Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Final LOST Analysis

Before we get back to discussing the Adventures of Team Danger, I've got way too much to say about the finale of LOST.

 (oh look - here's a photo of my three favorite male pieces of eye candy, and Juliet for the men ;) )

I give the finale an A+. It wasn't what I expected, and yet, it was exactly what I expected. My predictions were off a bit - I was too focused on the idea of a happily ever after that I didn't pay enough attention to the meaning of the words, "Happily... Ever...After."

Because I did get my happily ever after with LOST. It was just a bit more "Ever After" than I had thought.

Based on the Facebook posts I've been seeing today and yesterday and the comments at Entertainment Weekly, several people are unhappy with the ending. I suspect that these are the folks who weren't dedicated LOST fans, or were those who were only watching it for its science fiction ties. If you were expecting every unsolved mystery to be solved, then this was not the finale - or the show - for you. I also suspect these were the fans who might have strayed a bit, who maybe gave up during season 2 or 3 and came back in season 4 or 5.

I truly believe this episode was a love letter to the true Lost fans - those who have watched our beloved and hated characters grow over these six years, and those who can truly appreciate the sheer brilliance of the small things... like the Apollo candy bars in the vending machine ... that Fake Locke fell to his death and landed in the same position as Locke after his paralyzing push from up high .... that Locke regained the use of his legs only after Fake Locke died and loss the use of his legs ... the mirror scenes of Hurley and Sayid in the car pulling up to a hotel room leading to someone being shot, like we saw in Season 4 ... the fact that at the concert, Desmond, Kate and Claire were sitting at Table 23. And I'm only getting started.  Hearing Sawyer pass Jack in the hospital and call him, a stranger, "Doc," and later, Juliet, "Blondie."

The opening ten minutes were incredible, starting with the pans of the aircraft and then the remains being shipped, and then the introductions to all the key characters, juxtaposing their Island life with their Sideways/Purgatory life. And the final scene, with the eye closing and Vincent, bringing the entire show full circle over six years from its opening scene, was beyond brilliant. Vincent, coming up to comfort Jack as he lay dying, to make sure that on the Island, if 'we all live together' then you won't die alone. Six years ago, the show began with Jack's eye opening in the jungle, Vincent near him, and the one clean white tennis shoe hanging high in the tree. TO have our very last scene be the mirror opposite, of Jack's eye closing one last time, Vincent nearby, and the white shoe, now dirty and worn over the course of several years, still hanging nearby, was absolute poetry in my book.

I was sobbing throughout the show, every time a connection was made by our Losties. Sawyer and Juliet's reunion was just as beautiful as I had hoped it would be - I was about 99% positive it would be the "let's meet for coffee - we can go dutch" lines she uttered while dying during the first episode this season. And while the anticipation for their reconnection was sweet, the end result was even sweeter. Especially his "I got you", mimicking his promises to her as he was holding on to her arm as she was being pulled into the well. Aww...

I cried again when Sayid and Shannon reconnected. A surprise, since I thought he was destined for Nadia. But it made sense. He had too much baggage with Nadia - in either universe - to truly be himself and be happy. He and Shannon had had a lovely fresh start back on the Island.

I also loved the fact that it was Sun and Jin's ultrasound - their child - that re-awakened them. I'd been a bit annoyed there was no mention of Ji Yeon when they died - this helped make up for it. But I'd been wondering why they weren't more aware of their past together - they were some of our few Losties who should have had memories reawakened earlier on. But to explain it away as related to their child... brilliance. Its nice to see the fact that it wasn't just romantic love that could reawaken someone.

And how amazing was the scene with Kate, Claire and Charlie? The fact that it was their joint love for Aaron that caused Kate, Claire and Charlie to awaken was triply sweet. It wasn't necessarily their love for each other - well, maybe it was for Charlie - but in Kate and Claire's situation, it was the birth of Aaron. For much of the show, the big push was on the Jack-Kate-Sawyer triangle. I absolutely love the fact that it wasn't her relationship with either man that ended up being her defining moment - it was Aaron. And even Charlie, one of the most annoying characters on the show in my opinion, had a truly amazing couple of scenes here. When he first saw Claire during the concert, and just stared at her... you could feel the chemistry between the actors in my living room. The birth of Aaron was probably one of my top scenes of the night.

As for the ending ... after all the repeated forays into Christianity, coupled with the Star Wars references and the fact that everyone was so happy in our parallel universe, I was expecting most everyone to live happily ever after. Like I said, it was a bit more "Ever After" of a happy ending than I had anticipated, but in retrospect, its completely fitting. I loved the fact that Jack/Christ died so that everyone could take their place in heaven, and that his father, a Christian Shephard, guided him to that place.

