The May post

Let’s catch up on May 2017, shall we? I’ve been a bit delinquent in blogging but we’ve been busy!

Andrew’s Aunt Cindy and Uncle Rick visit

The weekend of May 6 – 9, Andrew’s aunt Cindy (Andrew’s Mom’s sister) and uncle Rick from Tuscon, AZ, stopped in Lausanne to visit us during a vacation in Europe. They arrived on Saturday afternoon and left on Tuesday morning, giving us some time to spend together and show them the Suisse Romande.

On Saturday we took a walking tour of the old town in Lausanne. It was in the rain, but we made the best of it. For Saturday night’s dinner we went to a local favorite, Suku’s, for some South Indian fare.

On Sunday we headed for the village of Gruyères, a favorite for visitors. Just our luck, the village was having it’s annual Fête du Fromage (a celebration of cheese). They had some musicians playing  the alpenhorn, local singers, some stalls selling local handicrafts and, of course, samples of local cheeses and meats. We took some time to wander the village and take a walk on the path around the castle.

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The Gruyères castle and village, perched up on a hill. It was clearly a good defensive position!
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View from our walk around the Gruyères castle
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Me, Andrew, Uncle Rick, Aunt Cindy, in Gruyères on Sunday

Afterwards, we went for lunch at La Maison du Guyère where everyone had local Swiss specialties, including rösti (similar to hashbrown potatoes and served with various toppings), croûte au fromage (bread, cheese, various toppings like bacon and egg), and quiche. It’s a bit touristy of a spot, but a great place to experience local Swiss food.

After lunch we went to Maison Cailler, the chocolate factory located nearby in Broc. Cailler is owned by Nestlé, and is honestly my favorite of the chocolates sold in our grocery stores (when in comparison to something like Lindt or Frey). They have a tour at Maison Cailler that educated us about the process to produce their chocolate and was somewhat interactive. We had fun wandering through the tour and then at the end it had unlimited chocolate pralines for sampling!

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The all-you-can-eat chocolate bar at the end of the Cailler. Heavenly!

On Monday Andrew was able to take off work to hang out with Cindy and Rick. They went for a hike and then that night we all met at our apartment for one last meal together, cooked at home. It was so nice to get to see Cindy and Rick and to show them our home in Switzerland!

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Everyone at the apartment for dinner

Hike to Vallon d’Emaney

Sunday 14 May Andrew and I ventured up into the mountains to see what kind of hiking we could do, and how high in elevation we could make it with the Spring snow levels. We were treated to an incredible hike! We did about 8 miles and 3000 ft gain in elevation into the Vallon d’Emaney. Upon arrival I started looking up into the valley walls because I felt like we might see some wildlife (reason? tons of skat and chamois poo pellets on the trail) and after a while saw something running parallel to us on the other side of the valley, bounding in and out of the snow. It was pretty far away, but we’re about 99% positive we saw a Eurasian lynx, a rare and elusive animal of which there are an estimated less than 200 in the country. Other large mammals in the area that could have been similar are a fox or a wolf, but we’re fairly certain it was a cat. If we are right it was a super rare sight and so cool!

After that, we kept hiking further towards the end of the valley and heard this loud crack sound like thunder. Well, that’s the sound of avalanche! We saw what was like a waterfall but of snow. Thanks to my geologist sister, I learned that it’s called a gullied avalanche. It was incredible. Over the course of about 2 hours spent in the valley we must have seen and heard about 20 of these avalanches. Overall, we had a really great day. We were happy to see that we could hike to nearly 2,000 meters on a south facing slope and wouldn’t be stopped by snow, we think we saw a wildcat and we saw these amazing avalanches. And these views!!

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Gorgeous pano shot of the Vallon d’Emaney. If you look closely you see the tons of waterfalls coming down. Additionally, it is a good demonstration of the idea of trying to hike on southern facing slops versus northern facing. See the right that is all brown/green? That’s southern facing and perfectly hikeable! The left faces north and was covered in snow and really not accessible for us.
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That’s one of the avalanches you see in the center. It was so cool. Also a closer shot with all the waterfalls all over the place. 
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View of the lake on our drive home

This weekend

This weekend we had our friends Yann and Marie over for dinner on Saturday night and I made a three course meal. We hadn’t seen them since our last dinner at their house in December so there was lots to catch up on.

Bottom left is the first course: bacon wrapped scallops; main course is the top of a beef ragu and bottom right is dessert: caramel crumb bars with vanilla ice cream. 

On Sunday we managed to get out of the house after our indulgent dinner and night of drinks with our friends and visited a local park at Les Pléiades for a short walk. The main attraction is the below pictured white flowers, the narcisse, which were in bloom and blanketing the hillsides.

