Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Carnival - Zurich Style

So I'm not exactly sure how we got

BUT I will try to relay the events of last Saturday night - to the best of my knowledge:)

First things first - strangely Zurich celebrated their Carnival this past weekend February 20th & 21st . Yes, yes - I know. Mardi Gras was LAST Tuesday and Wednesday February 17th was Ash Wednesday. I googled for about an hour trying to figure out why they celebrate their Carnival AFTER Lent began, but I came up with NOTHING! Na-Da! (It could have been my use of google translator, but since that is a pretty easy tool to use - I am still going with someone made a really bad calculation last year:)) ANYWAY, if you are Swiss or if you know why Carnival is celebrated "late" PUH-LEAZE let me know! For the record - they even call it Fasnacht (Fasting Eve - as in the night BEFORE fasting would take place - i.e. the day before Ash Wednesday). Okay - so enough about that - I think I rest my case as why I was slightly confused - but hey - it was a GREAT weekend none the less!

So Saturday started out as just an ordinary day. Nathan and I went for a walk. We went to see some Carnival happenings in our little city of Oerlikon. Nice relaxing day. Trouble started when Sarah and Zann called to see if we wanted to go to dinner. Sarah's sister, Susie, and Susie's boyfriend, Jeff, were still in town (these are all the people we skiied with in Gstaad) and wanted to go out. Okay - why not? Sounds fun. While Nathan and I were getting ready we had a glass of wine - but just chill - you know. No pounding or keg stands or anything.

We meet up with the group around 7:30 pm and Zann and Jeff had obviously started early:) They had climbed the Utliberg and drank 2 bottles of wine at the top. And Zann was now carrying the infamous Jansport bag full of beer, wine, and cups (they think of everything:))! Our reservations at The Spaghetti Factory weren't until 8:30 so we decided to roam the streets of Old Town to see if any Carnival happenings were going on. (This is when we took the "before" picture above.) Yes we had a couple drinks during this time, but nothing too crazy.

Then dinner. So I'm not exactly sure what The Spaghetti Factory puts in their drinks, but we all came out WAY WORSE than when we went in! Cool thing though - Zann's friends, Mike and Melana, joined us for dinner. Melana is Brazilian and after dinner we got an invitation for the Rio Carnival next year! Woo Hoo - RIO BABY! I took a picture to commemerate the moment (and for proof if she says she doesn't remember:)!)

We're headed to RIO - BABY!

After that Mike and Melana left and as we were saying our goodbyes I saw this guy out of the corner of my eye.
Hmmm. What. IS. that? Then out of the OTHER corner of my eye I saw this:

HELLO. Where's mine? Phewww. That's better!:)

This guy was a one man traveling band, with enough instruments for an impromptu groove session whereever he went. LOVED. IT. But I think he had enough of us when Jeff got a little TOO crazy on the drums.

Not that I know what he was doing - I was WAAAAAAAAAAAY to busy on the COWBELL, Baby! (Sometime during all that, a guy came and put red noses on all us girls - random - andom, but I liked it!)
So finally the guy with the grass hair took his ball (instruments) and went home. I guess we were too much for him. (And I'm pretty sure none of us were musically inclined at that point. I wish I had a video to hear what the hell it sounded like:))!

We ventured a little further down the Niederdorf and ran into THE BAND. Maybe it was Jeff's conducting (hilarious - the real conductor got a little pissed but the band loved it) or his ballet jumps (other spectators even tried to reenact them) but it was AAAAAWESOME. Good times:)

And yes - that is Jeff's "conducting" hand!:)

Nathan even danced with a Cheetah/Zebra/Tiger thing - who he swears was man - but I think was a woman. His point was - why would you cover up your face if you were a woman? Um - maybe because she was FUGLY? I don't know. It was Carnival. Things that make you go - hmmmm.

We even got more beer. Like we needed it....

At this point we got the brilliant idea to head to Nelson's - an english pub/party place late night off the Bahnhofstrasse. I know we danced. And I found out later that the boys shot Jäger. (maybe that's what lead to Zann being pushed in a carriage above - not sure.)

But around 2 AM we were done. The problem was the trains were too. Well - at least for another hour. Dude - an hour? I need to GO now. You know gooooooooo - I had had like 10 beers at this point. And guess what. The McClean restrooms in the HB were closed. What?! No one needs to pee at 2 am? I would think this would be the one time people WOULD need to use their services. Hell - I had never even thought to use them before! We need to get in - pleaseeeeee! Nope. Okay - only 45 more minutes - I can do this. Then I see this:

Not 100% sure what exactly went down here (I don't think they do either), but Zann and I were then taken to the super secret public worker's bathroom in the HB. I have to say that might be my biggest accomplishment in Zurich yet!:) Not that either of us could ever find it again, but I feel so special:)

Finally I got us home. Yeah - I got us home. It it wasn't for me Nathan would still be riding around on the train "asleep". It was late - he was tired. Uh-huh.