There are lots of things to debate - like when exactly they all died - but in the end, like Christian said, it doesn't really matter. Some died before, some later. We all die sometime. And for those that were gathered inside the church, their time on the Island -or in Penny's case, their time with the folks on the Island - was the most defining times of their lives, and its with them that they all create their heaven.

So what if they didn't answer some questions like Walt or the numbers? As Christian said, we all die sometime. What's important is that, at the end, we are with the people who mattered the most to us during our life. And we can have our happily EVER AFTER with them at the end, in a multi-religion friendly church (with, admittedly heavy Christian influences). "Nobody does it alone... you needed them, and they needed you," Christian told Jack.

Should the producers have answered some of those questions? Well, yes, but not last night. We easily could have done without the horrific Kate-Claire themed episode earlier this season, and revisited Michael and Walt's story somehow. But given the two episodes this season we did see that gave us much needed Island back story (Richard's Ab Aeterno and Jacob's Across the Sea), frankly, I'm glad we didn't get more answered Sunday night. While illuminating, those were two of the most boring episodes we've seen yet, (behind all Kate-themed episodes) and the two I'm least likely to re watch in the future out of the entire series.

The DVD that comes out in August will supposedly answer some of our questions. Not sure which ones, or how they will do it. Hopefully in the form of deleted scenes. I feel certain there has to be at least ONE good Desmond-Penny deleted scene from Sunday that didn't make the cut for some reason, otherwise, well, I'm just going to assume that Damon and Carleton thought their last scene in Happily Ever After was so terrific that they couldn't top it, so why try. (Cynic Annalynn will point out that the Des-Penny scenes in The Constant in Season 4 were even better, though, so it can be done).

Personally, I would almost prefer they not answer them. I like the fact that we have unanswered questions that I can think about and debate with others. Sort of like our generation's Lord of the Rings, which left many, many questions hanging. I'm not saying I wouldn't go out and buy the LOST Silmarillion if Damon and Carleton were kind enough like Tolkein to write/produce one, but... its more fun this way.

I've often watched this show with a question as to whether my father would hate it or love it. Beau and I have discussed it many times - he would love the romance and sci-fi nature, but get frustrated. Would the frustration have overcome his enjoyment? Most of the time, I've thought yes. But after the finale, I knew he would have forgiven the show for any sins it committed along the way to get us to that fabulous ending. And fabulous it was.

Anyone else excited about the idea of The Hurley-Ben years spin-off?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Could I love Target any more?

For years I have shoped exclusively at Target and never at the evil empire known as Wal-Mart. One of my proudest memories was overhearing then 3.5 year old Alex tell his teacher, "Wal-Mart is Stinky. We go to Target."

And then they go and do something to make me want to do shop there more... like these beyond brilliant tv ads they showed during the LOST finale last night.

And my personal favorite...

My thoughts on the show are still to come...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

LOST in thought

It should come as no surprise to anyone that knows me that I have spent countless, untold hours thinking about LOST. We have only 2.5 hours of new LOST to watch on Sunday, and a lot of ground to cover. But for those of you out in the cyberworld who care for my predictions, here they are:

This season opened (with an eye! I always love the eye shots) with our first peek into sideways world. We saw the Losties (mostly) all on-board Oceanic Flight 815, as if the plane had never crashed. Most tellingly for my prediction, we saw the plane fly over The Island, buried way, way, way down under water.

Clearly, something happened at some point to make The Island disappear. We've had a lot of thoughts as to what this could have been: Juliet detonating the Jughead bomb; Desmond turning the fail-safe key at the end of Season 2; the initial "Incident" that led to the button-pushing every 108 minutes. But it seems pretty obvious to me, at this point in time, that someone on the Island now is going to cause that to happen. I'm not 100% certain who that will be --my money is on Ben, Jack or Desmond, though.

All season, we have been treated to a happily-ever-after life for many of our Losties ("Happily Ever After" tellingly being the name of the empirical Desmond themed episode this season) in Sideways World. Without question, every single person seems better off.

For one, many main folks are still alive (Locke, Charlie, Widmore, Boone, Sayid, Jin, Sun, Charlotte, Daniel, Ana-Lucia, Libby) and even some of the smaller characters, some of whose liveliness alone constitute a happier main character (Helen, Nadia, Alex, Rousseau, Anthony Cooper, Patchy, Keamy, Ethan, Arzt, Frogurt, Fisher Stevens' character). I still think we'll see my favorite dead character, Juliet, appear on Sunday as Jack's baby mama, too (and if she doesn't ... oh ... I'll be upset. Possibly angry enough to fire off a terse email to Damon Lindeloff and Carleton Cuse). But its not just that they are alive - those that are there are clearly more grounded and much, much less f*cked up. Jack, Locke, Sawyer, Desmond, Miles, Hurley, and Claire -- all are in a much, much better place than they are in the present Lost universe.

