Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Say "cheese"!

Last week, my sister was in town, and we decided it was time to venture out of Lausanne to see what else Switzerland has to offer (a lot, I know).  We began asking around for suggestions of good day trips, and multiple people recommended Gruyeres.  I assumed the town would have something to do with the delicious cheese we used to splurge on every now and then back in DC when we made fondue, but didn’t know much else about it.  Then a friend mentioned something about chocolate there, too, so it was settled. 

At 10:20am on Saturday, we hopped on the train to Montreux, to change at Montbovon and ultimately arrive at Gruyeres.  The total travel time was 1.5 hours, and the train ride itself was worth the trip.  We got to ride one of the Golden Pass trains with panoramic windows, so we had views of the lakefront in Montreux, then the Alps, and then the charming Swiss countryside.  Literary tidbit – the train passes through Les Avants, which Hemingway gives a nod to in “A Moveable Feast”. 

When we arrived in Gruyeres, we weren’t exactly sure where we were supposed to go.  I’d read that there were lots of restaurants, but we didn’t see much.  We headed for a local-ish looking restaurant a block up from the train station.  It was good, but it turns out we weren’t really in the heart of Gruyeres yet.

After lunch, we realized that we needed to hop on a quick bus ride to get to the “real” Gruyeres.  We could have walked, but it was uphill… a really big hill.  As soon as we got off of the bus we saw why so many people had recommended Gruyeres.  It looked like something straight out of a storybook, complete with a fountain in the town square!

We made our way up to the Castle, which we ultimately decided not to do, because it was unclear whether or not it was stroller-friendly.  We will definitely find a way to do it next time we visit!  We continued on with a little more window shopping, and eventually stopped in one of the chocolate shops to warm up with some hot chocolate and a chocolate-filled crepe. 

About 2 hours later, we decided to head back down towards the Gruyere museum, located directly across from the train station.  The museum only took about 30 minutes to visit, though it was worthwhile.  Apparently the secret to Gruyere cheese is all in the grass! 

Once we finished the museum, we headed back to the train station to catch our 16:58 train.  We got on the train that arrived at 16:58, but then saw that another train was arriving and wondered if that was the train we were supposed to be on.  We jumped up, started grabbing the stroller, coats, and all of the heaps of stuff required when traveling with a baby, and were about to get off of the train... when it started moving… in the opposite direction of the way we needed to be going.

Thanks to iPhones and the internet, we figured out that we could get off in a few stops and change trains to make it back to Lausanne.  Marshmallow had a meeting he had to be back for, so there was a bit of urgency in all this.  Due to some conflicting information about which platform we needed to be on, we almost missed that train.  Basically, we had to run like crazy people up and down some stairs and at some point I was wearing the stroller frame like a messenger bag.  We looked odd, especially to the ever-composed Swiss.

But in the end, we made it home just in time, after a great day trip!

I would highly recommend a visit to Gruyeres, and if you go, here are my tips:
  •          Wait to eat in the village.
  •           Do the walk from the castle down to the church.
  •           Print your return train itinerary.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Only in Switzerland (postal edition)

Last week I had a number of experiences which felt uniquely Swiss, so I thought I'd share.  I suppose I should put out the disclaimer that it is entirely possible that these things do not happen in all of Switzerland, just the city or Canton where we are living.  It is also possible that these things are common across Europe, and I am unaware.  In any case these things brightened my day, and made it very clear that I am not in Kansas (er, DC) anymore!

1.  A letter telling me I have been awarded 80 free trash bags because I had a child.

I have been excited about receiving this letter for months, and was beginning to doubt its existence.  But no, it's real!  It's like getting 160 bucks just for having a baby.  

2.  A letter telling me that I need to "present myself" and pay 30 CHF for my child.

(Can't they just reduce the number of trash bags they're going to give me?)

Seriously.  I even re-typed the letter into Google Translate to make sure I'd understood correctly.  I must go to the Bureau of Foreigners to complete the formality of announcing my child and pay for him.  ??  

3.  A portable traffic light.

It was awesome.  They're doing construction on our street, so rather than having workers stand and conduct traffic, they placed a generator-powered  traffic light there.  What was even more impressive was that people actually heeded the light.  If it were me, and I wasn't used to seeing it there every day, I probably would have just driven right through.  

4.  Closing down the grocery check-out.

Since the grocery stores close so early here, and the one closest to me does not permit strollers (I think), it is not always easy for us to get groceries.  We decided it was best to do one big grocery shop every weekend, so that we have plenty of food to get us through the week.  I think maybe this is not the Swiss way, because the cashier looked alarmed at the amount of groceries we were purchasing.  She closed down the aisle behind us, so that her line would not get too backed up while she rang up all of our things.  She also looked concerned when handing us the receipt, as if our grocery bill was unusually high.  

5.  10 CHF for a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream!!

I try to be a good ex-pat and not compare all of the time (though I am doing a terrible job of this), but man, I thought Ben & Jerry's was expensive in the US.  Wrong.  

