Monday, April 30, 2007

The Bunny

Ok, those of you who have been to a foreign country, or even just another state that is kind of weird (you know like Texas or Wisconsin), have you ever encountered something that just totally rocked your world? That made you think, "what the...I never knew this could be possible!!" One of my friends told me she had an a-ha moment like this when she was buying butter in Europe and realized it didn't come in a thick rectangle like we are used to. It came in a flat rectangle. And she thought, I never even thought butter came any other way. But there it was, and that was normal, although at the time, to her, was tres bizarre.

My first moment like that here (well, besides stupid things like not being able to wash on Sunday or take the elevator to my own floor at work) was when I discovered that legal paper does not exist in Europe. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely hate legal paper. It just always gets wrinkly or inevitably someone will hit the button which causes your entire print job to go onto legal when you really really needed it to be on letter. But one day I needed to print something that was really long and A4 (the Euro sibling to 8 by 11 paper) just wasn't cutting it.

So I asked my office mates if there was legal paper. What? Oh 8 1/2 by 11 paper? No, I said, legal paper. It is like the same height but wider? And they had no clue. So I took a walk around the office and asked some more people. Someone claimed to know what I was talking about and showed me paper called A3. Ok, for those of you who have not seen A3 paper, it is the size of a blanket. I mean it is HUGE and in no way should be used in an office. So I said, no, I do not need this blanket sized document, don't we have legal paper, that is somewhere in between the blanket and the weird Euro A4 paper? But we don't. As the French say, ne existe pas. So that was the first time I was like....where am I?

The second was over the weekend. I give you, exhibit A.

The picture is a little blurry, but you know what it is right? Pink bunnies. Seems harmless enough.

Now, exhibit B. Notice anything weird yet?

Uh huh. I see. Ok, one more look. Exhibit C.

Did you figure it out? Did you see what caused me to do a double take at Carrefour and spend 10 francs because I simply could not believe my eyes and needed photographic evidence?.....
Did you know that there is a Duracell bunny??

That's right, a Duracell bunny. He is not the shades sportin, drum totin, going, going, going, hip hare also known as the Energizer Bunny. The pink bunny I know and love. That you know and love too. This bunny is in some weird tracksuit and what's more, he apparently has a friend. And he looks weird.

Anyway, I realize some of you might think that I have officially lost my mind but I thought this was just really strange. Kind of like that "Bizarro" episode of Seinfeld. There is an explanation though, and a good one, on Wikipedia. I really encourage you to read it, not only to educate yourselves but also because I think it is pretty funny.

If you want the abridged version, apparently the reason we have never seen Duracell bunny is because he actually does not exist in North America, only in Europe and Australia. And also because of some patent things.

If you have had and a-ha moment while traveling abroad and would like to guest post on my blog, just let me know via the comments section! I would be happy to post your story and photo!

Bain de Paquis

Yesterday I went to the Bain de Paquis with Dave and Lisa. This is basically a little beach on the lake that is made up of docks and concrete to lay on (i.e., basically a beach). I found it absolutely awesome that I was laying out in my bikini, when 3 weeks ago, I was snowboarding!! J'adore ca!

After a short sunbathe, we had a nice lunch! Asparagus is in season and all over the menus. It is like 5 of the 6 daily specials. So naturally I had an asparagus salad and some prosecco, followed by a walk back to the lake and des glaces (ice cream) mmmm. I got chocolate and banana. They put it in a side by side cone instead of stacking it. Brilliant eh? Most exciting of all was that I got a subscription to a movie rental place near me so now I can rent movies!! It is 7 CHF per day, per movie. So, not cheap, but ok as long as you watch it.

A great day overall. It is just so beautiful here that it makes me happy just walking out the door. Not to be cheesy but, you can see for yourself when you come visit!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The next wave

My next wave of visitors/visiting has officially begun! This could not be coming at a better time since as I mentioned earlier in the week, I was pretty sad to leave Justin. In 3 weeks my brother and sister are coming, which I could not be more excited for!