The next day was the actual parade. We were all a little "foggy", but I was bound and determined we were going to see the parade. It was a beautiful sunny day and a great opportunity to be outside. Nathan and I got there early and saved us all a place - in the FRONT row. In hindsight that might have been a bad idea.....

This guy tackled me and then we were rolling around ON THE GROUND - good times:)! Nathan asked if I had been touched inappropriately - um yeah - absolutely!

You have no idea the amount of confetti we found when we got home! It was everywhere - and I mean EVERYWHERE!

But it was good fun:) Someone even took off with Susie

and put her on a float!

The costumes and makeup of all the parade participants were really awesome. Here are a few of my favorite shots:

These guys started the parade - do you know how much those cow bells must have weighed? Yikes!

This was the band from the previous night:) Where's Jeff - does he want to conduct?

The Perchtens welcome spring time. This guy -a Schiachperchten ("ugly Perchts") -represents the dark spirits of wintertime that are supposed to be swept out after the parade.

Finally the parade was over and this is what the streets looked like:

But don't you worry - this is Zurich and I'm SURE it was cleaned up within the hour:)! We also FINALLY got a group shot of all six of us!

L to R - Zann, Sarah, Me, Nathan, Susie, Jeff

All in all - GREAT Weekend in Zurich! I love spontaneous nights out like that:) Did you guys do anything for Carnival? If so - I want to hear!

We miss everyone!
Love you guys,
Here is the link to all the Carnival Pictures.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ski Weekend in Gstaad

The whole month of February is basically Ski Month in Europe (the kids have vacation from school) - so if you want to rent a cute little Ski Chalet in Switzerland we found out you better do it at least a year in advance! Unfortunately, we didn't even know we were going to be living in Switzerland a year ago, so that was a bit of a challenge when we started looking for a place our ski weekend last weekend. We really wanted to go to Zermatt, but after inquiring about a place and finding out it was $65,000 for the week we decided to explore other options:). I say we, but actually our friends Sarah and Zann did all the work (thanks guys!).

They eventually found a cute place in Château-d'Oex about a 20 minute train ride outside Gstaad. The only problem was it was a 4 person condo and we had 6 people. We were desperate though as they had been searching for weeks, so we decided we would bring along sleeping bags and "figure it out" when we got there. (I did feel like a college kid trying to fit too many people at a spring break place but hey - keeps us young - right?) Anyway, when Zann first found the place he asked the owner if it could fit 6, when she said no Zann said okay - we will only have 4 then.:) I'm guessing she found this a little suspicious because Zann spent the next two weeks convincing her it was only 4 including an email the night before we got there! The owner actually lived in England though, so we thought we were safe!

Pan forward to our arrival in Château-d'Oex. (Just so it will make it easier to understand - the place we were staying was a converted hotel into individual condo units. There was a grounds keeper (for lack of a better word), Mia, who lived across the street from the building and checked in every guest.) We were supposed to meet Mia when we got there so she could show us around the place, etc. Since she knew it was only supposed to be 4 - Nathan and Sarah were to stay back at the train station until we called them. However, the process was taking FOREVER and then she decided to stay in her office located right next to the front door to "do some work". It was 9 o'clock on a Friday night - I think she knew we were up to something:) Eventually, Sarah and Nathan were freezing and sick of waiting outside so they decided to try their luck and BAM - right into Mia'a arms! "Are you checking in" "Oh no, we are just visiting friends in room 42." "We don't have a room 42. Who are you meeting?" "Zann Hawkins" "Hmmm, okay" And that was the beginning of a renegade weekend! We spent the rest of the time trying to go downstairs and leave at different times so she wouldn't see us all together!

But the view from our place made all the shenanigans worth it that next morning. This is what we woke up to - so beautiful!

Hello Chateau d'Oex!

The owner of the condo had actually sent us some pretty awesome information on where to rent skis, different places to ski, where to go, etc. And although there was a ski lift right in Château-d'Oex, after reviewing all the slopes, we decided to train to Schönried to ski "Sector 1" which had the largest number of connected slopes.

