Christmasy Carouge

One of my favorite neighborhoods in Geneva is Carouge.   It just has a beautiful feel to it, with an influence of Mediterranean in its architecture and its many artisans for residents.  In fact, you can often see them working away in their shops, making everything from hand.

As December arrives, Carouge dresses up in the finest Christmas decorations to show its spirit, and also make its lovely shops inviting.  Last week, my photo group met up for a drink and to take some photos of this great neighborhood.   Here are some of mine:

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The moon and the Christmas tree

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An example of the lovely storefronts

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Frosty leading the way

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Many have beautiful garland like this

And also there are the Santas!  Every shop has one, but they are slightly different in dress.

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Some are even themed to their shop!

 

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Santa at the eyeglass store

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A pink Santa

 

Merry Christmas!!

 

 

Gratitude Friday: The AIWC

Last Friday, the American International Women’s Club hosted its annual Christmas luncheon.  This was my first time, and also sadly my last time as we’ll be leaving Geneva soon.

The AIWC (top floor) on the day of the luncheon.

The AIWC (top floor) on the snowy day of the luncheon.

Anyhow, wanted to reflect on this wonderful organization and how lucky I’ve been to be a part of it during our time in Geneva.

I had researched and found the AIWC before moving from the States, so my first week in Geneva, when Gabe was traveling to Belgium for work, and I didn’t know a soul, I walked up to join.    I was greeted by some friendly ladies, Shannon and Paige, who gave me English books and magazines and were so kind.

I took them home and read every word.  A magazine in English!!! With activities !!!!  And articles about living in Geneva!!! Joy!!

While the club started as an oasis for English-speaking, it became so much more.   I joined the hiking group at first.  Each and every Friday, I’d join up with several women to hike in nearby Geneva countryside.   It was very comforting to have that time to look forward to, for connections and also to ask my silly questions…where do you go to get alterations in Geneva?  Where do you buy vanilla extract in Geneva?  Plus, it was amazing to not have to worry about getting lost, how to navigate, and to enjoy the amazing scenery:

Hiking with the Friday HIkes Group

Hiking with the Friday HIkes Group

As time moved on, I joined several other groups: the photography group, Traveling Gourmets, and of course, took weekly French lessons.

Shooting near Bellevue

Shooting near Bellevue with the ladies from Photography Group

My Monday French class

My Monday French class on E’s birthday

Traveling Gourmets

Traveling Gourmets Christmas party

 

And it broadened…I soon was able to put professional skills to use by writing for the organization’s magazine, helping with PR and communications, and working in teams.

Teaching a blogger class

Teaching a blogger class

What stands out to me most is the diversity of women that I now call my friends.    The women vary in age from mid-twenties to 93.  And I’ve truly become friends with a lot of women from every generation.  Not to mention nationality.  Since English is just the common denominator, there are at least 50 nationalities represented in the club.   Typically, I can be the only American in the group.   I’ve learned a ton about different cultures, methodologies, and traditions.  It’s been priceless.

With my photography group leader

With my photography group leader, W, from The Netherlands

We are excited to go back at the beginning of the year to the USA and be closer to friends & family.  But, sadly, I’ve made some great friends here in Geneva, and it makes it hard to leave.  I’ll miss my time with them, learning and growing.  I’m just thankful for such a great experience at the club.

Bon weekend, everyone.

Six more pieces of “chocolate trivia”

While the Heidi and Olga were in town, we managed to sneak in a chocolate tour at Stettler Laboratories.   I had done a tour with the AIWC back in February, and it was really well done, so thought they’d like doing it.    Plus, the last time I did the tour, it was in French.   So, this time, we opted for English and I soaked up a few more facts that my previous visit.    Here is what we learned:

Chocolate can help get your full day’s servings of fruits & vegetables.   The cocoa pod, from which chocolately goodness is extracted, is actually a FRUIT!

The cocoa plant.  Kind of creepy.  Like a brain.

Chocolate can help your garden grow.    You can actually use the non-edible parts of cocoa shells for garden mulch.  Just be careful if you have a dog!!

Cocoa shell images courtesy of Homejelly.com

White chocolate actually isn’t chocolate.    It is a derivative of the delicious stuff, but really only uses the cocoa butter.

Learning about the differences in cocoa and cocoa butter

You can spread out the joy over many months.    Most chocolate keeps six months.   If it has cream or fruit-type ingredients, you should consume it over 8 weeks.  Good to know!  I always try to consume it within a week so it didn’t go stale or maybe that was just because there was fresh yummy chocolate in the house and I couldn’t resist.  But, I guess I can savor it a bit more now!

Chocolate can’t be kept as long as a fine wine, but longer than I had assumed!   Loved Stettler’s chocolate wine bottles, just in time for the grape harvest, come stuffed with truffles :)

However, speaking of storage, don’t keep chocolate in the fridge.  The moisture can break it down.  If you don’t have a cool, dark place, make sure you wrap it tightly so the moisture doesn’t reach it.

Mmmmmm. Tasty!

Like most hand-crafted goods, expect to pay more for quality chocolate.  Stettler is a very quality Swiss brand and all of the chocolate is made by hand.

The classic marmites for Geneva’s L’Escalade take a lot of hand-work.

If you would like to visit Stettler, you can call or email them to make an appointment for a visit.   The visit costs 20 CHF per person, but includes a lovely gift of the famous Paves de Genève at the end.
Chocolats Stettler
49 avenue Blanc
1202 Genève
Téléphone: 022 738 17 20
Related links:

The Swiss Watch Blog:   It’s Raining – I guess we have to go to the chocolate factory

The Swiss Watch Blog: The Land of Chocolate & Cheese

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Famous Swiss Foods – Chocolate (My first Stettler visit)

A Perfect Swiss Day

Hooray!   Isabella and Ferdinand have been here!    They had a wedding to attend in England and we were lucky that they came to Geneva to visit us beforehand.

Ferdinand had to work at the beginning, organizing a golf event.  Once work was done, on the weekend, the four of us set off on a Swiss adventure.

Our first stop was the Lavaux wine region.  Isabella can’t drink currently (she is expecting), but we wanted to show them this UNESCO gem nonetheless.  So, we took the Chexbres exit off of the A1 and descended down the village towns into Rivaz.   They were breathtaken with the gorgeous terraced vineyards as we are every time we visit.

Next stop…..Gruyères.

Ramparts of Gruyères

Walking around the château

Lovely little village

We skipped the cheese tour (we knew we were having raclette for dinner), but all did order Gruyère-cheese based dishes for lunch.

After Gruyères, we drove to Broc, home of Cailler chocolate factory.

Smelling the cocoa beans.

Branche candy bar machine

Ta da! The tasting room!

I just go straight to the good stuff at the end now. I am trained.

Discussing the merits of milk & white chocolate

Weeeeee!

 

 

After playing on the playground a bit, we headed back to Geneva.  We had a big night in store.

The Schwingen & Switzerland crew was hosting a raclette party before the big Fête de Genève fireworks.   Ferdinand and Isabella had raclette their last time in Switzerland, in Zurich, but they were impressed by S’s monstrous spread.

The spread at the S’s

Raclette in action

 

For dessert, S had “Creme de Gruyère” and “Creme Brulée” Movenpick ice cream.  She surprised her dad and me with a candle in each carton for a birthday surprise.  It was the loveliest ‘cake’ I have ever had.  If you have an opportunity, I urge you to try Movenpick ice cream.  Full of Swiss whole cream, its the real deal.

We left their house and were immersed in the madness that is Fête de Genève.  We say it is the absolute busiest, craziest time of year in Geneva.

We luckily found a spot for 12 of us, near the rides, and watched the magnificent hour long fireworks:

The beginning of the fireworks

 

Love this type!

Jet d’eau, in harmony with the show

What a perfect Swiss day!

 

 

Related Links:

The Swiss Watch Blog:   Cheese Wars

The Swiss Watch Blog:   It’s Raining – I guess we have to go to the chocolate factory

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Famous Swiss Foods – Cheese

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Famous Swiss Foods – Chocolate

The Swiss Watch Blog: The land of chocolate and cheese

The Swiss Watch Blog: Thanks for a Joyeux Anniversaire, everyone

The Swiss Watch Blog:   The fête commences

 

 

 

A day at the beach…including killer ducks

Hermance is located north of Geneva.  It is 30 minutes on Bus E.    I mentioned in a previous post, it is a nice little village, beautiful and charming.  Also, for guests, it can be a quick way to cross the border into France, as we did this spring.

Charming Hermance

It also has a really nice stone beach.   I visited this summer with my friend San Francisco Gal.  We made a picnic and enjoyed the sunshine.

