You, Me and Teddy

Parenting adventures and activities in and around Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


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Evologia

One day this week we woke up to discover it was a beautiful sunny day. We immediately set to work making ourselves a picnic and decided on the Evologia gardens in Cernier as our destination.

historiqueEvologia was initially an agricultural college founded by Frédéric Soguel in 1885. For over a hundred years it was the site of the École cantonale d’agriculture until 1995 when the school was moved to a new location and a committee was appointed to develop the site. Today Evologia still holds agricultural at its heart promoting nature and its related professions to the general public. Throughout the summer there are numerous events that take place up in the gardens and exhibition centre from music concerts to art workshops.

I knew there was an exhibition on currently called Tractorama which I thought would be right up the children’s street but I also knew that what they would appreciate most would be being able to run free around the gardens after being cooped up because of the bad weather.

Cernier is a beautiful spot high up in Neuchâtel in the Val-de-Ruz backing on to the Jura Mountains. I am a mountain girl. I once had a conversation with someone where we discussed there being two types of people: mountains and lake people vs sea and beach people. If I ever had to choose it would definitely be mountains and lakes. Heading up there I immediately got that mountain feeling which causes me to relax and immediately lifts my spirits.

Evologia

We started off with a bit of an explore of the gardens and M was in his element! He has gotten so steady on his feet now and he just loved pushing his way through the slightly over grown bushes, admiring the butterflies and generally running in all directions. I thought at one stage I had lost him to a giant flower pot but he reemerged looking very chuffed with himself.

M's favourites

E found different interests. She was intrigued by bamboo which we found round the back of the greenhouses. I can only imagine at her height how impressive it must look. I explained to her about how we use bamboo in gardening to support plants and even for decoration, when we found some colourfully painted in another part of the gardens, but I don’t think she quite believe me. We also found some “Christmas Trees” which E decided she had to spend a good 10 minutes decorating with dried grass while singing loudly to herself.

E's favourites

It was getting pretty hot so we found ourselves a shady spot for a picnic before we continued our exploration. Unfortunately I forgot our picnic rug so improvised with a towel which actually worked pretty well absorbing all spills and being easier to clean. I suspect we got a little carried away in making our picnic as we had tonnes of food but we had a good selection of sarnies including some jam ones from my batch the other day. There is a restaurant, la Terrassiette, up in the main building but a picnic suited us much better.

picnic

After lunch we went in search of some tractors. The exhibition Tractorama closes for lunch but reopened just in time to prevent WW3 as both kids fought to ride on a tractor just outside of the exhibition room. It turns out that all of the antique tractors are actually all in working condition. They are all owned by one man who has a major tractor addiction (by his own admission). He buys them and then restores them to like new. There were plenty of old American models like the ancient blue Titan and a classic John Deere below but I think M was less than impressed by the fact I wouldn’t let him ride on them in the exhibition with the caretaker observing us.

tractors

It was a lovely free day out with something for all of us and I would definitely take the kids back up there. Enjoy your weekends!

The view


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What Went On and Froggy Fun!

I told you how things were starting to kick off here in Neuchâtel as spring starts and we did our utmost to see as much as possible resulting in a busy but fabulous weekend!

quinzaine & jardins

Our weekend started with a wander into town to see the Quinzaine Neuchâteloise. We wandered through the Jardin Anglais which they have just finished replanting for this year towards. The dragon in front of the Casino was looking very smart in red and green and E gave him a roar just to show who was boss.

A little further down there was a brocante going on filled with second hand items in varying states of wear. We also stumbled across one of the Boîte à Trocs (a neighbourhood swap box) which you find all over Romandie. There are 6 in Neuchâtel and although I have read about them I haven’t actually seen one yet. I love the idea of having a place you can put books you’ve finished with or some of the kids old toys for someone else in the area to make use of. Unfortunately it was looking pretty empty so we will have to pop back and fill it up. Goodness knows the kids are growing fast enough to fill one with their clothes that are now too small.

Carrying on past the brocante the gardens turned into a series of lily pad arrangements complete with a flower fog and a golden princess who’s dress and hair were made of plants. A garden wreath design told us that this is to celebrate Neuchâtel’s 200th anniversary of it’s membership to the Swiss Confederation.

