Monday, July 30, 2007

Italy Recap

Friday morning Zach and I headed off for our drive to Italy. We got a bit of a late start, but were still on the road by 9:30am so pretty good. We were also set with snacks and water and stuff in the car. The drive was predicted to be about 5.5 hrs, and we were making pretty good timing until we hit Genoa... where we got stuck in traffic for a good hour or so. We wound up making it to La Spezia, where Sean works, around 4pm or so. Luckily we had finally figured out how to program a trip on the GPS, it didn't make a big difference until this one messy interchange we had to go through in La Spezia where it just told us where to go and we followed the turns, which I'm sure we would've been completely lost in otherwise.

So, we picked Sean up from work at the military base that's right off the water... pretty cool. We drove to Lerici, the town where he's living, and walked around a bit, heading down to the water and getting our first of many gelatti to come. Sean is completely addicted to the stuff-- I swear we stopped for gelatti 3-4 times a day. I don't know what he's gonna do when he has to go back to Seattle in another month or 2.

Andrew and Jakki were set to take the train from Florence to the nearby town of Sarzana, and we got a call from them as we were walking around saying they were at the train station so we went back to the car and drove to pick them up, then found parking and walked around Sarzana a bit, had some aperitivos at this bar that had drinks for $5euro and also brought out all this delicious snacky food to eat that was included in the price, basically like Italian tapas, and then had dinner at another place. All these little Italian towns were just so cute... so Italian. And the people seemed so Italian as well-- you saw many people that just seemed to fit the stereotype... like the guy at the gelatti stand that had the light pink button-down shirt open to the chest, with the collar pulled up and his hair all greased up. The other things that was amazing... we were walking around after dinner, it was about 11:30pm-midnight, and stores were STILL OPEN!!!! To us Genevans, where everything closes at 7pm, it was just amazing. There were so many people still walking around, it made perfect sense, and it was just so nice to be someplace that wasn't even a very big town but had nightlife.

Anyway, we soon headed back to Sean's place and got a good night's sleep, in preparation for our busy Saturday-- when we got up early and headed out to take a boat to the Cinque Terre (the only way to get in or out of any of the towns along the Cinque Terre is by boat, train, or hikijng-- there are no cars). We stopped first in Vernazza and grabbed some pizza to eat. The plan was then to hike the trail between Vernazza and Monterosso. However as we started the hike it proved to be more strenuous than previously anticipated, and Zach being the doting father-to-be that he is, was worried about me. I happily agreed to turn back, and Jakki and Andrew joined me, as Zach and Sean went off to finish the hike. The 3 of us went back down into Vernazza an did some shopping, drooled over some very cute cats sleeping in the shade, and had some more gelatti. The boys eventually took the boat back over, and then Sean, Zach and I went swimming in the ocean while Andrew and Jakki decided to take another hike over to one of the other towns.

The swimming was awesome. We went over to some rocks along the ocean that faced the town and found ourselves a cozy little spot. The locals were hilarious-- they seriously reminded us of seals splayed out on the rocks, looking unconscious as they soak up the sun's rays. And, of course, there were some topless women that Sean and Zach pretended not to ogle at. ; ) The water was incredible-- a little cold as you first walk in, but as soon as you dip in to your shoulders it's just the perfect temperature. When I first jumped in, I looked out onto the adorable little Italian town ahead of me, the gorgeous water glittering in the sun as far as you could see, and it was one of those moments where it just feels like heaven on earth. Words cannot describe.

After about an hour or so of swimming, the 3 of us took the boat to Manarola to meet up with Andrew and Jakki. As we waited we got some food to eat (and, of course, some more gelatti) and Zach took another dip in the water. We then all took the last boat back to La Spezia, then the bus to Lerici, and back to Sean's to change before going out to dinner. I have to say, this trip has convinced me of the need to get a small dictionary for whatever language of the place you're going to, so that you can decipher the menus. Sometimes Sean knew what stuff was, or our French or Spanish knowledge helped us out, but there were at least a few times when a plate showed up at the table and the receiver was a bit surprised at what was on it. Anyway, dinner was good, the waiter was kind and patient with our non-Italian, and the best part is that we actually kinda got kicked out at the end... not anything we were doing, just that it was getting to be closing time and you could tell they were ready for us to leave. We didn't even get offered coffee or anything. I think that was a first in our European dining experiences! Of course, dinner was followed by, what else? Gelatti, and a stroll down by the water, though then soon we were off back to the apartment for some shut-eye.

