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

dimanche, octobre 28, 2007

Top Secret Scrapbooking

So this summer, in anticipation of W & K's wedding, a few of K's friends were asked by her best friend to put together four scrapbook pages to be put in an album and given to the blushing bride just before the big day. The scrapbook was a big surprise and now that K has received it, I can share with all of you the pages I contributed.

I used to be a big scrapbooker, and I still love to do it, but since we moved to Switzerland I haven't had a lot of time, space or the resources to do it properly. Part of the problem is there is only ONE scrapbook store in the country (yes, the whole country). I'm lucky because it's in the neighboring town of Versoix, only a 1/2 hour away by train. But it's quite expensive, so I try to limit my purchases there.

Anyway, it took a while (I started it with Chica when she was visiting this summer), but here is the final product (the lighting was a bit bad photographing the first page, but you get the idea anyway):

jeudi, octobre 25, 2007

W & K tie the knot

On a beautiful fall day in October, our dear friends, W & K were married. But the way things were looking on Friday, I was worried that the day would be less than perfect. On Friday it poured and poured and poured some more. The rain was so bad that it had flooded the freeway in three places between San Jose and Redwood City (it took me almost 3 hours to get between the two). I had heard that the ceremony and reception were all planned to take place outdoors and we were all concerned that the rain would put a damper on the big day.

But come Saturday morning the sun was shining and there wasn't a cloud in the sky! We drove up to Sebastopol and checked into our hotel. After getting ready we headed over to the cute little winery where the festivities were to take place. The setting was fantastic; tables with big market umbrellas overlooked the golden vineyards in the distance. The ceremony took place on a grassy knoll overlooking the valley below.

The ceremony, of course, was beautiful. Dinner was delicious and the speeches were great, especially the two songs sung by a barbershop quartet made up of K's family & friends. After the first dances and the cutting of the cake, it was time to leave the heat lamps by the tables and head up to the dance floor to get our grove on! A great time was had by all... especially one of the gals at our table who overindulged a bit with the wine. For me it was great to hang out with Chica and G's family (who were all there).

Overall it was fantastic! But once again we didn't get the award for the furthest traveled... but just barely. K's sister lives in Zurich, so she and her husband beat us by just 275 kilometers (170 miles). But the trip was well worth it, we had such a great time and we are thrilled to have been able to share in the celebration!

mardi, octobre 23, 2007

Good old US of A

I was a bit anxious getting on the Continental flight on my way to US... but could you blame me? The last time I flew with them it took me 72 hours to get home to Geneva... but they are the cheapest by far, so I took a chance. Thankfully all went well and it was an uneventful (and on-time) flight.

The main reason for my trip to the US was the wedding of our friends, W & K, but I was determined to make the most of my trip and headed to Florida first to see my grandparents and aunt & uncle. It was three days of warm weather, catching up, and shopping - the clothes here are SO much cheaper than Geneva, and with the dollar plummeting overseas, I was sure to get some good deals. I always have a wonderful time in Florida, but as usual my time was way too short... soon it was time to continue my journey onto California.

The flight to California was not so uneventful... no, nothing wrong with the airline, except they let this drunk guy on the flight. And as luck would have it, he decided that he was keen on talking to ME. It started even before we boarded the plane when he was shouting at the first class passengers who were getting on the flight before everyone else. Then he got mad at the folks with kids who were also "cutting" in front. His mood vastly improved when he thought he was sitting near me... "Great! I can tell you all about my construction job and how much I like whisky..." Thank goodness we were two rows apart. But he made another friend and would not shut up for about an hour or so (on the late night flight all my fellow passengers and I wanted to do was sleep). It would have been all right if he wasn't SO LOUD! Oh well, at least it wasn't me he was jabbering at.

Friday I had to take a test to renew my EMT license. I had been studying quite a bit, but was still nervous because it has been months since I had been in class. This was the day it poured and poured rain, which wasn't good considering we were going to an outdoor wedding the next day! I picked G up at the airport and that night we had an early birthday dinner for him with his family.

