There is no doubt; I am still a child at heart.
Shortly after moving to Switzerland, we made a trip to Gruyères to taste cheese and visit the village. During our cheese tour I came across a promotional offer for Swiss cheeses.
“receive a free cheese knife with four swiss cheese proof of purchase and 20 francs”
It immediately caught my eye because this promotion wasn’t for just any cheese knife. It was for the ultimate utilitarian cheese knife made by Swiss Army. Complete with cheese blade, cerated bread blade and, of course, corkscrew bottle opener. I knew immediately I had to have it.
Given my penchant for cheese, it took no time at all to collect enough proofs of purchase to send away for my knife. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when dropping the envelope into the mail. Did I translate the offer correctly? How long would it take? Would I ever see my Swiss Army cheese knife?
But with the precision of a Swiss watch, my cheese knife arrived in the mail less than two weeks later. With the eagerness and awe of a small boy I opened my package. I didn’t image that such a treasure could be had so easily!
The anticipation builds
Blades for cheese and bread
Corkscrew for wine
Since that time it has gotten lots of use during our time in Geneva…picnics at the lake, road trip snacks, train ride meals with family/friends and, most recently, ski weekend meals in the mountains.
The French Cougar using the knife on the Glacier Express
So don’t forget to ask to see the cheese knife the next time you see me. I am always happy to show off my new toy.
Waffles aren’t the only thing Belgium does well.
It is also known for its beer. There are approximately 178 breweries in Belgium and several of those breweries make beers that have been awarded the title of “Best Beer in the World “. I am not a beer expert so I can’t provide support for any claim as to which is the best. I do believe that I have consumed more than my fair share of beer in life though. So take that into consideration when I tell you that I still look forward to traveling to Belgium (which I do for work often) for a good beer.
Belgium’s beer is so good they treat it like wine – special glasses and a table chiller
So while in Brugge, with Ferdinand and Isabella, we completed a taste test of what the country had to offer. We sampled many delicious beers during our three days in Belgium but I wanted to share two of the highlights.
We were up for the challenge of taste-testing Belgium’s finest.
Halve Maan Brewery (Half Moon)
Halve Maan Brewery
The four of us visited the Brugge brewery and took the tour. Half moon is the only brewery stilling making beer inside of the city limits. The tour was interesting but our guide was hilarious and really made it special.
Rooftop of Halve Maan
Round of Zots. Because Isabella was pregnant, we all had to drink her free beer too.
We tried two beers from Half Moon…Brugse Zot and Straffe Hendrik. Straffe Hendrik was the crowd favorite and my personal favorite also.
Unfortunately, at 9% alcohol I had to limit my intake a bit. Please don’t worry about my happiness though….I plan on having a few the next time I am in Belgium!
This bar is located in central Brugge and has one of the most impressive beer menus I have ever seen.
Behind the bar at Cambrinus
Both the variety and quality of the beer served at Cambrinus was impressive. Their menu actually intimidated me but luckily Ferdinand didn’t miss a beat. He immediately asked the bartender for a suggestion. That question lead us to Westvleteren 12.
Isabella with the menu. This is ALL beer.
A happy man
Westvleteren 12 is international renowned and is brewed by Trappist monks in a Belgian monastery. Westvleteren has been awarded the title of “Best Beer in the World” on multiple occasions. And let me say….the beer is delicious! But don’t take my word for it. Here are some other expert opinions….
“In my opinion, things are overhyped these days, everything is the best this or the best that. When I tried Westvleteren 12, which is often regarded as the best beer in the world by beer nerds everywhere, it was everything it was said to be. Perfect beer is what I would call it.”– JC –
“I don’t have a distinguished palate. I am not a beer connoisseur. But even I could tell that Westvleteren was unlike any beer I had ever tasted. It was such a diamond in the rough that I even went back the next day to have it again. For the price of a 30 pack at Harris Teeter, the two bottles of Westvleteren I drank were worth every penny.” – Ferdinand –
The production and availability of Westvleteren beer is very limited so we felt lucky to have the option to throw a few back. I would highly suggest trying it if you have an opportunity.
