A Chilly Graduation Trip

Back at the end of January and beginning of February Paige and I took a quick trip over to Edinburgh for a few days. Paige has always wanted to go, particularly because of all the Harry Potter related landmarks around the city, and since we were able to get on the flights and found a wonderful, historical Airbnb right in the Grassmarket by the castle…it seemed like a great, albeit really, really cold, time to go!

After arriving, we bundled up and hiked up to check out Edinburgh Castle. Then we wandered around Victoria Street (which was literally only about a 5 minute walk from our flat). Victoria Street was the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books…and we look wandering around the cute shops.

We also found Elephant House, and Spoon, where J. K. Rowling wrote the first few Harry Potter books…

Right there by Elephant House, in the same neighborhood, is the George Herriot School and Greyfriars Kirkyard. J. K. Rowling could see the Herriot School from Elephant House as she was writing, and it was the inspiration for Hogwarts. She would frequently take breaks and walk through Greyfriars, which also provided inspiration in the form of some familiar names….

We took a day trip to Stirling one day, and wandered around the town and toured the castle…

We also did a history-comedy-walking tour of Edinburgh…which was fantastic!

And finally, we toured Holyrood Palace and Holyrood Abbey. We walked around the Scott Monument, we traversed the Royal Mile, and explored Mary Kings Close. We shivered a lot, it’s true (we’re Florida girls!) but we loved every minute of our chilly Scottish, Harry Potter adventure!

Wilderness Explorer

In January Clay left for Orlando to begin his professional internship with The Disney Company, working at Animal Kingdom as a “conservation education presenter,” or as they’re more commonly known, a Wilderness Explorer!

First he had to undergo a couple of weeks of training, learning everything from Disney’s policies and procedures to minutiae about the park and the animals. He’s made a lot of friends, loves his job, and really enjoys interacting with the guests and trying to make a difference in their day and, hopefully, educate them at the same time.

She Did It!

After three and half years of late nights, too many hours spent in the library (and Starbucks!), and lots and lots of papers (on terrorism, and Pol Pot, and lots written in French on eighteenth century literature…and, sadly, even on existentialism)…

Paige graduated (early!) from Florida State University! Hip Hip Hooray!

(Tim and I are now the proud parents of TWO COLLEGE GRADUATES!) 🎉🎊

CONGRATULATIONS PAIGE!

Back to School (last time!)

Paige came home at the end of the summer for about 10 days of relaxation, interspersed with doctors appointments and dental checkups and haircuts. The time flew by, and before we knew it it was time once again for her to head back for all her sorority recruitment stuff…

Before the very last first day of school picture! (Selfie)

As she begins her final semester of college!

Tim and I drove over for parents weekend, and to attend her sorority’s “Red Dress Gala,” which benefits women’s heart health. Our drive over didn’t begin very auspiciously, but we did arrive eventually, and loved spending time with Paige and meeting her friends!

Summer

Summer was a bit of a whirlwind this year. Paige stayed in Tallahassee, working as a nanny for a local family and taking a class…coming home for beach weekends whenever possible. She also babysat for her cousins and a few other local families and managed to save quite a bit of money for the next semester.

Clay was working two part time jobs, sending out resumés and applying for jobs on handshake and LinkedIn daily, contacting recruiters…and hoping something would turn up. Let’s just say that the environmental field is not what it was a couple of years ago.

Tim and I traveled to North Carolina to visit my mom at the beginning of the summer and to Washington D.C. at the end of the summer.

A picture is worth a thousand words…

I’ve been remiss in my blogging, once again. Here’s all the stuff I wasn’t blogging about…

Before Paige’s college suspended all greek life, her sorority held their philanthropy event- a Red Dress Gala for women’s heart health, and had a couple of social events.

She also spent a lot of time studying…

We loved having the whole family together for Thanksgiving….

Tim and I decided to be tourists one day, and took a trolley tour in St. Augustine (We’ve never done that before! 😳😂) We walked all along St. George Street And did some Christmas shopping, had lunch, and had a fabulous day.

The family went for a nice hike in Guana over Thanksgiving weekend before the kids had to get back to classes. It was a great way to end the weekend (after eating all that turkey 🦃)!

Clay got to spend a day out on the water doing some research before exams, which he appreciated!

I spent a weekend tackling a couple of projects- repainting our patio set, and chalk painting this table. I love how it turned out!

http://gtmnerr.org/

Level Dance Company performed in the homecoming parade, and Paige had a reunion with her Paris friends (from study abroad.)

Men argue. Nature acts. *Voltaire*

The past few weeks have been incredibly busy- and a little bit stressful as well! Hurricane Irma was all over the place – tracking to the east, then tracking to the west, then back to the east…as a result, the entire state of Florida was evacuating…including us! At one point Irma looked like it was going right over Tallahassee, so Paige drove home to evacuate to the hotel inland with us. We packed up the house, rolled up rugs, put furniture on top of beds, packed books in plastic bins, tried to prepare (as much as possible) for the possibility that there might not be a house to return to. It’s a strange feeling. We froze gallon containers of water and put them in the refrigerator and freezer. We packed our cars with coolers of food for the hotel, and with flashlights and important papers and medications, and irreplaceable items and photos. And then we drove away. We waited as long as possible to leave…because…we were freezing water bottles and still trying to prep the house and because, honestly- I didn’t want to leave. It’s weird to leave your house and all your stuff and wonder if it’ll be there when you get back. 



The drive inland was crazy. The outer bands were already hitting us and the winds were starting to get really crazy and it was hard to keep the car on the road. Sand was whipping everywhere. Crazy! 

