Monday, March 31, 2008


So as I mentioned last week, there was a big music festival going on in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, that I booked last-last minute tickets to for my friend Bhav and me. I think I also mentioned work has been pretty stressful. Needless to say I practically had a panic attack on my way to RUN to the 6pm train to get the heck out of town. I caught it at airport and Bhav met me at the main station in town. After a few minutes of throwing our bags all over the seats, we settled in for our 2 hour ride with some strawberries and a bottle of champagne. I never saw so many heads turn with jealousy as when that I released the cork for that ever so distinct *POP!* There's nothing quite like the sound of champagne opening to signal a holiday commencing!

Two hours, miles of gossip and a bottle of champagne later, we arrived in Sierre and asked till we found the funicular which would take us up the mountain to the resort town of Crans-Montana. I thought it was really cool that you took a funi up to the town instead of having the town situated way below (a lot of ski resorts here are like this). Our hotel was located conviently right behind the festival so it was close enough to hear the action and see the tents and walk home (you would think...more on this in a minute) but not loud enough to keep us awake. Brilliant!! We primped up for our night out - I decided to wear heels (again, more on this) and Bhav had some sexy boots of which one of the zippers broke as she was zipping it up. We were so clever that we laced it up around the outside with one of our long snowboard boot laces...function and fashion!! As we could not look any better at this point, it was time to head out.

We had dinner at a delicious little italian resto called La Raphaele. Yes, I am going to talk about the food, but I will limit it to just describing the tagliatelle was thick and not flat, but more dense...I suppose in some way like the shape of a flattish carrot stick? Anyway, it was in a delicious super fresh tomato sauce with smoked mozzeralla and basil....mmmmmmmmmmm. The rest of the meal was also good, pizza, dessert and limoncello!

Next we headed out to the concert, again asking all the way there. Bhav, besides a fun friend is an excellent person to have with you when traveling, as she is never afraid to ask anyone for anything (leading to directions and also good tables and free drinks) and also seems to make friends (or flirt, though she dismisses this claim) with everyone around. And people always know her wherever she goes so there is further support to this argument. I digress...we were making our way to Caprices. So it turns out that the festival was in this humongous tent city. We walked into the tent city and went down about 80 flights of stairs and ended up in this big downstairs basement like thing filled with woodchips and drunk people. From here we walked down the hall to see...Eagle Eye Cherry. The best part was that we heard "Save Tonight" within about 3 minutes of walking in there. And it was THE LONGEST version of "Save Tonight" I have ever heard, at least 10 minutes, full of all the gimmicks...audience participation, clapping, reggae breakdowns, solo jams...saaaaaaaave tonight!!

After Eagle Eye we wandered around and saw another cool band called Nouvelle Vague. That's "New Wave" in French. The band does covers of older songs but adds this cool jazzy, bossa nova brazilian type flavor to them. Apparently there are several female vocalists but we saw 2, one of whom was more serious with a really good voice and the other who was a total performer and looked like she was doing a cross between a pole dance and having a seizure the entire time she was on stage. The music was really cool though, and it was definitely a good concert. After this we saw GrandMaster Flash which was fun. It was just like being in a big frat party. Surprisingly for being considered a total badass DJ, he was really cheesy and funny. He kept telling us to jump up over the mountains and how awesome we were. Anyway we were totally dying of thirst and it was about 2, so we climbed back up through 80 flights of stairs and emerged from the underground.

Remember what I said about my heels and the hotel? Somehow when I was leaping up to "Jump" by Kris Kross in my heels I felt fine, but as soon as we were outside my feet were about to fall off. I have never worn heels to a concert in my life and I will NEVER do it again. Yes, I looked good. But not worth it. We emerged totally lost and despite the fact that our hotel was so nearby, we could not find it. I walked around in my stockings while Bhav asked every person passing by if they knew where the hotel was. Finally we were directed the right way and got there. And guess who got in the elevator with us. Eagle Eye!! Well I don't know for sure. But seriously he was a rocker dude with a cool attitude and he really LOOKED like Eagle Eye. Within about 30 seconds I was asleep despite the fact that we could hear the festival going on well into the night.

The next morning we woke up and to our surprise, realized we were staying in an AMAZING hotel. Check out the view!!! We went down for breakfast and who did we see again...yes EAGLE EYE!!! There were quite a few randoms talking to him. So we think it really was. Anyway, after this we went for a little swim in the pool and then headed out to the ski rental place which was across town. Town was super super cute and reminded me a lot of Vail.

