Our Last Ski Weekend

Our last ski weekend has come to a close, and I have very mixed feelings about it, considering I had set out to hate this sport, the very first (and thirtieth) time I fell flat on my face. But now I’ve actually come to like it a little, gasp! So I’m sad that we won’t be skiing anymore, but also happy that we won’t be skiing anymore, if that makes any sense at all.

We decided to pack into a car with a few of our friends and spend the night in the Chatel area of the Portes du Soleil, as one of the friends was able to hook all of us up with a place there for a night. The weather was beautiful (we had to take our thermals off and I skied without gloves at one point), and the skiing there was pretty good the first day, although I think I psyched myself out of the belief that I had in fact gotten better, so proceeded to fall as soon as I put my skis on. But then I realized it was in my head (it seems that skiing is as much about your mental disposition, as it is with your balance), and went on to conquer my fears of crashing into a tree (which Tyler actually did, don’t worry he’s ok), and basically made the slopes my slave. Well, I wouldn’t go that far, as I did fall a few more times, but I actually began to enjoy going fast, because I knew that I could semi slow myself down or stop. And the falls were more attributed to the fact that I wanted to look cool like all the other skiers and make sure my skis were parallel and close to each other at all times. I should know better than to get ahead of myself! The really fun part of the weekend though was being able to go back to the apartment, hang out on the balcony with some bubbly, and chat and laugh with good company while our dinner was cooking on the stove. And then go to sleep at 9 PM.

The skiing on Sunday was not as good as Saturday, as the visibility was very poor from the fog, and the snow whipping around us. There was new powder, which was kinda cool, as you could hear that neat squeaky snow crunch beneath your skis, but the area we ended up going to did not have much variety and the infrastructure was not set up very well, as we had to basically cross country it from point to point, which made my knees feel like they were going to pop out of their joints. Or maybe I’m just old. On the flip side, the place we stopped to rest at had 22 flavors of hot chocolate, so we were slightly mollified. We also saw the best mullet ever, pulled off by a man who was stuck in the seventies, with his neon blue and yellow snowsuit, and we realized that mullets will never cease to make us giggle and stare like ten year old children. Ah, mullets. Oh, and we scalped our tickets since we left the slopes around 1PM, and were able to get back ten euros each by selling our lift passes. Although it was funny to see us standing around, waving our lift pass and saying, "dix euros, dix euros." You could see the mixture of amusement/fear on some of the faces of the French. Not sure if they’ve been exposed to scalping like we Americans have.

So we pack away our ski gear, thankful that we didn’t fall off any cliffs, but also grateful for the experience of skiing in some of the best slopes and in the shadow of some the most beautiful massifs in the world. We do look forward to some adventures that hopefully involve weather that doesn’t make the snot freeze on our nose.

Next weekend: Easter in Cinque Terre, Italy!

Korean Bday Dinner!

One of the biggest material things I miss about being away from home, is being able to get some yummy, authentic and cheap korean food, in restaurants, or in the asian grocery stores. I have to admit that some of the ethnic stores here blow the socks off of the ones that we had at home, if you want to cook yourself up some good thai curry chicken, or pad thai; however, the supply of korean products is definitely lacking. As a result, I’ve had to try to whip myself up some of my own kimchi, but have failed in each attempt (to Tyler’s glee). Although the saying is even bad kimchi is good kimchi, so he nearly fell out of his seat when I decided to eat some of the last batch I made, exclaiming that I had hated this batch, and WHY was I eating it (especially considering it was 5 weeks old)? He knows not the depths of my desperation. And the salt acts as a preservative. He was still disgusted.

