We recently participated in the Geneva Slow Up. I had read about this bike event last summer. I noticed it again when flipping through a pdf of the Fête de Genève brochure. Gabe and I decided that we should do it since we’d been delinquent about riding the bikes we had shipped all the way from the US. However, we woke up to rainy skies and they were continuing to drizzle at the start time of 10:00. At 11:00, they cleared and Gabe mentioned that maybe it wasn’t a “hard start” that it was continual.
I was skeptical, but we rode down to Quai de Gustav Ador anyhow. And, we were pleasantly surprised. More belated bikers. And lots going on. You can start when you like, as long as you finish by 16:00. You can be on bike, trike, roller blades, or unicycles. Or even on foot. The only rule was you had to go in the same direction.
We did our first few km and were impressed by how well executed this event was. First of all, cars are banned from the roads completely. Guards blocked every road that interfered with the 33km course. A heck of a lot of roads. We counted easily 100. This made it so enjoyable for me. I am not the best rider and since bikes ride with traffic in Geneva, it is intimidating for me to bike around town.
There were “garages” in case you had a bike mishap. This was also a bonus, to know you wouldn’t be stuck 16 km away from Geneva, without aid.
And there were plenty of refreshment stands offering cereal, energy bars, apples and Rivella.
As we started, we exclaimed how awesome it was. It was my assumption that I had missed the last eleven events and I was mad at myself because of what a great time it was. However, we found a brochure later in the day that showed that these take place in different places all over Switzerland. You can see the future ones here. So, it just comes to Geneva once a year.
We also found a map to find out where the heck we were going.
Our route continued through vineyards and cornfields. It was so peaceful. We stopped in Gy, where they had a really cool Slow Up Village. Most people were drinking wine and beer. They might have been in better shape than us. We opted for water. And a sausage.
We then crossed into France. Spectators gave us a bottle of Evian, a local French product, as we cruised along. This is the closest I think I’ll ever get to being a rider in the Tour de France. For one, it was my first time riding a bike in France. Second, we got swag. And, I told Gabe, we sort of did a little tour around France….
After 33km, we were looped back into Geneva and we crossed the finish line.
We aren’t experienced bike riders so couldn’t even make it up the hill to our house after riding 3 hours. However, we were happy and content with our little Sunday activity!
Hooray! Isabella and Ferdinand have been here! They had a wedding to attend in England and we were lucky that they came to Geneva to visit us beforehand.
Ferdinand had to work at the beginning, organizing a golf event. Once work was done, on the weekend, the four of us set off on a Swiss adventure.
Our first stop was the Lavaux wine region. Isabella can’t drink currently (she is expecting), but we wanted to show them this UNESCO gem nonetheless. So, we took the Chexbres exit off of the A1 and descended down the village towns into Rivaz. They were breathtaken with the gorgeous terraced vineyards as we are every time we visit.
We skipped the cheese tour (we knew we were having raclette for dinner), but all did order Gruyère-cheese based dishes for lunch.
After Gruyères, we drove to Broc, home of Cailler chocolate factory.
After playing on the playground a bit, we headed back to Geneva. We had a big night in store.
The Schwingen & Switzerland crew was hosting a raclette party before the big Fête de Genève fireworks. Ferdinand and Isabella had raclette their last time in Switzerland, in Zurich, but they were impressed by S’s monstrous spread.
For dessert, S had “Creme de Gruyère” and “Creme Brulée” Movenpick ice cream. She surprised her dad and me with a candle in each carton for a birthday surprise. It was the loveliest ‘cake’ I have ever had. If you have an opportunity, I urge you to try Movenpick ice cream. Full of Swiss whole cream, its the real deal.
We left their house and were immersed in the madness that is Fête de Genève. We say it is the absolute busiest, craziest time of year in Geneva.
We luckily found a spot for 12 of us, near the rides, and watched the magnificent hour long fireworks:
What a perfect Swiss day!
The Swiss Watch Blog: Cheese Wars
The Swiss Watch Blog: It’s Raining – I guess we have to go to the chocolate factory
The Swiss Watch Blog: Famous Swiss Foods – Cheese
The Swiss Watch Blog: Famous Swiss Foods – Chocolate
The Swiss Watch Blog: The land of chocolate and cheese
The Swiss Watch Blog: Thanks for a Joyeux Anniversaire, everyone
The Swiss Watch Blog: The fête commences
Hermance is located north of Geneva. It is 30 minutes on Bus E. I mentioned in a previous post, it is a nice little village, beautiful and charming. Also, for guests, it can be a quick way to cross the border into France, as we did this spring.
It also has a really nice stone beach. I visited this summer with my friend San Francisco Gal. We made a picnic and enjoyed the sunshine.
