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.

McDonalds Europe

McDonalds, whether you love ’em or hate ’em, actually does a good job with globalization and market localization. In Europe, they tailor to what the market likes for breakfast.

No Egg McMuffin here. Just a cappucino & a croissant. Oooo la la.

It is also important to source local ingredients.  The Geneva McDonald’s ensures to customers that the beef, potatoes and bread are all made in Switzerland.

This translates: 100% pure Swiss beef, potatoes and bread

They know what tastes will be popular with their local market.    In Switzerland, they also have a McZüri which is a veal burger.

Image courtesy of theinformedvegan.com

Speaking of tastes, sandwiches are also tailored to include the bread that the market favors.  In Italy, you can get a burger on Foccacia:

And there is my personal favorite in France…..

Image courtesy of lesmarquesetmoi.fr

Some things are somewhat the same.

The playground is titled “Ronald’s Gym Club”

Drive-thrus, walkups, McDonalds always provides a quicker option

Walk-up counter in Lyon, France. The sign reads “Order here”.

And others much different.

Not a kids coke but a small coke

 

Lyon’s Fête des Lumières

We recently attended the annual Fête des Luminères, or Festival of Lights, which honors Mother Mary every year on the eighth day of December.  Four million people attend each year!

This festival originates back to 1643, when Lyon was hit by the plague.    The townspeople said that if Lyon would be spared, they’d pay tribute to Mary.  The tradition of honoring Mary happens every year since on December 8.

It was beautiful – they had over 65 light installations, ranging from light shows projected onto the old buildings, to independent light sculptures, to a moving parade.   The video at the end of the post does it more justice than the photographs.  Due to the crowds, it wasn’t possible to use a tripod.



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And here is the video – it is long – but shows the variety and technical genius of those behind this event:


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.

8 Fun Facts about Lake Geneva

I find it interesting that many of our guests have the takeaway that from first impression, Lake Geneva appears small.

Image courtesy of Lake Geneva Region Tourism.  This map makes it look small too!

The first few times someone mentioned this, it perplexed me……Lake Geneva is so big.   In fact, it takes over an hour at top speed on a freeway to drive to the end of it.   Driving around the perimeter on good roads takes about 2.5 – 3 hours.

There is not a bad view driving around the lake.

But, looking more thoroughly, I see where someone could come up with this conclusion from the vantage point of the city of Geneva.  Geneva rests at the far west end of the lake, at the very end.   Not to mention, the city lies in the skinniest alcove of the lake.   Thus, at first glance, the body of water appears that it stops soon after Geneva.

How one might think the lake ends over there on the horizon…..

In actuality, the visible part in the picture above is just this portion. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

So, on today’s blog post, just wanted to clear up this issue by providing a few fun facts on Lake Geneva:

1 – It is big!  Specifically, the lake takes up 224 square miles.

2 –Driving around it can add time to your European road trip.    The Mt Blanc tunnel costs 48 euros (around 75 USD) to travel through one-way.   The tunnel takes 20 minutes.  The other option is driving around Lake Geneva, which could add 3 hours to your trip.

Mt. Blanc dominates the lake

3 – It is deep!  Because it is an Alpine lake, it mimics the Alps, in the inverse.   The average depth of Lake Geneva is 507 feet.

4 – It has dual citizenship in two countries.   About 60% lies in Switzerland and 40% lies in France.  Multiple ferries traverse the water each day and are often used by commuters.  In fact, in the below photo taken in Montreux, we are standing in Switzerland but the Alps in the background are French.

5 – It has contributed to science.   In 1827, Lake Geneva was the first place for the speed of sound to be tested in fresh water.

6 – Expensive bottled water likes to call it home.   Evian comes from several springs near Evian-les-Bains, France, which rests on the shores of Lake Geneva.

