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

vendredi, avril 28, 2006

Smile, you're in Spain

Green, warm, beautiful Barcelona (looking up Las Rambles).

At the Sagrada Familia Cathedral.

Palm Sunday in front of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral.

We found the Dali museum by chance!

In the Dali museum, a must see for his fans.

Fresh off the plane from Paris we were heading into the second part of my mom's trip through Europe, Barcelona and Switzerland.

I'm glad to report that my second trip to Barcelona was much better than my first. Nobody threw yellow goo all over me, I didn't get hustled by the guys playing the "shell game" on the street, and I didn't get my pockets picked... I was thrilled!
It was warm and much greener than earlier in the year. It still wasn't warm enough to swim or hang out at the beach, but after the long freezing winter we have had, I was just happy to see the sun!

We only had two days before flying back to Geneva, so again, we had a packed agenda. Museums, sites, tapas, lively music & warm breezes filled our days. The Picasso Museum is still my favorite! Sunday was actually Palm Sunday, which is celebrated with much exuberance here. There was a huge celebration at the Sagrada Familia Cathedral (which is not yet complete). People had palms of all different sizes, from tiny lapel palms (which I bought from a street vendor) to giant palms, some over 10 feet tall! I couldn’t help but wondered if the size of your palm means anything... like the more devout you are the bigger your palm? A question for the ages.

All too soon we were back in Switzerland. When we had left, it was spring. But somehow the seasons got a little mixed up and the country had been plunged back into winter! We decided to spend the day in Bern, the national capital, but still a medieval city. On the way we stopped at the Chateau de Chillon castle on the shores of Lake Geneva. On arrival in Bern, much to our amazement, we found ourselves in the middle of a raging snow storm! It didn't stop us from seeing the town, which feels more like a village than a capital city!

The next day we took the train to Luzern and encountered even more snow! It is a charming town on the edge of Lake Luzern, with quite a few good museums, including another Picasso Museum! We spent the day exploring the town and trying to stay dry.

Last but not least, my mom got to see our new home town, Geneva. Of course, the famous Jet d'Eau was turned off. Usually this fountain, the largest in the world, shoots water 140 meters high from Lake Geneva. But she did get a good feel for the town and we had a delicious crepe dinner just across from the Cathedral de St. Pierre in the Old Town where a pre-Easter concert filled the air with music.

I had such a great time with my mom, although I needed a big nap after it was all over! We have never traveled so much together and I would do it all again in a second (after a little shut eye!) ;)

Captured at the Chateau de Chillon castle.

In the middle of a snow storm in Bern.

What happened to the sun?!?

The bears of Bern, which the town was named after.

On the historic Chapel Bridge in Luzern.

The Lion Monument (Lowendenkmal) in Luzern, dedicated to the Swiss mercenaries who were killed fighting in the French Revolution. Mark Twain once called this carved lion, "The saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world." I think he is right.

Chess in the park in Geneva. Game anyone?

The founding fathers of Geneva, that's John Calvin in the middle left.

At the famous Geneva flower clock.

mercredi, avril 26, 2006

Welcome to Europe Mom!

Just below the clouds in Chamonix

In Chamonix (check out the guy behind us to the right... he must be hot!!)

By the castle wall in Annecy

In Annecy

My mom was out to visit a couple weeks ago and we had a very aggressive sightseeing plan; Switzerland, Rome, Florence, Pompeii, Paris, & Barcelona. Now I know where I inherited all my crazy travel planning from!

My mom arrived in Switzerland and we hit the ground running! On Sunday Gary joined us for a day of sightseeing in France, where we visited the towns of Chamonix and Annecy. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate in Chamonix. As we boarded the cable car that would take up 2.4 miles above the valley floor, the clouds moved in, blocking our view! (I now realize how lucky we were when Pat & Kevin were out visiting Chamonix!) But the day was not lost... we drove to Annecy, which is a village on the shores of a beautiful lake. The town itself is so cute, with winding canals and oh so French! (Greg, I should have taken your advice and visited sooner... I will be back here for sure!)

The next day we were off to Rome! We spent two full days in Rome (our home base), one in Florence and a day exploring Naples & Pompeii. We didn't know it, but we just happened to be in Italy during the "annual week of culture" (or la settimana della Cultura) where all museums and archeological sites are free! We took full advantage and saw just about every sight in Rome.

