Monday, October 29, 2007

The No-Sleep Cry Solution

To everyone's chagrin but his own, Miles has turned in to a bit of a night owl.


Our next Sunday day-trip took us to Herrenchiemsee, King Ludwig II's second most famous exercise in castle-building run-amok (the first being the incomparable Neuschwanstein). Inspired by a visit to Versailles, the King decided to build his own version on a wooded island in the Chiemsee, about an hour outside of Munich. His goal was apparently to outdo the opulence of the original. While the exterior of the castle did little to make us forget Versailles, the handful of rooms Ludwig finished before his untimely death in 1886 were dazzling indeed. But you'll have to trust us on that, as no photography was allowed inside.

After visiting the castle, we took the ferry to nearby Fraueninsel, a village that seemed barely afloat upon the lake, where we enjoyed a tasty fish lunch. The only jarring note in this idyllic scene was the church cemetery, where we unexpectedly came across the tomb of Gen. Alfred Jodl, hanged at Nuremberg in 1946 for war crimes. I guess they had to put it somewhere.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Notable Anniversary

One year ago today our pregnancy went from exciting to scary. At Swedish Hospital for a routine checkup at Week 25, we found I was in pre-term labor. Instead of going out to dinner, we went to triage.

Instead of neatly tiding up my desk prior my maternity leave, I had to leave my job unexpectedly after 13 years.

After that night that we were no longer waffling on a name, no longer wanting it to be a surprise; our unborn baby needed a fan club and so did we.

It floors me to think of how precariously little Miles' life hung in balance. It is also hard for me to comprehend that last year I was on my back on bed rest from this date until his birth on Nov. 18.

Nov. 19, 2006

Most staggering of all is how far this baby has come and all of the medical technology, prayers and endless support from our family and friends that got him and us here.

(Oct. 23, 2007)

I am writing this entry sentence by sentence, as our little 18-pound Muffinhead is all over our Munich apartment. Pulling outlet covers off, pulling himself up to standing and most interested in the trash and any reachable cord.

What a year it has been, full of blessings, challenges and surprises.

Now back to our originally scheduled programming.....


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Playtime with Miles

Some highlights from the first two weeks at Miles' München Playhouse:

Monday, October 22, 2007


Like much of Europe, Germany regulates the opening hours of shops with a code that seems to have been copied from Salem circa 1640. Stores are barely open past working hours during the week and half a day Saturday. As for Sunday, well, vergessen about it. If you find yourself without a loaf of bread on a Sunday morning in Bavaria, about the only thing you can get is that little wafer they serve up in church. (Perhaps that's the idea.)

For those of us raised in the Give-Me-Convenience-Or-Give-Me-Death America of the '80s and '90s, it's all very bewildering. One is constantly being preventing from spending one's money. It's not unusual to find a stern-faced employee guarding the entrance to a grocery store five minutes before closing, resolutely turning away anyone with the audacity to beg, "But I'll be quick!"

In any event, this state of affairs makes Saturday our family shopping day, while Sunday is reserved for excursions.

For our first day trip as Müncheners, we traveled about 90 minutes southwest of the city, to the venerable monastery at Andechs. The monastery is known for its baroque church and for being the home base of the composer Carl Orff. But it's really known for its beer, which the monks have faithfully brewed since the Middle Ages.

Along the way, we received a dusting of snow, a mysterious substance which Miles encountered for the first time.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Walk Around the Block

Join us for a Saturday stroll through our neighborhood, as we venture to Marienplatz (Munich's town square), the Viktualienmarket (the venerable open-air farmers' market) and the monumental Odeonsplatz.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Miles at the Hofbräuhaus

(Everybody sing along)

Where do you go for a night on the town
When the baby just won't settle down?

Go where his cries seem quiet, not laut.
Go where they serve mountains of sauerkraut.

How can you make that cranky infant smile?
Go where they sell pretzels by the mile!

Go where the beer's too cheap to meter
Where the smallest mug's a full-on liter

When your baby just won't sit still
And crying's not your dining thrill

Take him where he'll tap his feet
To the latest rockin' oompah beats

When you feel your head's about to burst
Take him where he can do his wurst

His smiling face may still draw stares
But let him squawk, no one cares!

