You, Me and Teddy

Parenting adventures and activities in and around Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


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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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We went to the Zoo

This zoo differs from all the other zoos I have been to in that it was under snow!

The higher areas of Neuchatel on the Jura Plateau are white most of winter and get plenty of sunshine, while the lower areas are covered in a blanket of fog and generally get little snow and plenty of drizzle. It certainly makes you miss the almost Mediterranean summers we get down here on the lake. This week we decided to break through the clouds and go see some sun up in La Chaux-de-Fonds and the Zoo du Bois du Petit-Château with one of E’s best friends.

Zoo entrance

The Zoo is really easy to get to with the bus 304 directly from the train station or if you drive there are free parking spaces right in front. It is open all year round from 8am to 6pm (except in winter when they close at 5pm) there is also a Vivarium with slightly more restricted hours but as the sun was out we chose not to go inside this time.

Most of the creatures in the zoo are wild and are used to the cold, staying out all year round but some, such as the chickens and guinea pigs, in the petting section are taken inside in Winter.

We saw foxes on entering and learnt about their “bad reputation” due to their highly adaptive nature in different environments (they find food anywhere and then breed).

Then we headed up to the petting zoo which is always the favourite point of the tour. On the way in we met some wild boars which were pretty huge and penned off although there where some rather worrying holes in the wire. I wouldn’t want to fall in a pen with them.

Petting Zoo

Once we were in the roaming enclosure we met some much tamer goats. I think they were waiting on their food as they were all clustered together by the barn looking hopeful. This meant that due to the prospect of food they were pretty happy to be stroked by the excited children. Then we went to say hello to the “Eeyores” who were gorgeous and not at all bothered by little people running around them. I did stay cautious, however, explaining to E not to walk behind them for fear of one kicking out.

With the promise of a visit to the playground we managed to steer the kids away from the Vivarium (which is found just next to the petting zoo) and we continued on our way.

Deer collage

On the way to the playground we saw lots of Deer: they have reindeer, brown deer and elks. They also had a few different species of goat and wild sheep which some pretty impressive horns. There were also a few bird enclosures with brightly coloured parrots including Perroquets and Love Birds. I adored discovering the name for Lovebirds in French (Inséparables) I think it is better better than the English name.

birds and ducks

Finally we reached a playground under fair bit more snow than we had expected. This didn’t deter the kids and I was glad that I had put E in her snow trousers. They climbed rope ladders, slid down slides in to piles of snow finishing off by making snow angels. We spotted a new playground construction which looked amazing but it was fenced off much to the dismay of the children so I reckon they are waiting till Spring to open it to the public. That should be fun this summer!

Playground collage

It was time to start slowly heading back but not before we saw the ducks (now a must see attraction for E thanks to our duck feeding adventures) and a rather large brown bear who was sitting fairly peacefully in a pile of snow.

We said our goodbyes to the goats, llamas and sheep and took a rather hungry E back for some lunch.

Wooly creatures

I feel refreshed for having a whole morning of sunshine. We should definitely head up the hill more often.


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Timetravel

Neuchâtel has been the site of various habitations going back thousands of years. Due to changes in the water level of the lake many artefacts have been preserved and consequently found around Neuchâtel allowing archaeologists to trace the history of different cultures that have lived in the area.

We spent the afternoon at our local archeology museum (the Laténium).
“Archaeology explores the world of those who have fallen silent. At the Laténium, the dialogue between Man and Nature takes us from the present back to the prehistoric hunters 500 centuries ago.”
The earliest relics in the museum are from the Ice Age (40000 – 13000 BC) We met a bear and examined his rather large teeth.
Iceage
E seemed rather phased by the Bear model (but not the teeth) however she didn’t blink an eye going around the Paleolithic hunting scenes where they were gutting deer. I found it pretty fascinating how much archaeologists have learnt about these ancient people. Finished idols and jewellery made out out of materials such as amber, fossils, shells or stone have allowed them to track the movements of tribes between here and Germany and trade over greater distances.
It is very interesting to see just how advanced these ancient cultures were. Here is a reconstruction of a late Bronze Age village (from 3000 years ago) and house which was built to scale outside. The fact that the houses were built on stilts meant that they could withstand the frequent flooding before the water levels were regulated. Livestock were often kept under the houses too (I guess when it wasn’t flooding).
bronze age dwellings
E loved looking at the boats. There are many wrecks still in the lake buried in the mud but some have been unearthed along with their cargos. As a lake community the boats were essential to the people that lived here and are still a big part of the culture with nearly everyone having access to a boat in the summer.
boats
The Iron Age (800 – 1 BC) was the age of the La Tène (a celtic people). While they were never a true empire with a centralised power the Celts left a lasting imprint on all the cultures they came into contact with. We generally think of them as a waring and bloody culture but after examining the ornamental art which they left behind we get a slightly different more complex picture. This was a culture which was while violent at the same time cultured, intrepid and inventive. E loved the Jewellery and had her heart set on one particular knobbly looking ring.
celts
Like the rest of Europe the Romans resided in Neuchâtel from 476BC – 1AD. While the whole museum had some activities for children this bit was actually fairly packed with games in comparison with mosaic puzzle, guessing game and a printing activity where you could see how the Romans printed their pottery.
romans
After the Romans we skipped forward to the Middle Ages. A lot of the Medieval architecture is actually still intact so we can really imagine how it used to look. E had good fun reconstructing a house puzzle representing how houses were extended to accommodate growing wealth and families. The house was an imitation of one of those in the Landeron (a beautiful nearby medieval town). There were also some reconstructed patches of flooring which E decided were for walking on so she spent a good 5 minutes walking backwards and forwards on the protective glass.
middle ages
If you thought E couldn’t get much loopier then she decided to mimic a gargoyle.
gargoyles horizontal
We left the museum with a goodbye kiss for one of the reconstructed busts of a Bronze Age child (here we always do kisses to say goodbye) and skipped the café and shop to run to the playground.
bye bye
Outside there were more artefacts and reconstructions on display not to mention the theme playground on the lakefront.
Below you will see a collective grave construction from the Neolithic era. It was moved from the lake front between Auvernier & Colombier and reconstructed on site when the museum was constructed.

