The end of two years living in Switzerland

Wow. I can’t believe our two years living in Switzerland is over. On Thursday 27 July Andrew and I boarded a plane for San Francisco. Between flying back from Bulgaria on Tuesday 25 July and flying back to the U.S. on Thursday, we were busy. Immediately after checking into our hotel, we picked up our Mobility rental van to pick up all our belongings from our storage unit and close the unit.

All of our stuff as we took it out of the storage unit. We used a service called Zebra box, which was conveniently located in the city and had easy access for loading and unloading.
That evening we did our final packing. Similar to when we came over to move to Switzerland, instead of shipping we took all our belongings on the plane with us. We found it is about the same cost as shipping but beneficial to have everything with you rather than waiting for a shipment or needing to know where to have them send it. This is an issue when you don’t have a permanent address but need your belongings close at hand. We distributed weight among all the bags to meet the weight limits and also to help us limit the fees as much as possible. I have United Premier Gold status, which provides me two free overweight (70 lb) bags! This is a huge cost-savings when you’re transporting everything you own halfway around the world and an extra overweight bag can cost $400 a piece. We ended up with 13 bags, including our carry-on and the skis+boot bag (boot bags travel free with a ski bag). We are now self-proclaimed experts at airline baggage policies 🙂

On Wednesday 26 July, we had a wonderful last day in Switzerland. We got up early to go meet our {now former} upstairs neighbor, Esther, from Avenue Juste-Olivier. She has been of invaluable help during our move out of the apartment and was our main line of communication with our non-English speaking property management company. She had agreed for them to mail to her house the letter that documented the agency’s agreement to release the restriction on our rental guarantee account. They had to send it by mail, so we agreed this was the easiest option for us. This account has held three months rent as a deposit on our apartment and the bank required this letter for us to get the money back. Over the past two years, our property management company has proven itself to be inefficient/useless/you-name-it and this time was no exception. Esther had to call four times since our close-out inspection on 30 June to get this darn letter for us, and they finally mailed it the day before we came back. But we got it! Phew! We said our goodbyes to Esther and her golden retriever Milo, some of the best neighbors I’ve ever had. After that we were able to go to our bank and release the cash. Now it’s all ready for a deposit on our next apartment in San Francisco 🙂 We are so thankful to have had Esther as a neighbor. She has proven to be genuinely helpful in many cases and always a friendly face. We’ll definitely miss her!

That afternoon we had scheduled to use our departing gift from KPMG, a 50 minute massage at Lausanne’s beloved Beau Rivage Palace Hotel.  The massage was perfect to relax in anticipation of our 15 hour flight back to the US. Afterwards we walked down to the lake to enjoy the beautiful day by renting a pedalo for an hour to cruise along the coast.


We had a drink at a lakeside bar and capped the day with dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Cafe de Grancy.

Drinks at the Terrasse d’Ouchy
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Beef tartare for the last time

Chocolate overload for dessert but it was so good!
On Thursday morning we were up early to go to the airport. We hired a private transport to take us and all of our luggage since we wouldn’t manage on the train or even in a taxi. The transport had to bring a trailer because their van wasn’t big enough!