Sunday we woke up a bit later, around 10am or so, and headed down to this little alcove of a beach in Lerici that's a bit tough to get to-- you have to climb along some rocks right along the water. But it was worth it, to take another dip in the water. The Mediterranean is great, b/c it's so calm, and I guess it's also extra salty so you can just float out there. Literally, you can go limp and just float in the water-- even Zach tried it, and he's never been able to float on water before. It's awesome.

After our swim we had some pizza (and gelatti) for lunch, Zach grabbed a cappuccino (figured between the caffeine and the stomach ache that coffee always gives him, he'd stay awake enough for the drive home), and then we piled into the car, sandy and sweaty and everything, at around 3:30pm or so to start our drive back to Geneva. It was pretty smooth, we didn't even hit any traffic, and the only downside was having trouble finding a place to grab food as dinner time approached. We got home I think in about 5-6 hrs or so, not too bad.

I'm glad we drove this time, but next time we may simply look up EasyJet tickets. Driving's fun and all, but it's so much more expensive here-- and it's not just the $5-$7/gallon gas prices. I think we also paid about $60euro in tolls each way (right now, about $85 or so?). It certainly adds up...

But, yeah, overall an incredible trip. I'll post some photos real soon, though I was looking at them last night and they just don't do the place justice.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ciao Bella!

Just got back from our weekend in Italy. It was FABULOUS. Had such a great time. The weather was great (hot, but not ridiculously so), it was great to see Sean, we got to swim in the Mediterranean (my first time in the ocean in years), and everything was just gorgeous and very Italian... right down to the speedos and outrageous fashion (on both men and women).

A longer update and breakdown to come tomorrow...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

women's intuition

When Zach came home this evening he saw our neighbor, Michelle, working on some flowers, and suggested to me that we invite her and Gerard over for some coffee or tea since it was a very nice evening out. We've been wanting to go ahead and share our baby news with them anyway, this seemed as good a time as any to do so.

So they came over, we sat outside while Sierra played around in the grass and chased a butterfly, and soon after I'd gotten everyone their drinks and sat down, Michelle turns to me with a sly grin and basically asks me if I'm with child.

Zach had not said anything yet.

I laughed and said yes, I'm due in February, etc. I guess it was grandmother's intuition? The only clue I can guess at is that a week or 2 ago she invited us over for tea and Zach declined for me b/c I was feeling too tired. Or maybe my belly is more obvious than I thought. Who knows... anyway, she seemed quite excited, as I expected, and even offered up some different baby stuff that she'd bought for her grandkids, when they were babies-- like a high chair, a crib, and a playpen, and some clothes and things.... WOOT!. She said I'll have to come over and have a look at them sometime. I knew they'd be awesome neighbors to have while having a baby! =P

Well, I should be off to bed. We leave for Italy tomorrow, and we're gonna try to get an early start. I'm sure I'll have some fun stories to tell when we return on Sunday. ; )

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

a friend in need...

First things first-- I just got an email tonight from a friend who has signed up for a half marathon with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, in support of a family friend who has leukemia and is in need of a bone marrow transplant. Please go to her fundraising webpage to learn more, and to give a donation.
~ * ~ * ~

The other day after having lunch with my friends, we stopped by the English Library here in Geneva so I could sign up for a membership for Zach and myself. Cathy spotted The Life of Pi and insisted I check it out, as she said it was one of her favorite books. I've heard of it before, and it's caught my eye from time to time, but I've never actually read it. Well, I started it today. It's been pretty interesting, though at times the first part of the book can seem a little preachy-- like the author is using the novel as an excuse to tell people his beliefs about different things. But I also get the sense that a lot of it is to give you a sense for the main character, in preparation for his voyage in the sea (part 2 of the book). So far, I am enjoying it, and am curious to see how the story will unfold. It's also nice to read some new fiction. I really miss having the public library nearby, we used it so much in California. I'm hoping this local library, while quite a bit smaller, will help take its place.

