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

lundi, janvier 29, 2007


We took a weekend trip to Europe's highest capital city, Madrid. It is a vibrant and upbeat modern city that is much more than paella, siestas, flamenco dancers, and bullfights. We flew in early Saturday morning and started right in seeing the city. Everything was very quiet in the morning, since most of the city was out partying until the wee hours, but we used that to our advantage and got to sights before the crowds.

About a month ago we happened to flipping through the six English speaking stations we have at home, when on EuroNews we saw a segment on the M.C. Escher exhibit that was touring through Europe and would be in Madrid during our trip. It was a good thing we knew about it, because no one we talked to had any clue about the exhibition. Not our hotel, or the TI office... they had nada. But thanks to G's blackberry, we figured it out on our own.

The M.C. Escher exhibit at the Art Channel Exposition Center (Centro de Exposiciones Arte Canal, Plaza de Castilla, in northern Madrid) was fantastic! All of his most famous works were there. It was a bit crowded, but when we left, there were almost 200 people waiting in the cold to get it! I was so glad we got there when we did.

Museums were the theme of the day. Madrid has so many great museums, but it was also pretty cold, so I was happy just to be inside. We next headed over to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, home of Picasso's Guernica, the most famous single work of the 20th century. I had tried to see it when I was here in May, but the museum was closed because it was a public holiday. So for me, it was extra special to actually see this great painting with my own eyes.

We then headed over to Museo del Prado, but G was "museumed-out" and decided to check out the city's neighborhoods on foot while I explored one of Europe's best museums. We met up and thought about eating dinner, but at 7pm it was WAY too early for dinner in Spain. Most restaurants here don't even open until 9pm, so we settled for beer and tapas near Plaza Mayor to tide us over.

The next day we headed over to the Royal Palace. On the way we strolled through the historic center and the heart of the city, Puerta del Sol. The Palacio Real (the Royal Palace) is billed as Europe's third greatest palace (after Versailles and Vienna's Schönbrunn) and it lives up to its reputation! We spent half the day wandering through the lavish halls and ease dropping on English speaking tour groups. I even took care of my photography class homework assignment in the gardens across the way in Plaza de Oriente.

We had to leave relatively early to catch our flight back home. Once safely in the air I reflected on our trip and was happy we decided to brave Madrid. We had bought our tickets soon after the airport parking garage was bombed and I had been a tad bit nervous about traveling here. But it is such a beautiful city and a must see destination. We had a wonderful time and felt very safe and secure during our entire trip. I would recommend for anyone to visit Spain's marvelous capital.

The symbol of Madrid

G found a new friend

The view from Plaza Mayor

At the entrance of the Royal Palace (Cathedral de Almudena is behind us)

G buying a snack

This is "Kilometer 0" at the very center of Spain

vendredi, janvier 26, 2007

Domestic goddess?

Well, I've successfully thrown my first dinner party! (Actually it's my 2nd, a few months ago I made älpermagrone for G, Mr. & Mrs. Kofi, & sister L - but that meal was pretty simple.)

Last night the GoL book club met at our place and as host, I was responsible for feeding everyone! Our meetings used to be pot-luck style, which was fine by me (I always just brought a dessert or a bottle of wine and left the cooking to the folks who actually knew what they were doing), but then the past few meetings have been hosted by some Martha Stewart types who fixed some wonderful meals, and the bar was raised. Super.

I was expecting 10, but in the end there were only 7 of us (including G, who sat in on the meeting even though he didn't read the book - he's quite a trooper.) Back in Cal;ifornia, I would be tempted to buy everything already chopped, assembled and ready to go, but the lack of pre-prepared food in this town had forced me to actually cook everything I made, which was quite an accomplishment for me.

For those of you who have had my "cooking", I know this will be hard for you to believe this, but here is the menu:

Assortment of cheese & crackers
Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with assortment of olives

1st course:
Curried Sweet Potato Soup
Strawberry and Feta Green Salad
Fresh bread

Main course:
Pasta (regular and wheat-free)
with a choice of either: Thick and Chunky Tomato Sauce with Veggies or Red Wine Chunky Meat Sauce (both made from scratch)
Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Assortment of fresh baked and store bought cookies
Bite-sized ice cream bars

The evening was a great success! We discussed the book "Follow Your Heart" by Susanna Tamaro. It's about a grandmother in Italy writing a letter to her estranged granddaughter who is studying in the US. The book was all right, it had some very good insight into life and all around a heartwarming novel. Next month we're reading "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosswni. I just finished it and it is excellent! It's a bit sad, but it is one of the best books I have ever read!

So now I'm one step closer to becoming a domestic goddess... Watch out Martha, I'm just getting started! ;)

mardi, janvier 23, 2007

Snow report

Oh happy day! About two hours ago it started snowing in Geneva! I was trying to get caught up with my French homework and suddenly out my window, there it was... beautiful fluffs of white falling from the sky.