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Life

So, what’s going on in our life? What are we doing about the move? Lately, I have experimented with selling furniture online to understand how it will work in June when we need to unload all our furniture (we are not taking ANYTHING back with us to the U.S.). I was successful and sold our guest bed and our desk chair on Anibis, a local website similar to Craigslist. With regard to the apartment, we have not solidified a replacement for our lease. There is someone that has applied to take the lease on 1 August, which means we would have to pay 1 month of rent for July, and we will have to decide soon if we accept their offer. Otherwise, we keep trying to find someone for 1 July, which is a little risky.

We booked our flights home! Our official departure date from Switzerland is on 27 July to fly back to San Francisco. Our plans for the summer are still coming together, but we do have the Europe part 100% planned now. We finish work on 30 June in Lausanne and the following Monday 3 July take the train down to Venice, Italy, meet up with our friends Maddy (my friend from JMU who lives in NYC) and Dani (Andrew’s friend from SCU who lives in Denver) and take a bus to the village of Cortina, where we will embark on a hut to hut trek in the Dolomites of Italy for 5 nights. It’s going to be so amazing. After that, Andrew and I take a train to Bologna for one night and then catch a plane to Bucharest, Romania. We’ll stay in Bucharest for a couple days and then take the train into Bulgaria, where we will spend over a week traveling the country from the villages in the north, to the Black Sea, to the mountains and finally to the capital, Sofia!

In the upcoming weeks we have some fun stuff planned. This upcoming week is a 4 day weekend holiday in Switzerland for Ascension and we will be going to the Côtes du Rhône in France. The first weekend of June we have a 3 day holiday weekend in Switzerland and will be traveling down to the Italian speaking region of the county, Ticino. After that, we’re in our last month of living here and it’ll all fly by. As always, I’ll keep you posted!

Copenhagen, Denmark

Another pin on the map! We checked off Copenhagen from the bucket list the last weekend of April 2017 when we took a quick trip to the Danish capital city.

Transportation: The flight from Geneva to Copenhagen is two hours (or three when your flight is delayed like ours – thanks Easyjet!). The airport is super close to the city by train, so in no time we were in the city at our hostel, drinking a beer at the hostel bar.

Now, taking weekend trips by plane has not been a common thing for us. During our time in Switzerland, we have only taken a trip by plane for the weekend once (London) and even then we took a half day off of work on the Friday afternoon. This is primarily because we can only catch flights that leave after work, meaning you arrive in your destination city pretty late, and only have Saturday and part of Sunday before you have to head back to the airport again to go home. Not much time for all the effort and cost. After having done it this past weekend, I had a great time but we did lose a lot of time due to flight delays, flight time and time necessary to arrive on time to check in at the airport. I’ve been very happy with all the weekend trips we have taken that were 100% train/car trips. We are fortunate to have had so much available in Switzerland and nearby which were easily accessible for a quick weekend trip. Think of our trips to: Lyon, France; Milan, Italy; Zurich, Luzern, Basel and all the Swiss villages we have visited for hiking and skiing trips. All without flying! Regardless of whether its my favorite travel style, we broke the mold and went for it this weekend and had a great time.

Accommodation: We settled on a private room in a higher end hostel: Urban House. This place turned out to be awesome. We had the perks of a private room (our own bathroom, no strangers) but then the benefits of a hostel that we have come to appreciate during our time in Europe. It was right by the train station with a 15 min ride to the airport, 10 minutes walking distance to the old town, was in fairly good condition, very quiet inside our bedroom, and the hostel had several hangout spots, luggage lockers, bike rentals, and a big bar/café in their first floor which was bustling with people and had a fun vibe. Needless to say, we were happy with our choice.

Eats: 

Saturday lunch we stopped by Torvehallerne, a big food market with tons of different food vendors with a variety of offerings. Here we tried the Danish Smørrebrød, which are a type of Scandanavian open faced sandwich consisting of a piece of buttered whole-grain rye bread served with a variety of toppings. We got three: the one on the top left which is a beef tartare, center with eggs and shrimp and the one on the far bottom right with cold steak. They were delicious!

If you know me, you know I have a sweet tooth and love baked goods. So, when introduced to the Danish pastry world in Copenhagen I was beyond happy. I immediately found a favorite, which are the bottom two treats: Kanelstang (left) and Kanelsnegle (right). These are like cinnamon rolls but the best ones I have ever tasted in my life as they were just the right amount of doughy and the cinnamon-sugar/vanilla custard ratio was on point. The shops had plenty of other pastries, but not enough time in the day or room in my belly to eat them all! Just have to return soon 🙂

Our first Danish pastries on Saturday morning at the Lagkagehuset bakery, which is a local chain.

