Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Market in Colmar, France

One of the best things about living in Switzerland is that traveling to other countries is so easy! Last week we decided we wanted to go to France for the day to see a Christmas Market. To France. For The Day. Okay - let's do it!:)

So we woke up early on Saturday to take a two hour train to Colmar, France. Colmar is known for their Christmas Market and we thought it would be a fun way to spend the day. I love the idea of outdoor Christmas Markets! We have outdoor festivals/markets during the summer in Raleigh, but never during the "cold" months. There is something to be said about the cold weather, Christmas lights, and gluhwein to put you in the Christmas Spirit! It could have also been the cute little town that helped too! Most of the businesses and residences had decorated for the season and it was very quaint.

I thought I was taking greats pics of how cute and quaint the city was but this was the best I got - you can still kind of see:)

Colmar was very "German" though. I'm not sure what I was expecting -maybe a bunch of people in berets drinking coffee and being rude? I mean they did say "Bonjour" - but all the sausages and sauerkraut on the restaurant menus threw me for a loop!:) But then today I spoke with Miriam, who told me Colmar used to be a part of Germany, so I looked it up on Wikipedia and found out the country's history. Colmar went back and forth between French and German control several times starting in the 1600's. Now it all makes sense:)! I know this is a bit random, but I love learning the history of these towns, countries, and regions - better late than never. Like I said before I used to HATE European history! Now it is so fascinating...maybe I should go back to school for European History? Yeah - just kidding:)

Anyway, Colmar. We went with Sarah and Zann on the train, then Nathan's boss Hakan and his wife, Jasmin, joined us later. We went for the shopping, but (like it usually is with us) it ended up a big eating fest! We tried the chocolate, gluhwein (mulled wine) kugelhopf, gluhwein, flammekueche, and more gluhwein! Colmar is the capital of the Alsace wine region, so we had to try a lot of that wine too - mostly white - I love France:)!

Some yummy chocolate! I'm trying to bite off my "fair share" before Nathan gets a hold of it!

The biggest loaf of "French Bread" I have ever seen!
Flammekueche (or Tarte blambee in French) is bread dough covered in creme fraiche, onions, and bacon - an Alsace Region Specialty - yummmmmmm!

This lady was making crepes - the one thing we forgot to taste - I guess we will have to go back!

The best chocolate booth there! Nathan said it was like a show watching this man sell his chocolate!

Although it was crazy crowded, the market was a little hokey - I swear several vendors raided the Dollar Tree and shipped it over - but the atmosphere made it all good.:) Of course Nathan thinks Swagger should have a booth next year:) I think I was expecting more handmade goods - but I guess that is where all the food came in! I did get a Colmar Christmas ornament to remember the trip though!

Cute booth selling these "wind mill" things powered by the flame from the candles burning beneath it - we had one of these growing up!

This was in the window of one of the stores - I think I'm developing a strange love of gnomes - because I LOVE IT!:)

We weren't sure what was up with all the stork stuff but it was everywhere. I'm just glad I got to try on one of the hats!:) I'm just going to go out on a limb, but I'm guessing it is the region's bird? Kind of like the brown thrasher is to Georgia:). (The one thing I remember from Georgia History class:))

We ended our day with a fabulous meal at the Pfeffel Restaurant near the Unterlinden Museum. If you are in Colmar, I would definitely recommend it! Everyone's dinner was excellent and the staff was really nice!

Group Shot (from left - Zann, Sarah, Jasmin, Hakan, Nathan and Me)

I was feeling a little guilty about all the calories we consumed until we had to run/all out sprint to the train station to catch our train!!!! We thought we were leaving at 7:37 but it was 7:27 - HUGE difference when you are a 15 minute walk from the main train station! But we made it - just in the nick of time - and sat down to enjoy the rest of our chocolate and Alsace wine to celebrate;)

GREAT day trip for Zurich - especially at Christmas! Au revoir et Joyeux Noel!

p.s. - so yesterday we went to the Christmas Market at the Zurich HB (main train station). Basically more of the same from the day before, but the Swavorski Christmas tree was so amazing that I HAD to include a picture! We also saw the "Samichlaus" parade down the Bahnhofstrasseand finished up our Christmas Weekend with the "Singing Christmas Tree"and more gluhwein!:) I leave for the States tomorrow and won't be back until the end of January, so this was a fantastic "goodbye for a while" weekend!

Friday, November 27, 2009

What does an Expat do for Thanksgiving?