This the first time the little weather icon on the left of my blog has read "snow", so I really couldn't be happier! I even put on my snow boots to go to the store - it isn't exactly sticking to the ground, but I wore them anyway to pay homage to the snow gods.

dimanche, janvier 21, 2007

Weekends close to home

A view of the Jet d'Eau on a picture-perfect day in Geneva
(our flat is on the left, just on the other side of the bridge)

Today we were supposed to go to Lyon, France to check out the old town and sample the wonderful food the town has to offer (supposedly it's the culinary capital of France). We've been to Lyon before, but just to go shopping at the mega mall the Saturday before Christmas (it was a mob scene). Unfortunately today G is feeling a bit under the weather and I had to study my French, so we decided to stay home and take it easy.

Yesterday was beautiful and we stayed in Geneva to take advantage of the big sales (in January & July, the whole country goes on Soldes) and we also climbed to the top of St. Pierre Cathedral in the old town. It has great views of the lake and it was the perfect place to finish up my photography class homework (we had an assignment to take three unique pictures of the same landscape). Last night we attended a 50th birthday party for one of the wives at G's office. We knew quite a few people there and met a lot of new people too. It was a fun night.

Last weekend we took a day trip to Zürich, Switzerland's largest city, and in 2006 was voted the city with the best quality of life in the world. I've been to Zürich three times, but only to the airport, so it was high time we saw the town. It's a beautiful place, right on the shores of Lake Zürich, with the Limmat River flowing by, rich with history and full of great sights.

We also got a little dose of Swiss German culture. We hit some of the big department stores to take advantage of those January sales and on every floor there were sales people shouting at the customers through a megaphone! Now these folks were not on a podium or behind the counter far away from us, but instead they were literally a few feet from our ears, shouting about the hot item of the minute. I have never seen anything like it. We didn't stay long. The deals were good, but my ears just couldn't take it.

It has been nice staying close to home these last couple of weekends. I know Scout appreciates us being around. Tomorrow I'm back to my French class. This week I'm also hosting my very first book club meeting, which entails cooking a full dinner for about eight people. I'm somewhat terrified, but I think I can pull it off. Wish me luck!

vendredi, janvier 19, 2007

Rain, rain go away...

Today it rained... again. What little snow there is in the mountains is slowly being washed away with every day of rain. Even the glaciers are shrinking at an alarming rate. Today, it was 14 degrees C* (almost 60* F). It's so warm you don't even need a coat. Last year at this time we were fluctuating between -5 and 0 degrees C and I wouldn't dare go outside without being all bundled up and snug in my snow boots.

According to the local news, only one in five ski pistes in Switzerland are operational, and the ones that are open, are making artificial snow. On WRG (World Radio Geneva) yesterday, the snow report was "miserable".

I hate to complain, but this is getting a bit ridiculous! We have a ski weekend planned for the second week of February, but the whole mountain where we're going is still closed for the season due to lack of snow. I'm hoping for the best, but it isn't looking good.

The warm weather is nice I suppose, it does make for good traveling. But every day I hope for a little of the white stuff to fall before we are into spring. My snow board is itching to get out of the basement and get a little fresh air!

mardi, janvier 16, 2007

Say Cheese!

This week I started a Beginning Photography Class (in English) at a local photography school. As you may have guessed from the mass amounts of pics here on the blog and on Flickr, I take a lot of photos. Sometimes they turn out pretty good. But a big reason for that is the sheer amount of pictures I take, so now I'm hoping to actually learn how to properly use our camera.

Our first lesson was basic, but very thorough. We had homework too. The class only goes five weeks and I'm looking forward to learning everything I can. I like it so much, I may even sign up for the advanced class! I also really like the class because we are a really diverse group from all over the world, with different photography goals, including one gal who wants to become a professional photographer.

Hopefully soon I will have some amazing pictures to show you! :)

mercredi, janvier 10, 2007

Our first visitors of the year

We started the year off with a visit from my mom and step dad (I'll call him Mr. F). They had spent the last couple weeks traveling all over Europe. They started in London, then New Years in Paris, then to the beaches of Nice & Monaco, and finally here in Geneva to visit with us for the weekend. I was thrilled to see them; it was a nice way to begin the year.

I picked them up from the train station on Friday night and we had a quiet night of catching up, chatting all about the holidays and the adventures of thier trip so far. Saturday we went on a bus tour of Geneva, which at first I was a bit skeptical about, since I couldn't for the life of me figure out how they were going to fill a whole two hour tour (Geneva is actually a pretty small town). But it was actually really good. It was very infomative and an hour of it was a walking tour of the old town. G and I learned a lot about the city and now, after our glowing review, our Swiss friends may be taking it too!