Saturday evening we treated ourselves to a five course menu and wine pairing at Cofoco. Andrew and I were excited to see that Copenhagen has a thriving restaurant scene with tons of trendy spots with innovative cuisine. The ambiance in the restaurant was super cool with framed windows dividing up the dining room tables to create a more intimate experience and candles lining a brick-walled hallway to the restrooms. Here are the courses:

Dinner Saturday
Top left: first course of cured salmon, cheese and radishes; Top right: Second course of a mussel  and brown crab soup; Middle left: Third course of spring onions and goat cheese; Bottom right: fourth course of neck of lamb; Bottom left: Dessert of lemon sorbet with a white chocolate ganache and rhubarb. Each course was served with a different wine pairing of mostly Old World wines. It was fun to see some wines we were familiar with and learn some new as well.

Sunday: We grazed a bit. A couple kanelstangs here and there (mouth watering as I write this), followed by trying a pølse, a Danish hot dog, from a food cart in the Nyhavn neighborhood.

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mmm …. red hot dog topped with fried onions, pickles, fresh onion, mustard and ketchup on white bread bun. Healthy!

Activities: Considering the region of Europe we were in, we were not so unlucky with the weather. Saturday it rained the majority of the day and was cold but we were rewarded with a sunny, cool day Sunday.

On Saturday we soldiered through the rain and still went touring about the city. We did part of a Rick Steve’s walking tour of the old city (you know us and our Rick Steve’s!). We also wandered into some shops out of curiosity.

A break in the rain clouds for a short time on Saturday. Here we are in front of the Storkespringvandet, a fountain in the shape of storks in the center of a square in the old town.
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Here I am standing in the square in front of a royal palace with the old stock exchange, the Borsen, behind me.

An unique experience of Copenhagen is the freetown of Christiania. It’s interesting to read about this place, but in short it is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood set up by squatters inside an old military base in 1971. There’s no running allowed (makes everyone think the police are coming), no photos, marijuana is allowed and sold openly on the “pusher street” and no one owns their home but rather it’s all part of the common ownership. I recommend googling it, if you’re curious!

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The entry into Christiania. On the other side, as you re-enter the city of Copenhagen, it says “welcome back to the EU.”

On Sunday, we didn’t have to head to the airport until 6pm, so we had nearly the entire day free. We were rewarded with gorgeous weather, despite being a bit chilly out. We rented bikes from our hostel and rode all over the city. Copenhagen is a cyclist friendly city and has bike lanes, bike traffic lights and overall very bike friendly components to their transportation infrastructure. It was really easy to navigate the city by bike and fun to get around so quickly in the local fashion.

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Andrew and I in the Nyhavn port waterfront. Fun fact, the famous fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen’s home where he wrote stories such as “The Princess and the Pea” is located here!
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In the center of the square at the Amalienborg palace, where the royal family lives, with a view of the Frederiks Kirke (domed roof).
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We were lucky to catch the changing of the guard at the palace. These guys hats’ look so warm! I made the mistake of assuming that they would stick to staying within those black brick lanes, and unfortunately got in their way at one point as they veered off the path and got yelled at by their captain. So embarassing to be “that person”!!

To top off our weekend in Copenhagen, we finished the day at Tivoli Gardens, the amusement park within the city. This place was such a treat! It is gorgeously manicured and so well-put together for being a little park inside a capital city. They have plenty of rides and we were able to have the time to ride a few, including a roller coaster with virtual reality goggles! It was so fun!

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The gardens in the center of Tivoli Gardens were so gorgeous!

Copenhagen is a wonderful city that is easily toured in a weekend, though one more day would have been nice. Overall, we had a great time and I’m so glad we went!

Kuntz Family Visit & Zermatt

Easter is a public holiday providing a four day weekend here in Switzerland (and for a large portion of Europe). Andrew’s entire family was able to come visit us in Lausanne and we all took a trip together up to the ski village of Zermatt. Everyone arrived on the Tuesday before Easter, plus Robin’s boyfriend John on Wednesday. Those two days the Kuntz family spent their time touring the Lausanne area and we were able to go out to dinner together at one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, Le Lyrique, on Wednesday night. We were in Zermatt from Thursday – Monday. Zermatt is one of the top ski resorts in Switzerland and is home to the famous Matterhorn (French: Cervin). We had so much fun spending time together and exploring the massive ski area over the long weekend.