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Andrew in the morning as we were dropped off at the airport by our transport. This was one of two overloaded trolleys of our stuff 🙂
The airline check-in staff had wide eyes when we arrived with our bags, but we had come early to allow for time. My United Gold status also came in handy a few times this day since I got a little quicker service. The flight went well, with no major delays though we narrowly met our connection in Newark. We made it to San Francisco and while the airline managed to get all of our bags to SFO, we ourselves, in our tired state, managed to leave one of them behind at the airport on the baggage claim belt. We had to go back the next day to claim it. Sigh. After a looong day of traveling we made it back home to our city. San Francisco.
I can’t help but reflect ….
As we have returned to the U.S. I have realized I need to work on my answer to the question that comes once someone finds out we just returned from our time abroad:  “How did you like Switzerland?”
The answer is becoming more refined over time, but I can tell you, my dear reader, a little longer of an answer. While I am so excited to be moving back to San Francisco, where I am familiar with the culture, I can speak the language, and we’re infinitely closer to family and friends; Switzerland was incredible. The country managed to stun me consistently with it’s beauty. I loved having the Alps as our backyard playground. Within a short 45 minute drive we could be hiking, skiing, or on a via ferrata! I’ll never forget how easy it was for us to wake up at a reasonable time on a Sunday morning and hike up in the pristine Alps to 3,000+ meters in a day and return to our apartment that evening in time to cook dinner. Let alone that view of Lake Geneva from our apartment balcony! The country is centrally located, allowing easy travel within Europe – especially by train. We saw and experienced SO MUCH during the past two years. It is mind boggling even to me when I look back at my blog posts and go through photos. I am thankful to having been exposed to the Swiss French culture of the Suisse Romande. We learned to love espresso, attempted the French language, savored the fresh bread, the chocolate … the CHOCOLATE, and always had access to so many amazing wines from our European neighboring countries. Goodness these are things I will miss!
But … Switzerland is far from our families and friends. It was tough to work with the 6-9 hour time difference and to schedule FaceTime dates since only weekends seemed to work with anyone, which is when we’re always on the move. We had trouble finding community. I recognize that we were partially responsible for our limited number of friends because we could have tried harder, but it was difficult. Not speaking French fluently was hard. We both managed to pick up enough to get by in restaurants reading menus and ordering, reading signs, communicating with cashiers in shops, etc but it wasn’t sufficient. It would have required signing up for classes and devoting a lot of time to learning – which we simply were not sure we wanted to commit the time to do. There are reasons why we didn’t decide to stay in Switzerland longer and these things add up enough to make it feel right to not stay.
Regardless of the above, I promise you that as we boarded that plane, I left with a feeling that all was right. We were
so fortunate to have had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go live and work abroad in Switzerland. We experienced so much and this blog is a testament to that fact.
Blogging status …
SO. Clearly the blog posts are on a delay. We’ve been busy having fun and bouncing all over, and we’re still on the move! I took a little break from blogging over the past couple weeks but I promise I am working to get caught up. I’ll continue to blog over the next month or so as we continue to travel and settle back in to SF. I am not yet sure of the future of the blog and whether I’ll stop, but for now I’m going to keep it going. I’ll keep you posted soon 🙂

 

Sozopol, Bulgaria

Our next stop on our tour of Bulgaria was to dip our toes in the Black Sea. We stayed in the beach town of Sozopol, which is south of the more internationally popular beach resort towns of Bulgaria, and is geared more toward families and beach-goers that don’t care for parties until sun-up. While most people were Bulgarian there was a healthy crowd of Russians and Germans. At times it felt like like Ocean City, MD (without the boardwalk but throw in all the kitschy shops, restaurants and hoards of people) but it was still a beautiful beach and a bit lower budget. We originally booked to stay for 3 nights, but upon arrival a storm front came through and hovered over the coast, bringing in lots of wind, cooler temperatures and rain. The day we were supposed to leave was when the weather improved, so we moved reservations around and instead stayed from Sunday 16 July through Thursday 20 July to get a full day of sun on the beach.

Transportation: We woke up early on Sunday to catch the local bus from our hostel to the main bus station. We didn’t know when it was coming thanks to a lack of available bus schedules, so we went earrrly. We managed fine and caught our long distance bus at 7:30 AM that took us from Veliko Tărnovo to Burgas, one of the biggest cities on the Black Sea coast. The bus trip went smoothly, with an arrival in Burgas within 3 hours. We tried to locate the next bus down to Sozopol but realized we would need to take another bus to the center of Burgas to catch yet another bus south. We ditched that idea as we were not entirely sure where the right bus stop would be and instead hired a taxi to drive us 30 minutes south to Sozopol. We knowingly got over charged as tourists but given we had no idea of the true value we just accepted an easy way to our destination for what was still a pretty low price of approximately USD 20.

Accommodation: Sozopol is packed to the brim with hotels, resorts and vacation condos. We stayed at the Family Hotel Sofi for the first 3 nights. We got one of their top floor rooms with a balcony that has a view of the city and the Black Sea. The beach-front was only a 10 minute walk down hill. The hotel had a nice little garden area on the ground floor with a pool and a bar. It was simple, walking distance to everything and perfect for our short beach stay. For our fourth, impromptu, night, we stayed at the Hotel Kamea, which was chosen for its convenient location next door to Sofi (guilty for not wanting to walk with our stuff much further) and still getting a view of the water. It wasn’t the best, but it worked.

