud of them…

Newton’s unpublished law

Newton’s First Law

Corpus omne perseverare in statu suo quiescendi vel movendi uniformiter in directum, nisi quatenus a viribus impressis cogitur statum illum mutare.

[translated from Latin into English]

Every body persists in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by force impressed.

An object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted upon by an unseen force. Newtonian Physics. This law was devised in a time when people rarely moved, apparently. I can tell you, with great certainty, that when a person (or a group of people) are preparing to move, and especially when that move spans several continents and oceans, the law can be written thusly:

During transoceanic relocation, every body persists in the state of being at rest, and in motion, as the two states are neither mutual nor exclusive, and will move spasmodically in all directions when compelled to change its state by various governmental or relocation agents.Sisyphus.

Posted from Münsingen, Bern, Switzerland.

Quick Hit: Grocery Stores

In this Quick Hit we have to mention something about Switzerland’s grocery stores. Switzerland has a number of grocery store chains including Denner, Lidl, Avec, Proxi, Aldi Suisse (don’t mention this one to Swiss people, though), Spar and so on. But if you want to really talk about grocery stores in Switzerland, there is only one discussion: Coop versus Migros.

MigrosBoth Migros (pronounce ME-grow) and Coop (pronounced like cope) are Swiss-run grocery store chains based on the co-op philosophy. You are not just a customer, you are part owner. Their primary difference is that Coop has a large selection of brand-name items, and also carries products with any of their various Coop labels (indicating various levels of quality and, therefore, varying prices). Migros, on the other hand, predominantly carries products that are made specifically by, or for Migros. Want Ovomaltine? You have to go to Coop. In fact, for a long time Migros would not sell Rivella, Switzerland’s national drink, but a knock-off called “Mivella.” Migros has softened their stance and there are certain brand-name products you can buy there including Rivella, Coca-cola, Nutella, Thomy (makers of mustard and mayonnaise), etc.

CoopThe other major difference is that Migros will not sell alcohol or tobacco. Never have, never will. Coop is happy to serve your vices up alongside fresh meats, cheeses, veggies, and anything else you could want.

But both Migros and Coop are more than just grocery stores… they are Swiss instiutions, aimed to offer ANYTHING you could want. Both have grocery stores, hardware stores, sporting goods stores, gas stations, travel offices, electronics stores, banks, clothing stores, fitness centers, furniture stores, bookstores, adult education centers, golf courses, and just about anything else you can think of.

While Switzerland is decidedly neutral, politically, they are fierce loyalists when it comes to their grocery stores. I have been in the middle of a conversation with Swiss friends who turn their nose up in disgust at someone else for being a “Coop person.” I have also been in conversations where people get so fiercely upset with Migros for not carrying their favorite brand of something or other. Simply put, when you have company over for a party, shop carefully, and hide your packaging! 

Posted from Münsingen, Bern, Switzerland.