Transportation: We arrived in Zermatt by train. It’s just over a three hour ride from Lausanne and a gorgeous route through the mountains. Similar to the village of Saas-Fee where we spent Easter 2016 (see post), Zermatt is another one of these carless villages. If you tried to drive, you would have to leave your car in a different village and take the train into the village. It certainly adds to the charm to be able to walk everywhere without cars and to only see the city ski bus or little electric taxi carts transporting people around the village.

Accommodation: Andrew’s parents graciously rented a ski chalet in Haus Maryland for us all (see photos here of the place). It was perfectly situated between the different points to access the ski area, on a quieter street off the main drag and had an incredible view of the Matterhorn.

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View from the chalet of the Matterhorn. We skiied up there beneath that beautiful peak all weekend!

Eats: We went out to eat twice while in Zermatt to two different restaurants I found on TripAdvisor: Restaurant Julen on Friday, which is part of a family of restaurants in the village and known for serving their family farm lamb. We went to Grampi’s on Saturday for Italian, and specifically for their pizzas. Both were excellent!

Activities: The primary reason for coming to Zermatt in the winter is to ski. It’s a massive ski area that spans over the border into Italy. You can take every kind of transportation to reach the pistes and we managed to take each one: gondola, chair lift, tow rope, cable car, alpine mountain funicular (inside the mountain!), and even a train. It was impressive. Our weather worked out pretty well for the trip with sunny warm weather on Friday, clouds on Saturday and then Sunday it switched to a winter storm in the afternoon with high winds and snow. So, a little bit of everything! For it being spring skiing, while there was nothing on the low elevation pistes, the snow stayed pretty nice in the higher elevation ski area and we even got a liiiittle fresh snow on Saturday night. We had a fantastic time with the Kuntz family and loved getting to ski together in the Alps of Switzerland and Italy. Zermatt is absolutely gorgeous and an incredible ski area. I would love to return some time in the future.

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We took a cable car and then an elevator to reach this panoramic viewpoint of the Alps and the Matterhorn behind us from the top of the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. It was incredible up there.
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View of the Breithorn (4,164 m) from the panoramic point and a helicopter up in the right hand side.  Helicopters were pretty common sites here. They are used for a mix of reasons, from sight seeing tours, to rescue, to heli-skiing.
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View from the top of the panoramic point of the Alps
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View of the piste we skiied from above on the panoramic point. It was amazing!
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Up high in the Zermatt ski area on Saturday, that’s the village of Zermatt where we stayed far down in the valley if you look closely. For perspective, the village is at 1,620 m (5314 ft) and we were standing for this picture at 3,883 m (12,739 ft). After taking this picture we skied all the way down to the village – the longest on-piste ski run in the world!
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Skiing in Zermatt, here’s another angle of the Matterhorn
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The Kuntz family on the Italian side of Zermatt at the Chalet Etoile on Friday for lunch. It was sunny and gorgeous from here as we ate our lunch on the deck.
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Squinting in the sun but we’re so happy to be together skiing on the border of Italy and Switzerland 🙂
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Zermatt is famous for its aprés ski parties. While the scene was quieting down as it was the end of prime ski season, we managed to catch an awesome live band at the bar Hennu Stall on our way down the mountain on Friday. Nearly at the bottom of the valley, there was a narrow path of snow to let you ski your way to this spot. It was a good time and even more fun to ski the last little stretch after we’d downed a couple beers 🙂
Chris, John & Andrew in front of the Matterhorn while skiing on Saturday
Saturday, skiing with a bit more clouds covering the Matterhorn. That is the Riffelberg train station to access the ski area.
Lunch spot on Sunday at the Blue Lounge Blauherd 2,571 m. DJ spinning 90s rap beats included!
Amazing views the whole weekend!

 

 

 

Luzern

One of our Swiss bucket list cities was Luzern and we finally made it. We made a last minute booking and arrived on Saturday evening and spent that evening and Sunday touring the city.

Accommodation: As I mentioned, we booked last minute and just went with the best price we could find in the old town. Luzern is a top destination for tourists in Switzerland, so it was a bit pricey. Andrew found us a cozy studio apartment within walking distance of the train station and centered in Old town at the Aparthotel Adler Luzern.

Transportation: We took the train, which is easy with a 2 hr 10 minute direct ride from Lausanne. After that, we were able to walk through town and used the city bus, which was free with our hotel stay. There are also many ferry routes around the Luzern area, but we did not use these as transportation as we stayed relatively close to the main city during our stay.

