15-Month Anniversary

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I have to be honest: I’ve been totally wrapped up in trying to power through the 90-degree Fahrenheit/32-degree Celsius temperature inside our un-airconditioned Geneva apartment and get some studying done for exams, and did not realize I was due for an anniversary post until my trusty phone alert late last night. Thus, you’ll have to forgive that this entry is short on thoughtful expat reflections, and accept a substitute of some very wise attic apartment advice instead: When it’s 90 degrees outside, do not leave your windows open all day in the hope that a breeze will bring some fresh air into your flat. There is no breeze and your apartment will somehow stay at a sauna-like 90 degrees all week as a result — even though it’s back down to 70 degrees outside. (You’re welcome.)

Outside of studying for exams — four more to go! — Gui and I have been spending our time down by the lake relaxing between workdays and classes, and soaking in what I really do think is Geneva’s best season now that I’ve experienced them all: Summer. (I know, it’s still officially spring, but this weather says otherwise.) The city comes to life with swimmers, sailors and festivals, and it’s really a different atmosphere from the quieter winter months when downtown empties out in favor of the nearby ski slopes.  Continue reading

Lisbon: Amazing Azulejos

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We just got back from a fantastic long weekend in Lisbon, so I’m going to interrupt my series of road-trip posts to bring you my thoughts on Portugal’s capital while they’re still fresh. My main takeaway? Lisbon is gorgeous. With its tile-covered facades, blooming lavender-colored trees and the sparkling ocean just steps away, I could barely contain my delight as we wandered the city’s hilly streets. We’re already determined to plan another trip to Portugal — Any recommendations? Porto? Madeira?

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Mostar: Gorgeous Bridge, Mind-Blowing Kebab

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The drive from Sarajevo to Mostar took us through some pretty wild scenery, with jagged, rocky peaks poking through unchecked lush greenery. I wish I had braved the rain and asked Gui to pull the car over to take photos, but alas, I prioritized staying dry. The best comparison I have for the grandiose landscape would be the images I have seen of Machu Picchu, but as I’ve never been to Peru I suppose I don’t really know 🙂 This is all to say it was beautiful and the view out the window kept me fully occupied until we arrived in Mostar to a miraculous break in the rain.

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Travnik & Sarajevo: Welcome to BiH

Our drive from Croatia into Bosnia and Herzegovina was pretty wild — even without stumbling across landmines leftover from the war in the 90s, per Guillaume’s alarming research. Croatia is a member of the European Union but not part of the Schengen open-border zone, and BiH is part of neither, so once we got to the border we had to pass through one booth where a Croatian official stamped our passports to leave and then a second where a Bosnian man stamped them to enter. Shortly afterward, we traded the smoothly-paved highway for a narrow mountain road that was pretty much the opposite, as we wound our way toward Travnik.

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Berlin: History, Hipsters & Hops

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Berlin was unlike anywhere else we’ve visited in Europe. Yeah, I know, every city is unique, but if I had to compare Berlin to another destination I would go with Brooklyn rather than anywhere on this continent. Part of that is probably because so much of the city was built relatively recently, after getting bombed heavily during World War II. And part of it is probably the prominent hipster vibe that makes Portland, Oregon, seem mainstream. In any case, Germany’s capital and its history is one of a kind, and we had a wonderful time soaking it in.

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Munich & Neuschwanstein Castle: Fairy Tale Bavaria

What a difference 10 minutes can make — That was my big photography lesson last weekend, when we got off the train to find Neuschwanstein Castle in southern Germany completely enveloped in fog. It persisted for a couple of hours while we explored the castle grounds and then, just as we were boarding a bus to catch the train back to Munich, we saw a few rays of sunlight filtering through the clouds. By the time we got to the train station 10 minutes later, the sky was a bright, sunny blue and we were flagging down a taxi to take us back to the castle for a second take. Was it worth it? Well, here’s one of my favorite photos from the trip captured on our second visit:

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And here’s what the same view looked like during our first venture up the mountain:

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Understanding Your British and Irish Friends: An American’s Guide

Since we moved to Geneva last year, I’ve had some incredible opportunities to learn my husband’s native tongue of French — but I’ve also had the pleasure of expanding my English vocabulary from a purely American repertoire to one that understands that your Irish friend has not, in fact, just declared that she’s high (more on that later). Indeed, it turns out that the differences between American, British and Irish English extend quite a bit beyond the occasional “bloody hell,” and often can lead to some rather amusing confusion. I’ve been keeping a list of some of those particularities since I started grad school last semester, courtesy of my dear — American dear that is — classmates who call England and Ireland home. So without further ado, here it is: An American’s Guide to Understanding Your British and Irish Friends!

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Delft, Gouda & the Hague: Exploring Holland

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Our friends moved to the Hague a few months ago and invited us to come see their new digs, so we caught an Easy Jet flight to Amsterdam last Friday and — a half-hour train ride later — were standing outside their adorable flat. The ease of European budget travel… It never ceases to amaze me. Gui and I didn’t make the best first impression on the locals though: We unknowingly sat down in the train’s silent car and were politely informed by a Dutch man that we should move along if we weren’t going to stop talking. Whoops.

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