Gratitude Friday: Our time in Geneva

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Thank you, Geneva.   We are grateful for our time here.   We have learned many valuable lessons.

We have struggled with a new language, cursing it, shedding tears, and jumping for joy when finally mastering a phrase or actually starting to form these foreign sentences in our own heads. While we still are far from French speakers, we value what it has taught us.  Humiliation (ourselves).  Appreciation (those who are kind to us even when we butcher the pronunciation).  Admiration (that the Europeans know so many languages).

We realized a language barrier isn’t always the biggest roadblock.  Most of the time, we delighted at the cultural differences.  Other days, we didn’t.    We judged when to bend the rules (still running at crosswalks sometimes) and when to really respect them (Bonjour, Madame.  Bonjour Monsieur).

We met truly interesting people.  The small table, 3 serving dishes, and 6-place setting we brought thinking we wouldn’t meet any true friends here, soon became a laugh.     We were fortunate and met oodles of fantastic people.   We learned from them.  We traveled with them.   We taught them about Halloween, 4th of July, and Thanksgiving.  They generously shared their customs with us.   Our way of thinking and understanding the world broadened and became different because of them.

At work and through my volunteering, we got exposure to having a professional relationship with different nationalities.  At first, we languished the difference in speed and approach, yet walked away later thinking maybe our workaholic mentality has a lot to learn from other countries.

We fell into the pace.  While we once spent life apart in different cities, we enjoyed precious evenings together.  Just us.  No obligations.  No dozens of activities to consider and balance.   We only had a working TV for half the time and didn’t miss it a bit (maybe had to do with my VT football team having such a cruddy season!).   We walked to the market on Saturdays we were here, just to buy a fresh chicken and some vegetables.  We attended every festival Geneva had to offer and came to really adore the fabulous street food that came with it…roasted boar anyone?     We embraced a leisurely during-the-week  lifestyle with less stress and chaos.

We got healthy.  We enjoyed not eating steroid-induced, processed foods.   Gabe ate full fat yogurt every day (that tasted more like ice cream) for breakfast or a “pain au chocolat” which is like a croissant stuffed with chocolate.   He still lost 15 pounds over here.    I loved the bread, getting fresh baguettes a few times a week.  I went from needing chiropractic care, acupuncture and massage weekly for chronic back pain, to having a body free of any maladies.   When I went home, my masseuse, she said that my back…it wasn’t the same one she used to treat back then.

We became weekend warriors, soaking up all Switzerland and the neighboring countries had to offer.  We learned to adore France and eat our way through most of Italy, traveling to each country over 10 times.   We also made it to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scotland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Turkey, The Vatican, Monaco, Greece, Spain, Thailand, and Cambodia.   And visited over 30 UNESCO world heritage sites.  What I never dreamed I’d see in a lifetime became a reality in less than 2 years.

We fortunately skied on the Alps many times.  And we watched it snow almost every single day the December before we had to move.   We continually witnessed amazing winter wonderlands that continually took our breath away.  Long periods spent in the car became a delight instead of a dread….just seeing the snow on those Alps and those tall pines…I always got giddy.  God did amazing work here in this part of the world.

We built our first home here.  Having moved a few days after the wedding, we are honored to have spent the first year and a half of our marriage in this place.  We are grateful for the strong foundation that this expat experience brought to us.  We wouldn’t trade it for a thing.

Genève:  Merci beaucoup, toujours.  Au revoir, ma chère ville.

Gratitude Friday: Sunny Saturdays

Last weekend, we actually split up to experience some of our bucket list items remaining.

Gabe skied with Finnish friend A at Les Contamines, France for the day.  With my feet still not up to par for skiing, I opted for a scenic train to Rochers-de-Naye.

The guys enjoyed the day at Les Contamines, with sunny skies and great slopes.

Views at Les Contamines

Views at Les Contamines

I also enjoyed my day on the train at at Rochers-de-Naye.   One of the things that I love about living here is how much people take advantage of beautiful days.   I talked about this mentality in my “Profiter” post, but here are just a few examples of what I saw at the main station on the way out to my day trip:

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Skiers and hikers of all ages, ready to board the train

The reason I selected Rochers-de-Naye is because of its 2000m position at the far end of Lake Geneva.  I heard the views were magnificent and you could see almost the entire lake from the summit.  Having confirmed sunny skies, I set off on the two hour journey.

