Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bubbly just because, or…

The world is finally catching up with me.

My sister just sent me an article that appeared in the September edition of the Sunset magazine, one with which I whole-heartedly agree, but also the principals of which I have long applied, i.e. crack open that bottle of sparkling wine or champagne for no reason or any reason whatsoever!

My former housemate and I were masters at the art: had a bad day? Let’s cheer ourselves up, bubbly and smoked salmon; Good day? Let’s celebrate, bubbly and foie gras; “need” to watch a movie or DVD series? What better to accompany it than bubbly and popcorn.

As to the colleague of the person who wrote the article who used to celebrate with sparkling wine Tuesdays since they were “the hardest day of the week to get through”, yesterday was Tuesday and how did you guess, I had some bubbly: also opted for hummus and veggies followed by the leftover avocado turned into guacamole.
Let it be said - the bubbly was only a 2dl split! And I only had about 8 chips.
Life is for the living and that’s always worth celebrating!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Back to Canada

The trip is mainly just memories, but I never finished the blogs – rather ended when we disembarked in Vancouver from our Cruise.  However, from there we went on to enjoy another few wonderful days in the Eastern part of Canada and finally having some down time here in the mountains I thought that I would finish what I started almost two months ago.

So, back to Canada. After disembarking the ship we needed to get to the airport to pick up our rental car – long wait so that when we finally arrived two things were urgent: coffee and restrooms. After changing rental companies and trying to stuff all our luggage into a car where the rear was too tight, one of the agents took pity on us and all of a sudden we were driving away in a brand new Nissan. In the exchange of information we discovered that his parents have a flat in – of all places – Grindelwald!

It was noon by the time we were leaving town, but we eventually found a restaurant with wi-fi and I was able to post blogs and pick up e-mails. We actually even got most of the meal for free as they had left some cheese in K’s salad and she is allergic!

Then we were on the road, headed East with no idea of the night’s stopping place. We chose to take the spur to Lake Okanogan and enjoyed gorgeous lakes, rivers and farms along the way. After duly consulting the GPS and K’s phone we ended up in the Prestige Hotel on Lake Shuswap in Salmon Arm. A gorgeous sunset and a fine night.

Lake district - probably the Coquihalla lake

One of the beautiful strings of lakes known as the Okanagan

Canadian geese - in Canada!

Sunset from the Prestige Hotel in Salmon Arm, Shuswap Lake

Monday, August 22, 2016

Welcome to Scotland, oops

I mean La Fontaine

Some ten days ago I was back up in my mountain flat after a very busy two-week period and had fully intended to do nothing more than hike, eat and sleep.
Fate had it otherwise as it was the La Fontaine Festival. A very lively and interacting neighborhood, this isn't even a whole village yet they manage to put together a wonderful and inclusive festival.

The poster announcing the event

This only takes place every two years so I really couldn’t miss it and as it turned out the theme was Scotland I fit in even better as part of my own genealogy involved – on my dad’s side- Scottish ancestors.

The bagpipes played (or did whatever it is that bag pipes do – sometimes I think that whining, moaning, groaning or wailing would be better descriptions) and there were even Highland dances in the afternoon that I didn’t attend having been simply too tired to go back.
A very good group of bagpipe players
Not sure if you will be able to hear this, but a snippet.

Even the animals got into the spirit
 Although there was a Scottish stew on the menu, I must admit that my Swiss side won out and I opted for raclette.

He wears a different wig and costume every two years

 It is a very colorful event, attended by the whole area and I did get to talk to many of my acquaintances this way without having to go individually to their chalets – all in all a great way to spend part of the day!
Just one of the seating areas - there were easily a couple hundred people
Date on one of the buildings
 Never mind that they even managed to have a Loch Ness monster in the "lake".

Loch Ness "Monster"


Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Past: They say that one can’t or shouldn’t go back…

First of all, who are these famous “they”? And why would we bother to believe anything they say?  Sometimes a return to the past can be not only wonderful but salutary.

But before I get into the more philosophical aspects of that title, there are the more mundane. Although 99% of the time I am ever so grateful for the freeway bypass of the city of Thonon in France, there is that 1%. This time on my way to the mountains I decided that I really did need to see the beautifully flowered roundabouts and lakefront that were on my path for so many years. Having no appointments, nor timing to be respected, I decided to not take the bypass but to wander. The floral displays were every bit as lovely as I remembered, but I had forgotten the fountains – a deviation well worth the extra minutes.

The roundabout upon entering Thonon

Fountains on the lake front of Thonon

Part of the roundabout leaving Thonon

middle band in Evian

Flower pot in front of City Hall in Evian

That in turn reminds me of many favorite roads, some of which I may never have the pleasure of driving again, but that are there in my memory should I need them.

And so it is with the past: perhaps we can’t return to that exact minute, the exact circumstances, the good, bad, indifferent or wonderful, but we can’t simply ignore that they ever existed either nor that they are part and parcel of what we have become.

I treasure a childhood friendship more today than I did then; I wouldn’t give up those from over 40 years ago, nor those from 30 years ago, nor those more recent. Each new friendship adds a layer to my life – building upon those solid foundations laid by others.

Going down an old path doesn’t mean trying to repeat that past, it simply means seeing something distant again – seeing it in a different way, perhaps indifferently, but just as likely the experience can be even better than the first time.

