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Weekend wanderings

2 Dec

This weekend is the first weekend I have spent in Zurich since the middle of November. We have been to visit the UK twice so things have been a bit hectic travelling from one place to another. This is the reason why I have been neglecting my blog in recent weeks but that means that I do have some things to write about!

London (South)

Late November is my annual trip to London to see the ATP World Tennis Finals. I managed to get tickets in the pre-sale this year so the overall cost of the trip was a lot less than in previous years. I was disappointed that Roger Federer didn’t make it to the final but we were treated to a fantastic match.

We also did some Christmas shopping. Even though it was the middle of November, London was very Christmas-sy and you could easily mistake the time of year for being a week before Christmas.

We also got caught up in a protest against Brexit which was going down Regents Street. It did remind me of the time that we spent earlier this year in South America where there seems to be an aggressive protest about everything all of the time.

We also managed to catch up with some of my friends that I have known from my university times. We don’t get together so often but it is always nice to catch up with them.

Manchester (North)

The following weekend we headed north to visit my family and to go to the wedding of one of my good friend who I met a long time ago playing hockey. The weather was overcast but the actual ceremony, reception and evening do was excellent. I was surprised by how good the food was because at some weddings it can be a bit ropey. It was my boyfriend’s first experience of an English wedding. Weddings in Switzerland and very different to weddings at home. For one thing, there is a lot more drinking. However, we both enjoyed it immensely. I also got to catch up with some friends that I haven’t seen in a long time.

I got to spend some time with my niece and nephew. I cannot tell you how much colouring in I did or how many times I read the same story book over and over again. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Now we will be spending the next few weekends preparing for Christmas. We need to buy a tree, finish getting presents and do the shopping for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I’m glad we had a few weekends away to relax and enjoy some time together before we start to get busy in December.

Rip offs

15 Nov

I’m a lover of a good bargain and I really hate the feeling when I realise that I have been ripped off. It’s not a nice feeling to feel like you’ve been conned. However, rip offs don’t always lurch unassuming in the background waiting to pounce on you unannounced as I found out today.

I was wandering around a well-known bookshop to pass some time before I was meeting someone for lunch. Books in themselves are rip offs in Switzerland. I personally find the prices of new books far too expensive which is a huge sadness for me because it means that a) trips to bookshops are not a weekly occurrence and b) I have to restrain myself when I do visit.  My restraint and discipline not to blow a week’s wages on a stack of new books is not always exemplary.

In this particular bookshop, I remembered that they also have a section on the top floor where they sell a range of British and American food products. It is cleverly situated next to the small “English” section so that the target market of British and American expats can’t fail to walk past it on the way to paying for their pricey purchases.

They already have the mince pies out which I think it still a bit early but the thing that caught my eye was this…

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Yes, you are reading it right. The Yorkshire Tea, which clearly has £3.29 stamped on the box in yellow, is being sold for 10.90 CHF. For those of you not up to date with the current exchange rates that is the equivalent of £8.50. No wonder people complain about the prices in Switzerland being expensive.

I am seriously considering going back tomorrow with £3.29 in British money and demanding to pay with GBP rather than CHF. I understand that these tea bags were imported and the shop does need to make a profit but that is even a bit too extreme for me.

The good thing about dodging this rip off is that it has reminded me that I need to buy some tea bags when I am back in the UK this weekend. I’m actually considering bringing back a suitcase full just to make sure that I am safe from rip offs for a while!

Autumn Days

12 Nov

The clocks have changed and it is dark all of the time – welcome to Autumn! I can’t remember the mornings being this cold and grim last year. I’m not sure if this observation means that I am officially old because I can’t remember 12 months ago. The rich autumn colours on the trees make the daylight hours bearable but I am still struggling to get used to darkness in the early afternoon.

Speaking of struggling, I have been struggling with a cold for the past ten days. I woke up with a bit of a sore throat which developed into a streaming cold, a bit of fever and a general feeling of complete crap-ness. This was awful timing as it was in the run up to my last week of revision for my exam. I didn’t get done half of the work that I wanted to do but I had already resigned myself to the fact that I couldn’t possibly learn any more with a brain and body that was aching from my flu-like systems, so I resigned myself to my fate and concentrated on getting myself better. The exam itself turned out to be ok but considering how poorly I was feeling a few days before, I am just glad that I was able to sit the exam in relatively good health.

The problem with the nights drawing in and the temperatures plummeting is that there is a huge temptation to stay indoors and not be particularly active. Yesterday, however, the afternoon was quite bright and sunny so we decided to go for a short walk to the local farm shop to buy some fresh vegetables for dinner.

