Friday, February 27, 2015

Affinities or …

The alchemy of humans.

Over the years (or “back when I was young” as one of the participants kept repeating last night: mind you she was the youngest of us five) I have attended many cocktail parties, been to many a conference, enjoyed my share of dinner parties, been bored to tears by other gatherings and in short have been sociable under many conditions and with a wide variety of professions, social strata, cultures and disparate lots of persons.

I can count on the fingers of one hand however those events that had all the participants laughing till they cried. What is it that allows us sometimes to connect? What strange alchemy hits? Why do some very compatible-seeming groups only enjoy “normal” whereas others, seemingly with not much at all in common, suddenly gel and produce one of those events forever remembered?

Such was the case last night: two persons retired from the same company, two others having served on a committee with them during their professional life with the fifth currently working at that company. The catalyst? In retrospect our human experiences. We touched on two of the “forbidden” topics (i.e. politics, religion), but it was the exploration of learning where each grew up, more of their family circumstances and recent losses that lead to laughing fits and tears in our eyes.

It’s a good thing that we had a round, corner table: we actually closed down the restaurant, never mind that in Calvinistic Geneva that happens at midnight on a week night.

The glow of the laughter will carry me through yet another gray day – weather wise that is.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Spontaneity and Playing hooky

I know that I have mentioned that word – spontaneity – as being my leitmotif for this year. After the rain yesterday, we again awoke to a most gorgeous beautiful-blue-sky kind of day. I was so not motivated to get back to work on my taxes that when a friend called enquiring as to what my plans were for the day, I replied: “nothing, whatever you want to propose”!

Ten minutes later we were off to France and a mountain resort that, believe it or not, I had never visited.

Megève is well known to those with money to burn or a wish to hang out with the upper echelons, there are even flags pointing out the Michelin starred chefs. However, there are also the more classic attractions: a wonderful church, St. Jean the Baptist whose construction corresponds to three different periods (XIVth, XVIIth and XIX centuries). The St. Anne chapel next door was started in 1500, the church itself “only” in the early 1600s.

St.Jean the Baptist church in Megève

Then there were the local “taxis” – horse drawn carriages, each one unique in its decoration. 

rear of one wooden sleigh

rear of another wooden sleigh
Shadows and light, a typical-to-the-region lunch, mountain peaks playing with the clouds, warmth in the sun and not too many crowds made for a most pleasant day of playing hooky.  Tomorrow will suffice to get back to the duties that call.

shadow of photography

windy on the peaks

sun playing spotlight

firs and mountains

overlooking the valley from the Altiport in Megève

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Of M & M’s…

No, not the eatable ones, rather messages and “Mary’s”.

Years ago when our older son wanted desperately to babysit his little brother we started by leaving them home alone for 10 minutes, then 15, then finally a whole half an hour – always leaving a message as to where we were and when we would be back – this was well before cell phones!

After a year or so we finally worked up to being able to cross the bridge leaving them behind, but the notes stood us in good stead with our older son: we had left notes, so he learned to leave notes.

With the younger son this natural process never happened and many the day left me feeling frustrated when I didn’t know when he had gone out, where, nor when he could be expected back. Thus started the modern version of “notes”, i.e. the bulletin board.  This was on the side of the fridge in the kitchen, but when I re-did that several years ago we needed a
new place: after reflection it was all moved into the entryway toilet. Then I got a white board sheet and a blackboard for the door as well.  The whiteboard was used for the longer lasting remarks, pictures or sudden need to draw tulips, Easter Eggs, Christmas Trees or Happy Birthdays whereas the “black board” was more for the “10:00 – I’ve gone out for an hour” messages.

Currently the cork message board holds a precious drawing from the daughter of the house that we visited last weekend, the black board has gone missing in the recent renovations and the white board was just its boring white when I got up.

Then there are the many Mary’s in my life. They span generations and I reckon that it won’t be long before I can go from Mary A to Mary Z with very few holes. We had dinner with one Sunday night, trying to catch up on about six months as she has recently retired and thus is always gone. One of my most recent friends belongs to this lot as well and a more fascinating woman I have rarely met (how we met is another story, one that proves that he who doesn’t act on a whim looses out big time). We don’t get together often, but when we do neither has any lack of experiences, words, exchanges of DVDs, books and the wonderful trivia of our lives.  Today we had lunch together – we’re smart: I pay for both one time, she the next thus guaranteeing many more fun meals. And as usual I return from those few hours with a smile on my face – the sun all the brighter for this wonderful new friend.

Then I took a look at the various message boards and smiled even more as a new message had appeared on the white board (my housemate and husband left this morning.)

I love M and M’s!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Would have beens, could have beens and should have beens…

This is the year of “anniversaries”: had my husband not died just three weeks before, he would have been 65 in 2000. That means that today, he could have been turning 80.
Should he have? We have no way of knowing what his life would have been after a heart
transplant; perhaps better than before, perhaps not as good, it is a good thing that we know neither the future, nor what could have been.