A few things to know about the beach in Hermance:
-entry is 4 CHF for adults and 1 CHF for kids
-they have a snack shop, so you can purchase food & drinks (alternatively, we brought our own)
-its really windy since it is on a point…be prepared for temperatures cooler than Geneva
-its a rock beach as is common on Lake Geneva. Maybe bring water shoes if you plan to do a lot of walking/swimming.
-there are a lot of scuba divers. They have special scuba showers and it is common to witness scuba activity such as this:
-They have some ‘killer’ ducks. It started as innocent as them pecking at my big toe, but then they quickly took over our picnic. Have you ever seen anything like this?
I think that it is very important to have a very true glimpse into where our food comes from. Especially in the US, so much of our food is packaged and doesn’t resemble it’s source.
Seeing it as an animal helps you remember that it in fact, came from an animal. I think it helps promote our gratitude for the food, that a living being is contributing to our well being. Also, I think it helps in respecting to eat in small quantity and not wasting.
We had a very real experience of this in Tuscany when we visited the pig farm. Prusciutto is shaved off the leg of the pig in the butcher. You can easily recognize the body part.
When we were recently in Venice, two of our seafood meals were presented to us whole before cooking, after whole and de-boned at our table.
In Crete, we also had this experience in the fishing village of Plaka, which was nearby our hotel. Our first night, we ordered a sampling of the local seafood. When it comes out staring you in the face, you really get a connection.
Our second night, we returned to Plaka, but a different restaurant. We had the same experience of fresh catch of the day, yet with the pleasantry of them de-boning it for us and removing the head and fins. I am sort of a wimp and while I appreciate seeing it whole before and afterwards in the presentation, I don’t like the eyes looking at me while I eat.
This grouper was the BEST fish I have ever had in my life, caught that day, in that very bay.
We loved it so much we returned to the same restaurant the next night. This is a first for Gabe & I.
So, this gratitude Friday, I just wanted to express my thanks for fresh food and the appreciation of its source.
Bon weekend, everyone!
Where to find the best fish of our lives:
Ostria fish tavern
720 53 crete
The Minoan civilization was just a myth until the last century when Sir Arthur Evans , a British archeologist, was able to pursue his intuition and dig after the Turks departure from Crete. Before that, he was not able to dig due to the conflict.
And he found what he was looking for – traces of the ancient Minoan civilization which flourished in Crete from 2500 BC to about 1500 BC. This civilization was the oldest in Europe, happening during the Bronze Age. For a reference point, it thrived in the same era as the Egyptian times and the Ancient city of Babylon.
The first settlement on top of a previously Neolithic village occurred around 2500 BC – time of King Minos. They flourished, but were completely iradicated around 1700 BC – possibly by earthquake or the Santorini volcano which is likely to have caused tsunami effects. During this early time, they were far advanced, producing:
-the first flushing toilet. Our guide pointed out that even the Palace of Versailles didn’t have such technology 2000 years later.
-the first draining bathtub in the queen’s quarters.
-the first throne. The original is pictured in the below photograph. A replica sits in The Hague at the International Court as a reminder of the power of justice vs. war (the Minoans were peaceful).
-the oldest road in Europe
We toured the Palace of Knossos, capital of Minoan civilization when visiting Crete. If you know your Greek mythology, you are likely familiar with the Palace of Knossos as it is the site of the great labyrinth and the Minotaur.
A few myths related to the Palace of Knossos & Minotaur occurred here. You may remember them?
–Father and son Icarus were traped in the maze of the labyrinth at Knossos. Finally, they came up with the idea to use wax and feathers to make wings to fly out of their captivity. The father Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high, but being young and foolish, he did, the wax melted by the heat of the sun and he drowned in the sea, now named The Icarian Sea.
–King Aegeus was fed up with King Minos sacrificing 14 young Greek boys and girls each year to the Minotaur. His son Theseus agreed he would go with the troop and kill the beast, changing the sails from black to white to signal his success. He succeeded with the aid of the King’s daughter Ariadne using string to help him find his way. However, in his rush to return to Sounio, he forgot to change the sails. His father jumped into the sea in mourning, thus naming it the Aegean sea.
Other than it’s tie-in to Greek mythology, we found the original 4000 year old urns to be quite impressive – they were made to hold olive oil, honey, and wine. They were extremely heavy, requiring many lifters and handles. It is said that the son of King Minos was curious and climbed into the honey urn and accidentally fell in. He met his death by the bees that swarmed the urn. What a way to die!
