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, mai 31, 2006

Bo & Chuck, together again!

Nice is the capital of the French Riviera and the heart of the Cote d'Azur. And luckily for us, it's one of the cheapest & easiest places to fly to from Geneva, making it a perfect weekend getaway. A half hour to the North is the country of Monaco and a half hour to the South is Cannes. Even splitting two days between these three sites, this was one of the most relaxing, kick back vacations we have had yet.

Nice actually feels more Italian than French with hues of orange and yellow everywhere you look. This is because Nice was actually part of Italy until very recently in 1860. The town is fantastic for long scenic walks, hanging out by the beach (too bad it was a bit early in the season to swim... chilly!), and scrumptious dinners outside under the stars. Very romantic. :)

The beautiful Nice beach promenade
& the chilly waters of the Mediterranean

We headed up to Cannes which had an equally wonderful beach promenade, making it a great place to people watch. Although the big draw, of course, was the convention center that is the home of the Festival de Cannes, better known as the Cannes Film Festival (we were a couple weeks shy of actually catching the festival). Yes, a lowly convention center that draws tens of thousands of people to this sleepy seaside resort. This particular weekend there was a "European IT" convention going on (we cut the sign out of the picture!)

I was particularly fascinated with the hundreds of hand prints plastered in the sidewalk. Most of the prints were pretty old, or French (go figure!), or illegible. The best of the lot were the lovely Bo Derek and the studly Chuck Norris (you gotta love that "Walker Texas Ranger" fella).

When I spied my favorite aunt's "boyfriend" (sshhhh... it's a secret!), I had to get a picture of his hand print too! Mel Gibson is quite the looker, and we have almost the same sized hands! <<sigh>> I had so much fun that I now want to go to Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood to check out some more hand prints. Who knows who I will find... maybe someone on my island (or perhaps in the meantime I should put Chuck Norris on my island... K, no stealing him now!)

The steps of the Cannes Film Festival:

Our next stop was Monaco, which is just 10 miles from the Italian boarder. It is a country of only 0.75 square miles where there are more people in the philharmonic orchestra (about 100) than in its army (about 80 guards). The wealth here is almost mind boggling. Some of the yachts in the harbor are bigger than most homes and the cost of just the yearly upkeep runs tens of millions of dollars, not including the crew, gas and mooring costs! And there weren't just a few boats strategically placed for show, we saw hundreds of these monster yachts, all sparkling in the Mediterranean sun.

We checked out the sites of the country, including the Jacques Cousteau Aquarium (Musee Oceanographique) that quite impressively hangs off the side of a cliff. We missed the Grand Prix of Monaco by about a month, but we did see the bleachers going up for the big event, which is almost as good. :)

We decided to try our luck at the famous Monte Carlo casino (which a lot of the wealth here was built on). Only a very small part of the casino is open to the public, who have to pay 10 Euro to get in. There is also a strict dress code and a required bag check. If the cars out front are any indication to the non-tourist clientele, then there were some pretty wealthy people in there. Bentleys, Mazaratis, Ferraris, Porches, the list goes on and on. This place made BMWs & Mercedes look like a Mazda or a Kia. There were millions of dollars of cars out front and there was even a raffle for a Ferrari Enzo, but we didn't enter considering it was 100 Euro to enter!!! We went inside instead.

It was beautiful, and just walking around in there makes you feel like you're worth a million bucks. We chose to stick with the slots, since all the table games started at 25 Euro a hand! As some of you may know, I am no gambler. Last time I was in Vegas I didn't spend even a nickel gambling, but G likes it, and last time he was in Vegas he won $1,200, so I highly encourage his habit! We sat down and were winning a couple Euros here and there. Then, just as our money was about to run out (not much, just 10 Euro), I hit the jackpot! 50 Euros!!!!! I was ecstatic! I cashed out and left Monaco a winner! I certainly hope the big boss of the Monte Carlo didn't loose any sleep over my winnings. ;)

The Monte Carlo in Monaco.

Me & my winnings!

"Please, dear tourist, for the last time... Don't run around town in just your skivies!"

At the Musee Oceanographique

Captain Obus

Can you imagine getting certified in this gear?!?

Me & the bear of Monaco

mardi, mai 30, 2006

It's all Greek to me!


In front of the Acropolis


A friendly game of backgammon at a local cafe.

Greek dancers (the one on the right is a spitting image of B.Foss, no joke!)

Showing off my Greek dancing moves.

We decided to visit Greece over the Easter weekend, because it gave us a couple extra days to travel (Easter is a two day banking holiday here in Geneva) and we were told that if we were to visit a Catholic country, everything would be closed. Our plan worked, since in Greece, Easter is celebrated a week after the Catholics celebrate, which meant more sightseeing for us! Hooray for the Greek Orthodox calendar!

Upon arriving I began to worry that the language may be a problem. Although I'm versed in the Greek alphabet (thanks to my years as a Chi-Omega -- "Go Greek!") I found myself completely lost linguistically. But in the end, quite to our surprise (and a little to our disappointment) we heard more English spoken on the street than Greek. But the little exposure we did have to the local language made me thankful that I'm studying French and not Greek... tres dificile!