Once at the hotel, things were fine. We never even lost power! (Very unusual!) When we were finally allowed to come home, we found that our little beach town was just devasted. Homes were washed into the beach. Tornadoes ripped homes apart. The destruction was terrible. Thankfully, once again, our neighborhood fared pretty well. And our house only had minor soffit and screen damage and some minor roof damage. There was some flooding in the streets but nothing ever reached the homes. 


The good news is that we did not lose much food. Freezing the gallon jugs of water worked. While we did lose power for almost 5 days, our outside freezer had two frozen things of water, and everything in there stayed frozen! The inside fridge was still cold when we got home – we transferred most everything into the freezer – although we did throw out the milk and mayonnais, just to be safe. But everything else stayed cold and or frozen, so our frozen water jugs worked! 

We eventually got electricity and internet back, and in the meantime our battery operated fans were a lifesaver! Unfortunately, it took our neighborhood a month to get our beach access fixed (it was only restored yesterday), so that has been kind of a bummer. 

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In other news, Clay has started a new job, which he’s really enjoying. Paige has been having a lot of fun with her sorority. She met her “big,” went on a new member retreat, and she’s also been busy with Level Dance Club and teaching ESL to a local elementary student through FSU’s volunteer outreach. She also turned 21!


Oops

The summer flew by. The kids were busy working and saving money for school. They both worked a LOT. We enjoyed having the whole family together under one roof again for a few months (me especially) and tried to savor the days we got to spend together. 




Sadly, the summer passed much too quickly and before we knew it we were loading Paige up to head back to school…


A few days later, while she was busy going through recruitment, Clay and I (because we’re the most awesome mom/brother EVER) drove to Tallahassee and moved all her stuff from her storage unit to her new apartment. And got everything set up. We made her bed, hung her clothes, set up her printer, put groceries away! It was eighty gazillion degrees in Tallahassee And probably at least a trazillion degrees humidity. No, of course I’m not exaggerating! 🙄 Trust me, it was super hot and humid. 

But Paige got a short break and was able to run to the apartment so we were able to see her and have lunch with her before we drove back. It was wonderful to see her again (and amazing how much I missed her already after only a week!)


Both kids seem to be settling in nicely to their classes. Recruitment went well for Paige and she got a bid from Alpha Phi, which made her very happy. She’s also quite busy with Level Dance Company this year, as well as doing some volunteer work. 


Final Day – Nations Unies

Our final day in Geneva we wanted to catch a train to Montreux…but we still hadn’t done the United Nations tour, and that was, after all, one of the main reasons we came to Geneva! (For anyone who doesn’t know, Paige is majoring in International Affairs and French, and taking a class in human rights violations next semester, so this was something she really wanted to do.) Also, the nasty little bug she picked up was really wearing her down, so we decided to do the U.N. tour, walk around town a bit, and then retire early and get packed and ready for our early start the next day. 




We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and learned so much. We learned about the history of The Palais des Nations. It was built after World War I to serve as the headquarters for the League of Nations. The grounds are quite lovely. It’s located in Ariana Park, which was bequeathed to the city of Geneva in 1890 by a man named Gustave de Revilliod de la Rive, on the conditions that the park always be open to the public and that he be buried there. Geneva honored his conditions. His grave is grave is there, and we saw (and heard) several peacocks strolling by. 

We had the opportunity to walk through a couple of the assembly and conference halls, and were even able to observe a conference on human rights, poverty and access to seeds (I think?) 
We learned about the sculptures in the park, as well. The central piece is the Celestial Sphere, which was donated by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. (President Woodrow Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his efforts to promote and establish the League of Nations.) The Celestial Sphere gilt has eroded and it no longer turns, but it’s still quite impressive. 


Behind Celestial Sphere is Rebirth, three circles of 193 stones representing the 193 member states of the United Nations. The design is supposed to represent the infinity sign, and the three circles represent the worlds of nature, technology, and a world where people can work together to promote peace, bridge differences, find sustainable development and create dialogue. 

There are other sculptures throughout the park, including one dedicated to the conquerors of space and one for Ghandi, which was a gift from the Indian government. And of course, there’s the famous Broken Chair.


The tour was fascinating, inspiring and heartening. It is a bit embarrassing though, as an American, to hear that we still do not have an Ambassador in Geneva. Or Paris…Brussels…well, basically anywhere, really. One would hope, after several months in his new job, that our president would have realized the importance of diplomacy and of the State Department and the United Nations. 

And the U.N. is important. The dialogue between the member states is critical. The work they do on human rights, sustainable development, disarmament, and gender equality are admirable. We’re so happy we did this tour. 

This Way to Annecy 

The other place Paige and I wanted to visit was Annecy. Because Annecy is only 35 kilometers south of Geneva, I had hoped we could just hop on a train to do a day trip, but alas, there are no trains to Annecy. Instead, we took a bus. Which, despite stopping in every single teeny tiny village and despite taking an hour and a half to travel 25 miles or so…was actually sort of fun. It was a comfortable bus, and we got to people watch, and catch glimpses of everyday villages and towns and see cows and countryside and mountains. As Paige said, “It didn’t suck.”  


Gruyère and Ementhaler on the hoof (So to speak) 




When we arrived in Annecy, we walked to The Vieille Ville (old town) and found a market going on. It was packed! I was so jealous that I couldn’t shop and bring all that gorgeousness home with me!



Annecy is nicknamed the Venice of the Alps because of the many canals and bridges. 



The water in Annecy (from Lake Annecy) is an almost uncanny, otherworldly turquoise color…but crystal clear. It is known as Europe’s cleanest lake. It’s amazing. (Fun fact: Paul Cezanne painted several watercolors of Lake Annecy.) 





Annecy is vibrant and fun, filled with history, but with a youthful (and touristy) vibe. We loved our day there and only wish we’d had more time to explore!