So that lucky wee babe. She had two first birthdays (that she’s not going to remember). One in Switzerland and one in Canada.
The one in Switzerland was held on her actual birthday at Maminou and Papinou’s house in the afternoon. It was considered a “Canadian Dinner” which translates to a potluck (I have no idea why we coined the phrase but I guess it’s probably like French fries.) There were many of our friends and family there. We shared wine, cake, presents and good food. The wee babe did great. It also served as a bit of a going away party for us as it as 2 days before we left the country after being there for 5 months.
To be honest, it was a nice transition because as we said goodbye with a birthday party to one part of our lives, we came back to Canada and said hello to the family and friends we had been missing.
After a couple of weeks, we celebrated again at the Lion’s Hall just down the road from us with another potluck. Colleen had made the wee babe’s first birthday cake (It was only fitting since she made our wedding cake – and she did a fabulous job too by the way). We ate food, cake, opened presents and George snuck a beer (even though there was to be absolutely no alcohol in the building – there’s one in every bunch). And again, the wee babe did great.
After the party, a few of us went back to our house and had some fondue! I was all fondued out but it was nice to see our friends coming together under our house and celebrating with us.
The video captures moments from Switzerland and moments from Canada’s goodbye and hello parties.
And with this post, I think I’ve finally captured all the Swiss stories I wanted before movin’ on back to Canadian soil.
And thanks to Scott Rose for this video clip as well.
I’m really happy to have my tweenager here to guest blog about her experiences in Switzerland and what it’s like for her now that she’s back. Over to you JJ!
My guestblogger: the tweenager
What do you miss about Switzerland and why?
I miss my friends and family in Switzerland most because everyone in Switzerland is so nice and I miss them so much.
Do you think you will ever go back to live and why?
I definitely want to go back but I’m not sure about living there because I missed everyone here so much!
What was one thing that you were dying to see/have/eat from here that they didn’t have there?
Flamencuch, a sort of pizza with heavy cream instead of tomato sauce, onions instead of cheese and bacon instead of pepperoni… yumm!
What’s are some differences between here and there?
Everything in town is within walking distance.
Building style (older, prettier…)
What’s the best memory you have from this 5 month trip and why?
Just being at school every day was so cool for me because of the difference between school systems and peoples personalities.
What’s the worst memory you have and why?
NOTHING WAS BAD WHY WOULD YOU PUT THIS QUESTION?!?!?!
But if I had to answer I would say being away from everyone here.
What do you wish you could have done more of?
Skiing in the Alps! It’s so pretty and fun and SNOWY!!!!!!
Who would you take back with you if you could and why?
If I could take anyone from Canada to Switzerland I would take Phil, my grandpa because he hasn’t had the chance to see Switzerland yet and I hope that one day he will.
If I could take anyone from Switzerland to Canada I would take Anita my BFF there because she’s EPIC and I want her to see my country and city <3
Where was your most favorite place to visit and why?
See question 7.
Where would you recommend people go and why?
See question 7… again.
How do you think this trip changed you?
I’m not sure if it was the trip or just me that changed but I guess my self-confidence and the fact that I feel like I know better who I am.
Did your friends forget about you while you were gone? Were you a stranger to them when you got back?
Well I wouldn’t say a stranger, lets face it, in this age group friendships go in and out and that’s just the way it is, your still trying to find out who your true friends are. Some of my friends weren’t used to me the way I am now for say so it took a while to re-kindle our friendship then there was the friends that just plain didn’t wan to talk to me anymore, the friends who it was like I was never gone and even some people I feel closer to now that I’m back… I guess that everyone reacts a different way to this, I just try and think about what everyone else might be thinking. All I want is that everyone is happy (including myself) even if it means losing some friends along the way because being friends with them doesn’t make me or them happy.
What was your favourite meal?
Fondue or Flamencuch (see question 3.)
Favorite restaurant? PIZZA TAXI=YUMMY
What did you do for your birthday?
I went to PIZZA TAXI with some friends.
How do you feel about being back now that you’ve been back for about 3 months?
I feel really happy and happy to have lots of friends who stayed with despite all my stories about Switzerland… <3 u guys!
Thanks JJ – I really appreciate you answering my questions today. You’re EPIC!