Town was packed with stands mainly linked with the shops taking part in the Quinzaine but there were also other stands which I didn’t expect to see including one by the Jardin Communautaire. Unsurprisingly they were also taking part in the Fête de la Nature that I also mentioned. The Jardin Communautaire is trying to create a communal garden on the rue du bassin in the centre of Neuchâtel with the help of the neighbours. Along with this project they are trying to create awareness of urbain flora and fauna and associate themselves with various cultural events. To celebrate the Fête de la Nature that weekend they were doing tastings of various plants made into cakes and cordials. Among others we taste Nettle (Ortie), Dog Rose (Églantier) and Lemon balm (Mélissa) cordials and even a nettle chocolate brownie – all of which the kids enjoyed thoroughly. The ladies were very busy but I managed to get them to pose for a photo before we headed on.

bol d'or collage

It was a beautiful day and the Bol d’Or was stunning to watch from the lakeside – unfortunately for them it was rather laking in wind so it was perhaps the slowest race they have ever had…

Festival goer

That afternoon the kids and I popped over to Cornaux to get a little preview of what was in store for the Corn’Rock festival that evening. A few local connections meant that we sneaked into the sound checks and had a play in the festival grounds soaking up the sun. Even Teddy got to join us on our outing as a rare treat.

stars and hearts

Treats continued as we made ourselves a rather spangly tea using all our biscuit cutters to create a rather appetising feast. If your kids ever decide to get fussy I’m almost willing to bet you can get them to try anything if it is star or heart shaped and colourful.

froggy fountain

That Sunday we decided that we needed to make the most of the fact that it was the Fête de la Nature and head up to the Botanical Gardens to see what exciting things were going on. However, when we arrived the place was so busy we headed on into the forest which was a lot calmer. On our stroll along the path from the Rocher de l’Ermitage (a large rocky outcrop above the gardens) we came across a little frog water trough which over ran down a little stream into a pond teaming with tadpoles.

Well one adventure turned into another and we ended up with a family of frogspawn to look after but that’s another story!

Hope you are all keeping well and stay tuned for news on our new tadpole babies.


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What’s going on?

Its a fairly happening weekend in Neuchâtel this week. Some of it is less exciting than others, for instance, the big Security Fair (SecuritExpo) next to the Maladière stadium. Nope, I didn’t know that sort of thing existed either. On a more exciting note there is also a music festival tonight and tomorrow evening, just 15 minutes down the road, in Cornaux called the Corn’Rock.

corn'rock

Tonight is the Fête des Voisins where those living in apartment blocks or places with shared gardens hold parties to get to know their neighbours better. The event is sponsored by the city and they even provide you with party ideas and invites to kickstart any initiative. Its a great idea as today many people find it hard to get to know their neighbours even in a small town like Neuchâtel.

fête des voisins

This weekend is also the start of the La Quinzaine neuchâteloise! During the Quinzaine participating shops give a discounts and tickets to take part in the raffle and there are numerous activities and shows organised in the streets. Officially it kicked off Thursday with an opening ceremony and late night opening of shops but the more interesting parts for those of us with children are yet to come.

quinzaine

This Saturday is the first Grande Braderie (Big Sale) which takes place from the rue de Seyon in the centre of town all the way down to the hospital by the Maladière Centre (10am to 6pm). The buses are all diverted out of town all day as generally most the shops in the centre put out stalls in the street and those selling food or wine do free tastings. There will be carousels and each quartier will be organising their own events so it will be fun to explore with the kids tomorrow.

Wednesday afternoon (2 to 5pm) on the Place des Halles there are more events for the kids as there is no school on Wednesday afternoons in Neuchâtel. They promise free carousels, a blind cordial tasting, crêpes, ice-cream and presents to be won!

Next Saturday there is another Grande Braderie (from 10am to 6 pm) and you can enter your ticket into the raffle by putting it in the big urn by the Hôtel de Ville  from 3pm. The main prizes range from an electric car to laptop and its free so what do you have to lose? After the raffle is drawn there will be a closing ceremony and music up at the top of the painted street in the free commune of Neubourg.

On the lake tomorrow and Sunday there is the 28th Bol d’Or Regatta where over 100 sail boats will race from Grandson up to Neuchâtel and back again on a 60km circuit. It should be a site to see if the weather stays clear and the thunderstorms don’t hit. They set sail at 11am from Grandson.

neuchatel boat

If you actually want to get out on the lake the boats finally start their tours again this weekend after their winter break including the old steam boat “Neuchâtel” which has recently been refurbished. Check out the timetables for “Neuchâtel” here. Otherwise you can take one of the regular boats.

fete de la nature

Finally it is also the 4th Fête de la Nature which takes part all over Romandie (French-speaking Switzerland) and there is lots going on the Neuchâtel Botanical Gardens this weekend. For the early birds who can get themselves to the Botanical gardens for 8:30am it begins with a guided walk to discover local mushrooms. The walk should last  2 1/2 hours and is suitable for anyone over 10 years of age. For those of us who won’t be up for a stroll through the forest that early there is also an indoors exposition of local mushrooms from 11am to 5pm up on the top level of the Gardens.

