A Busy Day

I had the opportunity to go to Rome for a meeting this week. My coworker and I arrived Thursday night just in time for dinner. Fresh from our health screenings* at work, we were determined to make responsible dietary choices**. Like truffle pasta and fruttini- tiny fruits and nuts stuffed with ice cream versions of themselves. Followed by an after-dinner cookie stop at a baker/butcher/cheesemonger/wineperson. The legs of ham were just a hair too big to fit under the seat on the ride home, otherwise...

The next morning we headed out early to catch a quick glimpse of the city before our meeting. After knocking back a few espressos, we had just enough time to spend 5 minutes gaping at the magnificence of the Pantheon. 

And then meetings, meetings, meetings followed by a mad dash to the airport, a quick flight back over the mountains and home in time for dinner.

*"Apparently," there is a serving size for cheese??????...what witchcraft is this?????

** Lies.

March 2013: Walking on Water

One of our favorite not-too-far-away weekend spots is about a 35 minute drive from Lausanne in the Vallée de Joux. The lake is the largest in Switzerland above 1,000 meters which means that if it gets cold enough during the winter months, the entire surface freezes, creating a surreal, walkable landscape.

Last year the lake took awhile to freeze but one Friday in March, near the end of winter, we got an excited text from a friend: check the website! The lake is frozen!

The town bordering the side of the lake we usually spend time in is quite small so with the news spreading and a spring thaw already happening in other parts of the country, the crowds were large and the parking situation chaotic.

But when you spread thousands of people over an enormous lake, the noise dissipates and everything becomes quite serene.

These brilliant people had the foresight to plan a fondue party. I stared, jealous, for an inappropriate amount of time.

There were kites flying.

And how about an incredibly weather-specific sailing sport? That involves very high-tech looking boats (are they boats?) and a LOT of prepping and waiting for just the right wind to come your way. I think this pastime is several income brackets away from me.

Looks like fun.

Our curiosity peaked over some mysterious numbers painted on a rock wall bordering one side of the lake– so much so that we crossed suspiciously mushy ice to try and decipher them.

Then we got yelled at and had to wander back to safer terrain.

As it is now again winter, we are anxiously awaiting the next freeze. I hope it comes soon! If not, the consolation is that we will still get to enjoy summertime picnics and gelato by the lake as we escape the summer heat of Lausanne.

Snowshoeing without Snowshoes

The weekend before we left Switzerland for Christmas, we drove back up into the Jura for a walk.

Summer hiking trails turn into winter snowshoeing and cross country skiing trails.

The snow was packed enough that we we able to walk on the snowshoe trail sans accouterments (two words of French! In a row!)

It was significantly colder than Lausanne. I had to break out my Extreme-Chicago-Level-Of-Winter-Puffyness coat.

Among the sport enthusiasts, there were lots of babies learning to cross country ski. They looked hilarious, all bundled up in their snowsuits, their cheeks bright red. Learning to ski in general, looks quite difficult so I felt quite sympathetic with the three-year-old collapsed on the side of the trail, totally sick of the whole experience.

Anthony explained to me that woodpiles are an appropriately manly background for a photo. So I obliged.

Hard to believe that we've been here a (over!) a year already.

Backtracking: November in York

One of the most amazing things that happened in this year of amazing things was my best friend moving to York England to take her masters in Saving the World (and I say that without a hint of sarcasm, the people in this program WILL save the world, no doubt about it).

As a result, I got to go see her for a too-quick weekend.

You know how you have those weekends where it feels like you were able to pack 5 days into just 2? This was one of those occasions. Sleeping was not a priority when there were musicals to see, chance encounters with long lost friends to have and vampire movies to watch. 

Sunday morning, before heading home we took a nice long stroll through York and admired all it's quaint and adorable winding roads.

I have seen a lot of cathedrals since arriving in Europe, this one was by far the biggest. Seriously impressive.

It is amazing to me how different things are within such a small area. Cute Swiss towns are so vastly different from cute English towns. Yet they have so many things in common. Cobblestones, for instance. And intriguing little alleyways.

The center of town is enclosed by a massive Roman wall. We strolled along it with our coffees and chatted about important things.

So excited to go back.