This week is going by a bit quick-- tomorrow we have to take care of some different things here at home and also pack, b/c Friday morning we're leaving to go see Sean for the weekend in Italy. He's a friend of ours from CA who's spending the summer near the Cinque Terre (often called the Italian riviera) for an internship. He said it's ungodly hot there right now, but it should also be gorgeous, and I'll get to pull out my swimsuit for the first time all summer which I'm quite excited about. =P Andrew and Jakki will take a train in from Venice or Florence or wherever they happen to be at the moment, and meet up with us Friday evening. Then we'll all drive back on Sunday together. This could be quite the adventure-- I've heard the Italian highways are questionable in quality. I guess we'll see.... I wonder if they're worse than Louisiana roads? ; )

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I've written several posts along the way about being pregnant, and saved them as drafts. Now that we're out in the open, I went ahead and published them. If anyone is curious to read them, you can go to the Pregnancy label and they'll all show up there on the page, ordered in normal blog fashion with the newest posts on top, the oldest down at the bottom.

friends, tasty oils, and scrapbooking

(I just don't think I'm very good at making up creative post titles... )

I had lunch plans with some friends today, so in spite of the rain I headed off on the bus to meet up with Serena, Cathy, and Francisca down in Paquis. Serena also brought a friend of hers that's visiting from the states, so there were 5 of us. We found a cute little restaurant and duked inside, and had a great meal-- even though the place seemed more suited for drinking than eating (one small page of the menu was devoted to food, the rest of it was all alcohol).

Francisca then had to rush off back to work, and the rest of us walked down towards Old Town and had a coffee while sitting outside in one of the squares. By then the sun had come out and it was actually kinda warm, so it was really nice. We walked right past Serena's apartment, so she stopped in to pick up her Yorkie, Minnie, and she joined us for our coffees. She's such an adorable, teeny little thing! Anyway, so yeah, it was a really nice afternoon. I need to try to be more active in making plans with people.

On my way back to the bus I stopped at this little shop that Serena's friend had mentioned that sells all these different kinds of spices and olive oils, and the guy working there showed me some of them including this trio of olive oils that are infused with basil, another with lemon, and a third with chili pepper (which people here like to put on their pizza, to make it spicy). As soon as I smelled them I knew I had to buy them... they were delicious! They were also a bit pricey, but I figured this is exactly the sort of thing we need to be taking advantage of while we're here in Europe. I might have to get more of this stuff to bring back as gifts for people in the states...

By the time I got home it had rained again, and the sun was coming out yet again. This weather is seriously crazy unpredictable. But anyway, I put on some music, opened the doors so Sierra could play outside, and worked on a scrapbook page of pictures from a wedding last summer (I'm kinda behind). My sister Cristina just signed up to sell Creative Memories and I was looking at her website, and they've really come out with some awesome stuff since I last shopped their products. I think I'll have to put in quite an order with her to pick up when we go to Texas...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Les Hooches

On Sunday me, Zach, Andrew and Jakki met up with Bob, Aruna, and Jules and drove out towards Chamonix to a town called Les Hooches (yes, really), in France. We rode the cable car up to the top where there's a little hotel/restaurant where some friends of Bob and Aruna's were staying for the weekend, and all of us went on a nice hike. The weather was nice, not too hot, clouds kinda came and went, by the end of the day we kind of got a decent view of Mont Blanc behind the clouds. We did our hike in about 2 hours or so, then had a great lunch at the restaurant, and then the group went off to hike some more. Already a bit tuckered out, I decided to stay behind and rest a bit. The sun was getting stronger at that point, and I didn't want to overheat myself. So I read a book and napped a bit till they came back, we then all had a bit of dessert at the restaurant again and then headed back down the mountain. All in all a pretty good time.

We had planned to tell Bob and Aruna about me being pregnant, but the right moment never seemed to come up. Maybe I'm just bad about jumping in during the middle of a conversation with a big group and announcing something like that, especially since we'd just met the other family that day. Oh well, we'll try to make plans with them soon enough and get to share the news then. I know they'll be excited, Aruna asked me several months ago when we were gonna start making babies already! lol

In somewhat related baby news, when I sent out the email to friends about the pregnancy I happened to also send it to a friend of Zach's from work (who lives in CA still). Zach had planned on waiting a bit longer to tell work, but I figured this guy was a) a guy, and b) pretty quiet, so he probably wouldn't spill the news to anyone.

Well, today Zach got an email from another co-worker sending his congratulations. It appears this guy is the 3rd or possibly 4th person in line to have found out from the guy I originally sent the email to. It's not a big deal, we kinda find it funny more than anything. I didn't expect male engineers to be this big of gossips. =P

In completely un-related, non-baby news, I got a hair cut today, and I think it was the first time in my life that I haven't walked out of a salon and felt the immediate need to go home and wash my hair thanks to their horrendous styling. It cost about $80 total, which for these parts seems to be pretty decent, actually. She cut it a bit shorter than I wanted, but it looks cute and this way it'll take longer to grow out, right? ; )

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Patience is not my greatest virtue...

