Dry Cleaning and Ransom Notes

Happily, this week I only have one load of laundry. So aside from needing to dedicate my entire morning to monitoring it, all is good in laundry land. Also, I learned our new friends A & A do not have a dryer in their apartment basement so I have decided to be very grateful for shelling out my $15 CHF to do be able to wash and dry.

Since I am mastering the art of laundry in Switzerland, it was time to move on….to dry cleaning. I had done some research on Glocals and found that the chains are best as a lot of clothes can disappear or get ruined in some of the Mom & Pop cleaners and there isn’t really any repercussion. You see, in Switzerland, there is no such thing as “the customer is always right”. Its really more like “get it our way”. In fact, I recently read that the one Burger King had closed down in Geneva. It is probably because the Swiss business owners revolted when they put up the slogan, “Have it your way”. They didn’t want it to become a trend and disrupt the system.

I researched and found a chain that is near our temp apartment and also has a branch near our permanent one. So, I brought in four of Gabe’s work shirts.

“Parlez-vous Anglais?” I asked the cashier.

“Non,” she replied.

However, it’s okay….I whipped out my homemade note (thanks Google Translate), and showed her. She started punching in numbers on the register and $68.10CHF appeared.

I frowned. “Non?” and pointed to the special price….only 4.50 CHF ($6 USD) for a man’s shirt.

She agreed, “Non…” and then came up 22.80 CHF.

“Oui!” I said, “Quand prêt?”

She replied, “Lundi,” which means Monday. So, one week to get shirts back. Yikes, I hope we get access to our shipment soon as now four of Gabe’s shirts are locked down in Swiss dry cleaning jail!

While my note worked this time, I’ll refrain from doing this at the UBS (the bank). I think they might not like my tactic so much there.


Our first visitors!

We had a really nice treat Sunday night when met up with Matt & Tara for dinner during their weekend in Geneva. They had been in London and Paris prior and were wrapping up their vacation by staying with some of her family over on the right bank in the UN area.

We met them over in the Parc de Bastions at the chess boards, and Gabe and I were able to get a quick game of checkers in prior to their arrival on the bus.

After I was slaughtered at checkers and Matt & Tara arrived, we checked out Demi Lune in Old Town (per the review on Lady J’s Musings) found it to be a really nice place to grab beers, wine, and some tapas.

Afterwards we took a scenic lake stroll and finished with some beers & ice cream.

Thanks for visiting us!!!

Caves Ouvert!!!

Caves Ouvert means – the cellars are open! And open for free tastings all day.

Since Gabe had traveled all week, it was a perfect Saturday activity that required no planning and we were ensured to not have to book a plane/boat/train and be able to sleep in our own beds that night (at least hopefully, if we didn’t have too much wine!).

Plus, it gave us an opportunity to try some local wines and learn a bit more about this region’s viniculture. So armed with a baguette and prosciutto in tow, we hopped on the bus full of anticipation.

We were lucky to meet a few Americans on our adventure – D and A & A (who had all been residents of Geneva less than 3 months), and thank goodness, they had actually done their homework with the route and best wines so we happily tagged along with them.

Trying chardonnay and pinot gris at Cave de la Chena

Gabe checking out the scene at Cave de la Chena. We bought some yummy olive spread here.

Next stop: Chambet – awesome band, great looking food, and friendly owners

Gabe and A, inspecting the grapes

A great day in the vineyards

One way to get around was the free TPG bus for Caves Ouverts. Woo hoo!

Happily enjoying wine at biofarm, Domaine Château L’Evêque

More cowbell!

This way to Château du Crest with petting zoo and tons of wine tasting

Loving the Swiss countryside

Our other mode of transportation…..

Overall this day gets a…

Gratitude Friday: Finding Friends and Familiarity

Today, we are 10 days into our Swiss Living adventure. I wanted to dedicate my future Friday posts to gratitude. This Friday, I am grateful for finding some places to fit in and new friends, especially with Gabe traveling for work half of this past week:

( 1 ) I joined the American International Women’s Club this week and they embraced me with open arms. I took a yoga class Wednesday morning (awesome place to do a down-dog, right outside 17th century windows, above). I can’t wait to do more events. They have a meeting later today and a “drop-in” coffee event on Monday.

