Sunshine in Neuchâtel

I had been feeling a little glum lately – I think a combination of missing the U.S., friends, Gabe, and a little cabin fever from the rain and surgery recovery.    So, S invited me to join her, T and her two guests on an outing to Neuchâtel last Friday.

I’d heard it was a neat Swiss town so was excited for a chance to see it.   Traveling with S is like having a personal tour guide.  She has an amazing knack for history and even better, the retention and relation of this knowledge.  I love the history, just can’t remember it and relate it all.   So, as we walked the colorful streets, she pointed out a neat things to take note of (you can learn more about these on her blog).

 

As we walked, I just enjoyed the sunshine.   It hasn’t been too frequent lately so it was glorious to soak in the rays and even remove my jacket partway through the day.    Don’t you just love the puffy white clouds in the blue Swiss sky?

 

 

 

We concluded our walking tour of Neuchâtel with a picnic on the lake, all sharing things we brought along, before heading to 3 more interesting stops on the eastern side of Switzerland.

 

Thanks to S and Neuchâtel for the beautiful day.

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Painting for Jake

I haven’t been painting a lot lately.    Thus, when I was asked to donate a painting for the Annual Jake Boyle Memorial Golf Tournament again this year, I offered one that I did last year in Umbria, Italy.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t get “Dusk in Umbria” it into E-dawg’s suitcase to deliver back to The States.  Shipping the canvas from Switerland would be over 100 CHF which sort of defeats the purpose of a charity give-away….

So, today, I did a small 9″ x 12″ acrylic that can easily fit into the next suitcase that will go Geneva –> Charlotte*.   Unfortunately, an “I owe U” will have to do for the silent auction.  Sorry guys!

Recognize my inspiration?  Yes, none other than the Fête de la Tulipe we visited in Morges last week.

The reception & auction will be at Havana Social Club in Huntersville, NC this Saturday – 2-5pm Eastern Time.     Wishing them a beautiful day and a great one on the fundraising front.  I’ll be missing them for sure.

*Anyone who would like to volunteer to take the canvas with them on their next trip back to Huntersville or Charlotte, it would be greatly appreciated!!

Alpine views in Zweisimmen and Château D’Oex

As mentioned in the previous post about our trip on The Golden Pass, we stopped in two towns on the journey back.

The first of the towns was Zweisimmen.   I’ll be honest that I had no idea what to expect (not listed in my tour books) but I suggested to E-dawg that we hop off the train and spend an hour there until the next train would pass.

We found an adorable German speaking village, full of cows.   We wandered around its quiet streets enjoying the fresh air.

This is Zweisimmen!

We caught the train an hour later and hopped off again at Château D’Oex.  Readers might find this town familiar as we stopped there twice for the Hot Air Balloon Festival.  After the Friday night “Night Glow” show  failed to produce any balloon pictures, I begged Gabe to go back the following Sunday for more.  And that is when I fell in love with this little village known to be the Swiss capital of ballooning.

 

Welcome to Château D'Oex (pronounced Shat-oh Day)

It was really neat for me to see the difference in winter vs. spring.  The town is totally different.      Originally, I was going to sit at a café and rest my feet while E-dawg explored.   But I couldn’t help myself wanting to climb up to the top of the chapel with her for the views!

Streets of Château D'Oex

Climbing up the steps of the chapel, greeted by amazing spring flowers

After reaching the top, E-dawg relaxed near the chapel walls.

 

On the way back down, we decided it was an opportune time to open the mini bottle of Swiss wine we had brought to picnic on the train.   We popped our shoes off, sat in the grass, and enjoyed the magnificent panorama in front of us.

After experiencing it in multiple seasons, this little village quickly lept up to one of my top Swiss places to visit.

Back on the train. Goodbye Chateau D'Oex...until next time!

The Golden Pass

On E-dawg’s last day, we took a panoramic train.   I am a big fan of these trains – you get to see a lot of the beautiful Swiss landscape.   It also provides a nice relaxing day if you have been busy.

As you may have read on the blog, there are are four scenic trains:  The Golden Pass, The Bernina Express, The William Tell Express, and The Glacier Express.  Gabe and I have taken the Glacier Express twice, with The Captain and Swiss Miss, as well as with The Fam.

This time, we took The Golden Pass.   We chose it because of its proximity to Geneva, as we wanted to do the entire thing in a day.    We bought tickets to ride just until Zweisimmen in the German speaking part.