After the tour we picked up a car and headed over the boarder into the mideival town of Yvoire. It is on the French side of Lake Geneva, about a half hour out of town. I was there in the Summer with Chica, when the town was bustling with tourists. Winter is a bit different. Actually, very different. There were only 3 shops and one restaurant open in the whole town. The cathedral was open, so we popped in there, just to get in out of the cold. There were some other wayward tourists slowly wandering around the town too, so we knew we weren't alone. But the town really is charming, even in hibernation. We went to the little harbor and walked all the streets before returning to Geneva for dinner.

Sunday we went to the town on Biel about two hours to the East, halfway between Geneva and Zürich. There we visited with old friends of Mr. F. They were Swiss international students of Mr. F at Canada College back in the 80's and they still keep in touch. We visited with two families, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We were shown all around town and were treated to a wonderful lunch and even had home made ice cream! The first family lives in an eco-friendly house that uses only 10% of the energy that a normal house would use. Planted outside is one of the only sequoia trees in all of Switzerland. It was great to get to know a new Swiss town, since neither G nor I had ever been to Biel before.

Sadly, on Monday morning my mom and Mr. F were heading back to the US and all too soon it was time to say goodbye. Although their visit was short, we had such a good time! We are so glad they were able to swing by to see us during their trip. :)

On our tour of Geneva

G on the longest bench in the world

The main gate to Yvoire

At the shore of the medieval town of Yvoire

Swiss friends of Mr. F from California

More Swiss friends of Mr. F from California

One of the only sequoia trees in all of Switzerland

These crazy "illuminated floating people" sculptures are still up in Geneva

jeudi, janvier 04, 2007

Bonne Année!!

Happy New Year &
wishing you all the best for 2007!

This New Year I've decided to forego the usual resolutions (although I thought about borrowing yours Mingle!) and instead I want to take a minute to do a little reflecting on this crazy year I've had.

We started the year in a strange place where we didn't speak the language and knew hardly anybody at all. Last January I was still on sabbatical. When I realized that we had the opportunity to move to Switzerland, I was apprehensive about the thought of leaving my friends, my family, and my job. But I was also eager for a grand adventure and moving overseas was something I had always dreamed about.

Looking back, we certainly have had some grand adventures! Although I still haven't mastered French, I understand the language more than I used to and am still thrilled every time I have a little conversation and the other person understands me! We have met some wonderful people from all over the world and made some really good friends. We were lucky enough to be here for the Winter Olympics in Torino and the World Cup in Germany. We also celebrated our first wedding anniversary in Venice. I have been overcoming my fear of public speaking. We've snow boarded in some amazing places in Switzerland, France and Italy. I got to tag along with G on some fabulous business trips (Köln, Fuerteventura, & Munich). I've joined my first book club (& now a second) and have read 15 books in one year. And we have visited 17 countries on two continents. This is all still pretty amazing to me and I still wake up everyday thinking "I can't believe I'm here!"

But my favorite memories of 2006 were the times we spent with our friends and family (both here and state-side). I was so lucky to be able to be there for THREE weddings this year! My cousin's in Florida, M & G's in Vegas, and D & C's in California. I also received the happy news that my little brother got engaged, so there will be another wedding soon! :) And on top of all of that, our nice, Ally was born just hours before I had to hop a flight back to Geneva, so I got to see her!

We also squeezed in our annual houseboat trip up at Trinity which was a blast, as usual. My favorite quote came from a friend here in Geneva (who went to Chico) who said, "Okay, let me get this straight... You live in Europe and are vacationing in Redding?!?" Damn straight we are! ;)

We also had a blast with all of our visitors to Europe too! P & K were the first to arrive and help us to ring in the New Year in Paris! My Mom came and braved the cold in April (so we flew to warmer places in Spain & Italy). J and I toured around France & Italy in July. Chica was out for more than three weeks in August, when we had all sorts of crazy adventures! And G's mom & Mrs. Floss were here in the fall for a fun, whirlwind visit! I have to tell you we loved every minute of the time we got to spend with everyone; it really means so much to share this experience with our friends and family!

This year I've broadened my perspectives, have become more worldly, and have learned more about culture, history, and art then I ever did in school! But I think the biggest thing that I realized is that no matter where you go, friends and family are the most important and best part of life! I'm lucky to be blessed with a wonderful husband and to have some truly amazing people in my life. And even if they are far away at the moment, I know when we step off the plane, it will be just like we never left!

So what did we do to celebrate the end of one great year and the beginning of an even better one?!? We went to a 10 course Chinese dinner with some of our GoL friends and then we were off to a bar called Heaven to count down to the New Year! There was lots of dancing, confetti being thrown, and Champaign flowing. We didn't get home until 4:30, but we had a great time. Here are some pics from the New Years Eve party: