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.

Gratitude Friday: Musique Gratuites

This Friday, I want to express my gratitude for all the free summer concerts that take place in Switzerland.    The summer is filled with awesome music.

While Twin & Solid were here, they got to experience three neat musical experiences:

FETE DE LA MUSIQUE – Geneva – late June – takes place over Friday, Saturday & Sunday in Old Town and stages throughout the city

We grabbed a table in the park across from the Art & History museum and enjoyed our own bottle of wine listening to International music.  We heard two acts and then S & S met up with us.  From there, we walked around taking in drums, Indian melodies, and settling at a stage overlooking Parc des Bastions where we met up with A & L.

Listening to Music from all over the world at the Fete de la Musique in Geneva

I really enjoy Fete de la Musique.  I don’t know if I would plan to stay in town for it, but if you are around, I’d encourage you to go a day or two.

CULLY CLASSIQUE – week long festival on the banks of Lake Geneva in the adorable town of Cully

This one was a surprise.  We picked up a brochure earlier in the day and once we saw an act started at 6:30pm, we impulsively hopped on a train to check it out.  A band called “Old Shit” from Switzerland was playing tropical music.  Since the band was francophone, it was pretty neat to see the talent the singer had singing in his second language.   It was so good that we changed our evening plans and stayed right in our cozy lawn chairs.

A great spot at Cully Classique

What a view at Cully Classique

Dusk falls on the band and Twin & Solid (to the left of the stage)

MONTREUX JAZZ FESTIVAL - first two weeks in July, encompassing three weekends.

The Montreux Jazz Fest is Europe’s biggest jazz festival, and attracts a lot of mainstream acts.  Alanis Morrisette, Van Morrison, Tony Bennett, Pitbull and Bob Dylan included a few of the shows.   However, they have a continual line-up of free music.  We checked it out Monday, the day before  their flight back to the US.   It was raining, but didn’t stop the shows.

Before the storm

Prepared for the weather

We found some cover….

Umbrellas galore.  I was thinking of my poor USA friends with 100 degree temps as we shivered in the rain.

And, it’s not over!  Montreux Jazz Fest is on for another two more weekends.
Also, in July & August, there is more music during the Musiques en été (Music in the Summer) festival.  You can find the line-up here.  Our favorite is the Ella Fitzgerald Stage – its free and a short walk or bike ride from our flat.

Bon weekend, everyone!!

 

Related Links:

The Adventures of Miss Widget and her people:  Jouez Je suis a vows  (more about the pianos)

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Montreux Jazz Festival

The Swiss Watch Blog:   Fete de la Musique

The Swiss Watch Blog:   Gratitude Friday: The Great Outdoors

An Impromptu 4th of July Picnic at Genève Plage

Today is the 4th of July.   As I have mentioned, sometimes it can be quite strange living somewhere that doesn’t celebrate your typical holidays.   Gabe is also out of town on business.  Since he doesn’t get US holidays (only Swiss), he had a work trip starting Monday and landing at midnight tonight.

I didn’t want to let the day escape without celebrating.   Luckily, some of the other ladies were up for getting together to recognize Independence Day.

M had suggested Genève Plage (Plage = Beach in French).  She and some of her mom group friends had gotten season passes as it provided a good kid-friendly meet up place, just about a mile outside of Geneva.  I had never been before, so I was excited to try it out and purchased a single entry at 7 CHF.

A view of Genève Plage from the water

So, we found a nice shady spot to spend the afternoon.

Our 4th of July Headquarters

Everyone dressed in fun 4th of July clothes.  The moms of us had to get their kid’s clothing on trips to the US long before the actual 4th of July.   Something that you take for granted!

All the little ones were dressed so cute

Miss Yoga is from Japan, but we were so glad she joined us for our Independence Day celebration.  Check out the yummy food she made, blending Japanese tradition with USA flair.

4th of July bento sushi – white rice, orange crab, black seaweed and little stars!!  Cute and yummy!