On Thursday, my friend Aya came for a visit. She is on her way to India for a 6 week rotation (same that I wrote about in last year's blog) and stopped through Geneva. A lot of people are going to India these days so it is convenient to live over here, kind of a little hub for all of the travelers! She got in at 9am on Thurs and I unfoturnately had to work, seeing as I just took 4 days off. She met up with me and Dave for drinks after at the Alibi and then joined us to try our hand at the casino. Which I am really starting to hate. I mean, take my money but can't you let me play blackjack for more than 5 minutes? And yes, I have heard the saying that the more you gamble, the more you will lose, thank you very much. I prefer "if at first you don't succeed, try try again." Anyway, after that Aya and I went to a little Italian place by my flat for dinner. Apparently she was impressed with my french, which I find interesting since I have not done any homework lately and have missed my last 3 classes.

Friday I was able to take the afternoon off so we could hang out. After running to the airport (in a cardigan and pearls...) we caught a train to Montreux. This place is on the other end of lake Geneva and it is gorgeous, naturally . They have a famous jazz festival every year (this year 6-21 July) where everyone goes and drinks wine and sits on the lake, listening to jazz and watching the sunset over the French Alps. No wonder Europeans are so happy.

Aya and I visited a castle right on the lake called the Chateau de Chillon. Aya has the photos so those will be coming later. It sits right on the lake, looking out at the mountains and Montreux, so the views both of the castle and from the castle itself are just stunning.

It is too bad that there are no castles in the U.S. (besides those of the white and enchanted variety). They are so cool. First, they are massive. Second, they are SO OLD. This place was built sometime before the 11th century and then gradually improved upon by all the various Counts who lived there. And it had cool little prisons and spooky gallows and things. I felt like this in India too, just kind of amazed at how long some things have been around when our little USA has only been around for the past 200 years.

Consider for example the Statue of Liberty...which was acquired in 1886. At that time, the canton of Vaud decided to start RENOVATING the castle. This thing was occupied as far back as the time of the Romans. You can read about its cute little history on the website.

After hanging out in the castle for a while, we went back to the main part of Montreux and walked around, enjoying all of the sunshine and flowers blooming all over the place. We then headed back to Geneva and walked down to the lake, which was packed with people. We grabbed a bottle of wine at a little cafe while waiting for this guy Matt, also in town working for our same company, who I invited to join us for dinner.

The restaurant was called Restaurant Edelweiss and I had heard it was traditional Swiss. So, here are some things which might have given us a clue of how traditional it was:
1) You are greeted by an enormous St. Bernard stuffed animal walking in the door (like the size of a lion). Another one is inside.
2) The menu is fondue, more fondue, meat fondue, raclette, and meringue. Some other things too, but that is mostly it
3) The waiters wore these little red and blue vests with flowers on them a la a member of the Von Trapp family (which I realize is Austrian, but you get the idea)
4) There is live music, consisting of 2 guys who play a variety of instruments, including the accordion, cowbells, and that BIG horn...think riiiiiiiiiiiiiiicolaaaaaaaaaaaaaa....and encourage people dining to get up and try the horn (essentially, make a fool our of yourself)

It was so cheesy but the food was really good and a fun place to bring tourists for sure. So this morning at 5:30 me and Aya jumped on the 10 with about 400 pounds of luggage for her to make her 6:30 flight. I plan to work this afternoon and possibly make a trip to the landromat...yaaaaaay!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The View

Here is a photo I took from the plane which I thought was pretty awesome.

See all of the yellow squares? That is rapeseed, also known as rape, also known as a plant which immature people will need to make stupid jokes about. I actually thought it was just a really pretty weed. But I just found out that rapeseed is also used to make canola oil and biodiesel. It is everywhere here now and really bright yellow and pretty. I was just amazed at the contrast I could see from so high. This was taken about 15 minutes before I landed in Geneva.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tell us bout the boy from New York City

I just got back from a crazy weekend in NY with Justin. And Justin's family, friends, brother's friends, my friends, and random celebrities (Justin's brother had an altercation with Geraldo at the entrance to a men's room).

