Sunday, July 20, 2014

Last Days in Paris & French Alps

In our final days in Paris we slowed things down a bit.  We had already seen the main sites, so now we were off to see some things that were specifically for kids on rainy days.
 One activity we did was we visited Les Marionettes Du Luxembourg Jardins, which means The Puppets of Luxembourg Gardens.  This theatre was started in 1933 by Robert Desarthis who had made the first puppet in France in 1916.  Today his son still runs the theatre and his father's puppet named Guignol is still the same as way back then and is the main character in most of the shows.  The show was completely in French, but with lots of action you could tell what was going on.
Another rainy day activity was the children's gallery at Centre Pompidou.  This area had a line of 5 large tepees.  At the first one we were given an audio guide.  On the audio guide there was the member of a native American Tribe and a person from Europe talking to me.  At each tent was a piece of art that the two storytellers were trying to interpret what they meant.  Most were different types of totems.  My favorite part was at the end when the Native American asked "Will they be serving tea after/"  Because I love tea!  The building was also really neat with all the escalators that were inside clear tubes.  So when it rained we were dry, but saw the raindrops pouring down as the tubes were on the outside of the building.
A little bit of shopping, some more eating, and we ended our trip to Paris on Bastille Day.  Bastille Day is basically the Independence Day for France.  Just like the US's most stores are closed, people celebrate with parties, bbqs, and fireworks, especially the amazing ones at the Eiffel Tower.
 After Paris we drove out to the French Alps to visit a friend of my parent's, Aaron.  As most towns do not compete with the fireworks of Paris and bigger cities we had more the night we arrived in the town of Chambery.  The next day we just hung out and visited the town of Aix Les Banes.   Aix Les Banes is on a lake and is surrounded by mountains so it reminds me of Lake Tahoe.
The next day we went to Chamonix, France which is a beautiful town in the Rhone Alps.  It also was home to the very first winter Olympics in 1924.  We took a tram to the top where the peaks of Mont Blanc and Auguille de Midi are right in front of you.  It is a very popular ski resort in the winter, but also very busy during the summer months.  The sky was filled with para gliders and the mountain sides were full of mountain and ice climbers.  Dad has promised we can return to ski one day.  And if you want to be more thought of as a local you call it "Sham."
And how could we miss's Tour De France time.  So we went to the town of Grenoble, France, which also was the host of the 1968 winter olympics.  Due to it's location Grenoble was involved in many wars and after the tour passed we would go visit an old bastille fort called Le Bastille de Grenoble.  The bike race started in 1903 and is mostly in France.  Teams compete today and are made up of members from all over the world.  There are several awards in the Tour De France; a team award, a polka dot jersey for the king of the mountains, a green jersey for the best sprinter, a white jersey for the best young rider, and the a yellow jersey for the overall winner.  Before the bikers come through there is a crazy caravan of companies who are sponsoring the tour throwing out goodies and playing loud music.  It's almost like a high speed parade with floats and fancy cars. The bikers go by really fast.  It was a lot of fun!
I am really happy we are ending our trip here in this area of France and the little village of Le Montcel where there are mountains, gardens, cows, and we can walk to the local boulangerie for more pastries.    

Monday, July 14, 2014

Touring in Paris

After we got to Paris we started packing in all the sites we could.  What's the best way to do that?  Well, it's going on a tour.  And after all our walking in Italy, Greece, and Israel we decided to do a bus.  Not only a bus, but a double decker bus with an audio tour, in several languages and three that were for kids only. There were many stops, but since my parents had already been here we decided to stop at the Louvre and Tuileres Gardens (jardins in French) close by, Notre Dame, Arc de TriompheChamps Elysees, and of course the Eiffel Tower.