Also, I really loved the frescoes. Throughout the archeological site, they had imitations so you could get an idea what the palace looked like. We later toured the archeological museum which contained the smaller and most precious artifacts found at the site. My favorite fresco was the one that depicted the acrobats flying over the bulls for entertainment. Bulls were sacred (unlike Spain and Mexico where they slaughter the bulls), so the acrobats had to be very talented to grab the horns and flip over, with no harm to the bull.
Talk about dangerous jobs!
It has been a dream of ours to return to Greece, ever since our trip to the country in May 2010. We enjoyed the history, being surrounded upon every turn with magnificent ruins and chronicles of the past. We loved the amazing simplicity of their food. We appreciated the openness of the people, so eager to share their culture, their specialties. And, the islands….the highlight for me. I cried the day we left Santorini because I didn’t want to leave the most beautiful place I’d ever seen. And Santorini being my favorite place in the world…still true.
This time, for our return trip, we selected the island of Crete. We had heard the enormous island had a ton to offer – in history, more great food, and gorgeous blue waters.
We stayed in the Mirabello Bay, in between the town of Elounda and the tiny fishing village of Plaka. I had selected the hotel based on the photos I’d seen other travelers post online of the Elounda area. I just love it when there are other islands or peninsulas to look at in the distance.
A guy on our plane to Dublin told us Ireland had 30 shades of green. I’d say, they certainly do, but if you are dedicating colors to islands…Crete has 50 shades of blue.
Yesterday, you read about the magnificent prehistoric caves we saw in Dordogne. However, we did a few other neat area activities, and I wanted to share.
While we were waiting to enter the cave (closed for lunch for 2.5 hours, it is France), we saw this cute bistro. As it turned out their sandwiches were 3.50 euro which was an excellent price. However, the downside (or upside, depending on who you are), was that all the sandwiches involved duck or goose.
I am not a foie gras person, so any type of duck modification that isn’t breast meat scares me, so I went goat cheese. It was lathered on crispy French bread. Yum.
After our feast, we checked out the shop. They had duck and goose everything. The owners invited us to check out their geese.
We continued onto the cave and had a great experience there.
After, as we were driving, we saw magnificent sunflower fields. They were just turning to their peak, way after Geneva’s had long gone dreary.
We stopped upon little Sarlat-la-Canéda, also in Dordogne valley. It is on the UNESCO “maybe” list, due to the excellent form of its medieval architecture. Goose and duck souvenirs were everywhere….not to mention a lot of the canned and jarred stuff. Ick.
We hit the road for a little while, realizing it was time for dinner soon. S spotted a hilltop town very close to an exit. Since French roads only have exits every 30 km or so, we took advantage and pulled off.
We enjoyed a great pizza there before heading back.
I love France…each trip there are so many different discoveries. But, I am afraid I am getting “adorable” town burnout. Is this awful?
Our first stop on our Bordeaux regional wine tour was the little town of Saint Émilion, where we were staying. We had wanted a blend of these small family-owned wineries in Saint-Émilion, along with the larger châteaus in Médoc.
We stared out at Laniotte, which is family owned. The man who runs it is actually a baron. However, you wouldn’t know from his humorous personality.
One thing that was interesting to me was that these small wineries only produced one wine. In the US, one winery might have a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot, and a variety of whites. Not here….they made one.
And the classification is very important. At this winery, their product is a “Grand Cru”. We had learned about cru designations when we went tasting in Burgundy last Fall. In that region, they were given the designation: Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Village level, or Regional AOC.
However, here in Saint Émilion, the best was Premier Grand Cru, and the next was Grand Cru.
Still different nomenclature from Burgundy. Confusing, huh?
The owner’s wife was a chemist. She explained to us how they sometimes used the pure juice from the vats. However, sometimes the pressed grape juice was added. It just depended on the year, and what the wine “needed” in order to reach its best formulation.
This winery produces 60,000 bottles a year. Not bad. At the time, they were racking. Racking is the process of moving a barrel of wine into another barrel.
I am familiar with wine tanks which were used in the fermentation process. However, most of the time, I had seen stainless steel. This was the first concrete one I had seen. The winemakers said concrete helps retain the temperature more constant.
The result? Nice.
We enjoyed meeting the family and tasting their product.
While tasting, we asked if we could explore the vines. We had noticed that the vines in this region are more squarely pruned. It is hard to tell from this photo, but they looked more manicured compared to those I had seen.
Later that night, we had more time to get “intimate” with the vines, as we took a little post-dinner walk through some of the terraces of Saint-Émilion:
When we went to Bordeaux, we stayed in the town of Saint-Émilion.
Saint Emilion is an old wine town. History dates vineyards there back to the second century. Can you imagine?
The town is a UNESCO site. Romanesque architecture and roman ruins are sprinkled throughout the entire village.