Fribourg: Urban Golfing à la Suisse

FullSizeRender.jpg

With our half-fare train passes on the verge of expiring, Guillaume and I decided to take advantage of our last discounted weekend and the gorgeous weather to visit the medevial city of Fribourg, Switzerland. The train journey itself was quite the treat, particularly the stretch just after Lausanne, and I think the above and below photos of Lake Geneva look like paintings even though they were taken through a glass window — Don’t you?

Continue reading

Ouarzazate & Aït Benhaddou: Rock the Kasbah

FullSizeRender 11-min.jpg

Our decision to join a small-group tour to Ouarzazate turned out to be wiser than we had imagined. Several friends had advised us not to rent a car in Morocco, warning of sky-high prices and less-than-optimal vehicles that were not worth the hassle, particularly for a day trip. But as our little van began the climb up the Atlas Mountains and we got a full picture of the conditions we would have been facing on our own, we were very relieved that we hadn’t let our distaste for tours get the best of us. The zigzag road was… well… currently not so much a road, as workers are trying to carve deeper into the mountain to widen the path. We would round a sharp corner — without a guide rail of course — and suddenly drop onto unpaved gravel as our fearless driver dodged the speed demons flying around the other side of the bend. I had popped a motion sickness pill before we boarded the van, but even with the medicine it was a little much so I decided it was time for a nap.

Continue reading

Marrakech: Glorious Sensory Overload

FullSizeRender 11.jpg

Coming from quiet and pristine Geneva, Marrakesh is nothing short of sensory overload: Giant hunks of raw meat hanging from market rafters, men charming snakes sprawled out on the ground in front of you, stalls overflowing with lamps, spices and slippers, children chasing soccer balls through the narrow cobblestone streets, the intermingled smells of freshly-squeezed orange juice and roasting meat, roosters crowing, cats meowing, men pulling carts, donkeys pulling carts, cars pulling carts and oh, the motorbikes, constantly zipping through the alleyways and dodging pedestrians full speed ahead. You won’t get much of a feel for this from my photos — I only dared to walk around with my camera out on the calmer streets — but Marrakesh is quite the vibrant living city. We spent our two days downtown mesmerized by the color and chaos. Continue reading

Cinque Terre: Postcard Italy

FullSizeRender 3 7.31.06 PM-min.jpgWhen it comes to Cinque Terre, I think I can let the photos speak for themselves — with one major disclaimer: You’re going to feel the burn if you want to experience those views! The current trail detour that takes you from Manarola to Corniglia is hella vertical and we were completely soaked through our jeans by the time we made it up to the vineyards. The trails between the other towns were all pretty challenging as well, though that must partly reflect our state of fitness as we saw some rockstar olderfolks powering up the endless stairs.

Continue reading

Mont Saint-Michel: The Big Flood

FullSizeRender 3.jpg

Guillaume had long had his heart set on a trip to France’s iconic monastery so we decided to time our visit with one of the special periods each year when Mont Saint-Michel becomes an island, with access to the mainland completely cut off at high-tide. We didn’t have the best weather for our October visit — gray skies with periodic rain showers — but watching those tides come in and surround the giant rock island completely was incredible, even in the chilly mist.

Continue reading

Tromsø: Chasing the Aurora

IMG_3828.jpg

If you’ve never joined an organized Northern Lights chase, let me attempt to paint you a picture: A minivan full of people from all over the world clad in matching thermal suits, an eager guide craning his neck out the window to search the sky while WhatsApping others for intel, and, later, a bonfire with a bag of just-add-water Norwegian-style camping food to fill your belly while you wait, wait, wait. Finally, when you’re starting to feel your toes go numb in the hard core winter boots you were issued, the sky (hopefully) comes alive. To be clear, not with the same bright green color you’ll see in photos — that’s only visible with your camera using a long exposure, as the human eye (and your cell phone camera, for that matter) cannot take in the same amount of light. It’s more like someone is shining a flashlight from the other side of the sky, with beams of light filtering through pale, milky green clouds for seconds or even minutes at a time.

Continue reading

Two-Year Anniversary

I experienced a bit of déjà vu on Wednesday: I pushed through one of the enormous glass doors of the Geneva Apple store, weaved my way through the sea of eager customers trying out the latest Macs and made my way to the left side of the room where I knew I would find the iPad-wielding employee that essentially serves as the bouncer for the Genius Bar. As far as I could remember, I had not set foot in the store since the several-week debacle over my MacBook shortly after moving to Geneva, during which I helplessly relied on my husband to communicate on my behalf. But this time, I reminded myself, things were different. I took a deep breath and approached the smiling bouncer.  Continue reading

Loire Valley: Princess for a Weekend

FullSizeRender 3.jpg

My obsession with Mary Queen of Scots dates back to the month before we moved to Geneva, when I boarded a plane with my dear plant Nigel to relocate him to his co-parent’s home in Cleveland, Ohio. It would turn out that the co-parent’s cat would try to eat Nigel and he would have to be relocated yet again, but that’s a story for another day. The main point is that my friend got me hooked on a CW show called “Reign” about Mary Queen of Scots during that visit, and thus when Gui made our itinerary for the Loire Valley of France he knew that visiting the castles that Mary had lived in was a necessity.

Continue reading

Sigtuna & Uppsala: Autumn in Sweden

FullSizeRender 9-min.jpg

We decided to take a day trip during our four-night stay in Stockholm and settled on a visit to Sigtuna — the oldest town in Sweden — followed by Uppsala, known for Scandinavia’s largest cathedral and its university. Some people take a day for each, but we had plenty of time to check out both in a one-day excursion — and if you want a taste of Sweden outside of its trendy capital I would highly recommend the trip. The tree-studded landscape was especially beautiful during our autumn visit, making me a bit nostalgic for our annual drive to Shenandoah National Park while we lived in DC to see the changing leaves.

Continue reading