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Kristi
The Boy, 2 Muttleys and I have finally realized our dream of living 1 mile from the Lindt Chocolate Factory. Leaving Atlanta (the World of Coke) for Zurich (the World of Chocolate) hasn't come without challenges, incredible fun or giggles. Follow along as I chronicle our adventures as we acclimate to this new Swiss lifestyle.
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Monday, November 30, 2009

What Is Your Inner Pig Dog?

Last Friday in German class, we were practicing our conversation skills and speaking in past tense.  It was my turn and I spoke about how I went for a run the previous morning at 7am. There was a collective gasp from the class.  How could I run at such an ungodly hour?

But then something amazing happened.  My teacher shared with us that her "Innerer Schweinehund" wouldn't let her get up early to run.  Whenever she shares something new, a phrase, a word or a verb, she writes it on the wipey board.  Once she did so, it suddenly it clicked, she wrote something outstanding.  I asked her if the English translation was "Inner Pig-dog", she said "ja", then I guffawed and proceeded to celebrate for all readers of my blog that they too would soon learn about the Inner Pig-dog.  Don't feel bad for my teacher that I guffawed in her face.  She has come to expect a little "Kristi wise-assery" and guffaws on a daily basis.  That is why I pay her the big bucks see.

She explained that your Inner Pig-dog is the voice that makes you quit or procrastinate or I guess be a pig while at the same time being a dog.   It is also a good way to deflect any responsibility one may have for their own actions or inaction.  Now I don't have to feel bad when I save my homework for the next day so I can watch trashy European TV, or when I eat that 4th piece of chocolate on a daily basis, or when last Sunday I polished off a 1/4 of a pecan pie (don't judge me, take it up with my Inner Pig-dog).  What noise must an Inner Pig-dog make anyway?  Snorf?  Barf?

So what is your Inner Pig-dog, what makes you lazy or procrastinate?  What do you do that you know you shouldn't?  Spill it...
Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hey Thanks!

Turkey Day is my fave day of the year, by a long shot.  It encapsulates all that I love: Food, Drink, Football, Family, Rubbing Belly, Sleep, Second Helpings 5 Hours Later, etc.  In Switzerland, today is any other day.  The Swiss could give a rats patootie that the Native American Indians and the Pilgrims ate some dinner together hundreds of years ago while secretly loathing and resenting each other (which is sometimes not too far off from present day family get-togethers).

Today I have class, the Boy is working, tonight I must study and go to bed.  Fortunately we have made some friends, American/Swiss friends, who have offered up their home and hospitality on Saturday to host a Turkey Day celebration.  This will more than suffice although I am very sad I am not with my family today.

Since Turkey Day has evolved into a day where we must give thanks, I figured I would enlighten you with all that I am thankful for.

1. Eye Cream-  I am thankful for the eye cream I just purchased.  It actually seems to be visibly reducing the wrinkles around my eyes.

2. Radiators- I am thankful that my apartment is heated by radiators and not central heat.  Central heat dries me out like a Griswold Christmas turkey and so far, radiators have been quite kind to my skin.

3. Flu-less- I am thankful I have been free of all animal flu; bird, swine, human...with the amount of coughing, hacking, blowing on public transportation and everywhere else in between, I am shocked the whole city isn't in bed.  Here here immune system, you are a pal.

4. 1/2 Marathon- I am thankful that I am NOT running a half marathon today.  Last year, on this very day, I ran the Atlanta Turkey Day half  marathon which reduced me to tears and robbed my stomach of any desire to eat copious amounts of food.  This is Mary Kate and Ashley's dream diet, but not mine...see, I like to eat y'all.

5. Chocolate Factory- I am thankful I live near the Lindt chocolate factory because everyday my air smells like dark chocolate vs. car exhaust.  It is sad though that I walk down the street with my mouth open, looking like a humpback whale trying to catch plankton.

6. The Boy and the Monsters- I am thankful for my family as they make me smile every single day.  Without them, there is no place that could be like home.