I was quite surprised by how many people were outside enjoying the afternoon, either on foot, jogging or on a bike. Perhaps we are all subconsciously making the most of it before the snow arrives.

On our walk we bumped into some very inquisitive cows who were also enjoying the last of the mild weather before they, like us, are kept inside in the warmth for the winter.

Short term memory and luck

3 Nov

One week from now (depending on when you are reading this), I will be sitting in an exam hall in Switzerland tearing my hair out while trying to pass my German exam. When I entered the exam, I made the mistake of thinking that I have all the time in the world to study for it. But time goes by so quickly that I don’t feel like I have had time to think let alone study for it between then and now.

I am all to aware that there is not so much time left and I am in that awkward place that everyone finds themselves in just before taking an exam. I feel like there is not a lot more that I can learn in the next week that will mean the difference between a pass or fail and I just want the whole thing to be over. I am sure that there is a language that has a word that describes this feeling but we don’t have an english translation for it. If anyone is aware of such a word then please get in contact with me to let me know what it is.

Perhaps it is a mistake though to have this feeling. When I took an exam about two years ago, I also found myself in this place. I was ready to give up learning until someone convinced me that I would be able to learn a lot in a week. I didn’t really believe her but carried on studying for a week. It turned out in the exam that a few of the words that I had learnt in the last fews days came up in the exam. That ended up being the difference between a pass or fail.

So now maybe I am in another place. I am in a place where I am relying heavily on my short term memory and a big, fat slice of luck landing on my desk in a week. We all need a bit of luck but a last little push to help me over the finish line is probably just as advisable.

Does it matter if I don’t pass this exam? Essentially no. I am doing it to help my chances in the job market but mainly for my own satisfaction and to prove to people that you can learn new things, even languages, when you are over the age of 30. However, I want to finally draw a line under this so that I can move on to learn more things that people advise you not to do when you are over a certain age. Plus I am not sure that I can physically prepare myself for resitting exams in January.

So please think about and pray for my short term memory in this last week of preparations. Failing that, please send me a big, fat slice of luck!img_2870

Things I’ve learnt in October

1 Nov

I have been a bit quiet of late but that’s because I’m studying like a woman possessed for my German exam that is fast approaching. Therefore, most of the things that I have learnt this month do have a strong connection to German grammar but there have also been a few things not language related.

1. Reading books in German can be fun. I love reading. If I could get paid for each book I read I would be laughing all the ways to the bank. However, reading in another language takes longer and requires looking up words to make sure you have got the meaning. Up until recently I’ve come up with so many reasons NOT to read books in German. With the exam approaching, I broke off from reading English books to try reading German ones instead. It seems I must have been choosing the wrong ones to read. The last two books I’ve read have been really funny and I’ve enjoyed them. I know what you thinking: German literature that’s funny? I am as surprised as you are!

2. I can talk in a professional setting in German. Talking about what the weather is like and what you want to eat are relatively easy but talking with potential employers is something that I have avoided thus far. I was recently thrust out of my comfort zone and had to introduce myself in professional surroundings. I don’t know how I managed it but I did. And it wasn’t half as scary as I thought it would be!

3. There is not a lot about wine from the Bordeaux wine region that I don’t know. As we spent a week in the south of France, we ending up learning a lot about wine. Not just about if it tastes good or bad but the history, the production and the varieties of wine. It was great to learn more. Did you know, for instance, that the first wine bottle was opened in Bordeaux in the 1800s by an Irishman called Mitchell? Well, now you do!

4. Convincing yourself to do exercise is harder than actually doing it. As my knee is now better, I have been trying to make up for lost time. Last week I did some form of sport (either running or cycling) for six out of seven days. The first few days I did it was I dreading it and putting it off for as long as possible but a few days in and I was looking forward to getting outside in the fresh air.

5. Filing a Swiss tax return isn’t as difficult as I thought. The deadline for tax returns is the end of March but as we were travelling, we extended our deadline until the end of October. It seems like there is a lot of paperwork and things that you need to fill in and send off but all in all it’s not too complicated. I’m still glad that I only have to do it once a year.

So, that was October… and November has already started. I hope you learnt some interesting things in October too

Full recovery

23 Oct

After almost six months, one MRI scan and too many physiotherapy sessions to count, my knee is finally healed. What started off as an innocuous trip which affected my knee when I was out running in March has taken a lot of time and effort to put it right.

