Happy Halloween!!!

 

Charlie Brown: Hey! I got an invitation to a Halloween party!
[dances happily]
Lucy Van Pelt: Is it the invitation to Violet‘s party, Charlie Brown?
Charlie Brown: Yes. It’s the first time I’ve been invited to a party.
Lucy Van Pelt: Charlie Brown.  If you got an invitation, it  was a mistake.  There were two lists, Charlie Brown.  One to invite and one not to invite.  You must have been put on the wrong list.

We were invited to a fantastic Halloween party this weekend (the explanation for the invitation is above).   The hostess with the mostest made “scary food” that was very tasty.

Lady J’s Coconut Macarons
Lady J’s Black Truffle Macarons
They also requested people send in old photos of themselves in costume.  This made for a very entertaining slide show that ran all evening.  In addition to embarrassing shots of ourselves (which I won’t be posting) I sent a cute one of the pups in their reindeer costumes.
Costumes were encouraged and people did not disappoint.
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It’s The Little Differences – Halloween Version

One bag’s worth of candy

Top Ten Ways Halloween is Different in Switzerland:

10.  Smaller bags of Halloween candy.  There are 10-20 pieces per bag and each bag costs a lot more.

9.    You have to search hard to find the candy.  It’s not like the US where they sell it everywhere.  There are aisles of chocolate bars in the grocery stores.  Finding individually wrapped candies suitable for your Halloween candy bowl is another matter.  For example, I do not think it is appropriate to hand out individually wrapped candies containing cherry liqueur to children.

8.    Costumes are scary and supernatural-themed (witches, zombies, vampires, brains, blood, guts, etc.).  You don’t see nurses, TV/movie characters, famous people, cartoon characters, superheros, etc. The Rocky Horror Picture Show may be lost in translation.

7.    No trick-or-treaters.

Sally Brown:  Do I get to go trick-or-treating this year big
brother?
Charlie Brown:  Sure, Sally.
Sally Brown:  Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!  How do we do it?
Lucy Van Pelt:  All you have to do is walk up to a house, ring the doorbell and say “Tricks or Treats.”
Sally Brown:  Are you sure it’s legal?
Lucy Van Pelt:  Of course it’s legal.
Sally Brown:  I wouldn’t want to be accused of taking part in a rumble.

I am Lisbeth Salander from “The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo“; he’s in Leiderhosen. 

6.    Halloween is not a huge holiday here so you get strange looks riding the tram or walking down the street looking like this.  I found it helpful to wish everyone who looked at me strangely a “happy Halloween”.  It usually elicited a smile.

5.    No pumpkin spice lattes.  We may have to bring some back with us.  I have become fixated on it.

4.    You might be disappointed with your Snickers after getting used to Swiss chocolate.  I suspect this aspect of reintegration will be difficult.

3.    No pet costumes.  If I happen to see a St. Bernard (or any other dog) in costume, I promise to whip out my camera and post it for you.

2.    Here, pumpkins are for eating.  It is hard to find carving pumpkins here and there are definitely not any pumpkin patches.  For that matter, I haven’t heard of any cider mills either.  Great, now I’m starting to fixate on apple cider too.

1.    No “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” on TV.   Thank goodness our awesome family sent us the book.

Happy Halloween!  Eat, drink and be scary!

 

We’ve Got Mail!

We got mail!  Getting the mail, however, is an entirely different matter.  To get the mail, I have to go to the post office, present both our passports and our marriage license.  Yep, you read that correctly.  They will not give me anything without proof that we are married.

I expected something from the bank and squealed when I saw it was a care package.  The nice lady at the post office thought it was interesting and asked all about my nieces who sent it.  She laughed when I told her it contained Halloween candy (I read the customs declaration on the outside of the box).  It’s not a huge holiday here like it is in the US.

WARNING!!!! If you are thinking about sending us a care package, perhaps you should consider emailing photos. I am sure the sender got a rude awakening when they saw the price at the post office (FedEx is even more expensive).
We used the cooler that evening!  This stuff rocks!