Here's a tip for when you go to Crans Montana. Everything closes between 12 and 2:30. INCLUDING SKI RENTAL PLACES!!! We got there, and I had already booked (and paid 40 EUR for) snowboard hire and the place was shut. Fortunately Bhav again made some friends who told us that there was a hire shop just below the cable car up the mountain. We went there and picked up some boards and headed up.

The slopes at Crans-Montana were amazing. Wide open and sunshine and we had no queues for the lifts. The snow was excellent. But my favorite? Well the apres ski bars of course. There were 2 really cool ones - one of which was in the middle of a slope!! Despite last week's resolution to not drink and board, I had to make an exception for the holiday. The place was COOL and we had to take advantage!

Notice the nets under the tables to hold all your ski gear. Clever!

Around 5:30 we boarded down to the bottom and continued our walking around town. For dinner we tried to get seated in this Thai resto but the guy was a total jerk and resistant to Bhav's charms. Then we tried for takeout (the resto was advertised as takeaway) and he told us that the other "customers" would be first and we would have to wait at least an hour. Funny enough when we asked if we could just get 2 pad thai tofu, it only took 10 minutes. Ah well.

Anyway the rest of the night we ate our thai and drank wine at the free apres-ski party in town called "Swatch Get Hot" and then made our way back to the hotel and funicular and train...alllll the while still in our snowboard clothes mind you and boots (I was SO happy I decided to leave my board at home). Of course on the train ride back to Geneva the loudest people in Switzerland sat right behind us. I moved half a car down and was able to sleep despite them.

Long story short...Crans Montana is cool. Another top trip in Switzerland!

Two fun facts

Hello gentle reader! Well I have much to blog about from my weekend. But 2 things first -

1) Brooks Brothers no iron fitted shirts are beyond my wildest dreams in terms of awesomeness. I recently acquired one (thanks Mom!) when I was home and gave it its first washing at my favorite place..oh you know it, yes the laundromat, last night. Directions say to wash, tumble dry, remove and hang promptly. Well I did just that and even schlepped it home in a duffel bag before I hung it and it looks perfect!! They are expensive but I think well worth the investment or at least add a few into your wardrobe. Since I moved to Switzerland, I stopped dry cleaning (wash and press shirts are 7 francs A SHIRT) and although I have become really expert at ironing and somewhat enjoy it, I would still prefer to not iron. And frankly this shirt looks even better just out of the dryer than my ironing job.

2) I found out that there has been a billboard of my belle-mere (Justin's mere) put up near one of Chicago's most historic landmarks. Now if you know where I used to live, it's over there, and you can find it and check it out. I think it's really cool, and honestly, has anyone out there ever personally known someone featured on a billboard? I'm not going to post the photo, you'll have to hunt it down yourself like a scavenger hunt! How's that for a fun fact?!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

It's sittin by the overcoat, the second shelf, the note she wrote

It's been a long day. It's been LONG week. I mean truly, from a work perspective, one of the longest in my entire career. And it's Thursday only. It's not that the days are so long - I am coming in around 8 and working till around 8 or 9 - I've worked longer. But the stress in my office at the moment is incredible, and everyone is just really streteched.

Anyway, tomorrow is the weekend and Bhav and I got in last minute to the Caprices festival thingy! So tomorrow we leave work around 530, hop on the train, get to Crans Montana where the snow is supposed to be AWE-SOME DUUUUUDE and then we check into our four star hotel (balla!!!), go to concerts and boogie all night long, then drag ourselves out of bed on Saturday to hit that pow. Yeaaaah!! I am super excited. I just washed out my ski clothes in the sink. It has to do for now.

Ok, gotta get some sleep so I can get up early and pack. But we got concert ticket, 4 star hotel stay, and ski pass for about 250 CHF each. Good right? Stay tuned gentle reader, I have a feeling we will get some stories out of this one!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Wait for It...

I have to make a soapbox statement for this:

Does everyone out there watch How I Met Your Mother?

