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

Zürich: Spring for Sprüngli

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Zürich reminded me of Geneva more than I expected: I think I envisioned a larger version of Bern because of the shared Swiss-German culture, but the elegant urban architecture and the way the city is situated around a lake more so resembled the Swiss-French city that I currently call home. Not to mention that Zürich seems to be filled with English speakers! We heard American- (or perhaps Canadian-) accented English everywhere — which is a bit different from Geneva, where you often hear people speaking English but with accents suggesting that it’s not their native tongue.

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Grindelwald: A Snowy Escape (Not the Harry Potter Villain)

If you’re looking for the next big tobogganing sensations, you might want to give Guillaume and me a call. Our first double-team toboggan experience started a little rough — if you can call nearly sliding off the edge of the mountain cliff rough — but by the time we embarked on our second run we were looking pretty darn good. “Lean left! Right! Left!” I would shout from my perch in the back, as Gui supplemented with some foot steering in the front. “Ah! Watch out! Don’t hit that cute family!”

The toboggan adventure — also called sledging in Switzerland — was definitely the highlight of our trip, but really our entire stay in Grindelwald was a delight.

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Gruyères: Cheesy Goodness

I love cheese. And I don’t discriminate either: whether it’s creamy brie or bright orange cheddar (my French readers are shuddering, I know), I truly love every variety. That’s all to say that I was pretty stoked to finally visit the Swiss village of Gruyères, home of the famous cheese often found in fondue. We used our new Mobility car share account — think Zipcar, Americans — to drive an hour and a half out to the picturesque town on Sunday, trying to catch up on the latest radio hits via France’s “Virgin Radio” during the ride.

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Schilthorn: Reaching New Heights

Holy crap.

Well, that’s the cleaned up version of what I shouted when we made it to the top of the Schilthorn’s viewing platform last Sunday morning, nearly blown away by a sharp wind and wet snow. It sure wasn’t what it looked like from the “livecam” we surveyed when we began the four gondola journey up from Stechelberg, a short bus ride from Lauterbrunnen. Gui and I climbed down the metal stairs to check out the “Walk of Fame” area with plaques about actors from the James Bond movie filmed on the mountain — On Her Majesty’s Secret Service for fans, which is featured prominently in the merchandising. On the way, we passed the only other group crazy enough to climb down in that weather, who were making their return to the platform. “It was worth it… not,” an older gentleman declared.

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Lucerne: A Swiss Dreamscape

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If you close your eyes and think of Switzerland, Lucerne comes pretty close to the idyllic landscape of your dreams: Charming architecture centered around a sparkling lake, surrounded by the majestic Alps and herds of bell-jingling cows. It’s lovely. It’s also incredibly expensive, but hey, that’s Switzerland too. We took the train over last Saturday morning and, three hours later, found ourselves in Lucerne where we checked into our “budget” hotel (140 CHF!) and set off to explore.

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CERN: No Goggles Required

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I had the pleasure of hosting one of my favorite people in Geneva last week, and, being a bit of a science nerd, a visit to CERN was at the top of her “To Do” list. For those of you who are not super into physics, CERN is where scientists build fancy machines to accelerate particles and crash them into each other. The goal is to learn more about the components of matter and, ultimately, the universe. Apparently, getting a tour of the expansive facility near the French border is one of the hottest tickets in town: You can reserve a spot 15 days ahead of your desired tour date, with a 24-person cap per group. At the 15-day mark, I signed online during my lunch break only to find the tickets sold out! Luckily, we had a second day that could work for our schedule, so I took things to the next level the following day. I signed on at 8:29am, having read that fresh batches of tickets are released at 8:30am, and, when the clock turned to 8:30am, raced to fill out the online form like I was trying to get into a Beyoncé concert or something. Happily, I was successful, and informed my friend who was in India at the time that I was officially the best friend ever. And then I was late to French class. Such sacrifice!

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