Let me just say how much I love not having to drive to work each day. No really – if you’re never experienced this, you’re missing out – I think my blood pressure has gone down a good twenty points based on this alone. It’s to the point where I actually kind of enjoy getting into a car again, which I never thought would happen. Apparently, the mind has a way of forgetting the bad things in life, and this weekend as we piled into a small European automobile to enjoy the fine skiing of Avoriez, France, the gods of traffic jams tried to catch up for all the time I’ve missed in the past six months.

To make a long story short, we got caught in absurd mountain traffic. Three hours into the trip, we realized the cost/benefit of skiing versus continuing on was not in our favor, so we called it a day and turned around. However, being as we were in France, we had the bright idea to stop at a bakery on the side of a road, where I single-handedly demolished a framboise tart, apple strudel, donut, loaf of bread, and something else that was ridiculously good. Greatest bakery ever! We also stopped at a grocery store to load up on red meat and wine which we could then smuggle into Switzerland (prices are less than ½ of what we usually pay for things like meat), so Soph was in heaven. Yeah – if there’s anything that Europe can’t do as well as the US, it’s grocery stores – especially Switzerland. Just not one of their strengths. Anyway – since the weather was a warm 60+ degrees, we then invited some friends over for an impromptu deck party, and sat in the sun sipping on French wine until the sun went down. Good times.

Winter in Geneva has been pretty much perfect so far, weather-wise. We’ve had to wear coats and everything, but we haven’t had the bitter cold or freezing winds I expected, considering our latitude is the same as Vermont’s and we’re only a handful of miles from the Alps. I probably shouldn’t jinx it until we’re at least through mid-March, but I also feel I should pay homage to it, so that it understands it’s appreciated and will come back next year. Something like that, anyway…

Couple of things on the blog I want to point out to the four of you who are actually reading it…first, it has come to my attention that pictures have not been uploaded for about, oh, five months or so. I hadn’t realized this until the other day, and I apologize – I’ll hopefully have them up by the end of the next week or two. Second, is the formatting. Blogspot unfortunately has a terrible preview function, in the sense that when I preview how it will look, it doesn’t actually end up looking like that when I post. The result is that it’s almost impossible to get the spacing, pictures, etc. to look how I want them to, which really bugs me, but probably goes unnoticed by everyone else. Anyway – I made the decision about eight posts ago not to let this bother me, and while it clearly still does, I’ve at least gotten over messing with it for more than a few minutes each post.

Here are some pictures of us goofing around while walking through Geneva on Sunday. Sometimes I wonder if we need to grow up...

Next weekend: First visitors!

Just another lazy weekend...

This weekend we decided to step up the fight against our lingering sicknesses, rather than our tactic of the past few weeks which involved not sleeping, hanging around outside, physical exercise, and just pretty much anything else that would be considered stupid. It’s unfortunate in that it turned out to be a nice weekend (yet again), so in some ways it was wasted. However – in order to make the most of it, we decided to go on a spending splurge at the local supermarket and outdoor market! Yeah, we are high-rollers when it comes to buying fresh veggies, and this time we prepared ourselves for the great fresh-made pasta cookoff! This involved buying a couple types of homemade pasta from the various vendors, to see if they were really worth the extra franc they charge. The result? Totally worth it – not even a question. Gotta love authentic Italian pasta! Then we bought some cheeses, sauces, and anything else that looked remotely appealing. Broke the rule of "not going grocery shopping when you’re hungry", but sometimes there’s just no way around that. Who says Sundays in Geneva are boring? Well, everyone, but that’s another story…

One severe problem with Geneva (which might be solved with an upcoming referendum) is smoking in restaurants. Not only smoking in restaurants, but smoking in bars, malls, confectioner stores – pretty much anywhere you put up 4 walls, there is a problem with Genevans smoking inside of them. For instance – I went out to lunch the other day to get a nice pizza, sat in the non-smoking section, and less than a foot away was another table which happened to be in the pro-smoking section. No barrier, no fan, nothing, except my lone table had a small removable plaque on it with a picture of a cigarette and a line crossing through it. The result is that I had to go back to work smelling like an ashtray, meaning I fit in a little bit more. However – the bright side of this story is that I finally found a restaurant with excellent pizza. In Geneva, the proper way to serve pizza is to put an egg on top. That’s right – you put the pizza together, break an egg in the middle, and then cook it as normal. You may laugh, but I’m a huge fan – it’s one of those great ideas that someone should have imported to the states years ago.

In other European news, Kosovo recently declared their independence from some country that didn’t exist ten years ago. As a red-blooded American, I’m very happy for them in their quest to get away from taxation without representation. But seriously, all you Kosovoans - you don’t need to drive around Geneva honking your horns all afternoon. One pass around the park would have been enough – that would have even been cool. But five hours of it? Come on…take a cue from the Egyptians who just won the African Cup (soccer, I think). They went out and started a street party. Street parties are fun, and if it’s near me, I might even come out and join in. Driving around honking your horns is not fun, and I will not join you. So be warned…

Next weekend: Ski weekend trois!

Ski Weekend Deux

5:45 AM. This is when we had to get up to catch the train. Now, some of you may be thinking "wow, that’s cool they’re making the most of their time in Europe". Most of you, though, are probably saying to yourselves "they’re lying – we know those two, and they simply are not capable of getting up that early". Unfortunately, this appears to be the price of skiing, as we’ve had to get up before the sunrise a couple of times now, much to my chagrin. However, since this was going to be our first true "Swiss" skiing experience (the other times we’ve technically gone to France), it was worth the crippling pain of getting out of bed that early.

Anyway, Verbier is known as one of the top ski destinations in the world, by those in the know. At least, that’s what their website says, and as we’ve established the fact that the Swiss are light years behind in Marketing, then I think it probably has some truth behind it. Unfortunately for Soph and I, we were forced to start the skiing by going down a truly insane hill, and while she had the good sense to walk down it, I figured that going about halfway, doing a backflip, not sticking the landing, and then sliding down the rest with one leg bent under my head would be a better idea. Sometimes I wonder how I’ve made it this far…but once the initial hill of death was over, we were able to find a good spot to practice the rest of the day, which happened to also have a nice little restaurant next to it.

What is also great about Verbier is that it’s a true "ski-town"; that is, it has a pretty decent restaurant and nightlife. In truth, it puts Geneva’s nightlife to shame – but so does just about any city with a population of 5000 (Geneva, while it has a terrible nightlife, does have a thriving expat community, which makes up for that shortcoming). So after a long day of skiing, all of us met up together for some apres-ski, which is another great Swiss or French custom that needs to be brought to America (it’s basically just hanging out on a deck in your ski gear with a view of the mountains, but it makes it that much more fun when you use a semi-translatable phrase to describe it).

Now that we’ve gone skiing a couple of times, I think we’re prepared to give some opinions on it. The good? Well, first of all, the scenery is fantastic at all the resorts here – really impressive stuff. Then there’s the fresh mountain air, and of course the actual act of skiing in and of itself. Soph’s favorite part is the chair lift, because she can just sit and look around at everything, and I see her point. The bad? Definitely the act of carrying your skis back and forth, and just organizing everything. That part is really annoying. The ugly? Pretty much any of our falls, of which there have been quite a few. In my defense, I’ve seriously reduced how often I fall, but unfortunately now my falls are monumental in scope, and involve being airborne for some measurable amount of time, and often landing on my head – sort of like a reverse cat or something.

Next weekend: Sleeping in!

Serious planning week...

Time to get down to business – business being, places we’re going to go this year! Unfortunately, my European vacation allocation of 30 days + holidays isn’t quite enough to get everything in, but we’re doing our best to plan the year in advance. One note – if you happen to visit, you might make the blog – just keep that in mind. That’s almost as cool as catching a foul ball, or getting spit on by Bon Jovi, so if you needed any extra incentives, I thought I’d throw that out there for any budding Europhiles…
The adventures of the past week and a half, while not quite as intense as going break-neck speed down an alpine meadow filled with snow, have seen their share of craziness. We had our first Wii party, our second Gossip Girl marathon, our third trip to IKEA, and more importantly, I finally figured out a way to hang all our pictures up. Yeah – all our paintings and everything had been leaning against the walls in their designated spots for the past 5 months, because we have some sort of sheet metal about a half-inch behind the crumbling substance that is our inner wall. And, as we have no hardware stores here, I couldn’t exactly pick up random items to experiment with. No matter – we now have everything in place, and Sophia was able to complete her shrine of pictures of people back home. As an added bonus, we picked up some materials to re-start the garden we were forced to abandon upon moving here, and while it’s not going to be the monstrosity we had in Elkton, it will serve the purposes of giving us fresh tomatoes and peppers…hopefully.

In other news, we recently got a roommate. We’d been bouncing the idea around for awhile, and one of our good friends here happened to be getting hosed by their former Regie (a common occurrence in Geneva), so it seemed like a good time to test it out. So far it’s been good, with the exception of her and Soph teaming up to usher in the horrible idea of "boardgame night". Shudder. I’m trying to fight back with a poker night, but unfortunately all the guys I know here are also married, which means they will be forced to attend their own boardgame nights in retaliation for their leaving the house to play poker – and I just don’t know if I can live with that kind of guilt.

One final note – Soph made some kimchi again. She left it on the kitchen table to "ferment" (why you would actively want bacteria growing in your food is beyond me – unless it’s a dairy product - or some other food I eat that is unknowingly made in that process – but the point I’m making is you should never initiate the bacteria growth yourself – you leave that to the professionals.) So our French tutor comes in, goes through my entire lesson trying to ignore it, but still giving it the evil eye every ten minutes or so, and then, when Soph’s turn comes, she kindly asks her to remove it from the kitchen due to its stench.

And this is why I’m starting to think the French might be okay after all.

Next week: Ski weekend deux!