I'll admit it was a little weird waking up yesterday and working like it was any other day of the year. It was especially weird because Nathan is traveling for work this week and he isn't even here! (Don't they know this is an important American Holiday? Helloooooooo!:)) I did have a small "Mandy Pity Party" right when I woke up, but then I remembered that I was going ice skating and out to dinner with friends so I wouldn't be completely alone on Thanksgiving (I know bring out the tiny violin.:))
This Thanksgiving I am very thankful for the creator of Skype, the internet, computers, video cameras, and just technology in general! Yesterday, I skyped with both my families and it was great to actually "see" them! First with my parents, two sisters, two brother-in-laws, and five nieces and nephews who were all in Charlotte, NC for Thanksgiving. The kids are so funny on Skype, because you can tell that all they are doing is staring at themselves on the screen:). Davis, Missy's little boy, sang me a Thanksgiving song he learned at Deerfield- so cute! I didn't know it was over (I thought there would be a second verse) and he was like "Mandy you are supposed to clap now." Oops - sorry Davis! I so wished I could have taken a video of the whole thing! But I did get pics while they were all talking to me! So here I am "hanging out" with my family on Thanksgiving:

Unfortunately James wouldn't come in front of the camera, but clockwise from top left is (Matthew, Davis, Harlee, and Mackenzie)

I also got to talk with Bonnie, Bob, and Grandma Evy - they were all hanging out in Atlanta. Bonnie and Bob had just taken a Thanksgiving Day walk around the neighborhood to counter act some of those calories, so I don't think she would appreciate me posting a picture of her:)! It was great to "see" them too - especially since we didn't have to sit in 6 hours of traffic to do it!:)

I guess if Nathan would have been home, I would have attempted to make the "Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner" - I guess. But honestly the more I thought about all the ingredients I would need for that and trying to actually find them in Switzerland would have been a bit of a nightmare. First of all, Turkeys are crazy expensive here and I don't think Nathan would have gone for deli slices. Second, they don't sell (at least I can't find) Cream of Mushroom soup - how would I have made the famous green beans with crunchy onions on top? And Finally - if you think I was going to buy a pumpkin, carve out the inside, and actually make the pumpkin pie filling from SCRATCH you obviously don't know me. (They don't sell pumpkin pie filling in a can here.)My idea of scratch is using my mother's pie crust recipe and not buying a Pillsbury's ready to bake pie shell! was probably better that I went Ice Skating at the Landesmuseum and out for a traditional Swiss Dinner at the Zeughauskeller!

Miriam, Sarah, Zann and I all met at the Landesmuseum to ice skate. I will admit they sure do things right! Look at how beautiful it was:

Okay - so I did take this from the website - but it is much better than the ones I took with my camera!

I probably haven't been ice skating in 10 plus years - which I didn't think was that big of a deal - like riding a bike, right? But when everyone was saying "don't hurt yourself" or "watch out - you're not a spring chicken anymore" (thanks Nathan) - I started to get a little nervous! Of course I was the only one of us that fell - twice - but no major damage and it was a lot of fun! The weather was perfect - cold but not TOO cold - and the setting was truly beautiful!

The entrance to the Landesmueseum

The skaters: Me, Miriam, Sarah, and Barbara

Look Mom - one foot! And synchronized - nice! And NO - this isn't when I fell!

From here Sarah, Zann and I headed to the Zeughauskeller. They had been here once before and said it was the perfect place for a feast! (You know like big portions us Americans would normally get on Thanksgiving:)). Very cool place near Paradeplatz in Zurich. I highly recommend it! It was really busy - probably the busiest restaurant I have seen here! I got the "Kalbsgeschnetzeltes" Zurich Style. In english that is - sliced veal and mushrooms in a creamy white-wine sauce - mmmmmmmm! And just so you know - they also serve a 1 meter long sausage! Wow! We'll have to make a special trip back for that - kind of like one of those eating contests - who's in?:)

This sign says "Please do not smoke - live artillery grenades stored here." Nice! I think you can guarantee that isn't something you would see walking into an American restaurant!

My dinner - it isn't Turkey but it was darn good!

All in all - a very nice Thanksgiving and I couldn't be more thankful for my family, my friends (old and new(!)), getting to experience an amazing year abroad, and for life in general!

Love, mandy
All the pictures from Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Krati in Zurich!

I can't believe I haven't written since the scary Zombie photos! Sorry! I left that next day for the States and since my parents (love you guys) are still stuck in the 90s and don't have wireless internet in their house (but I did find out they upgraded from dial-up to DSL this year - yeah!) it was hard to update the blog! Also, I was so busy with Swagger stuff that I didn't have time to write anyway - I was even in bed before 9:30 pm several nights! Totally lame I know, but I am getting old!

Anyway, so I couldn't believe that my older sister, Marla, came to visit last week - seriously I had put her on the "it's never gonna happen list" - something about a full time job, expired passport and 3 kids under 4:)! But her job sent her to London (thank you Bank of America!) so she got to visit with us in Zurich last weekend!

Marla arrived on Wednesday night. After picking her up at the airport (which I was late to - damn on time Zurich train system - can't you ever be a few minutes late!) we headed out for a few drinks at Hiltl with Miriam. This a great Restaurant/Bar-Lounge/Club off Sihlstrasse. Very cool lounge area with couches and a dance floor that people were Tangoing on while we were there.:)

For the record - I am leaning in - my butt is NOT that big!

The one thing I can say about Marla is she is awesome to shop with! She even has more shopping stamina than me (and that is saying a lot)! We hit the Bahnhofstrasse and I took her to a few of my favorite places including Globus and Sprungli (of course!).

