Tag Archives: Switzerland

Too hot to sleep

25 Jun

At the risk of sounding completely British, which I know that I do from time to time, the weather at the moment is just too hot. After this spell of hot weather surely no one in their right mind can deny the existence of climate change. 35 degrees in June. What is the rest of the summer going to be like? Weather like this means that I can’t sleep and me without sleep is not good news for anyone.

I have tried all different strategies. The first, a classic in anyone’s book, was to sleep with the window open. A grand idea until a mosquito woke me up while it was buzzing around my ear at 2 in the morning. Annoyed I trudge out of the bedroom and go to find the insect repellent. That will do the trick. Only it didn’t. I woke up with 5 bites on my right legs and three on my left wrist. I don’t know what was wrong with the rest of my body that the menace decided not to eat the rest of me.

So I can’t sleep with the window open anymore. I now have fans in the bedroom which I have found make no real difference either. They just tend to circulate the warm air around. Plus, they are loud and keep me awake at night.

Two nights ago in utter frustration, I convinced myself that the living room was actually cooler than the bedroom. (This was after a short period of about 3 minutes when I was on the balcony with my bed sheet in the lovely cool evening air. I suddenly realised that if they can bite me 8 times by coming through the window, advertising myself as night-time-alfresco-all-you-can-eat buffet to the insect was probably not the best idea I had even had.) Of course, the living room was no more cool than the bedroom. The heat is affecting my brain and impairing my ability to make sound judgments. I am not sure what my excuse is for the rest of the year.

thermometer-693852__340Being on holiday when the weather is so hot is no problem. In fact, it is the reason why we book holidays. When we have to cope with wearing business dress and going into the office, it is just not fair. I can’t sleep, think straight and I can’t run outside!

This morning was the first time that I have been able to go running outside because the weather had cooled this morning. I got the trainers on quick and got outside before the mercury was pushing towards 30 degrees again, as it was by the early afternoon.

Of course, there are advantages to weather, such as a BBQ every night, not having to remember to pick up the umbrella before leaving the house in the morning and the washing drying in super quick time. On Friday, it was almost dry before I had even hung it out!

It has just turned nine in the evening here and it is still 25 degrees. I am hoping that the combination of the heat and the run from this morning has tired me out and I will drop off effortlessly tonight but I am not holding out too much hope. It is still too hot to sleep…

The Road to Hell…

14 Jun

They say that the Road to Hell is paved with good intentions and if this is true, then I definitely have more than one foot on the cobbled stones. You see it was never my intention to have an extended pause from writing my blog when I got back from holiday. But it happened. It was an accident, an unintentional slip after I had tried so hard to continuing to blog while I was in Asia.

Sometimes when circumstances are difficult we manage to solider on regardless, like when I persevered blogging, without a laptop, but using an app on my iPhone which was made even more infuriating by my fat fingers mis-typing every second word. When things are infinitely easier, we tend to slip up.

I arrived back in Switzerland after my adventure (on reflection, it definitely was an adventure) and was straight back into work mode. It saddens me how easy it was to slip back into the work routine. Get up. Work. German lessons or hockey training (depending on what day it is). Home. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Within a few days and back into the frustration of daily work trivialities, it is easy to forget how big the world is, how many possibilities there are out there and how amazing my experiences on the other side of the world were.

So in the last six weeks that is what I have been up to. It’s nothing very exciting but it is what it is. One of the things that I am terrible about doing, when I get back from holiday, is sorting and organising my photos. I take thousands and thousands of photos. A lot of the time, I take pictures of things that are not even that interesting but I was determined this time to sort them properly and make a picture book so have to look back on. The actual organising of photos took at least 3 days (I did say I take a lot) and in the end I got bored so there are some that are not yet sorted properly.

Making and editing the actual book was like reliving the whole holiday: things I have seen, things I have eaten, things I refused to eat (they have some quirky things that are classed as food in Asia). It already brought back some great memories and as they say a picture paints a thousand words.