latenium outsideWe had a good play and explore outside and I think we will definitely have a few Laténium inspired activities this week. This is the first time I have take the kids to my favourite Neuchâtel museum and I’m glad it actually stood up to the toddler test.

Stay tuned for more!


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Westside

Nope, I haven’t gone all Rap on you. This is the name of one of Switzerland’s biggest (albeit not saying much) shopping centres. It is really easy to find, just off the ring road of Bern (our capital city), and only 40 minutes drive from Neuchâtel!

We decided to spend our Saturday at Westside doing a bit of shopping, grab a nice meal and most importantly have a good old splash at Bernaqua Water Park.

E at the entrance

It was our first trip to Bernaqua, as M has been too small really up until now, but we had a brilliant time. Apparently they have 18 different indoor and outdoor pools but I think we only went in half of them and we managed to spend about 2 hours there which was plenty for the kids. All the pools are all different temperatures with different attractions and suitable for varying ages.

Our highlights were the kid’s pool area which included a shallow pool (The Jungle) with 2 small slides and various jets and showers and a Pirate ship (Takatiki) complete with cannons that you could use to shoot water at each other. And the raspberry pool (as E termed it) where jets shot up from the floor making raspberry-esque bubbles.

There was also a cinema-style pool (Solaqua) which was filled with salt water and soft lighting showing nature documentaries or cartoons. I love swimming outside when its cold like in a lot of the thermal baths you find in Switzerland. Here they had their “Fresh Water Pool” which you got into in the warmth inside but it lead you outside where they had bubble seats and benches, hot tub, waterfall, stream channel, various massage jets.

We didn’t try out the steam room or the 18°C plunge pool with the kids but we did take it in turns to go down the Canyon D’eaux Vives waterslide! It really threw you about which was good fun and you could collect rubber rings or boats to take down it from the bottom. I can’t wait for the kids to be old enough but we have a few more years yet. They have 3 more waterslides that we didn’t see, one of which you can take kids down accompanied from 4 years, but I expect it is only open in warmer weather. I think we had plenty enough to keep us busy though.

I really enjoyed the fact that the whole place was cash free including the lockers. You paid your entry and then were given a wristband and you simply had to pay the balance on leaving. This made the whole experience at the café, and dealing with any supplementary hours, so much easier.

I should probably mention that the place is not only a water park but also a Spa and a Gym. They also run Aqua fitness classes, baby and children’s swimming classes. I would really like to go back and test their Roman-Irish baths in the Spa and maybe get one of their “Wellness Formulas”.

Roman-Irish Baths

Wishful thinking? It does seem possible for a mum though (funds permitting) as they have a crèche service in partneship with Kinderland just opposite. Kinderland is an indoor play area consisting of 300m2 of fun: from climbing to building or even painting. They take 0 to 8 year olds for a maximum of 4 hours at 3 francs an hour.

kinderland

I will be back at some point that’s for sure. It’s a great activity for any time of year and guess what the Westside centre has its own Holiday Inn so if you are popping through your could stay there on route to wherever you are headed.


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Overdue in Montreux!

We descended on our friend living in Montreux today who is now over a week overdue.

Our Mission: get that baby out while keeping the kids entertained!

Now before any overdue ladies start getting any ideas, I want to make it clear that while everything I state in this post has been recommended by various medical professionals, please check with your health provider first before trying anything.

On arrival I unloaded my stash of essential oils on my friend. Certain essential oils are thought to have helpful properties for a natural induction and others are supposed to be good for actual labour. 

The oils can be used as a massage mix, in oil burners or simply dropped onto a handkerchief for inhalation. I just tended to pop some on my wrists for easy sniffing points or in the bath in the evening.

