The Hard Knock Life Of An Expat Football Fan

If he followed soccer, or even rugby, it would be a lot easier than it is  keeping up with American football here.  Even if he could watch the local news (in French or German or Italian…heck we even get Al Arabiya with our cable package) to catch the scores, they don’t really cover it.  As a result, it is hard to remember when to update your team,* let alone who to pick up this week because your QB is on a bye and your backup is injured.

He has been reduced to frantically checking ESPN for scores over breakfast.  I am reminding him to update his team.  Me?  Yes, me.  If I am reminding you to update your team, you really are screwed.  Ladies, you know who you are, you really benefitted from my forgetfulness last year.  You are welcome.  Gentleman, if you want him to miss a reminder, please write a request on a 100 CHF note for me.

To top it all off, his team, the long-suffering Detroit Lions**, are actually doing well.***  So are the Detroit Tigers!  We leave and everything gets better.  Maybe it will work for Detroit’s economy too.

*There is no way that you are going to be around to do this at the last minute.  If someone is questionable and it is going to be a last minute decision, they are sitting on the bench.  Period.

**He would like me to note  that Jeff Backus (we won’t mention his nickname for Mr. Backus) is terrible, the bane of his existence.  When Mr. Backus is no longer with the Lions, he will be much happier.  He has felt this way since he Mr. Backus was drafted.  Trust me on this.

** *He did not mind missing Michigan State’s loss to ND.  For that matter, neither did I.

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Pralines

 
Another yummy post. Belgium is known for its chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, their chocolate is good.  Very, very good.  It is also a competitor of Swiss Chocolate, so I must be diplomatic. Fortunately for me, I haven’t seen pralines here like you do in Belgium. Aaaahhh, a loophole.
 
What are pralines? A chocolate shell that could be filled with butter, cream, liquor, nuts, marzipan (sugared almond paste), or even a different kind of chocolate. They come in rectangular boxes like you see below.  If you see one of these boxes, you know instantly that something good is headed your way.
 
The best part is that you, in America can taste some of this yumminess. I know that I supported Belgian businesses in the US whenever possible (beer, ahem, and pralines). Leonidas and Neuhaus are both in the US. Neuhaus is even in Asheville!
 

P.S. I may or may not have snuck some with breakfast. If I did, please don’t judge me.  

 

“Cheese – Milk’s Leap Toward Immortality”*

Skanky B, Homie G, MC Roni and I toured the Cheese  Factory in Gruyères.* The highlights were:

  • the free samples of cheese,
  • the scents of all the wonderful alpine plants the cows eat in the mountains, and
  • the demonstration.

For more information on the tour and the town, check out The Swiss Watch Blog’s Gruyères post.

What is the logical follow up to such an adventure? Fondue, of course.

Check out the cow bell and the view
Sooo tasty

If you are visiting the greater Geneva area and are not a hiker (there are great places to hike near Gruyères), you can take the chocolate train.  It is a great way to see beautiful scenery, the cheese tour, Gruyeres and the Cailler chocolate factory in a single day.

*I just learned that there is a second cheese factory in the mountains around Gruyères. Don’t worry about being uninformed, I will try that one for you too.





Lost in Translation – Björn and John Underwear?

This one is in English, but still appears to be Lost in Translation. Björn* Hearts John underwear.

That’s right.  It says “A limited edition underwear collection celebrating the single greatest duo in sports history.”
You cannot be serious!  For more on it, here is an article.  If you want to see McEnroe on YouTube, click here for a link to his spay and neuter PSA, here for his AmEx ad, here for his Wii Tennis commercial, here for his Altea pub or here for a McEnroe/Bjorg Tesco one.  

*Björn Borg was a big tennis star in the eighties. He is from Sweden which, as you know from yesterday’s post, is really close to Denmark. He had legendary matches with John McEnroe. This is the result? 

 

Dinner in Malmö

 
Our last night in Copenhagen, we went to dinner in Malmö, Sweden.   To get there, we took Øresund Bridge. It is not just any bridge. At 7,845 meters (25,738 feet), it is Europe’s longest road and rail bridge (the rail is on a second level below the road) and a pretty impressive engineering feat. To keep shipping lanes unobstructed and avoid interference with planes from the nearby airport, the first portion of the bridge is a tunnel!
 