7. Family and Friends- I am thankful for my family as they have given me support with all of my life decisions and to my friends, old and new, you all rule.

8. Courage- I am thankful I finally grew a pair and did something scary.  I haven't been this proud of myself in a long time.

Feliz Gobble Day!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

5 Signs You Are Learning A New Language

As I eluded to in previous posts, I am learning High German all intensive style.  This means 5 days a week, 3.5 hours per day and up to 2 hours of homework each night.  PEOPLE, this is equivalent to being a full time university student.  Why would I do this to myself you ask?  It is my personal belief that you should respect the country you are inhabiting enough to be able to order food in a restaurant, thank a cashier or tell a stranger who has somehow crossed you to "%$@^ off" in that country's respective language.  I am also unable to work so this gives me a much needed boost to my self esteem, a feeling of belonging and perhaps leverage with companies should I one day search for employment.

German is freakin hard but I am slowly learning it.  How do I know this?  I have identified 5 signs, which if you have ever learned or are currently learning a new language, may be able to identify with:

1. You start to dream in the new language:  So dreams are sometimes unintelligible in your native tongue so imagine how it must feel to dream in a language you just started learning.  You wake up wondering "what the hell did that German Crocodile just say...wait a second, there are no Crocodiles in Switzerland".  My brain just picks any German word it has seen or learned the previous day and has inserted it into any conversation my dreams may have.  It is bat crap crazy to dream in a language you yet understand, leave it to the brain.

2. You have discovered Worterbuch humor:  If you are learning a new language, your brain suddenly has this valve that needs to be released to let some steam out.  There is only so much your brain can take before it needs some comic relief.  Friends, this comic relief comes in the form of your language conversion dictionary so if you have one, please take the time to explore it.  Here are some fine examples:




I imagine being the writer of a translation dictionary must be mundane at best. I bet said writer takes out their flask of alcohol, takes a nip of some liquid strength and uncovers exciting new ways to explain a word.  This dude was having way too much fun but I view it as a gift, to me and you.



Just in case you have already learned thousands of normal words or if you just get bored of normal words, fear not, you have American slang inspired by Beyonce to add to your repertoire.

3. You have a place that gives you angst:  Part of learning a language is taking the time to practice outside the safe haven of the classroom.  You find there is this one place that really makes you nervous. Maybe they replied to you in English, maybe you said everything wrong and they gave you a sneer instead of a stare. Maybe there is no logical reason why you have this one place that reduces you to a person who practices for 10 minutes on the walk over, out loud, with the real possibility of being swooped up by the Sanatorium workers for talking to yourself while cursing.  My angsty place is the Bakery.  Bakeries are high turnover establishments, there is always a line, people order quickly, pay quickly, and then get the hell out of there...quickly.  I think my angst comes from having to say it right, quickly and confidently.  I am lucky if I leave there with what I intended to order.  Silver lining is I have tried many different types of breads, some I probably never would have deliberately ordered.

4. You find you have to relearn grammar, in your own language: Grammar, you hated learning it in English and you forgot it on purpose.  I don't need to know what a stinkin preposition is...who cares about articles, unless they are in People magazine while you are waiting in the Dentist office.  Adverbs, they are a poor man's verb...I think.  In order to properly learn a new language, you have to relearn the different components of grammar in your native tongue to be able to move forward with the new language.  It is imperative! (that was lame grammar humor, bet you didn't know there was a grammatical component called "The Imperative".  Sounds like a really bad Grisham novel).

5. You start making room in your brain for the new language:  My brain has a finite amount of space for a new language.  As you can see from this diagram, I don't have a lot of room to play with:



So, near my brain stem is my language center.  When I learn new German words, I have to make room for them so in order to do so, I lose some English words.  I have calculated that for every new word I learn in German, I can lose up to two English words.  German words are freakin long, so it is only logical from a storage perspective that there is a 1:2 ratio.  My greatest fear is this method will lead me to becoming mediocre in two languages.  This is a very real possibility.  You probably noticed that I have space to rent in my brain.  Send any serious inquiries to my email: fromatlantatozurich@gmail.com.  We can discuss prices and details off line.