Which could be a problem, seeing as I'm gonna be a MOM soon! =P I was going to wait and announce this tomorrow as a six word sunday, but I couldn't really think of a story title that was that witty or cute, and well, I got impatient. Our little one is due in mid-February. Below is a picture from the ultrasound I had on Tuesday, revealing a cute little fetus about an inch long, actually looking like a mini human being (the last time we saw it, about a month earlier, baby was a teeny little blob). I think seeing this image really made everything so much more real... though I still can't really imagine this little being actually living inside my belly.

We are both ecstatic and nervous and kind of in awe of this whole thing. My mom's already busy crocheting a little (yellow, gender-neutral) blanket for her future grandchild. =) And it's so fun to get to tell people, and share this news! Everyone's been so excited for us. And now that we're "out in the open" I can start asking for advice from all you other moms out there. ; )

I've been feeling pretty great so far, I only had about 3 days where I felt like my stomach was upset, and mostly my complaint has been feeling tired... which is why I've been such a lazy bum in the past weeks. The only thing is I'm starting to get a bit of a belly (not enough to be noticeable, I mainly look like I ate too much) but pants are starting to fit kinda tight at the waist. I've been doing great in some of my stretchy skirts, but today it's a bit chilly out and I may have to go with jeans. I've been debating whether it's worth it to buy this Bella Band contraption I keep hearing about, since likely it'll take a good week or 2 to get here... Alternately I could wait till we go to the states next month, when I plan to go on a massive shopping spree for maternity clothes and possibly a bunch of baby stuff, as well.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Amsterdam and Feminists

Andrew & Jakki came back from Amsterdam this morning. It seems they had a great time-- they said the city was great, everyone's really nice and laid back (except, apparently, when they're in their cars, at which point road rage emerges with a vengeance), and they had some funny stories about witnessing a drug bust and about some American kids that tried to bring some pot back with them in a bag that had the red light district symbol on it-- yeah, not too subtle, guys.

I've been reading Feministing (a feminist blog) a lot more lately. I'm not sure how long I'll keep up the habit, as a lot of the things they report are just so absurd that I can't believe they actually happen (like how Tom DeLay blamed abortions for the illegal immigrant problem-- b/c otherwise, clearly, all those aborted children would have grown up to go work in slaughterhouses and farms and stuff). But for now it gives me good stuff to rant about.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

rainbow, kitty

Pretty. =)

Because she's pretty, too. =P

Yeah, that's all I've got for today...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I think Sierra's getting addicted to the outdoors. Lately, on these sunny days we've had, she'll walk around downstairs and meow at me, and I only recently figured out that when she does that I think she's trying to get me to open the doors for her. Then she'll sit out there, either lounging on the pavement, or staring up at the birds flying by... a couple times she's taken off running trying to catch one! I don't think she's ever gotten at all close though. She has nowhere to hide, really, and is in plain sight of the birds.

It's pretty cute to watch her, though. I'm glad we have this little patio, it definitely serves her as great entertainment. I have a couple pictures of her out there that I took today, but I haven't uploaded them yet and now it's getting late, so I think it'll have to wait till tomorrow.

Monday, July 16, 2007


So we (me, Zach, Andrew, Jakki) spent the weekend in Dijon, France. Yes, as in the mustard. It's about a 3 hour drive from here, so we took off Saturday morning (er, around noon-ish) and got there in the early afternoon. We checked into our hotel, which was very cute and pretty nice, even though the bathrooms were kinda strange-- I think this place used to be a big house that then got remodeled, and so they added the bathroom in, and it was a pretty nice set-up with a stand-alone shower, plus a bathtub, sink, storage space, etc... and the toilet itself was tucked away behind a different door, on the other side of the room from where the bathroom was. With no sink of its own. So if you used the toilet, you then had to walk out and go to the room with the bathtub and wash your hands there. I guess this is part of the quirks of these older European hotels, huh? ; )

We went off walking around, and to my utter shock and happiness what did we find but a SEPHORA!! (which we do not have in Geneva). So, of course, I had to stop in. They didn't have much as far as some of my fave brands, and stuff was about 30% more expensive anyway, but I did find John Freida Brilliant Brunette shampoo that I was considering buying in the states and bringing back in August, but decided to go for it here instead. I have to admit, it was fun to just be in the store, looking around at all the pretty colors... it made me look forward to getting to really shop during our US visit next month (what? I hardly buy anything here, I deserve to splurge!).

Anyway... so we walked around the centre ville which was really cute. Dijon is actually somewhat bigger than Geneva, and it has a town center that's very old and cute, with cobblestone streets and all that. Sort of reminded us of a smaller, simpler Paris. We walked by some of the cathedrals (yes, there were multiple ones within about 10 minutes walks of each other), some of which were incredibly old (one had a wooden statue of the virgin Mary that was made in the 11th century).