Highlights of the trip (excluding seeing Justin which was of course THE highlight):

1) The weather. It was so beautiful while we were there. We actually did not have much in the way of summer clothes but it was just warm enough to be nice without making you too hot.

2) Chipotle. Sorry, but it's true. It is impossible to get Mexican here and it was sooo good. Also we had awesome, cheap thai at Lemongrass Grill and NY paper thin pizza which I love. Ok, I won't talk anymore about food.

3) Mets game (against Braves). We saw Glavine vs Smoltz which is pretty cool. We also had Nathan's hot dogs (sad to say they might be better than Wrigley dogs) and lots of beers. There is nothing better than watching a baseball game on a sunny day with a cold beer and someone you love.

4) Surprisingly, the Hotel Chandler. On 31st and 5th, it was not too expensive and pretty nice. You could tell that it used to be a dump and they had refurbished a lot. Some shortcuts were a little obvious (for example, they had really nice tvs, but the remote did not really work too well, and they offered free wi-fi, but it was really slow). However, the bed was really comfy with nice linens, the shower was huge with good pressure and free Aveda shampoos, bathrobes (always a huge selling point with me), and my 2 favorites were the iPod alarm clock so you could plug your iPod in and charge/listen to it all day and also a free New York Times every day!

5) Meeting Justin's friend Chuck, who I have heard a lot about but have never met.

6) Accomplishing my goal of not coming back to Switzerland with any pennies (ok fine, I ended up with 2, but I left them along with my Vanity Fair magazine for Ruben, my bartender at JFK for about 3 hours).

7) Mister Softee ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles!!

I will say that I was disappointed by Ruby Foo's, where Justin and I had dinner Thursday. Maybe it was the jet lag but the sushi tasted like feet and the waiter was only around until we ordered and then vanished. He left us all the plates and silverware and we actually had to serve ourselves. Annoying. Also I did not enjoy paying tax on top of the stated price. It was very confusing after being so used to just paying the sticker.

Even though it was the same amount of time as he spent in Geneva 2 months ago (in fact, almost to the hour), it felt way shorter. Which sucks!! Why??!!! His flight on Monday left at 3pm and mine not until 730, and from JFK (he was at LaGuardia), so I spent the afternoon reading Vanity Fair and drinking and generally feeling miserable after we parted. In fact I felt so miserable that I bought some new perfume at the duty free shop and 2 books.

I am back in Geneva with 2 suitcases yet to unpack and an empty fridge, as usual. Fortunately, once again I have a guest coming in town right after I see Justin to cheer me up. My friend Aya is coming on her way to India for assignment. Unfortunately since I was just on vacation, I need to work most of the time she is here. But hopefully we can get in a fondue and some gambling...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Zermatt photos

I still never wrote about Zermatt, which was freaking awesome. YES the Matterhorn is real, not just a ride at Disney. Here it is in the background.
I will just give a short recap. I went with my friend Katie who I used to work with in Chicago. We took a really cute train ride through all of these valleys and vales and 4 hours later got to Zermatt, which does not allow cars which means they had cute little electric ones. We met 10 Swedish dudes (well technically, 9 Swedish dudes and one known as "The Dane") which was great luck because they were able to show us the good skiing and drinking places. Basically, we spent 2 full days skiing our butts off and 3 nights out really late drinking. It wasn't exactly a relaxing ski vacation., but Zermatt is a very special place. It is probably the best place I have ever skiied. Huge gondalas and nice chair lifts and so many runs. The lines can be long, especially because Europeans don't know how to queue, but once you get off the lift, the people somehow disappear. It's got to be as big as Vail but not many trees, so it is like having an entire mountain of gorgeous packed powder allll to yourself. You can go up as high as 3800m (we did) and also ski to the Italian border (also did but did not go in). I have a lot more photos but here are some!!

The North Wall, where we had to settle for pizza instead of fondue. But it was ok, because this is were we met the Swedes, who then took us to fondue the next night!