I quickly learned that sunny skies at Rochers-de-Naye and sunny skies over Lake Geneva were two different things:

Evidence of the permacloud

Evidence of the permacloud.  Lake Geneva is below the layer.

Nonetheless, I thought the ambience was pretty neat with the mysterious cover.   Despite my ill preparations of not wearing snow shoes (oops), I had fun seeing the mountains.

Gorgeous views @ Rochers-de-Naye

Gorgeous views @ Rochers-de-Naye

I didn’t happen to notice anything peculiar about the above scene.  However, when I was showing my French teacher, she commented….”ah, Mount Cervin”.   If you look at the pointed mountain in the distance of the photo, that is the infamous Matterhorn.  Wish the view was this clear when we were in Zermatt!

Also of note, the summit hosts 7 Mongolian yourts, which each sleep 8 people.   The ski slopes are only steps from the little huts, so you can easily ski from your doorstep in the winter, or hike in the summer.

Yourt with blue door

Yourt with blue door

Yourt with red door

Yourt with red door

After about 2 hours, I got a little break in the clouds to envision what the view would look like on a clear day.

Lake Geneva starting to show

The blue of Lake Geneva starting to show

We are both grateful for the beautiful weekend to experience some of our final must-do’s!

Related posts:

The Adventures of Miss Widget and Her People: A New Year, Another Mountain, And A Gnome

Schwingen in Switzerland: It Wasn’t Premeditated, Our Hike Up Rochers-de-Naye

The Swiss Watch Blog: Gratitude Friday – Ski School

Gratitude Friday: UNESCO World Heritage List

This Gratitude Friday goes out to UNESCO.   I actually had no clue what UNESCO was before we moved to Geneva.  However, because of the sheer volume of places in Europe, it became something of note during our travels.  UNESCO helps identify and protect the places in the world that are most important to humans, both culturally and naturally.  There are currently 962 places in the world on the list.  Roughly 80% are cultural while 20% are natural.

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How wonderful that there is an organization which makes it their mission to preserve and recognize these sites?   While sites like the Notre Dame in Paris might not have trouble gaining support, think about those in underdeveloped countries like Angkor Wat in Cambodia that can now have the financial and administrative resources to preserve and protect these special sites for the world to appreciate?

And also, I wanted to express our thankfulness for being able to visit over 30 new UNESCO sites during our time as ex-pats.   This is something that neither one of us thought we would do in a 1.5 year span.   While our travels will be slowing down with our move back to the US, I wanted to find a way to archive the sites that we had been to, both before this experience, and then after.

So, I have created a page in the main menu of the blog listing Our UNESCO Tracker.  I’ll keep this up in the future as well.

Bon weekend, everyone!

 

Gratitude Friday: Christmas in the French Alps

We spent Christmas in Morzine, France, just a short hour’s drive from Geneva.   We were fortunate that some of Gabe’s colleagues and partners/spouses were also interested in spending a joyeux Noël skiing, so worked together to select a place and it ended up being the French Alps.

The village of Morzine, France

The village of Morzine, France

We couldn’t find a chalet for the group on short notice, but the hotel, Le Tremplin, ended up being a fabulous location:

Hotel Tremplin

Hotel Tremplin

The slopes literally run into the hotel, making it really convenient for the skiers

The slopes literally run into the hotel, with two different lifts, making it really convenient for the skiers

Image & vantage point courtesy of B

Image & vantage point courtesy of B

The hotel also had several restaurants attached and a cool patio.  While service wasn’t hot (they were still ironing out some beginning-of-the-season kinks), the heaters at least were.

Hanging out on Le Tremplin's patio

The guys with their beer

The ladies with our wine

The ladies with our wine

Le Tremplin's patio was nice for après ski action, with a band and a lively crowd

Le Tremplin’s patio was nice for après ski action, with a band and a lively crowd

Our room had a village view so it was neat to wake up to the sun rising and setting on the town:

Morning in Morzine

Morzine in the morning

Morzine at night

Morzine at night

The skiers had a good time, enjoying a nice variety of slopes accessible from the town.  While I wasn’t skiing due to an injury, I still was able to get access on foot to witness some of the beauty.

At the top of the Pleney telecabin lift

At the top of the Pleney telecabin lift, I saw some nice panorama

Gabe and friends skiing.  Photo courtesy of J.

Gabe and friends skiing. Photo courtesy of J.