Gstaad was so beautiful and it was great to be back on the slopes for the first time in more than 2 years! We had a lot of fun skiing "off piste" - off the groomed trail - especially Nathan. There was a few times I didn't think he was going to get back to us:)!

Chillaxin' at lunch
My question is - how the hell did he get over there?
There is nothing flattering about ski clothes so try to focus on the mountains in the back:)
The second day we decided to head up to the Glacier 3000! A completely different skiing experience. It was just blue skies and white snow for what seemed miles. The slopes were wide and smooth -amazing!

After skiing all the slopes at the top, Nathan, Zann, Jeff and I decided to take the black diamond to Reusch. Sarah and her sister decided to take the gondola down - I'm not sure which was a better choice:) It was an amazing run though! We started at the top of the Glacier and skiied all the way back onto the mountain and through the trees - one of the most breathtaking scences I have ever witnessed. I wish I could have taken a picture of the winter wonderland of snow and ice covered trees, but it was at a relatively flat place and I didn't want to lose my momentum!:)

Self portrait right before we took the plunge straight down! The end of the slope is all the way in the distance!

We did it! Yeah!!!
The only bummer part was when on the fourth very steep downhill slope I completely bit it! HARD! Thank god I was wearing a helmet! And although all four of us took a spill at one point or another during our ride down, I was so pissed at myself for this fall because I have NO IDEA how it happened! I was completely taken off guard:( Jeff was skiing right behind me and said he couldn't figure out what happened either! I was fine but I kept asking if my face was bleeding. I kept tasting blood and my face felt wet, but the guys assured me my face was fine. By the time we got to Reusch I looked like a chipmunk on the right side of my face and I finally looked INSIDE my mouth and that was where all the blood was!:( I guess I should have been happy that I still had all my teeth! My favorite "strap a set on" motto might not be such a good idea after age 30:)

The Glacier 3000 will never be the same!

I took this to try to see what I did to my face - the outside didn't look that bad and it hadn't really started swelling - yet!
Monday morning (after getting caught by Mia and Zann getting lectured - good times!) we headed to Gruyère to visit the cheese making facility of La Maison du Gruyère. Yummmmm! We now know more about the making of gruyere cheese than I think we wanted to:) We also visited the cute little town before heading home!
It wasn't so easy to get back to Zurich from their (who knows why) and with all of our stuff it made for an exhausting ride home, but an AMAZING weekend in Gstaad! I highly recommend it if you are in Switzerland!

Now we are off to the Zurich Carnival in Oerlikon - more on that tommorrow!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

We're back in der Schweiz!

After almost 2 months in the states - I am back in Switzerland and a lady of leisure once more:) I forgot how much work it was living in the USA:) I arrived in Zurich last weekend and realized that Nathan and I only have about 3 more months left here! So we HAD to hit the ground running - right? No time like the present! (And for all of you wondering - Nathan was in the states for about 3 weeks with me, and except for almost killing himself swimming in sub zero degree water and losing his wallet on the slopes he didn't do much here while I was gone - therefore no blog:))

I arrived back in Zurich on Friday Jan 22- we chilled on Saturday - then off to Mt. Rigi near Lucerne on Sunday for a day of Sledding and Schneeschuhwandern (Snowshoeing). Side note: If you are ever in Switzerland checkout the SBB Website - you can get pretty good deals on day trips - it is also a good place to check out what Switzerland thinks is worth seeing!
Mt. Kulm was where we started the sledding!

Our death dfying group - Zann, Emily, Sarah, me and Nathan

Let's start with sledding. Very dangerous sport. VERY. DANGEROUS. Seriously - you should need a license to get on one of those things! Or at the least a lesson and a HELMET! But nope - 10 CHF will get you a sled and on your merry way..... to near death experiences! Now don't get me wrong - I love adventure, rushes in adrenaline - hell "Strap a set on" is my favorite saying - but I swear while sledding (on Mt. Rigi) I saw my life flash before my eyes!

Let's start with the "Exciting Sledge Runs" (what they call the trail - not sure where the "g" comes in but whatever). Anyway, Mt. Rigi has 3 runs with the longest being 4.0 km. But let's get back to the word "exciting" - exciting means very narrow runs with steep drop offs and no netting to keep you from going over the side - oh yeah and let's just throw in some moguls for good measure! I wish I had a video of the time Nathan hit a mogul and landed head first in the snow - 15 feet IN FRONT OF his sled!:) I, on the other hand, hit a lady (who had stopped in a very bad spot if you ask me) head on going what felt like 30 mph because I hadn't quite gotten a hang of breaking (fyi - the "snow plow" technique does NOT work:)) I mean - don't get me wrong - it is HILARIOUS to watch and we made out with only slight bruising and one sprained ankle. Soooooo - who wants to go again?:)

Nathan right after he went head first in the snow - can you see the icicles hanging from his hat?

