Monday, April 30, 2007
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
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.
http://www.chillon.ch/en/index.html 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
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
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
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!
Monday, April 16, 2007
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
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: http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slideshow.jsp?mode=fromshare&Uc=5lax6oc9.389wkgzh&Uy=-sfbhga&Ux=0
Saturday, April 14, 2007
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
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!!