We started at the Vatican Museum and were a little bummed to hear that St. Peter's Basilica was closed that day. But then we learned that it was the 1st anniversary of Pope John Paul II death and there was to be a huge ceremony in St. Peter's Square in a couple of hours. We joined the thousands of pilgrims, tourists, and spectators to watch Pope Benedict XVI honor his predecessor. Even though it was all in Italian, it was an amazing event, none the less. I really feel that hearing the Pope speak live is a very moving experience, no matter what religion you are. We were lucky to be a part of it.

The next day we were off to Pompeii. When I was in the 5th grade, I did a report on Pompeii and I have always wanted to come here to see it for myself. We were on a guided bus tour that took us through Naples (which I could have skipped) and then had arranged a group lunch at the local hotel.

It was at lunch that I realized that bus tours are not for me. I like small, hole-in-the-wall, local eateries with lots of character and the cafeteria dining hall we were seated in was the furthest thing from it. We were seated in groups of six with people from our bus. "Great!", I thought, this will be a good chance to meet some people and share some stories. I broke the ice with an enthusiastic, "Hi everyone! I'm Debbie, this is my mom visiting from California and this is our first time in Pompeii. How about you?"

Silence... the two girls from England just kind of stared at us until they uncomfortably introduced themselves. The couple from Brazil were very nice, but there was a language barrier. Lunch was a constant battle to get these people to chat so we didn't have to stare at our soup the whole time. It was sort of like rush with no pin to tug on (you Chi-O's know what I'm talking about!) We had a good laugh about it later, but the hour and a half we sat in the restaurant could have been more time for us to explore the ruins.

Pompeii itself was everything I had hoped it would be and the weather was great. We had a clear view of Mt. Vesuvius, which was a tad bit unnerving. I kept thinking of what Karin had said when she visited Pompeii a couple years ago, that Vesuvius is still an active volcano and could erupt at any time... a fact that our tour guide reminded us of several times.

Florence was wonderful too. Thanks to Rick Steve's advice, we made reservations at the two big museums, The Accademia (home of Michelangelo’s David) and The Uffizi Gallery (that only allows 600 visitors per day). Because of "Culture Week" the lines at both museums literally went around the block! So, because we planned ahead we saved hours of waiting in lines and went right in.

Back in Rome we continued hopping from site to site and trying to take it all in. Our trip so far had been busy, but it was about to get even busier... we were off to Paris to see the theatrical performance of Amy Tan's short story "Immortal Heart", on which her book "The Bonesetter’s Daughter" was based.

The play was fantastic, it was put on by the American Library in Paris and performed by the San Francisco theater group, Word For Word. Amy was in Paris for the performance and we got to sit with her in seats marked "Tan Group". We met her good friend, Susanne Pari, who was so nice! She is also a writer and the author of the book, "The Fortune Catcher", which is now on my "to-read-list" (so look for my review and it on my "books-I-read-this-year-list, 2006 -- inspired by KB!)

After the performance we went to the book signing at The Library and at about 11pm we were off with Amy to the cast party at her swanky apartment in a very Parisian neighborhood. We couldn't find a cab, so a small group of us braved the Metro with the help of the owner of the English bookstore in Paris, "The Village Voice".

The cast party was hopping and soon we were mingling with the cast like we were old friends. One guy was from Alameda and when he mentioned local theater I immediately told him about my theatrical friends, Matt & Meghan. "Oh THE Matt & Meghan" he said somewhat sarcastically. Okay, so not EVERYONE in local theater knows each other. It's like when people ask, "Oh, you went to Davis, do you know... ?"

We didn't leave the party until after 2am. I'm so proud of my mom for sticking in there and hanging out until the wee hours of the morning, especially when we had to leave our hotel at 5:30am to catch our plane to Barcelona. So, just about 12 hours after we arrived in Paris, we were off again to sunny Spain. Stay tuned for our continuing adventures...

Mingling with the locals in Rome

Looking out from the Coliseum

The Pope speaking

The crowds in St. Peter's Square

At Pompeii (that's Vesuvius behind us!)

