A Few Things

August 26, 2012

Hello, Friends! It’s Sunday, and I’m here with a belated edition of A Few Things. How are you doing? I had an amazing week in New York City. My time there was jam-packed with meetings, conference prep and Alt Summit itself. I hope to write up a little Alt Summit recap — but the main points to hit on are: 1) Martha made a surprise visit! 2) The conference food was prepared by Martha’s personal chef. It was hands down the best food I’ve ever had at an event. And 3) my friend Caroline had the trip of a lifetime. Which included her first cupcake!

We flew back to France Friday evening, on a 6:15 flight, and woke the next morning in Paris. Exhausted but happy. We took the train to Argentan and Ben Blair + kids picked us up at the station. We dropped Caroline off at her house and headed home. I was sure I would fall fast asleep as soon as we arrived, but I got a second wind and this is what happened instead:

Since Saturday (yesterday) was Olive’s Birthday and today is Ralph’s Birthday, we wanted to do something special. Plus, this is our last week of summer — school starts on Monday, September 3rd. So… a couple hours after I arrived home, we quickly packed a few suitcases and jumped in the VW for a road trip! We’re headed to Switzerland!!

To break up the drive, last night we slept in Paris. We woke up this morning, and instead of the traditional birthday breakfast-in-bed for Ralph, we all had world-famous hot cocoa and croissants at Angelina’s. Heavenly. Now we’re on the road. In less than 3 hours, we’ll arrive in Bern, Switzerland.

Crazy!! But. We really are trying to squeeze as much out of our time here as we possibly can. And a hike in the Swiss Alps sounds like the perfect exclamation point to the end of summer. While we’re on the road, here are a few things I’d love to share with you:

- Farewell Neil Armstrong. And this too.
- Watermelon slushies.
- 12 lessons learned from 12 years of writing.
- A sweet and simple nursery for two.
- How to photograph the stars. (The ones in the sky, not the ones in LA.)
- All American meat.
- And this video Ralph sent to me (made me cry happy tears!):

I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. I can’t wait to catch up with you tomorrow. I’ve missed you already.


P.S. — Any favorite things to do in Bern or Interlaken? We hope to hike near Gimmelwald. And Ben Blair wants to try paragliding!

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jude Ledger August 26, 2012 at 7:10 am

Dear Gabrielle and family,
I’ve enjoyed your blog from afar for almost two years now, but never commented. I’ve just read your latest post while taking a break from working on a Dorling Kindersley travel guide to Switzerland and I’m actually on the Bern section now so I had to comment! It looks like the following are all interesting – the Gothic Munster St Vinzenz, the Old Town (the best preserved one in Swizerland), the Bear Park (a forested park where bears once roamed; good tourist office next to old bear pits!), and for fans of modern art and modernist architecture, the Kunstalle. There are too many chocolate shops to mention, but an alternative to chocolates are the spicy honey “lebkuchen” biscuits. Be sure to also try fondue, raclette or rosti for dinner, and f0r breakfast, Bircher museli was invented in Switzerland. When eating out, all restaurants include 15% service charge in the final total, so you don’t need to add a tip, only round the bill up or add a few francs. Hope some of this helps. Have a great time, Jude (Tunbridge Wells, UK)


2 Azra August 26, 2012 at 7:32 am

I am amazed and inspired, again! Haha…That sounds crazy and fantastic. :)
Have a wonderful time.


3 Erika August 26, 2012 at 7:42 am

Oh – hot cocoa and croissants in Paris sounds amazing!! What a wonderful start to a Sunday morning. Makes me wish for cozy wintery days…


4 Jacki August 26, 2012 at 7:44 am

Bern is a fun little town, with a pit in the middle of town with bears in it and a house where Albert Einstein once lived. Interlaken is absolutely gorgeous, just walking through the town is refreshing and soothing. I was there in college and through some adventure operator a friend and I went bungee jumping, which ended up being jumping out of a cable car that was suspended in the mountains above a river and trees below – it was such an amazing experience. Have fun!


5 Jude Ledger August 26, 2012 at 7:50 am

Hi Gabrielle, it’s Jude again
I don’t know how much time you have, but from Interlaken there is a rail excursion to the Jungfraujoch, which lies just below the summit of the Jungfrau. The train station here is the highest in Europe. You can do this as a circular journey – trains head from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen, where you change to a rack railway through Wengen and on further up to the dramatic station at Kleine Scheidegg, directly beneath the famous North Face of the Eiger. Different trains head from Interlaken to Grindelwald , where you again change to the rack railway, which climbs up to Kleine Scheidegg. There is separate line from here to the Jungfraujoch itself. At the top is a café and a post office where mail is stamped with a unique “Top of Europe” postmark, and there are amazing views towards France, Germany and Italy. At this altitude the air is thin, and you may feel dizzy. If this happens, the best cure is to rest, then head down again. Best wishes, Jude


6 Sara August 26, 2012 at 8:07 am

A float/swim down the aare river can be fun. And Einstein house is worth a visit.