I want to end with this.  No matter where I am in the German learning, certain words will never lose their giggle potential. You can't take the juvenile out of Kristi:  Fahrt, Fahrts, Fahrten, Gasse, Dich, Dick, are just a few. Fortunately I have a teacher with a great sense of humor and calls on me whenever an answer needs a dich or a fahrt.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Year In Review-How I Got My Swagger On

A year ago today I turned 34 and found myself in crisis.  Birthdays have historically yielded disappointment or shame that I was disappointed, but let's face it, how significant is this day really?  Yes it is a day supposedly dedicated to you and your existence, and somehow your existence is now governed by how many Facebook "Happy Birthdays" you receive.  I wonder if the creators of Facebook knew they were releasing a cyber 8th grade popularity contest for which some people it either validates or invalidates their self worth.

Anywho, back to the crisis I had a year ago.  I decided then that I didn't do enough in my lifetime.  I felt I had nothing to show for my 34 years, independent of my wonderful marriage and two doggies.  I was Kristi, I worked, I cleaned, I cooked, I laughed, I loved, but I didn't feel like I ever pushed the envelope.  I was always too afraid.  My crisis made me aware that deep inside, in some small crevasse located in my brain or heart, I wanted to do something that really tested me.  Shortly after my 34th birthday I ran a half marathon, but I had done that before and while it is a scary thought to run 13.1 miles, it is decidedly temporary.  I wanted to do something more profound, a life change if you will.

It was then I decided to go back to school. I am not going to lie, the thought of going to school while working full time was terrifying because it meant all work and no play.  I began taking pre-requisites for the Dietetic program at GSU which consisted of Chemistry and Lab.  I had vague memories of high school Chemistry, how it was all math-y and hard.  I was shocked to learn I actually enjoyed it a little, and I kicked its mother fargin ass.  I knew I could face "scary" and win, but it wasn't without pain.  I had strained some friendships being unavailable and I had little "me" time.

While I was getting my Chem on, the Boy started putting feelers out for a Global rotation overseas because Chemistry made me so confident that I said to the Boy "Get us to Europe, stat!".  Well, it turned out to be "Get us to Europe, really slow and methodically!" because these things take time and this too wasn't without some pain.  Obviously we got here but just a year ago, I was freaking out about doing nothing with my life...just a year ago my friends.

Moral of this story is, do your scary. Doing your scary begets doing more scary, then you find you get all confident and even swagger.  I catch myself swaggering to the bus stop all the time.  A little bit of swagger is a good thing, especially if a year ago on your birthday you thought your life was pretty swagger-less.

p.s. If you want to wish me a "Happy Birthday", you can do so by visiting Facebook, not that I think it validates my self worth or anything.
Sunday, November 15, 2009

I AM a Jelly Donut


Places don't often confuse me, of course there are exceptions like hardware stores and Applebee's.  A city is pretty straight forward, you either like it or you don't.  Recently we traveled with friends to Berlin to participate in the Nike Human Race 10k which was held worldwide on October 24th, in a variety of cities spanning several continents.  Since the race was the main reason we traveled to Berlin, I didn't do my normal "research our trip to death" trick.  We had a little bit of time to take in some sights, so I did just enough research so we weren't floundering trying to figure out what to do.



My first impression was "wow, I didn't know there were so many shades of grey in existence".  Granted the grey weather didn't help but the city was chock full of post war utilitarian architecture, butting up to random 500 year old buildings.  Berlin was brutally bombed during WWII and what is left standing is scarred with bullet holes, the acne of war. I wasn't prepared to find a city that wore its history like Euro-tweens wear their skinny jeans, proud and painted on their skin. The contrasts were startling, bordering on manic.

