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

jeudi, mars 23, 2006

Our little escape artist

Our precious little Scout decided the other night that she wanted to go exploring in our building, unbeknownst to us! Somehow, in the two seconds that the door was open when Gary & I arrived home, she slipped out right under our noses. As we do most evenings, there was a rush to get the groceries away and dinner on the table (most nights we are both starving by the end of the day). So, after cleaning up and unwinding in the living room, I realized we hadn't seen our little angel in a while. Sometimes she sleeps in the bedroom, so I really didn't think too much of it, until a search for her turned up empty.

Then panic set in.

It had been four hours since we had gotten home!!! I started to freak out and ran out the door to find her. We are on the 4th floor (actually the 5th floor, since here the ground floor is floor 0) of 7 floors. Our stairwell is open and wraps around the elevator shaft in the center of the building, so I headed up the stairs. And there she was, two floors up, crouched on the stairs scared to death. We were so lucky that she hadn't gone down the stairs. And although she still would have had to get out the front door, I hate to think of her getting out onto the busy street! So, now I'm obsessed with knowing where she is at all times, which drives Gary, and Scout, a little crazy.

By the way, the picture of her above was the first picture taken with my brand new Swiss cell phone! I had to prove that I was here legally (with my B permit) to get it and it's great! Super small, 2 mega-pixel camera with zoom & flash, video camera, MP3 player, FM radio, internet, yada, yada, yada... oh, and I can make phone calls on it too!

So last weekend we tried our hand at cross-country skiing. We live near one of the most beautiful cross country ski areas (according to everyone here), La Vattay in Monts Jura, which is just over the boarder in France. I really don't know what we were thinking since neither of us had ever done this before and we really didn't know what we were in for. We couldn't even ask anyone questions since we seemed to be the only ones who spoke English there that day. We were totally on our own!

After renting our equipment and purchasing a ticket (only 14 Euro... not bad!) we were ready to go. Too bad we didn't have a clue as to how to put ON our skis! For all you cross country skiers out there, you know that the boots are soft like SCUBA boots and you only clip in at the toe, since you need to be able to pick up your heal as you ski. It only took 5 minutes or so to get the silly things on, which happened purely by accident! Then we were really off... very... very... slowly.

After some trial & error and trying to copy everyone that glided right by us with the greatest of ease, we headed up the "beginner" trail. Although it took us entirely too long to finish, by the end we were really getting the hang of it. Of course we were slower than we should have been because we were laughing at ourselves the entire time! We had a really fun day and glad we gave it a try, but I think both of us will be sticking to the down hill from now on... it's much less work!

Actually, tomorrow we are heading to Zermatt (at the base of the Matterhorn) to do some snow boarding! In Zermatt you can ski into Italy from Switzerland, so we will be sure to bring our passports! Sorry to say, you will have to wait until next week for pictures of our place. Until then, have a great weekend!

Gary showing how it's done! But YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!!!

Get out of the way... here I come!!

Gary looking a little stunned... He can't believe we made it back to civilization!

Our "Mobility" car-sharing car. We signed up for a car-sharing service, which is way cheaper than renting a car, but we accidentally signed up for a "combi" car (I thought I signed up for a "compact" car), and we got this crazy thing! But it sure was fun to drive!

jeudi, mars 16, 2006

The daily grind

So I realized that I don't write enough about our daily lives here and since we have been getting requests for pictures of our apartment and the neighborhood, I figure I would share them with everyone!

During the last couple of weeks while Gary is off at work I've been busy trying to manage our daily life activities in a place where I don't speak the language and coordinate our travel & social life here in Geneva. My French classes start next week (5 days a week for a while!) so the language thing should be getting easier in time. And there is, of course, the everyday cleaning, shopping, & cooking. You heard it right people... I cook almost every day now! Full meals... not just heating things up either!

