Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Triple M"

Mark and I made our first trek to a mall yesterday. It is in a town called Crissier, and is only about 10 minutes by car. It is a large complex with lots of shops and a couple of grocery stores. Migros is one of the biggest chains of grocery stores in Switzerland. It is easily recognizable by the orange M that you see on the outside of the store. You can tell how big it is by the number of M's displayed. One M means only food, two Ms means food, kitchen, bathroom and other products. Three M's apparently means everything! This Migros was bigger than Costco and pretty much sold anything you can think of! It also had a huge sporting good and "do-it-yourself" section, which includes gardening and art supplies. We bought quite a few things for our new place, including a microwave, and I also got a tennis racquet! Love the triple M Migros!



My last outing with Michelle and Adam was a day trip to Gruyeres, Switzerland. It is famous for producing Gruyere cheese, along with some fabulous chocolate! It is a short 1 hour 15 minute train ride from Lausanne, and displays some beautiful countryside scenery along the way. Once we arrived, we headed up the hill to the center of town. It is a very small medieval town with hotels, restaurants, and shops lining the main street. We took a great tour of Chateau du Gruyeres, a medieval castle overlooking the town. Then we headed back down the hill to buy some cheese and chocolate! The shop also has a cheese demonstration which is available to watch, although we did not make it to that. I do have to say that it was some of the freshest cheese I have ever tasted! I'm looking forward to going back so that we can check out the chocolate factory!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Interlaken & River Rafting!


Last Saturday, Michelle, Adam, Simone, Mark and I hopped on a train and headed to Interlaken, located about two hours from Lausanne. Interlaken is a town located in between two lakes at the base of the Jungfrau mountain range. It is gorgeous! The landscape is all green, with beautiful blue lakes and snow-capped mountains. Although the town is small, there is a lot to do in Interlaken. It is a hot-spot for extreme sports, and we took advantage of participating in them!

We checked into our hotel, Hotel Krebs, and then walked went for a walk down the main street. We came across a store that booked sporting excursion, and Simone, Mark and I decided sign up for river rafting! Alpine Raft picked us up from the hotel at 4:00 pm and drove us to their retail location in town. We got set up with wetsuits, life jackets and helmets. After being fitted up with the proper gear, we drove about 2o minutes to the Lutshine River. Our guide Koryn gave us a safety talk and instructions about paddling through Class 3/4 rapids! We practiced in the boat on land first and then put the boat into the water and set out down the river! The water was 8 degrees celsius, equal to 46 degrees Farenheit.....very COLD! The wetsuits kept us pretty warm, but my hands were freezing! The first set of rapids were some of the craziest, and it was a wild ride for a minute! There were 6 of us in the boat along with our guide, who sat in the back and steered. Following the instructions that Koryn yelled to us, we were able to successfully move down the river, getting drenched by the rapids along the way! I had a brief scare when we hit a rock and I felt myself start to tumble over the side, but I held onto the rope on the side and my cousin, sitting behind me, grabbed my life jacket! Thank goodness! I was pretty freaked out about that, but managed to paddle on!

Halfway through, we manuevered our way to the side of the river and got back in the van for a 2 minute drive. We were required to drive around a set of Class 5 rapids, which were too dangerous to go through. That area is also classified as a nature preserve, so the rafting company can be fined by the government if they go through this area. We got the boat back in the water and hoped in for another wild ride down for the second half! Again, we hit another set of crazy rapids. Towards the end, the river was much more calm and we got a chance to take in our beautiful surroundings. The river ends into Lake Brienze and we all jumped out of the boat into the ice water for a quick swim to shore! It was, although scary!, an amazing experience! We enjoyed our first Swiss cheese fondue dinner that night (Michelle ate schniztel)!

