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, novembre 30, 2007

Catching up... A November to remember

So as my loyal readers have noticed I haven't been current with my blog in quite a while. This summer & fall were crazy with visitors and traveling and even when I was in town I've been out and about hanging out with friends and trying to experience all that Geneva has to offer. After getting back home from the US almost five weeks ago we have been busy as usual:

I started having weekly lunches with a great group of gals who have moved to Geneva with their husbands and currently aren't working, so we have named ourselves "The Non-Desperate Housewives of Geneva". It is mostly made up of gals from the US, but we have some international members as well. We have had some good laughs, swapped stories, and shared advice while discovering some great restaurants in Geneva.

I'm still active with my book club, Toastmasters, my netball team, and have been attending the GoL curry club & Tuesday Night drinks regularly. This month I was Toastmaster of the evening for the first time (a big step for me!) and even won an award for "Best Table Topic of the Evening" for an impromptu speech I did. This month I also hosted a book club meeting at our flat, much to G's uneasiness since last time he claimed to be there "just for the free food" which didn't go over too well until I introduced him as my husband! ;)

On the 15th G took the day off so we could day trip down to Milan to see "The Last Supper" by Da Vinci which is painted on the wall of The Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Tickets are very hard to get and it has taken us almost two years to sort it out and get a reservation (no thanks to the old website of the church that kept canceling our reservations). It was totally worth the wait though! It was breathtaking and a bit surreal after trying to see it for so long.

We have been traveling too, despite the train strikes in France and Germany. G had taken the 16th & 17th off so we could take a nice four day weekend to Provence, but surprise... the French rail workers went on strike and no trains were running to France from Geneva. No mind, we decided to go to Bavaria to see the German Christmas Markets instead. Oh, the German rail workers were on strike too!! Well, we figured maybe we would go on the scenic train called "The Glacier Express" that crosses Switzerland, but after waiting a half hour to buy tickets we were told that it was not running until December 10th. We couldn't catch a break! So we stayed relatively close to home and spent a lovely day in Gruyères, famous for it's cheese, castle, and the H.R. Giger museum (who is best known for his design work on the film Alien). Scary stuff!!

Thanksgiving was good this year with not one but TWO dinners. One with the GoL crowd on the proper day, and one a week later with a really fantastic group of people hosted by my friend, C. The first dinner was at a restaurant with some strange courses, including green clam chowder. I sat next to a French gal who was at her first Thanksgiving dinner and wanted to know the significance of every course, including the "Pudding from the Indians" we had for desert - how old do you think that was?!? After dinner she declared Thanksgiving a rather "exotic" holiday. :) The next dinner was better with great company and food that was absolutely fantastic... I dare say it was the most delicious Thanksgiving meal I've ever had (sorry mom!)

The last weekend of November we did finally get to Provence which was really nice, but really cold! We visited the towns of Avignon (famous for it's nursery rhyme and medieval bridge) and Arles (with lots of Roman sights, including a huge Roman arena).

The last big event of the month was the Bern Onion Market(Zibelemärit), which I visited on my own since it is always held on a Monday. As usual it was great, with kids throwing confetti, live music, and lots and lots of onions. Of course I had to buy some, along with some other crafty things for sale. It was my third time to the market and I think it is going to be one of those things I will really miss when we move back to the US... there just isn't anything like it!

So that was our November, full of the usual hustle and bustle that is our life here in Geneva. :)

The snow in Gruyères

Listening to the audio guide at the Palace of the Popes (Palais des Papes) in Avignon

On the St. Benezet Bridge overlooking the Rhone in Avignon

Warming up at the Roman arena in Arles

vendredi, novembre 09, 2007

Why go to little Liechtenstein?

No offence Liechtenstein, but there are really only three reasons to visit this tiny little country squished between Switzerland and Austria... a stamp for your passport (which you have to pay 2 CHF for), stamps for your postcards, and simply to say you've been there. The country is only 25km (15.5 miles) by 6km (3.7 miles). When you ski cross country here you really go across the country.

I decided to take advantage of my "alone time" in Europe and explore a little further a field while G was still in the US, attending a worldwide sales meeting in San Francisco. I had my sights set on Liechtenstein which takes about 5 hours to get to from Geneva by train. I figured I would spend the night since the thought of over 10 hours on a train in one day didn't seem too fun to me (and my rules for "being to a country" is spending the night or having a meal outside the airport - so Tunisia doesn't count for us, damn!). I stayed in the capital, Vaduz, which as the most happening town in the country, leaves a bit to be desired. There are a couple of restaurants and a few souvenir shops that mostly sells Swiss stuff. There is also a castle the prince lives in (and can survey almost the whole country from) but you can’t go inside. The big draw for tourists is the TI office that sells the passport stamps.

I saw the whole town in about 20 minutes. I was headed back to Switzerland before I knew it, where I got to see most of the rest of the country on the bus ride back. On my way home I stopped into the town of Appenzell, Switzerland. Appenzell is famous for its cheese and for being the last canton in Switzerland that allowed women to vote (in 1971). Sounds crazy, but each household only had one vote, and the man would be the one to represent the rest of the family. It's a very traditional place, but 1971? Even the Soviet Union gave women the right to vote in 1917. But anyway, the town is super cute and definitely worth exploring.

When I "bragged" to my friends here that I had gone to Liechtenstein, they responded with a confused look, "Why?!?" "Uh... because it's there!" My journey did help to educate me on this very little corner of the world. Here are some fun Liechtenstein facts:
~ It's the world’s largest exporter of false teeth.
~ There is no airport, train service or freeways in the country, it's just too small.
~ You may not know you have crossed the boarder from Switzerland; the two countries share a postal system, currency (CHF), and public transportation (PostBus).
~ The number of companies registered here is more than double the population of 32,000 - big tax haven you think?

jeudi, novembre 01, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Although Halloween isn't a big holiday here in Geneva, it seems to be getting bigger every year, especially with the expats. The group, Glocals (formally GenevaOnLine... I still have to get used to the new name) threw a big Halloween party and it did not disappoint. G was still in the US, so I went with a friend whose husband is also back in the US. I was a "midnight fairy" and she went as an accident victim, complete with Top Ramen brains coming out of her head! I bought my costume when I was back in the US and I got a ton of compliments (my friend Greg said, "You must have gotten that when you were in California... you would never find that here!"). Some people didn't even recognize me with my black wig and Goth style! I only wish I had taken more pictures... I totally forgot I had my camera for a while. But it was a fantastic night and thanks to my crazy getup I even got in without having to pay the 20 CHF cover! :)