A Joyous New Year

2018 has started off as a joyous New Year, with our first three days spent in our home town of Chicago.  Our most recent visit was one of the best we’ve ever had.  Matilda has added a whole new level of specialness to our visits home and this Christmas and New Year was no exception.

As part of this Chicago visit, we first hosted Matilda’s baptism.  The rest of the visit was spent catching up with family and friends and celebrating both the Christmas and New Year holiday.  We were in Chicago for three weeks, and I am so thankful to my parents for hosting us.

Aside from the baptism, some of the highlights of the trip included:

Matilda interacting with other children

As Matilda is almost one year now, she is at a very fun age.  She is chatty (though not speaking real words), mobile, and very interactive.  Her personality is really taking shape – both the good and bad parts. 🙂

She interacted with many other kids this trip – my nephew, my cousin’s children, and my best friend’s children.  Her interaction with her cousin, Adrian was the funniest, though.  Adrian has an extremely sweet demeanor.  We were teaching him to share toys, and while Matilda liked the toys, she liked Adrian more.  She kept grabbing his shirt collar to pull him closer to her.  That act frightened him a bit, so he would slowly scoot away.  It was hysterical to watch, and perhaps a preview into their relationship down the line.

Catching Up with Friends

Since we were home for 3 weeks, I got to spend extra time with my best friends.  We weren’t rushed like we have been during past visits. It also allowed for visiting friends I see less frequently, such as my friend Jordan who lives in Washington, DC.

Spending Time with Family

This extra time gave us real quality moments with our families.  Staying with my parents exposed them to the funny nuances and quirks of Matilda’s personality, and gave them a glimpse into our daily interactions with her.

We helped my sister move into a beautiful new home and were able to personally share in her joy and excitement.  And I visited with aunts and uncles more frequently than in the past.

It was so nice, in fact, it felt like we had moved back to Chicago!

The Food!

I can’t forget our beloved Chicago-style food.  Hotdogs and beef sandwiches from Portillos, pizza from Pizano’s and Barnaby’s, Mexican from the local hole in the wall…it was awesome.  The problem, however, is the extreme weight gain that occurs eating food like this.  Oh well, that’s what New Year’s resolutions are for. 🙂

Sadly for us, all 3 of us caught a nasty cold the last week we were in town.  We had to cancel our NYE plans but it ended up meaning a great night in with my parents.  We ordered Wildfire steaks for take out and I still made us all dress up to ring in the New Year.

Cheers to another great visit home – my sincerest thanks to my parents for hosting us and letting us take over their house!

And cheers to a great New Year!

Off to the Theater

I can’t believe that after 3 years of living in Switzerland, in the last 2 weeks I have gone bowling for the first time, and now, gone to the theater for the first time.  At this rate, I am practically Swiss!  Now where’s my passport, please?

The theater is something I loved to attend when I was in Chicago – I love musicals, local plays, sketch comedy – I had many friends involved in local Chicago productions and would always try to attend.  When moving to Zurich, though, of course the thought is that everything is in German, so I really never paid it too much attention.

Luckily, my neighbor Carolyn has a good friend involved with the local theater scene in Zurich, and this friend is trying to promote the many English productions that do, in fact, exist.  On Wednesday, I attended my first English production at the Gessnerallee.

The Gessnerallee is an incredibly cool space.  They have huge indoor and outdoor bar areas that then lead you into a large, black theater.

Gessnerallee

Gessnerallee

I really loved the wall of different lamps off to one side of the bar.  I just thought it was unique and creative, and tried to identify how I could pull that look off in my own home.

But back to the show.  For only 16 CHF, I purchased a ticket to see “Real Magic” by Forced Entertainment, a British group based out of Sheffield.  I have included the description of the performance from their website:

“Forced Entertainment’s new performance Real Magic creates a world of absurd disconnection, struggle and comical repetition. To the sound of looped applause and canned laughter, a group of performers take part in an impossible illusion – part mind-reading feat, part cabaret act, part chaotic game show – in which they are endlessly replaying the moment of defeat and the moment of hope. Caught in a world of second-chances and second-guesses, variations and changes, distortions and transformations, Real Magic takes the audience on a hallucinatory journey, creating a compelling performance about optimism, individual agency and the desire for change.”

Carolyn and I entered the theater and were anxious for the performance to begin.  It had been so long since I had seen a live show that I couldn’t wait for it to start.

