Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ella wants to know....is it summer yet?

While I was busy getting us ready to head out the door for the day, Ella was busy getting herself ready for summer. She pulled out all the shorts she could find and put them all on! 

'Mommy, it's summer time, I can wear my shorts now!!'

Is is sad that if she sees one day of some sunshine, she thinks the seasons have changed?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Weekend with Good Friends

Way back in January, we happily spent our time with good friends that came up to Zurich for a quick visit. We toured Zurich one day, and toured a small part of Switzerland the second day. Even in the freezing weather, we had a great time roaming around the city, trying new restaurants, and finding new shops.
We stopped for breakfast at Cafe Odeon   "One of the most historic cafes in Zurich, since it first opened its doors in 1912 the Odeon has been patronized by such figures as Lenin and Trotsky, Mata Hari, Thornton Wilder, Mussolini, James Joyce and various other colorful types" (Thank you Forbes.com) The bar cafe was gorgeous, a great stop for a morning coffee before seeing the sites.



For lunch we stopped at a locals bar The Rheinfelder Beer Hall, in Aldstadt (old town), and ate a sampling of a typical swiss meal.  I've been hearing about the minced veal with mushroom sauce, and spaetzle (egg noodles) - it was as good as all the reviews made it out to be. So glad I finally got to try it! Everyone else indulged in treats like Bratwurst, rosti, cordonbleu, and veal. Can't get much more swiss than that. 


After lunch we wandered into Peclard to sample some macarons (they also have a restaurant and tea shop which I hope to make it to one day!) Then we stumbled upon this little shop I had read about when we first moved here.  Schnapps Boutique. It's a tiny little shop filled with hundreds of gorgeous glass bottles full of liquors, vinegars, sherrys, etc. We were able to sample a few flavored schnapps that had been warmed in hot water, loved them, and left the shop with our very own little bottle to have as a digestif.  
 

On Sunday we hit the road and toured the mountain towns of Chur, Davos and Klosters. Because everything in Switzerland shuts down on Sundays, Chur was pretty quiet, but a quaint little town to wander through.

 

After a gorgeous drive over the mountains, we stopped in Davos to stretch our legs and breath that fresh mountain air (and nearly freeze ourselves to death!) As we were walking down the town, we came upon this path that led up the hill. We just kept walking and walking up until we came across some lovely views of the snow covered city. 
 

Davos



We also treated ourselves to some homemade fondue! I borrowed a pot and a recipe from a friend of mine and attempted to melt cheese! How hard can it be, right? Hmmm, the whole melting process was easy.
The thickening process proved to be a little more challenging. Clearly, I missed a step a long the way. But, after a long long wait, everything came together and we devoured our yummy pot of fondue in our little swiss house. Perfect!

 
Thanks for the visit Justin and Courtney! Can't wait to see you again - probably stateside next time!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dear Luzerne, where did you put the mountains?

Thanks to everyone for hanging in there with my sporadic blog posting. I'm working to get all caught up, so when spring decides to make an appearance, I'm ready to post more outdoor adventures.

In February, a great friend of ours decided to embark on a whirlwind European adventure. Jess started his trip with some of our friends currently living in Italy, then headed up to Zurich for a few quick, and busy days with us. He arrived at our house when John was doing some work in Munich, so I needed some help getting him down the few stairs to our apartment. No time like the present to meet our neighbors upstairs! (Of course, I have run into them in the lobby, but the Swiss take a long time to get used to new people in their space, so we haven't exactly made lasting friendships with the people in our building.) I know the families that live in the apartment on the second floor, but they weren't home. So I went up to the third floor and started knocking on doors.
Thank goodness, someone is home.
Oh, hello 'Mr. 65 year old British Man', thank you for opening the door - in your SPEEDO! He's happy as can be, doesn't seem to phase him that I am standing outside his door while he is practically naked. I completely forgot why I was there and could only think "don't look down, don't look down, oh crap, I think I just looked down, stop it, start talking to him or he's going to think you are the weird one in this situation."  Ok, right, I told him I needed help getting my friend down the stairs to our place, he immediately agreed to help and thankfully closed the door to put both a shirt and some pants on. Did that really just happen?
Yes, yes it did, I momentarily forgot that we live in Europe.