7 beyond August 26, 2012 at 8:09 am

be sure to try my favorite swiss drinks while you’re there: RIVELLA (red-the original is best; green-green tea is good, too) and PEPITA.
and the yogurts from migros are simply excellent!
also shop for chocolate bars “plaques de chocolat” to take back with you. in my opinion CAILLERS is the best brand. if you want the fancy stuff sprüngli is the way to go.
i you have time and the weather is nice, go swimming in the aare while you’re in bern. that’ll be something your kids will remember forever!
have fun!


8 Michelle A August 26, 2012 at 8:21 am

Bern: check out the random fountains (the child-eating ogre is my favorite). It’s an easy town to walk through. We liked walking along the river as well.

Oberland: I agree with the suggestion from Jude – we adored hiking around this area. The paths are nicely kept, you don’t need hiking shoes, just good walking shoes. The shoes the kids play in should be fine. You can even take a tram up and then “walk” downhill from town to town. We loved Schilthorn and sat for a cup of cocoa in their rotating restaurant. There are tons of waterfalls everywhere, but I’m not sure if they will still be going this late in the season. If you can, check out Trummelbach Falls – it basically lets you inside a waterfall. It’s very cold and very loud but thrilling.

We stayed in the Hotel Staubbach in Lauterbrunnen and we adored it. Ask for a room with a view of the waterfalls. Liz and Jared stayed there last year too and I believe loved it too. They also have a huge family-style breakfast area where people mingle and chat, which was fun. Very affordable, highly recommended. Park you car overnight (or for a few nights) in Interlaken and just head up the mountain.

Try and take a boat tour at some point, which you can do at Interlaken, Lucerne, Zurich…

If you make it to Zurich, you must check out the Chagall windows at Fraumunster, take a boat ride on Lake Zurich and eat at Cafe Schober (it’s adorable, your daughters will love it). Plus, you must MUST grab some Luxemburgli cookies at any Sprungli store (there’s one at the main train station). Luxemburgli are similar to macarons but in my opinion, are even better. Please try and get some.

Have a great time! What adventurers you are!


9 Victoria August 26, 2012 at 9:14 am

Fabulous flash mob that also made me cry happy tears on this Sunday morning. Amazing how music has this effect on us. Lovely.
Angelina’s hot chocolate is wonderful isn’t it. Always on my list of things to do in Paris.
Enjoy all innings Swiss!


10 Damaris @Kitchen Corners August 26, 2012 at 9:35 am

You did not exaggerate when you said that video made you cry happy tears. That was beautiful! Loved the little kids in red on hanging on to the light pole.

Happy birthday to Ralph and Olive and a happy trip for the whole fam.


11 Melissa Evenson August 26, 2012 at 10:54 am

I have just recently been following you via my sister’s request (she loves your blog). You are so inspiring to me, the way that you and your family live abroad and seen to do it so gracefully, it’s what I want to do someday. I’ve nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blog Award. Check out my post at http://www.floraseasons.com.


12 Beth August 26, 2012 at 11:00 am

My favorite place in Switzerland is Lucerne, if you have the time, definitely go there. The older section of the city is really pretty and there are lots of nice shops. You can take a boat tour of Lake Lucerne, which is really beautiful and peaceful. If you go out for lunch or dinner, rosti is a really yummy dish made with meat, potatoes, and cheese. Also, something you may not know: the water from all water fountains (even from the cow troughs along the hiking trails) is drinkable in Switzerland, so if you’re hiking and thirsty, don’t be afraid to fill up a water bottle.


13 Christiana Hudson August 26, 2012 at 11:35 am

Oberland area: It’s really fun to rent bikes and go down from Lauterbrunnen to Interlaken and then take the train back up. Also, there is a “waterfall museum” that is pretty cool, you see the “inside” of a waterfall. It’s up past Lauterbrunnen, towards the gondola to Gimmelwald. The kids would love it. Up in Gimmelwald, you can “sleep in the hay,” and visit the farms up there. There is a great hike to a glacier in Grindelwald, but I would recommend taking the gondola down – it’s the devil on your toes and knees hiking that steep slope down.
There is also a pool (!) at the Funny Farm Hostel in Interlaken that you can use if you buy food there – it’s pretty awesome (climbing wall, chill atmosphere).
Rick Steves has some great recommendations for the area…Enjoy!