We skiied allll the way to the other side of the mountain on Frida for this sunny lunch spot. It was completely away from everything else. We sat in the sun, had real restaurant food (rosti!), drank beer and took in the view. Perfect!

Me and Katie at apres ski! We skiied to this place also. And we had to ski down. We played some drinking games with the Swedes, including some sort of bizarre hand jive and moose game. We taught them "two truths and a lie."

Jac in action...on the "good skiers only" run. Seriously, at the top of the run was a sign that said "good skiers only" and the run was not marked a particular color (eg, red, black, etc). Just that cryptic message. Apparently, I am a good skier!

The rendezvous

Today I somehow scrambled to finish all of my tax returns and left the office in a super good mood because I am going to New York tomorrow!! I am meeting Justin for the weekend. Spring in New York...que romantico! Especially with the record rain and winds, oh la la!

Well we had wanted to meet in the middle somewhere this spring. At first he was going to come to London but then I found a "cheap" fare to New York. Conveniently enough, his parents will be there as well for part of the weekend, and his brother and sister in law and super adorable wonderful little just turned one baby Dylan will be there too. After almost 4 years I know Justin's family pretty well so it will be great to see them as well.
To be honest, I am probably most excited to go to a Duane Reade past 7pm and buy something.
So bonne weekend toute le monde! More posts upon my return. I am going for my first haircut tomorrow so hopefully it is not un catastrophe!! Coupe pas beaucoup SVP!!

Monday, April 16, 2007

The first photo... of a baby panda. Porquoi pas?
I just realized that I think the images taken by my camera are maybe too big or "heavy" as they say here for uploading. They are almost 1MB each. So any one who knows how to compress jpg files, please let me know.
We are making slow and steady progress. By next month I promise you one photo of Geneva actually on my blog!!

In the style of Queen...

I paid my dues
Time after time
I waited for a modem
But never got mine

So down at Swisscom
I made a plea
I said please man, can you send me my router?
And they mailed it to me!!

And while it installed I was waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting

We have the internet, my frien-ends!
And we won't have to steal it ever again...
We have the internet,
We have the internet
Time to read Yahoo or maybe buy iTunes...

I took out the package
The instructions were Francais
And I thought, crap man I am really screwed with this thing
Install won't take place
But despite those directions
I made it through
Complete with my mot de passe pour votre modem
Merci a vous!!!

Ok, that was really cheesy and terrible, but if you understood the MOMENT OF GLORY I just experienced here at Rue Liotard 44, you would sing too. I actually just did a little song and dance routine in the hallway because I HAVE INTERNET!! AND I INSTALLED IT IN FRENCH!! I understand maybe words like "continuer" might be obvious, but how about "Pour pouvoir vous servir de le Bluewin ASDL, il vous faut d'abord vous enregistrer comme client Bluewin ADSL aupres de Bluewin." Actually I still don't know what that means, but enregistrer is "computer" I figured out. To be fair there were actually a lot of nice pictures which helped. But still. This is a true expat success for me!

So Merci a Vous bluewin!! I have arrived! And now I will not be blacked out of Cubs games anymore, which is unfortunate, because it might be better if I was blacked out.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Gruyeres - the S is silent

Well I am sure you will all be pleased to know that I did recover from my hangover, did laundry, dishes AND rearranged furniture last night. Great success!

Today I got up early and met my friend Louise for a 9am trip to Gruyeres. If you don't know what Gruyeres is, let me give you a hint. Ever had fondue? French onion soup? That's grueyere cheese, and Gruyeres, in the Fribourg canton, is where it comes from. It was another stunning day in Switzerland, I swear that all of the good weather in the world seems to be concentrated here. The train ride was about 2 hours and incredibly beautiful, especially the part when I was awake. We arrived in Gruyeres about 11 and since it was not "cheese making time" at the factory which is right near the station, we hopped on this little tram which took us up to town about 5 minutes down the road.