( 2 ) Charlotte friend, S (part of S&S) who are joining us to live here in Geneva in a few weeks, introduced me to super-nice Lady J (check out her blog here) who recently moved here from Japan (and prior to that, Singapore) and we spent a morning last week enjoying an Auer coffee and a walk comparing notes on settling into the city. Thanks for the introduction, S!

( 3 ) We joined a gym – yeah!!! It felt great to get back in my routine I had established going to the Dowd Y in the mornings before work over the last 4 years. Yesterday, I was happy to discover that they have a 7am Thursday Disco cycle and happily enjoyed my first Disco spinning experience with lights, music and enthusiastic French instruction. It almost felt like home; however, the main difference being women in full jewelry/make-up in couture working out. i definitely scream American here in the real gym clothes.

( 4 ) I started checking out the four English-speaking churches in the Canton of Geneva and noted their times and addresses. I plan to make a circuit to check them out over the next few weeks to see which feels right. Anyhow, this past Sunday, I went to a Lutheran one in Old Town that meets at 11am. It was more traditional than what I am used to in Charlotte, but what was pretty neat is they had a completely International congregation – I think out of their 80-100 members, there are at least 20 nationalities – pretty cool. The service was Lutheran and music was sung/performed in English, French, and Zimbabwe and Swahili. I was very welcomed by everyone, especially a really nice Singaporean man who helped me know what to do (communion etc) during their service. They had a coffee reception afterwards in the basement full of homemade baked goods. Three women approached me to welcome me and to talk about how I was settling in….most of them Americans who had been in Geneva now over 10 years. I’ll continue to check out others, but they really set the bar high and i know I could return happily here.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Scoping out Le Cinema

Gabe and I love movies and we were really excited on our house-hunting trip when Audren mentioned that some movies are played in their original language with sub-tities. This meant that until we are fluent in French, there was hope for us going to enjoy our favorite pastime and actually understanding what was happening on screen.

And, thus, this week a highlight for us was actually figuring out how to go to a movie.

We went to the English speaking site, http://www.cineman.ch/en/ . Movies are marked according to what their original language is. In this case, we looked for a O for “Original”.

So, our first movie in Switzerland was Source Code for 36 CHF for two of us for a matinee.

Also, the Virginia Tech Hokie Bird must have also been to see Source Code. He left his tracks going into the theatre #5 where our movie was playing, as seen below.

Anyhow, it made me smile….I can’t wait until we come back, likely for The Hangover 2.

Big Bad Laundry Day

It’s true, i can now say I have cried over laundry. It is ironic…..when we were considering making the move to Switzerland, I started looking at other ex-pat blogs, and everyone had two cliche posts: one about how awful the laundry process is in Switzerland and the second on receiving at least one to two noise complaints typed in French from neighbors.

Ok, on to the laundry & basement part….

When we moved into the temporary place, we were given 3 keys. The guy who helped us in had shown us the basement upon our request. We assumed one of the keys got us down there.

After about 3 days of cooking all meals in the apartment, we realized we should probably take out the trash. We went down to the basement and tried to figure out where it should go. There were no other trash receptacles that looked fit for an apartment, no chutes, nada. There was a bit of recycling in one corner but I dragged it all out and it was definitely all paper, bottles, etc. In my “Living and Working in Switzerland” book, the cautionary phrase below is listed and we didn’t want to break the rules and were thus perplexed what we should do.

Gabe emailed our contact (in Connecticut by the way) and asked what we should do. We were told they’d look into it. 24 hours later, they said the management company reported the trash receptacle was just beyond the laundry room. What they were describing was the recycling room. We couldn’t take the smell anymore so I left our bag with the recycling, on the other side of the room. I hope that it qualified as correct and prayed i wouldn’t be taken to be shackled for trash neglect in the gallows of Old Town.

