Happy Hanukkah to all our family and friends during this holiday season!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Last Saturday, Mark and I set out on the train down the lake to the towns of Caux and Montreux. Caux is situated in the mountains directly above Montreux. Now that the chilly weather is here to stay, the snow has arrived! As we chugged up the mountain we started to see patches of white and by the time we got off the train, we were surrounded by snow! It was so beautiful (but very cold for a born so-cal beach girl!) We walked through the "Village de Noel," drinking hot chocolate to try and warm ourselves. It was like being in a winter wonderland!
We headed back down to Montreux to visit the Christmas market. Europe is very well-known for it's Christmas markets, and Montreux is known for having one of the bigger ones in Switzerland. We perused the stalls, checking out the goodies for sale. After making the rounds, we met up with our friends Nate and Bianca to devour some delicious cheese fondue! Fondue is a Swiss winter tradition. On a cold night, it doesn't get much better than savoring the taste of bread covered in cheese fondue with a glass of gluwein (mulled wine)!
My first Swiss winter experience was a fantastic one....curious to see what else is in store as we prepare for colder months ahead! Next up in the new year...learning to ski and snowboard! Stay tuned!
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Yesterday, Mark and I bought a raclette grill. Raclette is a traditional Swiss meal that is popular in the winter. It consists of melting cheese under a hot plate and combining the cheese with potatoes, although it can be eaten with other items. We put the cheese on small pieces of bread! It was so good! We both loved it! I have a feeling we'll be eating a lot more raclette during the cold winter months!
Last weekend, I flew to Berlin to see my extended family! The last time I was in Berlin, it was 1990, I was 8 years old, and the Berlin Wall had just fallen the previous year. After almost 20 years, it was great to go back!
I arrived Thursday evening at Tegel airport where my Aunt Hanne picked me up. I stayed at her and my uncle Knut's house in Hohen Neuendorf, which is a village right outside of Berlin. Friday, I spent the early afternoon shopping with my aunt and had a great schnitzel lunch! My cousin Simone took me sight-seeing in the late afternoon in West Berlin, where I saw the famous church
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
Mark and I spent a three day weekend in London last weekend! Mark's friends John and Jen who live in California were there on vacation. It was a lot of fun to catch up friends that we haven't seen in quite a while!
We flew into London Heathrow late Thursday night and met John and Jen in the bar of our hotel, The Chesterfield Mayfair. We enjoyed some cocktails while catching up before going to bed. On Friday, we headed out on the town to do a lot of sight-seeing! We walked from our hotel past Bu-ckingham Palace and then through St. James Park. When we exited the park, we came across Winston Churchill's War Cabinet museum, which we decided to tour. It is a museum that has preserved the underground rooms that Winston Churchill and his cabinet used to run the war during WWII. It is a great museum that I recommend to anyone interested in WWII history. After leaving the museum, we went to take a tour of Westminster Abbey, which is Great Britain's most famous church. It has been used in almost all of England's coronations as well as many famous weddings. The abbey also houses the tombs of many well-known individuals, including Charles Dickens and past kings and queens. After a late lunch we went to the Tate Britain, a famous art museum to view the Turner collection they have on exhibit. After the Tate, we headed back to the hotel to figure out a place for dinner. We ended up going to a good Italian restaurant in the Soho district. After dinner, we had drinks at the posh Mayfair Bar around the corner from our hotel!
On Saturday, we spent a few hours touring the Tower of London. It is pretty incredible that this centuries-old tower has been preserved in the middle of the city. The property actually houses many individual towers where many people were imprisoned and executed for treason during the tumultuous religious times in the country's history. The tower was also meant to protect the city against invasion. The crown jewels are now on display in an amazing exhibit here as well, which include two of the largest diamonds in the world. We also saw an interesting exhibit dedicated to Henry VIII, who ruled England from 1509 until he died in 1547. After the Tower of London, we went to Harrods in Knightsbridge, the famous luxury department store. It has an amazing food hall, along with a floors of designer products! It definitely provides for a fantastic shopping experience!
On Saturday evening, we had dinner at the OXO tower, a building situated on the Thames River. The restaurant is on the top floor, and with floor-ceiling windows, provides an incredible view of the city. It was a great dinner and a good way to end our last night in London. Before we left on Sunday, we walked through the British Museum to view the Rosetta Stone and a collection of artifacts from the Parthenon!
