Sunday, December 25, 2011


A couple weeks ago, I finally took my long-awaited trip to London! I have been wanting to go since we got here so I could see one of my very best friends from last year, Camila! It was worth the wait! The last time I was in London was on my HS trip back in 1998... to say that my perspective has changed is an understatement! London is an incredible city. It is so alive!

The first day, Wednesday, I had lunch with a good friend from Australia who recently moved there. It was great to see her! Then, I met Camila at her hospital and we walked around for a few hours through the main shopping area and then ended up in Hyde Park where the Christmas carnival was set up. My favorite part was the grown up carousel- which was a bar serving hot wine :) LOVE!

The next day, we took a boat to Greenwich to see an interesting market, a beautiful park, and to be at the Prime Meridian that separates the Eastern and Western hemispheres. We then stopped to have our afternoon Tea at the Muffin Man Tea Shop. We had Earl Grey with homemade scones served with Devon cream and jam. Amazing! The cream tasted almost like butter... to die for! On our way home, we did a quick walking tour past the London Eye, the Big Ben and the Westminster Abbey.
Tower Bridge from boat
Greenwich/Royal Observatory
London Eye
Big Ben
Westminster Abbey 

That Friday, we went to a few museums in Trafalgar Square. Then took the double decker bus home :)

Nicholas was supposed to arrive Friday evening, but he did not get in until Saturday at 3am due to the snowstorm in Geneva. Saturday, we went to another cool market where it seemed everyone went to eat the delicious food for lunch. We had amazing lamb sandwiches with halloum cheese. Then we bought a traditional English Christmas pudding cake for dinner later that evening. We took the Jubilee Line to Swiss Cottage... We can't escape it, we had to take a photo! :)

Sunday, we ended our trip by going to a pub with Dino and Camila before we headed to the airport to get back to GVA. It was a great trip and so fun to see where Camila and Dino live and work.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


In one of the many beautiful parks
"Birth of a Nation" statue
The languages of the EU
"Europe" statue
Interesting clock 
Square in Brussels

We saw good friends a few weekends ago in Brussels. Saturday night, after a long day of touring the city on foot in the bitter cold, we had dinner at Chez Leon, the famous place in Brussels to eat mussels and frites. We met up with two couples from IMD who each have two children. It was a loud and fun evening. After our delicious meal, we decided to walk through the city center to have a waffle for dessert. We crammed in all the Belgian food in one meal :) We found out that Hanjun and his family will be moving back to Korea which we were thrilled to find out.

IMD Reunion :) 

Sunday, we saw some more sites then we had drinks with another good friend of Nicholas' and his wife before we flew back to Geneva. Nicholas and Virgilio met in Rio almost 10 years ago. It was great to meet him and hear some of their stories.  It was a wonderful weekend in a very cold Brussels!
In front of the Atomium 
Nicholas and Virgilio 

Friday, December 9, 2011


Last Monday I left for a trip to Holland to visit a friend, and former student at IMD, and to see Amsterdam for the first time. Now is an excellent time to visit the European cities, while they are dressed for the season in their sparkling gowns of lights and pines.

