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 🙂

 

California Dreaming

As I mentioned before, given I am in the U.S. for four weeks, I managed to fit in a trip to California. The plan was to fly into Reno so that I could spend NYE in Tahoe with Andrew’s family, then drive to SF and spend a few days there before heading back to VA.

Plans slightly changed and I had a nice tour of the U.S. in between! Winter weather caused a ton of flight delays nationwide, so I missed my connecting flight in Denver to Reno. I stayed the night in Denver and woke up the next morning to discover I didn’t have a seat on a flight to Reno! A very helpful service agent found an alternative trip plan that flew me to Boise and then on to Reno by Tuesday night, getting me to Tahoe a full day later than expected. But I made it! The very next morning I caught up with the Kuntz family to hit the slopes and take advantage of all the snow that has fallen on the West Coast thanks to El Niño.

We ended up spending both of my skiing days at Heavenly as the snow was pretty good there. It’s the best snow I have seen on the mountain since I first moved to California!
Heavenly with Andrew’s family 

New Year’s Eve we took a day off from skiing to sleep in and relax. It was incredibly cold at Tahoe this year. The temperature never rose above freezing, so we were quite happy to stay indoors and cuddle up on the couch. We did make it out in the afternoon for a walk on the beach, it was a beautiful day! For NYE we stayed at the house for a home made dinner and played liar’s dice (a fun group game!). I have to admit I didn’t make it to midnight, I was asleep by 10:30, but all because our plans involved waking up early on New Year’s Day to be some of the first on the mountain (hoping the lines would be short while people were home nursing their hangovers).

Beautiful New Year’s Eve walk on the beach at Incline
Andrew gave his family a fondue set from Switzerland for Christmas, so we made some Swiss fondue for our NYE dinner appetizer. Andrew and I attended the KPMG Lausanne office’s Christmas fondue party in December and luckily learned a few tips. We did our best to replicate it, but in a restaurant, you begin a fondue meal with viande séchée (dried meat), cornichons and pickled pearl onions. You are only provided bread for dipping in the fondue (which again, Swiss bread is amazing!!) There are a few rules for what you drink. First: Always drink white wine (according to them, helps with digesting the crazy amount of cheese you put in your belly), Secondly: Do not drink water (according to them, does not help digestion. I struggle with this one, all the salt made me so thirsty for water!), and Thirdly: Drink hot tea afterwards (Again, to help with digestion – up to you to believe it or not, but, you know …. when in Rome). All in all, fondue is super fun given the social nature of sitting around a pot of melted cheese and chatting it up. Andrew found our recipe online, if anyone is curious what goes into it (which is more than just cheese!), check the link out here. We brought some Chasselas wine home from Switzerland, which I think really helped bring the flavor closer to what we had in Switzerland. We had to bring it because, side note and fun fact: Swiss wine is not exported out of the country! It is consumed entirely in Switzerland! Interesting, huh? So, every time we fly home our bags will be extra heavy with some Swiss wine to bring home to our families 🙂
We started 2016 off on a good note! We all woke up early and made it to Heavenly to be there when the lifts open. It was 5° F to start, and eventually “warmed up” to around 20° F, but was perfect. A couple inches of fresh snow had fallen the night before and the conditions were great despite the cold. It was a beautiful New Years’ Day.

Saturday, Andrew and I packed up our things to go on the move again. Andrew’s parents were kind enough to drive us down to Rocklin (outside of Sacramento) so that we could get a rental car to drive to SF. We ended up taking a slight detour to wine country (couldn’t resist!) to stop at the winery where we used to belong to the club, Lynmar Estate.

Andrew’s sister, Robin, and her boyfriend John met us at Lynmar for a tasting. It was a little overcast and cool in Sebastopol, but so nice to get to return to one of our favorite spots in the Bay Area and hang out together!

The rest of our time in SF, we focused on eating at our favorite restaurants (Mamacita, Park Tavern and Trattoria Contadina – so much love!), catching up with old co-workers and friends, and fitting in a run from North Beach to the Marina Green. It was so fun to be back in the city, seeing familiar sites, seeing what has changed in six months (umm hello to the FINALLY OPEN expansion of the 101 when you enter SF in the North from the Golden Gate bridge) and catching up with friends!

Bobbi, a good friend I met while working for Williams-Sonoma, came and met up with us on Sunday at Kennedy’s to watch some football. So good to catch up with this gal!
We caught up with Alex on Sunday night at Richmond Republic Draft House. Alex is a friend we met at KPMG SF while we all worked on the same client. So good to see this girl, too!

<<<< Insert photos I sadly missed to take of Saturday’s dinner at Mamacita with Cody and Kim, Monday lunch at Blue Barn with all my old co-workers from Williams-Sonoma, and Monday dinner at Trattoria Contadina with Ashley, Kevin, Sara and Vince. I loved seeing you all!!!>>>>