There is a fabulous walk tomorrow from 9am to 3pm for anyone over 5 which has been organised from Montmollin-Montezillon called Plantes utiles à croquer (Plants good to eat). It includes a culinary workshop and drawing activities. For those who want to stay in Neuchâtel town there is also the Belles à croquer exposition in orchard of the Botanical gardens with more information on edible plants.

From 11am to 12pm on Saturday there are also some rather intriguing sounding Jeux en forêt (Forest Games) up by the Roché de l’Ermitage in the woods above the Botanical gardens.

There are another couple of easy nature walks taking place tomorrow if you fancy a stroll: Balade pédestre : de la Ferme Robert à Champ-du-Moulin and Balades nature Valangin-Engollon-Cernier and an Elfen excursion Plat de Riaux, Môtiers.

Sunday brings with it yet more activities starting very bright and early at 5:30am at the zoo du Bois du Petit-Château in La Chaux-de-Fonds with a guided dawn chorus of birds (Les oiseaux de l’aube) suitable for those over 8. If you like birds but not in a 5:30am kind of way you could always go to the derniers Tariers des prés du Jura neuchâtelois excursion at 9:30 in Les Ponts-de-Martel.

actualites_parc_en_fete

There are more activities on Sunday too in the Parc du Chasseral including several based around edible plants: Cuisine sauvage (Wild Cooking) from 10:30 to 12 or 2:30 to 4pm and Miam! Une plante (Yum! A plant). You can even go an learn to build stone walls (Les secrets des murs de pierres sèches).

If you want to take part in any of the organised activities of the Fête de la Nature please sign up on the given pages as they all say to do so and I wouldn’t want you to turn up and be told to go home.

flute-enchantee-2014-724x1024

Anyways as I was saying Neuchâtel is a busy place this weekend and all of this is not even starting on the various opera and plays in the theatres. No excuses with not getting out over the next few days.

I hope I’ll have some fun pictures to share with you on Monday. Enjoy your weekends.


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Parc National Suisse

Just a quick one but the Swiss National Park is currently running a mini exposition at the Maladière Centre this week. It ends tomorrow but I would recommend doing your weekend shop there with the kids as they have some pretty cool mechanical origami structures of different animals which my 2 adored.

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Most of the structures are Swiss animals:

frog

But others are less so:

dino

They also have some Zeotropes which you will remember from your childhood as the spinning cylinder with slits in the side that produces a moving image. I was so thrilled that E got to see one of these as I remember them from my childhood and haven’t seen one since. Who knows we may try creating our own next!


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Pierres d’Hauterive

The Pierre d’Hauterive is actually a very special local yellow limestone which was first used for construction by the romans who inhabited the area 2000 years ago. Most of the older buildings in the area are build with this stone and it helps define what is Neuchâtel. Do check out the photos of the stone around town on our local newspapers’ site here. We also came across it during our trip to the Latènium museum where it was carved into gargoyles.

gargoyles horizontal

Our Pierres (rocks) are more Cailloux (pebbles) d’Hauterive and not really limestone but as we collected them in Hauterive on our walk the other day its not exactly an untruth.

I’ve been meaning to give a use to our pebbles as they have been cluttering up the side in our kitchen for a while now so we got some paint out and set up the table for some crafts.

Firstly I asked E to arrange her pebbles into sized order. This was a tricky exercise at times, with them all being different shapes, so we got out the scales to help. I am slowly teaching E her numbers on the basis that she will learn them if I show her the character and explain often enough. She can do very basic maths  – addition and subtraction up to 4 for tasks such as: “if you eat three more broccoli florets you can have one yoghurt” her response being “But Mummy I already eat two so I just eat one more.” Someday soon I  am going to have to start teaching her seriously but for now she is only two and it can wait.

Once we had our pebbles in order we started to paint them in sequence. The sequence of colours also helped us to tell if they were in the right order once we mixed them up again.

Stone sorting and colours

Confident in her sorting abilities we moved on to some more number recognition. I wrote numbers on the end of some craft sticks and then on each of our stone and asked E to match the stones to the numbers on the sticks. This one is still a work in progress and I keep it out for her to muck around with at the moment so she can familiarise herself further with the numbers.

number sorting

I have seen some fabulous number activities this week by the way on Teaching my Tot including a number hunt which I will have to try out too.