And given that the creative team seems to believe quite heavily in the good vs. evil battle, I can't help but think they aren't just teasing us with these glimpses into a better world for our Losties. If they are, that would be cruel, and I just don't think we are going there with the ending. Let's face it, all the references to Star Wars recently can't simply be coincidental (and there have been a LOT).

So taking Star Wars (and, its basis, the theories of Joseph Campbell) as our springing board, we are looking ahead to an ultimate showdown between good and evil. And we need an anti-hero to redeem himself. We need an Anakin Skywalker, the bad guy throughout the SIX episodes/seasons of Star Wars/LOST, to rise up from the Dark Side and throw the Emperor down into the well. And who better to do this, than our resident bad guy, Ben, who was literally begging for redemption to Illiana recently?

Yes, it appeared last night as if he had rejoined the Dark Side when he killed Widmore. But he gave the walkie-talkies to Miles for a reason, and that reason has got to be ... I don't know. But it seems like some sort of hint that Ben is still on Team Jacob to me. And Ben is our best bet to help overthrow the Man in Black, the Darth Vader who turns on his master, the Emperor, to protect the innocent. I suspect that Ben will, in fact, end up as our new Jacob. While Jack did drink the wine last night, I think something will happen to make him unable to continue, and that Ben will help take over the job. With Desmond's help, the Island will end up at the bottom of the ocean floor.

Which brings us back to sideways Los Angeles, circa September 2004.

At present, most - if not all - Losties are about to reconvene at a musical concert. Held at Miles' father's museum (who, I suspect, is still Pierre Chang). Let's see who we know will be there: Miles; Miles' dad; Eleanor Farraday Widmore; Charles Widmore; (most likely) Penny Widmore and Daniel Farraday; Jack, Jack's son, Jack's son's mother (again, I suspect she must be Juliet); Desmond; Kate; Charlotte; and Charlie. There have been enough hints that Sawyer might be there. Most likely Claire, as the new auntie to a musical prodigy, will join her brother and nephew, too. I'm guessing Hurley and Sayid find their way there, too, but I think that since they left in a different vehicle from Desmond and Kate that they are off to pick up some other Losties, first -- perhaps Locke and Ben. or Sun and Jin, or Rose and Bernard? Boone and Shannon ran in lofty circles - this seems like the kind of shindig they would be at, too. There has to be a reason Eleanor was guarding that guest list so harshly. He (we) weren't ready to see it yet. But we'll be ready on Sunday.

Something - something HUGE - will happen at this concert. And it will impact what is happening back on the Island in the other universe. What, I don't know. But I can't wait to find out.

As for Juliet... they intentionally haven't named Jack's son's mother. But she simply HAS to be someone we know. If it were his ex-wife, I think they would have told us about her already. Flashback, if you will, to Juliet's dying words after the bomb explosion. "We should have coffee... we can go dutch." And then, via Miles, quite tellingly... "It worked."

The bomb explosion worked. It sent the Losties onto a different trajectory, one in which Juliet and Sawyer meet again at a concert. They have an instant connection, and decide, "we should have coffee... we can go dutch." 

And they... along with Desmond and Penny, Jin and Sun, Jack and Kate, Charlie and Claire, Locke and Helen, Daniel and Charlotte, and any other couple we've ever cared about on Lost, can live ... happily ever after.

And that's the hopeless romantic in me, but I can't help but think that LOST has set me up to think this way. If I'm wrong, well, I guess I'll just have to get lost all over again and see where my thoughts went wrong. ;)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Soccer Stars

Somehow I went through the entire spring soccer season without posting any photos or writing at all about it. Odd, considering how much soccer consumes our lives.

So to make up, here is a smorgasbord of photos of Sir Alexander of the Barcelona Dragons, and Ryan and the Roly-Polys.

Ryan and the Roly-Polys
This was Ryan's first time playing soccer, and apparently sitting on the sidelines watching Big Brother play for the past two years was great training. He's an incredible player (if I don't say so myself). He is fast - very fast -  but he excels in dribbling, something that is often hard for the four year olds to grasp. Most kids just kick the ball once, and watch it go, marveling at their good work. But not Ryan, he kicks it, he follows it, he kicks it again and again, and he actually sets up his goals, maneuvering around other kids.

Coach Daddy hands out patches at the end of every game. Here is Alex congratulating his brother on receiving his very first patch.

And here is Coach Daddy admiring all the patches Ryan has earned through the season.

Action Shots of the Roly-Polys:

Alexander and the Dragons

This was Alex's 5th season playing soccer with the Dragons. We've gone through some name changes (Caterpillars-Geckos-Dragons) and we've lost and gained a few players (Carson and Nick are new this season, replacing our two girls, Reese and Hayley). But for the most part, we've all been together. The kids all play well together and are good friends, and we also get along well with the parents.