I did head to less humid climates in May – Manchester. It was a trip I had planned in October last year with a friend. The reason was the 25th Anniversary Take That tour. Unfortunately, due to circumstances that were all too tragic and well documented. The concert didn’t take place. It made me realise that we are living in a time when violence and terror is now on our doorsteps, whereas just a few years ago was confined to places that we can’t spell or would never ourselves visit.

Nevertheless, I flew back to Manchester because it was time to see friends and family: People who I am separated by distance on a regular basis. Time at home can sometimes be extremely time pressured but it also gives some unexpected surprises, like bumping into my godmother at the supermarket.

The next month will continue to be high paced as a trip to Edinburgh is planned and I have my German exam looming on the horizon at the beginning of July. For those of you who know me this is good enough reason to give me a wide berth until the afternoon of 8th July. Before exam stress levels =off the scale.

Until the panic sets in, I am happy  sit on the balcony, watching the sunset over my little garden while updating my blog. This feeling may not last long. I will enjoy it while it lasts.

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Last few nights before home

1 May

After the Farewell dinner and drinks, I did not get up early on Thursday morning. I got up and transferred to my next hotel in the city, which happened to be the one where I had stayed for the first two nights in Bangkok. I hadn’t planned anything specifically for today because I knew after being on the road for so long I wanted to have time to relax and just do whatever I wanted. Also, from experience, the Farewell drinks on these sorts of trips never finish before midnight so I had already taken that into account.

I spend the day trying to stay cool and doing some shopping. One thing about the shopping centres in Thailand is that they are well air-conditioned and huge. The main shopping centre near to my hotel was Terminal 21 and each floor has a theme. The London themed floor even had a double decker bus parked on it!

The next day was an early start as I had booked to go on a trip to see the Bridge Over the River Kwai. This was a film that my dad had made us watch countless times when we were growing up so it one sense I felt obliged to go and see it. To get there we got into some motorised boats and were given life jackets that would have been useless in an emergency. The scenery en route was lovely and the river itself seemed relatively clean.


If I am brutally honest I was a bit disappointed. For some reason, I had it in my head that it would be a lot bigger than it actually was. The bridge was original but was reconstructed after the allied bombing shattered the bridge.

After the viewing of the bridge, we went to the museum which told the history of the Thailand-Burma railway and what the conditions were like for the POWs who were forced to build the bridge. Again, this was an eye-opener and part of history that I never learnt about in school. Something else to go on the history reading list when I get back home. The facility is also continuing research into the POWs who were detained and forced to build the railway and, if you have a relative who was a POW, you can receive all the details that you have about them for the cost of the print out.

There was also a cemetery to visit where more than 6,000 of the POWs who died are buried. The cemetery is impeccably maintained and even while we were there there were 6 gardeners tending to the lawns and flowers.

We drove for about 40 minutes and then took the Thailand State Railway from Nam Tok to Tha Kilen. The scenery was stunning along the way as we crossed over the Tham Kra Sae Bridge. It was interesting to travel through the countryside and see a bit how local people live. The carriage was nice but even in our “expensive” carriage for tourists who pay slightly more than the locals for nicer seats, it wasn’t so comfortable. The seats were wooden and across the train tracks you could feel every bump and divert along the way.


We transferred back to our hotels. This took longer than expected, partly because it was Friday evening. The Bnagkok traffic really is crazy. It seems that there are more rules in Thailand than in Cambodia or Vietnam but the vast quality of vehicles is mind blowing. It takes so long to get anywhere. The problem is that the public transport, like trains and metros, are not part of the infrastructure in certain parts of the city but as there is no alternative people have to sit in the traffic.

The next and penultimate day I had a bike tour of Old Town Bangkok. It seems crazy to be cycling round in Bangkok in the heat but this was why I had booked onto the morning tour. Luckily, the weather had cooled down a bit and it was a bit cloudy. It was still hot as we were cycling though. The tour was not quite what I expected but in a good way. We cycled along through back streets and residential streets. It reminded me a little bit of the opening credited of Naked Gun. I was disappointed that I didn’t have a Go-Pro because I am sure that it would be interesting to play it back and see the whole tour again. We did get some strange looks when we were cycling around.