Eats: As we narrowed our search for Saturday night dinner to the old town which is teeming with tourists and as we have not had good luck with Swiss German style food in the past, we were not expecting much. But, we found a very nice spot at Zunfthausrestaurant Pfistern for dinner Saturday night with a table right on the Reuss river, overlooking the old town and with Mt. Pilatus towering over the city. We were incredibly lucky with the weather this weekend as it was in the 70s, sunny and blue skies. A perfect spring weekend! After dinner we had drinks at the Bar und Weinstube Storchen before heading back to the hotel.

On Sunday, out of convenience, we had our lunch at the museum cafeteria and in the afternoon had some local brews at the Rathaus Brauerei covered portico outside before hopping on the boat cruise.

Activities: We arrived by train at 5:00pm Saturday so we had just enough time before dinner to do a 1.5 hour self-guided walking tour with our trusty Rick Steve’s guide book. We took in the local sites and learned some history of the city.

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The Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) with Mt Pilatus in the background. This is a covered, wooden bridge built in the 1300s! Our Saturday evening dinner was just down the river from here with a similar and equally stunning view.
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The Hirschenplatz – our hotel and the wine bar we went to was only 1 block away
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The “needle dam” bridge on the Reuss river. This was a unique type of dam to control the water flow where they use these removeable wooden panels. They put them in and take them out at certain times of year to control the release of water from Lake Luzern. Also, a cool photo of the gushing water frozen in time on Andrew’s part 🙂
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The Jesuitenkirche
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Me on the chapel bridge

On Sunday, we were up early, dropped our luggage at some luggage lockers at the train station for convenience and headed on our way to the Swiss Museum of Transport. This is a really cool museum that presents the history of all forms of transportation in Switzerland, including the evolution of their roads, train systems, planes and even their mountain transportation in ski resorts such as how ski chair lifts and gondolas have improved over the years. Seeing as we use all their transit and it truly is impressive, it was fun to learn about. They also had a special exhibition on the newly opened Gotthard Tunnel, which is an incredible engineering feat.

 

After the museum and having lunch at their cafeteria, we headed over to check out the dying lion of Luzern. This is a monument carved into the rock cliff face to commemorate the Swiss mercenaries who died while fighting for the French revolution in 1792.

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Next door, we headed into the Luzern Gletschergarten. This museum/park includes a garden featuring the rocks in the area which show evidence of glaciers, a museum on local geology, and oddly enough a really well-done Hall of Mirrors from the Swiss national exhibition in 1896 (no joke, it fooled me so well I was walking into mirrors!).

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Above, part of the rock around which the museum was built. Apparently some guy was trying to build a wine cellar below his house and found these rocks here. You can see the horizontal glacial striations  in the upper right – which is where rocks were dragged across by a glacier thousands of years ago. 

As our last stop, after pausing for a beer at the Rathaus Brauerei, we hopped on a 1 hour boat tour on the lake. This was such a nice part of the day as it was warm (probably in the 70s), sunny and the light breeze on the water was just perfect.

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Overall, Luzern was a wonderful place to visit. It’s crawling with tourists, even in the month of April, so I can only imagine what it’s like in summer months. But, it was a great place to go to see the Swiss German side of the country and witness a gorgeous lake with the Alps towering above. A wonderful quick trip to cap off the weekend!

An apartment tour and our first 2017 hike

We’ve lived in our apartment on Avenue Juste-Olivier in Lausanne for over 1.5 years and I have yet to do a post on the place. It’s about time! We are in the process of trying to find a tenant to replace us on our lease, and we needed to take pictures of the apartment to advertise the apartment. This created the perfect opportunity to share some photos of our Swiss home. We have tried to keep the place simple and did not go overboard with furnishings or decorations since we will be getting rid of nearly everything when we move back to the U.S. So – it may look a little empty in spots but it’s homey enough for us. Enjoy the tour!

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Welcome! We live on the second floor (okay, Euro second floor. Technically the third level of the building off the ground) of a 6 floor building. The building has a tiny little elevator (on the right) if you’re feeling lazy.  We are provided a storage unit (French: caveau) in the basement, which is great to store luggage, boxes, skis out of season and wine 🙂

This is the entryway. There is one other apartment on our floor and that’s their door on the left. Come on in!

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As you enter, you arrive in our “L” shaped apartment. The apartment continues to the right from here. The first room on the left is our bedroom. The second room over is the living room. The rest of the house is headed off to the right.

First stop of the tour is our bedroom. The room is a great size for the two of us, with a big window that lets in tons of light …. and the sounds of the busy street below when opened. All windows in our house come with automated blinds that close at the click of a button. They’re fantastic for helping with the noise and keeping out the light if you’d like to sleep in.  We have a closet (mine), a wardrobe (Andrew’s) and a dresser. Everything pictured we got at IKEA, Conforama or Micasa. The latter two are approximately at the same level of quality and price as IKEA. Except for the rugs, those came from Interio, which is a bit more expensive but we got the rugs at a great discount.

