Friday, September 14, 2007

Switzerland, week 2

The second week...

After my first update, I had a dramatic night -- my host madame (who is 77 years old) had a fall, dropping left over plum tart and water all over the floor. Luckily she wasn't hurt badly -- I had a panicked moment in which I realized I didn't actually know the Swiss equivalent to calling 911. So from Monday onwards, I was sure to be more helpful with carrying things to and from the kitchen, and with walking the dog.

Tuesday, after class, I had lunch on my own lakeside -- and then met up with Leslie for an extended walk in the other direction (toward Clarens). We tried to make our way up to this beautiful castle like building, but it didn't seem to be open to the public. Instead, we sat and talked by the lake until my "curfew." For a particularly lackluster dinner of pasta with leftover mushroom sauce, tomatoes, and the everlasting pudding.

Weds. I hurried out after class to get on the Rochers de Naye mountain top train. Which was (of course) beautiful... the train wasn't crowded on the way up, and we climbed above the lake, the hills, through tunnels, past pastures...Ate my lunch of bread, cheese, tomato, and chocolate on the train. We went up past where Leslie and I had walked, so past Caux it was all new territory. Very cold at the top though! And I was wearing shorts and sandals! I explored the top of the hill -- I had a 180 degree view of snowy peaked mountains, with hills and lakes in the foreground. I took a brief walk through the alpine garden, visited the "marmot paradise," soaked in the view (and the bit of sun between fantastic airy clouds), and then hopped on the next train down.

At the peak.

Marmot at lunch.

Back in Montreux, I serendipitously ran into Leslie -- we headed into the mall, and she helped me make the very time consuming decision to buy a blue scarf.

Dinner -- cheese and tomatoes heated (strange?), potatoes, and plums for dessert.

Thursday Leslie and I had our usual lunch on the dock, after I made another incredibly time consuming decision to buy shoes (they were only 20 francs). Then we took the bus to Vevey -- which had a far cuter, quainter downtown than Montreux. We went to the lake, got pictures of the fork sculpture in the water, and then headed into the Alimentarium museum. Best museum ever. Displays on seasonal, cultural foods... food trends from the past to present... the old Nestle boardroom... an interactive area with chocolate and cookie samples... kitchen cooking lesson on making baklava... ate mine out on the picnic table (we made a mess).

Dinner -- risotto and salad, followed by the strangest dessert... it looked like a bowl of spaghetti with whipped cream on top. In actuality, it was a layer of meringue, followed by a layer of what seemed to be cinnamony dough shaped into noodles, and topped with whipped cream. It wasn't particularly tempting. Especially after my baklava and the chocolate samples.

Friday: Final day of school! Thank God. Although it was the most fun activity we'd done so far... "mystery interview guest" game. Leslie and I had our final lakeside lunch... I had my last walk to the chateau... then I bought a ton of chocolate to give to family upon my return... just in time for dinner (fish bake, salad, potatoes, almond cream bread).

Saturday: Chamonix adventure day! I got on the 9:05 to Martigny and then took the Mont Blanc Express. Fantastic ride up... villages, deep gorges, waterfalls, mountains, snow capped ranges. And a crazy Scottish fellow going by the name of Twig livened up the journey -- he was tipsy, and just opening his next bottle of wine. Headed to Annecy to (and I quote) "score some heroin." I had to turn him down on going with and catching dinner together. In Chamonix I wandered through the town, got advice at the tourist office, walked to the Pierre de Ruskin for my picnic lunch, and then took the Petite Balcon Sud trail for views of the mountain. I enjoyed just taking whatever paths looked interesting, turning back when I felt like it, watching the para gliders...

The view from Ruskin's rock.

The prospect from further up the trail.

Then I proceeded to get lost in the process of buying dinner, returning to the train station, and using up my euros. Made it in plenty of time to the train though, which was just as fantastic on the return trip (and quieter). I watched the sunset on the lake back in Montreux, ate some Movepick ice cream...

Sunday: Final day! I had a pastry on the train (after being so delighted to understand the lady at the bakery: c'est tres dificil choisir), and caught the 7:45 train to Interlaken... it was the Goldenpass tour through Gstaad and Zeissimen (sp?), and it was a lovely morning ride up the hillside past Montreux, vineyards, forests, a misty lake (hazy with the sun coming up), and cows. Interlaken reminded me of the Columbia River Gorge. Also: very cold and cloudy. I hopped on the next train toward Bern, on which I met this delightful couple from Atlanta, who gave me some tips. In Bern I visited the tourism office, went to the fine arts museum (yay for a free, clean bathroom, and a cafe). Then I walked through the old town to the bear pit, had my picnic lunch, and turned back... visited an internet cafe, and still had plenty of time to make the next train back to Montreux in time for dinner. Had my last walk by the lake after packing... and was so looking forward to returning home! I had had enough adventures for two weeks.

The return trip meant about 26 hours of travel... the train to Geneva, the flight to London, the 9.5 hour flight to Seattle (watched Becoming Jane, The Hoax, bits of Walk the Line again, most of Waitress...), the series of lines that is customs, the flight to PDX (yay for making an earlier flight! and free wine (again)! and the sunset over Mt. Rainier, St. Helens, Adams, and Hood!), the trip home with Mom and Tim. One thing I'll say for international flights: despite being stuck in the middle seat (damn you, British Airways, and your bizarre seating policies), the in flight entertainment was pretty good, and the food, not bad at all. Cherry tomato and asparagus risotto, and some *good* strawberry cheesecake.

Unfortunately, I think I'm paying for all the traveling with a small cold.

And I *so appreciate* everything that I missed while I was gone. Like my shower. And choosing what to eat. And being able to talk in English and understand signs. And find water fountains. And use cash without worrying about ATM fees.

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