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Sample: Radio Essay

Pictures from Switzerland, an Essay for Expedia Radio

When we got the three rolls of pictures back from our trip to Switzerland, one was all blank, one was accidentally shot in black and white, and one consisted almost entirely of closeup photos of our 10-month-old daughter. So as a result, our best souvenir of the castle of Gruyeres is a picture of Maya clutching a railing next to a patch of grass. The mountain resort town of Interlaken is for us a photo of Maya standing naked by a bed in our hotel room. Our walk in the Alps is a closeup of Maya grinning from under the canopy of her baby backpack. The French medieval village of Yvoire, the winery at Gilly, downtown Geneva: Maya, Maya, Maya. 
My wife grew up Switzerland. Her father brought the family to Geneva from the U.S. in the early '80s, and he and my mother-in-law are still there, living in the same house year after year.

My dad and stepmom, on the other hand, began moving to new houses in 1975 and have made it something of an annual rite. They've lived in 27 houses in seven states. Right now they live on an ocean bluff on Kauai, but are looking for a place on a golf course. 

So, while I used to go away to college and return to a home I'd never seen, my wife kept coming home to an airy house which overlooks red-roofed villages, Lake Geneva, and, on a clear day, Mont Blanc in the distance, the baddest Alp in Europe. 

Paige and I first visited her home together in 1988, and came back in '89 and '92. Suddenly, eight years went by in a montage of graduate school, aimlessness, job seeking, career building, triple espressos, home buying, and child-having. 

But even after all that time, coming back to that house in Switzerland last year was like coming home for me. I knew its lime-green carpet and brown tile floors. I knew the bomb shelter that doubles as a wine cave. I knew the washing machine that takes an hour to wash a tiny load (like two shirts) -- but gets them really clean. I knew the paths through the forest where Paige and I would run. I knew which local farm was likely to have mean dogs. I knew that the best place to go for a pastry on a Sunday morning is the bakery in Crassier, a short soccer-ball kick from the French border. 

This is the familiar geography we introduced our baby to. We spent two weeks letting those two become friends while we shot photographic blanks, full-color baby closeups that could have been taken anywhere, and black-and-white pictures of towns gone reckless with flowers. 

Obviously, we aren't photographers. But in our defense, even the best pictures can only tell you so much about a vacation -- many of the things we'll remember are things you just can't see.

Maya tasted her first bite of chocolate during a picnic lunch in the Alps. We took her to the mighty Trummelbach Falls and let the cool mist spray us as echoes pummeled the cave walls. Paige and I got dizzy at a mountaintop tramway terminus while Maya crawled up and down stairs, unaffected. 

We listened to schoolboys on lunch break rapping "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" to Maya. We bounced our voices off the walls of wine vats and ancient churches. We ate roast chicken, grilled trout, caramel tarts, chocolate bars and chocolate sundaes and pain au chocolate. We munched on stinking glorious cheeses and steaming cheese fondues, jambon crue, petit cornichons, and croissants -- flaky, buttery croissants chased with espresso in a little boulangerie high in the mountains. We ate bitter grapes. We ate bowls full of raspberries and ice cream, drenched in thick cream we poured from tiny wooden pails. We inhaled flower gardens. We heard swans chatting in the Brienzersee, bumped Maya's stroller over cobblestones at the bottom of Geneva's stony canyons, and cooled our hands in ancient courtyard fountains. 

In the end, we confirmed what we suspected. Traveling with a child is like being home with a child -- you see with all your senses.