Thursday, October 29, 2009
On Sunday, I ran the Lausanne Half Marathon! The 13.1 mile/21 km race started in La Tour de Peilz and ended in front of the Olympic museum in Ouchy, the lakeside area of Lausanne. Mark and I picked up my race bib from the expo on Saturday night. I spent Sunday morning prepping for race time, and then headed down to the train station at 11:30 am to get one of the "race" trains to the starting line! I officially crossed the start line at 1:46 pm and spent the next 2 hours and 21 minutes running!! Over all, we had pretty good running conditions...the temperature was in the 50's (Farenheit)...a little chilly towards the end when it started drizzling. The race course was beautiful! I had vineyards on my right and Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) on my left. It was a great experience for my 1st international race!
Monday, October 26, 2009
Two weekends ago, Mark and I rode the TGV to Paris for a long weekend! We took the morning train on Friday, and arrived in Paris at 1:00 p.m. We checked into our hotel, the Hotel Elysees Regencia, which was near the Champs-Elysees. We had tickets to see The Fray perform on Friday night, so we took the metro to Le Bataclan, the concert venue. It was a fantastic show! The Fray is a great band to watch live! After the show, we grabbed a beer at the cafe next door.
Saturday, we woke up and headed to the Seine River to take a riverboat cruise. It's a great way to see a lot of sights in the city. We got on the Bateux Moucheux and headed to the top deck of the boat so that I could take pictures. Mark was a good sport about it, since it was pretty chilly!! LOL! It lasted 70 minutes and took us past a lot of "must-see" sights, including the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower. After our cruise, we headed to Bert's , Cafe contemporain, a great eatery we discovered a few blocks from our hotel. After we had rested up (and warmed up!), we continued our trek around Paris at the Louvre. We ended up having a great tour guide with us, as we met up with previous boss's daughter, Brittany. She is doing a study abroad program in Paris. It was fun to have someone with us who knew a lot about french art! We also saw the Mona Lisa and a great temporary exhibit of famous Venetian art work. After we left the museum, we took a snack break in the Tuileries Garden outside the Louvre. We ended our night at one of my favorite places, the Eiffel Tower!
Before we got back on the train on Sunday, we took a walk over to Les Invalides, which a military museum originally built by Napoleon. The church attached to the museum has a beautiful gold dome that can be seen from afar. Napoleon's tomb is located in this church. After that, it was time to go home. We had another amazing weekend get-away! Looking forward to what the next one has in store for us....stay tuned!!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Oktoberfest!The 1st weekend in October, Mark and I caught a plane to Munich to take in our first experience of Oktoberfest! We took a short flight via Lufthansa and flew into Munich's International airport. From there, we took the train to our hotel, the Sheraton Westpark, which was located very conveniently right next to the train station and was approximately a 10 min. walk to Theresienwiese, the area where the Oktoberfest is constructed.
Once we checked into our hotel, we walked to the Oktoberfest grounds and had a blast taking in all the sights. It was really crowded, as it was the last weekend of the festival. It houses 14 big beer tents. Each one has hundreds of tables where, if you are lucky enough to get seat, everyone heads to drink a lot of beer and eat some traditional German food! We took in all the sights and then walked back to our hotel to clean up before dinner.
As we were not able to reserve seats in any of the tents, Mark and I bought tickets to "Dis Weinsplatz", an Oktoberfest party at the Lowenbrau beer hall in the city of Munich. It was only about a mile away from the main Oktoberfest location, so we took the train a couple of stops into the city and then walked to the beer hall. We were seated with 8 other people, so we had a very full table! Although we had a language barrier at the table (Germans on one side and Italians on the other), and were definitely lacking in space!!, we ended up having a terrific time. The servers came by to take our order and then brought us each a liter of beer! In all truthfulness, the beers were as big as my head! LOL! The hall filled up with people, and then the band got everyone in the party mood with a string of German beer-drinking music!! We also enjoyed a pork dinner (which, of course, included, sauerkraut!!) By the time dinner was done, most people were standing on the table benches, belting out the music and toasting to their tablemates! Not being used to drinking so much beer, I was done after only one liter! LOL! It was a fantastic evening!
We spent Sunday sight-seeing in the Marienplatz area in the city and then did one more walk through of the Oktoberfest grounds. It was not nearly as crowded so we were able to walk into a few of the beer tents and check out the festivites. It was such a great weekend that Mark and I are already planning our trip for next year's Oktoberfest!