When you find yourself with a roaring mouse
Bring that baby to the Hofbräuhaus!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Visit to the Kinderarzt

Shortly after arriving in Munich, we began looking for a pediatrician for Miles, just on the off chance that our little former 28-weeker might need some medical attention this winter. Fortunately, a German colleague at work recommended her pediatrician, who was "really great" with her son "and speaks English, too!" So we set up an appointment for the next day.

We quickly took a liking to the doctor, who resembled a rumpled old teddy bear and spoke to Miles in sing-song German with wide, astonished eyes. To our surprise, however, he spoke very little English. So he summoned a nurse and the receptionist to assist with translation, and we began to assemble fragments of Miles' saga in a patois of English and German. Fortunately, Lisa had had the foresight to bring a file containing Miles' medical history along on the trip. The doctor seemed to digest this information without difficulty.

He then pronounced, "Now, we must change his food" and rattled off a list of unfamiliar meats and vegetables in German on which our little munchkin was now supposed to subsist.

This accomplished, the doctor proceeded to examine Miles. But don't imagine this was some kind of stethescope-to-the-chest, tongue-depressor-to-the-mouth, say-ahh kind of examination. It was more like a combination of a gymastics routine and the test flight of a new airplane. Later, we noticed a poster on the wall diagramming the astonishing maneuvers we had just witnessed:

Miles, of course, quickly burst into tears as the doctor twisted his limbs into increasingly pretzel-like forms. He kept sobbing inconsolably throughout the rest of the examination. With each new round of wailing, the doctor would announce, "Ja, ja, zehr gut. Zehr gut. Very normal." He gave Miles a clean bill of health.

When it was all over, somebody was ready for a nap.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Learning to Crawl

It's not quite an official, certified four-point crawl yet. But the will is there.

Willkommen in München

Our new home in Munich, the Maximillian, took a little while to grow on us. After absorbing so much quaintness on our way here, we weren't quite prepared to look out our window and enjoy the view of a parking garage.

But as we explored the neighborhood, we quickly decided we didn't want to move. The hotel is conveniently located -- just a ten-minute walk to the city center at Marienplatz, and a five-minute stumble from the Hofbrauhaus. And the atmosphere at the Max was quite welcoming. The hotel restaurant, in particular, turned out to be surprisingly cozy and welcoming for such a transient place -- sort of like the bar in Cheers, except with guest stars instead of the regulars.

The apartment itself is comfortable, with plenty of room for Miles to bargle around in. The only deficiencies were obvious from the start -- the rather limited kitchenette (emphasis on the "ette") and the cantankerous college-style coin-op laundry facilities in the basement. Otherwise, we were set up pretty well.

Now, finally, it was time for Daddy to get back to work.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Crossing the Rhine

Looks like this is really happening.

Au revoir France, Guten Tag Deutschland.

In the Schwarzwald (it doesn't look that black to us).

OK, now how about some German food?

Monday, October 15, 2007


Our final stop in France was the town of Riquewihr, just a few clicks northwest of Colmar.

The town was übercute, and also a great spot to stock up on Alsatian wines. A few visits to the local wine caves was sufficient, in Lisa's case, to reverse a lifelong aversion to Riesling.

Miles & Colmar

We took a break from driving to spend a jazzy day in Colmar, the main town in southern Alsace. The Teutonic architecture was good preparation for what lay in store for us.

The Musee d'Unterlinden was a hit with Miles, who showed unexpected appreciation for medieval art, including the justly renowned Issenheim Altarpiece.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Welcome to Alsace

We haven't crossed the border yet, but for some reason Germany feels very close.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rhymes With France

The first stop on our journey to Munich was a quick visit to Reims, capital of the Champagne region. So did we while away the afternoon in the caves of Moet & Chandon, Taittinger, Veuve Cliquot et al.? Surprisingly, no.

Instead, we went to church.

But a fine church it was. The cathedral at Reims is where French kings used to go to get crowned -- back when they still had heads.

Paris to the Mün

After a final round of sights, it was time to gear up for the next stage of our adventure: the overland trek to Munich.

We bade a fond farewell to Cov, whom we will miss, at Charles de Gaulle Airport, which we won't.

Miles took over the planning of our trip with gusto.

But first there were loads of things to do before our departure. Loads of laundry, that is.