Playing against an all-girls team. Guess who won this game? That's right! The all-girl team! What a great lesson for our boys to learn (and their Coach!), and it was definitely the most exciting game we've ever had.

More Dragon Action!

And apparently I shouldn't stand near the goal with my camera - it gets my kids hurt. In one game, I was poised to capture Ryan kicking a goal when this mean big brute of a kid came up and pushed him square in the middle of his back from behind to knock him down to the ground and keep him from scoring. I ended up getting the assault at just the right moment.

Okay, he is the same size as Ryan, possibly smaller, but still... my baby was hurt. He cried for a long time, that "the Black team did it!" I don't know if I've ever been so proud of Ryan when he finally went back in to the game and proceeded to score three goals, annoying the "black team" to no end.

And the next week, I'm at the goal once again, this time trying to get the perfect photo of Alex, when one of the girls proceeds to kick the ball away from Alex - and her foot kept going, all the way up until it intersected with his nose. Ouch! He was pretty upset, and his nose wasn't looking that good, either. There were two large bumps on the side of it for a while, but the ice seemed to keep it down pretty well.

Suffice it to say, I have finally learned my lesson and shall not stand anywhere near goals with a camera in my hand, ever again. But it won't stop me from photographing the rest of the game from the sidelines, including tunnel time!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Soccer Parties, without the Soccer

The rain that fell for a good chunk of Friday caused the soccer fields to be closed on Saturday. Our last soccer games of the season were scheduled to be played Saturday morning, with the end of season parties to follow.

Alas, the last Roly-Polys game and the last Dragons game did not happen. Fingers crossed they will be rescheduled for next weekend, but since it was the end of the season, I don't hold out much hope.

First up, the Dragons party. We hosted it at our house. The idea was that the boys, after a rough and challenging game of soccer, would be ready for a refreshing dip in the pool. So we volunteered to host the party, and, naturally, the game was cancelled. At least the weather held up so the kids were still able to swim.

The cooler water temps led them to try out the hot tub.

And instead of hitting the pinata, we let our soccer stars kick the pinata. 

But they still found a way to hit it every now and then.

Next was the Roly-Polys party. As this is a team of four year-olds, the pool party would have involved the parents swimming, too, so I didn't offer to host this one. Plus I wasn't sure of the logistics of cleaning up from one party right before another. Sounded like a bad idea all around.

So the Roly-Polys met up at Waterloo Ice House for dinner. The parents were able to drink beer and margaritas, and the kids played on the playscape, and the newest attraction, the mud pit. Ryan thought it was pretty clever of the restaurant to have a big hole in the ground filled with mud that could collect rainwater. "I want a mud pit with my playscape," he announced.

After the trophys were handed out, we headed home again for a 2nd swim of the day, for a quick mud removal.

Other news from the weekend: we had nothing to do on Sunday. It was complete bliss. Made even more blissful by the fact that Carl took the boys out and about for a good chunk of the morning. I slept late, and they came home about 1pm, with Ryan announcing that they had gone to "Taco Bandana" for lunch. I noticed they didn't bring me any queso or soft tacos back from Taco Cabana. Hmph.

We spent the afternoon trimming up some plants and swimming. Oh, I take it back - I had an HOA Board meeting Sunday night. So not a completely non-scheduled day. But as close to one as I think I'll get for some time to come.

Spring School Photos

The boys school photos came back. All in all, not bad.

Especially since there was more than a 50/50 chance Ryan was photographed in his long-sleeved Halloween shirt. I've always hated the cheezy backgrounds his preschool uses. Seriously... what could you ever dress someone in that would look good with this?

Spicewood at least went with the neutral black, and they had used white for the fall photos.

Alex had needed a haircut, so we put some gel in his hair that morning. And I'm guessing these photos were done after PE.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Open House at Spicewood

Yesterday was Alex's Open House at Spicewood - a chance for the parents to come in and actually see some of the work Alex has accomplished over the past year. I don't know if other schools are like Spicewood, but I've been going more than a little crazy over the past nine months not having things sent home to me, preferably with grades (like A) on them. I've literally been salivating over the chance for the vault to be opened, to actually be able to feast my eyes and hands on the top-secret notebooks.

So you can imagine my happiness at showing up and being given not one, not two, but three separate notebooks. And my happiness at finding out that the biggest one, the juiciest morsel, would not be allowed to go home with me. That it stays at school, throughout the entirety of his elementary school career. For another FIVE YEARS. Seriously.WTF??!!

I'm probably committing a misdemeanor here, but I snapped some photos of the contraband school work.

What (not) to Wear

As spring quickly turns into summer here in Texas, its past time to bring out the shorts. Try telling that to Ryan.