The Louvre is a giant museum filled with many famous art pieces.  My parents did not have us go in because our first night we went to the Orsay Museum (or musee in French).  There I had seen art by Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, Manet, Gauguin, Rodin, and many other famous artists.  Mrs Brewer our art teacher from GHS would be very proud we we recognized a lot of the art and knew the about the artists.  The Orsay is housed in an old train station.  The Louvre is also an old buiding but you enter through a glass pyramid surrounded by fountains. We also walked the gardens close by and saw many beautiful statues, fountains, and more.
Our next big stop was Notre Dame.  Notre Dame is a big church that is filled with mini chapels or areas to pray around the outside and are named for the saints that are featured in each one.  This church was filled with many stained glass windows.  And on the outside there were gargoyles that I remember were friends of Quasimoto in the movie Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Next we road to the Champs Elysees a big street where we got off and had a snack before moving on.  In Italy we tried many different gelatos, here we are trying many different pattiseries or pastries in English.  So far we have tried croissant, chocolate croissant, eclare, flan, macaroons, and several other sweet pans or breads in English.  After eating we were energized and ready to climb the 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. This monument honors the soldiers who fought in the French Revolutionary and Napleonic Wars.  There is also a tomb under the arch for the unknown soldiers and there is a flame that burns all the time in honor of them.
And finally what we had been waiting for...the Eiffel Tower.  The Eiffel Tower was built by Gustave Eiffel to be the entrance for the 1889 World's Fair.  I know this because it was book Magic Treehouse's Night of the New Magicians.  Unfortunately we could not go up it as you have to buy tickets months in advance.  But we walked all around it and the next night we would have dinner by the Eiffel Tower and stay up really late to see the Eiffel sparkle.  It happens at 10 or 5 minutes before the hour when it starts getting dark.  Which is not until 10PM.  It is lit up by 20,000 6 watt light bulbs that light randomly creating a sparkling effect.
(Click here to watch Eiffel Tower on Sparkle Mode)

In big cities like this where you want to see a lot in a a couple of days I highly recommend taking these hop-on hop-off bus tours.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Early Departure From Israel

On July 8 we had everything packed up and we were ready for a day of fun on our last day of Israel. It didn't quite work out that way. That night we went to bed and slept soundly for maybe 7 hours. I woke up startled by the sound of our pictures we had drawn over the weeks to decorate our room getting torn off the wall. Once my eyes accustomed to the dark I saw Mom pulling them down. It was 5 in the morning! What was going on? Mom told me that something happened that made Dad and her decide we needed to leave today. I gathered up the rest of my things and dressed to leave. Soon we got in the car and drove to the airport. Mom said we had to switch flights and we would stop in Istanbul and then on to France.

When we got to the airport we stood through 4 lines. Ben Gurion has the best security in the world.  Our bags were scanned like normal, but we also were interviewed about our visit.  While in the lounge we heard an alarm go off and a lady from the lounge said we needed to go to the shelter.  This alarm meant an "air raid" which means they believed their were missiles headed in our direction.  We gathered our things and ran to the door, but as we reached the exit another lady told it was a "mistake."  

So you may wonder why all the missiles and our need to leave quickly.  It was because three Israeli boys had been kidnapped hitch hiking back from the settlement areas of the West Bank.  Now here is the age old problem...Israel and Palestine have been fighting over this territory for a long time. Unfortunately the boys were killed and sadly someone killed a Palestinian boy for revenge.  So now as people say the "old wound has been reopened" and the fighting has started again.

Finally we got on the plane. After two hours we arrived in Istanbul. Turkish airlines was great and made our worries go away.  It had TVs in the seats! Our next plane flight they served us Turkish delight.  I always wondered what these tasted like after reading Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe as Edmond asked for them when he first met the White Witch.  IT WAS DELICIOUS! Finally we arrived in France!

Like I did with Italy I will make a list of all the words in Hebrew I learned ...

Toda-Thank You
Manishma-How Are You Doing
Sababa - Good, Cool, Great
Ha-chat - 1
Shta-im - 2
Sha-losh - 3
Arbah - 4
Chamesh - 5
Shesh - 6
Sheva - 7
Shemonah - 8
Tesha - 9
Eser - 10
Abba - Dad
Boker Tov-Good Morning 
Lilah Tov- Good Night
Ma?- What?
Yom Shabbat- Saturday
Yom Shi Shi- Friday  
Cos - Cup
Nesher - Eagle
Canyon - Shopping Mall

I can only pronounce these.  I can not read or write them.  If you remember I told you Hebrew has a difference alphabet, they read and write from right to left, and often leave letters out of words.  Here's a link to my pronouncing many of the words listed above.