An example of this contrast is the Kaiser Wilhelm Church which was constructed in 1891 and victim of an air raid in 1943.  Today it stands without renovation as a constant reminder of what war can do.  Next to it stands a 1960's post war building resembling a hair curler Grandma wears to bed.



Quite the contrast, isn't it?  Inside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial, placards detail the events of the bombing and one in particular haunted me.  It was a photo of the church before the war showing what Berlin could have been.  It could have been all Europe-y and cute and old and gothic and medieval and enchanting.

At first I was angry and sad that it wasn't all cutesy Europe, but as I saw more of the city, its people, its scars, its energy...I decided that Berlin has a job to do. It consists of living, breathing collections of stories, a bible if you will, to continually remind us of what real evil can do.



We visited remains of the Berlin Wall only to wonder "why???" and "how could this exist as late as 1989??".  You simply can't digest this city quick enough and you wish you had three brains to do so, like a cow has three stomachs to digest the massive amounts of food it eats in one day.



I surely hope this person found Astrid.  She does have one of those easily distinguishable names though, so if he saw her across a crowded room in 1990 and shouted for her, I am sure she heard him.

In addition to oodles of history, Berlin  boasts an amazing art scene and nightlife of which I didn't get to enjoy much of.  I had a race to run and a Kenyan to lap me at kilometer 2.  Yeah, this Kenyan dude ran 7 km to my 2...whatever.  The race was why we were there and it didn't disappoint.  Quite surreal running with 6,000 people at nighttime and crossing the finish line at the Brandenburg Gate while it was lit up.  I only felt like ralphing at kilometer 9, quite the accomplishment for me.



We rounded out the trip visiting Museum Island, a collection of art, history and art-history museums.  We were a little groggy from the race the day before so we only took in one museum but I really enjoyed viewing this area as it seemed to host the most dense collection of pre-war architecture the city had to offer.






I have to admit, Berlin still confuses me. It is a place searching for a post war identity.  While it wears its history with pride, I sense it wants to be more than its past. So maybe what I felt was a city in the midst of an identity crisis.



I bet Hitler couldn't do this.



Here is the East Berlin Ampelmaennchen who is far cuter than the West Berlin Ampelmaenchenn.  This was the only thing the East Berlin regime did better in my opinion...these little dudes were so cute and I loved crossing the street for them "Hey Kristi, walk this way...you can do it, I am cute and stuff".



You know how I said Berlin was all living and breathing?  Here is its heart.  I didn't get a chance to locate the spleen though.  Maybe on the next trip.

I will be back to Berlin someday when I don't have a race to run.  I loved how this city challenged me and demonstrated that cookie cutter cute Europe isn't the only Europe worth seeing and experiencing.  I left feeling much like Kennedy did, that I too am a Berliner.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guest Post: What is the difference between expats and foreigners in Switzerland?



By Chantal Panozzo


A few days ago, I was preparing for a radio interview and one of the questions was “what is the difference between expats and foreigners in Switzerland?” At first, it seemed like a trick question—I mean, aren’t they the same thing? But then I got to thinking about some of the discussions we had a while back on my blog One Big Yodel  and on ACC about expat life, which led me to answer the question like this:


An expat is someone who puts their life on hold. They put things off like getting a dog or a house or a piano because they are here temporarily. They also don’t fully commit to the Swiss way of life because they know they won’t be here for an extended period of time. Often, they may act more like tourists than like locals although after awhile, they’ll start to try to fit in. Another sign of an expat in Switzerland? They often don’t know where to call home.


A foreigner, on the other hand, is someone who is committed to being in Switzerland for the long-term and therefore someone the Swiss People's Party fears and for whom they target their poster campaigns towards. A foreigner in Switzerland becomes a part of the culture, whether it’s through a job in a Swiss company that’s not temporary, putting a child in a Swiss school instead of an international one, or renting a real garden plot and planting their own vegetables.