Reflecting… reflecting on leaving that part of my life behind. Not having a house to come back to, to pick up where I left off when I get back there. It’s really the end of one thing which is sad but also thoughtful.
I enjoyed spending the time and watching my wee babe grow and learn everything that she had to learn from 6-12 months. I loved seeing her with her grand parents, aunty, family, friends, etc… She might not remember them soon but they sure will remember her. I’m positive that they will live on in her heart somewhere and there will always be a part of them with her. A familiarity when she sees them next. It was so utterly sad leaving my in-laws house knowing that we were taking her away from them. I couldn’t hold back the tears.
For the tweenager, I always say she had the most beneficial time. Growing her language skills, having to make new friends in a new school system in a foreign language. I’m so proud of her for all that she has done. Thanks to her, we have about 10 songs that are our theme songs for that time in our life so I will always remember that time when I hear them. She has grown up so quickly in the last 6 months and is not the same girl that left on our trip across Canada.
I’m so happy for my hubby to go back home and see his family and friends and show off his new littlest girl. You could see the joy in his face and the skip in his step when he knew he was heading up the mountains to go snowboarding. Who gets to take 6 months off and then head back to a better paying job?
As for me, I loved every minute of it. It was cleansing, rejuvenating, inspiring, fulfilling, motivational and challenging. I would highly recommend anyone to try to live in another country for 4+ months. It’s a lot of work, research and commitment to get there, but it is so absolutely worth it. I miss it dearly and I would be lying if I didn’t say that some days I just want to go back to our little apartment overlooking the lake and the mountains. We have plans though… plans to one day make it back there. Plans to get the wee babe in school over there because there is a lot more $$ in Switzerland for education then there is here. A lot. I keep asking my hubby if we can buy a house over there so we can move back and forth and then it doesn’t seem quite so over when it’s over. We shall see what the future holds for us.
I’ll blog about the airplane trip(s) soon so I won’t get into that, but let’s just say it was about the worst experience on a plane that I’ve ever had. I was worried for the wee babe but I think I should have been more worried then I was. It was a terrible horrible no good very bad thing.
My feelings on coming back. It’s so damn easy to slip back into your life after only 6 months. You just unpack boxes, schedule appointments to get your life back into order, reconnect with friends and family, start working again and voila! You’re back at it.
The wee babe has gone through some changes with a new daycare, being sick, a new language, bad cheese (we are still buying expensive (was cheap) Swiss cheese as she really only likes that compared to the orange crap we have here), a new house, new bed, new time change, more rain than she’s ever seen, and she’s handling it all quite well.
The tweenager has fit right back into school, she’s top notch now in French, and has been building her life here. We spent so much time together that I feel ok with her spreading her wings.
The hubby started up his new job in a new building with new co-workers. Even before we got back, his schooling at Royal Roads had started and he was fully into the swing of school life as soon as we got back. I don’t know how he works all day and then studies all night. Must be because he has such a supportive wife He’s dying to go back too but has to finish school first. We have a 5 year plan.
All in all, things have morphed quite smoothly. People ask me if it was hard to transition back. Not really. The hardest thing is when you know the sun is shining over there and it’s raining here. It’s enough to make you wonder why you live here. I’m not sure who coined the phrase “Best place on Earth” but they might have been smoking something funny at the time.
I miss the friends I made, the family that touched our life, an everything that Switzerland is now to my family.
Writing this has given me closure and has been very therapeutic in feeling like that part of my life is complete.
Before we left I started writing things down about things I would miss. And on the flip side, things I wouldn’t miss. My hubby said “No one’s going to want to read that.” Which got me all self-conscious about what I should and shouldn’t be writing.
I still have that list and until just yesterday I hadn’t looked at it since well before we left. But having reflected on my list now, and after revisiting who the heck this website is for (it’s for me in case you were wondering) I decided even if people think it’s boring as hell, it’s something that I want to remember about our time there.
So here goes – let’s start with the negative and get it out of the way.
Things I WON’T miss:
Having to pay for laundry (and having nasty apartment dwellers to deal with).
The itty bitty kitchen we had.
Squeaky floors. I was almost off my rocker right before I left with all the squeaks that followed me around the apartment. Damn parkay! Coming home and everything was eerily quiet. Heaven.