The pool and garden on the ground floor of the hotel.
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A view of Sozopol from the Hotel Sofi. Large waves are not common in the summer, but the storm clouds overhead brought high winds that whipped up the surf.

Here at the hotel we encountered another Balkan country concept previously unknown to us: the shower-toilet combo. There is no tub to separate your shower from the toilet nor is there a shower curtain. Why would you need a curtain if you create a bathroom with a central drain and tiles all around? At first we were astonished and confused. We had just left a disgusting bathroom in our previous hostel and were ready for a nice shower in our hotel, and then we discover THIS. How would we do it? Isn’t that gross to shower where the water is running off the toilet? Won’t water get EVERYWHERE? Upon closer scrutiny, the floors, toilet and drain appeared to be clean, providing relative comfort. In order to fully understand the mechanics, we resorted to google searches to see how to properly shower. We quickly learned {and subsequently implemented} the trusty 4 P’s to use of Balkan showers (see funny blog article): Preparation, Plenty of towels, Positioning and Power. With the use of these key tactics – we were successful and learned that the shower wasn’t terrible and it is functional. The article has the methodology, but the key solution is to use the towels to wipe up the shower when you’re finished so that the floor dries out. Additionally, we’ve now had the pleasure of learning a different way that people shower in another part of the world that we never expected, and, well, anything is better than our previous hostel.


Eats: We tried a few restaurants where we got fresh salads, freshly grilled seafood and meat. While I did not think that any of the restaurants were the best of our time so far in Bulgaria, we did find some good spots hidden in the corners of this touristy beach town.

Andrew at the restaurant of our late lunch on Tuesday, overlooking the water.
My fresh fish from the Black Sea

Bulgarian Cheese

During our time in Bulgaria we’ve noticed that there are only two types of cheese used in their local dishes and can be served as part of any meal. Кашкавал (Kashkaval) is a yellow semi-hard cheese typically made of cow milk and tastes similar to string cheese, but with better flavor. Сирене (Sirene) is a white brine crumbly cheese typically made of goat’s milk. It is less salty but similar to feta. Both are excellent!.

Activities: When it wasn’t raining, we made time for some nice morning runs and beach time. Otherwise, we relaxed and enjoyed the time to slow down and hang out.

On our first run at the beach on Tuesday we headed south and ran around a little peninsula. It had beautiful views over these grassy cliffs looking over the water
Our first day when we went running was gray but still perfect for a run!
Andrew on our run on Wednesday morning, a much sunnier day!

On Wednesday, the day we were supposed to leave according to our original plan, the weather was beautiful. We woke up early at 5am to catch the sun rise over the sea.

Andrew and I, at the sunrise on Wednesday morning

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Wednesday proved to be a beautiful day at the beach. Warm and clear skies. We were not able to go too far in the water as the lifeguards were not allowing us to swim beyond the first breakers. A bit of a disappointment but it was refreshing to dip our toes now and then and gaze out at the water.

The Black Sea is not black! Quite blue in fact 🙂 During our stay the waves were unusually high. Normally it should be more similar to the Mediterranean with tiny little ripples making it easy for swimming, but the storms brought rough surf.

While the weather could have been better, we were both able to relax and unwind at the beach. It was a great spot by the sea and a welcome respite from our previous touristy days. Next up: Bansko to see the Pirin National Park!

November in Switzerland

November in Switzerland has shown up much snowier in the mountains than last year! In Lausanne it has just been clouds and rain but we’ve had fun getting up into the mountains the last couple weekends to see the snow.

Last weekend we had a bunch of social engagements, with a work party on Friday to celebrate the incoming first year class of audit staff, a dinner on Saturday with another couple from the U.S. who came here with KPMG recently, and Sunday we took the hour cogwheel train ride up to Leysin and met up with our friends Sarah and Kevin. We walked about 20 minutes to a viewpoint above their village and then had fondue at Restaurant Prafandaz. We tried flavored fondue for the first time and I’m telling you the tomato fondue was amaaazing!


After fondue they took us for a tour of their school as they work at a local American boarding school as teachers. We hung out at their place and got to see the snow come down as we looked out over the valley. It was so nice!