The first reaction I had to Amsterdam was it is such a shame that it took me this long to visit! The city is incredible with the canals, the leaning buildings, the amazing streets filled with interesting shops and restaurants, and the bikes. Oh, the bikes!!
Tilting houses on canal
Canal- the boat is named: Double Dutch 
Can you see the skinny house :) ? 
My ride in Amdam- pink with a basket!
My first night, I headed straight to Colleen's apartment where I dropped my bags and we jumped on her bikes. She gave me an awesome tour of the city at night, taking me down twisting streets filled with other bikers and people on their feet. She gave me a crash course, no pun-intended, on biking in Amsterdam. The do's and don'ts. Although the night was extremely chilly and I had already started to feel the start of a cold, I did not want the night to end. Before we went home, we stopped in a little restaurant for a light, but warm dinner, including soup and mint tea. Delicious and warm. Just what I needed. Also, refreshing. The servers were pleasant and almost seemed happy to be there. After, we hopped back on the bikes to end the night at her home and I crashed and slept soundly til late the next morning. C is generous and told me to make myself at home and take whatever I needed. The only rule she had was that when I took the bike out, it must be double-locked, and if possible, attached to something, at all times. Simple enough!
bikes everywhere
Old bike
Leopard bike
My second day was a wonderful experience. I hopped on my newly acquired bike and got myself over to the Van Gogh Museum. I had only meant to spend an hour or so there, but ended up passing close to 4 hours there. It was just too good to rush through. When I left the museum, I wanted to instantly return. The day was wet again with rain, and just at the moment that I left to get my bike, it started hailing. Big, round pebbles of sharp hail. This continued the whole day. Interchanging only between wet, heavy rain and sharp, pelting hail. Knowing me, you know this is a personal hell. I hate to be cold and I hate to be wet. Second only to being hungry... and third to being lost. Luckily, I was ok on the food front, but got lost the rest of the day trying to find other sites. I eventually did find the famous street market, but couldn't seem to get back into the heart of the city. At this point, I was so drenched, I figured that my only chance of not getting the flu was to make it back to the apartment and get a hot shower as soon as possible- which is exactly what I did. The night ended with a delicious home-cooked meal, thanks to my host and I silently prayed that I would not catch something that would keep me in bed for my last full day.
Van Gogh self-potrait
old book shop
On Wednesday, I vowed that with the unpredictability of the weather, I would sacrilegiously leave the bike and only take the trams. At this point, I definitely was feeling under the weather and had much more that I wanted to see and do. First on my list, go to Anne Frank's House. It was an interesting experience. I remember reading the book when I was much younger and being moved by the girl who was close to my age. I was surprised to find the hiding space much larger than I expected. I thought it would be much smaller and claustrophobic. But in reality, it was rather spacious, even for 8 people. From there, I was ready to try one of Amsterdam's famous pancakes topped with savory things. I went to the Pancake Bakery and had the ham, cheese and mushroom pancake. It looked like a pizza, the pancake tasted like a perfect marriage between a French crepe and an American pancake. Yum! The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the 9 Streets or 'De Negen Straatjes'- filled with interesting shops and cafes. Before I headed back to the apartment to get out of the wind and cold, I vowed that I would not leave Amsterdam without trying the famous Herring. I did this and am glad I did. It was an experience that I can cross off of my list... :) Then I made my way back to the apartment to pack up and get ready for my early morning flight.
Entrance to Anne Frank House
Pancake "pizza" :) 
All the "9" streets are 'labeled' with the lit 9s 
Herring Shop
Famous herring sandwich with onions and pickles
All in all, Amsterdam is a place I would definitely go back to in a heartbeat. It had a really quirky and cool feel to it. Like the younger, crazier kid-brother to Paris. I love that everyone bikes, no matter the time of day or the temperature. It felt like I was a kid again with a carefree attitude, one that seems adopted by the inhabitants- like the city doesn't take its self too seriously. Besides the weather, I have no complaints! What a great city!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving in Z

Tree in Zurich City Center (Filled with Carolers!) 

This past weekend we celebrated one of my favorite US holidays in Zurich with Ashley, Mike and 20+ of their best friends. Although cleaning the apartment and cooking two birds, 5 sides and 3 pies for a large crowd is crazy stressful, it was a success! I could not believe how much food we had leftover! We could have gotten away with one bird, the basic sides of mashed potatoes and stuffing and 2 pies. Even then, there would have still been massive leftovers!

The scene was set perfectly: 
Football and beers/wine pre-dinner- Check! 
The Yule Log playing as soon as the game ended- Check! 

Then, Ashley said grace and gave thanks before the meal and I think everyone got a fairly good impression of a US Thanksgiving.