So for the whole month leading up to my birthday, I kept dropping hints that all I really wanted was to go get some good korean bbq, and eventually he gave in and agreed to taking me to a korean restaurant as my birthday present. I was ecstatic! I was even able to negotiate ordering two dishes, instead of one! I bragged to all my friends, and this past Friday, a group of us went to try Gaya, a korean restaurant near the Paquis district, that I had read pretty good reviews about. Warning flags should have gone off in my head when we had been sitting there for almost a half hour before even being given the menu or asked if we wanted drinks, but we were having fun talking, and I was high on the prospect of getting bbq AND kimchi chigae (kimchi soup). Actually I should have been prepared regardless, considering Geneva’s eating out scene is not phenomenal, although it is expensive. Well, to sum it up, the service was atrocious. I don’t know if it was because there were so many of us, or if it was because they were so busy, but they screwed up on our order, didn’t bring us enough food, didn’t bring the sauces that usually accompany some of the dishes, and basically was a huge disappointment to me. Everyone exclaimed that the food was delicious (it was ok, but I’m picky seeing as how I’ve eaten in a gazillion korean restaurants), it was just that the service was so horrible. Well, I wasn’t even able to come close to achieving that supreme happiness that I so often get when I’m eating really delicious food (you know that feeling!), and it just sucked b/c we don’t eat out often in Geneva, and to sqaunder the victory I had won from Tyler (and the money), was heartbreaking. Ok, I know I’m being a little dramatic, but those of you who know me, know how much I love food. However, our friend was able to negotiate a 25 franc discount (she did it with a huge smile), which is a miracle in Geneva, and we all did have a really wonderful time.

So now I’m trying to figure out another way to blackmail Tyler into taking me to another korean restaurant here, in the hopes I can still satisfy my craving, but the chances seem really slim until the next birthday (or in Tyler’s words, your 36th b-day). In the meantime, I think that if I try another type of pepper powder, the kimchi might turn out better…
Next up: Our last ski weekend!

Ski Weekend Cinq

Another weekend of winter, and another weekend of skiing. The question you may ask is, after all the falls and bruises and laughing, how do I continue to get Soph to go skiing with me? Well, let’s take a step back and look at the progression of Soph’s skiing adventure…

Jan 19th: Soph has her first European skiing experience; she falls within 8 seconds of the first run, has trouble getting up, and continues falling over the next 2 hours. We eventually eat lunch, and she quickly falls again afterwards, encouraging her to quit for the rest of the day.

Jan 26th: Rather than ski, she comes down with an illness. The jury is still out on whether or not it was real.

Feb 9th: We go again, and Soph tries to convince everyone to stay at the restaurant during lunch. We get her out a few times, but finally she has enough and leaves the slopes a little early.

Feb 10th: Soph goes out on her own and hits a bunny hill, but she continues falling and secretly decides she hates skiing. She tells me she will never be good, and that I have to accept it and love her anyway.

Feb 22nd: She has a nightmare about skiing. It involves her, well, skiing, which is why she considers it a nightmare.

Feb 23rd: We try to go skiing, but due to traffic, we turn around halfway into the trip. As we turn around, a noticeable happiness engulfs Soph, and she immediately starts having fun and being her normal cheery self.

Feb 24th: She has another nightmare about skiing, only this time, she’s being chased on skis, by zombies.

Mar 4th: Christina and Jordan are visiting, and express interest in skiing in the Alps. We take them, and Soph tries a few times to get us to turn around, but to no avail. Once there, however, she makes it down the first run without falling. This continues throughout the day, and suddenly she "kind of likes" skiing.
Mar 9th: She actually suggests we go skiing, so we venture on our own to a mountain that’s just about right for our skill levels. Throughout the day Soph is consistently heading down the hill ahead of me, making crisp turns, and even ventures onto a side path or two.
And that’s where we stand today; I have to say that I’m very impressed with the turnaround, as it came out of nowhere. By the end, we were skiing some moderate-to-hard blue runs and she was tackling them fairly well, and considering she’s only been skiing 4 or 5 days, without any true lessons, I think that’s pretty good. She might actually be better than me at this point, depending on how you judge skill levels, so I have to give her credit.
That being said, what’s the lesson in this? Well – apparently, if you pester your spouse hard enough, they can learn just about anything, no matter how much they hate it. So keep pestering! Anyway – enough about Soph – she accuses me of making fun of her too much on this blog already, and the previous few paragraphs aren’t going to help my case…

So as I was saying, this weekend we went to the lovely Swiss village of Villars-Gryon for yet another wonderful day of skiing. This was our first "solo" trip, which was kind of fun, especially since we’re now at a point where we can stick together on the slopes. The weather was once again beautiful, with the sun shining brightly and amazing views of mountains all around. It’s really hard not to enjoy being up in the mountains like that, and while skiing is by no means the greatest thing ever, it’s still pretty fun, just for the fact that you’re outdoors and concentrating on something basic such as staying on your feet.