On Saturday the sun came out and we drove up to Sebastopol to attend W & K's wedding. It was beautiful, of course, and we had such a great time! The next morning we had breakfast with G's mom, Chica, Mrs. Mingle, and her dad (who lives up in Sebastopol). It was great company and a mouth watering all-American breakfast! It really hit the spot.

I drove back to SF with Chica & Mrs. Mingle to attend a birthday party for Siff's daughter's first birthday. It was in Golden Gate Park and no one knew I was coming... I was the surprise guest of the day. I was thrilled to see them! The party was fun, even with the unwelcome guest that tried to steal food from the pot-luck table. It was such a nice afternoon catching up with everyone.

That evening G picked me up at Chica's parent's house and we were headed back to SF to have dinner with my mom & Mr. F. We were in for a big treat when we met the newest member of the family... Everett the black lab. He is SO CUTE!

On Monday night we had plans to have dinner with our good friends, P & K. They were expecting their first little one the following weekend, so we figured a dinner date early in the week was a safe bet. But on our way over to their place we got a call that they were going into labor! We were so thrilled for them and couldn't think of a happier reason cancel. Little Dashiell was soon here, healthy and happy. :)

The rest of the week was a whirlwind of lunch and dinner dates (& lots of Mexican food, yum!)... we had so many people to see and not a lot of time. In addition to Dashiell, there were three other new babies to meet. It seems like everyone is having kids! Even though it was a busy week, I had such a wonderful visit. Oh, and on my final day in the states I found out that I passed my EMT test!

As usual, it was over way too fast and soon I was headed back to the airport to catch my flight to Geneva. I'm happy to report that the flight back was uneventful... the flight was so empty I even got my own row to myself!

The next time I fly back to the US it will be to move back to California. We got the word this week that G is to be transferred back to the San Jose office in late February. We have four months left in Europe and we are determined to make the most of it! It's sad because we love it here in Geneva, but at the same time we are happy to be returning to a great place, close to family and back to our wonderful friends. There really is no place like home. :)

lundi, octobre 08, 2007

In searh of chakra

We had heard so many wonderful things about Kraków and hey, we hadn't been to Poland yet, so we booked a cheep flight and headed out for a long weekend. Well, all those folks were right, it's a beautiful city, full of great sights and buzzing with a great vibe. It is even the birthplace of Pope John Paul II. G liked it so much that he would consider moving there!

The only problem was that when we arrived it was drizzly and cold and I hadn't packed too well so one of the first orders of business was to buy a warm coat. I think that was the best money I've ever spent because the rest of the weekend was pretty darn cold (yes, I've learned my lesson). The rest of the day we spent getting our bearings and just wandering around town. We saw some of the sights and ate at a great local place that a Polish gal from G's work had recommended. I didn't realize how big fresh squeezed juices are in Poland, but after tasting one glass of the peach-apple I was hooked... I think I had four glasses that night!

The next day we decided to visit Auschwitz, the biggest and most notorious concentration camp. We knew it wouldn't be an easy day, but we felt it was important to go. But getting there was tough. We read that there was a bus that left the main bus terminal and made the hour and a half journey to the camp. The bus turned out to be really small and we almost didn't get a seat... the people that came after us ended up standing for the entire way.

But once we arrived at the camp, saw the film and started the tour, I started to realize that little things like being cold or having to stand on a bus really wasn't that big of a deal. The camp really affected me and it really puts things into perspective. There are actually two camps at the site, Auschwitz I and Birkenau. We spent and hour and a half at each site and it was intense, but I'm really happy we went. I think it's something everyone should experience.

