All Across the Land

SWITZERLAND

Laax

Lac Neuchâtel

Sierre

Photo courtesy of Adam

Zermatt

Etzel

Rhine Falls

Zürich

My Village

Not Pictured: Basel, Einsiedeln, Luzern, Rapperswil

ITALY

Pidemont

Milan

Como

Cinque Terre

SPAIN

Granada

Not Pictured: Cadíz, Madrid, Seville

ENGLAND

Manchester

Cambridge

 

IRELAND

Dublin

Belfast

Not Pictured: Galway

 

SCOTLAND

Edinburgh

 

PORTUGAL

Lisbon

 

Photo Courtesy of Adam

Porches

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

 

GERMANY

Munich

 

TURKEY

Istanbul

 

FRANCE

Paris

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

 

AUSTRIA

Vienna

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

There it is. Ten countries in eleven months. At least thirty cities within those countries. I may have had some really tough days in there, when I seriously questioned the sanity in choosing this job, but in the end, it was worth it. Absolutely, one hundred percent. Look at all I’ve done.

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The Longest Week of All Time

Alas, Courtney has returned to the motherland. Last week was one of the best I’ve had all year. It was so great to see her and spend time showing her things I love about living in der Schweiz. Plus, we had an amazing trip to Istanbul to visit Jill, which was icing on the cake. I will get to all this fun stuff in due time, but first I will fill you in on my time in Italy with the family.

View from the house with the early morning fog.

The ten days I spent in the northern region of our southern neighbor were, hands down, the longest of 2010. Not only did I simply not want to be there, I was looking forward to the following week with a religious zeal. Therefore, the days crept by painfully slow and I found myself performing the role of sullen, angst-ridden teen, a role which I never even played when I was a teenager. I know I could have been more social or perhaps even remotely positive, but in all honesty, it was just too darn hard.

A typical day: I would hear the little angels rouse at approximately 6:15 a.m. and be shooed back to bed by the grandpa until at least 7:00. I would roll out of my horrible excuse for a bed (sheet rock is a more accurate description) around 7:30 and slowly shuffle downstairs. I would putz around, follow the kids, or sit in one of the big leather chairs, staring off into space until we were called to the tisch for breakfast. At this point, the grandma would come downstairs and discuss the most recently broken antique or rare piece of porcealan. The children would be scolded for playing with ancient artifacts and reminded that they could be doing much more fun things around the house (it went without saying that I was responsible for coming up with such activities). After a lengthy morning meal, the kids would brush their teeth and I would clean myself up and prepare for the day. Then, we would head down with the grandpa to the chickens and geese, where we would stay, feeding and harassing the animals, for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. The rest of the morning would be filled with a variety of activities: coloring and playing drawing games, hide-and-seek, playing “restaurant”, reading, memory games. Other stimulating activities included: chasing cats, screaming and slamming doors, poking geese with long sticks or ski poles, covering each other in mud, and of course, breaking things. After a cardiac-arrest-inducing lunch, which often included me eating my feelings covered in cream sauce, the kids would go down for a much needed nap. For the first hour of this nap Taz and Rapunzel would usually giggle and yell at each other or play pretend games from between their beds. The second hour was usually more peaceful and consisted of actual rest.

 

The kiddos feeding the hens in the morning.

 

 

I could take pitcure of this little sweet spirit all day.

 

All this doesn’t necessarily matter because by this point I was free. I could do as I pleased. My afternoons were a mix of yoga, going for walk/run/explores, reading, and studying for the GRE. I spent a significant amount of time in my room, away from everyone. This is when I was an especially moody 15 year-old. I usually surfaced around the time for an aperitif– a glass of wine and a snack. Then it was time for another 7,000 calorie meal. Blessedly, it was then bedtime for the wee ones and I could spend a few more hours narrowing my eyes at book pages. I love to read, obviously, but even 5 hours a day can get a bit much for the avid reader. I wish I would have brought my computer so I could have watched movies or at least scrolled through old pictures, something to break up the monotony of the day.