At dinner, we noticed that we seemed to be the only English speakers there. Kinda nice to be in a place that isn't overrun with tourists. Our waitress I think got a kick out of us-- when she brought out the bread, Jakki asked for some butter, which in itself is a bit strange (here they seem to eat their bread plain, no butter or olive oil or anything, at least during meal times). But then she walked by just as Jakki and Zach were spreading huge globs of butter on the bread slices, and she just paused and had this look of... puzzlement... on her face. I had to laugh and said to her, "it's ok, we're Americans" in French. She kinda laughed and walked on. She was nice, though, and took her time with our questions about the menu, etc.

After dinner we spent a bit of time in the main square, where they had these series of water fountains built into the ground and a bunch of kids were playing in the water, having a blast. Saturday was actually Bastille Day, a very big French holiday, and Dijon was set to have a big fireworks display by the lake, but we were advised not to drive there b/c of the traffic, and walking would take 30 minutes, so we decided to skip it, especially since Andrew seemed to be developing a cold.

Sunday morning we had breakfast at the hotel, then went to the local Musee des Beaux-Artes. They had some really cool stuff there, but I didn't get to enjoy much of the exhibits on the 2nd and 3rd floors b/c they were insanely hot (no AC, only a few fans) so we stuck to the bottom floors, mostly. We then had lunch out on the square, and started heading back home soon after. We'd talked about visiting some of the local vineyards and going wine tasting, but with a sick Andrew (and he and Jakki were planning on leaving for Amsterdam today- Monday- anyway, and wanted to be well-rested) we figured we'd skip it. The drive back home was uneventful, we hit some traffic heading to Dijon on Saturday (due to road construction) but had no problems heading back home. Zach and reminisced about those long, traffic-filled drives to and from Lake Tahoe in CA, and how much nicer it is to drive out here where the roads are less congested. He even said paying $20euro in French road tolls was worth it. ;)

The only downside of the trip was that Saturday, while parking in yet another insanely small European parking garage, Zach managed to scrape up the driver side door of the car. He found a mechanic today that's near work, and they guy's looking for a junk door to replace ours, hopefully we'll hear from him tomorrow. And then we'll see what the damage is. As Zach joked earlier, I guess driving a truck in huge Texas roads and parking lots didn't prepare him for parking in Europe. ; )

Friday, July 13, 2007

wonders & worries

For a change, we've been having GORGEOUS weather the past 2 days-- woot! I got an email this morning from a friend who was going to be hanging out by the lake this evening with some friends, so Zach, me, Andrew & Jakki headed into town to meet up with them. It was pretty much perfect-- the jet d'eau had a rainbow in its stream (of which I got a kick-ass picture), the sky was totally clear so you could even see Mount Blanc, and we had a nice spot in the grass where I could kick off my flip flops and stand on the fresh, soft grass and chat with people. Pretty awesome.

Afterwards we stopped by one of the sidewalk panini shops and got some sandwiches, and managed to really amuse the large Swiss guy working there. Jakki got a picture with him b/c she thought he was funny. =P

In other news... I'm kind of worried about my mom. I keep hearing about her getting in fights with my sisters, and it just sucks b/c I know she's just trying to give advice and help them out, but it seems to come across in the completely wrong way. She's been under so much stress the past several years, with different family stuff, and I don't know... I guess that's just it, that I know her intentions are good but somehow she just ends up going too far and into fights, and everyone ends up feeling like crap-- she tries to express an opinion or concern, and it comes out like an accusation. I get the sense that she shoulders the burden of so many things and internalizes it, and then it comes out as her being irate and frustrated. And I don't really know what I can do to help.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sunflowers & Shopping

I totally thought of Carolyn when I saw this sunflower (I figured my fellow science geek would get a kick out of it, too... which btw Carolyn if you're reading this I read the Mutants book a couple weeks ago, it was really interesting!). But yeah, it's like a siamese twin sunflower... or something. Gotta love these random freaks of nature.

I got off my ass and went into town today and tried to run some errands, though was not entirely successful. For example, it only recently came to my attention that we seem to be missing most of the bath towels we used to have (as in, we're down to 3). So I went to try to buy more, but all the towels were like $50!!! Some were on sale for $25... which still seems a tad ridiculous to me. So I think we'll be using some beach towels while Andrew and Jakki are here, and then I'll buy some at Target when we go back. I think I need to just bring my suitcases completely empty, I'll be doing so much shopping when we go back.