  • Clary Sage – mild analgesic, uterine tonic, helps breathing – helps us see more clearly
  • Geranium – uplifting, great for circulation and breathing, good for womb afterwards
  • Jasmine – antispasmodic and analgesic properties, helps expel placenta
  • Lavender – antiseptic and excellent for aching back, wonderful for healing vaginal tears, calming and balancing
  • Neroli – helps combat fear or apprehension
  • Rose – a very feminine oil that speaks of love, helps the womb, the ligaments, antiseptic, slightly analgesic, cardiac tonic

Massage mix

200 ml of base oil
15 drops of clary sage

10 drops of geranium
5 drops of rose
5 dr of ylang ylang

Staying active and moving your pelvis can help the baby engage and encourage contractions to start or strengthen so walking is the basic advice that the doctors give once you are overdue. It is probably the last thing most heavily pregnant women want to do but needs must. Plus the weather was gorgeous today giving extra incentive!

montreux

We walked down to the riviera which is currently the scene of a Smurf invasion which E was highly amused by as they are currently one of her “favourite thing(s) in the whole wide world.” The whole lakefront is scattered with playgrounds and on a day like today it was idyllic.

smurfs

After the duck feeding in Auvernier the other day E has been asking to do it again on a daily basis so we brought some bread and sat on the edge of the pier for a while feeding the swans, mallards and gulls.

feeding

After our walk we went home for our tea. Bromelain is s a mixture of enzymes found in pineapple juice and in the pineapple stem which has a number of different properties: it is know to have anti-inflammatory effects and is often used in meat tenderisers. The property we are interested in is the one where it is said to possibly help induce and shorten labour. While there is very little evidence as to whether this claim is warranted every little helps so we had a delicious pineapple and some popcorn (which the kids loved watching explode).

Blowing up balloons is known for increasing intra-abdominal pressure and can put more pressure on the cervix to move things along, if the baby is already in the optimal position for birth (head down, baby’s back to the left of your bellybutton). So while we were having our tea, and in between mouthfuls of pineapple core, my poor suffering friend (sat on her exercise ball to increase pelvic movement), was brought balloon after balloon by E to inflate.

balloon blowing

I had lots of acupuncture at the end of my pregnancy once I went overdue with E and when I was trying to avoid induction with M and both times it triggered labour fairly well for me. You don’t have to go to an acupuncturist though as you can simple put pressure on the points using your fingers. The three main acupressure points for encouraging labour are: the roof of your mouth just behind the ridge behind the teeth; four finger-widths above the inner ankle; and between the thumb and forefinger. They are fairly tender when you reach the right point so you know if you’ve got the correct spot. After explaining all this to my friend I spent the afternoon being highly annoying and reminding her to press between her forefinger and thumb but I think she took it well.

Finally as anxiety can delay the onset of labour we left her to have a peaceful evening after our fairly packed visit. Hopefully she is sitting there now relaxing with a curry, a spiced tea and a foot massage from her hubby (in order to, fingers crossed, stimulate some of those ankle acupressure points).

Good luck hun and thanks for the fun day out!


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Quack! – Ducks, Swings and Seesaws

We went on an outing with some friends down to Auvernier during the week. Auvernier is a village just outside of Neuchatel town on the lake. It is beautiful with cobbled streets and set into the vines (they produce a lot of our local wines). Being really easily accessible on foot, by tram or with the bikes, we tend to spend a lot of time down there in summer, and often make a full day trip of it.
lake

Before hitting the playground we went for a stroll down by the lake to feed the ducks. There is a pier which makes a good feeding platform if you are confident your child is not about to throw themselves in with the bread. We had tonnes of stale bread which I have been hoarding and so attracted a whole flock of seagulls along with the ducks which the kids all found very exciting. M my 11 month spent the whole time pointing in awe at the seagulls with his podgy little finger and E managed not to fall in the lake.
pier 2

Once we finally ran out of bread we went for our real exercise. The playground is another brilliant one with a selection of climbing frames, swings, sandpit and various things that spin and bounce for all ages. In winter it is sensible to go in waterproofs (as our friends did) because it is all a little damp and muddy – not that that really bothers the kids.

The good thing about the Auvernier playground (like up in Chaumont) is that there is the possibility to get food and drink on site. There is a kiosk and vending machine just next to it for snacks or a restaurant just across the road called Le Poisson. The restaurant is really good but quite smart and is better to stop for a drink in the summer with young kids as you can sit on the more relaxed shaded terrace.
playground collage

E spent most the time in the playground making herself as dizzy as possible or hanging upside down on the zip-line. We were only out for a couple of hours but all the kids went home thoroughly exhausted!


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Stuck for ideas?

We all lose inspiration sometimes. Its raining outside and the motivation to do something is there but can you figure out what you want to do? Nope! Or what about those days where you have absolutely no motivation and it would be so easy to pop the kids in front of the TV and watch a film but you know you should do something with them? I have a solution.

A very clever friend of mine introduced me to the concept of an activities jar and I have adapted it for my kids. We now have two jars: one for rainy days and one for sunny days. When you are feeling inspired after a particularly good day out, maybe even a chat with other mums or perhaps just a good old browse of pinterest write down your ideas on slips of paper and sort them into your jars. I have colour coordinated our activities (because I am like that) into red for E, white for both kids or green for M.

They can be as simple or adventurous as you choose. I have a total mix but here are some of my first scribblings:

jars with some ideas

Its almost like a forfeits jar. Go on I dare you!

jars