 

Vineayard View--taken on one of my afternoon walks.

 

I wish I could be more positive about the experience. I was in one of the most beautiful regions of the country and spent a disproportionately large amount of time scowling. From my window I could see miles and miles of vineyards and rolling hills, and yet I found myself unnecessarily sassy and short with people. By the end of the trip I was just shy of being completely mono-syllabic with responses; I was, pure and simple, ready to get the heck out of there.

 

View from my window with almost-daily morning fog.

 

 

My little room (read: solitary retreat) in the house.

 

It didn’t help that the mom wanted little to nothing to do with her family (the dad had to stay at home and work until the end of the second week). She commented that she wanted to get a lot of “work done” while there. Thought-provoking activities I heard about or saw included, but were not limited to: watching “Confessions of a Shopaholic” on DVD, reading the new Mini Shopaholic book, listening to books on tape, playing solitaire on her iPad. To be fair, I did see her tap away at her computer. But I wish she would have been honest with me. I think she could have said, “I want to relax in the morning and just have some time to myself.” Rather, she had to put a pretense of doing work, thus leaving me in the dark as to what she was actually doing, and in turn making me feel like one of her (dare I say, neglected) children. At one point we were talking about a neighbor-friend who just got a dog. The mom was relating that this woman was feeling overwhelmed by taking care of the dog. I agreed, saying, “Yes, some people forget that having a dog is just like another member of the family. They can be a lot of work.” She counters with, “Of course she can always get someone to take care of it.” I looked her back in the eyes and said, “Sure, but what’s the point of getting a dog if you’re just going to hire someone to care for it?” This is her clear solution for her children– hire someone to play with them, read with them, teach them, raise them.

Often, what I find is that I am a luxury for this family, a showpiece. It gets quite old to feel unnecessary. These children want to spend time with their parents. It’s plainly obvious when spending any amount of time with them, and it makes me sad.

One very cool thing I was able to do was help harvest grapes. As I said, the grandparents live on a vineyard and make their own wine. They also sell some of their grapes to a local cantina. The kids and I were able to help them cut grapes off the vine and collect them in baskets. It was sehr cool to be a part of that process. As I mentioned, I also saw beautiful landscape and was able to spend hours in the afternoon exploring. I’m grateful for the experience of spending time in such a gorgeous location, but I am happy that this was the last time out there for me.

 

The grapes just before harvesting.

 

 

Vines

 

On the Road Again

I’m on my way back to Italy with the family, we leave in T-minus 1.5 hours. We are once again headed to the Dad’s parent’s home in the northern part of the country. The house is cozily situated on a vineyard, surrounded by hundreds of others–literally. When I walked up to the neighboring town last time I was afforded a spectacular view and all I could see in the near vicinity were grapes. Far, far off in the distance you can see the Italian Alps. It truly is other-worldly.

Now that I know what to expect while we’re there I think I will be able to enjoy myself. The weather should be warmer than here and we will have plenty of outdoor time. It feels a bit like falling off the face of the earth as my contact with others sharply diminishes. Everything slows down considerably and there’s a significant amount of “downtime.” The family will stay there for the next two weeks, while I will leave after 9 days. It’s a long time with them. They’re nice people, of course. But being on a family holiday when you’re not actually a member of the family is an awkward experience (image: me sitting and watching the kids play with their grandparents and generally feeling uncomfortable for intruding). A case of cabin fever is imminent.

Why am I leaving before the rest of the crew? Well, well, well, perhaps because a little visitor will be making her way over. And maybe I’m so crazy psyched out of my mind to see her I can hardly contain myself. You guessed it, COURTNEY IS COMING!!! It’s impossible to put into words what it’s like when we are together under normal circumstances. Compound this extreme insanity/social awkwardness/constantly running inside joke into 8 months and that’s what the week of October 11-17th is going to look like. I’ve mapped out an itinerary, one that includes a quick jaunt to Istanbul, Turkey to visit Jill and many other hot must-dos whilst in der Schweiz–many food-related. I can’t emphasize this enough: I’m so excited. Man, I’ve missed her.