So cold and emotionally drained, we got back on the little bus (we managed to get a seat again) and headed back to Krakow. Walking back to the center of town we ran across a trabant car show (the old cars made in East Germany and popular during the communist era). It was really cool... there were over 50 cars and lots of enthusiastic collectors. The place we really wanted to see, but ended up deciding not to is the factory where Mr. Schindler helped to save countless people from the concentration camps. It still exists outside the city, but another company bought it and now it is just a factory and there really isn't much to see.

The next day we decided to venture to the Wieliczka Salt Mine where they have been mining since the 11th century. This time we took a public bus, which was bigger, but not very clear as to where to get off. We missed the stop and ended up walking for about a half hour, but I guess it could have been worse. When we arrived we were given the option of taking the Polish tour in 10 minutes or the English tour that started an hour and a half later. We opted for the Polish tour. We walked down a winding stairway 64 meters (210 feet) deep. Then we walked for about a mile and a half, eventually ending up 135 meters (443 feet) deep.

Whenever the guide spoke I gave her my undivided attention and smiled when I thought appropriate, although I couldn't understand a word she said. We had a little English guidebook, so we got most of what there was to see, including the enormous Chapel of the Blessed Kinga, carved out over 30 years and full of sculptures, including one of Pope John Paul II. We didn't run into any translation issues until it was time to leave.

We were still far underground and we had to catch an elevator to escape to the surface, but it only goes every half hour. We waited in what we thought was the line, then a mine worker started to lead us down a long corridor that was labeled "Mine Museum". We read that the museum takes an additional hour and a half to tour and we had had enough, so we bolted back the way we came. Soon we found ourselves alone (besides the one Polish speaking guide) and were told to get back in the same line we had been standing in. Oh no... now we had to wait another half hour!! But a few minutes later they caught on that we just wanted to leave and a very nice mine worker escorted us down the 300 yard corridor to the elevator and all of our fellow tourists. We made our escape!!

Back in Krakow there was only one major sight left to see, Wawel Castle, the most visited sight in Poland. A castle has stood on this hill since recorded history began and even though there were a lot of tourists, it is still a lovely place to stroll around. Most fascinating to me is that this is the place of the seventh Hindu chakra line that comes from a sacred stone that emits a cosmic healing energy.

According to legend, there are seven points on Earth where the chakra energy is most concentrated; in Rome, Jerusalem, Mecca, Delhi, Delphi, Velehrad, and right here at Wawel Castle. The spot is in the corner of a large courtyard and as expected there were several peaceful people leaning against the wall trying to absorb some of the energy. According to our guidebook, the administration of the castle tries to discourage folks from hanging out here (you would never know it was here unless you knew what you were looking for) and the tour guides are forbidden to talk about it. We stood by the corner for a bit, but really didn't feel much. I figured since we aren't going to be in Mecca anytime soon, why not give it a try while we were here?

It was time to head to the airport to catch our flight back to Geneva. We were flying Lufthansa through Munich. Now it was Sunday evening and it was imperative that we make our flights because I was on the 9am Continental flight to the US early the next morning. So of course our flight to Munich was late. With only an hour connection and landing only 15 minutes before our Geneva flight took off, I was sure there was no hope. But as we walked down the stairs off the plane, (we were supposed to get on a bus that was to take us to the terminal) there was a man holding a sign that said "Geneva"/"Zurich". We approached him and he took our boarding passes for our next flight and drove us in a little van straight to our awaiting plane! We were the first people on the plane, and most importantly we made it back to Geneva that night. Now that is good customer service. (Are you reading this Continental?!?)

At Wawel Castle

Auschwitz sign “Arbeit Macht Frei” or “work makes (one) free”

Looking down onto the track leading into Birkenau

Birkenau camp, designed to hold more than 200,000 prisoners

In the Wieliczka Salt Mine

G with the Pope in the Wieliczka Salt Mine

One of the cars at the trabant car show

Soccer hooligans surrounded by police at the main bus station

G getting a treat at the outdoor market in Kraków's main Market Square

Us with Smok Wawelski, or "The Dragon of Wawel Hill"