The sideways shower. So picture this: a regular shower in a bathtub scenario. Usually the shower head is at one end of the tub right? Well, our damn shower head was right in the middle so the water shot out onto the shower curtain. Serious.
Our broken bed. It was an Ikea special I’m sure. I hated everything about it. Hard, flat, bent, squeaky, small – I could go on. We even ended up sleeping in the living room on the pull out bed for the last 2 months cuz the bed was sooooo horrible.
The recycling area. What recycling area? I was so over joyed to get home to our custom holes in the walls.
The stinky fridge – although the stink that came from the fridge came from the good cheap cheese so I actually kinda miss the stinky fridge.
The lame knives. I was begging for my Tupperware knives the whole time I was gone. We even broke a knife they were so tragic.
Smokers. They are E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E. It sure smells a lot nicer here.
The covers on toilet paper. Seriously, why do you need a little cover on a toilet paper roll? You have to lift it up to gain access to the toilet paper square more times than it not being able to have access. And really, if it’s there so it makes it easier to seperate the paper, can’t you just use your hand? Do Europeans that come here think that we are prehistoric cuz we don’t have little toilet paper covers? I don’t get it.
Recycling plastic. As in, they don’t recycle plastic. It took me a while to not want to bring all the plastic home with me as they just throw it in the garbage and I don’t know if you use as much plastic as we do but we would have almost entire garbage bags full of plastic packaging.
Bubbly water. These Swiss don’t drink tap water – it’s only bubbly water for them. So they use a lot of bottle water and spend a ton of $$ on water. From what I understand, bubbly water isn’t even good for you.
Paying with cash. These people’s main currency is currency yet hardly any of them have heard of a credit or debit card. Maybe that’s a good thing actually.
Things I WILL miss:
The stinky fridge. Or more accurately – the stinky cheese.
The glorious view from our apartment. Oh man – I NEVER got sick of those mountains and that glorious lake. Tear.
The heating system. Water radiators that heated up the whole apartment to a nice level, no burns, no dust, you could put your clothes on the to dry or warm up. You could put them on just a little bit or a lot. I liked them.
The shitter – I mean toilet – in a completely separate room from everything else. It’s a small room mind you but then you don’t tie up one whole room while other people are needing it. Completely logical to me.
The windows. Every house/apartment in Switzerland has windows that open from the side and from the top. Ingenious when you just want a little bit of fresh air but don’t want the toddler to escape.
The sun. Where or where is the sun in this country!?!?!?
The proximity to the city and shopping by foot.
L’eglise de St. Martin.
Walking to school in the mornings with the tweenager.
Watching the sun rise over the mountains.
Not having EVER to tip.
Pizza Taxi. I think I just might open a franchise.
The food! Oh my gosh, I’m in love with eating with the seasons. Meals change depending upon what season you’re in. That doesn’t really happen here too much.
Family and friends.
The public transit. Trains are expensive but sure are a good way to go.
The castles. Always a story to be had.
The walks along the lake.
Fondue, raclette, and rosti.
The outdoor markets.
There’s always something happening for you to go and do within walking distance.
Having dinners at the lake.
The cheap cheap GOOD wine.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be able to go and visit this beautiful country for 5 months. The things that irked me are only things that don’t jive with me. None of it is a deal breaker of course. And given the opportunity – I would move back to that sun/snow filled country in a heart beat.
One day after Christmas we drove back out to Valbella to spend time with my husband’s aunt, uncle, cousin, sister, and grandma. It was a snowy wonderland. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that much snow and almost the whole time we were there (5 days) it just kept on snowing. You might remember it as a green Swiss Alp valley. Winter time changes the scenery completely.
We had some wonderful times there.
We put the tweenager into skiing lessons for a day. She did great of course. The only problem is that they don’t really have lessons for someone that age (either young lessons or old person lessons – like me) so we put her in the young peoples lessons which might have been a mistake. She really enjoyed the first half of the day, but the second half was too easy. Check out the video.