This weekend we didn’t have any plans and at the spur of the moment on Saturday after taking care of errands we booked a last minute trip to go up into the mountains to the village of Château-d’Oex for a short night stay. This is in a different area than we typically visit, technically the “pre-Alps” so we were excited to get out there.

Accommodation: We have found we love staying in the little mountain B&Bs with breakfast and Rosaly was exactly what we wanted! Each room had a huge balcony with a mountain view.  For a reasonable price we got a room with shared bathroom – but we were 2 of 3 on our floor since it’s low season, so really not so bad having to share! The manager was also super nice and they had the cutest little cat named Souris (mouse in French).

Eats: We went to the Brasserie de L’Ours. They had their own brewed beer and excellent food.

Our B&B with the view in the background
Andrew on the balcony Saturday night. We had some wine as the sun set 🙂
Our room in the photos on the top and right. Bottom left is the breakfast room. Hanging up are the traditional Swiss cow bells!

On Sunday we got up and headed out for snowshoeing. We did a 7 km, 3 hour loop to climb to the summit of Mt Chevreuils. It wasn’t too cold and the clear air provided gorgeous views. We even bought a little sled and did some sledding on our way back down!  It was a great way to spend our Sunday.

From the peak we could look down into the valley below of Château-d’Oex where we had just spent the night

That’s it for this weekend. Now it’s a week of work and then we’re headed to Basel next weekend to tour the city and visit the Christmas Market! Happy Thanksgiving everyone 🙂

A weekend in Lyon, France

You might recall from my post this summer that we cancelled our original plan to visit Lyon in August at the end of our month long vacation in favor of returning to Switzerland for a bit of a staycation (see post). Our hotel in Lyon was generous enough to give us a credit for the change in schedule and let us book for this weekend instead. We coordinated with our friend Lauren (living and working in London) and we all met up in Lyon the first weekend of November!

Lyon is the third largest city in France after Paris and Marseille and one of great historic significance as it was established as the capital city of Gaul by the Roman Emperor Augustus in 1BC. Its location is at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, which enabled the city to develop major trading activities. To this day it is famous for its silk production, shopping and as a gastronomic epicenter for all its Michelin star restaurants. We looked forward to experiencing the city at a relaxed pace, eating delicious food, learning about the local history and catching up with Lauren.

Accommodation: Our hotel Mercure Lyon Beaux-Arts was in the Presqu’ile of Lyon, a neighborhood on a peninsula sandwiched between the two rivers, the Rhône and the Saône. It’s not in the well known old town, Vieux Lyon, and I originally thought we were going to be out of the way in exchange for a lower priced hotel, but it proved to be really convenient for getting to the various parts of the city during our stay.

Transportation: There’s a train directly from Geneva every few hours. In total, it’s just under a 3 hour trip from Lausanne, which made it attainable for a weekend trip without needing to take off work.

Eats: We all love French food and couldn’t get enough 🙂

Friday night we arrived and headed out to Brasserie Georges, which had been recommended by a friend of Lauren’s. The oldest Brasserie in Lyon, their dining room is a huge ballroom with high ceilings. We each got the most delicious onion soup for a starter followed by a local pork and pistachio sausage, beef tartare and scallops. It was so good!

The onion soup. I mean. Look at that cheese!

Saturday lunch at Le Bistrot de Saint-Jean in Vieux Lyon. This quaint little spot was perfect to provide the Salade Lyonnaise that I was looking forward to.  This is a salad typical for the city, which includes frisée, croutons, hot thick cut bacon, a poached egg on top and a light mustard vinaigrette.

Saturday … snack break 😉 time for mid-afternoon dessert and drinks at Le Grand Café des Négociants. We got dessert and drinks at this adorable little spot and took a break from the cold, rainy weather outside.


Saturday dinner at Le Bistrot d’Abel, another recommendation from a friend. The restaurant was homey and no frills, but excellent service and the food was sooo good.

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Top left is Andrew’s main course, a local specialty called a quenelle. It is a fish cake (typically white fish, breadcrumbs and egg) poached in a cream sauce. I struggled to get over the texture, but the flavor was very good. Top right is a butternut squash soup, bottom left is my burger and bottom right is our dessert!