14 Alexis August 26, 2012 at 11:44 am

If your kids are comfortable on a bike, do as Christiana mentioned — rent bikes in Interlaken and take the train up to Lauterbrunnen/Gimmelwald then bike back down into Interlaken. It’s mostly a slow downhill past gingerbread houses and cows and breathtaking vistas. There is hardly any peddling involved, mostly coasting down. Amazing!


15 emily August 26, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Gabby & family-

As I know you all know the power of prayer, I had to send you a note. I was just signing the guestbook on our friends CaringBridge site, then went to DesignMom. I got chills when I read you are in Bern. Here’s her quick story which happened 11 days ago:

While hiking near Grindlewald, Switzerland with three couples from Florida,Carol lost footing and slid down a steep embankment of grass and rock. It happened so quickly that nobody could grab her. A man on the trail below witnessed the tumble and immediately called mountain rescue airlift.

Preliminary tests showed a neck fracture between the right side C6 and C7 with dislocation of the disc, a couple of broken ribs, a stable fracture in the pelvis, a dislocated right shoulder and head wounds, and an unstable right knee. The doctors immediately induced a coma.

The doctors intubated to drain blood from one lung, relocated her shoulder, and performed emergency surgery on the anterior side of the spine to reduce the space and immobilize the area. Her blood pressure was stable and they are watching closely for other issues.

Carol is currently in Bern, Switzerland at Inselspital, one of the top hospitals in the country, which is known for excellent healthcare.


Anyway, will you all please pray for Carol, her husband Dave who is alone in Switzerland with her, and their children? And if you find yourself walking by Inselspital or the Holiday Inn Westside, drop a quick angel-note at the front desk for Carol & Dave Lindenbaum. They are amazing people.

Much thanks and love from a big Blair fan in Minneapolis. Emily


16 Sandy August 26, 2012 at 12:21 pm

You are Supermom! Have a fab trip!

Would love to see a post on back to school French fashion :)


17 Christy August 26, 2012 at 2:05 pm

That Som Sabadell video gave me goosebumps! Absolutely passing that one on….stuff like that always makes me smile and feel good about people in general (which, I suppose, is rare these days).

And Switzerland? Unbelievable! I love how your family has such a sense of spontaneity and adventure :) I was in Interlaken seven years ago, and did things like skydiving and Vespa renting around scary mountain roads. Where are you guys staying? I remember it being such a pretty, idyllic place- and so clean! Savor that mountain air for me!


18 Valerie {all mussed up} August 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm

No stop in Paris is complete with Angelina’s unctuous, epic chocolat chaud! So glad you agree. (:


19 Sarah August 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I love videos like that. There’s something about people sharing their talents and using them to create connections to other people, their community, etc. that really moves me. It really makes me want to learn how to play an instrument. So gorgeous.
Enjoy Switzerland.


20 julia g blair August 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm

How marvelous! Ralph mentioned something about Switzerland, but we thought
it was a joke!!! Enjoy every moment and get back safely. And get caught up on your sleep. LOVE the video.


21 Christie August 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm

I love your travel posts the best, and I am very envious of your trips. It is obvious to me that we operate with different budgets, but I’m sure that, even so, you don’t have endless supplies of money. So I am most curious about how you budget these trips and keep it affordable–especially with feeding and lodging six kids! Europe can be expensive. Would you answer here or even make a post on that?


22 Ceridwen August 26, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Oh Gabrielle! Thank you for sharing that video. The little girl on the lampost was sheer perfection.


23 Jenny August 26, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Loving the flashmob video; particularly the children “conducting” as they listened. Thank you so much for sharing!


24 kimber August 26, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Grindelwald is an easy day trip from Interlaken, and absolutely spectacular!! I am not a big hiker, but the views are so amazing it’s imossible not to keep going up and up. There is also an adorable little train you can ride up into the glacier there, which has more gorgeous views and summer skiing — not the best hills, and rather sub-par snow, but an incredible experience nonetheless. I think that little valley is one of the most pristine and beautiful places I’ve ever been — enjoy it!!


25 Chelle August 26, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Old Town in Bern is indeed amazing. Time your visit to see the clocktower strike on the hour!


26 Cheri August 26, 2012 at 8:31 pm

A road trip sounds so wonderful right now – and yours sounds even more awesome being that it is to Switzerland! :) Hope you had a great time!


27 Rochelle August 26, 2012 at 8:41 pm

If you are in need of a hotel, the Staubach in Lauterbrunnen is WONDERFUL and so vintage and fabulous. Angie at the front desk is delightful. See if you can get a waterfall view. You must have fondue while in town. So to die for.


