The Apéro or Après-Ski….Two Alternatives to What We Know As Happy Hour

When we lived in The States, we frequently had “Happy Hour”.   Whether it was with colleagues or friends, it was common to get together after work, enjoy a drink and catch up.  In the US, it is also common for bars and establishments to have Happy Hour Specials such as dollar beers or half priced glasses of wine, etc.

In France, they have a similar tradition, however usually without the discount.  We’ve had the pleasure of experiencing them before but while in Morzine for Christmas, we feel like we’ve really gotten a lot of practice!

The first is “L’Apero”, or The Apero.    L’Apero is the French bridge between your normal busy day and the start of the evening.   Enjoying an ‘aperitif’ before dinner is classified as a gesture of health or well-being, to start your appetite.   The typical aperitif consists of :  champagnes, martinis, vermouths, sherries, or a light or sweet white wines, as well as small snacks like olives, chips or nuts.  A fruit juice is also an alternative to the alcoholic beverages.

Having Champagne for an aperitif

Having Champagne for an aperitif

In ski towns, the apero has a fun spin in terms of the “Après Ski”.   Literally translated, it means ‘after the ski’.  Crowds gather at the most popular bars to start the night.    Here the drink selections are more broad, including beers and mixed drinks.

The Après Ski buzz

The Après Ski buzz

Enjoying the Après Ski with friends

Enjoying the Après Ski with friends, including a special birthday celebration

Finally, after dinner, it is common in France and other European countries to be served a digestif.   Many times this is included with the meal, and is intended to help your food settle.   In Greece, it is raki or ouza.  In Italy, many times it is limoncello.  Here in France, we had homemade apple and pear liquor as well as a hot rum digestif.

While I have heard of “the night cap”, an alcoholic beverage consumed before going to bed, in the US, I typically know it as a sleep aid vs. a digestive aid.

It sure is hard to do this research, but we are happy to do it for the benefit of the blog!  Happy New Years Eve, everyone!!

Happy Halloween from Geneva

Halloween isn’t a very recognized holiday in Switzerland.  Thus, it is fun to bring some of US traditions to Geneva.   We were able to celebrate with friends and get a little bit silly with costumes and “scary food”.

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Hope your Halloween was great!

Eu Aceito: The Brazilian Nuptials

The week after the Ohio wedding came a second wedding for the couple in Brazil.  Since D is from Brazil, there was a blessing/ceremony of the marriage for her family members that couldn’t make the trip to the US.

Eight of us, not including the bride and groom, made it to the Brazil ceremony.   Beyond a few Greek weddings, this is the first multi-cultural wedding I have attended, so I thought I would share a few customs we noticed:

1 – Contrary to the USA where people are supposed to arrive a half hour prior to the wedding time to be seated, in Brazil, it is completely normal for the bride to be late.  Guests arrive late in anticipation of it, typically a half hour.  In fact, this wedding started over an hour after the time on the invitation.

The groom waiting for his bride.  Good thing they were already married in the US or he might be sweating it :)

2 – Instead of a traditional wedding party where everyone dresses the same, the important people in the couple’s lives are paired up, in duos called padrinhos.  This can be siblings, cousins, or important friends.   They don’t dress in the same bridesmaids dress, or suit, just in what they have chosen.   They stand at the altar, but seats are provided to sit in during the ceremony.

The lovely couple: the brides’s sister Miss L and cousin D. Image courtesy of Miss L’s camera.

3 – While USA flower girls are tiny, flower girls can have more of an age range in Brazil.

The lovely flower girl.  Image courtesy of Miss L’s camera.

4- The parents share a prayer at the beginning of the service.

5 – The weddings are more formal than the normal US wedding.  I actually wasn’t aware of this and had a little confusion thinking we were wearing the same dress as Ohio and didn’t bring anything suitable.  I passed in one of my dresses packed for Rio.     However, 99% of guests were dressed in their best suit and ball gown.

6 – After the ceremony, the samba music starts rocking. They are very talented and their rhythms inspire instantaneous dancing.

The bride’s sister had hired this band as a present.

So instant, in fact, that everyone dances during the appetizers and before the dinner.  And their feet can move!!!  We were so impressed, especially by Awesome Son’s fast footwork.

Bride, rocking to samba.

7 – Similar to throwing the bridal bouquet, in Brazil, the bride throws a cluster of Santo Antonio dolls at the eligible girls.  This Saint, Antonio, is whom you pray to when you want to get married.

Image courtesy of casamento.art.br

D  threw one of these in Ohio.  As soon as it is launched, all the individual saints fly off into the crowd, at least four or five of them.   We Americans thought that it was a pretty neat trick for appeasement of many women who want to be married.  But the little girls got more sad they didn’t ‘win’ the game because they were dolls!

