Tag Archives: Switzerland

A Day in Ticino

3 Mar

I decided to make the most of the good weather this week and escape to Ticino for a day. From the main station in Zürich it’s about two hours on the train and I was more than happy to spend that time alternating between having my head in the book that I am reading and admiring the stunning landscape that I was passing through.

I was welcomed in Lugano by incredible weather and headed to the Funicular for Monte Bre, one of the mountains near the lake that has exceptional views from the top. I was excited! The weather was so good that my photos from the top were going to be crystal clear and amazing and I was early enough that the place wasn’t already crowded with tourists. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the funicular to go up, it wasn’t working due to renovations. The following day it was going to reopen! Worst luck!

As I have been to Lugano a few times and my main reason to go this time was to go to the top of the mountain, I decided to head back to the station and head to Bellinzona, a place that I have wanted to visit for a long time.

On my arrival, I could see that the streets were decorated and ready for the start of carnival. There was already music playing, loud cheering and people dressed in costumes. The festivities wouldn’t start until after I had taken the train back home but it was good to get a feel of the place and the atmosphere in the warm-up stages.

I had to have a pizza for lunch: I have decided that this is the law when visiting the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. After refueling and getting my daily dose of Vitamin D, I decided to go and visit the three castles in Bellinzona. All of the castles and from different time periods and all are really well preserved. Because it is still winter season, the castles were virtually deserted and it was nice to walk around and enjoy the peace and get some nice photos as well. This did mean, however, that the museums at the castles weren’t open, which was a shame. I also under estimated the distance to walk between the castles. I ended walking over 17km during the whole day. But it was worth it for the views and the little bit of exercise.

I was so pleased that I made this trip, even though at the beginning I was disappointed about not being able to do what I had intended. The weather was great and I managed to get some good photos. Of course, getting to the top of Monte Bre during nice weather is still on my list and I hope to do that sometime later on in the year. I will be checking the transport up there is working first though!

Sightseeing in Vaud

26 Feb

With the weather being so nice for this time of the year, I decided to take some time out last week and head to the French speaking part of Switzerland to do some sightseeing and touristy things.

A friend of mine, Mark, recommended that I go to Chateau Chillon, a medieval castle that lies on the banks of Lake Geneva. I was very surprised to see how well preserved the castle was and there was a special exhibition on at the time about food during the medieval times that was really interesting. The weather was a perfect accompaniment to the trip, as the clear blue skies complimented the white stone walls and the earthy red roof of the castle.

The castle has also been producing wine since 2011, after a long hiatus. The profit from the wine is invested into the maintenance and upkeep of the castle so I decided to buy a bottle. I have no idea what it tastes like as there was no opportunity to “try before you buy”. I guess it will be a nice surprise when I do end up drinking it.

Afterwards, I headed to the Charlie Chaplin museum. I have only become familiar with some Chaplin movies over the past 6 months and I was excited about going to visit the place where he lived for the last 25 years of his life. The house he used to live in now houses a museum dedicated to his life and there is a small film studio that is dedicated to the films that he made.

I must admit that I didn’t like the wax works that were dotted around the place. It seemed like you turned the corner and there was someone staring at you. A few of them gave me a bit of a fright. But the museum overall was great. It was well-thought out, personal and you could get a good impression about what it would be like to live there. There were also displays of costumes from the films as well as the two Oscars he received and from the Writers Guild of America.

I discovered that Chaplin wrote a lot of the music for his films and was a very accomplished musician. I am constantly surprised at how talented some people are; not satisfied with being a successful and mastering one thing, they have to go on and master two or more things.

I also found the statue of Chaplin, which is in a very nice spot in the centre of Vevey overlooking the lake.

In the museum, I found this quote from the man himself:

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And with the weather as glorious as it is at the moment, I am inclined to agree with him.

 

Brexit Boredom

21 Jan

I suspect that I am not the only one who is bored of the ongoing rumblings about Brexit. But living abroad makes it so much harder.

When people find out that I am British, the first thing they ask is what is going to happen with Brexit – as if I somehow have already been briefed about how everything is going to be resolved. I also get greeted with spontaneous outbursts of laughter or wry shakes of the head. It’s all very worrying. What is more worrying is that I can’t even escape the whole sorry affair by watching Swiss or German TV because they are reporting on it as well (in complete disbelief about what’s happening).

Boredom is only one part of my problem though. Since the dreaded vote I have been constantly worrying about what is going to happen to my rights to stay in Switzerland. Although Switzerland isn’t in the EU, it clearly states on my resident’s permit that I was granted the right to live and work in Switzerland because of my EU nationality. It is a lot, lot harder to get a job here if you are a non-EU national.