Probably taken right before I hit someone:)

After sledding we did a little snowshoeing - I love how Swiss this picture is so I had to include it:)

The next morning we woke up (very sore) and headed to Milan, Italy. Nathan had to go for work and he asked if I wanted to tag along! Hell yeahs! The trip was from Monday morning to Wednesday evening, so I thought I would check out the sites in Milan, take a day trip to Lake Como, and then of course check out the shopping scene in Milan!

To be honest - there isn't a whole lot to do in Milan site seeing wise. On Monday, I visited the Duomo (the second largest Catholic Cathedral in the World). The Duomo was built in a Gothic style and is breath taking! If you have a chance, climb the stairs to the roof to see all the details up close! Unfortunately, it was a very overcast day so the views weren't that great though.:(

We went back to the Duomo at night with the ABB Team - good looking bunch!:)

Next I decided to just shop! Who can blame a girl - right? I had read in one of my travel books that January and July were the two months where everything was on sale - and they were right! So if you want some good shopping deals go then - you can get a Prada bag for $2500 instead of $5000:)! While shopping, I found one of my favorite ad campaigns EVER! LOVE IT! Not sure if it is in the States but look for it - they have a bunch of other signs that play off this one!

Tuesday - Lake Como! So maybe I am an idiot, not worldly, and from a small town in Georgia, but I thought Italy was supposed to be warm and sunny all the time!:) What was up with the temperature being around 1 degree Celsius the whole time I was there?! And it was a humid cold so it went right through you! BUT I wasn't about to let that ruin my time! I was on a mission to find George Clooney:)! (However, I should have checked with Hollywood b/c he was there for awards season - boooo!) Anyway, I started my day with a boat trip on Lake Como. Everyone else was sitting inside the boat, but going back to the idiot part, I decided to sit in the back - outside. My camera doesn't take very good shots through windows, so I had to take one for the team:) Don't you think my shots from OUTSIDE are great? You can see so much of the lake and scenery from my picture- right?:)

Beautiful Lake Como!:)

I also walked around the cute old town and took the funicular to the top of Brunate, a hill overlooking Como and providing a panoramic view - again probably better thing to do during the summer:)? I did see the sun trying to peak out a little! But I guess I am going to have to go back during the summer!

Dinner on Tuesday night was amazing! Fabrizio from ABB Italy took us to a great local restaurant. The staff didn't speak any English and Fabrizio didn't want to translate the whole menu so he asked us all if we liked seafood. Everyone said yes, so he told the wait staff to "bring it". And boy did the BRING IT!! Salmon, mussels, anchovies, octopus, calamari, and more-yum! And to top it all off - when we were finished and asked them to call us a taxi home the director of the restaurant said he would drive us instead! Now that is service! If only I could remember the name of the place......

Wednesday I toured around Milan again. I wanted to see the painting of The Last Supper, but when I finally found the place, viewings were closed due to some type of department meeting! Totally sucked - except that the temperature had reached 4 degrees and I saw the most delicious looking gelato so I stopped off for a little treat! If you are near this museum find "Chocolate - Milano" - the gelato was amazing! Another highlight was visiting 10 Corso Como - beautiful shop with a great little cafe! Granted I couldn't even afford a paper clip, but it was beautiful!

Where the Last Supper is located...not that I actually got to see it:(

Then the past Sunday we went Ice Skating on Lake Sihl.

Picture of the lake from the bus - it was a really big "rink"!

Nathan nor I had ever ice skated on a real frozen lake (only ice skating rinks) so we were excited! Although the scenery while skating was beautiful - do you think this was bad.....

Water in the middle of the course! Nothing to see here folks - keep moving!

Yeah we thought so too!:) But all the experienced Swiss just skated through so we did too! Don't worry Nate - they have a life preserver waiting about 5 feet from here! I'll save you!

The other thing is - you never know what the weather is going to do in Switzerland. Here are two pictures taken from the exact same place. The first in the morning when we got there and the second around 1 pm... so much for the beautiful scenery:) At least that meant it was time for gluhwein!

around 11 am...

at 1 pm!

So I have finally caught up on our "what we've been doing". The next post will be shorter - I promise!


Links to all the photo albums:
Mt. Rigi Pics , Milan & Lake Como Pics, and Ice Skating on Lake Sihl Pics
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