Today we will remember what was.
A husband, who although not perfect, suited me.
A father, who again although not always perfect in the role, loved being one and did his best.
A man, who remembered his family, was always there for his friends, never complained and made us laugh.

He is remembered with fondness – and this last picture taken on our trip to Alaska just six months before actually resembles him the most.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

When in Basel buy Navajo…

Or walk into an antique store, which although there is someone in the store, is apparently closed “but since you are already in”…
Our second day in Basel started out slow:
A very, very slow start… breakfast at 11 anyone?
As it was so late we took our bus into the center of town and had a small breakfast in the Schiesser coffee shop overlooking the market square in front of City Hall. It dates back to 1870.

inside the "Rathaus", City Hall

As is usual, our adventures always see us eating in not only interesting places, but also usually very good food: after a short bit of shopping we settled on the Küchlin where we had the vegetarian "vegetable pocket", which was very, very good with its accompanying rocket pesto. The restaurant itself is built in the building that held a theater back in the day and they kept the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) objects - as well as part of the wall from the old theater.

After lunch we returned to the Barfüssplatz (Barefoot square - not that one was tempted this particular day: winter and grey) and each wandered a bit on our own, D-L going to the Toy Museum where there was a special exhibit on 3'000 years of shoes and I to explore first the open-air Tinguely exhibit, then a church and the back streets down to the market square.

A Tinguely sculpture

Another TInguely sculpture

Statue near our hotel - back

Same statue - front

By the time we met again we were both ready to be off our feet and imbibe in tea and coffee. Although we only went to the coffee shop at one of the local department stores, the walls had room-size posters, which gave us the impression of being in some large castle library: easy to live with. In addition to our drinks we each had a raspberry pastry so "supper" was yogurt in the room, but at least we didn't need to use the pedestrian emergency entrance to the hospital across the street from our hotel!

Deco in the department store cafeteria

Emergency entrance for pedestrians

On the way back to the hotel we stopped in the Fair Trade shop for American Indian items... where I acquired a lovely pair of earrings. Perhaps the next time that I am in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, etc. I will wander into a Swiss souvenir store???

Then next door I saw someone in the Antique store so opened the iron gate and boldly entered, not realizing that it wasn't open, just the owner was in there working... She graciously allowed me to stay "as I was already in" so D-L ended up with a Penguin for her collection.

The next day after a great breakfast with eggs cooked to order and all the trimmings, we sauntered out of our hotel, to the tram and on to the train station, saying goodbye to Basel - a short stop in Bern and we were "home again". Wonderful adventures.

Detail on the Basel train station

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Basel and the rest of the adventure

Sunrise over the lake in Einsiedeln Feb.16th
Arrived easily after a lovely breakfast in Zurich (our hostess was going in to her office and kindly took us along so that we wouldn’t have to take the train from Einsiedeln) at the Sprüngli coffee shop – well lovely until we saw the prices: hot chocolate for CHF 7.50! Our total bill of CHF 20.20 for coffee, hot chocolate and two small rolls means that I will no longer complain of prices in Geneva.

One of the Sprüngli tearooms in Zurich
Train from Zurich to Basel where we arrived to sunshine – yeah. First stop, our hotel where although it was early our room was ready (again one of the major plusses to playing tourist out of season). Dumped our stuff, got our bus passes and off we went.

Hotel Rochat near the University

Design on the windows of the hotel

Cheery decorations in the hotel

Highlight of the day: the Gauguin exhibition at the Beyeler Foundation. There are some 40 museums in Basel - something for everyone.

Beyeler Foundation in Basel, Switzerland
 Then there were all the other sight to be seen, only a small portion of which are reflected below: I did get my 10'000 that day!

Former Mayor of Basel ... Warteck Beer factory

Lunch in the Warteck Beer factory

Part of the new Congress Center in Basel, Switzerland
The city is not only know for its pharmaceutical industry, but also for its architecture and famous architects Herzog and Meuron, Mario Botta, Diener & Diener and Richard Meyer.
Dame "Helvetia" overlooking the Rhine

Talk about "walking out on a limb"...

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friends and a laid back Sunday

Translates as get up at a very leisurely pace, enjoy brunch and good coffee, slowly gear up to heading into Einsiedeln where they have a cross-country skiing track with, off to the side, a walking one for those without their skis, or not wishing for whatever reason (lack of equipment, although one can rent on site, lack of appropriate clothing or lack of interest).

Following warm drinks in the sun at the tracks, return via a trip around the lake, to our base and chill each with our own electronics, or books or whatever to the smells of the host cooking spaghetti sauce for dinner.

A flute of champagne, some good red wine and delicious meal with conversation in all directions and it was off to bed early so that we could arise also early.

City Hall, Einsiedeln, Schwyz
Schoolhouse, Einsiedeln, Schwyz
Abbey of Einsiedeln, Schwyz
Church just behind the Abbey

window detail of the schoolhouse

one of many decorative shields
another decorative shield
Gargoyle on the Abbey

not many people sitting on the benches....

end of the day: mountain peak through the trees