Its a battle, every single day, to convince him that the time for long sleeves and long pants is over. Its a miracle to see him in a short sleeved shirt and shorts. we long ago settled on the rule that he can wear either a long sleeve shirt OR jeans, but not both together. Long-sleeved shirts, if paired with shorts, is acceptable. Hence, if you look at the pictures from Mother's Day, Ryan is in jeans, and not the nice khaki shorts I wanted. I try to at least keep it seasonal (ie, his Christmas sweater was 'lost') but some days we just go with the flow. 

One morning this week, I didn't have the strength to argue with him, so I simply let him go to school in long sleeves and jeans. He then went to Alex's soccer practice, and since they were short on players, the Coach (ahem, CARL!) let him play with the big boys. In his long pants and long shirt. He came home with the brightest red cheeks and covered in sweat.
So this morning, I'm getting ready to shower, and he announces its time for him to dress, and is it okay if picks a long sleeved shirt. Yes, as long as he wears shorts, too. He comes back a few minutes later, dressed in, big surprise, long corduroy pants to accompany his long sleeved shirt. "Ryan, you know you can't wear both ..." and he burst into tears.
"But, Mommy, I tried. I don't have any shorts to wear."
Silence. Long, guilty mommy silence. Reflect on the fact that I haven't finished laundry since our trip. That there may be some clean shorts, but perhaps the clean clothes haven't made their way out of the basket. Or out of the dryer.
Carl comes to the rescue, and offers to help him find some shorts (I am persona non grata at the moment, and not wanted for the shorts treasure hunt).
Alex gets off to school on the bus, and we fast forward thirty minutes. I'm doing my makeup, Ryan goes into my closet, and decides he is going to pick out my clothes. I still need to earn some Ryan brownie points, so I decide to amuse him and see what he comes up with. Its not bad - a long sleeved red and white shirt. And then he starts looking for bottoms for me. Since its Friday, its jeans day. And I hate letting a Friday go by without jeans, so I steer him towards my dresser.
He comes back with shorts. I explain to him that I need my blue jeans, not the khaki shorts. He goes back, and comes back with a pair of denim shorts. And I explain, again, that I need my long, blue jeans. And he promptly burst into tears, screaming how its not fair, I'm making him wear shorts, if I'm wearing a long sleeved shirt, then I have to wear shorts, too.
And I just don't know how to respond to this. I told him that my boss is mean and won't let me wear shorts, and that seemed to appease him (sorry, David - you're really a fabulous boss should you ever read my blog). But I couldn't help but agree with him -- its not fair. Its very undemocratic of me to establish one set of rules for them, and then not follow them, myself.
So all day, I've been wondering ... is Ryan that much of a fashionista that he truly wanted to pick out my clothes? Or was this all some sort of test of his, to see if I will follow the long-sleeve, shorts rule? Is a four year old even capable of thinking up such a devious plan? Because if it is, then I have to confess, I am revelling in his deviousness. Because he sure put one over on me. And only a genius could be that devious.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I've officially lost it

As if life wasn't crazy enough and we didn't already have too much going on, the boys joined a swim team this week, and we've started daily practices. Yes, Alex and Ryan are now members of the Anderson Mill Barracudas.

I had originally looked into joining the Sharks team, since they are within walking distance at the Balcones Country Club, and where most of their school friends join. But the Sharks practice M-F during the summer from 10am - 12 pm, which despite not being friendly for working parents, rules out any other summer camps or mothers day out programs parents might be considering. So they will not be getting our money.

The Barracudas, on the other hand, can practice during the summer from either 8am-9am, or 7pm-8pm. Plus, two friends who used to play soccer with Alex, Reese and Andy, are also on the team, as is Andy's little sister, CeeCee. Unfortunately, in the meantime, we have three weeks before school ends when the practices are 3:45-4:30 pm. So this will be a juggling act for us, and I'll probably be ready to pull out my hair by the time May 28 rolls around.

And don't even get me started on the 6:15 am Saturday swim meets. The things we do for our children.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mommy's Day

After a delayed flight from Zurich, leading to four four missed flights out of New York, one dead car, and being forced to sleep in New York while my luggage went to god knows where, I was quite content to wake up yesterday morning with the two cutest little boys ever.

Alex and Ryan gave me some great presents. This bird bath:

and these stepping stones for our garden.

We went to brunch at Green Pastures, and were highly entertained by all the peacocks (that's a big white one in the tree behind us).

Oh, and the piece de resistance, the artwork they made at school for me.

Here is Ryan's:

Ryan told me this was a planet on the left, the sun on the upper right, and a rocket ship with a gun at the bottom. 

And here is Alex's.

