The disappearing act….Mont Blanc

One of my favorite pastimes is taking photos of Mont Blanc from Geneva.   It only shows 10% of the time so because of the cloud cover.

Here are a few of the times that I have “captured” it:

Taken in October 2011 at a photo group session at Château de Penthes

Taken while painting the left bank. You have to look hard to spot it.

Taken from the window of my foot surgeons exam office, March 2012. Now I know where my money is going…the view!

Taken on a train around Nyon in June 2012

Taken from a train near Versoix Switzerland in June 2012

My best photo yet…taken from a boat outside Nyon in June 2012

After I got the last boat photo, I think I’ll retire for awhile at Mt Blanc photo hunting.   My conclusion is it is much easier to capture this magnificent mountain from the Nyon area as there is a more direct & clear view.

 

Related Links:

The Swiss Watch Blog – Route Blanche and the Mt Blanc Tunnel

The Swiss Watch Blog – Gratitude Friday: Witnessing Something Truly Majestic

Schwingen in Switzerland – Mt. Blanc – the Tallest Mountain in the Alps 

The Swiss Watch Blog – In Winter Wonder with Pascal and Giselle

Just how expensive is Switzerland?

Someone recently asked me “how expensive is Switzerland?”.   Well, an article this year named Zurich as the #1 most expensive city in the world.  Geneva ranked at #3.  Just to put it in perspective, New York City is 47th.

I thought I would showcase some examples.

You think US gas is expensive?  I see all your Facebook posts.  Well, it costs us over 125 francs (150 USD) to fill our car up.

462 CHF = 500 USD.   Our yearly TV tax.  Nope, this doesn’t include cable.  Just for the privilege of watching TV or signing up to pay 100 CHF / month more in basic cable.  You don’t even have to have a TV to get taxed….it covers radio too.

Getting your hair done. Gabe pays 85 francs for a men’s cut. This is like 93 USD. One time, he accidentally got a senior stylist and it was over 105 francs. I have a friend who got highlights at the same salon – 350 francs!!!

When people leave their paper & cardboard on the curb, they put it in a Louis Vitton bag.

Drink menu at a bar near our house, prices around 17-19 CHF.  Add 10% for the price of the Swiss franc, and you are spending a cool 20 spot for one drink.

12.70 CHF = about 14 USD for a Medium Value Meal at McDonalds.

The average window sign in Geneva.  These prices are not unusual on Rue du Rhone: Dress 2230 CHF, Bag 1280 CHF, Scarf 330 CHF, Ties 220 or 180 CHF, Shirt 1500 CHF and Pants 1330 CHF.

One of my favorite sources for expensive deals is Glocals, which is like our Living Social or Groupon.

I know these little Roombas are expensive in the US, but I think its only 200 USD. Here, half off, they are 400 CHF!!

What a deal!!! Half off: Only 69 francs (75 USD) for a mani / pedi!!! I used to pay 25 or 30 USD for both, full price.   Let’s just say I have also never paid to have my nails done here.

How do we live in such a city?  

Here, we only eat out once a week.   Back in the States, we ate out 5-8 times a week between lunch and dinners.   However, the average meal out at a low to mid-range restaurant with a glass of wine costs 80 CHF.  A nice place is 200 CHF.     So, thus the cut-back.

We eat less meat. It’s 3-4 times the prices of the US.  So we have more vegetarian meals.

We don’t buy any clothes here.   The extent of our purchases are a H & M furry hat for me when it was -20 degrees and a pair of boxers that were half off for Gabe.

We don’t buy “stuff”.  The desire is less great here (both their less commercialized way of life and the fact we don’t understand all the ads), but we make due with what we have.  We never go out just to shop or pick up something because it looks cool.

Pretty much, we spend all our disposable income on groceries and travel.  All in all, we don’t actually mind this change in lifestyle.  It will be interesting to see how this changes or stays the same when we return home.

More Summer Fun at Montreux Jazz Fest

We went to Montreux this weekend for the 46th annual Montreux Jazz Festival.  Even though I had taken Twin & Solid while they were here, I still wanted to go back.  This marks my fourth time and Gabe’s 3rd time going to the festival.

A round trip train ticket from Geneva costs 25 CHF each for us to go, but it is a fun summer activity.

A very pleasant ride from Geneva – an hour total and 25 CHF with your half fare card and 10% SBB discount for attending the JazzFest (no ticket required).