The box contained Halloween candy, Detroit Lions gear, some great books (the sender always has a good read on hand), halloween decorations and the best part pictures from our nieces (which went immediately on the fridge).

The pictures are already up on our fridge

Thank you!!!!!

I told you she had good taste in books!

 

Once Upon A Time There Was A Cute Little Town Called Murten

Once upon a time (1100’s), there was a town founded by Duke Berchtold that fell under the protection of the Count of Savoy, that was burned, rebuilt (in stone) and proclaimed its loyalty to the towns of Berne and Fribourg.  This town was called Murten (Morat in French).  It was so cute that in 1476, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy wanted it.  In complete honesty, I think he wanted it for reasons other than its cuteness.  Nevertheless, it is pretty cute.
Once upon a time (1100’s), there was a town founded by Duke Berchtold that fell under the protection of the Count of Savoy, that was burned, rebuilt (in stone) and proclaimed its loyalty to the towns of Berne and Fribourg.  This town was called Murten.  It was so cute that in 1476, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy wanted it.  In complete honesty, I think he wanted it for reasons other than its cuteness.  Nevertheless, it is pretty cute.
Charles the Bold (he was called bold for a reason) besieged the town, but was defeated by the Swiss in 1484.  Swiss towns had previously made pacts to protect each other.  When Charles the Bold came, it was time for them to put their money where their mouth was.  Being Swiss, they (a) took money rather seriously and (b) kept their promise.*  The other towns came to Murten’s aid and they kicked Charles the Bold’s heiney.**   Et voila, modern Switzerland was born.
From 1484 on, and for 300 years, Murten is ruled by the two states, Berne and Fribourg.
Cute litte Murten was not left to its happy ending quite yet, the French invaded the town in 1798.  Napoleon gave the town to Fribourg (sorry Berne).  Ultimately, our hero lived happily and cutely ever after (more or less).  It doesn’t hurt that it is on a gorgeous lake and has preserved its history (castle, ring wall and streets).
*At least that’s how the story goes.
**The Swiss became sought-after mercenaries and were the guns you wanted to hire for centuries.  In fact, the Swiss Guard, modern-day Swiss mercenaries, protect the pope.
 




The Scariest Post Ever – Me With Clippers

Just in time for Halloween, we bring you the scariest post yet.  He hasn’t had a haircut in over 2 months (not scary).  This is not some new cost-saving measure brought about by high Swiss prices.* He has been working so much that the barber shops are closed by the time he leaves the office.  They close at 7:00 p.m.  He just hasn’t been able to sneak away early to get a cut.  We haven’t been in Geneva most Saturdays and everything is closed on Sundays so those days have been out.  It was driving him nuts so…

I got out the clippers to do a touch up.  Very scary.  For some reason, I look just a bit too excited.
 
I blurred our laundry hanging dry

When we first were married, we were really, really broke. To save money, I tried cutting his hair a couple of times.  After two attempts, we decided that no matter how broke we were, it was better for our marriage if we just sprung for his cuts.

I don’t have any pictures of the actual trim because I was concentrating so hard.  I couldn’t have handled doing anything else.  Check out the finished product.  Doesn’t it look a bit neater?
The finished product from the front

He is looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6:00 a.m. the next morning as he gets ready to head off to a big day at the cracker factory.  While I definitely don’t have a career as a stylist in front of me, he is sporting a better haircut than I am!

*We did have a guy friend pay +/- 90 CHF ($103) for a trim.

 

 

Tourist’s Geneva – St. Pierre Cathedral

When you look at Geneva, the building that stands out is the cathedral on top of old town. It’s called St. Pierre Cathedral.  On your first clear day in Geneva, go to the top and enjoy the view.  In addition to the stellar view, the building’s history tells you a lot about the city of Geneva.
 
They’ve started excavating underneath St. Pierre Cathedral and found Roman ruins* (visit the archaeological site to learn more).  The site was continuously occupied until the current building was built in the 12th century. Back then, it was a Catholic church.  When the reformation arrived, it became a center of the Reformation.  The cathedral is best known as Calvin’s home church.  They even have his chair inside. 
 