I don’t want to sound like I am complaining (but I probably will sound like I am) but it does feel strange to have be able to walk and run and not have any pain in my right knee. It is scary how quickly you get used to pain and how it becomes a part of your life on a daily basis.

Perhaps part of my long recovery was my fault. I should have gone straight to a doctor or a medical professional when my knee started hurting. Instead I “rested” for a while and then carried on. In future, I will just go straight to a doctor. The longer recovery time is not worth it.

I found the whole of the summer to be completely frustrating. The weather has been great and I had the target of getting myself fit again this year. But that just hasn’t been possible. It’s been a pain (literally and metaphorically) not to be able to be exercise as much as I wanted to. And then there was the heart-sinking moment, when the doctor told me it was time to have an MRI and then operations were talked about. I can’t imagine being on crutches and going through an even tougher rehabilitation process.

Now it is autumn (and now I am going to sound like I am complaining again…) and the weather is starting to turn colder and I know that my time is limited for runs and bike rides outside. It seems to be one frustration after another. I am almost 90% sure that I have decided to buy a season swimming ticket so I can improve my fitness over the winter and strengthen my knee even more without putting strain on it.

I was hoping to complete an ultra marathon in 2019 but I think that will have to be put back to 2020 now. I don’t want to push myself too far and injure myself again. The cycle of frustration needs to stop!

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Tour de France

21 Oct

I’ve just got back from a week’s holiday in France. I don’t think I have ever been on holiday to another country by car so this was a bit different because we drove 1’000 kilometers to Bordeaux. The main reason was because we wanted to bring back some wine and that isn’t possible when you fly. It also gave us the opportunity to stop off in a few places on the way back.

Here is a bit of what we did while we were away:

Bordeaux

I went to Bordeaux last year and one of the conditions of going back there was that I could go back to eat crab at Le Crab Marteau. Dinner is basically a huge crab served with potatoes and sauces. Delicious! The couple on the table next to us were also British but she obviously hadn’t come face-to-face with a crab before eating it and actually hid the crab under a napkin so that she didn’t have to look at it!

We went to the Dune du Pilat, the biggest sand dunes in Europe. This was an incredible place to go to. The sand dunes are huge and great fun to climb up. It did start to rain a bit while we were up at the top and I can imagine getting caught up there in the rain wouldn’t be a great idea.

We visited Le Cité du Vin which I hadn’t been to before. It’s a museum about the history of wine and has lots of interactive exhibits and information about the importance of wine in French culture. A free wine tasting was also included in the price.

We also visited Musée du Vin which had exhibits about the history of wine in Bordeaux and information about how bottles are corked and how wine barrels are made. There was also a tasting at the end and we were able to learn more about how the wines in the Bordeaux area differ in taste.

St Emillion

We stopped at this small village for a day. I found the whole place fascinating. We took a tour of the underground church and learn so much about the origin of the place and who Saint Emillion was. Of course, the village only really exists today because of the wine industry and it isn’t uncommon to see buses full of tourists arriving each hour before rushing onto the next place. I might write another blog about St Emillion in the near future because I enjoyed it so much.

Lyon

We only had a bit of time in Lyon. It was a shame because there are lots of things to see here. Our time in Lyon was mainly to break up the journey on the way back. However, we did get to see the Roman ruins and to the Basilica at Fourviére which is spectacular. You never need to worry about going hungry in Lyon as there are restaurants on literally every corner. Once again the weather was kind to us and we could enjoy a long walk along the side of the river.

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Burgundy

We spent two nights staying at a chateaux in Burgundy. It was a great location to be based to visit some other towns. The village of Beaune was only a 20 minute drive and we visited Hotel-Dieu, a Medieval hosptial that was sent up help the sick and dying by a wealthy couple and was in use until the 1980s to look after the elderly. The ticket for this museum was also valid for entry into the Musée du Vin, which was another museum about wine.

We also had some time to visit a mustard factory. The Edmund Fallot museum still uses traditional methods to make their mustard and the tour was interesting. We could also taste some of the various mustards (curry mustard anyone?) that they produce and we got a few free samples to take home with us.

Staying with the mustard theme, we drove the next day to Dijon. By this time, we had seen enough wine degustations and mustard shops! They have a owl trail that you can follow around the city and see the main sights. So, we did that before heading to a wine expo that we had been invited to by the owner of the chateaux that we had been staying. All of the sellers at the wine fair were small, independent people and it was interesting to see how many different wines were produced in the region that we had been staying in.

All in all, a very successful trip. I personally learnt a lot about wine and mustard. It was nice to have a small break from reality and to be able to try some new wines and foods along the way.