Caprese bites and deviled eggs with fish eggs

K made cherry pie pockets, so that they’d be easier to serve.  She pitted the cherries and made them from scratch since ‘pie filling’ doesn’t exist.  They were incredible!  I scored an extra to bring home for Gabe when he got home at midnight.

Cherry pie pockets

I made Red, White & Blue cupcakes.  Mama Mia had brought us some Red Velvet Duncan Hines cake mix in April, and I imported some cream cheese frosting from the States my last trip.  Since they didn’t have blue icing at the store, I just used blueberries.

Red velvet cupcakes for red, white and blue

P having some fun with the cupcake

We also had lots of fresh fruit, snack mix, and nuts to complement the red, white and blue.

After eating, a few of us went swimming.   The beaches in the Mediteranean can be quite different to some who have never seen stone beaches.  I remember when we went to Greece, it was Gabe’s first time seeing one.

Swiss lake beaches are quite similar.   When his family came in March and we went to Hermance, it was also a surprise.  Geneva also has stone beaches, as that is what is natural vs. the sand.  The pro is that you don’t get sandy.  The con is that sometimes it hurts to walk on.  Also, ‘rock’ castles don’t turn out so well.

Stone beach of Genève Plage

Genève Plage has a pool and a waterslide.  It was really busy that day, so I opted to get my thrills jumping off the high dive into the lake.

I did the middle section…the top one was closed.

The water wasn’t actually that cold this year.  Must have been the warm weather we had last week?

As for now, its 8pm Geneva time and I am listening to the rain pour down outside.  I’m glad we got our little celebration in before the storm.   Hopefully everyone back in the US is enjoying their Independence Day.  And a huge shout out of thanks goes out to all our servicemen for all you do to protect our freedom!

Related Posts:  

The Swiss Watch Blog:     Canadienne Buffet: USA Style

The Swiss Watch Blog:     A fantastic 4th of July with Henry Birmingham

Swiss Wife Style:  Party Recap

The Swiss Watch Blog:     Happy Swiss National Day

The Swiss Watch Blog:     Valentine’s Day and Other Non-Events

 

Discovering Geneva: Jet Lag Prevention

When Twin and Solid arrived, they were quite weary from the overnight flight.     After we got to the apartment at 9am, I made some frittatas for energy.    Within the hour, we were off to start exploring.   You might think that this is crazy to start touring around if they were tired, but daylight is a great remedy for jet lag.  When your body grows tired, the sun tricks it into thinking it should be awake.

I have a strict “no sleeping before 7pm” rule.  Also important is diversion and numerous distraction activities.

So, how do you do this in Geneva??

We stared out by climbing Mont Salève in a cable car.  This helped because of the sunshine and the unique panorama.

Enjoying the view at The Salève

Next, we moved onto the Flower Clock in Jardin Anglais.   This was particularly interesting to the guests because of their love of gardening.

The famous Flower Clock

We strolled along the lake and admired the pianos they had sitting out for the upcoming music festival that was to happen over the weekend.   People are encouraged to spontaneously play if they wish.  We saw a tourist playing this particular one, and later saw a professional playing Top 40 music near the Molard bus stop.

One of the pianos

We then took a little mouette water boat from Eaux Vives to Paquis and enjoyed an ice cream.

Ice cream break = content travelers

Finally, we went to the Swatch museum.   I am afraid being indoors at the Swatch museum might have done them in, as we decided to return back home for a little rest.

We had intended to have a lake picnic, but the weather had another idea.   The thunderstorm chased us inside and we had an early dinner home instead before they crashed at 7pm.

Despite my best efforts, there might have been a few premature head nods and sleeping on the TPG.   I don’t condone this behavior, so future guests better watch out!!

“resting” on the bus

However, we were nice and let them sleep in the next day.  At least our cruelty enforcing the “no sleep” only stands the first day.

 

Related articles:

The Swiss Watch Blog:  The cure for jet lag