Gezondheid (cheers/health in Flemish)!
Schwingen in Switzerland – Beer in Belgium,
Schwingen in Switzerland – Kinds of Belgian Beers
Schwingen in Switzerland – Belgian Trappist Beers
Post by Gabe
Hello all and Merry Christmas. I am breaking my silence this week to give you a glimpse into our first Christmas tree as a married couple. This tree sets the tone for all future trees so I have been laying the ground work with Lauren for quite a while. It would be 6 to 8 feet tall, very very full, symmetrical from all angles and have an intoxicating pine aroma. Regardless of the time required to find this magical gem it wouldn’t matter. Hours, days, weeks, whatever it takes….the time couldn’t be used more wisely. Had I not done this ground work…Lauren would have picked up the cheapest thing should could find. We probably would have ended up with a fake fern from Ikea. And that obviously wouldn’t cut it for our first tree.
As usual, I may have missed one small, very tiny, detail during my tree brain storming.
…we don’t live in the US.
In the US I would have proposed we buy a permit and head into the mountains to fell our own Christmas tree. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in Geneva. At least not that we are aware of. So instead, we did what every other Genevese (person in Geneva) does. We headed to the local grocery store to pick one up. And these babies are carry out….literally.
Take a look at our beautiful 3 feet 6 inch tree in its full grandure.
As usual, everything in Geneva is expensive so we opted for the smaller set of lights. Unfortunately that strand was so short they only made it around the tree twice. We had one ornament in Geneva to add to the tree thanks to Lauren’s Aunt J but we obviously needed more than that. So we spent two Saturdays ago making our own ornaments also. It may not be 6-8 feet tall, very very full, symmetrical from all angles and a bouquet of pine but I think it is a beauty. I am very proud of our first tree and think it is the perfect start to the many tree’s to come.
(check out the ornament Lauren made…I think it is cool)
Happy Holidays to you all!
Post by Gabe
It appears that my blog post count is just “slightly” behind Lauren’s…. I suspect that may always be the case though.
Regardless, I thought I would give you a look inside my new office. The company that I work for is in the process of establishing it’s EMEA headquarters in Geneva. It currently has many offices spread through out Europe but over the course of this year will consolidate many of them into one Geneva office. This consolidation is what created the opportunity for Lauren and I to live in Geneva. The new office is largely empty at this point and I would put myself in the first third of people to begin working here. Thus, most of the desks around me are empty. That won’t be the case after the summer though. Several new employees move to Geneva every week so it won’t take long to fill it up.
So as an American in Switzerland (Europe) here are my observations after two weeks of work:
1) Tram = Awesome – No more Atlanta traffic! All I do is walk a few blocks from our temp apartment. Get on the cool looking tram (see below). Then 25-30 mins later I am at work. It takes about the same amount of time is it would in a car but I just chill, read or use the time to catch up on emails. Brilliant.
1) Damn, the food is expensive – My average cafeteria lunch the first week cost around 13 Swiss Francs. ($15USD) I am little smarter and selective these days and can have a nice lunch for $9-$10 dollars. The $2 little cokes in the vending machine still get me every time though. (i need to kick that habit)
1) Energy Efficiency (Star Trek Style) – I knew before coming to Geneva that we Americans generally aren’t as conscious about the resources we use compared to many other parts of the world. (water, energy, etc) My new office is a perfect example of that…It doesn’t screw around when it comes to conservation. I am typically one of the first people into the office but luckily I don’t have to worry about turning on the lights. That’s because the building monitors movement in sections of every floor and then turns lights on or off based on activity. I feel like I am on Star Trek as I walk down the hallway to my desk and the lights turn on in anticipation of me walking into that area. Very cool.
1) Snow In June? – It got cold here on Tuesday and the Jura mountains near Geneva were topped with snow. Below is a picture of the snow on the mountain top I can see from my desk.