9 1/2 weeks

So far, so good. I'm still having a hard time really accepting this pregnancy as reality. I mean obviously we want it, and are happy, it's more like, I just still can;t imagine this little creature living in me-- this being that's now apparently about an inch long, with arms and legs that can move, and ears that might be fully formed (don't know if the brain can process sound yet, though). Seems so... surreal. Which seems to be my theme word for this whole experience so far.

There have been a few times when my belly seems to "pop" though it's more bloat than anything, and will go away after a few days. But it's still fun to look down and see something indicating that these changes really are going on inside.

I've been extremely lucky so far, with my main symptom being fatigue. I only had about 2-3 days back in my 6th week where my stomach felt weird, and I haven't had any food aversions, really. I have had what I guess you could call cravings. It's not the I MUST HAVE THIS NOW kind, more like I'll hear or see a certain kind of food (generally pizza or some sweet thing) and be like "wow, that sounds so good!" even if I'm completely full and would not want to eat anything. I almost paid $1.50 for a brownie at the store today b/c the idea of a rbownie just appealed to me so much... then I came to my senses (and remembered that we have brownie mix at home =P). It's funny how the tiredness will just hit me upside the head, though. After 2 days of laziness, today I decided to go into town for some errands... I spent about 3 hours walking around, and halfway through I just felt exhausted and am still recovering. I definitely consider myself very lucky to be in the situation I am in, to be able to be lazy when my body calls for it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

lazy, plans

Today was uneventful, as I wasted most of it by watching episodes from The Real World: Austin on iFilm. I'm still disappointed that they never seemed to do half of the cool stuff there is to do in Austin... but I guess that's what happens when you're too busy getting drunk every night.

But anyway...

Andrew and Jakki came back from Paris today. They happened to get rained on a few times, and Andrew's having a hard time getting over the fact that waiters here are just not as friendly as back in the states, but other than that it seems they had a good time. So we started talking about what to do this weekend, and Zach just booked us a night in Dijon, France for Saturday. He tells me there's good wine tasting and artsy stuff there.

Ok, bedtime. I swear I'll be more productive tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mystery Poop

I've already posted 1 entry whining about the rain and the non-summer-y weather, so rather than go into another tirade I'll just say this-- today, it was about 50 degrees outside. That's just plain wrong.

So, it's been a fairly uneventful past couple days here... I've been busy uploading and categorizing pictures from the weekend and stuff, and this morning I actually got some different house work done (Zach got home and as he went to start cooking dinner, exclaimed in a surprised tone, "Hey, the kitchen's clean!").

However, there is one thing that's been occupying our minds-- and this is The Mystery of the Random Cat/Dog Poop. See, when we arrived back home Sunday night we found some poop on our welcome mat. (Nice, huh?) Zach thinks it was too nicely formed and perfectly preserved to have been picked up and moved there, so his theory is that Sierra had a through-the-glass-door meeting with a neighborhood cat, who decided to poop right there as a showing of territoriality or something.

I'm wondering if it was one of the village teenagers, possibly the same ones that threw a water balloon at our door a few weeks ago, one night while the parents were still here. I guess we'll just keep our eyes open and look out for any other weirdness or pranks.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Picture Time!

A sampling of pictures from this weekend.

The full album is up on flickr.


So Friday morning at about 9am we headed out to begin our train journey to Grindelwald. After a couple of false starts at the local station, we finally got on our way... a 4-5 hr trip, with about 4 train change-overs. Yup, not that great. But at least Andrew and Jakki got to start up their Eurail pass and had most of the journey be free.

Now, it's funny, we've now spent a good 4 months living here in Geneva, and even though my French isn't that great, I certainly know the basics-- you know, hello, goodbye, please, thank you, where are the toilets?, etc. As we took the train out of Lausanne and heading through Bern and then to Interlaken, I was suddenly stricken by this panicky feeling-- I don't know how to say ANYTHING in German!! (let alone Swiss German). It was so strange... I've felt so proud to be able to communicate here, but once we crossed into the German-speaking part of the country, I had nothing-- I was back to resorting only to English. It was a very wierd feeling. Luckily, the Swiss Germans seem to speak even better English than the Swiss Romands do, so it wound up being no problem at all... other than feeling like a classic American tourist.