One of the members of our group even organized a gift exchange so all shared in that on Christmas Eve night.  It was fun to open something!

Having fun at the gift exchange

Having fun at the gift exchange

We had phenomenal food, in the Haute Savoie style.   We enjoyed the hearty meals, although I wish I could have been skiing to burn them off!!

Rack of meat from L'Etale

Rack of whisky meat from L’Etale

 

Grilling food at L'Etale, an traditional alpine meal

Grilling food at L’Etale, an traditional alpine meal

We also had a nice traditional meal for Christmas Eve at a local restaurant, La Grange.   It was nice to have the treat of turkey which is uncommon here.

Thanksgiving dinner, image courtesy of B.

Thanksgiving dinner, image courtesy of B.

Our French turkey dinner

Our French turkey dinner

The cheese plate that came after dinner

The cheese plate that came between dessert and dinner

While we missed being with our family this Christmas, we are grateful for all God’s blessings, especially this special experience of seeing this beautiful area of the world.

Gratitude Friday: The Mayans Were Wrong

As the world was predicted to end by the Mayan clock at 12:11 Geneva time, we have currently made it 12 hours into a new era.

Real glad they were wrong about this one.

Real glad they were wrong about this one.

While to some the Mayan calendar was a joke, I think in light of this week’s events, gratitude in living a new day is certainly something to appreciate…..

Below are few of my favorite quotes & verses about gratitude and making each day count:

“It isn’t about getting  joy, it’s about giving  joy”  The film, The Bucket List.  

My take:  While a tear-jerker, I loved this movie…I thought it was a good lesson on the most important things in our lives and how we somethings get that mixed up. One of the most powerful scenes for me was when Jack Nicholson returned from the trip to his empty house full of beautiful things, and just started crying.  He’d learned that the stuff he’d spent his whole life earning and gathering was meaningless, especially without the human relationships he’d sacrificed.

“Instead of saying ‘today I have to’ for going to the store, doing errands, [insert thing you dread] switch and say, ‘I get to’ go to the store, do errands” - YMCA yoga teacher in Charlotte

My take:  At an early a.m. yoga, one of my instructors spilled out these simple yet powerful words and it stuck with me for quite some time.  Sometimes, I can live by my to-do list, feeling so burdened by the tasks I have to get done.  It can prohibit my “life in the present”.  But 99% of the world worries about their next meal. It certainly gives me a paradigm shift about complaining about anything related to the grocery store.

“Paint the walls of your mind with many beautiful pictures”  William Lyon Phelps

My take:  My church in Charlotte focused a lot on your thought life…saying what are your thoughts become your behavior.  They suggested that even watching violent movies can numb your sense of violence and negatively effect the way you treat others.  And I agree, focusing on positive and good things is a very healthy mind-set to have.   Thinking positive and staying positive can do some powerful things for your health and well being.

 “So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”  From Tuesdays with Morrie.   

My take: I really appreciate this advice Morrie gives Mitch Albom. Our culture is geared up so much towards busyness and consumerism.  Sometimes, stepping back from what’s popular opens up so many doors for true happiness.  Just because everyone’s doing it, doesn’t make it right.

“This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” Psalm 118:24

My take:  Every day is a gift and a blessing.  Some days it doesn’t seem like it, but each day we are given is precious.

Do you have any favorite sayings on living each day to the fullest?  If so, please share them in the comments section.

Bon weekend, everyone.

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.

Gratitude Friday: Scotch with Cousins

This Gratitude Friday, we are grateful for seeing family.   My cousin and her husband live in Edinburgh.  We had wanted to visit Scotland for awhile and it finally happened last weekend.

We had the chance to meet up at their local haunt, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.     The society is a private club which purchases full casks of whisky from local distillers to provide a special and rare taste to its members.  Thus, as a member, you can come to the society and enjoy tastes of scotch by the glass, or order them via post by the bottle.

Image courtesy of insidebars.wordpress.com

Image courtesy of insidebars.wordpress.com

Because of the agreements with the distillers, they don’t disclose which distiller/brand at the bar.  You simply have a guide indicating the characteristics of the whiskies, each given a very creative name.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of insidebars.wordpress.com

We got a kick out of the copy written to describe each.   Intense discussions were had on whether or not our whisky tasted like “a fine leather handbag”, “creme brûlée” or “a newly wrapped tin foil pack”.