With only a few days left in Paris, we immersed ourselves in the local culture...

...caught up on a little rest...

...and gathered some final supplies for the journey ahead.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Eiffel Power

No first visit to Paris would be complete without a trip to the top of the Tour Eiffel, all 1,063 ft. of it. Or at least that's what we insistently told Cov, whose previously expressed enthusiasm for heights was extremely limited. Somehow, our arguments became more persuasive after a bar was located on the second level.

In any event, all trepidations were conquered and we enjoyed a splendid view of the sunset, with all the safety and comfort the best 19th-century technology could offer.

Da Miles Code

With the clock winding down on Cov's last hours in Paris, and Opus Dei on our heels, Miles leads us on a dash through four millenia of art history at the Louvre.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Pass the Muffin

Miles runs a post pattern through the Jardin des Tuileries.

Hut one. Hut two. Hike!

Matin of the Dead

Join us for a stroll through Père Lachaise, Paris' top celebrity cemetery.

Among our famous new friends were Hugo, Proust, Chopin, David, Gericault, Balzac, Collette, Proust and of course Jim Morrison. Only a barricade of scaffolding kept Coventry from entombing herself with Abelard and Heloise.

They may be on her side, but I've got Wilde on mine.

Versailles and All That

Okay, so we took a lot of pictures.

Give us a break. It was Versailles.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Miles de Triomphe

We made quick time back to Paris and entered the city in style via the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysees.

Miles was impressed by the military guard, brass band and large crowd of dignitaries that had gathered to greet him.

We settled into our new digs at the Hotel Valadon in the 7th Arrondisement, just a stone's throw from the lively outdoor market on Rue Cler.

Contrary to how to it may appear, these photos were not taken in front of a fake backdrop, but rather the real thing:

As we walked home from dinner that night, we heard increasingly raucous bursts of commotion from the restaurants, bars and apartment buildings lining our route. Was another revolution in the air?

No, it was the unexpectedly triumphant arc of les bleus, France's national rugby team, which defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals that night. If, like us, you had no idea that (a) the French played rugby, or (b) anybody in France cared about (a), the spectacle of this supposedly jaded nation rising in unison to celebrate its upset victory was as splendid as it was surprising.

Rugbymania gripped France for the next week, as les bleus prepared for an epic showdown with England in the semifinals. Ten centuries of resentments were ready to be expunged, if only France could beat les rosbifs at their own game.

Alas, France lost 14-9, and everyone quickly went back to not caring.

Oh well, they still had the Eiffel Tower.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

A Farewell to Domme

Our fantabulous week in the Dordogne having drawn to a close, we took one last spin around our Domme-Away-From-Home to say au revoir.

Even the cheesy cardboard knight seemed sad to see us go.

Friday, October 5, 2007


From the Maison du Peintre in Domme, here's Miles en trois couleurs:


In a region full of precipitously perched towns, Rocamadour stands out--so far that you don't want to look down. The whole town doesn't have a flat spot big enough to set up a ping-pong table.

Rocamadour first made its mark in the medieval pilgrimage business--not as a way station on the Santiago circuit, like many of its neighbors, but as a destination in its own right. With a suite of uniquely configured churches carved into the cliff face, and a "Black Madonna" figurine that powered a couple of purported miracles in the 13th century, Rocamadour was quickly up and kneeling.

The rest was marketing. It wasn't long before 20,000+ pilgrims were making their way up and down Rocamadour's craggy pathways every day.

Even with tour buses and elevators, modern tourism can't match that pace. But we were up for the test--even those of us challenged by the nosebleed-inducing heights.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


Sarlat is the most bustling town in this part of the Dordogne, if 15,000 or so inhabitants and perhaps a comparable number of tourists qualifies as bustling. The latter come for the well-preserved medieval and Renaissance Old City, which kept us well-occupied for the better part of a day.

Wednesday was also Market Day in Sarlat, which meant that Miles' stroller was filled with loot twice over.

My Dinner With Miles

Check out the new table manners Miles has picked up with all our fine dining in France:

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Quiet Flows the Dordogne

Later that afternoon I rented a kayak for a float down the Dordogne, tying together various sights from our trip from a aquatic perspective. Attentive readers will recognize Domme on its lofty hill, very beau La Roque Gageac, scrappy Castlenaud and proud Beynac.