One example of "everyday stuff" that I had to tackle this week was getting a hair cut. Now, this is really no big deal, but you have to know that I've been going to the same guy (Bill) to get my hair cut since I was 14! I even used to drive to San Mateo all the way down from Davis to have Bill cut my hair. So, you see my hesitation in letting someone else cut it, especially someone I'm not even sure speaks my language! But, it turned out well. The French gal who cut my hair was fantastic, even though she told me that my hair was "tired" (this is French for "split ends"). Hey, it had been about three months, so what can I say? I have tired hair!

On the social front we've been making some great strides in the last couple of weeks. Since we were in town last weekend, we went to a big party on Saturday night sponsored by a group called Geneva On Line, which is an on-line community aimed at making Geneva life more fun for locals & expats. It was great! There were about 400 people there. We met people from all over the world and Gary & I danced until the wee hours of the morning (he was a dancing machine!)

Then Tuesday I was out with some of Gary's co-workers for pizza & beer, Wednesday we went to "New Member Drinks" with the "GOL" crowd, tonight we are off to a big comedy night with Gary's work friends, and Friday we are planning to meet up with a group for bowling & drinks for St. Patrick’s Day!

Here are some pictures of our place, the neighborhood, and Gary's office (which is out by the airport). Our apartment is less than a block from Lake Geneva and just across from the old town. The neighborhood is very nice, with a nearby local market & department store, lots of restaurants, and everything we need right within walking distance. Across the lake, in the old town, things are a little more scenic, but our neighborhood had a wonderful charm and I'm thrilled to be living in the heart of the city, we honestly couldn't have ended up in a better spot!

The winter view out our window to the church across the street.

Our little corner of Geneva. The top two left (half) windows is our apartment. Our entrance is right in the center (chocolate shop on the left, Tunis Air on the right).

The chocolate shop at the entrance to our building.

The view from our corner across the Mont-Blanc Bridge.

A view from the Mont-Blanc Bridge up our street. Our building is just to the right of the center. But, the Four Season's Hotel gets all the water views, while we are up a block facing the main street.

A few members of the local flock of 100 or so swans that live near us on Lake Geneva (or Lac Leman in French).

The walkway along the lake.

One of the many local parks.

A view from the train station down our street. Our building is on the right three blocks down, just before the lake at the end of the street.

Our neighborhood Chinese place with the rude, French speaking, Chinese waiter who loves to flirt with our friend, Kofi. They serve the best soup this side of the Mississippi! :)

Gary's office building.

Gary relaxing at his desk...

So that gives you a taste of our neighborhood (& Gary's office) in winter. Next time I will post pictures of our apartment.

On a side note, Gary & I have officially immersed ourselves in European culture and bought ourselves a Nespresso machine. If you haven't heard of such a thing, no worries, we hadn't either. But soon after moving here we came to realize that this little coffee machine is all the rage here. There is one at Gary's office, all of our Swiss friends have one, and now we do too. You put in a little capsule in the machine and out comes the most scrumptious Italian coffee you have ever tasted! This isn't helping my coffee habit that I have tried so hard over the years to quit, but I've decided to take a two year break from my caffeine battle while I'm here and enjoy every ounce! ;)

dimanche, mars 12, 2006

My Four Things List

Well, it seems that I've been "tagged" for the "Favorite Four Things" list. And since we've been staying local for the past couple of weeks, there isn't a whole lot to report on the travel front.

Last weekend we went to IKEA and had big plans to try our hand at cross-country skiing, but a huge storm moved in which made skiing conditions terrible. So, instead, we went to the 76th International Motor Show, which is one of the biggest car shows in the world, right here in Geneva!

Now, normally I'm not really a car show type of girl, but surprisingly, I found it quite interesting. Every car maker imaginable, from Kia to Ferrari was there. My personal favorites were the Mini convertibles, H2 Hummers, the new Toyota trucks and the wide variety of hybrids and other eco-friendly cars. I even found my next vehicles (a car & a truck) - since Gary said a Bentley is out of the question!

My next car -- the convertible SmartCar, all the rage in Europe!

My next truck, complete with roof tent

Gary's dream machine - The Spyker Spyder

So, without delay, here is my "Favorite Four Things" list, inspired by Mrs. Mingle (who tagged me), Costa Rica Chica, Sactownkid, Manoa Missy and my cousin, Jane.