This is such a good tv show. And I don't have a TV here and have to make a real effort to download things, pay for them, etc so I really mean it. I am addicted to this show, LOST, 24, and Grey's Anatomy. LOST is finally good again, but we are in so deep now that if you turned it on randomly, you too would be...LOST. 24 isn't on yet as far as I know. Grey's Anatomy is off for a while as they are recovering from the strike, and does anyone else agree with me that Grey's is totally stupid now?? Are Meredith and Derek "seriously" over?? That show needs to "seriously" stop churning through the same 3 stupid storylines. Anyone else think Hann is trying to be the new (but not at all the same) Addison Shepherd??

Anyway, my point is, dramas get boring and stupid, and this show is consistently AWESOME. If you don't watch it, tonight's episode has Britney Spears guest-starring so should be worth a look.

5 reasons to watch HIMYM:
1. It's only 30 minutes, so if you don't like it, no biggie
2. It is really funny and I laugh out loud all the time watching it
3. Good guest stars (see above). Also had Bob Barker on one (when Barney went on "The Price is Right"
4. I think on at 7:30 central time Mondays - so you won't miss your other shows or bedtime. You can also watch it for free on
5: Three words: Neil Patrick Harris

I challenge anyone who disagrees with me on this to a slap bet!!!


It has been snowing almost all day in Geneva. It was mostly what I would describe as "Lake Effect Snow," which my fellow Chicagoans will explain to you is big fat snowflakes that fall around the city due to the lake but don't really do much damage in terms of piling up. Since about 4pm though, it has really been coming down and now there is substantial accumulation. This puts a bit of a hitch in my plans to do laundry tonight as I refuse to put on boots etc and add to the annoyingness that is the laundromat. All the skiers I know are super excited about our recent cold and wintry mix streak. Everyone else (read: boring stupid people) is complaining. I have to admit I am not looking forward to walking in this to work tomorrow, but the colder it stays, the longer the ski season will last.

Although I'm surrounded by ski resorts, it's quite rare for Geneva itself to get snow. It only happened twice last year, and this is the first big one I can remember this year. The outlying areas can get a lot, but in the city it is not common. This weekend has been interesting. On Friday, a holiday here, I left my apartment in a light drizzle to head into work about 11am. By the time I was about 10 minutes down the road and exiting my tram stop, it was (conveniently) snowing. As far as I know my office building is at the same elevation as my apartment, so I thought this was really weird.

Saturday and Sunday I was snowboarding in the day so I don't know what the conditions were like in Geneva. In the mountains though, the snow was superb and some of the best I've ever skied in. Sunday I was in Flaine which is huge but there aren't many trees there, which makes it look like a big Artic tundra. The snow is always super, and I decided to take a lesson to refresh my snowboarding memory. I also had my bindings adjusted and felt much better on my board at the end of the day, so looking forward to next weekend already.
Saturday I went with my friend Bhav and a friend of hers, Cheryl, to Les Gets, part of the gigantic and awesome Portes du Soleil resort where you can ski back and forth between France and Switzerland. (Culture tip, gentle reader: pronounced "ley-zhay" and obviously not "les gets"). It started off as a beautiful sunny day, so after a few runs, we thought it would be a good idea to get some food for a picnic and enjoy lunch on the mountain. We went into the store and got cheese, bread, salami, chips and some strawberries and naturally, champagne. Except when we came out of the store, the sun was gone, and it was snowing. And when we got to the top of the chairlift, it was even worse and blowing around.

Call me uninspired, pessimistic, whatever - at this point, I was not keen at all on sitting outside in this snowstorm and having our "picnic." Picnics are not meant for bad weather and everyone knows the ski lunch break for us average sporty folk (as you know I am as self-described in my earlier posts) is meant to warm up and eat something good at a exorbitantly expensive price. However Bhav, ever the optimist, insisted we continue on down to find a nice spot and have our picnic, and surely the sun would come out. For the record, it didn't. She was carrying all the food in her rucksack except the strawberries, which were tucked neatly in my ski jacket right under my boobs. We couldn't find a good spot immediately and it was decided that we would just "pull over" to the side of a cat track and have the picnic. Sitting on our snowboards actually made decent picnic tables. The only problem was it was windy and freezing. So we ate with our gloves on and used the snow to wash off fruits and things. Although I was cold and grumpy, it did end up being a nice picnic and we were all giddy after drinking a bottle of champagne, surely as people skied by thinking "who the hell are those nutters?!" As a side note, my next two ski runs were absolutely horrible - I think half thhe bubbles went into my legs and the other half went into my brain. That's the last time I drink while skiing. Now apres-ski is a different story...

