Bonjour de la Suisse

Hello from Switzerland! ~~ The adventures of a California girl who got married to a great guy, G, and traded in her old life for the chance to live in a foreign land and live the expat life for a couple years. We live in Geneva, Switzerland with our globe-trotting cat, Scout.

Ma photo
Nom :
Lieu : California, United States

"The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land." ~ G.K. Chesterton

mercredi, novembre 30, 2005

Anyone want an onion?

Guten Tag! Our internet connection has been sketchy at best here, which makes communication through e-mail and my blog a little frustrating. But it seems okay for the moment, so with my fingers crossed, here is the latest from Switzerland!

Last weekend Gary and I ventured to the German side of the country to the capital city of Bern. It's a wonderful city with the charm of a small town. It has a rich history with lots of medieval sights and museums to explore. We were there on a Sunday, when most of the stores are closed (this is true across Switzerland). The great thing about Sunday sightseeing in the winter is there are no crowds, so we could get into all of the sights without any wait. We stopped into the local brewery, hiked along the river on a snow covered trail and visited the local bears, which the town was named after when it was founded in 1191. One of the highlights of the day was climbing the 354 steps to the top of the 15th-century Bern Cathedral bell tower (the highest in Switzerland), which has breathtaking views of the Alps. It also has amazing views of all of Bern and the winding Aare River which surrounds the old town on three sides.

On the fourth Monday of every November, the old city of Bern celebrates the annual Onion Festival (or Zibele-Märit). So, I took the train back the next day to share in the revelry! It was amazing. The entire town had been transformed overnight to a bustling, colorful, lively market with over 700 stands and thousands of people. You could barely walk down the streets, it was so packed! There were people in costume, musicians, and street performers. It was lightly snowing too, which added to the charm of the festivities.

Legend claims that the original Zibele-Märit was created as a reward to country farmers who helped the Bernese clean up after the big city fire in 1405. Most of the vendors were selling plaited strings of onions, onion sculptures, winter produce, and crafts. But the biggest sellers were huge bags of confetti and these long necklaces of brightly colored candy (in addition to onion necklaces) that everyone, including me, was wearing.

What was the confetti for? Ammunition for the Konfettischlacht, which begins at 4 p.m. and is open to warriors of all ages. (I guess you can buy confetti from local stores months in advance to stock up for the big day). People definitely were not waiting around until 4 to begin. When I arrived in town at around 10 a.m., you couldn't even see the gray color of the street, there was so much confetti on the ground! And everyone was fair game, as soon as you start walking down the street, kids would bombard you with handfuls of brightly colored paper.

Scott, I thought of you as the 12-year-olds took aim with their confetti... I really don't think you would have stood a chance against them ;)

I had so much fun! I was afraid that the winter would be a bit dreary, but it seems that there are plenty of festivals and celebrations throughout the winter months to keep everyone in good cheer! Oh, and Fiona, I realized that my German needs some improving, so I will be coming by for a little tutoring when I return in January!

Auf Wiedersehen for now!

jeudi, novembre 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Bonsoir, I hope everyone is enjoying their Thanksgiving festivities! We are missing seeing everyone, but we are still celebrating just the same. I went searching for traditional Thanksgiving faire at the local market, but all I found was sliced raw turkey (a miracle, since it was actually the first turkey I have seen since my arrival here). I also found canned corn, pears, and pineapple (I thought it would go with the turkey...) and something that looked like carrot cake. No pumpkin of any kind and nothing close to cranberries, but I figured we would make due with what we had. So, when Gary got home and saw what was for dinner, we decided to go out. We ate at "Restaurant au Carnivore". It was very good, and the potatoes were about the best either of us had ever had! Geneva is known for its exquisite restaurants, and this one was wonderful!

I have been busy exploring all the things that will make every day life here a little easier, like getting a 1/2 price rail card, figuring out the best places to shop, planning our winter travels, and signing us up for "happy hour" with the "America's Club" which meets every 3rd Thursday or something like that. I even signed up for the gym! The beauty of the gym is it's only two blocks away and we can actually see it from our bedroom window, so it will be one of the first things I see every day (big guilt factor!) :) It's really nice, they even have TV monitors built into every treadmill and elliptical rider!