Cool map courtesy of goldenpass.ch

 

So, we took an hour train from Geneva to Montreux in order to catch the Golden Pass.   One interesting thing about Swiss trains is that they are beautifully timed.   For instance, as our train from Geneva rolled into Montreux, the Golden Pass sat awaiting any passengers.  Moments later, it departed.   This isn’t by coincidence.  The entire system is designed for efficiency and there are rarely wait times or “layovers”.

After boarding, The Golden Pass ascended above Montreux.   I had not been this way yet so thoroughly enjoyed being a tourist as it winded around, giving glimpses of the lake below.

Leaving Montreux on The Golden Pass

 

E-dawg enjoying the ride

 

Passing gorgeous pastures and rolling green fields

 

Passing Château D'Oex, home of the hot air balloon festival.

 

Fields of dandelions

 

Typical Swiss backyard.

 

Keep that delicious milk, cheese, and yogurt coming, cows!

Passing Gstaad and The Palace.

 

An enticing road

Descending into Zweisimann

 

This view never gets old to me.

 

Back to Lake Geneva....

 

God shining light through the clouds onto Lake Geneva

 

This entire route took six hours of travel time from Geneva.   We did stop twice on the way home to explore Zweisimmen and Château D’Oex so it took us a bit longer – about nine hours.   I’d recommend doing that to break up the trip.  If you don’t have reservations*, you can hop on and off wherever you like.

 

*For our trip, we did buy reservations from Montreux to Zweisimmen not knowing if they were required.   We were the only ones with reservations and could’ve saved the $$ by not doing it since it was a low tourist season.   It also made it handy not to have them on the way back as it encouraged us to live in the moment and hop off at whatever towns looked neat.   However, on the way home, we didn’t get to sit in choice seats when hopping back on.

Thus, if you are in a big group or sitting together is important, its a nice benefit to purchase the reservation.

 

 

Discovering Geneva: The Museum of the Reformation

On Tuesday, after our tour of the site archeologique, we took a quick lunch break at Creperie St. Pierre and then moved onto the final stop: La Musée de la Réforme de Genève.   This museum retraces the history of the movement started by John Calvin in Geneva.   It includes artifacts and exhibits from the start until the current age.

The Museum of the Reformation

The museum was interesting; however, a little disjointed.  We were lucky to get English audio guides, but not all of the numbers could be found and they were out of order in most cases.    We spent a lot of time on the ground floor figuring this out while we learned about the origination and first century of the Reformation.

As we moved on, we learned just to hit the #s that we saw that looked interesting to us and continue on that way.

The basement floor contained history from the 19th and 20th centuries.  There were exhibitions on the role in civil society, the progression and dynamics of mission work, a computer screen depicting the statistics of the denominations of religion in the US, and audio of Billy Graham and the evangelistic movement.  That part was pretty neat to see how Calvin’s impact echoed through society today.

You are not allowed to take photos so we don’t have anything to show.

Bottom line – this museum is full of intriguing and interesting exhibits.  However, it might be best to make it your only stop in the day so you can comprehend the full depth of history and really take the time to visit both the ground and bottom floor.     We were a little tapped out from hitting the archeological site first, both in terms of standing and mind-power, so we wore ourselves out before getting to the basement.

Those who do visit this museum, make sure to check out the Reformation Wall in Parc des Bastions as well!

 

Discovering Geneva: Palais des Nations

On E-dawg’s second day we had pegged the Palais des Nations as a possible stop for the rainy Monday.  It was a good choice because, by default, it was literally the only museum open on Monday.   Also E-dawg had it on her Geneva “must visit” list.

She had read there was a lot of walking and warned me but I decided I was up for it – couldn’t be more than a km or so. We took the bus to Nations.   This was our first mistake.  Or my first mistake.  I just assumed that tourist rolled right through the colorful flags into the Palais des Nations to enter.

The grande entrance to the Palais des Nations. This is the oldest building and is bigger than the Palace of Versailles.

However, the actual tour entrance is was a 1 km walk away from the grande entrance.  This detail would not have been very important to the old me.  However, it is very important to the present-day me with healing feet.    Thus, I wanted to show those readers who might be a little walking challenged where the entrance is.  The #8 bus, Appia stop, gets you considerably closer.   It’s important to conserve energy as this tour does include a lot of walking.

They are very protective of the safety of UN workers.  Rightfully so, since 3000 have died in operations or just by being in UN offices in times of terror.   So, checking in for the tour required multiple steps.  First, you go through an airport-style metal detector.  Then, you approach a desk to register by showing your passport for scanning, getting a new picture taken, and  that photo being printed into a picture badge.