The tunnel

You emerge from the tunnel on an artificial island (created from the earth dug out for the tunnel).  From there, the suspension bridge starts.

Artificial island created from the earth excavated for the tunnel
The bridge from the island
View of the Øresund Strait from the backseat

The bridge made getting from Malmö to Copenhagen quick and easy (you can still take a ferry). It created a renaissance in Malmö and some people who live there commute to Copenhagen. Prior to that evening, my knowledge of Malmö was almost entirely derived from The Millennium Trilogy, sorry Sweden.


Beautiful landscape on the way to Malmö, it is traditionally an agricultural area. 
We had dinner in the Old Town. It was great to walk around the old streets and window shop. There were lots of very trendy looking people grabbing dinner and drinks outside.
We drove from Denmark to Sweden, ordered in English, ate Spanish Tapas and followed it with Italian espresso. Next time, we will try to be more international, but it’s definitely not a bridge to nowhere.

Padlocks of Love – “Luccheti d’Amore”

When we were in Copenhagen, Denmark, we walked across the Brygge Broen, a bicycle and pedestrain only bridge.  When I saw these locks, I had to stop and look. I’d read a story about padlocks from the Pont de l’Archevêché on the Seine in Paris. They disappeared in the middle of the night after the city of Paris said they were concerned about their effects on their architectural heritage. People were upset over their disappearance and the locks “magically” reappeared.
Although this custom has allegedly been around since before WWI, it has become much more widespread. An Italian book that was made into a movie Ho Voglia di Te (“I Want You”) was released in 2006 featured the “Luccheti d’Amore”. In Italy, the movie became like Twilight in the U.S. increasing the padlock’s popularity. As the locations for and numbers of padlocks have risen, their notariety has grown. They are now widespread and getting media attention. Some are even listed in travel guides.

Other places where this occurrs include:

Some people decorate or write on theirs.  50 years!  Everyone should be so lucky.I don’t think that I am a particularly romantic person, but seeing 50 years written on one is really touching. Who knows, maybe we will put one up in our travels? On the other hand, this seems to be the new trendy thing, so maybe we won’t.

I don’t think that I am a particularly romantic person, but seeing 50 years written on one is really touching. Who knows, maybe we will put one up in our travels? On the other hand, this seems to be the new trendy thing, so maybe we won’t.

Beer Tours – If You Want To Improve Yours, Just Ask Us?

We’ve had a beer or two on our day and have been on a few brewery tours. While we were in Copenhagen, we toured Carlsberg.
Carlsburg had several things going for it.  It has decent beer (sorry Heineken). It has a nice campus. It has a decent place to sit and drink your free beers.  One of the best parts of the tour was the Guinness (ironic) Book of Records certified world’s largest collection of unopened beer bottles (currently +/- 20,000). The other nice part was the history of the company and it’s role in Danish society.
Sorry, I couldn’t fit them all in. Not even close.
They have a copy of The Little Mermaid Statue. The family commissioned the one in the harbor.  You get to see a bunch of old machinery and, like the Budweiser tour, there are stables with horses (no horses in the stables on the Heineken tour).
 

Several things go into making a good tour.  We enjoy a tour and here are some easy ways to make a factory/product tour better:

  • Show funny old commercials. Even ones that the suits setting up the tour don’t think are funny.
  • Have a location with a view.  Look out over mountains, the sea, the city, even a garden. Guinness does a good job with this.  Their Gravity Bar has the best view of Dublin.
The second best part of the Guinness tour
  • Provide plenty of silly photo ops.
  • Try not to be as obvious about making it a giant commercial for your product. Yes, Guinness Tour I am talking to you. Miller, please pay attention as well.  World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, you might be a lost cause.
  • Have knowledgeable people who can actually answer questions about the product. Olde Mecklenburg, Thomas Creek and lots of American microbrews do this well.
  • If at all possible, try to show production.  We eat it up. I’m not sure if you can still do it, but you used to be able to do this at Yuengling and some of the Milwaukee breweries.

 

Proof That I Will Write About Absolutely Anything – Today’s Post is Toilet Paper

This will not (I hope) be a reoccurring series. We packed the TP in our closets (Costco’s Kirkland) in our contain because I packed everything. When I purchased TP here and put it away, I was astounded.  Unfortunately, I was alone and there was no one with whom I could share my discovery. Look!

Proof that everything is bigger in the U.S.A.