There is an Evian museum on Lake Geneva

7 – It contributes to great French wine.   The Rhone flows into and out of Lake Geneva, joining the Aarve River, and down to the Mediterranean.  The famous French wine in the Côte du Rhône region sits on the banks of the Rhône, of which the river flow is derived directly from Lake Geneva!

La Jonction, where the Rhone & Arve rivers meet

8 –It doesn’t just go by “Lake Geneva”.   In French it can be called Lac Léman or Lac de Genève.  In German, you might hear it referred to as Genfersee.  In Italian, it can be either Lago Lemano or Lago di Ginevra.

Does anyone else know any other neat facts about the lake?

Scotland’s Countryside

We thought as long as we were all the way in Edinburgh, we should see some of Scotland’s countryside.    We’d booked a small bus tour, a twelve seater, out of Edinburgh on Grey Lines for Saturday.   It picked us up at 8:45 in the morning.

Our first stop was Glasgow where we saw the cathedral where St Valentine is buried as well Georges Square.    We were then onto Loch Lomond and had the option of taking a boat tour.   Although chilly, we decided to take the plunge into the water on the small vessel.  We delighted in lovely Scottish views.

Taking off down the river towards Loch Lomond

Taking off down the river towards Loch Lomond

Chilly mountains in the background

Chilly mountains in the background

Castles abound

Scotland has great architecture

Why not have a scotch on the boat?

Why not have a scotch on the boat?  When in Scotland….

We then continued to the town of Aberfoyle and onto Duke’s Pass where we viewed ‘the Highlands in Minature’.    Our uber-short time in Scotland (36 hours on the ground) didn’t leave time to go to the Highlands, in the North part of the country.    Nevertheless, the scenery in the midlands was really neat and we enjoyed the unique animals.

Duke's Pass

Duke’s Pass.  Our driver said not to worry about the ‘slipping’ as we rounded each bend on the icy pass. 

Why, hello.

Why, hello.

We ventured on to Stirling and had an opportunity to explore.   While we didn’t go into the castle, we had a good time meandering around.  We tried not to fall down on the rock solid ground and icy paths.  And, when we got too chilly, we headed to a local pub for a scotch.

Monument to William Wallace, near Stirling

Monument to William Wallace, near Stirling

A path leading to Gabe, taking it all in

An icy path leading to Gabe, taking it all in

Beautiful sunset on Stirling castle

Beautiful sunset on Stirling castle

While we were continually cold that day, we’ll always have warm memories of Scotland.

Finding shelter in a scotch house

Finding shelter in a scotch house

Lights Out in Edinburgh

We never saw Edinburgh when it was truly light……we arrived after dark Friday evening, spent the entire Saturday on a countryside tour which departed before the sun was fully up, and departed for the airport at 8:00 Sunday morning.

But, still, we enjoyed seeing this beautifully historic city.  We found it vibrant, active and loved the architecture.  Below are a few images:

Walking home at midnight after our visit to the scotch house

Walking home at midnight after our visit to the scotch house

Sun rising on our hotel, The Carlton

Saturday sun rising on our hotel, The Carlton

A view of the Christmas fair down on Princes Street, still with the moon in sight

A view of the Christmas fair down on Princes Street, still with the moon in sight

The city perched on the volcanic cliffs.  Edinburgh castle is in the distance...

The city perched on the volcanic cliffs. Edinburgh castle is in the distance…

Castle watching the sun rise over the city

Edinburgh Castle watching the sun rise over the city

Saturday night at the German Christmas markets in Edinburgh

Saturday night at the German Christmas markets in Edinburgh

An early morning walk on the Royal Mile

An early morning walk on the Royal Mile

We had the castle to ourselves.  Gabe watching the sunrise before we went to the airport

We had the castle to ourselves. Gabe watching the sunrise before we went to the airport

If you’d like to see Edinburgh at daylight, check out this blog for some fantastic images.   If you fancy a trip to Edinburgh, M also has some great tips on off-the-beaten path places to see. 






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!