Everyone thinks we are weird that we don’t buy tickets for the shows.  My physio gave me a very quizzical look.   But, the free music is lovely.   You just simply show up to the park, find a spot and listen to your heart’s content.  The shows start about 3:30 on weekdays and 2:00 on the weekend and play back-to-back with 1/2 hour or hour breaks in between.

Taking in the scene, listening to a South African band.

Pants optional. Dogs are allowed. As demonstrated by this gentleman.  To his credit, the lake is right there.

 

If you feel like walking around, there is plenty to see and do.  There are a ton of vendors selling handcrafted goods.

Also the food is pretty yummy.  Gabe and I justify our expenditure on 25 CHF train tickets + festival food = cheaper than a low end restaurant in Geneva.

Image courtesy of Henry Birmingham from last year. The paella guys were back again this year.

 

Some people wander to the end of the festival to enjoy the swimming.  This is one of my favorite docks.

Lovely dock on Lake Geneva – Montreux.

This year, you could watch the gliders come in and try to land on the orange pad.

Coming in for landing….

 

Approaching…

Boom!

Freddie Mercury even enjoyed watching them a time or two.

Freddie Mercury tribute statue in Montreux.

The festival runs until this Sunday, July 15th – I’d encourage you to check it out!

Captain Gabe

When BuyClub came out with their motorboat vouchers, we scooped one up.  We thought it could be fun to take the parents out while they were here.   We knew it would be our only chance to take a boat out on Lake Geneva.   It’s apparently pretty hard to rent a boat / get a boat slip and any combination of having to do with driving a boat unless you are made of Swiss money.

So, the little four seater was about our speed. And price range.

We made a reservation for the latest spot of the evening, 6:30-8:30.   We planned for Gabe to join us after work.

However, he was having a hard time getting away.  We waited until about 7, but didn’t want to let any more time pass since we had a hard stop at 8:30.  My idea was that we could hang in the little harbor, pick him up, and swap drivers.    I surveyed the two passengers and asked if anyone was comfortable driving a boat.  After all, I never had.   And…..crickets.

So, I ended up behind the wheel.  Let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty.   I might have rammed it into the dock before we even took off.   The guy who was helping us cast off gave me a horrified look.  And we set off into the wild blue yonder of Lake Geneva.

My mother was audibly scared.  They can’t swim.  Solid checked to make sure there were life jackets on board.    We watched the cell phone. And waited.

Finally, we had saw via text that he’d parked and was on his way*.

We sailed back to the dock.  I may have forgotten to put the boat in neutral when we got him which may or may not have resulted in another scare by my mother and a new little skipper guy on the dock who was trying to help us.

Once Gabe became captain, it became much easier.  My mom chilled out.  We opened a bottle of wine.  And we cruised…

 

Twin, happy to see Gabe behind the wheel instead of me

 

She is laughing now. She was not laughing earlier.

The monks like to ride the boats too. This was a little bigger than ours.

Sun setting during our evening “cruise”

These people were real sailors.

Aye aye Captain Gabe

*We’d advise against driving & parking to do a lake front activity during rush hour.  Just take the bus.  It’s much easier.

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

 

Discovering Geneva: The Salève

Just outside of Geneva, is a cliff called The Salève.   It is visible from the town and towers over the city.    It’s so close you’d think it was in Switzerland.   But, it is actually in France.

3D Map courtesy of Alps Dream

 

Many women I know have hiked the Salève.   It is a strenuous 5 hour hike and 100% of it is steps and steep climbs.  I think a lot of the time, this hike ends up on people’s “Geneva Bucket List” of things to do before they move.  It’s never been an option for me because of my feet, although ever so tempting!

 

The Salève is the big cliff overlooking Geneva

 

Good thing that there are alternative ways up.    You can drive through France.   We heard from A & A & D that this is only for people who don’t get car sick.  They may have learned this the hard way.

You can also take the little cable car up.   Since Twin & Solid were visiting, we decided to go to The Salève on the day that they landed from the US for their first ever cable car ride.  It was sunny and clear that day, which is an absolute for planning a trip to Mont Salève.

From Geneva, you can take the TPG (Bus #8 direction Veyrier Douane)  to the border, and walk across.    It is about a 10-15 minute walk and the route is decently marked.  You can also see the cable car wires looming in the air, so you have a visual reminder of which direction to walk.

At 1000m, it is a good introductory cable car compared to say, Mt. Blanc.