In fact, I had to console one little granddaughter of Aunt Foxy Floridian, letting her know that it was okay….she shouldn’t want a husband quite yet, they are a lot of work!  (just kidding, my love)

8Caipirinhas, the national drink of Brazil, are served in addition to beer and non-alcholic beverages.

Image courtesy of wikipedia

Awesome Son has a caipirina in his hand!

9 – Guests are given sweet cakes called casadinhos, or “marry well” cookies.  They are sweet cookies melded together with a sweet sticky center.  It is said that whomever eats one shares in the same luck as the bride and the groom.  D’s aunts & Mama I brought these to Ohio for everyone to partake.  And they were delicious!!

10 – Things get crazy after dinner at Brazilian weddings.   Dinner was served a little after midnight, and shortly after eating, the sisters handed out fun dress up items for us to “get crazy”.  It was like New Years Eve!

Me and my garb

The groom with his faux tie and hat

Aunt Sensuous Siren

Aunt Foxy Floridian

Everyone convened to a little glass room where a late night DJ was stationed to continue partying until the early morning.  Confetti cannons started booming and everyone danced the night away.

The little glass room was rockin’

It is said that Brazilian festivities don’t stop until all the food and booze run out.  We only stayed until 2:30am  so I can’t personally vouch for this, but I think the rest of the crew got in around 5:00am.

And tradition # 11  didn’t happen. Gabe had read the below custom on this site, so he was disappointed his brother didn’t ride the donkey.

“Very interesting wedding tradition in Brazil is that the groom has to subdue an unruly donkey. In such way he should to prove his worth as a responsible husband. The Brazilians called this custom as Bumba-Meu-Boi. This custom appears only in some parts of Brazil.”

The blog post is named Eu Aceito as these are the vows one would say (like “I do”) in the Portuguese language.  B, the groom, realized a few minutes before the ceremony that this information would be helpful.  He found D’s father who gave his son-in-law a quick lesson on when and what to say during the ceremony!!

Gratitude Friday: Our new family member!

This Gratitude Friday, I am excited to announce that we have a new family member!  Gabe’s brother, B, just got married last weekend so his lovely bride, D, is officially one of the fam.

As far as in-law families go, I really lucked out with mine.   And we feel very blessed to have D joining the Johnson clan.  She is energetic & colorful, and adds a lot of fun anytime we are all together.  We love learning about her Brazilian heritage, hearing her stories, and enjoying her delicious cooking.  Most importantly, she is the perfect partner for B.

So, we are so very happy for them and for our good fortune at having her for a sister-in-law.

Here are a few snapshots from their nuptials, which took place in Rockford, Ohio last weekend.  Many of D’s Brazilian family and friends joined us so it was a really wonderful celebration of love and joy.

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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

 

 

 

Le Quatorze Juillet: Bastille Day

As I mentioned, when we booked our trip to Provence, it didn’t occur to us that it was the Bastille Day holiday weekend.    Bastille Day is known as La Fête Nationale.  The equivalent would be our 4th of July Independence Day.

I am sure Paris it must have been nuts, but it ended up being a nice time to visit Provence and the countryside for us.   It’s always fun to see how another culture celebrates.

As we mentioned yesterday on the blog, we witnessed lively music & the running of the bull (singular) in the town square on Friday night, the eve of the holiday.   Saturday night, we had heard there would be fireworks for le quatorze.  Since we missed them living in Geneva for the 4th of July, we looked forward to celebrating with the French for their Independence.

For the evening of le quatorze juillet, we strolled around town a little bit and then had a divine dinner at La Maison Jaune.

St. Rémy in the early evening

Our table on the terrace at La Maison Jaune.  We could hear the music in the square that prefaced the fireworks. 

We concluded dinner with perfect timing at 10:00pm, the time the fireworks were due to start.   We had a general concept of where to walk to view them display, but ended up bumping into a walking parade so we just joined in.  We figured it would be simple enough to find them that way!

Everyone was dressed in their red, white and blue.   The children were dressed adorably, proudly holding their paper lanterns.   Paper lanterns are quite commonly carried for European holidays.  We saw our first last year on la premiere aout, Switzerland’s Independence Day.

We strolled along with the crowd, enjoying watching the celebrations:

When we reached the stadium / park, it was just in time for the commencement of the feu d’artifice (fireworks in French).   We found a nice spot on the edge of the sidewalk and enjoyed.   The show blasted in conjunction with Whitney Houston music, which we found to be a very entertaining addition.     All in all, it was a very nice fireworks show.   Not as big as Geneva’s hour long Fête de Genève production, but a very nice showing for a small town such as Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

Fireworks for Bastille Day

This is now the third “Independence Day” we have seen!!   We are grateful for the experience to have witnessed it.

A belated Joyeux Bastille Day to all our French readers !

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