Friday, March 27, 2009

A short list of things that are noticeably absent from Switzerland

Today is migraine day, apparently, but I still felt like I needed to get a blog out so here you go - a very random list of things that are difficult to find or nonexistent here.

Please note: this post is statement, not complaint... well, except for the parts about Twizzlers and burritos - that's complaint.

* Electric blankets (I did see a heated mattress pad once though)

* Small electric heating pads (the ladies know what I mean) ((nothing here but water bottles...))

* Crock Pots (I found one as a NEW ITEM at an upscale department store... for about 180$)

* Peppermint hard candies

* Cinnamon Candy

* Twizzlers or other non-gummy "red" flavored candy...

* Candy Canes

* Anything that combines peanut butter and chocolate

* Squirrels (I've been told they have some but that they only live in the woods... what kind of squirrel is that??)

* Frozen drinks (I'm sure some place here makes daiquiris and what-not, but we haven't found it)

* "Real" Mexican food... though we did see a place in Bern that we, ever the optimists, want to try

* Restaurants open late night/early morning

*Window screens (and yet we never get bugs indoors anyway, other than the occasional fly, which the kitties make short work of)

* American "cheese"

* Cheddar of various sharpness designations - there's only one kind of cheddar here - "cheddar" and it's white and pretty mild

Of all those things, I think the lack of squirrels and electric blankets surprises me the most.... well, and the lack of peanut butter-chocolate combination... how crazy is that??

Monday, March 16, 2009

Anatomy of a Movie Date

So last night, we boarded a train and headed to Bern to catch an English-language showing of the Watchmen. This post is not going to be about the movie itself, save to say I loved it and was really impressed by how closely it stuck to the graphic novel, which I also love.

No, this post is about going to see a movie here. The movie was not showing in English in Fribourg, so travel to Bern was a must. We got to the theater around 6:45 to buy tickets for the 7:30 showing. Tickets cost 17CHF or a little over $14 each. Mr K grabbed a 16oz bottle of coke and I got a small bag of gummy bears - another 10CHF, though I suppose that's pretty close to concessions prices in the US, too.

The theater itself was tiny - only one screen! Even funnier, when you bought your tickets, you were assigned seating -we were in row 8 and I was in seat 16. The nice thing about theaters here is the seats are huge and cushy and impeccably clean. People don't talk on their phones. No one brought their kids along (which for this movie in particular was an excellent choice.) The movie-going experience was actually pleasant - a far cry from what I remember from the US. With just a couple exceptions, I quit going to movie theaters a few years back when the bad behavior just got to be too much to take. It was nice to go see a movie and actually hear each and every line of dialogue.

Halfway through the movie, there was a short intermission, coupled with an ad imploring us to "Go Eat Some Ice Cream!" - ice cream is the movie treat here. I think this movie is showing with an intermission in the US as well - it's about 2 hours and 45 minutes long. However, intermission is pretty much standard here. We had an intermission when we went to see Wall*E and Mr K says both movies he's been to without me also had intermission.

One last tidbit taken from the ticket: notice at the top, it says "WATCHMEN (E/D/F)"? That means the movie showed in English, but with German and French subtitles. I thought it was really interesting to see subtitles in two different languages at the same top - German on top, French on the bottom.

There you have it - our night at the movies:

26CHF for train fare for two
34CHF for two tickets
+ 10CHF for snacks during the movie.

Ouch, I shouldn't have added that up!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


C'mon - tell me that title made you laugh. Right? No? Hmm.

So, we've been back about a week and I'm finally getting around to the blogging our little minivacation - our trip to the location chosen by a poll right on this here blog - snazzy.

We left on a Saturday, and our flights both there and back were pleasantly uneventful. Both flights were five minutes late, which doesn't count as late at all. We arrived and caught a train to the city (the airport is located quite a bit outside of town) and then a bus from the main station to a stop near our hotel. We checked in, dropped off our luggage, and since it was about eight at night, we went back out to hunt for dinner.

We found a nice looking little restaurant just a couple blocks from the hotel and enjoyed a dinner of sausage and butterbeans for Chris and a plate of local coldcuts and bread and olives for me. We split a pitcher of Sangria de Cava, which was wonderful. At the table next to us, two charmingly cougary women and their gay boyfriend were enjoying a meal of far too much food and talking fondly about various Virginia neighborhoods close to where we lived, so a sangria-laden Mr K had to go introduce himself and figure out how they knew our old home so well - they were flight attendants, previously based out of Dulles Airport.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel to relax and get some sleep.