About a day later, I realized I should probably do the laundry since Gabe was going on a business trip and likely didn’t have enough clothes at this point. I knew it was forbidden on Sundays (no working of any kind in Switzerland on Sunday, even washing cars, yard work, or drying laundry) so I waited until Monday morning and blocked the morning off for it. I tromped downstairs and found…a locked basement. None of my 3 keys worked. I was unsure if it was still in the Sunday zone or not and they had put a special lock on it, so i waited, and checked every hour. At noon, the cleaning lady came with a guy from the building. He could speak a small bit of English, so I tried to explain that we couldn’t get downstairs. We walked and he tried all my keys. He informed me we didn’t have a key to the downstairs and if it was unlocked prior, then it was because negligent tenants had not fully closed the door behind them.

The cleaning lady was really nice and went and got a brand new key for me. Yippee, laundry time!! I tromped downstairs again. I got in the basement but this time the laundry door was locked!!! I tried all of my keys and this time, one worked if i pushed and slide my body into the door. Success!!!

I already knew European machines were much smaller, so I had subdivided the laundry into 3 loads. I guessed how much liquid detergent to put in (it was in mL) and I pulled the key card out (it had 50 CHF of credits on it) and stuck it in as instructed. The washing machine said it needed a certain # of credits to do the load but it didn’t match to what was available on the card/payment box. I just went over what I needed so I could do the full load and it deducted 6 credits. $6CHF (roughly 8 USD) to do one wash?

Nevertheless, my husband just needed shirts washed, so continued on. When it got to drying it was the same thing. It needed 31 credits but you could only buy then in 15’s. So, to get it to work, i had to buy 45 credits. However, the dryer wouldn’t do any more than 31 minutes at a time and you couldn’t use the leftover 14 minutes. After one go, the laundry was only halfway dry, so I had to buy another round of 3 for a total of $6CHF – $12 CHF in all which is about $16 USD for one load, and i still had another 2 loads to go….this was going to cost about $45USD to do 3 loads.

I felt like Steve Martin in “Father of the Bride” when he was ripping hot dog buns open in the grocery story because he only needed a certain amount of buns:

I ended up air drying half our stuff on the bed in response. I couldn’t open up the wine I decided I needed either, and so when Gabe got home, I greeted him with tears and a bottle of wine stabbed with a corkscrew motioning for him to help.

Today it is a bit funny, looking back, how upset I was. However, i think it is my first true experience with culture shock. In one of my books it defines interpersonal culture shock as, “The ‘loss’ of or changes to the (capable, humorous, supportive, etc) person you know yourself to be.” Never in my life have i had so much trouble with trash or housework or for sure, opening a bottle of wine. It has always come naturally. I guess I’ll just have to see what the next one will be!! Stay tuned for more crazy stories about mundane Swiss life!

A walk in the park

One of our goals in Switzerland was to spend more time in the Great Outdoors. We are able to do this in force in our temp house as our TV only has 2 English speaking channels – CNBC and European CNN. Since the news repeats itself every 20 minutes, then that is basically the limit I have watching it.

The really nice thing is that Geneva has wonderful parks. There are at least 6 large ones that are less than 10 minutes away.

In fact, we can use our public transport pass to take the little ferry from the Botanical Gardens at left, to the Parc des Eaux Vives below near our place….how cool. Visitors, you can be sure we’ll be doing this when you come over!

When we were in Paris last Fall, I remember my mom making a comment regarding the different lifestyles between what was common at home and in Paris. Basically, in urban life, particularly in Europe, most people don’t have yards, but they treasure/share/use the public parks just as though it was though their private backyard. I love this idea and look forward to using them. Below, see a snapshot of a few of our “backyards” :

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Parks featured:

The Parc des La Grange, I fondly call this “Internet Park” and adjacent Parc des Eaux Vives

The Jardin Botanique

The Baby Plage, baby beach, right across from our temp apartment

The Jardin Anglais, home of the flower clark.

The Parc des Bations, taken from our first trip in January

More on the park adventures later!

Date Night on the Lake

When we announced we were moving to Geneva, people usually had a word in mind that they associated with the city. I’d say the most common ones were related to its role in humanitarian and worldwide efforts – “The Geneva Convention” or “Red Cross headquarters”. What followed next was “expensive”.

And the expensive part is true. Geneva always ranks somewhere in the top 5 most expensive cities to live in the world, far more so that New York, Paris or London. However, for that expense, the Swiss enjoy the highest standard of living than anywhere in the world – Zurich being #1 and Geneva #2. Gabe and I are trying to learn the balance of this – to embrace the high quality of life available here, without going broke!!

