Birthday

Today was Majella’s birthday. Our timing for being here in Switzerland had been set so that she could celebrate it with Marie-Françoise so there was always going to be something special. Weather was also likely to be a deciding factor for some activities.

The sun rose with enough clear sky to see it and enough clouds to add colour and interest. Despite the sunrise, the weather forecast was for rain so the trip to the mountains was definitely off and the alternative museum visit was on.

Because of the time zone difference, Majella had started receiving birthday greetings via Facebook late last night. That continued overnight and she had many messages to check before breakfast this morning. While she was doing that, her father called on FaceTime and she was able to talk with him and her mother about our travels. During breakfast Hannah called on FaceTime so she was able to talk with them and check that Callum was recovering from his emergency last night. Nick called via Facebook video soon after breakfast and she spoke to his crew too.

By the time we had finished breakfast and were ready to go at 9:30 am the sky was overcast and rain was threatening. As we drove west toward Vevey on Lac Leman the weather front came to meet us with buckets of rain and wild winds visible in the trees beside the highway. The wind had eased by the time we arrived at Chaplin’s World, a museum on the site where Charlie Chaplin lived his last 25 years, but the rain was still coming down as we walked from our parking spot to the museum entrance.

IMG_1875The museum proper is new and built for the purpose. Visitors enter in batches via a theatre which has a 10 minute screening about Charlie Chaplin with highlights of his life and films. The rest of the building is on two levels with multiple display areas dedicated to various aspects of his work. In each of them there are multiple screens playing film clips relevant to the theme of that area and descriptive signage. There are some very lifelike figures and for the first few minutes in the first area we watched for signs of movement that never came. The display areas incorporate a variety of opportunities for interaction including a small building that is on a seesaw mechanism and tilts when people stand to one side, a jail cell with flexing bars, and a variety of photographic opportunities. Majella could not resist seeing how she looked in stripes.

We spent almost 2 hours in the museum before moving across to Chaplin’s house which has 2 floors of rooms set up with displays about his life, including family and friends. We spent another hour there before eating filled bagels or rolls from the museum cafeteria. It was an informative and fun way to spend a day out of the rain. It was still raining, though not so heavily, as we walked back to the car to leave.

After lunch Roland drove us to the nearby Alimentarium, a museum about food. It is highly interactive with computer systems in each of the many display areas and everything available in French, German, and English. It covers the natural sources of food, food processing, the biochemistry and physiology of food, historical and cultural aspects, and more. We spent about 90 minutes there before we had to move on to our next activity but it could take a day to get the full benefit of what is available there.

DSC_6763As we left the Alimentarium the sun was lighting up fresh snow on the mountains across the lake which had been whipped into near surf conditions by the wind through the day. The weather continued to improve, though it did not get noticeably warmer, as we drove back toward Martigny and then to Planojean up the mountain on the western side of the valley. The road up there is steep with switchbacks and the final section was narrow. We were glad it was Roland driving and not us.

DSC_6766There we joined Myriam (daughter of Marie-Françoise and Roland), Claude, and their children Maëlle and Lorick for dinner to celebrate Majella’s birthday. Michel had been busy through the day but joined us for dinner. Myriam served white wine and nibbles first and we enjoyed that with conversation that mostly went past me because it was in French. Lorick was happy to see photos of Callum and was delighted to see that he had an identical jacket to one that Callum was wearing. The two boys are uncannily similar in temperament and appearance. Maëlle was very excited about her upcoming visit to us, and was keen to ask about some of the things she might do with Majella. Since I was not expected to say much I was able to give more attention to the spectacular views across the valley to snowcapped mountains. Dinner was chicken with rice and salad followed by cakes to celebrate Majella’s birthday. It was a great celebration.

After dinner Roland drove us back to Veyras. We retired early but had a return birthday call to make before we could sleep.