Calvin’s chair

The Reformation brought changes to the building as well. It’s philosophy of austerity impacted the interior of the cathedral.   Ornaments were removed; colors were whitewashed.  The Calvinists didn’t believe in religious images, so statues, alters, paintings and furniture were out.  The windows are just about the only thing they keptCompare this to St. Peter‘s Cathedral in Rome and you can really see the austerity, solemnity and restraint.

To get to the top, you will climb 157 steps up to the North Tower.
Don’t get spooked out by the twisty stairs or the attic-type space, keep heading up.
Don’t stop when confronted by wire cage.
If you continue, you will be rewarded.  Aaaahhhh.  There it is, that’s the shot you came to get.
*There are Roman ruins throughout Switzerland.  I even stumble onto them during my runs (there’s a ruins of a Roman villa in the Parc des Eaux-Vives).  We saw them in St. Saphorin and Sion has Roman roots.
 

Ricola!!!!!!!!!!!!

 
He’s got a cold.  We’re in Switzerland.  This is a no-brainer. Riccollaaaaaa!    We never bought them in the US, so I can’t tell you if they taste the same.  Regardless, they are surprisingly good.
 

Here’s some fun Ricola info for you.  The mountains on the label are the Eiger (the ogre) on the left, the Jungfrau (virgin) on the right and the Monch (the monk) between them.  Obviously.  


Ironically, the Ricola gardens are outside Zermatt home of the Matterhorn (another famous mountain, but not on the label).*

One more interesting Ricola tidbit, Michael Jackson included them in his pre-concert ritual!

Here’s the link to the commercial, Halloween Ricola commercials, a politician whose aide is coughinga slightly off color European commercial, some funny ones in German featuring typically Swiss things like Heidi, huntingmountain climbing and a goat.  WARNING: If you watch it, you will be bellowing “Riccollaaaa” all day long.

* There are actually five Ricola gardens in Switzerland.

Driving in Switzerland

We now have our permanent car (isn’t she a beauty) here.  When I am driving in Switzerland, I’m not worried about getting in an accident or even parking in a teeny tiny space.  I’m worried about following all of the rules. Here are some:
  • Seat belts are compulsory for all occupants (expected).
Wearing his seatbelt
  • Children under 12 are not allowed to sit in the front seat without an appropriate child restraint (also expected).
  • No right turn on red.  I can deal with this.
  • Pedestrians always have the right-of-way in pedestrian crosswalks.  I can deal with this.  Unfortunately, the drivers with French plates who consistently try to run me over have difficulty doing so.
  • Hazard lights may only be used to warn of danger.   This is a bit different from driving in the US, where I use them when stopped in front of someone’s house.
  • No honking is allowed after dark.  How else am I supposed to show my road rage? This merits a definitely different.
  • Noise from car or occupants that could disturb people is prohibited.   Does this mean I can’t blast my bass?
  • The minimum driving age is 18.  FYI, the drinking age for wine and beer is 16.
  • Mobile phones may only be used with a hands-free system (similar to the US).
  • Headlights must be used in tunnels.   Logical, but this is not really an issue in Michigan.  On Sunday, I think we went through at least 8 tunnels on our way to Geneva.  By the way, not only do you have to use your headlights in tunnels, the speed limit drops and they use radar to fine you if you are following too closely.  You’ll get a nice little note from the Swiss government in the mail about a week later.
  • Headlights should be on and dipped during daylight hours, especially on major routes.  We can do this.
  • Each car must carry a red warning triangle (reflective vests are not obligatory).  Thank goodness our rental came with it, because I’m not sure where to buy a red warning triangle.  Hmmm… I’d better check to make sure our new car has one.
  • Snow chains are required in some winter conditions.    Who doesn’t love this? Okay, he doesn’t love this. To quote him, “what happened to all season tires?” Mom said, “maybe they don’t have them over here.”  He said, “Michelin? Pirelli?”  We have ours and have paid to store our normal tires for the winter.  You can breathe easy, we are in compliance.
  • It is illegal to drive if the windshield is partly or completely obscured by frost; it is illegal to let the car idle to aid clearing the windshield.   Curses, that was my go to move. I am ashamed to say that I would sit in the front seat drinking coffee and let my car warming up do the work for me. I try to be pretty green, but that was one instance where I didn’t worry about my greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Helmets are compulsory for driver and passenger on all scooters, motorbikes, quad bikes and trikes.  The motorcycles and scooters are so aggressive here and we have already seen several accidents. I can see why they have this rule.
  • Speed limits are enforced with cameras.  If you do not obey this one, you will receive an appropriately Swiss (expensive) speeding ticket in the mail.  The amount is determined by taking a percentage of your income?!?  Expect more on this in future posts.
  • Radar detectors are illegal. Okay.  The dreaded ticket in the mail becomes much more likely without one of these.  Oh yeah,the speed limit is only really posted when it is an exception to the above rules (posted at the border).
  • When driving in a city, town or village, the right of way at an intersection is automatically given to the vehicle on the right – priorité à droite – unless otherwise indicated by stop or yield/give way signs. This applies even in the case of a small side road entering a major main road. The vehicle traveling on the main road must give way to the vehicle entering on the right.   I have just been waiving everyone on ahead and hope that when I am not doing this properly, people appreciate my being nice.  We are working on it.
  • At a traffic circle, the vehicle already on the circle has the right of way over vehicles joining from the right. No problems so far here, but as a nation, the US has great difficulty with the traffic circle.
  • On hill roads, the car travelling uphill has priority over the one coming down.  You should see the narrowness of some of these roads. This makes perfect sense.
  • If a car is not registered in the driver’s name, the driver should carry a letter from the registered owner authorising the use. Very, very different.