Four jobs I've had:

This was a tough one to narrow down, since I've had numerous jobs and usually several all at the same time, earning me my nickname of "The Jamaican"

1. Senior Lifeguard, Giammona Pool
2. Hot-Dog-on-a-Stick (3 years baby!)
3. Americair Home Respiratory Field Therapist (Where I was repeatedly misheard as "Debbie The American" instead of "Debbie from Americair" with my elderly patients.)
4. Volunteer Firefighter at West Plainfield Fire Department, Davis California
(True, not a paid position, but I worked damn hard there for 6 years of my life!)

Four movies I can watch over and over:

1. Babe
2. Shawshank Redemption
3. Gladiator
4. any of the Indiana Jones movies

Four places I have lived:

1. Urbana, Illinois
2. New Port News, Virginia
3. Davis, California
4. Geneva, Switzerland

Four TV shows I love:

I just want to take this opportunity to give a big shout out to i-Tunes and thank them for enabling us to download the current seasons of my two favorite shows, Lost & Desperate Housewives while we are overseas!

1. Lost
2. Desperate Housewives
3. 24, seasons 1 & 2 (on DVD & eagerly anticipating seasons 3,4,5...)
4. The Weakest Link on BBC (hey, when you only have 6 1/2 English stations, 4 of which are news, 1 sports and the half is MTV which is almost always dubbed in French, the pickings for "Favorite Shows" are slim!)

Four places I've vacationed:

1. Maui, Hawaii
2. The Caribbean (Aruba & St. Thomas)
3. Houseboat on Lake Trinity, California
4. Lots of great places in Europe

Four of my favorite dishes:

1. Pizza in Rome (So, so good... especially with a nice bottle of wine!)
2. Alplermagrone (Swiss version of Mac & Cheese, but better)
3. Mahi Mahi burrito from Dos Coyotes in Davis
4. Sushi, which I could eat every day!

Four sites I visit (almost) daily:

1. My friend's blogs, which help make me feel closer to home! (including, The Correct Way to Say Count-try, mingle's reflections, Yay toast!, Anybody Want a Peanut?, and I can take 9...I know I can....)
2. Geneva On Line, where Gary & I are members
3. At least one of several travel and/or airline sites searching for deals.
4. World Radio Geneva (WRG-FM 88.4), where I can listen live until we get a radio.

Four places I would rather be right now:

(Although not much compares with living in the center of Europe, where we can literally be almost anywhere on the continent with hours... you can't really beat that, but here's my list...)

1. On a nice, warm Mediterranean beach (since it's snowing out right now)
2. Hanging out with friends (I miss you guys!!)
3. On Safari in Africa
4. Riding a camel in Morocco (it will happen before we leave!)

Four people I am tagging:

(For those three without a blog yet... get typing people!)

1. Gary
2. Kid
3. Lori
4. Fiona

jeudi, mars 02, 2006

It's Karnival time!

About a year ago, long before we even knew we were coming to Geneva, at a Brocade sales meeting, the big boss of the Geneva office, Uli, exuberantly announced that if the sales force had a really, really good year, everyone would be going to.....

No, not Hawaii or Tahiti or even Disneyland, but...

Köln, Germany!!!

The Germans in the room cheered, while the rest of the room fell somewhat silent.


But they did not know then what we all know now... Köln Germany at Karnival time is utterly awesome! And I'm just glad all those hard working sales guys did such a good job this past year and I got the chance to tag along!

Where in the world are we?!?

The festive crowds pouring out of the train station

The crowds in the streets

The Brocade sales gang! (Yes, that's John MacEnroe on the right)

Groovy Baby!

The hottest party in Köln!

Those Brocade guys know how to party!

Making friends everywhere I go!

Gary getting into the German spirit!


At the closed Olympic museum

The cathedral at night (way too big to get it in one shot!)

Exploring the town

Trying to get back home!