In the US, there were so many restaurants that we loved that had entrees in the $10-$20 range. So we could frequently go out, have drinks with dinner and have a bill under $50 for the both of us. However, inexpensive dinners like this simply don’t exist in Switzerland. A hot dog on the street is about $10 CHF and lunch side salads average about $20 CHF. Thus, a mid-range dinner would cost about $100 CHF and a nice one around $200CHF, for two. Prior to moving, we planned 1-2 meals mid-range meals in order to manage our budget.

Our entire first week, I have made all our meals at home and we had our one budgeted meal for the week for Saturday lunch. We needed to get out of our little 1 BR flat and decided to get a bit creative and make a picnic to take and watch the sunset. We sat on the rocks by the baby beach to eat.

Later we moved up to the grass for a softer spot to watch the sunset.

We enjoyed the evening so much, we were questioning why we never picnicked in the park in the US since our home was so close to the largest park in Charlotte. We concluded it was because eating out didn’t seem so expensive enough to drive us to be creative. Thanks Switzerland for this lesson!

Saturday Morning in Carouge

We discovered Carouge on our very first trip to Geneva in January. It is located just outside of the centre-city and has a distinct Mediterranean feel that is different than the rest of the city. Our first house-hunter told us it was that it was designed by Italian architects working on the main part of the city but weren’t allowed to live in the city proper and so they developed this settlement as housing for themselves. i haven’t found that story anywhere else, but nevertheless, Gabe and I really enjoy hanging out here because of its quaintness and beautiful streets. In fact, we even tried to live there but there were no apartments available.

On Saturdays they have market day in the main square, Place du Marche. So we headed there for a coffee, a walk around the market and then lunch at Cafe du Marche as our one meal out for the week.

When we first got there, they were doing a flash mob of Renaissance dancing as can be seen above. Those in costume started, and all the plain-clothed brave market goers joined into the fun .

We loved all the dried fruits, cheeses, available on market day in Carouge. I look forward to buying flowers here once we get our permanent place.

For other Geneva folks, Carouge is just a quick 5 minute tram ride on #12 from Rive to Marche.

Settling In

Our first two days have been very good. I wanted to share a little bit:

Highlights :
-Our temporary housing is just one block of off the Jet d’Eau which is very conveniently located in a very scenic area. The flat is teeny tiny but it works for us while we wait on our lease to start. Especially since it has a little kitchenette so we can have meals at home as it is so expensive to eat out in Geneva.

Location of our temp apartment

Our first Geneva meal in our tiny temp kitchen

-I have already fallen in love with the farmers markets that are available daily all over the city. It is interesting ordering things in French, however. I am alright at the initial part of the order, “Je voudrais…..whatever” for what I want to buy. It helps that they have signs as can be seen above. What is tough is when they ask me how much of what I want. I am not really good at completely understanding when people speak back to me in French or even knowing the metric equivalents yet so I have gotten around this by using hand gestures. I am also weak at large numbers so when they speak the total to me without writing, I end up just giving them a larger bill that they need to get change. The grocery store is really easy comparatively as you can see your total!!! Hopefully I get better at this.

Plainpalais market

-We have gotten annual TPG (public transportation) passes and have already started to use them. Gabe took the train to work this morning and I did all my errands by hopping on and off the trams and buses. Gabe gets a car today but we don’t know if he’ll bring it home as we don’t have a parking pass and there are no spots this central in the city. Hmm.

-I can’t get a phone until we get a Swiss bank account and proof of residency. We are working on the bank account but aren’t sure if temporary residency counts as actual residency. In the meantime, I’ll just be available via email. Having no phone actually isn’t that bad, maybe I can slowly reverse the ADD that developed from checking my Blackberry for a third of my life.
-We don’t have a coffeemaker yet. Which requires us to go to Starbucks and get coffees to-go and to pay what is like $8 US dollars for a latte. This is going to be high on my list for activities this week as otherwise we will go broke on caffeine!
-We have tried a few programs we love like ABC app for ipad and Pandora and I am sad to report they don’t work outside the U.S. Gabe and I are still mourning but maybe we can find some replacements out there….