28 Rochelle August 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm

LOL. Looks like Michelle A. above beat me to the recommendation. See, two witnesses. You must go!


29 JeanneW August 26, 2012 at 11:22 pm

We just came back from a family trip to Switzerland a month ago! Another vote here for Lauterbrunnen and Trummelbach Falls. I cannot believe how beautiful Lauterbrunnen Valley is. It literally takes your breath away and I spent all my free moments staring at the valley trying to burn the into my mind. We asked the kids what their favorite part of Switzerland was and they both said Trummelbach Falls. It really takes your breath away. We stayed in Lauterbrunnen for 4 days and could have easily stayed longer. You can take the trams up either side and there are childrens hiking paths (get a family Swiss Travel Pass…the kids rail for free throughout the country). Hotel Horner is right under Staubach Falls and has apartments large enough to hold your whole family. It’s basic but it’s clean and super inexpensive. We also made a special trip to the Nestle factory in Broc Fabrique, where the kids toured the chocolate factory and took a chocolate making class. Have fun!!!


30 Cheryl Burchett August 27, 2012 at 2:43 am

Have you seen the Heathrow Airport flash mob sponsored by T Mobile that uses no instruments, just vocals? So impressive! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NB3NPNM4xgo&feature=youtube_gdata_player


31 dunski August 27, 2012 at 6:45 am

I read your blog for some time now and since you moved to france, I always wondered, when would be the time for you to come to switzerland. I’m happy to read, that you have actually arrived here and are enjoying it already. The comments before me told you all you need to know for the area you’re in. If you ever come back again… maybe you want to include zurich or basel with their wonderful artmuseums, the chagallwindows, the breathtaking Fasnacht in late winter… and of course us! ;) have a great time up in the mountains!!!


32 tere August 27, 2012 at 8:07 am

Ralph really knows what to send!! Lovely video, Beethoven was such a genius. Enjoy your last week of summer!


33 Sabrina August 27, 2012 at 8:12 am

I love Beethoven’s 9th and flash mobs. That video just started my day off on the right foot. Thanks for sharing! Have fun in Switzerland. I’d love to go there one day.


34 carrie b August 27, 2012 at 8:23 am

YOU must take the trains up into the mountains (what JUNE LEDGER said) the kids will LOVE the trains, the views are spectacular and if you can go up to the top – Jungfrau, totally worth it!!!


35 Beth August 27, 2012 at 8:31 am

That area of Switzerland is gorgeous – probably the favorite place I’ve ever been. Take the trains up to a car-free village, Muerren – the kids will love all of the different trains you need to take to get there! Have a wonderful trip.


36 Julie August 27, 2012 at 8:51 am

Gimmelwald is my most favorite place in Switzerland. There is a gorgeous little hostel there called http://www.mountainhostel.com/ that has the most amazing views and location ever. You can also hike to the top of the Schiltorn from there, but it’s a difficult climb. There are also cable cars that go up there from Gimmelwald. http://www.schilthorn.ch/en/schilthorn/. It’s where James Bond’s Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed and is magnificent. You can get lunch up there or just a hot chocolate even.

I hope to take my boys there one day when they get older. Have fun.


37 rachel August 27, 2012 at 9:54 am

Oh fun! This was a birthday weekend for our family too, but for us, it was THREE days in a row! So much celebrating! :)


38 Kathy August 27, 2012 at 10:30 am

I’m so jealous – in Interlaken there is a hostel named Balmer’s

I HIGHLY recommend the paragliding. If you don’t do anything else – do that. It’s the most amazing experience and I don’t think there is a place on earth where it would be any better (well, the Grand Canyon maybe – but you’d have to hike 9 miles up and out once you actually landed your glider at the bottom!).

Canyoning and rafting are great experiences too but nothing beats the paragliding.

Have fun!


39 Linda Kerr August 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Thank you for posting that video! Not only did we have that played at our wedding, it’s not my son’s favorite to play on the violin. It made me cry.


40 Anneliese August 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm

I am out of breath just reading about it! Sounds wonderful!


41 Lindsay - Shop Ella Lou August 29, 2012 at 10:00 am

I absolutely adore your sense of fun! What a wonderful adventure it must be to be part of the Blair clan! I am sure many people would dream of packing up their families at the last minute, jumping the car, and taking a road trip to another country – but you actually do it! Your sense of whimsy and fun never cease to leave me in amazement!


42 Angela Noelle August 31, 2012 at 7:50 pm

My favourite part was the low angle up at the impromptu choir — seeing such a talented collective without uniform or pomp belting like that…

Thanks for sharing!


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