Our friends who followed us all around Pompeii

Beautiful Florence

At the Roman Forum (audioguides and all)

Outside the cast party in Paris

mardi, avril 18, 2006

"Would you like that with or without Italy?"

"With please!" I answered with a fat smile on my face.

This is what the woman selling us lift tickets in Zermatt asked us from behind her window, and without expression slid us the little plastic card that would give us access to the most wonderful slopes I have ever skied.

We arrived on Friday after a four hour train ride to the little burg of Zermatt. We checked into our hotel and worried that we would never see the Matterhorn, the weather was so bad and the forecast called for a storm to move in over the weekend. The cable-car lifts were closed on account of the wind so we set out to check out the small, car-free town.

While very cute, we quickly learned that besides skiing (& hiking in the summer) there really isn't much to do in Zermatt. The guidebook even reads, "On rainy days, the Tourist Information Office can only shrug, tell you optimistically about the Alpine Museum, and suggest you go swimming in one of the big hotel pools."

Saturday was literally a new day. We got up early, determined to snow board no matter what. To our happy surprise, the sun was shining and we got our first glimpse of the Matterhorn. It is literally the most beautiful mountain I have ever seen (the pictures don't do it justice). We were so transfixed by it that together we took almost 400 pictures in two days!!

Our lift ticket included the ski resort of Zermatt Matterhorn and the Italian resort of Cervinia. Together there are over 313km of ski runs (or almost 200 miles). I have heard that even if you try, you cannot ski every run in a weeks time. Imagine Squaw Valley, Heavenly, & Kirkwood combined, put them on the Canadian boarder and tack on Whistler. Then you are getting close to what this place has to offer. Switzerland's longest ski run is here too. 22km (or 13.6 miles) of beautiful, uninterrupted powder.

We took a gondola and two cable cars to get to the top of Klein Matterhorn (the "little" Matterhorn) and we started off toward Italy. We were 12,740 feet up (2.4 miles) so I was feeling the altitude a little. We crossed the boarder (no passport controls up here) to the back side of the mountain and found that the Italian side was even better. There were plenty of warning signs to be sure skiers got back over to the Swiss side before the lifts closed, because to get back around the mountain by car is an expensive 4 hour ride.

There was a huge difference between the Italian & Swiss sides of the mountain. Italian side: laid back, loose lines, cheap lunch and a sea of brightly colored lawn chairs to catch a few rays after lunch. Swiss side: lots of clocks, orderly lines, and no place to sun bathe on the mountain (at least not that we found). Those Italians have their priorities straight!

We ended the day exhausted and happy (and yes, we did make it back to the Swiss side). Our hotel even had "wellness", which is the Swiss term for anything spa related. There was a hot tub, saunas and these stone lounge chairs that radiated heat. Very nice.

Sunday we snow boarded a totally different part of the mountain, it was also fantastic. The good weather held and the views were unbelievable. We stopped for lunch at this little reastraunt on the mountain that was highly recommended by a guy in Gary's office, but really hard to find. It was set in a cluster of really old Swiss chalets and barns.

We could ski almost to the front door and it turned out to be well worth the effort to get there. The ambiance was amazing; we climbed to a rooftop terrace and ate outside with stunning views through the valley to the Matterhorn. The traditional Swiss fair was delicious and our waitress was really nice. I'm happy to say they are open in the summer too. It would be a nice rest stop in a day of hiking.

So, I can honestly say it was some of the best skiing I have ever done. I highly recommend it to anyone out there that loves to ski, it is out of this world! Zermatt is actually open for skiing all year round since it sits on a glacier, but of course not all of the runs are open in the summer.

We can't wait for next year and you are all welcome to join us!

In the clouds

The view from our hotel room with Gary trying to get the perfect shot!

At 12,740 feet

The boarder

Skiing into Italy

Gary getting a tan (no need to panic, Meg, he has sun block on!)

"We thank you for your carefulness" (you can double click the picture to make it easier to read)

Gary & The Mountain!

Yes, I know, this is cheating, but I had to do it the second time around! Now, where is my passport?

Where is the restaurant?

Not a bad place for lunch!

We boarded right through this tunnel, rather unexpectedly... looks narrow? IT WAS!!

We made it out to ski another run!