So, fresh from our Olympic adventures we hit the road again and were off to Germany. We took an evening flight to Dortmund and took the train south to Köln (or Cologne in English). Köln is one of the oldest towns (and 4th largest) in Germany and is home to the largest cathedral in all of Germany (and the largest Gothic structure in the world). The guidebook describes it pretty well: "Exiting the front of the train station, you'll find yourself smack-dab in the shadow of the cathedral. If your jaw drops, pick it up." So we picked up out jaws and made our way to the hotel.

Since we were here for Gary's sales meeting and they actually expected him to work, he spent Wednesday in meetings and I explored the town. I took a bus tour through the city, visited the Köln history museum and the modern art Ludwig Museum (any relation Dave & Peggy?). It was nice, but I was holding off seeing the really cool stuff until Friday & Saturday when Gary had the days off. That night we had dinner with all the Brocade sales guys at a traditional German brew house, complete with all the traditional food (I had the "3 medallions of pork") and great local Kölsch beer.

The next day I was off again to explore on my own. I had a big agenda of museums and a guided tour of the cathedral at 10am, but when I arrived at the massive building, it was closed!! How can the cathedral be closed?!? They have services twice a day, every day!

Well, I didn't realize, but Thursday was the official start of Karnival (or the "foolish time") in Köln, and the tradition seems to be that everyone (and I mean EVERONE - probably 95% of the people I saw on the street) were decked out in full costume and at 11:11am the festivities officially began. Every store, museum and business was closed for the day. All except bars, restaurants & dance clubs, which all had long lines by 10am. I noticed that most people in groups were dressed alike, which at first seemed a little weird, but I realized that in addition to being fun, it may be a strategic thing, so they wouldn't loose each other in the huge crowds! There were also roving bands that would spontaneously start playing all over the city, I loved it!

The streets were literally packed, you could barely walk down ANY of the streets and everyone had a beer in hand (this is all at ten in the morning!) At 11:11 fireworks went off and everyone was dancing and cheering one another. Gary said that even at his sales meeting, at 11:11 the hotel staff barged through the doors and served everyone beer! So what did I do? I bought a silly hat, a fabulous boa, a local beer, a pretzel and walked around to enjoy the mayhem!

That night was the big party that Uli had arranged for everyone to attend. It is "the place to be" in Köln and you have to buy tickets 9 months in advance to get in! When we arrived to get in line, there was Uli (the big boss of the Geneva office) handing out beers to us in line! It was so funny, he wanted to be sure we didn't get bored for the 20 minutes we had to wait.

We were told in advance that costumes were required, but "not to go overboard", that "thrift store" clothes were all we needed. So, in true San Francisco style, Gary and I bought all of our stuff at the Height, so we were authentic 70's all the way baby! I was shocked to see the elaborate costumes people had on, everyone was so into it! The costumes were wonderful, with majorettes, "American football" players, smurfs, vikings (not as good as you & me, Karin!), and animals of all kinds! If you can imagine it, they were there.

The party itself was amazing! Three floors of dancing, food, beer, and the nicest people! I made friends with two German women dressed like cavewomen. They were great! I'm glad to say we closed the place down and even Gary danced right up to the last song. The song "Viva Kölnia" was the theme song of the weekend and we sang it just as heartily as any German in the room!

Needless to say, we got a late start the next day and missed the tour at the cathedral, but we did hike up the 509 steps to the top of the south tower. The views were great. But we were bummed to learn that all the museums were closed and would be for the rest of the weekend. I understand why they would be closed on Thursday (mayhem in the streets), but all weekend? There were thousands of tourists here from all over and it would have been a big money maker for them, but alas, we will just have to see the Roman-Germatic and Chocolate Museums some other day.

The festivities actually go on until midnight on Tuesday night (all stores are closed until then!), which is the start of Ash Wednesday. It culminates with a big bon fire that supposedly burns away all your sins you may have committed in the preceding six days. Then everyone starts the count down to next year.

So, we left Köln happy and hoping that the sales guys have another good year and Uli will bring us back to this little corner of the world where all of life closes down for six days and everyone goes a little crazy. But this time we won't count on seeing any of the museums.