Friday, September 25, 2009
Paris & Brussels!
Mark found out that September 21st Monday was a holiday in our canton. With the upcoming three-day weekend, we booked a spontaneous trip to Paris, with a day-trip to Brussles included! The TGV high-speed train runs from multiple cities in Switzerland. The Lausanne TGV trains were booked so we caught one from Geneva last Friday night. It is a 3 1/2 trip from there to Paris. We stayed at the Radisson Blu Le Dokhan's Hotel, in the Trocadero district of Paris. Saturday morning we got on the high-speed train from Paris to Brussels, Belgium for a day trip. That ride is a short 1 hour 22 minutes!
We arrived in Brussels and started our walk into town to see the cathedral. Cathedral St. Michel & St. Guluda, begun in the 13th century, took 300 years to build. The Roman-Catholic church was beautiful! Standing on steps of the cathedral, you can see a view of the city with the top of the town hall building in the distance. From the church we walked through the Royal Park and checked out the facade of the Royal Residence before heading down the hill to the main square. This area of the square is fantastic! It has lots of shops and restaurant to peruse. Our hunger took us to a restaurant for lunch that served Brussels' infamous dish, mussels and fries...yum!
Our day was made even better by the festival that we came across in the main square. It was a cultural festival, and lots of booths were set up serving beer and food. We were entertained with bands dressed in traditional cultural country attire, playing music. We went and saw Mannekin Pis, a statue of a little boy peeing! It is one of Brussel's most well-known sights. The locals have taken to dressing him up for holidays, and this day was no exception. We couldn't really see the statue as the little boy was dressed to-the-nines for the festival! The origins of the statue remain a mystery, but it is a fun sight to see.
We decided to take a break for a little bit, so we sat down and enjoyed a Delicious Belgium waffle! I had chocolate and whip cream on mine, and Mark enjoyed chocolate and caramel toppings! So YUMMY! After that, we went to a near-by chocolate chop, (which can be found on almost every street) for another infamous Belgium treat! After all, you can't visit Belgium without trying at least three things: beer, waffles, and chocolate!!
Our train was due to depart soon, so we headed back to the square to enjoy one more beer. Mark and I both thought Brussels was great! I recommend it to anyone looking for places to visit in Europe!
Sunday: We woke up and prepared for a day of Paris sight-seeing!!! It was my very first time to the city, so I was very excited! We headed to the Eiffel Tower first, as our hotel was just a few blocks away from it. As many pictures as I have seen of the Eiffel Tower, I was still in awe of the real thing. The towering monument was absolutely amazing. The square around it has some beautiful sculptures as well. It is an amazing sight. Although you have the option of going up it, Mark and I passed on that and kept going on our walk to Musee d'Orsay. We walked parallel to the river, and saw a lot of great sights along the way. The thing I love about Paris is so much of the architecture from the past still exists. Everywhere you look, there is something interesting to see! Musee d'Orsay houses an amazing Impressionism collection and sculptures. It was great to see so many Claude Monet paintings that I have learned about in school. :) From there, we went to Ile de la Cite where the the Notre Dame cathedral is located , a magnificent form of architecture to view. After walking around Notre Dame, we headed towards the Louvre. We decided to enjoy the grounds surrounding the Louvre instead of the museum, as we needed a break from walking! (We are headed back to Paris in a couple of weeks so we'll get to see it then.) We bought a box of French chocolates ate them in the park, while resting our tired feet!
We went back to our hotel for a break and then ate dinner at a restaurant nearby. Our last outing of the night was to head back to the Eiffel Tower where we caught a view of it all lit up!
On Monday, we packed up our belongings and checked out of the hotel in the morning. We stashed our bags for a couple of hours while went sight-seeing again before we had to go to the train station. We took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe and watched the crazy maze of cars try to circle around the main square! This round-about is one of the few where the cars entering the circle have the right-of-way. It makes for some heart-pounding viewing! From there we walked the Champs-Elysees, one of the most famous avenues in the world. It is lined with high-end shops, restaurants and apartments buildings. After our window-shopping was over, we hopped back on the metro and went back to the hotel to pick up our bags. Our fabulous Paris weekend had come to end. It was an incredible weekend...I can't wait to go back again in a couple of weeks!