Back in Zermatt, the town of "alternate transportation"

My iPod Shuffle

Hello once again and Happy Easter to all!

The last couple of weeks I've been away from the home front (& blog scene) but now I'm back and set to catch you up on all of our happenings. Gary & I spent a ski weekend in Zermatt, then my Mom was out to visit and we were off seeing the sights of Europe, and very early this morning, Gary & I returned from a long weekend in Greece. I will be posting pictures in the next few blogs so stay tuned!

As for today I plan on heading off to the gym, but to procrastinate for at least another hour or so, I figured I would catch up on all my friend's blogs and write one of my own.

Now it's time for a little 8-ball magic. The following is inspired by Yay Toast and all the girls that have posted their lists. The rules are simple, as explained before, "you shuffle the songs in your iPod and use the resulting songs to answer the following questions, in the order in which they appeared".

A little side note: The songs on my iPod have not been updated since before the craziness of our wedding, almost a year ago!!! This is mostly because all of our CD's are in storage and the hard drive where our entire collection of songs reside (from our CD's & downloaded) fried when we tried to plug it in over here. But the Kid is going to help us out with this in June... so all my new songs will be added shortly.

Now, without delay, on with the list! Like Manoa Missy said... if your friends jumped off a cliff...

How does the world see you?
”Ready to Run”, Dixie Chicks

Will I have a happy life?
”Somewhere Over the Rainbow” Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

What do my friends really think of me?
”The Way You Move” Outkast

Do people secretly lust after me?
"Don’t Phunk With My Heart” Black Eyes Peas

How can I make myself happy?
”Smells Like Teen Spirit” Nirvana

What should I do with my life?
"Wild Horses" The Sundays

Will I ever have children?
"Bust a Move” Young MC

What is some good advice for me?
"A little Less Conversation a Little More Action” Elvis

How will I be remembered?
"Toxic” Britney Spears

What is my signature dancing song?
"Girls, Girls, Girls” Motley Crue

What do I think my current theme song is?
"Real Love” Mary J. Blige

What does everyone else think my current theme song is?
"Stronger” Britney Spears

What song will play at my funeral?
"I’m Gonna Be Alright” Jennifer Lopez

What type of men do you like?
”L-O-V-E” Nat King Cole

What is my day going to be like?
"Real World” Matchbox Twenty

Hhmmm... very interesting! I played by the rules (I did K... even with the "Toxic" song) and some seem to be right on while others, a little mysterious...

And I swear only 5 of my 224 songs on my iPod are from Britney! Maybe we have a cosmic connection or something. :)

samedi, avril 01, 2006

Our little corner of Europe

Okay, this may seem a little mundane, but I'm going to try to explain the lay out of our apartment, since we have been getting requests of pictures of our place. So, here it goes...

When you walk in the front door there is a big open area (you can call it the entryway, but it is as big as a room). From the front door looking right, there are two doorways side by side, the living room and the kitchen. Looking to the left are two doors side by side, these are the two bedrooms. Looking straight ahead are two doors, side by side, which are the two bathrooms (one with just a toilet and the other "bath" room with everything else... so European!)

So now that you have the lay of the land, here are some pictures with a little more explanation...

View from entryway into living room & kitchen.

Right side of the kitchen.

Left side of the kitchen.

View of living room from entryway.

Living room out to entryway (left side of room).

Living room again (right side of room).

View from entryway, bathroom left, living room, right.

View from entryway (and two bathrooms).

Looking into hall (and across to the bedrooms) from living room doorway. That's our front door on the left behind the coat rack. The two bathroom doors are on the right.

Our room from entryway.

Our room, looking out to the entryway.

Guest room from entryway.

Guest room, looking out to the entryway.

That’s it! The apartment is actually pretty big for European standards, and the hardwood floors are wonderful! We love it and being right in the middle of town makes it even better!!

I'm happy to tell you my mom just arrived this morning for a 12 day trip and tomorrow we are off to Italy, Paris & Barcelona and then we will be back to tour around Switzerland!! So, needless to say, I will not be posting until we return.

I have so much to write, especially about our amazing ski trip to Zermatt last weekend (it was some of the best boarding Gary & I have ever done!!!) We had such a wonderful time, but the tales will have to wait until I'm back.

Have a good week everyone!