After the bedroom you walk into the living room immediately next door. I love the high ceilings in our apartment, the crown moulding and the french doors opening onto our balcony with the wrought iron. It feels so classic European even though our apartment has been renovated and has modern features inside.

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A fun fact: We hung a print above the couch of a Monet painting created during some time he spent in Antibes, France. It’s a gorgeous painting, and also special to us since we went to Antibes and saw this exact view during our trip in August 2015 (see post).

From the living room, we have a balcony with just enough room for a table, some plants …. and a view of the French Alps across Lac Léman! We just recently planted some flowers and I have managed to keep a rosemary plant alive for a year out here. It’s a great spot to have dinner on a warm night or to step out to check out the weather.

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From the living room you go back into the hallway and enter the corner of the “L” with the dining area and the bathroom.

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This space between the rooms is rather useless. When we first moved in we thought we’d put a short dresser in on the left and put photos on top. Obviously that never happened. Anyways, this is the first of the two bathrooms and contains our main bathroom sink and the shower.

If you look below, you can see that the shower nozzle is at a very strange location. Perfect for me since I am 5’2″ but it is very low for taller folks and at such a weird angle on the side instead of facing the bathtub from one end. This is not an unusual shower setup in Switzerland. Not certain why we are so different between our countries in this aspect. We have gotten used to it but I will never miss this shower.

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At the center of the apartment we have this cute little dining nook. Just enough to fit a small table. The light fixtures came with the apartment, which is very lucky considering most apartments in Switzerland come with no fixtures and you have to install them yourself. On the right is a vintage print of Lausanne that Andrew and I bought on a trip to Zurich (see post).

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As you continue to the back of the apartment, you arrive at our “powder” room on the left which houses the toilet.

On the back left of the apartment, we have our guest room/office room/map room. Unfortunately our wifi is not very good in the back of the apartment, so we don’t use the desk much except for storage of files. The room has been fantastic to host guests and to serve as a place to dry our laundry since proper clothes dryers are not a thing in Switzerland. Lastly, we have a couple maps that we love. The big Europe map tracks where we have been using a color coded push pin system. Red = only Jessica has visited. Blue = Only Andrew has visited and White = both of us have been. The map has been getting more and more pins since we moved to Switzerland! On the right we have our map of the vineyards in Bourgogne. Andrew and I share a love of maps and even had our first date at a vintage map store in SF 🙂

Last but not least: the kitchen. As you have noticed, the apartment is rather modern for the old building we’re located in. The owner of the building lived here before us and had renovated 2 years before we moved in. The Electrolux appliances in the kitchen are quite nice and it’s well equipped. There is a dishwasher (where the towel is hanging), an oven, an electric stove, and {it is not pictured} we have a full refrigerator and a freezer. Freezers are NOT common so this was very lucky. There is not as much counter space as I prefer, but the bar we bought on the left helps with that. The sink is very small and I get water evvvverrrrywhere when I wash big dishes. There’s tons of storage space, a not-pictured closet for cleaning supplies and also a balcony off the back. We don’t hang out on the balcony since it’s small, but it’s nice to be able to open the doors to let in the fresh air on a warm day – or to let out smoke when I burn something on the stove (unfortunately not so uncommon).

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That’s the end of the tour! I hope you enjoyed our home 🙂 It has been such a great spot for us during our time in Switzerland. Overall, with an 8 minute walk to the train station, 5 minutes to the KPMG Lausanne office, and just a kilometer run from the lake front it is convenient and has nearly everything we need. It’s been nice to have all the space of a two bedroom and an updated apartment. Seeing as we’re moving back to one of the most expensive cities in U.S., not very likely we’ll get to have this in the near future so we might as well enjoy it while we can!

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I figured I’d also toss in a some photos from this past weekend. We stayed in Lausanne and did errands, running and relaxing. On Saturday evening I cooked up some Braised Beef Ragù over pasta as a test run for a dinner party next month. It was so darn good!

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Sunday morning we did a 4 mile hike with our neighbor in the Vaud mountains. It was a bit chilly and there were low hanging clouds, but it was nice to get outside and on the trail for the first time in 2017!

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The crocuses are coming up!
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We hiked up to this saddle in the pre-Alps of Vaud. That’s Sheida and I taking in the view on the right

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Verbier

This weekend we were up in Verbier for a ski trip with Andrew’s client audit team. We were a group of 14 for the weekend and it was great to get to hang out with everyone. You may recall we came to Verbier last year with Andrew’s parents (see post) and we also came on my birthday our first week living in Switzerland (see post).