One day we walked to Lenzerheidi to get some groceries and we took the lake route which was beautiful. They have a cross country track that goes around the lake so we had many discussions on the two different types of cross country, how hard it is, and how good it is for your body. My hubby’s uncle is a huge fan of it. It was gorgeous walking through the snow covered trees with the sun dipping in and out. We never once used the stroller but instead a sled to pull the wee babe around. She loved it and the fresh mountain air so quite often you would look back and she would be fast asleep. Of course I always worried about frost bite but she was completely fine.
Another day, myself, the wee babe, the tweenager and my aunt-in-law all went for a 2+ hour walk to get some nice coffee and sweets. It was again a gorgeous day but I don’t think I understood the distance we were walking in the snow, and wasn’t as well prepared as I could have been for the wee babe. Regardless, it was a beautiful walk.
While I was walking (and a couple of other days too), my hubby went snowboarding. He had a wonderful time high up on the mountains with his sister one day and his uncle another day.
One of the most memorable moments happened at the spa. But this ain’t no ordinary spa. Oh no. Let me start at the beginning.
My aunt and the tweenager had been to the “spa” and pool the day before. My tweenager wasn’t allowed to go into the spa area as she wasn’t old enough. I thought that was a little weird. Anyway, the next day my sister-in-law asked me if I wanted to go to the spa. “Sure!” I said. A little while later before we left, my aunt-in-law mentioned to me that the spa was a nudie spa. “Ok” I said “but the guys are in their spa and the women in theirs right?” “Nope.” was the response. They go in there together. Eep!
I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. A few thoughts crossed my mind: I for sure wouldn’t know anyone there, if everyone is naked then they won’t all be staring at you cuz everyone is naked, I could wear my bathing suit anyway right (this isn’t allowed by the way), look at this as something that might make you stronger and something that you can say that you did! (you can blog about it!), Oh and maybe the spa will be closed.
The spa wasn’t closed. But first we did some “sport” and did some lengths in the pool where bathing suits were a must. Then we went into the spa area took off our bathing suits right there where the men were passing by. It seemed so strange. I was completely in my head for the first hour or so (maybe even the whole time). Let me paint the picture. So there’s about 7 spas that you can choose from. Hot, moist, dry, warm, etc… When you’re in the spa you sit on your towel, naked. When you’re walking to the next spa you have your towel on. Not so bad I guess. (I’m understanding why you have to be a certain age now though.) They also have a cold pool that you can run into after you’ve been in a hot spa. It’s supposed to increase your heart rate and be good for your health. It’s friggin’ cold let me tell you. My sister-in-law (who had absolutely no problems with all of this by the way) threw herself into a snow bank beside the hot tub just to see what it was like – let’s not forget she was naked right? Oh and one other interesting thing was that there was actually a woman who did wear a bathing suit and she stuck out like a sore thumb! You could see that she was very self conscious. I found that interesting that it worked the opposite way – that being naked you blended.
Anyway, the whole experience was very liberating and I really loved it for exercising my pyschie and just seeing how confident I was in my skin. Let’s not forget here people, that everyone in the spa was all within their ideal BMI. Oh and that some of the spas over looked the ski hill so while you’re sitting there naked, you’re watching people skiing and snowboarding down the hill RIGHT outside the window (they can see you too by the way). Overall, I had a great time there.
Lastly, there was New Year’s night. After putting the wee babe to bed in the play pen in our room and grandma to bed, we drank some wine and then eventually headed outside to play in the snow and watch the fire works. It was great walking around the streets, playing on the toboggan and checking out all the fire works displays. I didn’t get any photos (drat) but we had a very memorable New Year’s night.
We had such a wonderful time with family, the food was as always divine (we had fondue on night – yum!), great wine, beautiful scenery, fun games, fresh air, abundant amounts of glistening snow and memories to last us a life time.
Thanks so much Claudia, Christophe and Nanou for having us up to your beautiful haven. xoxoxo
We did some little out trips during the holiday season. We went to the Montreux Christmas Market (Montreux Noel) and savored some good food, handmade crafts, absinth, and abominable weather.
We also went to Vevey Noel where there was more of the same thing but the wee babe got to sit on Santa’s nap this time around. It was a little anti-climatic.
We travelled with my hubby’s parents, his cousin, her boyfriend and our family to Rocher de Naye to visit Santa once again (where the wee babe was none to impressed) but it was a beautiful train ride up the mountain. I had done this trip once before when it was my staggette although this time we didn’t stay the night.