John came home very late that night, after we were all asleep, and had to leave before anyone woke up to go to Geneva. Because this was Jess's first trip to Switzerland, Jess, Ella and I opted to hop on a train and head to Geneva for the day (it's a 3 hour train ride complete with gorgeous mountain views) Except, the mountains decided to stay hidden in the clouds. Bummer. We had an eventful day in Geneva, and met up with John for a drink that evening before heading back to Zurich in the dark, still no mountains.

We spent Saturday roaming around Zurich, pretending to enjoying the freezing weather and the fresh snow fall. Welcome to Zurich in the winter. And still, no mountains to be seen.

Sunday was a day trip to Lucerne. It's been on our list of cities to visit, and there's no time like the present, right? It is called, the 'gateway to the Alps' and it's a 45 min train ride south of Zurich. Ok Alps, here we come.....

Yeah, see those clouds, close your eyes and pretend there are gorgeous snow-capped mountains behind them. That's what we did.


We had to make a stop at the Lion of Lucerne because Mark Twain deemed it as the 'most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world." Prepared to be moved. 
"The Lion Monument (GermanLöwendenkmal), or the Lion of Lucerne, is a sculpture in LucerneSwitzerland, designed byBertel Thorvaldsen. It commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in ParisFrance." (Thank you Wikipedia)



Then we spent time wandering around Old Town and the hills of Lucerne, hoping to catch a break in the clouds..... nope, still no mountains. I'm pretty sure that Jess thinks the Alps are some fancy illusion created by Swiss photographers just to boost tourism.


Thanks for the visit Jess! We loved getting to see you! 


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tell the Zookeeper....


the lemur is loose!


 

The Zurich Zoo is a place we are very fond of. It's so close to our house and we bought an annual pass, so we go there quite often. Ella loves it every time, and gives her a chance to run and play with out the hustle and bustle of city life surrounding her every move (I love that part too!) One of my favorite places in the zoo is their Masoala Rainforest. It is a huge, enclosed rainforest complete with a little lake, a waterfall, it's saturated with gorgeous tropical vegetation, plenty of birds, huge turtles, ducks, fish, lizards, and lemurs. The best part is that the temperature and humidity are kept so high, it feels like a tropical summer vacation. Today, we spotted one of the red lemurs down at our level. (usually they hang out high up on the tree tops)
(Sorry for the foggy pics, the humidity makes it difficult to take photo's while you're in there)

Peek- a - boo

I love this shot - The lemur had just jumped from his post on the tree, onto MY FOOT, and stayed in the path just long enough for me to snap his retreat back into the trees. 


Back to play just a little bit more

What surprised me is that John and I were much more interested in watching the lemur than Ella was, she just wanted to run and play (but what more does a two year old want, really)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

You can't beat this...

Hello Alps, Thanks for coming out to play


I took this a few weeks ago when we thought winter was possibly on it's way out. We were walking along the ridge of the hill right above our house, after a trip to the zoo. We sat and soaked up our vitamin D (while E napped in the stroller) and admired the view. Isn't it gorgeous. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

An expat in a fashion crazed city... in a snow storm

I woke up this morning with a 'spring in my step.' (corny, I know, but it's true) It was one of those happy mornings, when you just feel like it's going to be a good day. One of those mornings where you give your husband an extra kiss as he's off to work, and you hug your daughter extra tight, just because you can. One of those days when you think the sun should be shining when you open the curtains for the first time in the morning.  I opened those curtains this morning to yet another snow storm, and I anticipate, I have a few more of those mornings in my future before spring starts to knock on Switzerland's door. Despite the snow, I am working hard to find the happiness in the weather rather than letting it drive me crazy (because, truth be told, it's driving me crazy!)  I know, I know, we are lucky enough to actually be spending a year of our lives in Zurich, and we are actively taking that year to explore the world around us, and yes, it's awesome and I am loving every minute of it. But the day to day of this freezing cold winter is testing my 'glass half full' morale.

So, after waking up to snow storm, I kept my positive attitude in check and headed off down our hill to take Ella to pre-school. Thus begins the my very odd day. I hope you were able to read 'down the hill, in a snow storm.' As we've chosen to not buy a car during our time here, we have two options to get down the hill - tram, or walk. And, if I'm walking Ella can ride in the stroller, ride on my back, or walk. In a freezing, cold, snow storm, the only decent option is for her to ride on my back. After I put on what I deem as suitable winter gear (hats, boots, scarves, gloves, etc) we're off. This morning, fashion was not on the top of my list, but being able to walk down the mile long hill, safely, was. To get down the first stretch, I walk on the road because it's the only part that has been plowed. The sidewalks are semi-salted and navigable, but with my kid on my back, I don't risk the possible fall. And as I watched others literally sliding down the sidewalk like it is a skating rink, I safely took the road and the dirty looks I got from the drivers that passed me by. Fine.