Accommodation – Hôtel de la Poste: Our co-worker selected the spot on behalf of the group. It was centrally located in the village, with the ability to walk pretty much everywhere within five minutes. It was not an upscale hotel by any means and needed some modern touch-ups in some areas, but there was a good breakfast, great views from the rooms, and had all of the amenities you would expect in a 3-star hotel, including an indoor pool and an outdoor garden that would be great to enjoy in the Summer.

Eats: Again, our co-workers made the selections on behalf of the group but they know the village very well and picked great spots. We had lunch on the mountain on Saturday at Le Dahu and dinner at L’Écurie. We did an après ski at the W hotel bar in the afternoon.

My croute au fromage at lunch at Le Dahu. Not a light meal but so good.
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My café gourmand Saturday evening after dinner. A popular, local dessert option at many restaurants. It is typically an after-dinner coffee (or espresso) accompanied by a sampling of several desserts. It’s the best! Here I had a lemon tart, chocolate cake, vanilla custard, apple tart and house-made strawberry ice cream. 

Skiing: Unfortunately the snow situation has not improved much since my last post. It has been warm and limited snow has fallen lately up in the Alps. We got up on the mountain early in the morning to enjoy the snow first thing while it was still good (and it was for the first few hours) but come lunch time it was too warm and the snow was kiiiind of turning to slush. For the lack of good snow, we had a great morning skiing up on the higher elevation pistes and taking in the view.

Andrew on the right with some of our co-workers
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View from the top of Mont Fort to the ‘Grand Désert’ glacier. You can see ski tracks going down the glacier from Mount Rosablanche. All of this terrain is completely off-piste and accessed primarily via helicopter. You would definitely need to know where you’re going or have a guide to go that way. 
View from Mont Fort looking down on the piste just before I skied down. So many moguls for that first bit until I reached the groomed part of the run – it was a leg workout!
Looking up at Mont Fort. If you look closely you can see the piste that I skied down (Andrew skied down with the partners a few times while I went on my own for a little while since I’m a slower skier). On the left the little red dot is the cable car you take to go up to the top of Mont Fort to ski down. 
Some of the group at our après ski at the W hotel after our day on the slopes

Life Update:

I figure it’s a good point to update on what’s happening in our life here in Switzerland. I have been posting plenty to describe our weekend adventuring this winter to various ski destinations, but I have not provided much information to be able to answer the questions: Are you staying? When do you go back to the U.S.?  So, while I may have sort of alluded to this, I can say our plan is that we are not going to extend our contract in Switzerland. After our two years are up, we’re going back to San Francisco. We were fortunate to be offered a one-year extension, however, due to many factors and so much time deliberating pros and cons, we feel we made the right choice for us. Our last day of work in Switzerland is 30 June, 2017.

We have a lot going on in the planning stages right now (an excel spreadsheet on steroids, like the good little accountants we are). We have a few key points pending before it all comes together enough to divulge {what we think is} our sweet plan, but so far I can share a few details.

I don’t know if you would know these specifics, but as a reminder Andrew is on a global mobility program with KPMG here in Lausanne (kind of “on loan” to KPMG Switzerland from KPMG San Francisco) and I am a locally hired employee on a two year contract. Upon our return to SF, Andrew is returning to KPMG San Francisco to the audit practice and I am proud to announce that I have officially accepted an offer to join the KPMG SF Accounting Advisory Services group, with both of us starting September 5. This provides us two full months between work to travel, see family and …. oh yea … move internationally and re-establish our life in SF. No big deal.

As you can imagine, there is so much to plan. Similar to 2 years ago when we were figuring out what it meant to move our life to Switzerland, now we need to figure out how to reverse this whole thing. Among many logistical and administrative challenges, the biggest one we are currently dealing with is ending our apartment lease early. There are some specific laws in our canton of Vaud regarding when and how you may leave an apartment lease, and this results in a requirement for us to find a replacement tenant starting the date we want to exit the apartment (or else we’re on the hook for 3 months rent until the lease can be officially cancelled on October 1st). I’m sure it will all work out, but for now that is a bit of a difficult situation and we’re focusing on doing our best to find a replacement.