That night I "made" (bought at the store) Cheese Fondue! We had Miriam and James over (seriously I think they had enough of us by the end of the weekend:)) and had a great night! Although Marla didn't like the Fondue - what's up with that? She said it tasted too much like Liquor (Kirsch)- um...duh - that's the point isn't it:) I'm so pissed I didn't take a picture b/c this was the first "party" in our flat!

Next day more....SHOPPING! I took her to the grocery store (I know it doesn't sound exciting, but they really are different than in the States - you have to "pay" for your shopping cart, the eggs and milk are in the middle of the floor, and people have no respect for your personal space - it was an experience for sure), the Niederdorff/Old Town, and finally down to Zurich Lake and to see a few sites. We headed back early to take naps before the Glocals Black & White Party that night!

View from Limmat River to Grossmunster (Great Church)

View of Lake Zurich

Glocals is an expat community that we are members of here in Zurich. It is a great group of people that organize events so you can go out and meet people! We've done everything from hiking, to cricket, to bbqs with them - I highly recommend joining some type of expat community if you move over seas! Anyway, so on Friday night, Glocals rented out the the 2B Lounge for a Black & White themed party. We haven't been "out" dancing, drinking, and carrying on in a long time so it was a lot of fun:) Maybe too much fun as I was worried we wouldn't be feeling so well for our Liechtenstein Hike on Saturday!:)

I love public transportation - you can legally drink a "40" while in transit! (Okay well not a 40, because they don't do ounces but still pretty BIG BEERS!)

Group Photo! (Marla, James, Miriam, Me and Nathan)

I had to put this photo in to prove I'm not as fat as I look in the previous photo!:)

Seriously Girls, the line isn't THAT long! And yes those are taps at our TABLE - well not OUR table, but somebody's table!

Liechtenstein is a 160 square kilometer Principality (very small if you can't do the conversion i your head:)) located between Switzerland and Austria. The Liechtenstein website says they are "the last German-speaking monarchy comprised of 11 municipalities with 35, 000 inhabitants". To get there from Zurich you take a train to Sargan then a bus to Liechtenstein - we headed to the capital, Vaduz. I'll be honest here - the city wasn't all that - but THEY sure think it is! Apparently the Liechtensteiners (whatever you call them) are very proud people! You should have heard the lady going on about all the "sites" in Vaduz!:) We did look at everything she pointed out (except the stamp museum - I didn't think Nathan could handle it) which took about 45 minutes. The vineyard was beautiful though so I'm glad we checked that out!

So thankful we were planning on hiking though or the trip would have been a bust (at least in my humble opinion). We hiked from Vaduz to Triesenberg. Nathan's boss recommended the "Three Sisters" hike, but when we asked the lady at the tourist info center about it, she looked me up and down then said "You can't do that". Not sure what THAT meant, but Miriam tried to convince me that it was because we didn't have the proper "snow hiking" equipment as that hike is very high up. Sure, whatever. That lady is just lucky I didn't show her what I CAN do.:)

The hike was only about 2 hours and it was a beautiful 60 degree day! I loved this photo of Marla and I near the top of the hike.

When we got to Triesenberg we went for a beer (little hair of the dog if you know what I mean). Marla said her view consisted of "The Alps and cute little Swiss Chalets". It doesn't get much better than that!:) And the Liechenstein beer wasn't half bad!

On the hike back down to Vaduz I saw this in someone's yard.
I promise right here and now that when I get back to the States I am going to start a garden so I can build this in my backyard! Priceless. Maybe I should start collecting gnomes now......hmmmmmm. But I'll probably have to charge admission because you guys are going to want to come over and hang out around it all the time!!!!:)

Great Krati (plural for Kratus in Latin - oh never mind) Weekend! Love you Marla! Now we just have to get Courtney and Missy over here!

xoxo, Mandy

p.s. - Here are the rest of the photos from our weekend!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Expovina - Wine...on a boat!

Another catch up blog!  I can't believe I never wrote about drinking wine on a boat! I mean hello - two of my favorite things!:)  My excuse is that I left for the States the very next morning so I never had time, but  at least I am doing it now! 

The Expovina is a wine tasting that takes place in Zurich near Burkliplatz around the first week of November.  Miriam, James, Nathan and I went on October 31st.  Basically a bunch of distributors rent out space on 1 of 6 boats that have been docked and tied together (the way it is set up you can walk directly from one boat to the next without touching land - pretty cool). 

The view of the boats from Bellevue

I have no idea how much wine we drank that night - but it was A LOT!  I highly recommend doing this if you live in Zurich or are traveling there around the beginning of November - we had a great time discovering new wines from around the world!

Just before we boarded the first boat!

This is what it looked like close up

Not sure why we were so excited about the American wines - I think we had been "sampling" quite a bit by this time:)!

Miriam with her Deutsch wine - bring on the Rieslings!

You both look SO sophisticated!:)

You have no idea how long it took us to get this picture:)

Here is a link to the rest of the pics!

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