Kudos to the French (and their many foreign visitors) for keeping this stretch of the Dordogne in a nearly immaculate state. Too many rivers around the world are despoiled with plastic bottles and other refuse. It was a pleasure to see a well-traveled river in a populous area that has largely escaped this affliction.


Medieval siege weaponry was in abundance as we toured Castlenaud, rival to Beynac in the multi-century Anglo-French wrangle over the Dordogne.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

La Roque Gageac

When we were researching our itinerary for this trip, we kept coming across web sites for various towns that proclaimed themselves "un des plus beaux villages de France." ("One of France's most beautiful villages.") Despite the apparent ubiquity of this claim, it did not appear to be casually made. Nor was it just unrestrained civic pride run amok, the kind that prompts a state or town to adopt a slogan like "Famous Potatoes" or "Hog Capital of Nebraska." For one thing, Les Plus Beaux Villages de France had an official logo and a website. I imagined a phalanx of government employees fanning out across the country with clipboards and digital cameras in search of certifiable villages.

So when we visited La Roque Gageac, another postcard-ready, cliff-clinging habitation along the Dordogne, we knew we were in for a certified beau village. But did we know that President Poincaré himself, when visiting La Roque in the 1920s, proclaimed it le plus beau village en France (the most beautiful village in France)? That seemed to up the ante a bit. (No word on how many times M. Poincaré awarded this designation when campaigning in the countryside.)

Speaking of upping the ante, we discovered when climbing to the troglodyte caves above La Roque that Coventry had, shall we say, a little apprehension when it comes to heights. The stage is set for a showdown with the Eiffel Tower next week.

Garden Variety

We topped off the day with a touch of neo-classicism at the Jardins d'Eyriniac. Whatever the original purpose of this 18th century complex, it now seems to function quite effectively by keeping French gardeners fully employed.

At the end of our long day, Miles refused to settle down during dinner (not an unusual story by any means). This time, the elderly father of our restaurant's proprietress came to the rescue, pushing Miles' poussette and singing him Belgian lullabies until he finally succumbed to sleep.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Vézère, Vidi, Vici

We spent the next day in search of our species' origins along the Valley of the Vézère, a tributary of the Dordogne. If these impressive sites are any indication, our homo sapiens ancestors beat out their Neanderthal rivals through superior interior decor. Their dwellings were chock-a-block with prehistoric cave paintings of exceptional quality--you've never seen livelier bison--though you'll have to take our word for it, as photography was not allowed inside.

Miles provided a lively soundtrack to our tour of the Font de Gaume cave complex -- his grunts, cries and yelps helping our fellow tourists to imagine what conversation was like 50,000 years ago.

We emerged from the darkness of prehistory into the haze of the Middle Ages. The village of St. Leon-sur-Vézère, like virtually every other village in the region, claimed to be a stop along the medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Someday we'll have to see exactly what was happening in Santiago de Compostela that made everyone wear out their medieval feet getting there.

Domme Sweet Domme

That evening, an Falvy Family Conference was held on the back patio at our home in Domme. By a vote of 2.5 to 0, the conclave officially ratified the decision our readers may have already suspected: We would stay in Europe at the end of our vacation and accept the posting in Munich.

What swayed our decision? Was it Dean's fanatical devotion to his employer? Was it Lisa's determination to learn German? Was it Miles' apparent aversion to transatlantic flights?

Or was it the wine? Or the cheese? Or the sunset over the Dordogne that particular night?

Once again, we report. You decide.


Another day, another castle. This time, we're gonna get a little medieval on y'all.

The Chateau de Beynac predates the showboats on the Loire by several centuries. It wasn't built to impress visiting sovereigns, but rather to defeat them. Beynac figured prominently during the Hundred Years War as the French bastion on the Dordogne River, trading sieges with its mostly English-controlled rival on the south bank, Castlenaud (which we would visit a few days later).

More often than not, luxury in these castles meant a bigger leg of mutton and a fresh pile of hay to sleep on. But unlike their powdered-wig descendants in the Loire chateaux, the knights of Beynac did get to pour vats of boiling oil on their enemies, which couldn't have been all bad.