Sunday lunch we were running a little late in the day, and it turns out that Lyon doesn’t have much open on Sundays and most restaurants close mid-day. We were looking for a place to eat at 3 pm and were not able to be picky. We managed to find a great spot to get our last French food kick at Les Enfants Terribles which is on the restaurant lined cobblestone street of Rue Mercière.

Activities:

On Saturday morning we had a late morning start when we left the hotel to begin our walk across the river to the Vieux Lyon, which is the old town. We started by perusing the Saturday morning market along the river, drooling over the various fresh cheeses, meats and produce.

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A cheese stand at the Saturday morning market with an incredible amount of cheeses for purchase (and tasting!)

We did a Rick Steves guidebook walking tour within the Vieux Lyon, the old town of the city. We started at the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, which had a really cool astronomical clock inside.

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Astronomical clock inside the church. It currently goes until 2019! Hopefully they change the dates to go beyond that 😉

After viewing the church we began to wander the streets of the old town. One of the coolest things was to walk through the various traboules that you can find throughout this area. The traboules are passageways between buildings and streets. They were built with the purpose of providing locals access to water sources and a way to transport silk from the silk factories without getting it damaged in the weather. They also enabled the people of Lyon to navigate the city without the knowledge of the Germans during occupation in WWII. The traboules feature courtyards with open windows for spiral staircases and hallways above. It really felt like stepping into history when we entered these areas that are open to the public during the day but are still the residences of locals.

Walking through the traboules of Lyon

As the rain really started to come down, we escaped by running into the L’Atelier de Soierie, a silk workshop with an open workspace where you can watch them at work. We lucked into catching one of the owners as he was prepared to walk us through the process of where they get the silk and printing with the silk screening process. This company produces for the Louvre, NY’s MoMA and the Smithsonian to name a few fun clients!

On Sunday we started the day by taking the furnicular up the hill to see the beautiful La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière.

This church sits atop a hill overlooking Lyon. Inside it is absolutely gorgeous with mosaics all over depicting stories of Mary and also of the local history. It was very pink and green – unique in comparison to the coloring I’ve seen in other cathedrals.

Atop the same hill as the Basilica is also the Musée Gallo-Romain de Lyon, which sits next to the ruins of two ancient Roman theaters. We first went through the museum to learn about the history of the region during the Roman times and then walked through the theaters. It’s always amazing to get to witness what is left of these ancient cultures right in front of us in a modern day city in France!

Walking down the hill through the neighborhoods of Lyon

The weather in Lyon was not the best during our visit. It rained nearly all day on Saturday and was cold and cloudy on Sunday. That didn’t stop us, but it certainly made us super excited when the sun peaked out a little on Sunday to give the city some more photo credit in better lighting.

A view across the river, with the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste in the foreground and the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière above on the hill.

We had such a fun time getting to see see Lyon and also spend time with Lauren. Every time we head into France it’s a great one. Can’t wait for our next adventures abroad!

Florence

Oh man. Got back from Italy and turned around to fly to the U.S for work for a week. Just getting around to posting this…. better late than never 🙂

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The second half of my trip to Italy with the girls was spent with a day trip to Siena and then in Florence.

Accommodation: We stayed three nights at the cutest two bedroom Airbnb apartment (Condotta Suite 14 Piazza Signoria) in Florence right in the heart of the city. If anyone finds themselves going, I’d highly recommend staying here! Alessandro, our host, left us a bottle of Chianti and did a thorough job of introducing us to the apartment and the city, complete with restaurant recommendations and he even called a taxi for the girls to get to the airport the morning of their departure.

The living room of our Airbnb


Eats
:

Traveling to Italy is 50% about the food, right? We definitely continued to eat well.

Wednesday lunch in Siena was at Il Pomodorino, which had an incredible view of the city and fantastic pizza. A Rick Steve’s recommendation (surprise, surprise).

View from lunch at Il Pomodorino in Siena

Wednesday night upon arrival we headed over to Fishing Lab for dinner, which had been recommended by our Airbnb host and specialized in fresh fish. Their dining room was a level below in the historic cellars. It was fantastic.

Our fish for dinner. The bottom was Jenny’s salt encrusted sea bass. These were sooo darn good.
My sea bass for dinner at the Fishing Lab

Thursday lunch: We walked over to the Mercato Centrale – an indoor food market with Italian food to appease all taste buds.