Of course, some expats are also foreigners or sometimes turn into them when they realize they may stay or be here much longer than they thought. I think I am one of those hybrids. Especially since I have to do things these days like hang out at the Swiss unemployment office. You can’t get much more inside the culture than that.


But enough about what I think. What do you think is the difference between expats and foreigners in Switzerland?


Chantal Panozzo is a writer and blogger. Besides keeping her own blog, One Big Yodel, she also blogs for a new expat community blog: www.affordablecallingcards.net. This blog offers affordable calling cards in Switzerland as well as information about living in abroad in Switzerland and many other countries.


___


Chantal will be contributing to "From A to Z" on a monthly basis until she just doesn't wanna anymore.  She offers up key insights into Expat living with humor and grace.  Please give her a warm welcome and definitely check out her blogs!
Monday, November 9, 2009

So Kristi, Do You Miss Anything?

Hands down the most frequently asked question I receive is "So Kristi, do you miss anything or are you constantly pounding a NYC diner table like Sally did in When Harry Met Sally".  I am not going to lie, being here has been pretty gasmic, but I do miss certain things.  The obvious is my people...and no, I don't own you but you were mine, in my heart and I miss you all terribly.  My family, my friends, my co-workers, my critter sitters, my neighbors, you were my network and sometimes your network is all that is keeping you together.  While you are list worthy, you are not going on the list because you are too obvious, so pipe down and read on.

1. I miss knowing what I am doing. Knowing where to get a haircut or where to score certain spices that the Swiss don't seem to cook with or how to turn the heat down in the apartment, are just a few examples of things that I don't know how to do yet.  It is the mundane and routine things that are not mundane nor routine in a new country. On the flip side, I would likely list the same thing as one of the things I love because there is a certain thrill you get from discovery and learning a completely new way of doing things.  Sometimes being defeated and then going on to triumph really makes you feel Expat-tastic.

2. I miss living in a house.  Apartment living is what you do here unless you are super rich or Roger Federer, who by the way supposedly lives near us.  I wonder if he would mind if I dropped off a bundt cake or  tuna noodle casserole...we are sorta neighbors and that is what neighbors do, right?  I want to stalk, errr, meet him.  We lived in a house for 7 years before moving here so going back to communal living has been a little challenging.  I am not a big fan of having to be considerate of neighbors living above or below.  I miss being lazy and letting the dogs out the back door to do their bidness.  I miss the pride I felt in taking care of a home I owned.  I love our new place but I miss the conveniences and privacy a house afforded me.

3. I miss working.  Before you start judging me and thinking I am the most ungrateful trailing spouse ever, think about work minus, well...the work.  For me it was a place I felt productive, relevant and part of something, all the intangibles.  Vacation is only vacation when you can spend it with others, at least that has been my experience.  When the Boy started working, I kept myself busy but I started having crazy thoughts and muttering REDRUM.  Being by myself was just not an option for me.  I am a social creature and have a need to be part of something  hence the move to start intensive German classes one month early.  I am now a part of something, albeit hard as hell something, but something nonetheless and meeting some interesting (some crazy) people in the process.

4. I miss bacon.  I am being serious...I miss American style, heart destroying, cured pig meat and fat.  I talk about it constantly, I dream about it while I am awake.  I miss the guilt that bacon provided, how it made me promise myself I would work out 8 times in the next two days.  I miss not working out 8 times in 2 days like I promised myself and the guilt that followed.  So anyone thinking of a Christmas gift for the Remicks, one word, two syllables...BA*CON.

