Lyon, France

Post by Lauren

As you read from the post about Aix-les-Bains, we did a quick road trip to Lyon, France this weekend. We traveled with A & A and the four of us literally pulled together the details (including deciding to go) on Friday before we left.

The main choice to go to Lyon was driven by its culinary scene. However, we were really enamored by all the city’s charms and it ended up being a great overnight trip from Geneva. Below are a few photos from the weekend in France:

A picnic in Aix-les-Bains, France

Post by Lauren

This weekend, we did a quick overnight trip with A & A to Lyon, France.

Since we knew dinner would be an “experience” in Lyon, the culinary capital of France, we opted for a picnic to stop on the way.

We ended up in Aix-les-Bains which was a cute little French town on beautiful lake, Lac du Bourget.

Not a bad place for a picnic!

Gabe confirmed the water was frigid, just like Lake Geneva.

Gratitude Friday: Technologies of Comfort

Post by Lauren

This Gratitude Friday, I just wanted to give a shout out to the many really cool technologies that allow us to access the comforts of home.

First, there is Skype. We can’t say enough good things about Skype. We talk to our parents once a week, and also talk to friends during their lunch breaks or on weekends. The face-to-face contact makes the distance not seem as great! The only trick with these is the time difference, so we find that it is helpful to plan it in advance. And….if we haven’t done Skype with you yet, send us an email with what time works best and we’d love to set up some time to chat soon!

Second, there are digital photos and video. A lot of our friends are having babies. And the babies they have already had are growing. It’s really hard to not be able to meet them right away and is one of the things that makes us sad to think about how big they’ll be when we get back. But, it is so nice to get to see all their precious faces via online albums, Facebook, and YouTube. We are thousands of miles away but get to watch them grow. So a big THANKS to our friends and please keep it coming!

Third, there are TV “gizmos”. I’ll put the Slingbox and the Apple TV in this bucket. Apple TV allows us to rent shows and movies realtime from the US. It is a favorite Friday evening tradition for us. Also, there is our Slingbox from which we port US TV and can DVR favorite shows. I don’t know exactly how it works, the best way to explain it is that it is like magic.

So, this Friday…….thank you, technology!!!

Bon week-end!

A Page from the Swiss Rule Book: Recycling

Post by Lauren

I am all about protecting Mother Earth. However, here in Switzerland, it really requires a lot of knowledge and time to keep up with your recycling. I really don’t know how I would manage if I were working full-time and had to do all of this, especially with the limited hours that the bins are available for use and stores are open. Also, they have “garbage police” that track down any offenders via rooting though your garbage for clues about your identity.

So, here is a breakdown of what is required:

Aluminum – cans go to a special aluminum bin that is normally located in your neighborhood recycling area. Note that my closest one is on the walk to the women’s club, so I take aluminum on days I have French.

Batteries & Lightbulbs – you have to take these back to the store you bought them. Usually the bin is right before you get into the store. We haven’t had this happen yet but good to know.

 

Compost – you are required collect your natural food scraps and put it in the special bin for compost. They make special bags for this but I have been using the bags that my salad comes in to dump since the teeny bags are about 1 CHF each.

Glass bottles – these go to a neighborhood collection site. The closest one is 3 blocks away, on my way to the post office. Usually this bag gets quite heavy as I despise going to the post office. Note the bag can get very full if you have a dinner party with beer and wine.

WARNING – you are only allowed to do this within certain hours, 8a-8pm, and NEVER on Sundays or holidays. My friend Alysoun and her husband were severely reprimanded by two separate neighbors for breaking this ordinance on the last Swiss holiday during the middle of the day, which was on a Monday.

Milk bottles – these have to actually go back to the grocery store, they usually go to the milk section inside the store – there is a little hole in the wall you insert your old bottles into. This has to happen during store hours, 8:30-7pm and when you know you are going to the store. One day, I carried three empty milk bottles around all day because I knew I was going to hit the Co-op that afternoon.

Paper & cardboard – this goes in your building’s bin. If your building doesn’t have a bin, you have to tie it up neatly in a 1’ x 1’ bundle tied with twine and put it on the street a certain day.

