Houston Downtown Aquarium

A few weeks ago, we visited the Houston Downtown Aquarium. My husband and I had been there quite a few years ago when we were dating, and it wasn’t all that much to behold. We were hoping for expanded exhibits and when I got a discount through a local photography club that I am in, we decided to revisit it.

The Houston Downtown Aquarium is not owned by any sort of educational group, but by Landry’s Restaurants. Even the official website has “restaurant” in the URL address. Crammed into a few city blocks, the facility consists of a building housing a small aquarium exhibit, restaurant, bar, and gift shop, a small outdoor game arcade and amusement park, and a short train ride that goes through a shark tunnel. The aquarium boasts lots of special events, and is available for rental for everything from parties to sleepovers in front of the white tiger cage.

I was most interested to see the aquarium portion. It was sadly lacking in a variety and quantity of fish and information. I’ve seen more species of aquatic life at the Dallas World Aquarium (and they are constantly expanding and improving their exhibits). There are a few petting tanks in the middle of the exhibit, and kids had fun touching and giggling at the baby sharks, horseshoe crabs, and anemones. But, if you want to see a great aquarium, this isn’t one of them. Continue reading

Euros in Switzerland

We have since moved back to Texas from Switzerland. I first drafted this post before we left.

Just a quick note in the midst of our preparations to leave…

Switzerland is not part of the European Union, however they abide by certain of their laws and even accept the Euro for currency. Well, they are supposed to anyway. In the last month, I’ve been to Konstanz, Germany three times (long story), and Colmar, France once. I had leftover Euros from each trip, and while we usually just pool the leftover Euros for the next trip outside of Switzerland, we’re not going anywhere else for a while. So, I thought I’d try to spend my Euros here in Switzerland.

At first shopkeepers sigh or get a befuddled look on their face when you hand them Euros (at least in Winterthur). It seems that every last one of them is happy to take the paper currency, but no one wants to take the coins. It turns out that the banks in Switzerland are the same. No one wants Euro coinage. I wonder if any of my Swiss friends have experienced this?

So, now I have a big fist-full of coins that I’ll just have to pack in my suitcase and hold on to until our next trip to Europe (perhaps Ireland in the summer?).

Home!

Well, just a brief note. We are back home in Texas, our cell phones and home internet finally turned on, and all of our things have arrived as well (though we’re only half-way through the unpacking process – when did we acquire so much stuff?).

Many of you have asked what I’ll be doing with this blog in the meantime. I keep up with most of my friends on Facebook, and while this blog has documented some aspects of our life in Switzerland, it was more of a travelog than anything else. I have a bunch of day-trips that we took that I’ve not yet documented here, so I’ll continue to do that for a while until I run out of material. And of course, any future adventures will be documented here.

Hope all of you are well. Happy New Year!

Unexpected Christmas Difficulties

He may be a little young for it, but we decided to get our son a toddler bike similar to this one:

Most kids here learn to ride a bike this way, and they start as a toddler. He might not use it much until this spring, but since there are such a wide variety of these bikes we wanted to get him one while we were here and had the means to ship it home.

I found a model on sale at one of the larger local stores, and need to do some grocery shopping. I lugged back my groceries and this large box with the bike in it as well as one of those “doodle-pads” (the latter of which we hope to use to keep him occupied on the plane). And it was raining and cold. It was one of the rare times I wished I had a car.

As soon as I walked in the door my overly excited husband started opening up the box. He’s really loving being a father, and can’t wait to help his son ride a bike. Being Switzerland, he of course found instructions in German, Italian, and French. “Good luck, honey,” I said as I went to put my groceries away. I’m pretty proud of him, though. Using only the pictures, and asking me for help with one word in French, he put the wee bike together.

Some Helpful Langauge for Visiting (Northern) Switzerland

Ok, so my phonetics are probably a bit off, but I thought this might help someone so I’m publishing it anyway. One of our visiting friends wanted to learn a few more phrases, so I made this list for her of the words and phrases I use the most in my every day speech here in northern Switzerland and I think would be most helpful to a visitor. These are spelled as I hear them, definitely not written correctly. The accented syllables are in all-caps. I also simplified the pronunciations, as the subtleties in the language are hard to understand unless you hear them.

Hello/Good Day: GROOT-zee

Good Bye: Off-VEE-der-shane *or you can say* AD-dju

Please/You’re Welcome: BIT-eh

Thank You: DANK-eh

Good Evening: SHONE-en-AH-big

Good Morning: GOO-teh MORG-eh *or you can say* MORG-eh

Check, Please!: TZAHL-en BIT-eh

Excuse me/Pardon me: en-TCHOOL-deh-gung *or you can say* eh-SKOOSE-ee

How much does this cost?: vee feel costet das?

I am sorry, I don’t speak German. Do you know English?: en-TCHOOL-deh-gung, ich SPREK-eh KINE-eh deutsch. KENnen-zee ANG-lish?

Bag or Sack: TASH-eh

A few numbers:
1 ein
2 svie
3 dry (or in Swiss German “dru”)
4 fear
5 funf
6 sex
7 zeben
8 ahhcht
9 noyn
10 zehn

Feel free to correct my pitiful attempt or add to it. 😉