Next you go down an escalator, pay 12 CHF, and walk a distance to the entrance and gathering group of the tours.   You approach the desk, give your language preference and wait.  Then you get a bright orange lanyard indicating you are a tourist so that you can be easily spotted.

We were very lucky to have an amazing tour guide.    We started the tour by seeing some of the conference rooms.   There are over 9000 meetings a year so they need a lot of conference rooms.

We learned that in the traditional rooms, the member states sit in alphabetic order.  Then comes the observer non-member states  (like Palestine, Vatican City), then the NGOs that provide the link between civil society and UN.  Then approved media.

E-Dawg overlooking a traditional UN conference room

The UN has six official languages – English, Arabic, French, Mandarin, Spanish and Russian.    If you want to address the UN in a non official language, you have to bring your own translator.

Human issues conference room. The ceiling was done by a Spanish artist and was donated by the country of Spain. His intention was for the textured color to peak like waves of ocean. The color represents the diversity of opinions in the world. The art was unveiled and conference room reopened in April 2009. The current issues in Syria are discussed here.

E-dawg and I in the grand assembly room in the Palais des Nations. The UN logo is different in this room, with the globe view from the top, showing no country is in the middle at the UN.

Original council room of the League of Nations. The League of Nations was formed after WWI. However, they failed at preventing WW2 so it disbanded. Mr. Pettyjohn would be proud I was seeing this place as we learned a lot about it in Freshman History. Now this room serves as the council of disarmement, preventing nuclear and chemical means of warfare.

Some fast facts about the UN:

-It was formed in 1945 after WW2 with the UN Charter

-It started with 52 members.  Now there are 193.  South Sudan was the last joiner.  Switzerland didn’t join until 2002!

-The UN is decorated with art from all over the world, to represent its diversity among member states.    In a grand entrance, there are colored marble in different designs.  Our guide pointed out that the marble comes from 3-4 different countries to show integration and how great works are possible with collaboration.  Pretty cool.

E-dawg stands by the hall of traditional artwork donated by member states

The Russians donated the Conquest of Space and Time statue - made out of titanium like space shuttles. Sorry, its the tiny thing in the distance - I took all these photos with my iPhone.

Trees are donated from all over the world to adorn the park, creating diversity in landscape

What is the difference in Geneva and NYC?

NYC handles more of the political and economical issues while Geneva focuses on human rights, science, technology, health, and world disasters.

The chair with the missing leg was donated by Handicapped, Intl to represent the lives and limbs lost by unnecessary land mines

The WHO (world health organization) is one of the bigger departments here in Geneva.  Also, UNHCR – the high commission for refugees, which helps 20 million people a year!

Why did they pick Geneva?  

NGO, The Red Cross was already there (1863) and it had been proven to be a good place for a headquarters.  Plus,  Switzerland was a neutral country making it additionally easier to facilitate an organization such as the UN.   Third, Geneva was known as a very diverse city which helped exemplify what the UN’s goals are.  Finally, geography – Geneva is in the center of Europe and is accessible by train and airport.

The views aren't bad here either.

Currently, there are 8500 employees in Geneva, but 25,000 delegates participating here each year.    Building on that, 163 of the 193 member states have permanent missions in Geneva.   I know a few women at the women’s club whose husbands work for the missions so this fact a was interesting.

All in all, it was a good tour.   I give it a 7 out of 10 and E-dawg rates it a 6.5 or 7 out of 10.

Gratitude Friday: Spring has Sprung!

A little delayed in my posting….but Spring has sprung in Geneva.  I admit I am late in this post.  But mainly since I have had mobility, all it has done here is rain, rain, rain so I wasn’t in the spring spirit yet.

However, we had our first day of non-rain yesterday and I am hoping that more sunshine and spring weather is on the horizon  (fingers crossed).  Although they do say that “April showers bring May flowers”, so I suppose there should be gratitude in the rain as well.

Speaking of flowers, E-dawg and I got to take advantage of Spring’s beauty yesterday on the AIWC photo group outing to Morges, Switzerland.  There we enjoyed lunch alfresco and explored the annual Fêtes de la Tulipe.

So, this Friday, I am grateful for the flowers and beauty of spring.  Finally!!!  But, better late than never!

Bon weekend, everyone!

Tulips against an Alpine background

Wispy tulips in contrast to the Alps

Having fun at the Fêtes de la Tulipe

E-dawg amongst her Georgia Bulldog colors

Lazy waterfall

Caught her in action!

My favorite section – multicolored