Can you guess which one is the American toilet paper?  But wait, there’s more.  When I got to the end of my first role of Swiss TP, guess what? You can flush the cardboard roll!  Check it out.

It says: “You can flush me down the toilet, 100% guaranteed”

How cool is that? 

Danish Bike Culture And My Fanboys Experience

Rush hour in Copenhagen

I like to ride a bike. For the Danes it is an integral part of their day and culture. The Danish government taxes cars at 180%! Yes, you read that correctly. 180%! Read it and weep Detroit.

CPH = Copenhagen

I took lots of pictures to show how it is such a bike friendly place. They have plenty of parking for bikes…and then some. 

Massive parking for bikes (none for cars)
Seriously, there are tons of them.

This is only a small bit of an indoor bike storage room. I’ve seen businessess (and apartment complexes for that matter) in the US with parking lots that were smaller. 

An indoor bike storage room

They make it easy to navigate the city by bike. The stairs have a rails to roll your bike up or down. The bike lanes are everywhere and are huge. I heard (so who knows whether it is true) that to eliminate some of the crowding on bikes during rush hour, they were considering closing parts of the city to car traffic to make more bike lanes!

Nice, wide bike lanes on either side of the road
Cars have to take the long way around, you can take the shortcut by bike.
A rail for your wheels


People are prepared and trick their bikes out to fit their needs.  This guy was toteing three little ones around. We also saw people using those to transport their shopping.  

Two kids and a baby an infant carrier up front!

Covered when it rains

The bikes even get ads, like we do on our windshields.
By the way, the cycling world championships were held in Copenhagen this week. Despite trying to talk my way onto the Leopard Trek bus, this is as close as I made it. My boy, the Swiss Fabulous Fabian Cancellara (aka Spartacus), came in third (Congratulations on the podium finish). 
Has anyone seen Fanboys? This is my cycling version of it.
His helmet? Please don’t take out a restraining order. 

Something Was Rotten In The State Of Denmark…It Was Us

My birthday present was Denmark, not the entire country, just a trip there. We fell in love with the country.  Here is a top ten list of things of to love about Denmark:


10. The bike culture. I even got to see some of the World Championships. 

Poul Henningson Artichoke Light

9. The design. From everyday objects to amazing modern buildings, it is a treat for the eyes. They really find a way to highlight the beauty in function of an object (and make it accessible to just about everyone). This passion for design extends to architecture. They don’t try to make their buildings look like they were built 200 years ago, they try to make something incredibly interesting and hyper-functional. 

These buildings are filled with light, even on gray days.


8. The wonderful people. Seriously, they may be some of the nicest, friendliest, warmest people around. 

7. Great fish. Except for the lunch where I had a pastry (I couldn’t help myself), I had fish at every meal in Denmark. Including for breakfast. Come to think of it, all of the food was really good. And who doesn’t love a Smorgasbord? Sorry, I was too busy eating to snap pictures of anything other than the vitamins.

The breakfast Smorgasbord included fish oil pills. I took a picture because I knew you wouldn’t believe me otherwise.


6. Good beer. While you may be able to buy Kronnenberg 1664 or Heineken less expensively (we wouldn’t know as we have never tried), beer is not cheap in Geneva. Good beer is really expensive. He loved the good Danish beers and their reasonable prices. 

It was too cute.

5. Adorable canals.

My cab

4. They are green.

Electric car charging in front of the hotel

3. Their English is wonderful and everyone speaks it. I didn’t meet a single person who didn’t speak it very well.

Don’t they look like happy, normal, real people who dig each other?

2. Their royal family. This is what I saw in the guidebook. Yep. That’s their queen. You would never see the British royal family acting human. The Danish royal family acts like normal people and the Danes love them for it (The queen used to go out around the city on her own, Crown Prince Frederick met his Australian wife in a Sydney bar, etc.). Very refreshing.



1. You can indulge the big kid in you with Legos, candy, pastries, Tivoli Gardens and Hans Christian Anderson.

Yep! Legos are Danish.
The Danish make a good Danish.
Tivoli is Europe’s first amusement park. They don’t make good ol’ fashioned fun like this anymore.



P.S. A HUGE thank you to my wonderful husband who knows me well enough to know that my favorite gift is not jewelry or clothes,  but a trip. He got bonus points for picking out and giving me my favorite guidebooks ahead of time.