Would I be packed off on a plane back to Blighty on 30th March by an very apologetic Swiss official? Would I have to do something to prove that I really should stay here, like compete in the next series of Ninja Warrior Switzerland, or prove that I can yodel as well as a native? For these and many other burning questions, I went to a talk for British Nationals living and working in Switzerland which was organised by the British Embassy in Bern.

I was glad I went and not just for the free glass of wine! The talk was really informative and put my mind at easy about a lot of things that I have wondering about. The best news what that the rights that we have accumulated so far will not be taken away from us. It sounds like business as usual and the proposals are due to be ratified by the Swiss Parliament in the next few weeks. So, although the Brexit process for leaving the EU does seem in turmoil, at least the bilateral agreements that will mean my life will have little disruption are almost all sorted. (I know I sound selfish, especially as so many Brits in EU countries are yet to be given guarantees and assurances and for that I am sorry!)

I was surprised about some of the questions that were asked at the event to the panel. People seemed to be more concerned about still being able to go over the border with a Swiss driving licence to go and get cheaper shopping in Germany and which queue we need to get in at passport control after the Brexit date. However, some of the questions, like would British children lose their rights to live in Switzerland if they attended a British university, had a more serious note and had very complex answers. Depending on what residents’ permit you have, depends on how long you can leave the country for before you lose your rights to residency.

I’m glad my life isn’t so complicated and I can carry on as normal (or as normal as can be). However, my boredom for Brexit continues, just as the news reports do every day that no progress has been made and there are more and more arguments over this point or that point. So, please don’t ask me what’s going to happen on 29th March because you will be greeted with a yawn and a disinterested sigh.

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Dinner Party Madness

20 Dec

We are still a few days off from Christmas and I am almost ready for the New Year to be here so I can have a long period of abstinence. From the end of November we have had a lot of dinner parties and meals to keep me full-to-bursting. It is nice to catch up with people over a tasty meal and enjoy winter food that we don’t get to eat for the rest of the year.

Here are some of the festive dinners that we have had over the past few weeks with family and friends.

Raclette

Six of us sat down at the end of November for Raclette. Since moving to Switzerland, cheese raclette has become a firm favourite of mine. And why wouldn’t it? It’s melted cheese with potatoes and meat. This is one of the main reasons why I decided to do my vegan challenge in the summer. I don’t mind cutting out dairy and meat but cheese is really difficult for me to deny myself. We all ate until we had eaten and drunk our own body weights. I was slightly shocked that between the six of us, we managed to drink six bottles of wine plus about eight bottles of beer – and one of us was driving. Needless to say we all had a great time. What was even more great was that we ended up having the leftovers (we always prepare far too much food for guests) the following evening.

Sunday Roast

Two of our friends heading off to go travelling in the next few days. Because we aren’t able to go to their leaving drinks because we will be in the UK, we invited them over on a Sunday to experience a traditional British Sunday Roast. I’m always a bit wary of sharing British classics with other nationalities because literally everyone else in the world thinks that British food is shockingly bad. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my homemade Yorkshire puddings, stuffing balls and gravy were all quickly devoured!

Cooked Ham

Three days after the Sunday Roast two more of our friends came round to enjoy one of the hams that we had won at a shooting competition. It was basically the same as the Sunday Roast but with ham substituted for chicken and no yorkshire puddings. I was surprised by how good the ham was. Sometimes when you win food stuffs at a competition it’s not the best quality but we were all very impressed by it and again there wasn’t anything left at the end of the meal.

Mongolian Pot

My boyfriend always invites some of his former work colleagues to ours for a pre-Christmas dinner. We had mongolian pot which is something that we only eat around Christmas time. It is basically a pot of stock that you cook meat and vegetables in. I like that it is a very social meal. You need to wait for certain things to cook so you can talk, drink and laugh while you are waiting. Theoretically it means that you shouldn’t overeat because you have time to recognise that you are already full. I must admit I am still working on that bit! Also I have no idea why it is called Mongolian Pot but is still extremely popular in Switzerland.

I also made chocolate brownies from a new recipe which turned out far better than I expected!

Fondue

Another tradition for us is choosing our Christmas tree at a local farm and then enjoying Glühwein and Fondue before carrying the tree home. The fondue is so good there. This dish has been another one that I have become very fond of since moving here. I was very sceptical to begin with because I wasn’t so sure that melted cheese and bread actually constitutes a proper meal. But it does fill you up and now it is one of my favourites.

Over Christmas we will definitely be eating Raclette, Fondue and Mongolian Pot at least one more time. Plus we also have invites to a few friend’s houses over the Christmas and New Year season. Now perhaps you can understand why I will be ready for a “detox” in the New Year.

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!

Swiss Trips

30 Sep

The last week has been packed with even more trips around Switzerland. Here is what we got up to:

Regensberg 

We went to visit the Tower at Regensberg, a little village that isn’t that far away from where we live. The views at the top of the tower were spectacular and we were lucky that the weather was nice and dry. I didn’t get too close to the edge of the tower because it was blowing a gale up there. After collecting some conkers from a nearby tree, we had a look around the village and had a drink at a local cafe sat outside in the sunshine.