Yep, that is correct. My Mother's Day present says "To Dad" on it. ... sigh...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Final Trip Blog: Wine, Beer, and Everything (but Mountains) in Between

Sitting on board the Golden Pass train between Interlaken and Lucerne, and I thought this was a nice time to blog. We're going past beautiful green meadows sprinkled with yellow wildflowers, and the cows are grazing on these flowers. Lots of cows. I've seen so many cows in the past week, that I've stopped taking pictures of them. Shocking, I know.

The train started off along Lake Brienz (one of the two lakes that Interlaken is "inter") and it was beautiful - waters more pale green than blue, with little towns periodically appearing, and the occasional large building - a castle, a chateau, who knows? I rather like the mystery of these buildings - not everything has to be labeled in a guidebook.

Ok, I lied. I did find a cow picture from this train ride. :)

So our time in Lauterbrunnen was not what I expected. We enjoyed ourselves, but the weather definitely hindered our planned activities. We had three nights here, and I felt certain that with the possibility of four days surrounding those three nights, certainly we would have at least one good weather day and be able to ascend to the Jungfraujoch, the tallest point in Europe, or at the very least, to the Schlitthorn, the tall mountain on the other side of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, and famous for being the site where James Bond had a big fight at the Piz Gloria in "Her Majesty's Secret Service." But no. We couldn't even see anything from Wengen.

Monday, May 3
Our last morning in Vevey, and we check out of the hotel (good riddance), check our bags in the lockers at the train station, and board the "Train des Vignes" (Wine Train) up to Chexbres. It crawls along through vineyard after vineyard, all of which are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Lavaux Vineyards. It takes about twenty minutes, and we then start our walk back down to Vevey. There are dozens of wine caves along the way, all individual sellers. Some have signs outside their vineyards that they have been purveyors of wine since 1600 and something.

We spent about 1.5 hours walking down, until we reached the town of Rivaz. Its adorable. If I ever come back here, I think I might prefer to stay here than in Vevey. Its much sleepier, and I don't think I'd be kept up late until the wee morning hours here.  Several Fodorites had recommended stopping for lunch at the Auberge de Rivaz during the wine hike, and I was so very glad. We sat outdoors, on a terrace overlooking more vineyards and Lake Geneva, and had a delicious lunch and bottle of wine.

We took the train the rest of the way back to Vevey, and then boarded our train to Lauterbrunnen. I say 'train' - we actually had to transfer three times, and they were fairly short connection times. Racing up and down stairs in train stations, moving from platform to platform, with an increasingly heavy suitcase made the connection times even more impossible. Still, we did it.

We arrived in Lauterbrunnen late afternoon. Its a little town in a valley, which is between two large, famous mountain ranges. On one side is the Jungfraujoch (the highest in Europe) and the Eiger, and on the other side is the Schlitthorn. Lauterbrunnen is also famous for being the valley of seventy-six waterfalls. We had three nights booked in a one-bedroom apartment at the Chalet Horner, another Fodorite recommendation.

What a deal! It was only 110 Swiss francs a night, and was about five times the size of where we stayed in Vevey. We had our own kitchen and a beautiful balcony looking out towards the Staubbach Falls and six other waterfalls that we counted (and the Schlitthorn, if we could have seen it). From our bedroom, you could see more waterfalls facing the Jungfraujoch side of the mountains. Lauterbrunnen is a small town, with a mini-Co-op (grocery store), one baker, one butcher, some souvenir shops, an internet cafe, a bank, a bike/ski rental store, and a laundromat. And numerous hotels/chalets/campgrounds. We loved the town, and since we were on our own for breakfast, bought some eggs, cheese, bread, wine, and coke/diet coke. After walking around the town for a bit, we headed back to our chalet, and opened some wine to enjoy the view.

We went to eat dinner that night at the Hotel Oberland, just across the street from our chalet. The food was wonderful, and we were the only ones eating outside, which was even more special. It was a bit chilly, but they had something like bear skins over the chairs, and the wine warms you up quite well. I ordered fondue for dinner, and they brought a huge plate of different spices, garlic, and onions, so that I could 'make my own' fondue. I added lots of garlic, chives, a few onions, and some pepper. Carl ordered German Sausage and rosti for his dinner.

Tuesday, May 4
Having checked the weather the night before, we realized we would be implementing a  Bad Weather planned day. So we slept late, and set out to see some waterfalls. Lauterbrunnen is home to the Staubbach Falls, the main waterfall seen in countless photographs of the valley. It is also home to the Trummelbach Falls, about a one hour hike from the town. It was a gorgeous walk, with lots of cows and barns, and while it was foggy and overcast, it was happily free of rain.

