The village of Romainmôtier may be tiny (only 400 people live here) but it has one big feature: it is home to the oldest abbey in Switzerland. The abbey, originally built in 515, was replaced by the current church building in the early 11th century, with the Cluny monks, who built the church, remaining there until they were relieved of the building during the Reform.
One of the nicest things about staying on a farm in the middle of the jolie Swiss countryside is that if you don't feel like catching a train into the nearest village/regional centre/city you can instead loll around, soaking up the gentle sunshine and occasionally rousing yourself to help le fermier de la maison faire la moisson (help the farmer to bring in the harvest).
Everywhere you look are tractors cutting down the corn crop, orchards filled with trees laden with fruit, and pumpkin getting bigger by the day in la jardin potager (vegetable patch). Monsieur Claude, who owns the farm with his wife Martine, has taken great delight in getting Grumbles to help him with his daily chores. The two of them have already spent many happy hours feeding the chickens and picking the ripe fruit from the trees. Despite the fact that Grumbles speaks no French and Claude does not speak English, all you can hear is a constant stream of chatter from both of them, punctuated regularly by burst of giggles and guffaws.
The only downside is that I am beginning to run out of recipes which might use up the copious amounts of poires, pommes et noix (pears, apples and walnuts) that Claude keeps giving to us!
Still, who could resist him and his lovely fruit? Pas moi!
You know what - I'm pretty darn sure that I could live in Switzerland. The people are friendly, the country is criss-crossed with charming lanes, the next village is only a short stroll away and everything is SO DANG PRETTY!
Take the wee village of Ependes, for example. It has everything that a picture perfect Swiss village needs, except for a shop, but who needs a shop when every house has a vegetable patch, is surrounded by uber-fertile farmland, and has a charmante mobile food van which stops in town every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday with essential supplies, such as cheese, bread, vegetables and in my case the best chocolate eclair I have even stuffed into my ravenous maw.
We've only been here a few days, but it already feels like home.
There's an old adage that says that if you must travel, travel in style. There really is no better way to see the world than from the comfortable seat of a nice, fast train. So bright and early we set off to catch the Eurostar from London to Paris. Watch out good citizens of France, here we come!
However, we made the train, and I as soon as it started I raced for the loo. Coming back to my seat I felt much more composed: we were on the train, and the world was good again. This feeling of peace lasted until a loudspeaker message broke the relative silence of the carriage, screeching a stream of urgent French that seemed to last forever. One of the few words I caught was the repeated mention of plastique explosif. After the announcement the whole carriage was full of uproar, with much muttering and gesticulating in French. We lent forward to the charming French man who was sharing our seats, and asked him what was going on.
Police! Soldiers! Firemen! Holy Schmoly! It's the works! When we arrived at the diverted-to station, we were all made to get off and take our luggage with us, crossing the train tracks and assembling in the town square. Soon the good police of France had figured out who the packages belonged to (some poor schmuck tourists who were obviously clueless about normal sorts of luggage, like um suitcases rather then broccoli boxes wrapped in plastic then covered in sticky tape) and we were once more on our way.
... and then some of us succumbed to total exhaustion.
At 9 that evening we arrived in Geneva. Don't even think about popping the champagne and letting off the fireworks: we still had another hour long train ride to Yverdon-les-Bains.
We also saw some other, more interesting, statues. One in particular stuck in my mind. It was Erected To Commemorate The Glorious Heroes Of The Machine Gun Corps Who Fell In The Great War. I stood for a moment, letting the horror of what these men went through sink into my mind. I then lifted my eyes from the inscription to be faced with another kind of horror. The horror of the Most Unsuitable Statue Ever:
So, I'm sitting at home, taking nice deep breaths, trying not to watch the clock and freak out about how soon the flight is. I mean, people fly all the time, right, and nothing ever happens to them. The chance of dying in a plane crash is far less than the daily risk involved in getting in a car. So I'll be fine. Because I can't even drive a car, which makes me practically risk free! I'll be totally fine. Absoluuuuuutely hunky dory.
