Christmas Came Early

Manneken Pis, a famous Brussels landmark

I don’t know if I have ever been so well looked after. I returned from Belgium last night. I spent time with my host family from Belgium. It was wonderful. I got to meet my host sibling’s children (who unfortunately for me and fortunately for them speak better French than I do).  I had the best time and I miss them already.

They sent me back with tons of wonderful presents. As they are Belgians, most of it was food (and warm clothes). I came back with:

  • Tins of fish from Brittany
  • Giant packs of the best kind of Belgian Waffles (Gauffres de Liege) covered in chocolate
  • Pralines from Leonidas
  • Pralines from Corne
  • A pot of Nutella (This was, unfortunately a casualty of airport security. They said it was a liquid. I think they wanted it for themselves.)
  • Belgian chocolate (Yes, this is different from Nutella, pralines and chocolate covered waffles.)
  • CD’s
  • Jewelry
  • Warm, clothes that will make me look très Eurpoeanne (or at least less obviously American)
  • Super cool paper placemats that teach you French (a painless way for him to learn some French)

I think they were afraid that I would go hungry in Switzerland. I ate so well in Belgium (posts to follow) that I feel a bit guilty that he wasn’t there to taste all the goodies. He was able to have yummy waffles for breakfast and will, undoubtedly, have pralines tonight. Thanks for everything.


Mad Channels

We have Swiss Cable through Swisscom.  It was part of our wireless package and wasn’t much more expensive than basic wireless. I wanted to be able to watch the French channels to practice my French, so we got it.  I am astounded by the number and variety of channels we have. We get over 160 TV Channels, over 130 national and international radio stations and thousands of internet radio stations.

When he leaves for work in the morning, I turn on French TV and watch the news in French. To practice, I try to have French TV on whenever he’s not here. I hope it helps because one afternoon, I watched a bad French soap opera.

If you have favorite French (or British) shows, please let me know. While I am asking, if you know of great international radio or internet radio stations please let me know those as well.

Here are some of our favorite viewings thus far:

  • Coming to America
  • A British show where they check in on people restoring an old property and do detective work to learn about the house’s history
  • Autrefois (a show that shows Geneva through the history with interviews, photos and old film clips)
  • The French history channel’s 2 hour show about historical figures
  • Carson from the Queer Eye‘s new show dubbed in French, please don’t judge. It’s definitely cheerier than the constant news of the dollar dropping.
  • The French like to combine their love of food with their love of love. This yields some bizarre dating shows.
  • Horrible Histories. Yes, I know it’s a kids show, but it’s just so funny.



Good Ol’ Fashioned Alpine Fun

What else do you need when you have alpine roller coasters, putt-putt and cart racing down hills?
I guess this is what you do when you can’t ski down these mountains. Take my word for it, it’s fun.

Thar She Blows – The Föhn


Föhn – (foen) n. a German word for a warm, strong and often very dry  wind that often blows off the north slopes of the Alps, but can also be at other places.

Here are ten Föhn facts:

10. The Föhn can raise temperatures 30 °C (54 °F) in just a matter of hours. As a result, it can melt snow rapidly and can cause major problems for mountain climbers here.

9. The Föhn are incredibly dry. As a result, the views are especially bright and clear when they blow.

8. The Föhn can last from less than an hour to even several days.

7. They reach all the way to Munich and beyond to central Europe.

6. The Föhn occur when the moist air blows off the Mediterranean Sea, drops its moisture on the southern side of the Swiss Alps, and is then, transformed into a dry, warm wind, that careens down the northern slopes of the Swiss Alps into Central Europe.

5. Parts of Switzerland enjoy a warmer climate because of the Föhn bringing moist winds off the Mediterranean over the Alps.

4. The Föhn arrive suddenly. They change a brisk, fall morning into a summery afternoon.

3. The Föhn are problematic for some people. A study showed suicide and accidents increased by 10 percent during Föhn winds. People complain of  sickness, have sleepless nights, dizziness, irritability and/or a lack of concentration.

2. The winds can have disasterous effects for farmers.  Feed that is put out for stock can be blown away. If there are too many Föhn in the spring, it will be too dry for grass to grow. When they occurr in the summer, they bring a risk of fire.  They can also spread fire very quickly.

1. Föhn is similar to the German word for hairdryer.

Swiss Wine

The Romans were in Switzerland and they liked wine. A lot. As a result, it has a long and rich history of wine-making.Now, Switzerland produces a lot of wine. The Swiss are virtually obsessed with quality.  They make wine like they do most things, very well. Unfortunately for those not in Switzerland, nearly all of it is drunk within Switzerland; less than 2% of the wine is exported.

Switzerland is bordered by Germany, Austria, France and Italy. They each produce a few bottles. Switzerland has a widely varied climate. As a result, it has a wide repertoire of grape varieties and winemaking styles.

Switzerland isn’t exactly known for its temperate climate. How can they grow wine? The Föhn, a weather phenomenon that influences the climate in Switzerland, makes it possible to grow grape varieties in regions that are otherwise inhospitable. On hikes, we have seen firsthand how the Swiss will make the most of the cultivable land at lower altitudes to grow grapes.



Go Jump Off A Bridge

Do you remember when your mom said “if your friends jumped off a bridge would you do it to”?  Here, the answer is yes. Okay, so I guess technically this is not allowed. From the looks of it, that wasn’t stopping anyone.
There is a decent current so you can float way down the river in a boat. If you tread water, you’ll be carried along.  Very refreshing.  Very good time.
P.S. If you come visit, please bring us an inflatable boat

Panache – The One Beer That Can Make Him Do This

In the Summer here, people find Panache refreshing.  It is beer with some lemonade, kind of like a Shandy. It is a bit too sweet for me, but I can understand it.  He did this.


Le Hot Dog

Sometimes, the food here is just a little bit different than what we are used to eating. He ordered a hot dog. It came in a baguette with ketchup and mustard. He asked for it without the mayonaise, otherwise it comes standard. It was good, but no Portillo’s.



A New Leader in Geneva’s Best Beach Competition

It has been hot here. Really hot. Hotter than Charlotte. We don’t have air conditioning. To cool down, we went with our friends, Captain Finland and MC Roni (not their real names), to Jonction.  We brought a blanket and just chilled on the side of the Rhône. When we got hot, we went in for a dip. It is definitely the new frontrunner in the best beach competition.

Here is what we liked about it:

  • Super chill
  • If you are on the grass, you are right next to the river, not three blankets back.
  • You see trees.
  • The current is fun.
  • People are grilling.
  • You can play music.
  • Not too many kids
  • Free
Swans floated by us.
The Jonction where the Rhône and the Aarve meet.
If you come to visit, please bring us a raft, funyak, etc.
Very refreshing
People sunbathe on the docks, but we preferred the grass. It’s less crowded.
Some people came more prepared than we did
The graffiti added color
You climb out on the ladders

FYI – The clear waters of the  Rhône come from the Alps through Lac Leman (Lake Geneva). The Aarve also comes from the Alps, but via riverbeds.  As a result, it has sediment in it.  Jonction is so named because it is where the two intersect.  That is why in the picture above, you can see the clear blue mix with the cloudy water.


Everyone else takes the month of August off here. I have caught vacation fever.  I am going to Belgium for a week while he is travelling for work.  I have posts scheduled to auto post and will have tons of great pictures when I get back.  Quel Horreur!  Enjoy some of the “we’re closed for the month” signs.