A few things to know about the beach in Hermance:

-entry is 4 CHF for adults and 1 CHF for kids

-they have a snack shop, so you can purchase food & drinks (alternatively, we brought our own)

-its really windy since it is on a point…be prepared for temperatures cooler than Geneva

-its a rock beach as is common on Lake Geneva.   Maybe bring water shoes if you plan to do a lot of walking/swimming.

Hermance beach

-there are a lot of scuba divers.  They have special scuba showers and it is common to witness scuba activity such as this:

 

Scuba guys

-They have some ‘killer’ ducks.   It started as innocent as them pecking at my big toe, but then they quickly took over our picnic.   Have you ever seen anything like this?

 

 

 

Gratitude Friday: Lots of Profits

In physical therapy this week, my physio asked if I was going to the pool or beach that evening.  I replied I had lots to do.  Ironing.  Laundry.  Grocery shopping. Some marketing work.  To which he responded, “Il fait beau…profitez!”

The verb profiter in French sounds like it would mean profit.  My American perception immediately associated it with money / business.   However, the French tend to use it like “Enjoy” “Benefit” or “Thrive”.   Which is in fact, a better definition of a profit.

I love crossing things off my to-do list.  So doing things spontaneously can be challenging.  But, I was inspired and started thinking about where’d I’d go jump in the lake.

Unfortunately, the stormy skies rolled in which prevented a dip that night.   However, I took his advice to heart and decided I would profiter that week.    At the women’s club welcome coffee on Wednesday, I announced I’d like to see the sunflowers up close.  We had gotten a glimpse of them on the train to Montreux. Miles of them. And they looked marvelous to behold up-close.   A friend replied, “Ooo. I have wanted to do that as well.  I’ll drive”.   And that was that.   We were set to profiter of this glorious Geneva summer.

We set off at 7:30 from Geneva armed with my iPhone map but no real plan.  We had asked around to find the best place for sunflowers but our initial recommendation for Collonge Bellerive didn’t yield any yellow quite yet.   In driving out to Jussy though, we were overwhelmed with beautiful fields, dozens and dozens.  The best was across the street from Château du Crest, a winery we’ve been too a few times.   We tried to head back to Geneva twice but got deviated by even better fields & vantage points.

Here is evidence of our profiting :

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So, I ask you….how do you plan to profiter this week-end?    Bon weekend, everyone!

*If you decide to go take photos of any sunflowers or any crop, it is wise to wear long pants.  Just take it from me.  My legs didn’t profit too much after traipsing through the fields :)

Captain Gabe

When BuyClub came out with their motorboat vouchers, we scooped one up.  We thought it could be fun to take the parents out while they were here.   We knew it would be our only chance to take a boat out on Lake Geneva.   It’s apparently pretty hard to rent a boat / get a boat slip and any combination of having to do with driving a boat unless you are made of Swiss money.

So, the little four seater was about our speed. And price range.

We made a reservation for the latest spot of the evening, 6:30-8:30.   We planned for Gabe to join us after work.

However, he was having a hard time getting away.  We waited until about 7, but didn’t want to let any more time pass since we had a hard stop at 8:30.  My idea was that we could hang in the little harbor, pick him up, and swap drivers.    I surveyed the two passengers and asked if anyone was comfortable driving a boat.  After all, I never had.   And…..crickets.

So, I ended up behind the wheel.  Let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty.   I might have rammed it into the dock before we even took off.   The guy who was helping us cast off gave me a horrified look.  And we set off into the wild blue yonder of Lake Geneva.

My mother was audibly scared.  They can’t swim.  Solid checked to make sure there were life jackets on board.    We watched the cell phone. And waited.

Finally, we had saw via text that he’d parked and was on his way*.

We sailed back to the dock.  I may have forgotten to put the boat in neutral when we got him which may or may not have resulted in another scare by my mother and a new little skipper guy on the dock who was trying to help us.

Once Gabe became captain, it became much easier.  My mom chilled out.  We opened a bottle of wine.  And we cruised…

 

Twin, happy to see Gabe behind the wheel instead of me

 

She is laughing now. She was not laughing earlier.

The monks like to ride the boats too. This was a little bigger than ours.

Sun setting during our evening “cruise”

These people were real sailors.

Aye aye Captain Gabe

*We’d advise against driving & parking to do a lake front activity during rush hour.  Just take the bus.  It’s much easier.