And lastly, I could hardly believe the sight of snow in our backyard so I absolutely had to film every last second of it (ok I trimmed the video but my hubby was still convinced that people would be falling asleep. Whatev’s! It’s snow man!)
I know, it’s spring now. But I haven’t had a chance to record what our incredible, memorable Christmas season was all about. There was food, new traditions, food, family, food, crafts, presents and more food.
First up: Chirstmas crafts.
Since we didn’t have a lot of money near the end of our trip (isn’t Christmas always the most expensive time of the year?) I decided that I wanted to make crafts for presents. You read how well the cookie episode went, thankfully the wreaths that me and the tweenager made went a lot better then the cookies.
Here are some photos of our “couronnes”.
Then there was Christmas. I gotta give my mother-in-law a big shout out for all the wonderful food she prepared for Christmas eve, Christmas day and boxing day. Honorable mentions go out to my father-in-law, sister-in-law and Luc’s aunt and boyfriend. The following are photos that we took through out those 3 days.
There are many traditions that the Swiss have that I had never heard of. I don’t think I mentioned yet the day of Saint Nickolaus. This falls on the 6th of December. You put your shoes outside so that St. Nick can come by with candies, oranges, peanuts and little treats.
There is also the Couronne de l’advent. This is a wreath that is placed like a plate and four candles are placed on it. The 4 Sundays before Christmas, one candle is lit each week until on the last Sunday all four candles are lit. It’s really quite quaint.
Most people open their gifts on the night of the 24th. And when I say the night, I mean like 11pm! I had to put my Canadian hoof down with the girls… The tweenager would never be able to stay up until then and the wee babe would just cry. I was told that the girls could come down in the morning and open the gifts without us (as we would have opened them all the night before) but for me, Christmas morning is about sitting around the tree with family and watching everyone open presents.
Candles on the Christmas tree. You heard me right. I think I might have mentioned that I was pretty excited to see real candles on the tree. As well, maybe my apprehension that our whole house might come burning down with this tradition. I made sure that the tweenager and I knew where our closest fire exits were in all situations. I would like to tell you that it all went off without a hitch – except when my mother-in-law was bending over to pick up a present, she caught her blouse on fire. She was pretty lucky as her hair wasn’t that far away… We laughed but come on people! Can you say fire hazard? Below is a photo of my mother-in-law with a little corner of her blouse missing.
Oysters… I never would have thought that oysters (in a land locked country) were such a delicacy at Christmas time.
On the last day of our stay in Vevey, the hubby and I had our little apartment all to ourselves. We had shipped the kids off to Maminou and Papinou’s for the night so that him and I could clean the apartment from top to bottom. We also enjoyed one last night (we took advantage of our time together and even had a date night) in Vevey. We looked around for a restaurant that we hadn’t enjoyed yet and walked through the streets reminiscing about memories that we had made together and with our girls.
It was great being able to just take the time to absorb it all and really feel the end of this stage in our lives. It definitely felt like closure for me.
This came after Christmas and New Years but I feel like our stay in Vevey actually ended before the holidays. You see, from the 24th of December to the 2nd of January we didn’t live in Vevey. We were at my in-laws house and in Valbella. So in my mind, we said goodbye to Vevey before we got into the thick of the holidays – even though technically we had our last night there on the 3rd of January.
These photos pay tribute to some of the last memories we had there and the beauty that Vevey and the surrounding mountains have to offer.
One thing I’ve realized in my baking endeavors, is that the Swiss have a much different way of baking.
I’ve been talking with my hubby about what happens here in Switzerland with baking, and what people do is, they buy ready made dough, roll it out, cut it, cook it, and then decorate it. All you Canadian’s out there, does that feel a bit like cheating to you?
I know when Pillsbury came out with their Holiday shaped cookies, we did see a lot of them given as gifts. I think I received a few batches and what I chocked it up to was that it was way easier for kids to bake them. Just unwrap, cut and bake. But let’s be honest. We make cookies from scratch in Canada right? Is it just me and my friends and family or is it everyone out there? When we need to bring something to the bake sale, we don’t make pre-made cookies. When we need to bring something to a potluck, we don’t bring pre-made cookies. But we feel just a little bit ashamed when we bring something to a potluck that we didn’t make… I guess that’s why I always hear “Of course I made it!!” while the sticker from Safeway is plastered all over the the packaging.