The Trammelbach Falls are a series of waterfalls actually inside a mountain that are accessible. Its pretty darn slippery, though, and up quite a few stairs that don't really have handrails. Plus there is one sign they felt was important enough to put in in five languages - warning you that glacier water is below freezing and will lead to death, and that they bear no responsibility for any accidents or injuries. Adding to my comfort level inside these falls was the man adding caution tape to the next set of stairs we were about to climb, and sealing it off to visitors. My mind was on overload - had someone already been hurt (or worse?) today? Is there a moisture level on these steps that was reached? How does he make such a determination? Is danger du mort awaiting me as I walk back down these steps? So, I can't really say that I enjoyed these falls. It was stunning when you were there. But I was a bit too freaked to really enjoy it.

Before we had left in the morning, we looked at the mountains cams on the computer.  There are live cams at all these points in the Berner Oberland, and I was checking them regularly. At one point, it looked as if we could actually see something beyond fog at the Schlitthorn. Not as much as I would have liked, but enough to justify the expense, time, and panic attacks at riding the cable cars. So we rode the bus from the Falls, over to the other end of the Lauterbrunnen Valley to buy our lift passes  for the Schlitthorn (these lifts aren't covered by our rail passes). The weather had changed again, though, so the ticket seller cautioned us  against going up. He suggested we ride the cable car to Murren (which is covered by our passes) and then decide from there if we wanted to continue. We got up to Murren, and it was so foggy that we could barely even see each other, let alone any buildings. Seeing a vista to the valley floor or to the Jungfraujoch across the way was completely out of the question. And since the lift tickets are pricey (about $100 each) we passed.

When I had been trying to decide where to stay in the Berner Oberland, many people said Murren or Wengen was the way to go. I was a bit concerned that these towns were mostly shut down during April and May. Yes, each seemed to have one or two restaurants and hotels, but otherwise, nothing. Some of the Fodorites said we should still go with Murren or Wengen, because its not as if the views shut down. But I didn't want to not be able to buy water if I needed some. So I went with Lauterbrunnen. When we got up to Murren, and couldn't see a friggin thing, I've never been more happy in my life that we had chosen Lauterbrunnen.

As disturbing to my plans as the weather has been while we're here, I would have been massively depressed to have gotten up to Murren, solely for the views, and then not have been able to see a thing. We took the cog-wheel train back down to Lauterbrunnen.

Next, we took the train up to Wengen, on the other side of the valley. It wasn't completely immersed in the clouds - I could at least see more than three buildings at a time - but still, there was no view. You can start catching the lifts to the Jungfraujoch from here, so I chatted a bit with the train-master here. Again, the cams are annoyingly quite accurate, and you can't see anything. Current weather forecast is that on Sunday (its Tuesday) it will start to clear. Most annoying. We hiked back down to Lauterbrunnen from Wengen. One thing about the Swiss - they like to hike. So they have excellently marked trails and paths everywhere, and there are often benches along the way. Its about a one hour hike down - but it is steep. Very steep. Two days later, my calves are still complaining about the steepness. By the time we got back to Lauterbrunnen, we were pretty tired. We went back to our chalet, and started on some wine. We finished the bottle from yesterday, and before you knew it, we had finished the other bottle. We're not sure which one of us opened the third bottle - events from this time on have become a bit hazy. At some point, we went back to the Hotel Oberland for dinner. We had enjoyed it so much the night before, and its close proximity to our current location was a bonus. I had a chicken for dinner, and then we shared a chocolate fondue for dessert - our first chocolate fondue of the trip.

Wednesday, May 5
Woke up AGAIN to bad weather. Today, in addition to the fog, there is an unpleasant rain. Checked the cams, and its not any better up at the top of the mountains. Went back to sleep in hopes it would miraculously improve. Um, no, it didn't.  I was running out of Bad Weather Day options, so we left the Berner Oberland, and went to Thun. What a delight Thun is! It is located on Lake Thun (the other lake that Interlaken is between), and neither my Rick Steves or my Fodors guidebook had anything to say about it, other than it has a nice castle. But some of my Fodorite buddies had recommended it, and we were so glad. (the fact that it didn't rain while we were in Thun was a nice bonus)

Its a charming town, with two rivers intersecting it, and a castle perched at the top.

Its annoying thing, these castles always being at the top of a mountain. Clearly back in the 12th century they weren't thinking about making it easy for twenty-first century tourists to visit. But we also found a market (!) and bought some cheese, pears and apples, and we had a picnic up on the castle's grounds.

We also found lots of shops, so we bought lots of goodies for ourselves and family members. There were lovely buildings everywhere, with lots of flags hanging from them. I think the Swiss might be even more into their flags than us Texans, and that's saying something!

I was fascinated by these 'double-decker' streets. You would have to walk up and down each street four times to make sure you didn't miss anything. We also found a delicious pretzel vendor, who was selling more varieties of pretzels than imaginable.