 

We’ll Be Headed Back To Sion

You don’t hear a lot about Scion (or the nearby towns Sierre and Saglesh) in tourist guidebooks so it hadn’t been a priority for us.  He saw these castles from the highway and was intrigued.  

We stopped our our way home from the Matterhorn (because he saw these castles from the highway) and were pleasantly surprised.

The castles were pretty cool and had amazing views.  I know, I know, this is Switzerland and that is pretty much baseline here.  

The streets of the Sion were really what sold us.  We really enjoyed our stroll through them.  It is obviously a town that has existed for thousands of years.  If you keep your eyes peeled, you are able to notice small, intriguing bits of history throughout.

We wished that we’d had more time to spend there (we didn’t get to see a single museum there) and will definitely be headed back.  This area is Switzerland’s sunniest and gets the least rainfall.  When it is gray in Geneva, we plan on escaping to soak up its sun, enjoy its wines and explore the sights. 

 

How Do You Become The Most Interesting Man In The World?

English: Jonathan Goldsmith attending "Su...

English: Jonathan Goldsmith attending “Susan G. Komen’s 8th Annual Fashion For The Cure” event – Hollywood, CA on Sept. 24, 2009 – Photo by Glenn Francis of http://www.PacificProDigital.com (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“If he were to pat you on the back, you would list it on your resume.”
“Both sides of his pillow are cool.”
“When in Rome, they do as he does.”
“He’s won Trophies for his game face alone.”
“Sharks have a week dedicated to him.”

You’ve seen the Dos Equis commercials featuring the most interesting man in the world.  How do you become the most interesting man in the world?  Seriously, inquiring minds want to know?  When I said I had come up with a dream vacation for us of hiking in New Zealand, he said it would help him become the most interesting man in the world.  If he is going to become the most interesting man in the world, where does he start?   Send me your ideas, I’m not promising he will do them, but you never know.  It never hurts to think outside the box.

*We are in the Lauterbraunen Valley with is possibly the world’s premier spot for base jumping.  Tonight, we were surrounded by them.  I can pretty much guarantee that we will not be doing that.  Hang gliding and/or canyoning are still possibilities.