We then went to Runway 34, which is an airplane-themed restaurant near Zurich airport. There is an old Russian plane inside (which doubles as a cigar-smoking lounge) and most of the seat are old airplane seat. I was really impressed by the food but it was more expensive than I thought it would be – certainly more expensive than what you would pay for something similar in the city. I felt a bit sorry for the waiting staff because their uniforms were what you might expect a cabin crew member to wear but, of course, they never go to fly anywhere. That would be my idea of a nightmare!

Thun and Bern

I have only been to Thun once before and that was about two years ago, so it was nice to show my mum around and explore a few more places. The town itself is a lot bigger than I remember it being. But it still retains a certain charm about it. The place was packed because it was the day of a local festival. I looked it up online and I still can’t work out what it was that they were meant to be celebrating. This meant that the streets were full of people with instruments and people dressed in traditional costume. It was a nice atmosphere and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

We stopped off at an Irish pub and had a drink and some chips. I have to say that they were the best chips that I have ever eaten while I have been living in Switzerland. They weren’t the thin types of chips that are normally served here and they had sprinklings of rosemary on them which made them extra special.

As we had to come back through Bern to get back to Zurich, we decided to stop off there for a few hours. We had hoped to go inside the parliament building but as Parliament was in session it wasn’t possible. We still enjoyed a walk round a large market and a hot chocolate in a great cafe that we went time last time we were there.

Jucker Farm

It is now pumpkin season and I have been meaning to visit Jucker Farm for as long as I can remember. I thought it would be something different to see and do. There were huge pumpkin exhibitions which were so creative. I have no idea how you would even begin building one of these structures, so hats off to the people who made them. I never knew that there were so many different types and colours of pumpkin. It felt like autumn had arrived, even though the sun was shining.

Of course, we sampled some of the goods at the farm restaurant and I bought a pumpkin to bring home. I want to make a pumpkin soup and maybe a pumpkin pie as well so I will have to look up some recipes in the next week. The pumpkin was only 2.5kg but I have a feeling that it will make quite a few dishes so I will need to make sure that we have some space in the freezer for things I make.

Day Tripping

23 Sep

My blog has taken a backseat for the past week but for a very good reason. My mum has come to stay for two weeks, which means that we have been busy doing some day trips in and around Switzerland. Unfortunately, this means that I haven’t had a lot of time to do any writing.

I really enjoying having people to come and stay because I get to go out and visit places. Even if I have been there before, the day is always different and I possibly wouldn’t make a This is what we have been up to over the past week in Switzerland and the surrounding areas.

Schwarzwald (Black Forest), Germany

As we live close to the border, we decided to drive to the Black Forest in Germany. It only took about 45 minutes in the car and we visited Tannenmühle. There is a huge trout farm there and we were able to sample some of the fresh produce in the hotel restaurant. I don’ often eat fish but it was worth it to eat there knowing that the fish were freshly caught. There are also a lot of attractions for children, such as a petting zoo, a big playground and a water playground. I was tempted to sit there a play in the sand myself but I was advised not to by my fellow day-trippers.

After a look around the gift shop and a short walk, we continued our journey to Rothaus brewery, which is the largest brewery in the region. We didn’t go on the free brewery tour because we have been on so many brewery tours before and they all tell you the same process of how the beer is made. Instead we sampled some of the beer at the bar and bought some beer to take home with us.

Konstanz, Germany

We took the train to Konstanz, Germany for some retail therapy. Quite of a lot of the shopping just over the border is cheaper than it is in Switzerland. I rarely go to Germany to get shopping because of the time involved it takes to get there and back but it has come to be a bit of a tradition to go there when my mum comes to visit. The weather wasn’t so great in the morning and it was really misty but the weather soon perked up so that we could sit outside and have something to eat and drink in the sunshine.

Mount Rigi, Switzerland

I have been to Rigi about five or six times since moving to Switzerland and it is one of my favourite places. The last time I visited I went with my friend, Jenny, who was visiting in January. The weather then was cold, icy, snowy and with poor visibility until we finally got to the top of the mountain and the weather cleared completely for 40 minutes. The weather this time couldn’t have been more different. The skies were completely clear, there was no snow and we were treated to beautiful views of the surrounding areas.

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After a hot chocolate at the restaurant at the top of the mountain, we headed down to Weggis on the train and on the cable car and then took the boat back to Luzern. We had a walk round Luzern and did a bit of shopping and then headed back to Zurich on the train.

We haven’t yet made a plan of where we are going to visit in the upcoming week but we are not lacking for choices. I have a huge list of places  that I want to visit again or for the first time. I will, of course, let you know what we get up to!