The tram ride was hilarious as they were piping in this yodelelelelele he hoo music and you hear the driver pointing out things a la gauche and a la droit. As we wound around the road, below us were lush green fields with cows here and there in between villages. Surrounding all of this were large snowcapped mountains. And the tram pulled up to a 13th century castle. You think I am kidding? It did seem surreal, I will admit. This place is just kind of like that; probably every other day I shake my head for a moment in disbelief that I actually live here!

The castle was pretty cool and offered excellent views. I will give you a SHORT history of the castle. First, the word "grue" means "crane" in French and this inspired the name "Gruyeres." Don't really remember the details on what the crane has to do with it, my guess would be that the guy who founded it came back one day from battle with a crane as his trophy and then, after a bottle of Valais white and some fondue, asked the little crane if he might like to have a grand village named after him. The crane agreed and the rest is history. The castle was home to 19 counts and then to various bailiffs and I would imagine cheese barons (I learned that yes that is a real job and sounds very good to me). In 1849 the castle was sold to some rich families who went there on holiday and refurbished it, and then the canton bought it back in 1938, turned it into a museum and as the French would say, Voila! The castle we have today.

We wandered around the castle for a while and then walked down and around into town. We found a sunny terrrace perfect for lunch. And of course we had fondue, even though it was probably about 75 degrees outside. I mean, when in Rome...the fondue was excellent and it went very well with the dried meat (see, that again) and also a delicious chardonnay. For dessert I tried a little ice cream with merengues which are also famous here. It was an excellent, lazy Sunday lunch that somehow lasted almost 2 hours. But who's in a hurry when you have views of the mountains and a big bowl of cheese?

We walked back through town and skipped the tram, passing fields of cows on our way (dairy cows, I still have not seen the ones with the big ol bells yet). On the way back, I heard a "cock a doodle doo" - a legit rooster crow in the middle of the day. I thought this was hysterical and we sought out the crower. He was just hanging out by the side of the road and when Louise shot a movie of him, he crowed again, right on cue!!

We got back to the cheese factory having just missed the afternoon cheese making. However, we were able to take an audio "tour" from a nice "guide" named Cherise. A cow who was born during the cherry season, and apparently is British because that was her accent. The "magic" in Gruyere cheese comes from the cows, she told us. This is because all those cows eat a bucketload of grass all day. 100 kilos A DAY. Not kidding. And they eat up all the nice herbs and things that are in the Swiss countryside which is why Gruyere is so special and tastes soooo good. Apparently you can find as many as 75 different smells in Gruyere, according to "Cherise" (and also to the musuem). It was actually a very interesting little tour and we got a free sample!

We caught the train and of course after lots of cheese, sunshine and walking, we both fell asleep. This would have been very nice except every three minutes, since we were on a local train, the whistle shrieked CHOO CHOO!! So freaking loud and I swear, each time I jolted upright in my seat. We decided to stop in Lausanne on the way back just to check things out, since it was such a nice day. We walked up a BIG hill and then a BIG set of stairs and got up to the Notre Dame cathedral. It is under construction (has been since at least Justin and I came in September) but the inside was beautiful. The organ which was stuck waaaay up there in the ceiling was the size of a house, and I think some of the pipes were as thick as telephone poles. After that, we strolled down to Ouchy which is right on Lake Geneva. Ouchy is gorgeous and was swarming with people – quire possibly all of Lausanne could have been down there. We had a beer and looked out at the glassy water surrounded again by snowcapped mountains. Ahhhhh….what a lovely way to spend a Sunday.

Check out my photos at:

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Hangover

Well today s my first Saturday not working in a long time and unfortunately I am suffering from a massive hangover. I don't really know how this happened. Well, that is a lie, actually I do know. But I have not been this hungover in a long time. I had many plans for today. I was going to enjoy the sunshine and get up early, do about 50 loads of laundry and clean. Instead I have managed to get in and out of my bed about 15 times and watch Lost and 2 Grey's Anatomys (actually, I just listened to Grey's as I thought it would be better to keep my sleeping mask on to keep the light out). I just talked to my mom for about 40 minutes and she told me to go get a little grease and some caffeine. So I think I am going to cave and go to McDonald's, because it is the closest to me and the closest thing to home hungover food. I am still going to have to do battle with my laundry.