Anyway, that wasn’t the only thing we did this weekend, for a village nearby was hosting a Chocolate Festival! Gotta love chocolate festivals! So of course I made us go, and of course it was a complete letdown, but we did buy some good chocolate that we probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. There’s something about huge crowds of people expecting free things that turns me off; it was a complete madhouse. However, it did get us out of Geneva for a few hours, and the chocolate, while readily available from any number of boutiques within Geneva, was the best I’ve had so far in Switzerland, and possibly ever (as much as I hate spending 2 bucks, or francs, on a piece of chocolate, it really is good!) So that was fun.

One last note – if you haven’t been checking the currency rates lately – and if you’re normal, you haven’t – then you haven’t noticed the recent power surge of the Swiss franc. Yes, that lovely currency I use for all my daily transactions has had an increase the likes of which haven’t been seen since, well, for awhile. As of today, it’s trading 1 to 1 with the dollar! To put that in perspective, when I moved here, the franc was at 84 cents; now it’s at 100 cents. That’s a 19% gain! So while that’s bad news for all of you who are coming here to visit, it’s good news for me, since I have more exposure to the all-powerful franc than that third-world currency you call the dollar. As an added bonus, when I come back home now, I’m more likely to spend money, thereby helping the US economy – gotta love economics!

Next weekend: Final ski weekend!

First Visitors!

Congratulations to Christina and Jordan, who earn the honor of being our first visitors! We’re very happy to host friends and family who want to see a little of Europe.

Having visitors is great; it’s fun to see old friends in new surroundings, and we had a great time. The one thing that first visitors always bring, which I find interesting, is a sense of introspection. That is, you’re forced to approach your situation from where you saw it at a different point in time. For us, the things we’ve grown to really like in Geneva, might not appeal to people who haven’t been here for awhile, and it’s good to get that old perspective back every now and again. While you want to take people to the best places and get them the best foods, you also have to wonder if the places are really even that good, or if you just think they’re great due to the experiences you’ve had. For example – within the Geneva restaurant scene, what we think is great is anything that’s under $20 and fills you up. In the US, this is normal, so our favorite restaurants here are probably merely sub-par for anyone not used to the craziness that is Geneva pricing.

That being said, I do think there are some cool places around here regardless of what you consider to be cool, so we went to them. One of the favorites of locals and expats alike is Annecy, a medieval French town on what is considered the cleanest lake in Europe. Annecy is a nice little place with cobble-stoned streets and stone buildings, and it even has a canal running through it. It doesn’t get much cooler than that – I mean, canals are pretty awesome, and by awesome I mean "totally sweet". So we did that, had truly perfect weather, and just had a good time.
The next big item was Alpine skiing. We all piled into a rental car and drove the precipitous mountain roads to Avoriaz, France, where the fog was as thick as the French accents. So thick, in fact, there were times when we couldn’t see more than five feet ahead of us! That being said, Avoriaz was great for beginner skiing, and Soph really started stepping up her ski game, as she didn’t even have a true fall the entire day. The fog was a bit of a problem, unfortunately, but it cleared right as we left, so we did get to see the beautiful mountain scenery from the car. Hey, better than nothing!

As it happens, Geneva itself also has a couple things worth seeing. This week, the Geneva autoshow (possibly the world’s largest autoshow – I don’t know the true statistics, but apparently it’s a big deal here) was going on. Soph, Christina and Jordan all made the trek, and got to see all sorts of concept cars, as well as regular standby’s such as Ferraris and Lambs and Beamers and whatnot.

And since they were only in Geneva for 4+ days, that’s about all there was time for. One word of warning – don’t fly through Germany. As bad of flight experiences as we’ve had, theirs was worse. Three days without luggage; almost 30 hours of travel due to delays; bad weather following them; but, they took it in stride. They really got hit with the coldest days we’ve had in Geneva all winter! We even got a taste of the thrilling Geneva nightlife and it’s cheap $16 mojitos!
So thanks again to Christina and Jordan for visiting – we had a lot of fun, and we hope they did too. And look – you made the blog! It’s almost like being famous, except it’s completely different and not nearly as fulfilling.

Next weekend: Ski weekend cinq!