I asked our guide why more of the locals didn’t cycle around the city. She explained that Thai people are a bit lazy and that it was dangerous! But not so dangerous that tourists can’t go around the city. I had already checked that the company had comprehensive insurance(!)

On the tour, we saw the hotel where Hangover 2 was filmed, tasted Roti – a sweetened version of the Indian dish, which is served with condensed milk and sugar and bananas, cycled through Chinatown and visited Buddhist, Hindu and Chinese temples. What I didn’t realise is that 60% of Thailand’s population is descended from Chinese and you can see this in the influences on food, religion and in the faces of the people (That sounds a bit racist but that is not how it is intended).

At the Buddhist temple, which was a temple dedicated to friendship and partners, the guide gave us a lotus flower and showed us how to fold it. I can’t remember if I mentioned but on the night Tuk-Tuk tour I previously did, they showed us how to fold the lotus flower but this was a different technique. Being the smart arse that I am I did two different folds on my flowers. We actually went into the temple and left the lotus flowers as an offering to Buddha. I’m not really sure how I felt about this as I’m not a Buddhist but I thought it was a nice touch anyway.

The last stop was to feed turtles at another temple. There were so any turtles it was unbelievable and the greedy things would come straight up to you and eat the lettuce leaves out of your hands. Some of them were big bullies and would literally push the other smaller turtles out of the way. All’s fair in true love and war.

All in all the tour was great: it exceeded my expectations and was a great last thing for me to do in Bangkok. In the afternoon, I wandered around some shopping centres and had a manicure and pedicure which I never do at home and was unbelievably cheap in comparison with what we pay here.

The next morning it was time to pack my bag and head to the airport. At the airport I had a Thai massage. It was more expensive that you could get for it in town but I had Bhat to use up! Thai massage is fully clothed and involves the therapist pressing on pressure points. I was seriously concerned I was being assaulted. It felt so awful and really hurt while she was going it. She was slapping me about and kneeing me in the back while pulling my arms until they cracked. I was convinced that I would have bruises all over me the next day. When she was finished it did actually feel ok and I felt a lot better. The price we pay for relaxation!

I arrived home in Switzerland to a lovely 18 degrees which was great because a few days earlier I had heard it had been snowing and I only had sandals to wear home. My trip had been a lot more than I had expected but I was sure that a night in my own bed was going to be like a dream come true…

A question of Time

26 Mar

Everyone seems to complain about the day when the clocks go forward. One hour less sleep is not a prospect that people look forward to. I am no different. I regularly experience an hour gained or lost when I fly to the UK. For some reason, I find it a lot harder to adjust to one hour than I do when I fly to America, for example, where the time difference is a lot bigger. Perhaps one of the reasons is because you would think that an hour less would make less of an impact than a 6 hour difference. This, I think, is just false hope.

The hardest thing about the large time differences and jet lag is that your body is hungry when it shouldn’t be in the new place that you have arrived in. I did read that the best way to combat this is to fast for 24 hours after you arrive so that your body clock is reset. But who has the patience and the will power to do that?

This method can definitely not be used for a one hour time difference. You just end up having a bit of an early or a late dinner instead. I wasn’t sure if there was a time difference between Switzerland and Norway or not. Through the power of Google I can confirm that there is none. It seems strange that a country so far away has no time difference with here but the UK does. Even more surprising was when I went to South Africa. I expected a horrendous time lag but it’s the same time zone as here in Switzerland. I know that time zones don’t work on how far away one place is away from another but I can fly from here to the southernmost part of Africa and the time is exactly the same.

When I fly to Thailand, the flight leaves early evening and lands in the morning so if I get a good night’s sleep on the plane, then I should (and I really am keeping my fingers crossed) have no problem with the time difference and I will be ready to start exploring straight away.

The question that I always hear, and I have also heard it today, is do the clocks go forward as well in Switzerland? The answer is definitely yes. This is a question I am constantly having to explain to family members. The time difference is always one hour and not two hours in front (when the clock go back in October) or the same time (because the UK has caught up). It’s worrying that after almost 5 years of being in Switzerland that I have to answer the same question twice a year.