Enjoying the view

Panorama of Geneva from the top of Mont Salève

They have two restaurants at the top – a small chalet selling inexpensive drinks and sandwiches, as well as a fancier place.   In fact, the nicer restaurant wouldn’t let us sit on the edge if we weren’t ordering food.  So, we just sat a row inward so we could order a drinks.

Many friends have told me its nice to bring a picnic and enjoy it as you look upon Geneva.

Beyond hiking, Mont Salève is also known for more adventurous sports.  We saw a mountain biker coming up in our cable car.  We also watched this guy take off into the horizon.

Going, going, going….

….gone!

You can do the entire trip in 2-3 hours from center city Geneva.

A Page from the Swiss Rulebook: The Swiss Kiss

It’s been a year we have lived here and I think that it is only now I am getting used to “The Swiss Kiss”.

When people great each other, they kiss cheeks to acknowledge and welcome each other.

I had some exposure to this when I was working in the US, as a lot of the advertising folks I worked with at our agencies were European.   I just usually followed their lead in what was appropriate.  I do remember it being a tad awkward for us Americans who preferred a shake and we were afraid we’d “mess up” when it came to professional kissing.

Swiss camels perfecting their Swiss kisses.

Living in Europe it becomes more secondhand.    Here are a few guidelines:

–Swiss Romandie (French speaking Swiss) people greet each other with 3 kisses:  left cheek, right, left.

–The French version includes just two kisses – left, right.

–Just barely touch the person’s cheek or the air next to their cheek.  I usually do the air and make a slight smacking sound.

–When in doubt, just watch what other people are doing and follow their lead.

If you are visiting us, I hope you are perfecting your Swiss kisses.

Related links:

Gydle:  how to Swiss Kiss

World to the Wise: Swiss Kiss

Great demo video:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEV60lYHaIM

Swiss Sports: Sunday Window Shopping

Beyond wintersports, one of the things I have noticed the Swiss folks like to partake in is the pastime of Sunday window shopping.   Please note that 100% of stores in Geneva are closed on Sundays.

When going to the gym or taking a Sunday stroll, it always surprises me how many people are staring into the window.  These photos were all taken on Sundays:

Perhaps all the goods are so expensive that the only ‘safe’ time to look is when the stores aren’t open?

Adding a new color to the Spring palette….

We first noticed the yellow fields when Couch Surfer was here, on our drive to the Chocolate Factory.  We aren’t used to field being this vibrant!    They have been a big point of discussion this Spring.    So, what exactly is it?

The first thing I was told was Canola.  Then I was informed it wasn’t canola but grape seed.  Finally, I was told it was a type of green for salads.   I think that S solved it by meeting a farmer and concluded it was actually “rape seed”.

Whatever it is, I sure can tell you it is miraculous to see:

A patchwork of yellow at the foot of the Alps

Fields of yellow

Moo cow with the yellow fields.  Sorry, I still like taking pictures of cows.

More and more yellow

Gratitude Friday: My Swiss Misses

Lately, I have been reflecting on how lucky I am to have met such fabulous ladies in Geneva.   They had some pretty tough shoes to fill as far as awesomeness with my gals back home.   However, I have been very fortunate, and thus this week’s gratitude post.

It’s always nice to have a support network.  But in a foreign country, it is equally as important.

The day I met D & A, at Caves Ouvertes 2011

As culture shock comes on, or a “bad Swiss day” rears its head, I am thankful to have these women in my life.   Plus, there’s only so much Gabe can take 🙂

Courtesy of Schwingen in Switzerland

 

A lot of the times, we have the same frustrations and joy.    It’s good to know that other people usually have been through what you are going through, or just simply understand.   This could include major things, or minor things.   It’s pretty funny some of the stories we all share.   Like, for instance, everyone has forgotten to label the produce at the store and gotten yelled at.   And, everyone’s had an extremely awkward doctor’s visit.

Nutella Pizza usually makes everything better

It’s also fun to share holidays away from home with others.  Both with people who are familiar with the traditions, as well as sharing what we do with others

If it weren’t for these guys, Gabe and I would celebrate silly US holidays like Halloween alone!

Montreux Christmas market 2011

It’s also awesome to celebrate the good times.   Of course, many birthdays, and even I’ve had the pleasure of seeing 2, almost 3, little ones be born.

Celebrating C’s birthday (it was yesterday!)

This one’s almost ready 🙂

Geneva is a transient city.   People come and people go.   The length of time one might stay in a city is easy changeable and usually not very long.

This Friday, I continue to reflect on my good fortune and I’m just happy to have had the opportunity for knowing them in this period of time.