Anyway Les Gets was an awesome resort, beautiful ski area with lots of trees, views of the Mont Blanc and a really cute town, so we are trying to get back there for a weeken before the season ends. If the season holds up, my plans for the rest are as folllows:

This weekend: Snowboarding in Crans-Montana and Caprices music festival Saturday, Les Contamines Sunday

April 5/6: Les Contamines and Flaine

April 12/13: weekend in Les Gets

April 19/20: maybe Zermatt?

April 26: then the season is over at most places and I am going to Poland that weekend to see Abby & co! Yah!!

Here are some pictures from the picnic! Doesn't it look WARM

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Not one of my strengths...

Lucky for me, Justin is a fantastic cook. I'll never forget when we started dating and he would just whip stuff up in the kitchen. What a way to woo a woman! I mean nothing crazy but fairly simple meals that tasted really really good. He used lot of spices that we never had at home and I was amazed (me coming from a family of picky eaters, only my mom and I are not, and will in a goatlike fashion eat pretty much almost anything except olives).

So when I moved to Switzerland, where there are not Penny's noodle shops or Heaven on Seaven or Zig Zag around every corner, and I don't have my super tall chef, I had to start cooking myself. I have gotten really really good at making eggs and omlettes. Of course, I was also doing that 8 years ago the summer I lived in New York and was super poor, and ate eggs all the time because they are cheap and versatile. Needless to say I really sucked at making eggs 8 years ago and it's been a long road. I am also pretty good at making veggies different ways and soups. I hardly ever follow recipes but just mix things up and see how it goes. Sometimes it goes well, and sometimes I throw it all out and make the eggs.

Tonight I was inspired to make these meatballs I found on my friend Tara's blog, courtesy of Ray-Ray (who incidentally, I love. Rachel Ray may be super perky and annoying and everywhere, but she is a cute little dork and successful and funny, so good for her). I was able to get all the ingredients basically no problem and started mixing it up.

Cooking in Switzerland is always an adventure. First, any American recipe I use involves a lot of math and converting, which is not fun. Why can't we just use the metric system??? Seriously, it would make things so much easier. Then, any Swiss thing I have to cook has the instructions in French so I have my dictionary by my side to look up every word. So my kitchen, while worldly, is overly complicated when it comes to using recipes. Anyway, I made the meatballs and then as instructed, drizzled them with olive oil. I am not very good at "drizzling" which is something I have known for a long time. Can someone advise of a technique for this? Preferably an idiot proof one??

I put them in the oven and all seemed to be going good until I noticed it smelled a bit like burning in my apt. I opened up the oven which was full of smoke and smelled like a greasy barbeque. Great. A huge puddle of olive oil was in the bottom of the oven and I suppose causing all the trouble. So I took out the meatballs, cleaned the oven, and put them back in. Five minutes later more burning, but what do I do at this point?? They need to brown!! So finally I take them out and open all the windows to un-smoke myself. Meanwhile I take my tomato sauce and add my store bought pesto and the zest of one lemon to it, as per Ray-Ray's suggestion.

Well, the meatballs were ok, but they tasted a little like a burnt hamburger, and the tomato sauce tasted like lemon. So not really that good. Also maybe it was because I used low-fat mozzerella, but it didn't melt that well and then the inside of the meatball was just kind of gross. Anyway, not very successful. I think it could be but it's fairly involved and for just me, I am not sure if I want to bother again. I really have been trying to be a better cook and don't know why if you follow the directions, it doesn't work out as planned. I always seem to have some major mishap (grease fire, huge spill, etc) that also doesn't help.

But at least my man can cook.

Hangin around

Hello gentle reader! Well I apologize for being gone awhile, especially to one of my loyal readers, Chris, my semi "beau-frere" as they say in French. Yes Chris, I DID get my clothes out of the washing machine. I had to go back at 7am all bleary eyed and confused to get them out. The waterproofing totally worked by the way!! So if you have GOREtex outerwear that has lost a bit of its oomph, I recommend you try Nikwax Tech Wash and TX Direct.

After this little incident, I was supposed to go ice climbing the following day which was also a wash out due to the fact that it was raining. This was a real bummer as it is now too late in the season and too warm to be able to go again until next year. However the day after that was an awesome day out of spring snowboarding which was really fun and a nice treat after all my studying.