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Technology makes the clock changes a little easier for us these days, with devices automatically updating to the correct time. I remember a time when I was at school when someone missed the start of a hockey match because they didn’t realise that the clocks had gone forward. The automatic updates from technology does not prevent the panic that preceeds after waking on the morning of the clocks going forward. I woke up and checked my Fitbit and wondered if it had already been updated. I looked at the clock on the bedside table and the time was the same. I had to get up to check the only “old-fashioned-analog clock” in the kitchen to discover that both the Fitbit and the alarm clock in the bedroom were already updated. It turns out that the alarm clock is also Wifi enabled so it had changed itself.

One good thing about the clocks changing is that there is one less hour in the day. So this makes me feel justified that I haven’t been so productive and my to-do list is the same length as it was yesterday. I will get back to completing it tomorrow when no one will be stealing an hour from me…

Holiday season: Coming Soon!

20 Mar

It is only the middle of March but I’m ready for holiday season to begin. For some reason, this year seems to have been so long already even though it seems to have flown by. It’s a complete contradiction but I think you might know what I mean!

In less than 2 weeks I have a quick trip to Oslo, Norway planned. This will be the last of the Scandinavian countries that I need to visit. I have been to Stockholm and Copenhagen within the last 12 months and I fell in love with them. Although I dream of spending a week or more cruising through the Fjords, I am constrained by time on this occasion but I hope to get a good sense of the atmosphere, culture and food while I’m there. The flights were on offer when I bought them. I saved about 300 Swiss Francs or more on a return trip. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

The following weekend I will have a trip back to the UK. It’s a flying visit as usual. I will be going to see the Grand National for the first time. I’m really excited about this. I have been to a few horse races live (once at Happy Valley in Hong Kong as well as some more local races) but nothing as well-known and spectacular as the Grand National. My choice of dress, shoes and hat have already been made! There will, of course, be a little bit of time to see the family and on Monday morning I fly back to work and my job.

A mere 4 days later (I know, I planned this really well), I jet off to Bangkok, where I spend a few night before flying to Vietnam. In Vietnam I join an organised travel group and make my way through Vietnam and Cambodia until I reach Bangkok. After a few more nights there, I head back to reality. I suspect I will land in Zürich with a large bump!

All of these things have been on my bucket list or things to do list for a long time. It will be great to tick them off and how incredible to do them within a few weeks of one another.

Over the years, traveling has become a passion of mine. So has experiencing new things in general. Before a trip, especially the big Asia trip, I start to get into panic-overload as planning for the trip starts to begin in earnest. The worst part of the whole trip is getting from the airport to the hotel. You arrive in a country miles away from where you started, dazed and confused, and you have to suddenly think about how you are getting to your hotel. It’s at that point when you are vulnerable and people (mainly taxi drivers) lie in wait ready to rip off unsuspecting new arrivals. Before I set off, I will have a clear plan as to my onward journey. Once I am at the hotel and my luggage has been dropped off then the holiday can really begin…

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Curling into the weekend

19 Mar

On Friday evening I went to try curling for the first time. I am not sure if this make me sound really middle class or really Swiss. Possibly it is a subtle mixture of both.

During the Sochi Olympics in 2014, I created an unhealthy obsession for curling. At every opportunity I was sitting down to watch the progress of the GB team, even though I was not sure of the rules. Even now, after playing the game for the evening, I am still not sure of all of the rules. I became so addicted to the Olympics because the GB team did so well and, not being a nation known for winter sports, that I worked from home for a few days so that I could watch the matches, especially as it got nearer to the medal matches.

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Like every sport on TV, the professionals make it look a lot easier than it actually is. I was also surprised with how small the playing pitch is. On the TV it looks like the playing strip goes on and on forever. In reality it is not that long at all.

We were given what I can only describe as a flip-flop to put over our left shoe. The flip-flop was flat on the bottom so this was the foot that you have to use to glide over the ice. Already this evening was turning out to be a lot less glamourous than watching the GB team win medals.