 

PET / Plastic Bottles – these have to be collected from the store you brought it from since it is the liability of the store from making profit of selling plastic bottles. So when you go grocery shopping, you need to return them with you. Sometimes these bins are just outside of the store, sometimes they are in the store.

 

While I feel very eco-responsible, I do miss single stream like we had in the US. And I never leave the house without a bag of something to recycle. I am a continual bag lady. This is typically the size of the load I carry out each day:

 

 

We had been keeping everything in the kitchen for convenience:

However, I finally couldn’t take the eyesore and smell, so I invented a new bin using a Rubbermaid tote. It sits outside on our kitchen balcony.

Happy Recycling Everyone!

The Liger of Kitchen Appliances

Post by Lauren

The history:
Those who knew me circa 2006 knew that my absolute favorite animal in the whole world was a Liger. I even dressed up as one for the work Halloween party.

For those of you who haven’t seen Napoleon Dynamite, this wondrous creature that was half lion and half tiger, pictured below.

Part 2:

When you move to Switzerland, none of your appliances and electronics work on the electrical system, here, with the exception of chargers, etc.

What this means is you have to go out and buy new everything. The hard part is that they are generally 3-4 times what they are back home. So, Gabe and I had to seriously consider what appliances to “invest in” in our time here.

Obviously, the TV made the cut to purchase. I also added a printer, an iron, and a vacuum.

When it came to the kitchen, we bought a coffeemaker. We had to make a difficult choice on a warming appliance.

See, Gabe fell in love with my toaster oven when we were dating. A toaster oven was what I was used to – I don’t think we had a toaster when I was growing up. Anyhow, he loved how easy it was to warm up meals, or make things more than just toast. And when his roommate moved out in Atlanta, he had lived without a microwave in Atlanta for about 8 months and had managed. I wish I owed stock in Chipotle during that time.

While I loved the toaster oven as well, it seemed to be a big trade-off. I mean, our oven is almost the size of a toaster oven here. So, I really didn’t think it was saving on electricity or ramp-up time to start our oven like it would’ve in the US. But, there was something intriguing about the idea of ditching the nuke-machine.

In the end, we decided to go with the toaster oven. This is until we went shopping and much did our eyes delight find….drum-roll….toaster oven and microwave combos!!!

The Liger of Kitchen Appliances

I was skeptical at first, but couldn’t really turn down this fabulous idea down. I mean, can your microwave grill or microwave as the same time??? It is the “liger” of kitchen appliances.

I read up on the instructions….translating so that I could use it to toast the grain bread I normally had with my lunch. And I tried, doing exactly what these instructions said.

Something was lost in translation

Apparently, something was lost in translation as my result was a pop, smoke and some burned bread with black holes in it. Note: with the metal insert for grilling, it can cause much havoc if things aren’t done right.

Does anyone living in Switzerland have one of these liger microwaves and know how to properly use it? In the meantime, I am only using this bad boy for microwaving so I don’t burn our apartment building down.

Fondation Bodmer & Cologny

Post by Lauren

Last week, I took two “field trips” with my class to two local Geneva museums. Our professor spoke only in French, so I need to add a disclaimer that this post might not be perfect. Excusez-moi.

The first trip was to Fondation Martin Bodmer, located in Cologny, or better known as the Geneva Beverly Hills. Its a really nice overlook of the lake, in addition to being an amazing personal collection of historical archives, mainly to literature and scrolls, etc. Bodmer was a private collector and this museum only opened as detailed in his will, as an attempt to preserve and keep it in the same place.

Here is a sampling of some of the ‘ ordinary ‘ pieces in his collection :

Original sheet music from Beethoven and Mozart

First editions of Shakespeare’s plays Hamlet and Macbeth

Scroll notating gifts received by Queen Elizabeth I

First edition books – Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (left) and Dante (right) with Inferno being bottom right

One of the 21 Gutenburg Bibles left in existence

First edition hand scribed works by Plato and Aristotle

Egyptian Scrolls

And, just a five minute walk down the street was Lord Byron’s house in Cologny. The rock below is where he wrote and overlooked the below view of Lake Geneva.