Last night we had the April 15 party which is why I am in this state. Last year I was in India and watching skits , eating naan and not drinking. Last night I went to the casino (maybe not a good idea on Friday the 13th), ate sushi and drank plenty. It was at the Alibi (not the "Alpine" as I called it for 6 weeks and no one ever corrected me, one day I just found out and felt like a jerk) which is in the Movenpick hotel, attached to the office, conveniently enough. The Alibi bar is like our "Cheers;" we get a good deal from the bartenders there and they get good tips from us. So somewhere in between my 4th glass of chablis, while the piano player was playing "the girl from ipanema" for the second time that night, someone decided to order sambuca. By the way, they play the girl from ipanema EVERY NIGHT in that bar. Anyway, I have never had sambuca, and I did not enjoy it at all. I liked the coffee beans but that was about it. I don't think the sambuca liked me very much either as I was extremely confused when I woke up this morning and in a lot of pain. Anyway other than the massive amounts of alcohol consumed, it was a pretty tame party since we are a small group. The casino was disappointing except for the fact that I convinced Ingvill to play blackjack and she won 20 francs, so at least someone won money.

Well I imagine this post seems a little discombobulated but now you know why. If anyone would like to come over to help me get my life in order, and possibly bring me an egg and bagel sandwich, I would sincerely appreciate it. Hopefully I can post more later on whether or not I succeeded with the laundry.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Le Printemps

It's spring here in Geneva! The weather has been absolutely gorgeous since last weekend. Stepping out of my building in the morning I am always hit with a bit of a cool air that is full of fresh flowery smells. Usually by midday it is around 70 degrees F and has been mostly sunny all week too. It is a nice change from April in Chicago which is always very questionable! Everything here is green and beautiful.

Over the weekend I went snowboarding one last time in Contamines. We all packed into Annie's red mini cooper (soooo cute and I want one!) and had a wonderful day of snowboarding in "champagne slush." It was sunny and hot, perfect spring skiing weather and also of course drinking on the terrace weather! I was actually using a rental snowboard also that had been freshly waxed because I was zipping down the mountain at high speeds!! It was a little weird that there was so much brown and green everywhere, but most of the resorts are open this weekend as well. However considering it is supposed to be 24C tomorrow (about 80F), I think that we may skip going one more time.

On Sunday, after we got back, I went to my friend Dave's house for Easter dinner. Lisa (Dave's wife) is a fantastic cook so I was really excited and of course not disappointed in the slightest! They live in Dardagny which is about 20 minutes drive outside Geneva, but it is in the countryside and feels like worlds away. We started out with some nice white wine from the area (some of the best Swiss whites are made right down the street from them) and some light appetizers (curry peanuts which were awesome although I am pretty sure this would be Abby's worst nightmare). Then we took Java, their chocolate lab, and Kasha, a little black spaniel they were dogsitting, out on a long walk through the vineyards. It was a warm, fantastic day and perfect for walking outside. Every once in a while we would stop to rest for a minute and look out at the huge fields of flowers, grass and baby grapes. It was like a big green puzzle!

Once we returned, we had some fabulous scallop bisque, followed by steamed asparagus, super creamy potatoes and lamb with fresh herbs. MmmmmM!!! After dinner we took another shorter walk and met some of the animals that live out in Dardagny, including 2 donkeys and 2 llamas. Donkeys are very soft by the way and cute. And apparently llamas make excellent sheep dogs!

After walk 2, we headed back to the house for some dessert which was chocolate ice cream doused in peppermint liquer served in martini glasses. This was great because once you were done with the ice cream, you had a nice chocolatey mint martini leftover. Mmmm encore!! We ended the evening with more wine and watching the Cubs lose. What's going on with them anyway?

Tonight we are going to celebrate April 15 2 days early and everyone is already in a silly mood. Should promise to be a fun evening. Annnnnd I have my internet finally so I will be installing that over the weekend!!