But anyway... we also noticed that as we got into German territory, all the Swiss looked much more.... German. Zach actually joked that they all looked like interns (b/c his company in CA has had a steady stream of German college students as interns for the entire time he's worked there). It really was a striking difference... pretty amusing. It's kinda crazy that Switzerland is one country, since the French and German sides do seem to have significant differences, and I can only assume that the Italian and Romanisch (sp?) sides do, too.

Ok, back to the weekend... So we got to Grindelwald on Friday afternoon, and it was actually SUNNY!!! Yay! We had great weather the whole weekend, actually (up until rain on Sunday, but we'll get to that later). We had booked rooms at the Mountain Hostel so we went off to find it, not too far but a ways downhill from the main town. We had to wait around a bit at the reception area as the front desk didn't open till 4pm, but then we got our room and got all settled in. We then went back up the hill and explored the town a bit.

We'd been warned that Grindelwald was extremely touristy, possibly the most touristy town in all of Switzerland. Walking around, we sorta had to laugh a bit b/c it really didn't seem that bad. There were lots of cute shops, and lots of asian tourists, but it really was not that crowded and was overall quite pleasant. We grabbed some ice-cream, then later sat down to have dinner on an outside terrace that had an amazing view of the valley down below, and the Eiger back behind it. The mountains were amazing at this place. You'll see the pictures once I upload them all.

Saturday we got up around 8:30am, had breakfast, and then were off to go on our hike for the day. Now, the awesome thing about a lot of the hiking here in Switzerland and Europe is that everything is just made that much more accessible. Some people may not like this, as it means encountering more people on the trails, etc. But if you get to enjoy gorgeous views 4,000ft up from your starting point without actually having to climb all that way... well, I'm sold, that's all I've got to say. We took a cable car (one of the longest in Europe, apparently) up about 3k-4kft up to this ridge, then hiked along the ridge for a good hour or 2 enjoying these absolutely amazing views (again, you'll have to see the pictures). It was a gorgeous day, sunny, the wind a bit on the chilly side but not too bad. We passed some restaurants along the way (yes-- here you can go backpacking all day and then stop into a restaurant at the top of a mountain and have a big steak and a beer for your lunch or dinner, how awesome is that??) and then eventually reached the Eigerglitscher, where you can see the glaciers on the Eiger. Basically, among the snow on the mountain, you can also see these huge blocks of ice, and how they've carved out the valley down below, and these little rivers where the water comes down in a little stream through the rock. It was really cool, though also a bit sad b/c you can see how far out the glacier extended and how it's receding quite a bit. There was a way to get even further down to where the river started, and possibly get to see the ice down there, but the path was really steep and full of small rocks and, well, not very safe looking. So we just played in the nearby snow for a bit and got a good look at everything.

We took a train back down to Grindelwald where we grabbed some food for dinner and Jakki and Andrew cooked us some mean spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner at the hostel. Jakki was super adorable and went into total waitress mode, serving us at a little table out on the yard of the hostel. We sat out there for a while, enjoying our dinner and then some cookies for dessert, along with our kick-ass view of the mountains. Pretty awesome, really.

Sunday Zach had his heart set on doing a more strenuous hike, so he got up early in the morning to go do just that. Andrew, Jakki and I stayed in bed a bit longer, grabbed some breakfast, and then the 3 of them headed off into town to go explore and do a bit more hiking. I wasn't feeling all that well, so I stayed back at the hostel and read Barrel Fever (A David Sedaris book Jakki brought and lent me to read) which sitting out on the same patio where we'd had dinner the night before. Once again, the weather was extremely pleasant and sunny, so the morning went by quite nicely for me.

Around noon it started to cloud over a bit, and eventually the rain started. I met back up with Jakki and Andrew, and soon Zach came back down off the mountain. At about 2pm we headed back up into town with all our stuff, and stopped off at this restaurant where Andrew & Jakki had discovered chf$6 burgers (they were VERY happy with this discovery) so we ate there and then began our journey back to Geneva around 4pm. Everything went pretty well for a while, very little lag-time between trains at each of our stops at Interlaken and Spiez... until we got to Bern. And we started getting on what we thought was our train, but then sent Jakki to go check to make sure we had it right, and as we waited the doors closed and the train started taking off... leaving poor Jakki behind with NOTHING-- no phone, no money, no ID.

LUCKILY the train we'd gotten on was a local train, and so our next stop was only 5 minutes down the track. A very kind soul on the train with us saw what happened, and when we got to that stop got out and showed us where the platform was for the next train going back to Bern (which we never would've found without his help), and all-in-all we were back at Bern and re-united with Jakki after about 10 to 15 minutes (she had also met a kind soul who had seen us desperately trying to re-open the doors, to no avail, and had kept her company while she waited for our return to rescue her). So, 15 minutes of utter panic for all, but in the end everything was fine. God, we all felt so shitty for leaving her behind... Luckily it all turned out fine.