One guest, in particular, celebrating his first Thanksgiving, OD'ed on turkey. I have never seen one person eat so much of the bird. He didn't realize there was more of the meal coming and the look he gave when we told him that the pumpkin and apple pie were being served next was priceless. The rest of the night, he along with several other guests were in a food coma. Ah, just as it should be :) 

Of course, a Thanksgiving celebration is never complete without a little celebration of Mike. As his birthday is always just right around the corner from T-day, we made sure he was not forgotten. Ashley passed out sparklers and then we brought out a cake to a room singing Happy Birthday!

I still cannot believe Ashley put on her 3rd Thanksgiving here, especially one week before her and Mike are moving up to Basel. They will probably forget how unprepared they are for their move in a few months, but they will never forget their Thanksgiving feast. I know those 20-odd guests, won't! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Busy Busy

Things have been extremely busy over here on Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers. With unpacking and settling into the new apartment, Nicholas traveling to Singapore for work, having visitors and working on a project for my dad- there is not a dull moment, or much time for me to blog :(

While trying to finish this project for dad, I decided to take a 20 minute break to give my head a rest from translating. My break consisted of cleaning up the dishes and organizing the kitchen, as that was where I was working. I noticed that I never took the clothes out of the washing machine from yesterday when I arrived home from yoga, so I decided that I should hang them to dry, as well.

**Small fact you must know before I continue- our adorable, European washing machine doesn't always complete a cycle... sometimes it decides to finish right before draining the water and doing the final spin. Lucky me. I discovered this once before and have been good about checking to see where the cycle is and whether or not there is excess water hanging out in the machine.**

This morning, it slipped my mind to check. I was focused on getting as much done as possible before I got back to work... Rushing is never a good thing. When I opened the washer door, water gushed out all over our kitchen and I was standing in two inches of day old water... ewwwww...

Funny thing is, this morning I had looked at the kitchen floor and thought that it needed to be washed. Lets just say the floor is now sparkling :)

And, my 20 min break turned into an hour and 20 min break... Back to work and more to come soon!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's official

We are now left-bankers in Geneva. Although our apartment is still covered in boxes and not close to being arranged, it is so nice to have our own place and to have Nicholas so close to work!

So far so good!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Just over 150

With just over 150 days before my next decade passes, I am contemplating how I want to mark this point in my history. Many people create a list of things they must do before they are 30. I looked through some other lists for inspiration, but was less than inspired. Some of the things I have done and the rest just seemed lame.

I am on a reading kick, so for fun, I am going to read at least 30 books for the year, ending on my birthday. Almost halfway there. But talk about lame, that is not how I want to mark this next stage :) Just a fun little competition to bring me back to the 1st grade where I beat Jason and the rest of my class to read 100 books. Of course, I heard a rumor that Jason C. was reading over 100 books, so on a mission, I read 200 books by the end date and won a hamburger watch. Trust me, it was all the rave in 1988.

I digress. I remember when I entered my 20s; leaving my teens as if through a painful door. I cried. I thought I had to say goodbye to my youth, the days of being a child. In some ways, that was true. I had entered my "trying twenties."

However, during my 20s I did and saw so many spectacular things and really lived. In no particular order.. I traveled to Asia, South America and the Middle East for the first time. I suffered my first broken heart. I studied in Spain and Mexico. I lived in Europe. I got married. I had my first real job. I saved a lot of money on a small salary. I lived in DC and NYC. I ran 5 marathons. I learned two foreign languages. I became an aunt, twice. I gained a family in another country. I graduated from college. I had the best boss and the worst boss. I drank too much, I earned too little and I had a blast.

I don't want to slowly, begrudgingly shuffle through the door of my 30s with tears coming down my face but rather, I want to come crashing through it with enthusiasm and joy.

So, with just over 150 days, I am going to mark this occasion into the next chapter.. someway. I just have to figure out how. Stay tuned!