My taste of

My taste of “in a sweetie shop”

We were advised  by my cousin’s connoisseur husband that if you like something, you have to buy a bottle fast.  They have limited quantities and the good ones sell out quickly.

It was very nice to catch up with my cousin.  It occurred to me it has actually been about 16 or 17 years since we’ve seen each other.    She has been in the U.K. for quite awhile, having met her husband in London.  They recently settled in Edinburgh about 2 years ago, finding a nice balance versus the bustle of London.    We also enjoyed meeting her hubby and getting to know him.  We don’t have a lot of personal contact when we travel, so this was very special.

Good times

Good times

We are grateful to the two for showing us such a lovely time in Edinburgh!  Although, I will have to fault them for now making Gabe so fond of Jura scotch.  We came back from Scotland many pounds lighter…in the wallet.

Bon weekend, everyone!

Gratitude Friday: A Blue Sky in November

This week, I have been in a bit of an Eeyore mood.   Not sure if it is November in Geneva, the perma-cloud the rests above the city for 1-2 months this time of year, the incessant rain, or the fact we are still in limbo with our next steps & move.

Image courtesy of tvtropes.org

But low and behold…..today, out came the blue skies, if even just for a bit.

I captured this shot on my iPhone last night while waiting for the bus:

I am thankful for a small break in the rain and clouds, especially this burst of blue & cotton candy in normally dreary November.

Bon weekend, everyone.

Gratitude Friday: Thanksgiving

We weren’t able to make it home this year for Thanksgiving.   It is the first time for both of us not seeing family during at least one to two days over the long weekend.  To boot, Gabe doesn’t get Thanksgiving off as he is on the European system.

Instead of being sad, we decided to infuse Thanksgiving into Geneva by hosting a traditional dinner at our flat.   Our group was comprised of 5 from the United States, 1 from Ireland, 1 from Finland, and 1 from Germany.  Oh, and a Swiss dog!   It was our first International Thanksgiving.

Those of us from the US made some traditional dishes –  green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.   It was my first attempt at making turkey and we used the recipe from this site.      Many thanks to the friends and family who sent me recipes over email since I was nervous.

My “Virginia biscuits” didn’t turn out so hot, due to the fact they don’t have self rising flour here.  Oopsie.    The pumpkin pie had a crater, but oh well. It still tasted like a piece of home, and was fun to share an ‘authentic’ Thanksgiving with our friends from other countries.

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While we miss our family and friends back home, we feel fortunate to have been surrounded by wonderful friends and good and plentiful food.

Bon weekend everyone!

Gratitude Friday: Our Veterans

The timing of our trip to Champagne was quite good from a historical appreciation standpoint.  The sunday of our departure was Armistice Day.  This day commemorates the ending of WWI in 1918, specifically on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
It overlaps with the US Veterans Day and the British Commonwealth’s Remembrance Day.  For France, thinking about WWI and Armistice Day, this war had a catastrophic impact – 1.4 million, or 4.29% of their population died.   An incremental 10% of their population were soldiers wounded in military action.

Witnessing an Armistice Day ceremony in Reims as we drove by at 11:15, within the 11th hour.

Our Champagne guide was a historical fiction writer and wove a lot of the history into our tour. We passed dozens of cemetaries and trench lines between our cellar visits, to develop our appreciation for the historical and military significance of the region.  The Battle of the Marne occurred right in the heart of Champagne country.  Verdun, where approximately a million soldiers lost their lives, is 100km away.

French graveyard containing fallen soldiers of WWI

British graveyard, looking like an English garden

In France, the Germans graveyard is absent of the white symbolism of peace

One of our guide’s remarks really stuck with me. He commented that if you say the name Champagne anywhere in the world, the immediate feeling is joy and celebration.  However, there has been such a history of sadness and bloodshed in this famous region.

Each town, no matter how tiny, has a monument for their men lost in the Great War.

I have a profound appreciation for our United States veterans who currently serve and who have served to provide a safe and free country for the rest of us.  My father and grandfathers included.   And with extreme reverence, I am thankful to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for my country.  I have only had the honor of knowing one solider personally.  But, as do many, feel indebted the family and loved ones for those who I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing, but gave much for me.
And specifically for Armistice Day, I am grateful we were able to experience this.   Reflecting on the pain and sacrifice that another country has made in its history was a good lesson for me to expound on my own way of thinking.  The realize the hurt and pain that others around the world have felt.  Really, we have more similarities than differences.
Bon weekend, everyone!