When I acknowledged that I missed parts of my old life, at first I felt pangs of failure.  For some reason missing things allowed doubts and negative thinking to creep in. It was when the Boy told me "you too are the reason we are here, not just me" that I started feel ownership of this experience.  For the longest time, I thought it was he who got us here, his talents, his resume, his job, his acronyms... When you examine it more closely though, it was me choosing to leave my job, my home and everything I had built, that also made this happen.  I think once I realized that I played an important part in all this, and continue to be an integral part of this experience, I allowed myself to miss things and love the new things at the same time.  If you are soon to be an Expat, currently are an Expat or just curious because you know me, missing the old but loving the new is normal.  I am sure if some Psychiatrist sat down and tried hard enough, they could come up with the 7 stages of Expat-dom.  If I have any wisdom to share, it would be to allow yourself to experience it all, the good, the bad and the chocolate.
Thursday, November 5, 2009

49, In Dog Years

The Boy loves the "in dog years" joke, much like the Grandfather who makes money appear from behind his Grandchild's ear.  We just celebrated 7 years of marriage and like my cute Boy always does, he said "that's 49, in dog years...".  He didn't have 49 fingers, so seven had to suffice:



So the dog years joke is off limits when you reach a certain age, again much like the coin behind the ear trick.  I can picture an adult Grandchild swatting away Grandpa's hand wondering "what the hell are you doing behind my ear Pops???".  You then realize with a bit of shame that he was trying to be cute, but at a certain age cute sometimes fails.  I turn 35 soon and no way in hell I want to hear how I am 245 "in dog years".  My theory is, if it requires a calculator, age in combination with the dog years joke is off limits. I propose we find an animal that lives longer than humans so we can scrap the "in dog years" for age.  "Hey Kristi, you are 27 in Giant Turtle years".  Oh yeah, that's better.

So back to the point of the post, we celebrated 7 wonderful years last Friday at Petermann's Kunststuben which is a Michelin rated restaurant just outside of Zurich in a town called Kusnacht.  I am a wannabe foodie and I pretend to know what I am talking about, but when it is all said and done...I just want to eat some tasty food.  I don't care if I am eating a one pot meal, a hot dog off the street or 2 Michelin star magic...it just has to taste good.  Well, this meal tasted REAL good.  I was in heaven, angels sang and fuzzy kittens frolicked at my feet.



I even vogued while eating, this is a sign of a good meal friends.  Why was I so excited?  Switzerland has access to an abundance of quality ingredients but can't seem to do anything with them.  Our meals in restaurants have been expensive but have barely inspired a yawn, not even a burp.

I wouldn't say the meal was perfect, there were a few service hiccups when it became busy but that is to be expected.  This type of meal is about the experience, so we both relaxed, chomped and got dizzy on some wine.  Here is some eye candy:




CHOMP!



CHOMP, there it is...



Who let the CHOMP out...who,who, who, who...



Once, Twice...Three CHOMPS a lady...I love you.



and finally, BURP



"Oh this smells good, I think I will CHOMP the hell out of it..."

Happy Anniversary my Boy.  I don't care if we celebrate it in human years, dog years or giant turtle years.  I love spending any kind of years with you and I look forward to growing old together, even if it means you have to tell me when I am 80 "Hey Kristi, guess how old you are in dog years?".
Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Catalyst

A catalyst is a substance that can speed up or slow down a reaction.  A reaction doesn't require a catalyst, but it sure is nice to have if you are impatient like the Remicks.  Last December as the Boy and I discussed for the umpteenth time how amazing it would be to live in Europe, we quickly realized that the global recession was likely going to be the catalyst that slowed down our dream.  Hey Globe, way to be recessed.

Art, a former colleague of the Boy's in Atlanta, was on a two year rotation in Geneva and could at the very least provide us with some guidance.  So the Boy sent him an email asking general questions about the rotation program and if he had any insight to share with us on how to get over the pond. Art and the Boy belong to the "Mutual Admiration Society", so immediately he shared with the Boy some important contacts that could potentially be valuable as he thought the Boy could make an immediate and positive impact.

These contacts were proven fruitful and without them or one Mr. Arthur Noll, there is a good chance we wouldn't be in Zurich.  Now don't get me wrong, the Boy has skillz and I have no doubt we would have gotten to Europe on our own, but not this fast and possibly not in such a great place.  So thank you Mr. Noll, you are good peeps and it was only logical that a visit to Geneva was in order so we could thank you properly.  On October 9th, we hopped on a train and within three hours the "thank you weekend" began.