The dining area of the Mercato Centrale, ringed with food vendors and bars.
My bruschetta trio along with a fresh salad and salami at the Mercato Centrale.

Thursday dinner: Il Santo Bevitore – a recommendation from friends and also our Airbnb host and Rick Steves. This place had a really amazing ambiance and the food was incredible.

Friday lunch: We got sandwiches at the very popular All’Antico Vinaio. These are each EUR 5, made with freshly sliced meats, cheeses, roasted vegetables and other toppings all on freshly baked focaccia.

Friday dinner: All’Antico Ristoro di Cambi. The goal was to go somewhere with Florentine steaks for the girls. Below is 1.5 kg of steak shared amongst three!

My main course, an artichoke stuffed with something like a meatball

Oh. And of course the gelato:


Activities:

We did a lot of wandering and site seeing, especially guided by our faithful Rick Steves.

On Wednesday during our drive north from Montepulciano to Florence, we made a stop in the city of Siena to tour the town. Siena was half way between Montepulciano and a great recommendation if you have an afternoon to wander.

The unfinished walls of the cathedral
The cathedral in Siena. Love those stripes!

On Thursday we took a guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery in the morning followed by a Rick Steves walking tour of the city in the afternoon.

Me, Jenny & Maddy in front of the Ponte Vecchio
Reflections on the Arno river
The city hall


In the early evening we took a break from touristing and Jenny, Maddy & I got a table at the Continentale Hotel’s rooftop terrace bar, La Terrazza right on the Arno river to take in the skyline for sunset and have some pre-dinner cocktails. It was so nice to relax together to just chat and take in the scenery, especially since I don’t get to see them often.

 

View from the rooftop bar of sunset over the city skyline

On Friday we got in line first thing to walk up the 400+ steps to the top of the Duomo.

Florence’s Duomo
View from the top of the Duomo

Afterwards, we walked the city a bit more to see the Sante Croce and the Santa Maria Novella.

 

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Taking a pit stop to rest in front of the Basilica di Santa Croce

 

Santa Maria Novella

Before dinner we bought a bottle of Italian prosecco and walked up to the top of a nearby hill to watch the sunset over the city from Piazza Michelangelo. A couple of guitarists had set up to play music and everyone was out sitting on the steps, sipping drinks and taking in the view. It was a perfect setting for our last night in Italy!


Once again, a trip over far too soon and saying goodbyes to friends I wish I could see again sooner. I had a blast spending time with my friends for the past week and so glad they we were able to take the trip together. While away in Italy, I got very last minute confirmation for a business trip to go back to Virginia for an audit engagement for the same client that took me to the U.S. last year. I am so fortunate that KPMG Switzerland has this client and I got to go home for week week to see my family, autumn in Virginia and our family pup Zoe.

The girls are here!!!

My girl friends from JMU Emily (DC), Jenny (DC) & Maddy (NYC)  are on a Eurotrip and came to stay with us in Lausanne for a weekend before I’d join them on a trip into Italy. 

The girls arrived on Friday after visiting Vienna. That night we went out to dinner at Étoile Blanche and caught up as I hadn’t seen the girls since Christmastime last year. 

Saturday we started the day with a walking tour of Lausanne to show the girls our adopted home town. We went from the cathedral down through the shops and ended up on the lake front to have a light lunch and drinks in Ouchy. The weather was warm and sunny – super nice for hanging out!

Walking on Rue de Bourg
Peering in the windows before we stepped into one of our newfound favorite chocolate shops, Blondel
View of the Ouchy waterfront in Lausanne

In the late afternoon we caught the train and headed to tour the Château de Chillon (which we visited with Cody & Kim earlier this year and Lauren last year). It turned out they were having a special Halloween party that day so there were tons of little ghosts and goblins running around. The weather is perfect for their time here so tons of beautiful pictures. 


Sunday we got up early to do a day of hiking and fondue in Ovrannaz. We hiked up to Grand Garde for a view and then moved on to a cabane for fondue. The trees were showing their fall colors and it was gorgeous!


Up at the Grand Garde viewpoint, with a panoramic view of the Rhône valley
View from the Grand Garde




Afterwards we hiked over to the , Le gîte de Lui d’Août. We rewarded our efforts on the hike with white wine and the girls’ first Swiss fondue on the mountain side!