Mary Shelley also came up with the idea for Frankenstein while staying at his home in Cologny. Maybe it was the ominous clouds that inspired it……..who knows what I am going to come up with if it doesn’t stop raining here :)

Say Hello. Wave Goodbye.

Post by Lauren

Canadienne Buffets will simply never be the same. Yes, one of the original fab-five, D, is leaving Geneva to return back to the US after her summer internship with the Lutheran World Federation.

It is definitely a bummer for us as she was one of the first three friends we made in Geneva. However, we knew that goodbyes like this would happen during our time here, as Geneva is a transient city by definition. With 40% foreign residents, people often come and go because assignments usually aren’t permanent. So this week, we sadly learn it firsthand!!

L hosted a goodbye party in honor of D this weekend, with the theme “sticks” since the joke was that she is returning to the sticks (to continue studies at UK, in Kentucky). A, D and L came up with this idea that everything had to be served on sticks and I’d have to give them major kudos – it was delicious and memorable.

So, it was a really fun way to bid adieu to D and wish her a bon voyage back to the US. We’ll miss her a lot.

The silver lining of this coming and going thing about Geneva is good friends from Charlotte, S and S, moved here this week. We were really glad they are getting settled well and look forward to great times Swiss style with them.

Gratitude Friday: The Great Outdoors

Post by Lauren

One of the things I am so grateful for in Geneva is the beautiful parks and green spaces. I wrote about this on a previous post when we first arrived.

However, I am just continually impressed by how the community uses these spaces, especially in the summer when the fountains are on for the kids swimming pleasure. Even better, the ville de Genève hosts tons of extraordinary events outside. These don’t just happen every week, or once a month. There is something literally every day and usually two happening in the same evening. Sadly, we haven’t been able to experience it much this week because of the monsoons, but here are just two ways we have enjoyed it in the last 2 weeks:

# 1 – Free concerts in Parc a la Grange – these are twice a week – Wednesdays and Fridays for the entire summer. There is seating, or you can choose to bring a picnic. Large groups of people meet and picnic together, listening to the music. Gabe and I biked there and enjoyed a little picnic for two.

# 2 – Free movies in Parc Perle du Lac – this happens four times a week. Gabe really wanted to see Top Gun, so we spread the word and had a really nice evening with A & A, D, and C & M last Saturday night.

We loved the spirit of the movie-goers. Someone dressed up as an air-traffic controller, and others brought sparklers. However, the funniest part were the Swiss spoofs on Top Gun they did before hand. You can see the spoof videos as well as more detail on the evening here on A’s post about the evening.

We look forward to trying out the other things but in the meantime, we are just so thankful that Geneva offers these programs and we get to enjoy them in the beautiful open air, gratuits!!!

Bon weekend, everyone!

Rain, rain go away…..

Post by Lauren

When it rained in Charlotte, it wasn’t a big deal. I mean, it was a good water cooler topic, with people commenting, “ummm…i think its supposed to rain today” and “man, did you hear that crazy storm last night?” but it really wasn’t a show stopper. Mainly because we had cars there. And you’d hop in your car that was really close to the office entrance and drive that car to a grocery store and park really close and then home which was virtually by your door or even completely sans rain with a garage. And you could keep rain gear in your car if the occasion arose to need it.

And as we continue, this post is not meant to discourage public transportation. I am a huge fan and it would rank in one of the top 3 reasons I love Geneva. But, I am certainly developing a whole new appreciation for city-dwellers all over the world. They have this completely different life than what I am used to.

And……sometimes it is not glamourous.

I got my first taste of this when I walked / trammed / bussed home a large house plant from IKEA over the course of a 2 hour adventure. Quite different from my experience buying a plant in the US. Before, I’d roll up to the Home Depot about a mile from my house, pull my car really close, use a cart to load it, and I was set. It would take 10 minutes tops and I wouldn’t break a sweat. A little different carrying a fern a mile and then getting boxed into a tram and needing a rescue effort to get out and home.