We did have a little scare with our choice of accommodations. On the train ride into town from the airport I read a bit about the different areas of Athens in our guidebook, "Near Omonia great efforts have been made to clean up the area's image and crime problems. Still, beware of the sleazy suburbs around Omonia Square, as it is still one of the less traveler friendly of Athens’s neighborhoods." Uuuhhh... where on the map is our hotel? Oh, three blocks off Omonia Square? Sweet! I must admit it wasn't the best location, but it could have been worse. We did learn a valuable lesson, and now I don't book a hotel without consulting!

Our first day was spent at the Acropolis, Parthenon, & The National Archaeological Museum. All were absolutely breathtaking and a must see. The Acropolis is by far one of the most stunning single structures I have ever laid my eyes on.

That night we decided to go on a "night tour" that included dinner and traditional Greek music & dancing. (Please refer to my previous bus tour experience... as I said before, bus tours are not for me, and this current trip only reinforced my opinion) The tour itself was mediocre at best. Then they brought us to the restaurant and into a room that was big enough for about 100 people but was crammed with more like 300. This was no problem, being the easy-going travelers that we are. We never expected great (or even good) seats, but the tour guide woman plopped us in the only two remaining seats that were literally backstage and behind a pillar about 3 feet wide, COMPLETELY blocking the entire stage. Then, before we could say anything, she disappeared into the night. Super.

The only reason we were paying for this overpriced dinner was to see the dancing, so I decided to take things into my own hands. We quickly ordered a bottle of wine and I took it across the room to a vacant space in the isle where I wasn't blocking anyone else’s view. I think the wait staff all hated me, since I was very much in their way, but hey, as they said in Dirty Dancing, "no one puts Baby in the corner!!"

The story does have a happy ending though. About half way through the show a large party left that had front row seats and we moved in, dinner & wine in tow. Soon they were pulling people up on stage and you better believe this girl was part of the action. So, in the end a good time was had by all.

4 out of 5 Greeks live in the capital city of Athens, hence it is very congested and you can literally see the pollution hanging in the air. After a day (and our crazy night) in Athens we were longing to get out of the city and see a little of the Greek country side. We decided on the small, seaside town of Nafplio (in the Peloponnese), described as one of Greece's most beautiful cities. It is a wonderful mix of Greek, Venetian, & Turkish character. The highlight for us were the two castles, one on the hillside overlooking the town and one in the middle of the harbor.

We checked out Bourtzi Castle in the harbor and walked up the 999 steps (yes, exactly 999) to the top of the Palamidi Fortress, which rewarded us with stunning views! We celebrated our own Easter Sunday with a scrumptious brunch at an outside table right on the water and overlooking the harbor. We really missed everyone back home. Easter just isn't the same being so far away from family, but it will definitely be one to remember for us!

The view from the Palamidi Fortress above the town of Nafplio.

Climbing the 999 steps to the top of the fortress.

We made it to the top!

Heading to Bourtzi Castle in the harbor.

Together at the castle.

The end of a long day!

lundi, mai 29, 2006


Hello faithful readers. First, my apologies for my lack of blogging in the past few weeks. Why the sudden stop to my postings? It has been a combination of a lot of time away traveling, a new French class (4 hours a day, 5 days a week), and a general lackluster on my part, since I've been a bit down in the dumps for the past few weeks (J'ai eu le moral a zero), which hasn't made me feel much like doing anything. As a result, my blogging has fallen by the way side.

Now the disclaimer:

This blog was never intended to be a run down of our travels, checking off where we have been and what we did. The original intent was:

1.) a little window into the daily life of living in this foreign land that I am growing to love, sharing my every day joys & struggles and intertwining some funny antidotes & pictures of our travels. And 2.) to be a journal for me so years from now I can look back on our time here in Switzerland.

Now it seems I have fallen behind. To catch up (and to get back on track with my original intent) I will be posting several posts over the next few days, from Easter weekend to the present. I don't want it to feel like a simple run down of our travels, but I think it's the only way to get this blog back to where I want it... current.

Now you have been prepared for the sheer volume coming your way! And if you have the time (and the energy) to read some (or all)... enjoy! :)

lundi, mai 01, 2006

Are you funky?

In my French class we had an entire lesson dedicated to the concept of whether we were or were not "Funky". We even had a song, describing fabulous people like top-models, celebrities and sports stars that are funky. I was confused.

"How would you describe funky?" Asked our instructor, a pretty, young, hip gal herself. I just looked blankly trying to think of what on earth to say... words like smelly, odd, strange, stale all came to mind.

Her definition of Funky: Outgoing, young, trendy, attractive, athletic, fashionable, etc. So the inevitable question was asked. "Are you funky?" I was second to be asked, and the guy in front of me, a middle aged cook that was not all that attractive said confidently, "Oui, je suis funky!"

What's a girl to do? I too, confidently said, "Oui, je suis funky!" Then, to my dismay, every other student in the class (most much younger & hipper than I) said, with a little look of disgust, "NON! Je ne suis pas funky!!" Then, to make things worse, the instructor asked me (the only American in the class) in front of everyone else, "What does funky mean in English? Sometimes the French youth take a word and change the meaning a little." A little?!?

I had no choice but to say it wasn't that flattering of a word. "But you said you were funky", she pointed out. "Yeah, yeah I know", I sheepishly replied. At least the cook and I had a good laugh about it afterwards!!

So, along the lines of the joys of foreign language learning, here is a hilarious ad for the language school Berlitz...


... you will get a good laugh! And, the scary thing is I can totally relate... :)