Then the phone rings. It's Quantas customer service. The flight has been delayed, they report, and thought that as we were travelling with a child that we might want to know.
Well, Quantas, that's all very decent of you, but that now gives me an extra hour to freak out in. AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!
Dear reader, I recovered. Even though we sat at the airport for another two extra hours, watching flight after flight take off before us, and trying to induce Grumbles to take a nap (completely unsuccessfully, bien sur). On a positive note, I ran into my cousin Denise, who was taking a holiday to Malaysia with her family. On a bum note, I was eating my dinner at 1 in the morning. It's a topsy turvy world.
Still, we landed in Hong Kong with no trouble at all. The key to not melting down during take off is to (a) have a small child to attend to, and thus divert all your freak out abilities into stopping them from freaking out and (b) cola flavoured Chuppa Chups. Since the original flight was delayed, it put our second one out of whack also, but the wait was only an hour, and then we were off once more.
We made it half way through the second flight before trouble struck. Sure, we were bored, and our vegan meals supremely unsatisfying (note to airline staff: Jorth cannot live on fruit alone!), and sleep just wasn't happening, but generally things were good. Then Grumbles announced that she didn't feel very well.
"Do you think you're going to be sick, honey?" I asked, wiping down her face with a washcloth.
"No, just a bit funny in my tummy!" she answered brightly.
"Well, thanks heavens for that, because throwing up on an aeroplane would really be...."
The rest of my sentence was lost in the sudden grab for a sick bag. I got it under her chin just in time, as she chucked and chucked and chucked. In between moving her hair back from her face and muttering encouragement, I gazed at the bag in dismay, certain it was going to burst or leak or just fall apart from all the liquid. Miraculously it remained intact, and I handed it to a poor steward as soon as I could.
And where, I hear you asking, was the mightly Galumph during all this drama? Hogging up the bloody toilet, that's where!
Exhausted, Grumbles fell limply asleep in my lap, as I glanced nervously at my watch and calculated that we still had 5 hours left of the flight. Thankfully, she broke the monotony by awakening twice more and chundering away. Who wants a quiet life, eh? However, I shall give credit where credit is due: she didn't moan, squeal, sook or carry on in any way whatsoever. Once she had done her business, she would just lie back and smile at us. The head steward came over and told her in a very campy clucky tone that she was just a marvel, and an absolutely credit to her parents, which cheered us all up immensely. The warm fuzzy feeling lasted until we touched down, where I breathed a huge sigh of relief: we had made it and Grumbles had finally stopped vomitting.
We all stood up to collect our carry on luggage, and exchange pleasantries with our fellow passengers whilst we waited to disembark. "My dear!", squarked one old English bird sitting behind us, "I had no idea the wee one had even been ill! What a blessing you have there!"
"Thank you!" I smiled back. "She's been great, hasn't she!"
Then Grumbles threw up all over our shoes.
Welcome to England!
1 - Do a gazillion or so loads of washing so everything is clean and ready to be packed. CHECK.
2 - Learn useless French phrases: Ma mère est sous la table, bien sûr! (my mother is under the table, of course!) CHECK.
3 - Mildly freak out about getting on a plane. CHECK CHECKITY CHECK
4 - Feel resididual guilt about the carbon emissions from aforementioned plane, then figure since we haven't owned a car for 6 years, and walk and bike everywhere then we have a few carbon points up our sleeve that we'd surely be entitled to splurge? UM, SORTA CHECK
5 - Warn the good citizens of England, Wales, Germany, France, Switzerland and Denmark that la famille Jorth are coming? NO WAY, WHERE WOULD BE THE FUN IN THAT?!!
Keep an eye on the blog, fellow blogging comrades, as I'm planning on posting on the road. How excited am I? SO EXCITED THAT I MAY START BLOGGING IN NOTHING BUT CAPS, THAT'S HOW EXCITED!