And, now, I am learning from rain. Life goes on when it rains, but in a city, it is quite different. You have to be prepared, or else be drenched.

#1 – You have to remember your umbrella. And if you live on a lake, there is a chance of rain most days, so you really should bring it with you at all times. And since we don’t use cars, this means – carry on your person. Here are the contents I already have in my bag this week:
- normal purse stuff – wallet, phone, camera, passport, etc.
- gym clothes and shoes – since i go before French, and then have to carry my clothes and shoes for the next 12 hours. This would be better if Globo Gym didn’t require a clean set of shoes upon entrance, but it is what it is and i have to carry them around in my purse all day after my session
- toiletries from showering at the gym – makeup, hair, comb
- my school books, papers, pens, pencils, highlighters, French dictionary, reading glasses
- my breakfast and lunch for the day – the lunch line is too long with our 15 min break
- my umbrella and rain coat
It makes me tired listing this out. The umbrella and rain coat are the items that really push it though.

# 2 – You have to accommodate your umbrella at all times. On the tram, while you are walking if its not raining anymore but the thing is wet, in stores ( got yelled at for bringing mine in store the other day), and when you reach your destination – whether it be temporary or permanent.

# 3 – You have to navigate your umbrella. On a city street, this can get awkward. I had a showdown with a lady in my neighborhood on the teeny sidewalk. Who was going to jump of the sidewalk and risk death by bus? I ended up raising mine really high to the sky to avoid either of us going into the street…not easy when you are 5’ 2”. However, I am worried I might lose an eye over here to an umbrella showdown.

# 4 – You are permanently damp and icky. But at least everyone is. Just today, I had an appointment with the chiropractor at 6:30. It required an hours worth of connections to get there. It just so happened one of my transfers that I wasn’t familiar with was in the middle of a big downpour burst and doing the turmoil, my umbrella broke and I was soaked to the bone. Good thing I had my gym clothes with me, as guess what I did?

There’s always a bright side to being a bag lady I suppose.

A few tid-bits of Genève history

Post by Lauren

Now that I am a student, I am learning more about the history of Genève. We actually have some cultural excursions built into our summer French course. On Monday, a professor gave us a walking tour of the area around the University. She said it was the last time she was going to teach us anything in English, so I figured I better report on this one as my facts might get a little screwy in the future when I am trying to digest them en français.

Henri Dufour was one of most important men in Geneva history. He was a Swiss army officer, and engineer and topographer. He helped found the Red Cross along with Henry Dunant.

Our professor said that the windows along Rue de Confederation were designed to maintain the same perspective the entire length of the street. Good to know if I ever decide to paint it!

 

 

T

he population of Geneva doubled by 10,000 in one year in the 16th Century as French and Italian Protestant refugees fled from their countries into Switzerland to escape the massacres. Since it was a walled city for its own protection, they ran out of room and had to go upward. See the different stories and window patterns as you go up?

Note, that in the Reformation, that is why Geneva became the center of commerce and trade – it now housed an extraordinary amount of watchmakers, jewelers, & bankers.

It still be it is harder to find an apartment now in Geneva than back in the day. Current vacancy rate is 0.17% – yes, that is a tenth of 1 percent, not 17%.

Place de la Fusterie and Molard used to be actual ports. Water once was were cafés now are. There were different ports for different goods, like water, food and stone.

Place du Molard, current times

Place du Fusterie, current times

They had to eventually push the Rhone out to make more room for the population. Temple de la Fusterie was a French Protestant Temple after they pushed back the water. Globo Gym is located directly between these two. If only they knew back then.

Pierre du Nitron

We have seen this little rock many a day, but never knew its significance. It was brought in by the glaciers and used to be a place for human sacrifice in the Iron Ages. Later, when the mountain elevations of Switzerland were being mapped, this rock was apparently used as a surveying basis for determining heights for all of Switzerland.

Okay, that is it for now as I need to be a good student and study more French. Au revoir!