One road in particular illustrates my thoughts: Highway 1 in California.
I surely first experienced this with my parents as I know we did visit relatives who spent their summers at Hearst Castle, but my memories are vague and I probably found it tiresome at the time.  The next time I drove this would have been with my husband and older son – at least a short bit of it – there too what remains thirty years later – is the sensation I had of wanting to simply let the car float off into the clouds at one of the many turns winding along the Pacific Ocean.  Then there was the time I drove it alone, traveling in between my two sisters – a beautiful road, but simply one joining my family members. More recent visits hold stronger memories:
-       driving it with my now deceased little sister;
-       the trip when we returned from Northern California together with my older son and stopped at many favorite places along the way
-       the trip with a girlfriend from Switzerland where I got lost, but we ended up discovering what became one of my favorite hotels along the route.
-       the trip up with my sister and sister-in-law after the death of the other sister (truly a pilgrimage that trip)
-       the trip with my younger son and his then girlfriend before one of my nephew’s wedding

I have many favorite places from the past to which I would gladly return, but each year I add new ones so who knows how many I will be able to repeat; how many will remain in the past and how many will become a new experience each time.

It is the same with people: we change, they change, but true friends simply add better layers and experiences – the past is with us always, may we incorporate it into our lives in the best manner possible. May the future be enriched by our past, all the while enjoying the present to the fullest.

So I’m off for a hike in some of my favorite mountains.

La Creusaz

Old photo of Dents de Morcles - May 2016

Looking towards the Mont Blanc from La Creusaz

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A pot of tea

A gray day, light rain – all foreseen: a good excuse to make a pot of tea and, in the doing so, to reflect upon why this is such a comforting activity.

I am a coffee drinker as any of my family or friends know, but occasionally I “do” tea.
This has come from partaking in a “cuppa” with so many friends. To the point that just getting out a teapot brings fond memories of conversations and sharing.

If at home tea is usually something I drink if I awake too early and it then precedes breakfast coffee, in the mountains I have tea often as a welcome change from water -
making a pot almost as soon as I have finished with my coffee and breakfast.

Just this past week I had lunch with two very close friends, both of whom I have known for over 40 years. The one gave each of the other two of us the lovely small flowering balls of Jasmine tea – we were celebrating our common birthday. The container and tea had stayed in my car and was a wonderful reminder this morning of friendship and time shared with these two particular women.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Oops she did it again…

Now I know that you all immediately thought of Britney Spears who was, and is, famous for that particular line, but no, it is simply myself not wanting to admit that “I” yet again managed to leave something behind. So I am choosing to use the more “royal” she to describe myself.

Over the years of renting my mountain flat and having computers, telephones and cameras – or any other instrument that needs to be charged up occasionally I have managed to basically forget in one place or the other a charger that was desperately needed in order for me to continue the life to which I have become accustomed.  You will perhaps not yet have forgotten last weekend’s trials with technology.

I did it again: that sinking feeling as I crossed the border back into Switzerland, having just driven an hour, that I didn’t bring my computer charger…
Now, we know that thanks to having left it behind in the mountains, I did have the one for my mini MacAir (which this time I took as well so that I could enter my landlord’s wifi code), but having to use only it would mean no work on photos and that is one of this week’s major goals. Unfortunately as with many other items, Apple changes its plugs with about every model so I couldn’t just use that one for the current MacbookPro. Sigh.

I checked my luggage at a stop – and sure enough – nothing. At least I caught it before I by-passed the store where I was sure to find a new one. A few francs lighter I now have a double of the battery charger. 
The good news? I don’t buy expensive shoes, nor clothes that often and tend to be rather good at not spending too much money, except when it comes to replacing and or acquiring doubles of anything to do with anything that needs to be plugged in!

I hate to think of it, but it could happen that at some point I might end up with doubles in one place and nothing in the other? Oh help, let’s not even go there. For the coming week (this is one of the few longer periods that I had available to be in the mountains of course) I have everything that I need. Long may this state of affairs last! And hey, it's not as bad as the time that I had left my passport in the mountains when I was flying to the USA two days later - that one did mean a round-trip and a lot of stress.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Take a parent to work…

The more interesting side of the usual “take your kid to work”.

Recently I have had the privilege of visiting both son’s workplaces – a rare privilege
indeed and one that came about mainly because in both cases they were available for lunch. The first experience was at the younger son’s workplace – a nursery school near the banks of the River Arve. Fascinating and totally brought me back some 50 years ago when I worked with the same age group over the summer: mats on the floor, bulletin boards with names, photos, drawings; a playground; the wash-up area and even all the supply rooms, the laundry and the kitchen. I met some of his colleagues and the cook even had me leaving with the day’s dessert – a delicious pound cake.

The second time was to my older son’s current spot at UNICEF where again I was able to see his work “spot” (he is on loan to UNICEF as are most of his colleagues) so there are no set offices, but rather they float around according to needs. He is lucky enough to have a stand up desk at the moment, which is very good for his back.  Here too I met some of the colleagues – a very interesting and friendly lot.  Lunch was much more picturesque as the cafeteria is on the top floor and overlooks the Botanical gardens with a view to the Lake of Geneva (Lac Léman actually).

I can highly recommend being a parent taken to the work place!

The view out of his current work station - JTB

Terrace outside the cafeteria - view of Lac Leman

View from the terrace of the cafeteria

Love the equal opportunity sign!

Proof that your's truly was actually there.