Aww, aren't they cute?  This was the inaugural meeting of the "Mutual Admiration Society" and they were all excited.  

Geneva is located in the French speaking portion of Switzerland and is the second largest city behind Zurich.  It is home to many international organizations, most notably the UN and Red Cross, so as a result it has a very international feel and diverse population.  Like Zurich, it is situated on a beautiful lake and on a clear day it is rumored to have excellent views of the Alps, but unfortunately our weather didn't afford us any. Swiss Germans call Geneva "Genf" which sounds like the noise you would make if you were punched in the gut, but I digress.

When we arrived late Friday night, Art brought us to an excellent Italian eatery and we stuffed ourselves silly on yummy pizza.  Swear, the pizza was actually good.  Discovering good pizza in Switzerland is like discovering Bigfoot in Delaware.  I checked the BFRO, or the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, and Delaware has had the fewest sightings in the Continental US: http://www.bfro.net/GDB/.  Maybe Delaware is where you should enroll your children in school (hint: PARENTS, STAY AWAY FROM WASHINGTON STATE).

The following morning we woke up early and suited up for a hike although it was raining.  We were hopeful the rain would subside by the time we reached our hiking point.  Unfortunately the weather only got worse once we reached our destination, but we were there so we decided to give it a go.  20 minutes in we decided it was no fun for us or the dogs and that "giving it a go" was totally over-rated thus we turned back, heads held high.  Due to the weather, no pictures were snapped but I can tell you it was a beautiful spot and would have taken a pretty picture on a clear day.

Later that afternoon when it cleared up a bit, we took in some of the city sights and historic old town district of Geneva.  Here are some shots:






I can't get enough of the cute produce stands in Europe.  I want to hug them.


But hugging produce is likely against the law so I would likely end up on this street, suffering for eternity.


This is a view of Geneva's Jet d'Eau which runs constantly unless there are strong winds or severe low temps. Do not put your face over this bad boy, not that I tried or anything.

Once we toured Geneva, we cleaned up nice and headed east via train to Montreux and Sierre.  My favorite part of our visit to Geneva was exploring these two towns full of wine (duh), cheese (double duh) and beauty.  Montreux was our first stop and is home to the world famous Montreux Jazz Fest.  I can't even imagine going to a jazz fest in this location as it is at the foot of the Alps and was just stunning:











Now why couldn't they have gone one step further and actually make this avenue out of chocolate?  Let's use a little ingenuity here.

Next stop on our journey was the town of Sierre which hosts Art's favorite restaurant in all of Switzerland: Chateau de Villa "Le Temple de Raclette".  The restaurant itself was a beautiful chateau (looked like a small castle, wait...is that an oxymoron?) with a wine tasting cellar and restaurant upstairs. I think it was safe to say we were all pretty giddy to go to a place that specialized in melted pieces of cheese or what the Swiss call "Raclette".  The cheese itself is a semi firm salted cheese made from Cow's milk.  A Raclette dude or dudette takes a heat lamp, heats the top layer of the cheese wheel until a yummy crust forms and then scrapes it on to your plate.  You can choose from all sorts of sides where most contain an acid to cut the fat that you are about to consume.  We chose an option where you sample 5 cheeses, then you can continue to order your favorite once you have tried all 5.  Each cheese was from a different region and had its own distinct flavor. Art and I agreed number 2 was the winner winner chicken dinner, however the Boy thought number 4 was.  Here are some pics from the gorge fest:










We had such a special time with Art.  Not only was he responsible for us landing in Switzerland, he fed us lumps of melted cheese.  The dude should be sainted...or Obama'd.  Speaking of Obama, they love him Geneva too.  When I spotted this sign, the sun came out and a butterfly landed on my nose: