Sometimes, even when I am practically I living on trains and planes and it feels like my home is actually just somewhere vaguely "out of town," I get the feeling that I just have to . . . get out of town. It isn't boredom per se, or even an overwhelming desire to strap on the ol' traveling boots, but more of a need to switch up the routine of everyday life. Enter Day Trips.
Day trips are a fantastic way to explore what's just around the metaphorical (sometimes actual) 'riverbend' without all the baggage (literally). Last weekend, the dark clutches of winter backed off and we had sunshine and fifty degree weather for a blessed few days. In order to take advantage of such a rarity in these winter months, my friends and I went on a stroll to the neighboring town of Bebenhausen
to convene with nature. What that means is that we walked down a mountain and through the medieval walls of a monastery to have a picnic and wander around the grounds. Sounds magical, right? Well, it was.
On the hike down to Bebenhausen:
And though the frosty weather has now returned with a vengeance, that didn't stop me from going on Day Trip #2: The Stuttgart Zoo. Actually it wasn't my idea. (Neither was Bebenhausen -- I give friends Dan and Britni full credit for that one.) But when a German friend provided the perfect excuse for a trip to Stuttgart, I hopped on the bandwagon and found myself being snowed upon in the company of some very chilly flamingos in Bad Cannstatt.
I'm pretty spoiled with zoos, considering Saint Louis has one of the best in the US. But after having been exposed to the tragedy that is the Beijing Zoo
(shock! horror! disgust!
) my expectations have been lowered. I'm happy to report that most of the animals at the Stuttgart zoo appeared to be quite content, especially the monkeys. I could have watched them playing all day. And let me just tell you, baby monkeys? Adorable.
The only animal that was actually enjoying the weather, though, was the polar bear. He looked as if he might just go for a swim, mocking us in our winter coats and unwanted snow in our eyelashes. Needless to say, we spent the majority of our time in the houses, checking out the aquariums and big cats. When we finally emerged from the tropical rainforest house, though, we were ready for some cool, dry air!
Hey, fishy fishy fishy:
Christoph looking at the polar bear:
His favorite part was the aquarium, but he's never seen Finding Nemo?! Remembering that movie made me extra excited when we finally found some clown fish.
Yes, that's right. For a whole two weeks, I left the joyous country of spiced wine and Christmas markets to do what one really does for the holidays: spend time with family and take part in yearly traditions. We even had a white Christmas!
Beautiful! We had our traditional Christmas Eve program of cheese fondue followed by board games, and then dutifully went to bed early so that Santa could come put our presents under the tree and then have time to catch some shut-eye as well. Christmas morning began the latest it has ever begun in the McAllister household -- 7:35 am. My 13-year-old brother may not believe in ol' St. Nick any more, but that didn't diminish his excitement at the prospect of a paintball gun or some new Xbox games. So it all proceeded as usual--stockings, presents, breakfast, clean-up, cooking, family dinner, and more board games--every bit of it as wonderful as I always imagine it to be. I even had some time for cuddling in there:
After Christmas, I tried to contain my excitement for three days while I waited for Jeremy
to come visit. We had an awesome time hanging out in St. Louis together and then going down to Nashville for my friend Abby's wedding on New Year's Eve. We may have rung in the new year in our hotel room with some small fireworks (sorry, housekeeping) and the Spanish channel blaring in the background, but somehow it worked.
So now I'm back in Germany, throwing myself into my research with renewed efforts. Being home was amazing, but now I have mid-term reports to complete, transcriptions to work on, interviews to prepare, and, of course, places to see!
My parents just booked their flight to come visit me . . . Have you? :)