The Cabane where we had our fondue
Having fondue at the Cabane

Sunday night we came back to have dinner at home and take the time to pack (me), re-pack (the girls) and get ready for the upcoming work week (sorry Andrew). It has been so fun to have the girls here visiting and to get to show them Switzerland. We had an awesome time exploring with them! Can’t wait to take the fun to the south as we head to Italy for the week!

Sunday dinner at our tiny little table 😊

Oktoberfest 2016

Only my fourth time to Oktoberfest, and Andrew’s third after our trip last year (see post). We almost didn’t go, but we already had a hotel booked back in January (which we thought we could cancel but ended up being non-refundable – whoops!) so off we went. Turned out we knew a bunch of people headed to Munich at the same time, so it was the best time to go. We stayed at an awesome hotel right across from the train station, the Eden Hotel Wolff, which was convenient for getting to/from the festival grounds on foot and also great for getting around the city.

Andrew arrived on Thursday and I came in on Friday by train. I got there at 1:30 and immediately hit the shopping district as I wanted to buy a couple things aaaand I decided it was time to buy a newer and nicer dirndl. I had researched ahead of time where to go and visited a few “trachten” shops (stores selling traditional Bavarian dirndls and lederhosen). I ended up liking Angermaier Trachten the most for it’s wide selection, prices and they were more organized than a couple others I found. There were SO many beautiful dresses, it was hard to choose!

Inside of the Angermaier Trachten shop


On Friday At 4 I met up with my friend Jim and his girlfriend Alex at my hotel to head for the festival. I met Jim during grad school at JMU and we both worked for KPMG in the DC area. We both moved away from DC in 2012 as he moved to Boston and I moved to SF – it had been a while so there was tons to catch up on!

We met up with Andrew and our friend Lauren (Lauren is our friend from SF that works for KPMG and is on a rotation in London. We visited her last November). We also met up through the night with a handful of other friends of the group as there were a bunch of people coming through from all over the U.S. We had a great group and got a spot at a table in Löwenbräu with a group of Australians. Löwenbräu’s band plays a lot of covers of popular American music along with the traditional Bavarian music. It’s a really fun tent where tons of foreigners like to go. We hung out until about 8:30, rode some roller coasters then called it a night since Saturday would be a marathon.

Alex, me and Andrew
Me and Andrew
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Our table on Friday night at the Löwenbräu tent with our fellow Australian and British Oktoberfest partiers 

On Saturday, the drill was as in other years. We didn’t have a reservation so we had to get in line at 7:00am to secure a full table when the tents open. We managed to get an awesome table right in the center of the Paulener Winzerer Fähndl Festzelt. We hadn’t been to it before, but it’s one of the biggest tents (fits nearly 6800 people!) and is known for a good band and having tons of locals. We stayed all day, drinking liters of the Oktoberfest beer, singing and dancing.

A view into the room where they clean all the steins
We all wish we could know how many chickens Oktoberfest goes through during the two week period. Getting a half rotisserie chicken is one of the most common dishes to eat at Oktoberfest, and you see countless chickens going out every hour.
Andrew and the pretzel that was bigger than his head.
For breakfast Saturday: you eat Weisswurst and a side of beer!
Inside the Paulaner tent on Saturday morning at the beginning of the day. You can tell it’s early because no one is standing up yet and most people look pretty well put together 🙂 This does not last long!

Me and Olivia on Saturday
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Our table of friends coming from all over – SF, Boston, NYC, London & Lausanne!

On Sunday morning we got up somewhat early (might have had an early bedtime thanks to a day of drinking …) and had coffee and a croissant down in the old city on the Marienplatz by the Rathaus.

The Famous Glockenspiel


Our train back to Switzerland wasn’t until 12:30, so we went back to the festival to have an early lunch. We sat at a table in the biergarten at the Pschorr-Bräursol tent. It was a warm day so very nice to hang out.

 

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Our last half chicken of the weekend, a plate of sausages with sauerkraut, and a cold potato salad. Not many people are aware because they think Oktoberfest is only about the beer, but the food at is absolutely fantastic!

After lunch we rode a roller coaster then headed back to catch our train. Another year at Oktoberfest to go down in the books!

Walking through the carnival side of Oktoberfest