Until our departure, there is plenty going on to keep my blog filled with fun stuff. Andrew’s family is coming to catch the tail end of the ski season in Zermatt in April, his aunt and uncle are coming for a few days in May to see the Suisse Romande, we have a weekend trip to Copenhagen, a trip to Provence and we are making sure we see as much of Switzerland as possible before we say goodbye to this beautiful country. As always, keeping things interesting here in Switzerland. Keep reading and I’ll keep you posted 🙂

 

March weekends in Saint-Luc & Anzére

Saint-Luc

The first weekend of March took us back to Val d’Anniviers. You may recall we took my Mom to the village of Grimentz back in December in this post. This village is closer to the entrance of the valley and on the opposite side – so it got a bit more sun!

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View of the valley. That’s the village of Grimentz in the center

Transportation: We’re officially car-less now and resorting to public transit. We were worried that it would be awful, painful, time consuming and we’d hate using the train and bus to get up to the mountains. In actuality, we were pleasantly surprised! It was cheaper than a car rental and took about the same amount of time as pick-up/drop-off of a rental car + travel time. Sitting on the train, you can also bring out your laptop or read a book (especially a pro for Andrew since he’s usually the driver). Sure, it’s tough to walk to and from the train station carrying skis, poles, boot bag and a roller suitcase, but we soldiered up and managed. The train and bus only took about 2 hours door to door and the BEST was that on Sunday we cruised on the train by allllllll the traffic on the highway that was slowing everyone else down on their return from the mountains by 30+ minutes. Score on our part!

Accommodation: We rented a little 1 bedroom Airbnb chalet in the village. We are not able to use Airbnb very often since it requires meeting the owner to exchange keys on their schedule and we often arrive at destinations late at night, but it worked out for us this time to catch the owner in the afternoon. She even let us have the house all day on Sunday. The house had a balcony with a breathtaking view of the entire valley and even the Matterhorn off in the distance!

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Our cozy little living room with the balcony out front
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These storage sheds are all over the canton of Valais. They’re always perched on top of flat stones on stilts and appear so wildly precarious! These are pretty well preserved, but many we see in other villages look like they’re falling apart.
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In the village of Saint-Luc

Eats:

Friday evening we had dinner at a local spot a few minutes walk from our chalet, the Restaurant la Fougère. Andrew got a pizza and I had their filet of perch. It was a really great restaurant and a nice change after our sub-par dining in Lauterbrunnen the previous weekend.

Saturday we took advantage of having a full kitchen in our Airbnb and cooked at home. I tried my hand at Papet Vaudoise, which is a local dish from Andrew and my our canton of Vaud. It’s a local boiled sausage along with a side of leeks and potatoes. It definitely was not a light meal! It wouldn’t be possible to make in the U.S. since we wouldn’t have access to the sausage, but I would definitely make the leeks and potatoes again in the future – maybe just reduce the cream to lighten it up 😉

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Activities:

Saturday the forecast was for snow and wind. Perfect time to strap on some raquettes (snowshoes) and hit the trail! We hiked up a local mountain to the Hotel Weisshorn. Overall, a moderate 2 hour hike up to feel like we earned our papet vaudoise 🙂 We stopped for a light lunch at the Hotel Weisshorn before walking back down. There was low visibility and snow for the majority of the hike, but it was super nice to be on the trail to get some exercise and walk through the quiet forest in the snow. Afterwards we stopped at the local bar for après ski (errr après raquette?)  at the Tapouk Bar.

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Sunday the forecast was for sun in the morning and to switch to snow in the afternoon. To ensure we got the best snow, we woke up and caught the funicular early to the pistes. We were even the first in line for the lifts! Getting up there early paid off big time. The snow was the best we’ve seen this winter, we made fresh tracks on the mountain and enjoyed the limited crowds.

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View of the piste from the top of the mountain. We were about to be some of the first to carve some fresh tracks in the snow

 

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Overall it was an awesome day of skiing and a great time. We left around 1, had a snack and drink on the terrace at the Gîte Restaurant de Prilet and then headed back to our airbnb to pack up. Sure enough, it was snowing by the time we left. Such a fun weekend in Saint-Luc!

Anzère

This past weekend was the annual KPMG Suisse Romande Audit Corporate ski weekend in the village of Anzère. This village is the next ski station over from Crans-Montana, where we went with KPMG last year (see post). We stayed at the Hotel Zodiaque, which was right in the center of everything with most things within a 5 minute walk. The days were sunny and warm, so the snow wasn’t so great (except for one long run on the mountain that we skied a bunch) but we had fun and managed to ski a bit with co-workers. Well, we tried to keep up with our co-workers. They such fast skiers! Saturday events included a KPMG group photo at lunch, an après ski at a bar in the village, a group dinner, a visit to the bar, and finally dancing at a mountain club (we made it to all events but the last). Overall, another fun KPMG ski weekend!

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Group shot with some of our co-workers and their families

 

View of the piste and looking across the valley