From Thun, its a twenty minute train ride to Bern. Bern is the capital of Switzerland, and I had read it is a perfect rainy day city because they have numerous covered walkways. We walked down the main street, saw the church, and the famous Bern clock tower. We visited some more shops, saw Albert Einstein's house (where he developed the Theory of Relativity) and made our way down to the Bears. Bern keeps two bears in a bear pit alongside its river. Kind of odd.

The bears are the symbol for Bern, so you see bears everywhere in this city. We had some wine in a bear cafe, for instance. They have some amazing fountains every so often, and again, even more flags flying from the buildings. They aren't all Swiss flags - the different cantons of Switzerland are represented. I had wanted to see the Paul Klee museum, but unfortunately, its on the outskirts of town and closed early this day.

We took the train back to Interlaken (where we would have to change for Lauterbrunnen)  and decided to try for dinner in a restaurant recommended as having the best potato soup in the world. Alas, there was no potato soup today, but Carl did get some Bread Soup that was positively sinful with its cream. I had chicken schnitzel, and Carl ordered cheese fondue with beer and bacon. Not the best fondue combination we've had, so he helped me with my dinner. Interlaken has two train stations, and the restaurant was in the middle. So we had a nice walking tour of Interlaken. It doesn't get dark here until about 9pm, so there was still plenty of light to see everything. Its a huge place, much larger than Lauterbrunnen, but there are definitely some lovely parts of Interlaken. It was a twenty minute train ride back, and then we were in our chalet, planning our next day.

This wasn't the trip I had envisioned the past three days, but we've had a great time. And not being able to see the Jungfraujoch and the Schlitthorn simply means we'll have to come back some day. So I can't cross this one off my Bucket List just yet. ;)

Thursday, May 6
Woke up early on my last day in Lauterbrunnen and there are more mountains visible to me.

Run to the computer, and you can actually see a mountain vista from the Schlitthorn. Do we try and go up, and risk the weather changing on us again?

After much deliberation ... no. We've already made our plans for the day, and already decided we simply must come back in the future some time, so we are just not going to settle for a less than perfect visit to the top. We take the train to Interlaken, and then board the Golden Pass train, which will take us to Lucerne.

Lucerne had been a two night city stop on my original itinerary. It was the last cut I made, so that I could give more time to other places, and partly because the hotel prices were by far the most astronomical ones I was finding. [seriously, like USD $500 / night for a really grungy looking place, about $750 for a two star hotel] So I was happy that I was getting about 1/2 a day to see some of the sights, and the weather wasn't too bad. It only started raining towards the end of the afternoon. We had quite a bit of bread left over from the past few days, so Carl fed it to the swans on the lake. I think pretty much every swan on Lake Lucerne got the memo he was there - at one point I counted over twenty-five swans with him!

We saw the famous "Lion" of Lucerne - a statute of a sleeping lion. Unlike the Bears of Berne, which were real, live bears, this is simply a marble statue.

Lucerne is also famous for its covered bridge. I was saddened to hear that the original bridge caught on fire in 1993 - so much of what we see today is rebuilt.

After Lucerne, we continued on our way to Zurich (another 45 minutes). We checked into our hotel at about 4:30 p.m., and then went for a quick tour of the town, basically down its main street, the Bahnhofstrasse. My main goal was to see the Fraumunster church, and I knew they closed at 6pm. The Fruamunster is not the biggest church in Zurich, but its definitely the coolest -- its stained glass windows were created by Marc Chagall. They don't allow photos inside, which I have to respect, so here is a web link to them:


We then went to our most touristy dinner of the trip, at the Zeughauskeller, a relatively new restaurant that has been in business since 1487. I even ordered myself a "masskrug"  of the local beer. The food was decent enough - but the atmosphere is really why you go here.

We called it a night fairly early - we packed our suitcases for the final trip home and were asleep by 10pm. Our flight home on Friday was scheduled to leave at 10:20 a.m. Alas, it did not leave on time - it was 3.5 hours late, causing us to miss our first connecting flight back to Austin.

From Zurich, they went ahead and re-booked us on a new connecting flight. Which we then missed.

So upon landing at JFK, we were then re-booked again on a new connecting flight, out of LaGuardia, and told to take a taxi to the other airport. Which we did, and which flight also was delayed by 1.5 hours.

Which would cause us to miss the final connecting flight to Austin of the night, so did we want to sleep in Chicago or New York? We opted for New York, hopped back in a taxi (except without luggage), this time to Grandma Rita's house. Went to dinner with Grandma and to Walgreens to buy toothpaste, deodorant, allergy pills, and cheap clean underwear. Tried to drive home in Grandma's rarely driven 1993 Buick, and it decided this was the perfect time to die. Forever. Waited 1.5 hours for a tow truck, finally went to sleep at 6:00 a.m. Zurich time. Flew home Saturday afternoon, and finally, FINALLY saw two very happy little boys at 7:20 p.m.


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