My Impressions

If I had to sum up my week in the Emirates to a few paragraphs, this is what I would tell you. Yes, the Emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi specifically, are a clash of modern with the old. The newly constructed buildings are toeing the line of reality. Things don't seem real there. Everything at first glance is shiny and new. The buildings, malls, metros.
Burj Al Khalifa World's Tallest Building 
Burj Al Arab World's Only 7 Star Hotel 
Emirates Palace cost US$3Billion to construct this hotel

But then, you also see the old, sometimes crumbling, buildings. The shops that have been around for years that are outdated serving local cuisine or trading local products that have been beaten down by the sand and sun.
Old Dubai

The people. Nicholas and I were surprised at how generous, warm and kind the people are there. The men are extremely chivalrous. Never would a seat on the metro or bus not be offered to a woman if a man was seated. Doors were held open. People smiled and were happy. We had many occasions of having a meal in a local restaurant and when realizing the waitstaff spoke no English, we communicated with  pointing, smiles and hand motions like you would anywhere in the world. However, I always felt like we were really communicating and understanding each other. Our last meal in Dubai, the waiter/owner treated us to a local dessert just because.

The start of the sandstorm

The weather. It was HOT. Super hot. After a couple of days, we would say things like, Wow, it is only 96 today? It feels great out! The sun was constantly beating down and the only escape from the heat was to slip into a shop with air conditioning or to find a palm tree to stand under. No joke, the shade felt so refreshing. Although they don't get rain or snow storms, they do experience sandstorms and we happened to be traveling from Abu Dhabi to Dubai when one hit. It was crazy. People reacted just as if it were a torrential downpour or a blizzard. Because it is, just with sand. Visibility disappears and everyone on the road puts their flashing lights on. 

Spice Shop

The food. I was in my own personal heaven. Upon sitting, there were olives placed in front of us at most places. We drank fresh pomegranate and watermelon juices. Giant barrels filled with pistachios, spices and other nuts lined the store fronts. Hummus, baba ganouj, shawarma, pita, naan, etc, was served everywhere. We stayed near the fish market in Dubai and I fell in love. The stench almost caused an immediate gag-reflex but once you adjusted, the mountains and varieties of fish blew my mind. I fantasized what it would be like to live there and come to the market and buy the local fish for dinner. For someone who loves to have a cocktail or glass of wine with dinner, I did not miss alcohol once while I was there. Sure, we could have had a drink if we went to a hotel bar, etc, but why would you and miss the local scene?

Fish Market

Directions. In the UAE there are no street addresses. At first, I thought each place we were staying was trying to be discreet, but I soon realized that no buildings are numbered and addresses are given in the way I would give them to friends. "Yep, we are just down the small side road off of the plaza. Tall white building next to turnaround. Above the makeup shop." This is how we were told directions. When we stayed in Abu Dhabi the last night, we were told it was one of two rose-colored buildings, the one closest to another landmark with a light fixture store at the bottom and with a doorman whose name is Abbas, if during the day, or Abubkar at night. Trust me, it is not always the easiest way to maneuver new cities, but it sure made it interesting.

Mosque at sunset

The customs. Although it was strange not hold hands with Nicholas or steal kisses from time to time, and to have to wear much more clothing than I would during a Swiss summer, let alone walking the streets of a desert, you adjust. I could not believe the women wore their traditional black dress and head scarves in the intense heat. And, I didn't find it fair that the men got to wear white... I even had to dress fully covered to enter the Mosque, while Nicholas got to keep his street clothes on. Trust me, it is just as hot as it looks.

That was a camera smile, underneath I was dying of heat
Notice who is showing some arms here...

But that is the joy of traveling and trying new things. If you are lucky, you get a tiny glimpse into what life for others is like. When you suddenly understand something that you never grasped before. At the end of the day, we found that we shared much more similarities than differences. In fact, I couldn't help but compare it to the US. We felt right at home in the middle of the desert.