Hope you are having a good week and thanks for reading.


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It’s just like riding a bike

I got my bike out for the first time this year! So we celebrated with a trip down to Hauterive which is an easy ride for the novice cyclist along the gentle lakefront cycle route away from worrying cars.

Actually when I say first time this year, my bike didn’t see the light of day last year, or once I fell pregnant the year before. Lacking confidence in my cycling ability I thought it was best to avoid cycling while even more malcoordinated thanks to pregnancy. I have missed it so much more than I realised. Luckily I still remember how to do it despite being a little wobbly at first and E thoroughly enjoys being on the back in her seat. Neuchâtel is brilliant for cycling as there are so many tracks about the place: up in the forest and down by the lake. The only problem is getting up the hill if you don’t want to cheat and go in the bus or up the funicular.

lakefront

I love Hauterive as it has so much to offer. There is a brilliant playground with a large stretch of well-maintained lawn next to it; this makes for an ideal for picnic spot. There is also a fountain by the playground meaning fresh drinking water and somewhere to wash the dishes. You can even have a kick about or go for a dip in the lake (albeit when the weathers a bit warmer).

playground collage

E points out every train that go past (a little trainspotter in the making) and down by the beach there are often some ducks about to annoy. E even managed to find herself a few good sticks and some stones; souvenirs are the most important factor for her in an outing at the moment.

lake

spotting

It was really peaceful looking out over the lake and it felt like summer for a moment. Then E decided it was time for an ice cream so we went in search of one.

running free

Next to the beach is a little stand-alone self-service café with plenty of tables and a mini go-karting track. E loves to grab an ice-lolly and go on the cars although she can not quite manage to coordinate a steering wheel and the acceleration pedal alone yet so I have to sit on the back and go around with her. This is easy enough and I really quite enjoy it too.

If you carry on a bit further along the lake front in the direction of Neuchâtel then you come to Hauterive port which is a great spot to inspect the boats which are currently being prepared to go back into the water. There is also a restaurant called Le Silex where you can go for a hot drink and warm up in the winter or grab a cocktail on the terrace in the summer. They also do quite nice food. They have 2 dining rooms but the smarter one is a bit stuffy for us with the kids. Last time we went we made the mistake of reserving in the smart one and when we asked to move into the main dining room they moved us happily without question. Then we relaxed and had an amusing time choosing from their menu which lists just how far your food has travelled to reach your plate. They were really brilliant and actually let us choose from the smart restaurant menu while sitting in the causal section. The waitresses were also really brilliant with the kids.

You could really spend a whole day playing around the lakefront up there as another 5 minutes in Neuchatel direction and you’ll come to the Laténium Museum where we spent a good afternoon recently.

It really is a brilliant spot. Last summer we were sold a second-hand bike trailer for the kids at an excellent price and since my outing I have managed to set it up and attach it to my bike. I think we may be making a few more trips around the lake. I can’t wait to take both kids out next time the weather is fine.

watching ducks


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Carrousels and the Place du Port

The funfair came to town last week!

The rides come and set up a few times a year in the Place du Port right in the centre of town. This time it was for the two weeks of school holidays. What is great about this year is that E is now big enough to do everything. She is a very tall and sturdy 2 year old and she filled the height, weight and fearlessness criteria for all the ride owners.

The only way to find out the opening times is through word of mouth, reading the local press or by going to have a look in person. I must start getting the local paper again! I stopped as I really didn’t have time to read it when M arrived but now I think I might be able to manage the e-version.

We were really lucky with the weather during their stay and while it was a little chilly the sun was out.

drops

Despite enjoying the more extreme rides like the drop (where they “bribed” all the kids who went on with a sweetie) or dodgems, I think E still prefers the simple Merry-go-rounds and car runs which she insisted taking Teddy on.

driving collage

I expect they will be back in August for the National Fête and I know they will definitely be back for the Fête de Vendanges in September when they arrive in force with the more extreme rides.

The Place du Port is also the site of the Knie Circus which will be coming to town this summer at the end of June with their Elephants! We like to go and see them take their baths in the lake but maybe this year E’s attention span will be just long enough so we can go and see a show.

While we might have to wait for some more adrenaline thrills there is always a go-cart track and a carrousel at Jeunes-Rives, just next door, throughout the summer. This is where E went on her first Carrousel alone at the age of 16 months – yes, she has always been very independent and thrill seeking.

I will have to keep an eye open for any more surprise funfair visits. I can’t wait till M can start enjoying the rides too this summer (and for more excuses to eat candy floss).

extreme trampolines