I would like to close by saying I hope all our friends in Israel are safe and our hearts are with them.
(Surf Coach - Itay and his family and loved ones)

(Carmin and her family and loved ones)

(The Levy Family and loved ones)
(Maya, Guy and their family and loved ones)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Roaming Haifa with New Friends

Remember the girl I met in Surf camp named Maya. Her mom lived in California for 8 years. Maya has an older sister, brother, and a younger sister. Her younger sister is starting to learn English. Our Moms worked out a couple days where they would tour and hang out with us.  Her Mom remembers what it is like to be in a new city and not be able to speak or read the language very well, so we were very excited to have them as our guides. 
The first day we met them and they brought Maya's younger sister named Guy, which was perfect because she is seven like Alec.  Our first stop was a small grassy field set below the Ein Hod Artist Colony. The artist colony is the only one of it's kind in Israel. In 1953 a group of artists led by Marcel Janco rebuilt the village on ancient ruins. Now it is a home to painters, sculptors, ceramists, actors, and other artistic people. So, what was so important about this little field.  The colony was not open, so we visited this field and the small village that surrounded it.  Maya's family used to have a weekend retreat here to live among the artists.  At first the only thing I saw were huge rocks.  Then I realized that these were sculptures. My favorite one was of a cat that you can climb on.
Next stop was the swinging bridges as Nesher Park. Did you know Nesher means eagle.  The swinging bridges are two long suspension bridges that stretch over a deep canyon. We kids loved it because we would run back and fourth on the bridges. It was SO fun.
A few days later they picked us up again and we went to Hecht Park.  It is our favorite park and very close to our apartment.  It has a small zip line they call an omega, circle swings with rope bottoms, and a climbing structure. We played there for 2 hours until we were hungry for lunch. We went to McDonald's for lunch.  We may be from opposite sides of the world, but all kids love McDonalds.  Oh and the game rock, paper, scissors.
Next we went to a newer park, only three weeks old, with a giant climbing ropes and if we got up there were the same circle rope swings but hanging a lot higher. Also a vase looking thing that you spun in.  They definitely have the best playgrounds we have seen in all of our travels, even better than San Francisco's. 
On the way to the car we stopped to look at The Bahai. This place is on the World Heritage list. To be on the list you must meet one of the ten criteria set by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization.  There is a rumor that under the gardens is an entire city. Their Mother talked the guards into letting us in for a quick peak without a ticket...we had to promise only whispering, no gum, only water, no running, or climbing on anything.  Their Mom called them the "hanging gardens" because the gardens cover nineteen terraces going all the way up the northern slope of Mount Carmel.  In the middle is a golden dome where the prophet of the Bahai faith is buried.
Next year is Maya's Bat Mitzvah (Ba-Mit-sva). It is a Jewish tradition that when a girl turns 12 she becomes Bat Mitsvah and get the rights of an adult. Normally there is a religious ceremony, a party, and a significant gift. Maya's wish for her gift is to come visit California.

I sure hope she gets her wish and we see them again and are very thankful for their kindness.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

How We Spent Our 4th Of July

This weekend we drove to Beit She'an which is located next to the Gilboa Mountains. We were going to Gan HaShlosha National Park.  An ancient Arab legend claims the park is the Garden of Eden.  This national park has many pools filled with natural warm water from a spring.  So when you go in the winter the water will be swimmable. The year round temperature of the water is 82.4 Fahrenheit. The Amal Stream passes through the park and has been widened into pools. There were many places that we could climb waterfalls (small ones). I even climbed through the old flour mill. Many fish live in these waters to. Some waterfalls bigger fish try to jump up. Nobody setting off fire crackers, but everyone was having picnics and barbecuing. It felt like the 4th to me.

(Click Here for YouTube Video About Park...we swam a lot, so not too many pics)

Did you think I would stop there? Nope, still going. We drove to a zoo called Gangaroo. It was an Australian zoo in Israel. In the beginning of the 1990's Kibbutz Nir David decided to build a big tourist attraction.  Kibbutz traditionally is a communal way of living where it's members share the work and the payment from that work and all work together to take care of the community.  Many original kibbutz depended on agriculture and with changing times they have had do other things for their economy.  Yehuda Gat, a member of this kibbutz, in the 1990's started creating relationships with the Australian ambassador to Israel. And eventually Australia agreed to send animals from koalas to big kangaroos over to Israel. That is how the zoo came to be.