I mean, it's delicious, but the fact that people are willing to pay 10 CHF for a tiny ice cream really blows my mind!!

Friday, January 31, 2014

And he's off!

Yet another month has flown by in Lausanne.  It is hard to believe that Little Marshmallow was born 4 weeks ago today.  I hadn’t intended to take such a long pause from blogging, but I guess time flies when you’re raising a newborn.

The other big change that has occurred since I last posted is that Marshmallow has started IMD.  All in all, I would say the first few weeks have gone smoothly. While the work is picking up, at least from the partner perspective, the first month has been less intensive than I expected.  Marshmallow kicked off his school year with two days of orientation, starting precisely a week after Little Marshmallow (LM) was born.  The orientation schedule was fairly relaxed, so Marshmallow was able to come home at a few points throughout the day. 
Big and Little Marshmallow on the way home from orientation

I was also pleased to see that IMD hosted orientation events for partners.  When I saw them on the schedule, I did not think I would be able to attend, since LM was so little, and I was still recovering from surgery.  However, since Marshmallow was able to come home and help me get myself and LM to campus, I was able to attend the first partner orientation event, as well as a partner session with Ralph Boscheck, a long-time professor and the new program director at IMD. 
I really appreciate that IMD made an effort to include partners from the start.  The various orientation events gave me a chance to become familiar with campus, meet some of Marshmallow’s classmates, and even hear from the program leaders themselves about the expectations for the MBAs.  I felt much more a part of the MBA experience after the orientation events. 
I also appreciate that IMD has eased the MBAs into the program.  I would venture to say that it made it a lot easier on us partners!  The first full week of class, Marshmallow was home around 5:30pm every night or at least nearly every night.  He did have one event that went late on a Friday, but this meant that he did not have anything scheduled for Saturday, so we got a full weekend at home with him.  The second week of class things picked up a bit more – he was able to come home most nights, but we saw less of him as he had lots of preparations for class! 
Unfortunately, this week things have really kicked into high gear, and he gets home around 10pm each night.  He’ll also have a late night tonight, and will be gone all day tomorrow for the infamous “outdoor” events that are shrouded in secrecy.  As much as I miss him, I can’t complain because I expected the schedule to be like this from the beginning, so I am very glad to have gotten a few bonus weeks with him.  I have also been pleasantly surprised that he is able to come home for nearly 30 minutes each day during lunch.
I hope that soon his schedule will be more similar to what it was during the first two weeks, but that may be pretty optimistic! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Announcing Little Marshmallow

On January 2nd, Little Marshmallow arrived.  I don't even know what else to say about him, except that he is beautiful and perfect, and makes us happier than we ever could have imagined.  I'm a little busy at the moment learning all kinds of mommy things, and getting to know this precious little boy, but I promise more blog posts soon.  A lot has happened in the last week, and lots more will be happening this coming week, as Marshmallow starts IMD.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A visit to the Olympic Museum

Perhaps Lausanne's biggest claim to fame is that it is the "Capitale Olympique", and home to the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Museum.  The museum has recently reopened after nearly 2 years of renovation and expansion, and admission is currently FREE.  Given this, and the fact that Marcelo is a bit of an Olympic trivia buff, we went to check it out yesterday.  We really enjoyed our visit to the museum, and would highly recommend it to anyone with a day or two to spend in Lausanne. 

I must admit, I came away feeling a bit embarrassed about how little I knew about the Olympics.  Here are ten highlights and tidbits from my visit:
  1. In Ancient Greece, the Olympics were more about the spirit of competition and artistic expression, rather than strictly sport.  I suppose, based on this, I can accept the argument for chess as an Olympic game.  

  2. Hands down, my favorite memorabilia item to see was Jim Craig's signed U.S. hockey jersey and stick from the 1980 USA vs USSR hockey match.  Miracle on Ice, anyone?

  3. While I am certainly familiar with the phrase, I didn't realize that "Faster, Higher, Stronger"was the official Olympic motto, introduced at the 1924 Paris Olympics.  The motto was chosen because Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee, felt that the words "represent a programme of moral beauty".

  4. The sculpture American Athlete, by Rodin is featured at the museum.  Truth be told I missed the sculpture, and only learned that it was there after the fact, but I will definitely be going back to the museum to see this.

  5. Today the Games last for 16 days, though in antiquity they lasted for only 5.  The longest Olympics, held in London in 1908, included both winter and summer games, and lasted for 6 months. 

  6. Tug-of-war used to be an Olympic sport.  

  7. "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.  The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well." - The Olympic Creed   (I dedicate this quote to Marshmallow as he begins his IMD experience!) 

  8. As in Ancient Greece, the Olympic torch is still lit by the sun's rays using a parabolic mirror. 

  9. Figure skating used to entail skating and creating designs in the ice with your skates.  The pretty costumes and white ice skates were not a part of the sport until introduced in the 1930s by Sonja Henie, a Norwegian Olympian and movie star.

  10. And last but not least, seeing the great (and Swiss) Roger Federer's signed racket was another not-to-be-missed item at the museum.