Anyway, today I made cheese sticks – home made. They turned out not too poorly. They definitely aren’t like my mom’s: crispy, spicy, crunchy. But I feel good that I finally succeeded in making something edible and pretty.
Pre-made gingerbread peeps (that I'm now too lazy and discouraged to decorate) and home-made cheese sticks
My hubby and I bought pre-made gingerbread and some other type of Swiss cookie that he really likes where you put the icing on BEFORE you cook it. Have you ever heard of such a thing?
The pre-made cookie dough, he cut, and now he's decorating pre-cooking. So I guess there is a bit of work involved
What I’m reminded of during this past few baking-filled days, is the differences between our countries. Something that I had no idea that was a difference, is different. Something that is quite obviously a tradition in Canada (my BFF just sent me a photo today of her annual baking day with her mom and 5 kids. There they are standing in a plethora of baking, proudly displaying their handiwork – I have no idea how they accomplished so much in such a short time and where they are going to put it all!) is just not a tradition here. Or not in the way that I’m used to.
And now a revelation: I feel as though I can’t pass judgement as easily about ‘cheating’ on baking if a whole country does it a different way. It has been a challenge to overcome the lacking ingredients and tools, but it has made me more aware of a totally different way of thinking when it comes to something that is just so ‘normal’ for me.
I’m looking forward to writing a follow up post on Christmas traditions here in Switzerland. I’ll be writing this AFTER Christmas in case there are some other curve balls that come my way (like the pre-made baking).
As I mentioned in my last post, holiday baking in Switzerland is far from easy peasy. Evidently, after talking with my father-in-law, he said that I need to buy quite a few of the things that I’m missing from a specialty shop. A specialty shop? These things are found normally in a grocery store back home. Ok, I understand how it works. Not everything is exactly the same as back home.
Everything looks ok, pre-baking
After baking in oven. Cookies on steroides.
So not only am I challenged in the area of lacking key ingredients, but I also botched up my baking as well. The sugar cookies I tried to make decided to double in size for the first batch and gradually decrease in size each time I put more in the oven. Go figure.
The icing we made, well it was glaze (exactly what I WASN’T looking for) so it was runny for decorating with. AND the stupid food colouring here is so diluted that when you try to put in the red to make red, it turns out pink. Then you add more to try and make it more brighter, but before you know it you’ve added the entire little squeezer bottle of it, the icing is still pink, and to boot, it’s now turned into liquid instead of thickish frosting.
That was the sugar cookies.
"Dontcha wish your cookies look just like these?" Trust me, they taste better than they look.
A close up of the green frosting we made. That's right. Green.
Then I tried Gingerbread men from Martha Stewart. Wowsers, without the true molasses and brown sugar, they didn’t taste half bad, but I got the tweenager and the hubby to try a sample of one, and it didn’t pass the gift giving inspection so there’s not going to be any Gingerbread men in people gifts this year. BUT, good old Martha came through for me and had crafted up this wonderful wreath idea. So I had enough gingerbread peeps to make 2 wreaths. Of course the first one broke immediately (sure, kick me while I’m down) but the second one was an absolute work of art and will become a wonderful gift for one of the hubby’s friend’s or family members this Christmas.
After coming out of the oven. Looks pretty good right?
Annnnnddd... 5 seconds later a gingerbread man mess...
The one gift worthy thing I have to show for hours of baking today.
Tomorrow I tackle Cheese Sticks. God help me. My mother makes these every year, and after checking the ingredients, we have absolutely everything and no substitutions (except for Cheddar Cheese) so I should be all good unless, I absolutely suck at baking. Which is exactly what it’s looking like to me.
Keep in mind, my wonderful idea was to make cute little sugar cookies and cute little gingerbread people with cute little cheese sticks, put them in a cellophane bag, tie them up with a ribbon, put them in fancy Christmas canisters, and give them as gifts – is looking like a thing of the past. My homemade gift giving intentions have come crashing down on me. Time to get real with myself and maybe just buy the cookies from the grocery store, cut, bake, and package.