On Sunday, we woke up and ate breakfast at the hotel. Then Simone, Mark and I headed to the funiculare while Michelle and Adam went paragliding! Yes, they each jumped off the side of a mountain (with a guide!) and soared with a parachute over Interlaken! The funiculaire took us 8 minutes up the side of the mountain opposite the Jungfrau mountain range and provided an absolutely fantastic, post-card perfect view of the snow-capped mountains! We got a chance to sit and stare at the amazing view while eating lunch there as well! We headed back down after taking a lot of pictures and met Michelle and Adam back at the hotel to start out journey home. It was an awesome weekend...I can't wait to go back!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Visitors & Bern!


Michelle and Adam arrived for vacation last Thursday morning, and our cousin Simone arrived from Berlin on Thursday evening! It has been a lot of fun having company here. Last Friday, Michelle, Adam, Simone and I took the train to Bern and explored the Old Town area. The river Aare runs through the city, and makes for a beautiful view! Two of the most famous sights in the Old Town are the Munster Cathedral, a 15th century Gothic cathedral, and the Zytglogge, a medieval clock tower. We walked around the area for a few hours, enjoying the sights!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

U2 Concert in London!

London & U2!

This past weekend we packed a bag and headed to London for a U2 concert! We left on Saturday morning aboard EasyJet (the Southwest of Europe!), and arrived an hour later at Gatwick. We headed to our hotel, The Royal Horseguards, checked in, and then headed back out again for Chinese food! One of Mark's colleagues is from London, and gave us some good restaurant recommendations. I had a craving for Chinese, as we haven't it eat any since we left the States. Our meal at Royal China was a mixture of dim sum and a couple of entrees....extremely tasty! We went back to the hotel and then headed out again to Wembley Stadium for the concert.

One of London's main forms of public transportation is the tube, which has many lines running all over the city. It makes it extremely easy to get around. We got on the tube for Wembley, along with thousands of other fans doing the same! The first train that came was completely full, but we made it on the second one! It was about a 30-40 minute ride out to the stadium. Once we got there, we made our way to will call to pick up our tickets and then we went in search of our seats. The seats weren't bad...Mark was worried about their location! We got some pre-show entertainment in our section when a couple of crazy British guys behind us started the wave in our section that eventually made it all the way around the was really funny! U2 put on a rockin' show and we had a great time! It was pretty neat to see Bono sing live. It is definitely one of those bands you have to see in concert. The entire stadium sang along with most of the songs! They played for a little over two hours and included all of their classics on the playlist. It was great!

The next day we headed out to do some sightseeing before we had to catch our plane home. I haven't been to London in almost 20 years, so I was excited to go see some of the major sights again! We walked along the Thames River and checked out the London Eye, which is the world's largest ferris wheel then walked on to admire Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament both of which are fantastic sights. After that, we took the tube a couple of stops to check out St. Paul's Cathedral. Since it was Sunday and Mass was starting, we were not able to tour the inside, but we managed to get in for a minute to check it out...what a beautiful church! Our final stop was Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of the Queen. We took a walk through St.James Park and enjoyed an ice cream before going back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and head for the airport. It was a fantastic weekend! I can't wait to go back again!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Geneva Festival Fireworks

Last Saturday evening we took the train to Geneva for the annual Geneva Festival fireworks display. The Geneva Festival is held during the first week of August every year. Booths line the sidewalks by the lake with food, games, and merchandise, as well as rides! The fireworks display is one of biggest fireworks shows in the world, and its reputation did not let us down!

We arrived around 8:00 pm and grabbed a hot dog for dinner before we set off on the trek to find our seats. There were tons of crowds, but we made it to our designated location about 20 minutes early and waited for the show to start...and what a show it was. At 10:00, all of the lights around the lake were turned off and the fireworks began. Each set of fireworks was choreographed based on a different theme and they were all set to music. It felt like they were right over our heads, they were so close. Mark and I agreed that we had never even seen some of the fireworks that were lit that night. It was an absolutely unbelievable show! Check out the following link for more pictures:
Here is a little taste of the show!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Unpacking in Our New Place!

It has been an exciting few days for us, as we moved into our new apartment this weekend! We picked up the keys on Thursday and then I met the movers bright and early on Friday! We now have all of our belongings that we shipped over from the States. Woohoo! We still have a lot of work to do to put everything away, but it feels good to be home!