First we held a python. I had a new scarf! Then we saw 2 koalas. One was called Mindy. She was 15 years old, that is old for a koala.  Usually koalas live to be no more than 12 and they die from starvation because their teeth get worn down and they can no longer eat eucalyptus.  Mindy has lived longer than most because she eats baby food and only fresh, tender eucalyptus. HERE COMES MY FAVORITE PART! Next we walked up to a gate. We opened and latched it again and did the other. First we saw nothing but mounds of dirt. They started to move. They hopped around. KANGAROOS! We fed them and pet them. Next we saw emus and went in a room filled with Flying Foxes. We went to the gift store. Mom bought me a pair of opal kangaroo earrings. I can't wear them till I am ten and get my ears pierced. Dad bought Alec a kangaroo puppet
It was a GREAT day.

Facts About Kangaroos (source: National Geographic's AJ Jump Game)
~Kangaroos cant move their legs independently
~They cant walk or jump backwards
~Females are called "blue fliers" because of the blue hue in their fur.
~Some can hop nearly 40 mph

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The "Exploratorium" of Israel

Haifa is a northern city in Israel located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  It is our "home" for one month.  It has many sights to see. We can't see everything in one month, or can we?  

On Monday, Mom was brave and drove us across town to a museum called MadaTech, The Israel National Museum of Science. This museum has over 600 hands on exhibits teaching you about different things in science. First we paid about $20 a person and got wristbands and went to the first section.  

It was about cars and brain signals. One machine was a person where if you pressed a button the traffic light would turn green. The eyes on a mechanical person would turn green and the brain lights up. The person starts walking in it's showcase. If you press the button again the stoplight and eyes turn red, again the brain changes colors, and the person stops walking.  We also learned about different brake types and how cars can not drive on curves to quickly or they loss traction. 

If you walk up the stairs you get to a long hallway where one room is all about sounds. You can listen to many sounds and vibrations.  And see how they are affected by air, water, direction, and more.
(Manual Dexterity)
If you go up another set of stairs you get to a puzzle room. My favorite was the puzzle where you use an iron bar and cant let it touch the other iron.  It measured my manual dexterity...hand-eye coordination.
(Renewable Energy)
There was also a room all about renewable energy.  It had exhibits how the sun, wind, and water can create energy.  My favorite was when Alec and I raced trains by powering them by peddling bicycles. 
 (Archimedes Screw)
Go down the stairs again and go out side. There is a lot of stuff out there from water systems, to levers, and solar orbiting. My favorite was when you climb in a helicopter and pedal, eventually you will start to go in circles and there is also a piston you pump with your hand to make it go up and down. 
 (Orbits and Rotation)
 (Pythagorean Theorem)
 (Kid-powered helicopter)
(Kid-powered Vortex)
Now for my favorite part. We walked to a different building, through a door, and into a dark room. A man in a sailor's outfit handed us a folded piece of paper. Once I went through another door and into the light I read aloud. SEAMAN'S BOOK! When I looked around there were boats everywhere. Inside the card there were several missions we had to complete. Rescuing a man overboard, diving into a shipwreck, visiting a ship's navigating bridge, steering a ship, and operating a crane. Soon Mom and Alec walked in. We took pictures in boats and life rafts. After I completed the first three missions I came to a large pool of water that had 3 ships floating inside.  The pool and the buildings were a miniature of the port of Haifa. I ran to a remote control and moved my ship forward. Alec and I ran our ships into each other. Finally I parked my ship. Another stamp! Then I drove a crane where I had to move around ship containers.  STAMP!  The sea and navigation are very important to the city of Haifa because it is a very large ship port.  In fact it is the largest seaport in Israel and handles containers, grains, oil, chemicals, and other cargo...including people as a lot of cruise ships come here.
We were there for four hours and still did not see everything.  Out of all the museums we have visited so far this is my favorite.  In fact I even like it better than the Exploratorium in San Francisco.