In the end, we got back home around 10pm or so, I think, all of us quite tired and a bit cranky. But we had a great time, and then this morning Zach drove Andrew and Jakki back to the train station where they took off for Paris and Amsterdam, and we should be seeing them again on Saturday, I think. Hopefully they will not have any further altercations.

And now, I think it is time for this ridiculously long post to come to an end.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

into the woods (sort of)

Tomorrow the 4 of us are off to Grindelwald for the weekend, which to my understanding is something like the Yosemite of the Swiss German side of the country. And its name always makes me think of the National Lampoon's movies, I guess b/c their last name was something like... was it the Griswolds? So yeah, very similar. Anyway, there will be mountains and hiking galore. I think Zach will be quite happy by the end of this trip... if he can take leaving the mountains on Sunday. ; ) We're leaving way early in the morning to take the 4 hr train, which means I really should be hitting the sack soon...

The weather report claims it'll be sunny this weekend-- woot!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Internet Gnome

Our internet connection is so... finicky. It's really strange. If we so much as touch or move the wireless router box-thingie, it'll stop working for, like, 20 to 30 minutes. Our internet is through DSL, so through the same line as our telephone, and we had the phone and internet hooked up together, when one day I decided to move the phone to the other side of the room, a more convenient location.

The internet started being extremely slow and not working well, then was fine the minute I moved the phone back.

Today, again, I moved the box back down b/c when Zach swept the other day he put it on this little table (where the phone is) and I went to put it on the floor again... the damned thing turned itself off and wouldn't turn on again. I finally jiggled the cables a while and it started working again.

I used to joke that my old computer had a gnome living inside it, and that was the only explanation for its erratic behavior (like how it consistently would not boot up for 30 minutes after I moved it, like from one side of the room to another when re-arranging furniture). I was so glad to have finally been rid of that gnome... only now it turns out he's been promoted to handling our internet connection.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The 4th of LAME!

So I started trying to research stuff to do for tomorrow, you know, the 4th of July. I'd heard that Geneva usually has a huge gathering, which some say is the largest 4th of July festivities outside the US.

However... this year, it has been cancelled.

I've searched and found a couple other events, but they're more like a pub here and there deciding to serve some American food and dress in red, white, and blue. I realize that considering the rain of the past 2 days chances are the weather would not be conducive to fireworks and the like, and I never was that big on the 4th anyway while living in the states, but for some reason this seems a particularly stinging insult since it just doesn't even feel like summer here to me right now.

I've noticed that I keep having to remind myself that it's June, or now July, that it's the middle of the summer season... except it doesn't feel like it at all, b/c other than the occasional day of sun and moderate warmth, it's been miserable and rainy for the past several weeks. This just does not compute with my brain that was trained that summer = 100 degree weather (in Texas), or at least constant sun (in California). It feels more like a California winter than any type of summer. Other than the extremely long days.

I'm pretty sure that every previous year of my time living on the northern hemisphere, I have donned a swimsuit at least once by the time the 4th of July rolls around. This year, I don't even know where the local pools or swimming holes are yet.

Tell you what, when I go to Texas in august, you'd better believe I'm going to Barton Springs EVERY DAY.

"the kids" are here

So Andrew (Zach's little bro) and his girlfriend Jakki arrived yesterday morning. They're both in college, and taking advantage of their summer break to spend a month here in Europe. It's actually a pretty cool thing for them, they bought a 21 day rail pass for all of Europe so will be spending much time traveling all over the continent in the weeks to come.

We spent most of the day yesterday just hanging out around here, they napped for a while, and we went on a walk so I could show them the lambs and horses nearby. Then we picked up Zach from work and did a massive grocery shopping trip. No joke, we spent about $400. Andrew was laughing that everyone else was buying just a couple of things, and we came home with a trunkful of food. But, you know, when you have 4 people in a house, and one of them is Andrew who eats constantly, you gotta stock up. They all chipped in to make a fabulous dinner last night. Good times.

Today I'm meeting up with a new friend for lunch in town, I'm waiting to see if "the kids" will wake up in time to come with me, or if they'll stay around here again trying to fight off jet lag. We're already starting to talk of cool weekend trips to take, all 4 of us, like maybe to Paris for a few days, and to visit our friend Sean who's spending the summer on the Italian coast. We'll see what pans out.

Oh, and by the way....



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