Thursday, May 13, 2010

Your Questions Revealed

These questions were sent to me by various people over a month ago.  I answered these while in France, but forgot to post them.  Thank you very much to everyone who did ask these questions!

Of all the places you visited, which one you would recommend to your aunt for travel?
- This question was brought in by my wonderful Aunt Janet.  Even though she's about to turn a whopping 45, she still loves to dance, sing, and drink wine.  Initially, I thought Paris would be perfect for  However, I think that she would be kicked out of every restaurant she would visit.  She, like most Schlueters, has a volume control problem.  The French like a quiet restaurant.  Sooo, I would recommend something in Spain for Janet.  Very good wine (and cheap), lots of dancing, and much louder than its northern neighbor.  Because I really didn't like Madrid, I'm going to recommend Barcelona.  Yes, Barcelona is a younger and hipper crowd...but that just screams "Aunt Janet."

When you will tour ladies groups in the USA to show your pictures and entertain us with your comments about life aboard?
- I will be releasing a tell-all book entitled, As French As I Want To Be.  I have book signings already scheduled for Austin, TX (June 8th, Barnes and Nobles) and Birmingham, AL (June 22nd, Borders).  Others are being scheduled.  Fee free to stop by and ask questions.

What item that is now stored in our basement did you miss the most?
- This question was brought in by my generous Aunt Joellen.  Before I left for France, I basically took all my belongings and shoved them in her basement (thanks again for letting me do that).  To answer the question, first it was my espresso maker.  I had withdrawals without it.  So I bought one here.  Next, it was my Ikea furniture.  Oh wait...I have the SAME EXACT SET here.  But really, I missed my kitchen utensils the most.  To go a whole year without a cast iron skillet, bread maker, good chef's knife, good cutting board, and tongs was hell.  Especially because I cooked every night.  I guess it made me a better cook, though.

Other than the language barrier, what was most frustrating about living overseas for a year? 
- Grocery shopping.  I am used to getting free shopping carts, free bags at checkout, and having the things I need available.  I can't tell you how many times I got to the store with no coins, so I couldn't "check-out" a cart.  Or how many times I forgot to bring shopping bags to the store, so I had to buy new ones (not that big of a deal).  Or how many times I would go to 3 different stores trying to find something like Turkey or Ricotta Cheese, only to find they don't have it.  And that's not even to mention that every store is closed on Sundays!!!  I guess I'm spoiled by living in the land of the free (shopping carts and bags) and the home of the brave (to stay open 24/7).

What was your most exotic meal? 
- Boeuf tartare.  This is basically an uncooked hamburger with spices and raw egg.  Absolutely fabulous.  For some reason, Americans are terrified of raw meat.  When I told this to some French people, they think its the weirdest thing.  Who's right?  The French.  The boeuf tartare is proof.

Are you more inclined, or less inclined to become a ...father in the future? 
- Same.  When I first got less.  Now that I'm leaving, slightly more.  So it's a push.  My prediction is that upon returning home, I will miss being a father (that's what I feel like).  But after a while, it'll wear off and I'll just feel normal about it.

Did you pack the right amount for a year abroad? 
- No.  Too much.  Like everyone always says, pack light.  I did not.

Is there somewhere you REALLY wanted to visit, but didn't get to? 
- Here are the places I would have like to have seen: UK, Russia, Finland, Romania, Austria, Italy, Egypt.
Out of these, I would most like to have seen Russia, but it was too hard to get there.  Out of these, the one that seems most likely to have happen would be Austria. 

Somewhere you visited that you could have done without? 
- Madrid.  I saw some Butler friends there, but other than that, there was nothing nice about this city.  Basically, I have no interest in Spanish culture.  I really liked Barcelona because it is very unique.  However, Madrid is just a big, Spanish city.

What have you missed most about the states?
- See above.  Convenience.  I miss not being able to shop 24 hrs/day, 7 days/week and being able to buy nearly whatever I want.
(Of course, I miss friends and family the most) 

What have you not missed at all about the states? 
-  The economy.  I hated hearing all the doom and gloom before I left.  And yes, the economy in Europe sucks, too, but I don't hear about it.  I just hope it's better when I get back.

How do you think you're different from this time last year?
- Wow.  Tough question.  Obviously, I'm much more informed.  The huge question mark that was Europe now feels comfortable to me.  As far as personally, I think that I have more patience.  That's all from dealing with kids everyday.  

I would like a top 5 things that you saw/did that reminded you of your family.
  1. Christmas Mass in Oslo
  2. Canoeing on the Rhine River
  3. Camping in Switzerland
  4. Drinking my first beer in Zurich (Lowenbrau: the beer I remember my dad drinking growing up)
  5. Just being in Hungary and Poland  

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Last Hurrah

Yes, it's been a while.  And yes, a lot has happened since my last post.  Let me fill you in...
  • The volcano ash held off just enough to get my mom to Germany.  But not to Geneva.
  • My mom took the train to Basel, Switzerland, where I drove 6 hours to get her (roundtrip).
  • That same day, my replacement arrived.
  • After a day in Thoiry, showing my replacement and mom around, my mom and I flew to Nice.
  • We then spent the next 6 days in the French Riviera.
  • The next day my mom and I flew back good old Valparaiso, IN.
And thus, my trip was over.

If you're curious about the Riviera, I'll briefly describe the cities we visited, but I'm really not going to write too much.

Cannes- This was our home-base.  To use a word to describe this city: Rich.  Huge yachts, grand hotels, and snobby families all around.  We stayed at one so-so hotel and one that was simply -pardon the gay-word- fabulous.  We used a day to lay on the beach and another to take a short boat ride to a small island just off the coast (a jail where the Man in the Iron Mask was kept).

St. Paul de Vence- This was my mom's favorite city (town).  Only a short bus ride inland, and we were perched on an old, medievel hill town.  Basically, the town was filled with many little shops and artist shops.  One word: Picturesque.  It was like a fairytale.

Nice- One word to describe this city: Diverse.  You have a glitsy beachfront, a charming old town, an Italian flair, and a laidback Mediiterranean feel.  We really didn't do much but see the market, old town, Russian church (?!), beachfront, and castle hill.  All wonderful.  This city was perfect.

Monaco- Ok, this is a country.  But this might have been my favorite places we saw.  My one word: Inaccessable.  This city literally begins on the sea and works its way up a mountain's side.  Everything is on a hill.  This makes it seem like you can only get to places my climbing a huge hill.  In addition to this, the money there is ridiculous.  Ferrari's, Bentley's, Rolls', etc...commonplace.  It feels like you're intruding on an elitist country club.  With all that being said, the city is immaculate.  Everything seems perfect.  We saw an unrated palace, a very nice aquarium, the famous casino, and the GORGEOUS scenery.  This might have been my favorite scenery of my entire year.

Villefranche- What Monaco is, Villefranche isn't.  This is a sleepy fishing town that actually fishes.  We saw fishermen trying their craft on the shore and some preparing for next day's adventure.  The word to describe Villefranche: cozy.  It was quaint and cute.  Just perfect to finish a trip to the Riviera.  This isn't an extremely popular destination, but it should be.