The gym is essential because it is COLD here. I think the only time I've been colder was in Boston with Lori when we got lost in a snowstorm trying to get to the Quincy Market in Faneuil Hall. Gary and I have come to realize that we need heavier coats. But, the cold weather here is a good excuse to travel to more southerly destinations! People have also told us that it's actually warmer in the mountains skiing, so I'm really looking forward to the slopes opening (which should be in a couple weeks or so).

Gary and I saw our first movie in Geneva! Well, I saw "In Her Shoes" with our friend Sarah & her sister and Gary saw "Flight Plan" on his own (he didn't want to see a chick flick). It is essential to pay attention to which showing of a movie you go to here, since 90% are dubbed in French. You have to go to the v.o. showing (or version originale} which is the English version with French and German subtitles. We also found GOOD Mexican food! There's a place by the theater that is quite tasty (some of you may have heard me complain that there is no good Mexican food in this town, but I stand corrected!) So now I have no excuse to load up on burritos and enchiladas when I'm back in Cali.

Well, that is all for now. I'm off to the bank to get added onto our Swiss bank account (if anyone needs money laundering services, let me know!) Au revoir!

mercredi, novembre 23, 2005

Oh la la... the journey begins

I've finally arrived here in beautiful Switzerland, known for its cheese, chocolate and watches! There is no shortage of any of these, and in fact our apartment sits just above a wonderful chocolate shop, that is full of tempting delights! I must say I love it here and I'm eager to get a little more settled in.

As most of you know, Scout and I stopped off to visit my relatives in Florida on our journey here. It was so nice to see my grandparents, celebrate an early Thanksgiving, and enjoy the warm weather before bundling up for the rest of the winter (last night it was -2* C here!) I had a wonderful time, although Scout spent much of the week hiding in the closet. On the plane, she actually did quite well, even on the very long 15 hour leg (including all the waiting time at the Miami & Zurich airports).

So, anyway, we made to Geneva and I've been having a great time. I would have started this blog earlier, but in my first 24 hours here I managed to sleep 17 hours! That really doesn't make for a very interesting blog! It is so nice to hang out with Gary again. We took a train ride to the other end of Lake Geneva (or Lac Leman in French) where we walked through the medieval castle, Chateau de Chillon, which is the best preserved castle in Switzerland. It was rather impressive, although pretty cold this time of year!

We are already making friends too. Well, Gary has through work and I've been tagging along. One couple, Sarah & Kofi are really wonderful. On Saturday, they took us to a traditional Swiss fondue restaurant and taught us all the proper etiquette (including, if you drop your bread in the fondue pot, you either have to kiss the person to your right or buy a round for the whole table!) and introduced us to the traditional Swiss (& French) pre-meal drink (l'aperitif), kir, delicious!

During the day when Gary is at work I have been getting oriented, doing some sightseeing, figuring out the public transportation, and a doing little shopping. The language barrier has been challenging, but I'm managing all right. I'm fascinated with all the little quirky things about this town, like how everything is so small, from the washing machine to shampoo bottles.

I love our apartment! It honestly could not be more perfect. We are one block from the lake, two long blocks from the train station and right in the heart of the city. The old town is about 5 blocks away. Both bedrooms look out to a beautiful old church surrounded by trees. Just behind that is the place where the snow busses pick people up for the 1/2 hour ride to the lifts! All the building in our neighborhood are the old, European style, proudly displaying Swiss flags. There are no shortage of boulangeres and "tea houses" nearby. We really lucked out!

Well, I've been rambling enough. I miss you all! Talk to you soon.

Au revoir mon amies!

Fun Swiss fact of the week: Beer is cheaper than water! Yes, you heard it right, beer is the least expensive beverage in the land. Well, except for Corona, which is an import and sells for about SF (Swiss Franc) 8.-, or roughly $6.50 USD per bottle!!! (That is about 4x the cost of other beers). Who would have ever thought Corona was such a high end commodity?!?