So then what? Well then I worked 3 days, went out to dinner with my boss, drank a lot and listened to hilarious stories about how the Swiss do job interviews...then went home, packed, slept 3 hours, went to airport, flew to London, flew to Dallas, tried to fly to San Antonio but flight was cancelled, got a ride, drove there, got there, saw two of my best friends from school, watched 1 get married, saw Justin and snuggled, flew back to Chicago, said bye to Justin, saw my mom and dad and sister and kitties for one day and then flew to Brussels, then to Geneva and had another crazy 3 days of work and NOW I am done with that. I had a great time in the U.S. but all this running around left me exhausted. So last night I decided to just come home, relax with some wine and catch up on LOST. It is soooo good this season! Anyone else agree?

Today I have also allowed myself to be extremely lazy. I slept late, watched LOST again, only leaving the house to get some hangover remedy (McDonalds). Guess who I saw when I was out? My French professor, the dirty old man from last year. Remember him??

OK, another story on Professor...I saw him earlier this summer with Justin and his mom, when we were going to Yvoire. Being the social little butterfly that I am, I went over and called "Professor! Yoo hoo!" and thought he didn't hear me. When I called his name, he turned and looked really angry/embarassed to see me. Huh?? He was also with a WOMAN. Interesting! He gave a gruff hello and that was it for the rest of the day. Totally weird. So today I saw him and tried to avoid him in order to avoid a similarly awkward situation. He passed me while I was heading into McDo. I was wearing sunglasses - as everyone knows, sunglasses are an excellent disguise and people can't really see you when you are wearing them. I went in and ordered my food and as I was walking out, he was there again!! Not sure if he saw me or not but I didn't say anything this time. Totally weird. I do run into people I know quite frequently in Geneva - and I don't know very many people - so this gives you an indication of how big the city is.

More random thoughts on my recent trip...

London Gatwick is AWESOME. I highly recommend if you need to travel through London to choose this airport. It is super nice with lots of good food, shopping, a starbucks! (I abstained) and is clean and easy to get around. I bought some fun things at the pharmacy, a shirt at mango and a fun little travel mouse for my laptop.

Business class is also really AWESOME. I treated myself to an upgrade since my travel time on Thursday alone was like 20 hours or something ridiculous like this. So from LGW to DFW I was in AA biz class and I loved every second. I have only flown business twice before, when I went to India. I will tell you - I upgraded for 300 bucks and 25k miles and it was worth every cent. It's like flying in a little baby hotel. The fact that you have more room and can choose which movies you want to watch instead of being subjected to "Bee Movie" with the rest of the plane is cool in itself. But the food is also really really good and they bring you whatever you want, whenever you want it. Also the pillow and blankets were snuggly and my bed folded flat (not like lie down flat, more like sleeping on a 45 degree angle flat but still not bad). We also got noise cancelling headphones which I now want to buy. I chose the good route to do this on as we were on a 777 to Dallas and the Chicago to Brussels flight was a 767...those biz class passengers did NOT have their own tv screens. That is a joke. Even a lot of economy class flights offer this now to passengers. This was a pretty good experience but my favorite of all the airlines to take is Swiss. They have the individual movie consoles in all seat classes (although they break sometimes) which you can even rewind and fast forward which is cool. The food is very good, they let you drink and don't charge you, and the attendants are very nice. I'm so easy to please, I know.

Last is a travel tip which I credit Abby with! I started doing this after she told me and it's the best travel tip in a while I have come across: bring an empty water bottle with you through security and then fill it before you get on the plane. International flights especially are SO long and you get majorly dehydrated...a tiny cup of water is NOT going to help. And buying water in the airport as we know is a major rip off. I bring a 1L Nalgene with me now and it works out great. Most airports do have water fountains or I have even filled up from the bathroom sink in Switzerland (hey, it's Evian water in Geneva that comes through the tap - it's the same water source). Obviously in India you can't do that, but it works in a lot of places. If you can't find a fountain, an airport bar or resto will usually give you some tap water if you ask politely and say "sorry to trouble you" (this is a British saying that I have picked up and I found it really helps getting people to do things for you).

Well, this is a nice long random post. Tomorrow I am working but I might encounter some interesting bits of Switzerland on my way out and about. You never know when that will happen!