Gessnerallee

As far as how I felt about the show?  Honestly, it wasn’t what I might normally select if I had understood more about it up front.  It was funny, and it was interesting, and it was entertaining, but I also felt the concept went about an hour too long (the whole performance was 90 minutes).  If you are someone that doesn’t normally go to the theater, I would say you’d probably want to avoid this specific production, but if you are into really different and interesting things, then this would be right up your alley.

Even with that feedback, I still had an incredible time.  It was so nice to go out on a “school night”, meet some new people from a completely different part of the Zurich expat community, and see my first live performance in over 3 years.  I am now keeping a close eye on the Gessnerallee performance schedule so I can take in another English production.  I will of course make sure to report back.

Check it out for yourself – you might be surprised at how much you enjoy it!

Geneva, Switzerland

And so another weekend has passed in a different Swiss town.  Tony and I, in our quest to take more “family” trips (i.e. with our dog) drove to Geneva this weekend.  After more than two years in Switzerland, I can’t believe it has taken us this long to visit the French part of the country, but better late than never.

We rented a car and drove about 3 hours.  We saw a ton of sunflower patches along the way which was so lovely, and it was really cool once the highway signs starting being in French instead of German.

We booked one night at the Hotel Kipling, which was the best 3 star hotel we had ever stayed at.  It was cute, clean, centrally located and even allowed pets like Clark.  We paid extra for parking but it was worth it.

When we arrived Friday, we wandered around and ate a late lunch.  We walked to the train station and ate at Cafe de la Gare.  We sat outside, I enjoyed some rose wine and Tony ate a cheeseburger.  He said it tasted just like Paris.  It was fun to people watch, but Clark kept trying to go inside the restaurant to cool off.

We visited Geneva’s version of Notre Dame and then we walked to the gorgeous lake.  There is a huge spitfire of water called the Jet d’eau (jet of water) which is the tallest in Europe.  Apparently it spits out 500 liters of water per second.  We then took an hour long boat ride – Clark’s first – and enjoyed the sun, breeze and water.  It was such a lovely way to spend the first afternoon.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Geneva Lake

On the walk back, however, Tony and I noticed something.  Geneva is unlike any city we had ever been to in Switzerland, and I don’t mean that positively.  It was dirty.  The buildings in the more modern part of the city were nothing special and it was a bit surprising.   It was like it was almost forgotten by the rest of the country.  Maybe it was because it was surrounded by France on 3 sides?  I don’t know but we felt more like we were in France than in Switzerland.  Not that France is bad or dirty, but I wouldn’t exactly call Paris “pristine”.  Nor would I drink water from the Seine.

That night we ate a lovely dinner and took a bottle of rose to a nearby park to people watch and let Clark cool off.  This is where Tony and I made our little list of “things that would never happen in Zurich”.

  • A man walks by a bench where a family is sitting and uses the back of it to open his beer bottle
  • Said man then meets up with another man in a shady manner, probably to handle some sort of drug exchange
  • Another random man has a bandage on his head and decides to take his shirt off and just sit; he then proceeds to use it to wipe his back sweat like a towel
  • A 4th random man just sits with a forty smoking endless cigarettes
  • A little boy pees in the corner of the park
  • Someone throws trash on the ground

With each sip of rose we laughed just a liiiiittttlle bit harder.

The next morning we checked out and went to join another free walking tour held by Free Walk Zurich.  This was the first week they were trying it out in Geneva and these walks continue to be a huge success for us.

I especially liked this walk because they took us through the old town in Geneva was a much more enjoyable part of the city – much more Swiss.  My goodness, listen to me!

There was also a lot of history in the city.  One of the residents was the founder of the Red Cross, and yes, it’s flag is meant to be an inverse of the Swiss flag.  We also saw the first book store and some really cool looking cannons.  It was just a beautiful, lazy and super enjoyable day just like when we did the walk in Bern.

The final thing we saw, which Tony and I loved, was the Monument Brunswick.  According to Wikipedia:

The Brunswick Monument is a mausoleum built in 1879 in Geneva, Switzerland to commemorate the life of Charles II, Duke of Brunswick (1804 – 1873). He bequeathed his fortune to the city of Geneva in exchange for a monument to be built in his name, specifying that it be a replica of the Scaliger Tombs in Verona, Italy.

Brunswick Monument

After our walking tour, we headed back to Zurich.  It was a great trip, even with our criticisms.  We are just spoiled living in Zurich, I guess.  🙂

Until next time….