Saturday, March 29, 2014

Paris, Days Three and Four

Day Three

Sunday morning was bright and sunny. We began our day (as we did each of our days in Paris!) with cafe and croissant at the counter of a little cafe. This one was at the bottom of Montmartre. We have excellent bread and pastries in Switzerland, but nothing beats a Parisian croissant. Yum.
Matt's espresso and my cafe creme.
After breakfast, we made our way up to Sacré-Cœur for 11 a.m. mass. Matt almost got snagged by the bracelet guys at Sacré-Cœur. Luckily I snatched his hand away and pushed right past them. It was unnerving to have complete strangers grab your hand and refuse to let go.

One of our few non-selfie photos of the trip. I struggle to hand over my DSLR or iPhone to complete strangers for a photo.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Days One and Two of Paris

This past weekend, Matt and I finally went on our first trip since moving to Switzerland. We chose Paris, despite having both been there (separately) in the past, because.... well, it's Paris! There's weeks worth of things to do and neither of us felt we'd seen it all. Plus, we wanted to experience Paris together. Our four day weekend (again, not nearly long enough) was pretty amazing, despite the somewhat gloomy weather.

Day One

We arrived in Paris early Friday afternoon. After settling in at our B&B (more on where we stayed later), we ditched our (my carefully crafted, down to the minute) original plan to head straight for the Louvre (taking advantage of their late open hours on Fridays). The weather was just too gorgeous! There's no way we were wasting it in a museum, especially with impending rain on its way later in the weekend.
The Louvre - look at that sky!
After a quick bite at a cafe (croque-monsieur for Matt, a chèvre and tomato tarte for me) we strolled our way along La Seine, past the Louvre to the Tuileries Garden, where we enjoyed our first, of many, glasses of wine in Paris.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

February Visitor and a Trip to Luzern

In February, I welcomed our second visitor to Sleachmour (temporary) B&B. Aarti is one of my oldest friends and is also a fellow expat, currently living in Brussels, Belgium. Aarti coordinated her visit to Zurich to overlap with Matt's second business trip. The weather wasn't on our side; most of her visit was drizzly and gray. Also, Aarti came down with (and shared) a killer cold. So, we kept things pretty low key, made dinners at the apartment for two of the four nights, spent a day exploring Zurich and a day in Luzern.

This was my first visit to Luzern (Lucerne in French), even though it's an easy 45 minute train ride from Zurich HB. Luzern sits on Lake Luzern, nestled between lots of mountains. Mountains that make Zurich's view look like foothills. In Luzerne, it felt like I could reach out and touch the Alps. Amazing! Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus are the local mountains to visit. Both are short trips on public transport from the city center. Unfortunately, with the gray weather, we decided it was best to save mountain hikes for another trip. Instead we roamed the town.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

English Language and American TV in Switzerland

Despite our best intentions (or no good intentions at all...), Matt and I are TV addicts. We have a sadly long list of shows we watch religiously from the comfort of our couch each evening, and we rely heavily on our DVR to ensure we catch them. Our favorites include (among many others) the Amazing Race, Modern Family, New Girl, How I Met Your Mother, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and, of course, Downton Abbey.

We are eternally grateful to 21st century technology that allows us to feed our addiction to American TV, despite being far, far away. Here's how we ensure we never miss a beat.... er, episode.

Slingbox Magic
This is the Slingbox projected on our TV screen. The cable remote
shows up on the computer screen (controlled with the mouse). American
commercials are torture. Here's all the cool stuff YOU CAN'T HAVE.
A Slingbox is a fancy device that connects to a cable box and sends the cable signal through the internet. The user/owner of the Slingbox can then access the cable signal remotely through and app or the Slingbox website and watch the same cable signal on a smart phone, tablet or computer. We bought a Slingbox before moving and connected it to an extra cable box at my parents' house.  Now, when we want to watch American cable television, we connect our laptop to our TV and pull up the Slingbox website. Once we're logged in, we control the American cable just as if we were in the same room as the cable box. Through Slingbox, we can access live television, DVR and On Demand programming. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Finding (Decent) Mexican Food in Switzerland

There are Mexican restaurants in Switzerland. But, most of them are TERRIBLE. And terribly expensive. We once spent 100 chf at a "Mexican" restaurant in Winterthur for packaged guacamole, terrible quesadillas soaked in salad dressing (???) and salsa with absolutely no heat. At. All. The margaritas and chips were ok, so there was that.

That's typical for a Mexican restaurant in Switzerland. And perhaps it is unsurprising, given the lack of proximity to Mexico and their general dislike of very spicy foods.

Since arriving in Zurich, we've been on a hunt for good Mexican food. We stumbled upon a Mexican grocery in central Zurich during our first visit, before the official move. El Maiz has all the critical ingredients for making Mexican at home.... although, like everything else, it's pricey. Over 5chf each for black beans, chipotle in adobe and decent salsa. There are basic ingredients for Mexican food at the regular grocery stores, but nothing is quite the same and everything is expensive. I once calculated the cost of making tacos at home and it was well over 35 chf per meal.

Also, for the record, there's only ONE kind of cheddar available at the grocery.  In the land of cheese. What is wrong with the Swiss?

Americans, you have it made and you don't even know it.