The second half of the hill is a pedestrian path that gets partially plowed and salted. It is also a combination of sloping pavement and stairs. With my trusty boots on, I easily made it down part of the stairs to a ramp. I look down the ramp to see 4 men sliding down the sidewalk, flailing arms while trying to keep hold of their brief cases, while they attempt to look like they are really meaning to ice skate down the walk, not accidentally slide and pathetically trying to reach out and grab anything they can to stay upright. Then I noticed their shoes. They are all wearing nice, surely very expensive (as we are in zurich) business work shoes. Flat, shiny soles with no traction. Of course they are skating down the hill, they're idiots. Have they done this in every snow storm we've had this winter? Surely, this can't be the first time they've tried to walk to work in the snow. In fact, this nonsense need for 'fashion first' is something I've seen routinely over the course of the winter. Both men and women wear completely impractical shoes when trekking around the city. I've seen heels, stilletos and open toed shoes all trudging through the snow, ice, slushy grossness that happens in a city after the pristine white has long gone. Is fashion so extremely important that you have to wear your best shoes at all times, can't you wear decent shoes to work, then change them when you get there? Maybe I'm just to practical, or I haven't lived here long enough to understand.

After successfully negotiating the hill with Ella on my back, passing all those struggling men, I reach the bottom just in time to hear a loud 'thunk.' Mr. 'I'm too savvy to wear my boots to work' kissed the pavement. Ouch.

Ella and I hop on the train and arrive at pre-school just fine. Ahhh, I have two hours all to myself. Time to take my new American magazine (that John so kindly brought back to me from his trip to the states) and indulge in some good old fashion celebrity gossip. Just as I've lost myself in the magazine, a woman approaches me at my table. She starts speaking in broken German, and mentions something about 'work.' Then she ASKS ME.... Sprechen sie Englisch?!!!!! Umm, what? After living in a world where I don't speak ANY of the national languages, I am CONSTANTLY asking people around me if they speak English. (I've been told to just assume that everyone speaks English, but I still feel like that is a rude assumption, so I ask) But, I have never been asked if I am the one that speaks English. I nearly laughed at her, but I kindly said yes, and we continued our conversation. I guess I'm hoping she was perceptive enough to notice that I was reading a magazine in English, and was just being polite, but sometimes you just never know. It made me feel good that I am not the only one walking around the city asking, 'sprechen sie English.'

To top off my morning, as Ella and I are ascending the stairs to the train station, she tripped and banged her knee on the step. She wimpered a little but quickly recovered, until an elderly (kind of scary) Swiss woman started talking to Ella and grabbed her hand to help her up the stairs and that made Ella cry even more. The continued crying led this, what I naturally deemed as a 'crazy woman,' to continue talking at us. Not with us, b/c I couldn't actually talk back. She just talked at us. Eventually I heard her ask me if I spoke German. Hmmm, have I said anything to you yet? But a polite, Nein, would suffice. Or so I thought. I think what happened next is that she proceeded to talk at Ella about how it was so nice that Ella spoke German and how her mother should really learn German. She followed that up with some commentary of Ella wearing gloves and that she should eat Mentos. Yeah, I know, weird. Oh thank goodness, the train has arrived (on time, naturally) She looks to see where I'm headed and follows. I don't think so lady, and I take off to the next car. See ya.
After re-capping this story to John, he promptly told me I needed to learn the phrase, "Get away from my baby you crazy b**ch."  And so I did. "weg von meinem Baby bekommen Sie crazy b**ch"

And so, another eventful day in as an ex-pat in the snow. I'll do my best to embrace it for now.

Can you guess...

what month it is?


It seems as if Mother Nature has decided that snow in March is necessary. Can't say that I agree with her.

(sadly, I actually took this picture in January, but we lost our camera last week, so I pulled this one from our files. Our park looks just like this now, with an additional few inches added just for fun)

Friday, March 5, 2010

How the Swiss view Americans

During our weekly trip to pre-school we always pass this bar. 
I just recently discovered that it is an 'American Bar.' 
I should have guessed just looking at the cartoon man. 
Nobody in Switzerland looks like that.