This turned out to be a great move, as the next day, Sunday, we walked over ten miles of Barcelona sidewalk. On Monday, we walked another seven and a half miles, and on Tuesday eight and a half miles before finally boarding our flight and sinking into airplane seats that have never before felt so comfortable.

We woke up bright and early at quarter to eleven Sunday morning. We began walking towards the more downtown area and eventually ended up at the Barcelona Aquarium. Typically, we keep a pretty lazy pace when on vacation, but this time we had a list of activities from a local and we decided to see and to do. The aquarium was wonderful. In the center of it was a huge tank of sharks and other creepy-swimmies. You stood on a conveyor belt and rode through a tube, surrounded by fish-tank on all sides. The sharks and other funny guys would swim right up against the sides - gills and fins all akimbo.

We had a quick lunch and various snacks as we continued to wander, including some really fabulous gelato. We continued to walk and shop and shop and walk and see things until it got dark, at which point we headed to Montjuïc to see the lights on the fountains, however after twenty minutes wait, no lights and no water, we decided to head back hotelwards. By the time we arrived, we were starving and foot-sore. We solved these problems by ordering room service and soaking our feet in the bathtub until our food arrived.

On Monday we woke up at the break of ten and were out the door by eleven. Our main attraction of the day turned out to be worth the cost of airfare even if we would have seen nothing else: the Sagrada Familia. If you're not in a hurry, please go read the wikipedia page about this place - there's no way I can describe it enough to give you an idea of what it was like. For starters, it's huge - like really, really immense. Second, when they say unfinished, they're not kidding - the interior is packed with construction equipment and workers and noise and sparks. We waited in line for 40 minutes to pay a little bit to squeeze on an elevator with six other people for a ride to the top - once you arrived (150m or so up), the only way down was a really narrow spiral staircase narrow enough that the sleeves of my jacket occasionally brushed the walls as we walked. So far, Mr K has only posted a couple of pictures, but they're really good. I'll try to put a few more up this afternoon.

We had tapas for dinner - tiny burgers and steamed asparagus and tomato bread and a cheese plate and razor thin sliced-then-fried artichoke and almond cake for dessert. On our walk back home, we passed a building whose brightly lit letters proudly claimed it the home of "Mutual Cyclops." We lol'd.

Our flight left Tuesday night, so Tuesday morning we actually woke up at a decent time (8:30 or so) and headed to the train station to throw our luggage in a locker for one final day of exploring. The highlight of Tuesday was the "La Boqueria" covered market. I have never seen so much fresh food packed in one place in my life - as you walked up and down the aisles, the smells constantly changed from dried spices to fresh fruit to briney smelling fish and back again. We grabbed a light lunch from a vegetarian/organic stand in the back - a tortilla wrapped around a spicy paella, a few slices of vegetable tortilla (completed unrelated to a Mexican tortilla...), a pasta salad and fresh greens dressed with a carrot and corn dressing. Wonderful!

We walked around for a few more hours before finally catching our train to the airport. Once there, we checked in, dropped off our bag and headed in search of one last round of snacks. We settled on a couple " regional" sandwiches and, for Mr K, a couple pre-flight beers.

Our uneventful flight dropped us in Geneva around eight in the evening. We rushed to buy train tickets and grab a light dinner from the grocery that was still open. As we were waiting by the tracks, we polished off one bottle of water, so I ran upstairs to the shop to pick up one more. When I got back down to the track, Mr K was standing and looking bemused as a tiny blond who turned out to be something of a local mini-celebrity awkwardly hit on him. She told us briefly about the month she spent in the US, learning English, before the train arrived. She spent the rest of the trip talking loudly on her cell phone - the poor thing was traveling from Geneva to Zurich, where she would pick up her car and drive the last hour home - a trip of at least four hours total. We settled back in our seats, put on our Ipods, and counted the minutes until we got home to our kitties.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Coming soon

We're back from Barcelona and I have some serious blogging to do. However, we're also trying to get all our taxes for TWO countries settled and done, a feat that is taking up all Mr K's non-work hours. Only after taxes are done will he be able to edit and post Barcelona pictures. Once the pictures are ready, I'll blog the whole trip!