High Elevation Marmot Encounters

In Montreaux, there is a cog-wheel train that will take you on a 45-minute journey up into the mountains.

Standing on the lakeshore in Montreaux, you would never imagine views like this exist so far above your head.

But they do.

As we hiked along one of the many ridges, climbers appeared out of (seemingly) nowhere. Upon further inspection, it we discovered that they had climbed up the face of the mountain. My brain could not comprehend this until we inspected further:

This is the Via Ferrata. One of our Swiss friends explained it to us - apparently it's somewhere between really daring ladder climbing and really tame rock climbing. You clip into the ladder so it's quite safe. I think we will be trying this when the weather warms up. I am attempting pull ups in the meantime to build strength. So far I can do one-half of a pull up. Progress.

View back to the train station/hut/marmot village/yurts/platters of delicious assorted meats. This looks like the edge of the world, doesn't it?

Amazing views and epic mountain scenery isn't enough you say? You were expecting something more you say? WELL. Let me tell you about the marmots. They live in marmot villages. 

Because they are totally classy. And friendly.

And completely unaware they have giant front teeth. But they want to get to know you so badly that they'll throw themselves at the fence that stands between them and you. And the apple in your pocket. They really want to make friends with that apple.


Speaking of marmots, if you want your heart to explode from happy fuzziness, read THIS

After a super Swiss lunch, we started along one of the many other trails that run through the area.

There was a car rally going on somewhere below us and the sound of vintage engines got Anthony all distracted.

While we spent the entire day exploring, we only covered about a quarter of the trails that stem from Rochers-de-Naye. When the summer comes again I think we'll come properly equipped to do some serious hiking. 

Christmas Spirit in Strasbourg

Winter is coming. And with winter comes the Christmas markets! One of our coworkers is Alsatian and highly recommended the one in Strasbourg, so we decided to take a long weekend and check it out.

We arrived the day before the market officially opened. Since Strasbourg is pretty incredible on its own, we kept ourselves occupied by wandering the little winding streets and eating. Oh the eating. But we will get to that in a moment. First, some architecture:

The city is dominated by an incredible Baroque cathedral. The size and detail of which are mind-boggling.

The color is amazing too, this coppery color with greenish tinges. And it's enormous.

All over the city were these incredible, old buildings. Like a storybook.

The Christmas decorations were amazing. Every street in the city center, no matter the size, was festive beyond belief - everything from Baccarat crystal chandeliers to mechanical polar bears to bubble machines. The mechanical bears might have you raising an eyebrow but trust me –it was magical.

Vintage fiats. I am compelled to photograph them.

In a back alley, I found my future home amongst old, French books. Then I was informed that the proprietor might be unhappy if I began squatting in his shop. Also I don't read in French. Details.

Above: my favorite section of the market (it is scattered throughout the city). All local Alsatian vendors selling delicious things.

Market stalls by the cathedral.

Okay, let's talk about food. Every street in this city is lined with beautiful little places to buy, eat and stare at food. The window displays are so intricate. For an example, see above –who knew that meats could look so festive?

This bread broke my heart it was so delicious.

Before moving to Lausanne, I thought that roasted chestnuts were a thing of Victorian children's stories. I had no idea that a) they exist in such quantities and b) are edible. In French they are called marron and in the fall and winter are served candied, roasted or covered in a sweet glaze alongside the traditional la chasse meal. Having tried two of these three varieties I can attest to their awesomeness. Especially when served with venison. Mmmm.

After spending so many hours looking at food, I was in serious need of sustenance. We stopped in a tea room and ordered vin chaud (aka glühwein aka spiced wine aka dangerously delicious), tea and pain d'epice. This particular version of pain d'epice was filled with marzipan. It didn't last long.

For lunch the following day we stopped into a little butcher shop with a tiny restaurant upstairs. I wanted to move in here as well. Pork has more nutritional value than books. In theoretical squatting terms, I am fickle.

More pain d'epice. The man helping me at this stall knew the trick to good salesmanship - just keep handing me samples and then I will go into a trance and buy one of everything.

You know how you aren't supposed to grocery shop hungry? Well I did, and all I bought was cake and chocolate. Being an adult is great.

All in all, a great trip. On the way, we passed many interesting little towns so I think that Strasbourg is just the first of many trips to the Alsace region.