The instructions were given in Swiss German, just to make things even more difficult for me. I always think that I manage to pick up the main information in Swiss German. This evening taught me the hard way that this was not necessarily true. Apparently when you step on the ice, you should always step onto the ice first with the foot without the flip-flop because if you do it the other way round you have no grip on the ice and it is more likely that you will do a Bambi and fall on your backside. This was something that I was very keen to avoid.

We practiced “throwing” the stones for a while which I found difficult. I am a bit unsure on ice anyway and it wasn’t always easy to keep your balance when balancing on one foot that is completely on the floor and other is scrapping along the floor as you slide or at least try to.

You would think that the stone would easily glide across the surface of the ice but the stones are 20kg and if you try to move them without some sort of kinetic energy behind them (getting technical here) then you have no chance to move them. It almost seems as if the stone is stuck to the ice with glue.

The main problem was that it is hard to gauge just how much force is the right amount of force. Most people had the problem that they applied too much speed and the stone just flew off the end. I had the opposite problem – I never seemed to get enough speed on the bloody thing, which meant my teammates had to do a lot of ice-brushing to try to get the stone into play. Nevertheless it was good fun, even though I was on the losing team.

After a hard game, I was ready for dinner. A nice healthy salad, fondue and a not-so-healthy creme schnitte was waiting for us. Overall a great evening and I am already looking forward to the Winter Olympics to watch how the professionals do it.

A Monday evening with a cracking surprise!

9 Mar

This week, on Monday evening to be precise, I became something that I never aspired to be and something that I never thought would be possible when I was living in Switzerland. At around 21.00 when I was finally back at home after a long day at work and my German lesson, I became an earthquake survivor.

Maybe it sounds more dramatic than it was in real life but the earth did move for me and, boy, did I feel it. I had just finished speaking to someone on the phone and decided to curl up on the sofa and get some reading done, when the whole apartment suddenly shook. I would say it was a building equivalent of when a dog comes in from the rain and proceeds to shake itself dry. It was over so quickly that it’s a bit hard to remember what actually happened. I remember the glasses in the cabinet that we have in the cabinet in the corner jangling as they shook back and forth. Then it was quiet. There was no warning that an earthquake was about to come and then there was a sort of deadly quiet; as if it had never happened at all.

At first, I was not sure if I had imagined it all completely and this is one of the reasons that I haven’t blogged about it until now. At the time I was sitting on the sofa thinking, Was that an earthquake or am I going slightly mad? There is only one thing to do in this situation: ask Twitter. Sure enough, there were people asking the same question: #Erdbeben in #Zurich? Earthquake in Zurich? It was a mixture of excitement and relief that other people had felt it too. It was a partial confirmation that I am not utterly gaga yet! It is surely only a matter of time.

After 20 minutes or so, there was already information on Twitter about how strong the earthquake was: 4.7 on the Richter scale. I will round up to 5 because that sounds a bit more impressive. Or do I actually mean dangerous?

Maybe it isn’t so surprising that Switzerland experiences earthquakes. I am no scientist but the formation of the Alps, however long ago that was, must have originated from the movement of tectonic plates under the earth creating pressure which, in turn, created the mountain range. Most of the earthquakes in Switzerland are not so strong that they are felt but in 1356 the city of Basel was completely destroyed by an earthquake. There are plenty of towns in England where an earthquake or some other natural disaster would possibly increase the value of property, so it is a shame that the UK does not sit on active tectonic plates.

All joking aside, it was a terrifying experience. I cannot imagine what it would be like to experience an earthquake greater than 5.0 on the Richter scale. Nor can I imagine how it would be to live in an area where the threat and fear of earthquakes is a part of everyday life. To have you home completely devastated, while you are possibly sitting inside it, is a fear that I am glad I do not have to contemplate on a daily basis. I’m content with the earth moving once in a while so that I can appreciate the force of Mother Nature but please, no structural damage to the apartment or my possessions!cracks-2099531__340