We are living in a new apartment complex in Lausanne. It has two bedrooms and an office, as well as a "cellar" (the basement!) for extra storage. We definitely have more room than we expected! As customary in European households, there are no closets, so we put in a big IKEA order which includes two armoires The furniture is tentatively scheduled to arrive this Thursday...which means we will have a lot of assembling to do, but it will be good to have a place to put our clothes!!

Our apartment is a few minutes away from the city center by bus. The bus stop is a one minute walk from our building which is very convenient! We also found a website which gives us the bus arrival times in real time, so we know when to head out the door! We also have a supermarket one block away so it is very easy to pick up groceries!

I posted a "before" picture, but I will post more once the place is decorated!

Monday, August 3, 2009

My morning tour of Neuchatel!

I headed out for a walk around Neuchatel this morning and ended up seeing some great sights. I originally intended to take the funiculaire (tram) down the mountain, but it was temporarily out of service, so I took a somewhat crazy (and creative walk) down the hill to get to the lake! I reached the lake and then headed in the direction of the church.

On my way into the old town, I walked past Maison des Halles, a 16th century Renaissance Market Hall. It is encompassed by Place des Halles, which now houses restaurants and cafes. I headed back up the hill to Eglise Collegiale, the early Gothic collegiate church. It offered some magnificent views of the town and Lake Neuchatel. The church became Protestant in 1530 under the leadership of Guillaume Farel, a leading religious reformer in Switzerland during the 16th century.

Next door to the church sits the Chateau de Neuchatel, which houses the law courts and the cantonal government. I was able to walk around the courtyard there.

I went back home for a quick break and then headed out to meet Mark at his office for lunch. I got to check out a new form of transportation as well! His office sits west of us on Lake Neuchatel. To get there, you take a tram on rails about 4 stops from the main square. He sent me detailed directions on how to get there so I arrived without any problems! I got to see the new research and development building and cafeteria, although for security purposes, I could not take a tour or see his office.

It was a fun day of exploring! More exploration ahead....stay tuned!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Swiss National Day!

Saturday was Switzerland's National Day! It is celebrated in honor of the Eternal Alliance that was created by the union of three cantons in what is now central Switzerland. This pact was documented by the Federal Charter which mentions this event taking place in early August of 1291. This year was the 718th anniversary of the creation of the country.

Mark and I spent a relaxing day at home in Neuchatel and then headed to Lausanne on the train in the evening. Once we arrived, we headed down to the lakeside (the lakeside area is called Ouchy). We ate dinner at Boccalino, our favorite pizza place that we discovered when we first moved here. :) Then we wandered around for a while just checking out the scene. There was a food/games area set up that felt exactly like the Del Mar Fair in San Diego! I had a bit of deja vu as I walked through there!

The most interesting part for us was that anyone can purchase fireworks here, and they were being set off in the streets all around us!....and by small kids! It definitely felt strange to see this pre-show of fireworks before the real show started! It didn't start to get dark until 9:00, but everyone started to look for a place to watch the fireworks show at 10:00. A marching band came by playing the country's anthem. We found our spot to stand in, and enjoyed the people-watching. At 10:00, the street lights were turned off and the real fireworks show started! The fireworks were set off from a barge in Lake Geneva. It was a fun evening!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Friday Night Out!

We had a fun Friday night out last night in Lausanne! Mark took me out for a nice sushi dinner at the Beau-Rivage Palace on the lake in Ouchy. It was delicious! It is Switzerland's National Day (Independence Day) today, but the festivities kicked off last night. We walked by the lake to check out the food stands. We bought some delicious churros for dessert. Then we headed across the street to the MGM Bar for drinks. We were invited to a happy hour get together by Renee, who we met through Glocals at the Dave Matthews concert a couple of weeks ago. We had a good time hanging out on the roof top bar by the lake and we met some nice people. One of the guys had just arrived yesterday from Spain, so we weren't the newbies anymore! Looking forward to more festivities and fireworks tonight!