So, I’ll be gone for a while. Never one to leave you down and out I have provided some entertainment. Pei Wen gave me The Encyclopedia of Useless Information by William Hartston before she left last week and I have been scanning it this past week. Below are a few tidbits I thought intriguing (by randomly opening the book). Feel free to use them at your next dinner party, water-cooler exchange, or random interjection in conversation. Tschüss! Bis Später!

DANCING: On August 21, 1923, the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan, passed a law forbidding dancers to stare into each other’s eyes.

GOSSIP: Researchers in Michigan in 1995 reported that American children aged nine to twelve gossip on average eighteen times an hour.

NEPAL: The Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal is the only country that does not have a rectangular flag. Its flag is shaped like two slightly overlapping triangles.

BIRTH: Every seventeen seconds, an American is born

SANDWICHES: IF you eat a sandwich for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it will take 168 days to get through the amount of bread produced from one bushel of wheat.

GOLD: One-third of all gold ever mined on earth comes from the Witwatersand Basin in South Africa.

LETTUCE: On August, 28, 1988 the Yantlee Polyclinic in Bangkok published a claim that you can get rid of hunger by pressing lettuce seeds into your ears ten times before meals.

KANSAS: Kansas has the largest population of wild grouse (or Prairie Chickens as the Americans call it) of any state in America.

Italian Adventure

I was informed last Tuesday that I would receive Monday May 24 off as it was a public holiday. I quickly put together some already loosely formed travel plans and made arrangements to hit up Milan and Cinque Terre for the weekend. Gabri, as seen in previous posts, teaches at an international school in Milan, so we had a free place to stay and fantastic hostess to show us around. I have never been to Cinque Terre despite having studied abroad in Italy, therefore it was high time I got myself to that little sliver of paradise.

On Friday night five au pairs boarded the first of the three trains that would get us to Milan. It was without incident and doesn’t deserve mention, except for the fact we had no idea what was in store for us on the next train. On train nummer zwei we happened to sit next to two fellows in the Swiss Army, who proceeded to regale us with tales of how “pointless” the army is and “what a waste of time it was.” I was the odd man out of the seating arrangement and had to sit by these two goons, who apparently had 9 beers before we even joined them on the train. Each beer is 500mL, which means they had each consumed 4500mL of liquid stupid prior to our acquaintance. Whilst on the train they guzzled down three more. At least 40% of my body was in the aisle as I was trying to remain as far away from my “new friend” as possible. He asked me three times what I was doing in der Schweiz. By the third time I told him we were all marine biologists studying the sea life in Switzerland. Clearly this makes no sense but that didn’t seem to phase him. It was about 1 hour into our friendship when I heard nothing short of a roar come out of his mouth. He belched so loud I could not be sure whether it was a prehistoric creature returning to the present or a bodily function. He proceeded to do this through the remainder of the ride in between bursts of him spilling beer  all over. Obviously, it was a pleasant ride.

Saturday was beautiful. We all slept in and enjoyed waking up to sounds that did not include children. Gabri lives a bit outside of town so we made our way into Milan city center to locate some grub. First stop: Duomo. This is one of the most magnificent pieces of architecture I have seen. It made me realize how much I miss Italian churches and cathedrals. I was awed by its sheer size and the amount to detail. We lunched at a place that offered a great view and a serious amount of sunshine. Now, if you know anything about me, you know that I have a bit of what Jill coined a “glandular issue.” I sweat. And, compared to the Swiss, it’s a lot. Needless to say it got a little toasty sitting in rays of sun so gelato was the next order of business. I lurve gelato. Allie and I agreed this was one of the best gelato experiences we’ve had. It was capital-Delicious. We took our tasty treat and headed on to do a little sight seeing, which ultimately led us to a park to hang out for the afternoon. Once we found a spot on the grass we parked our bodies on the ground and were treated to one of the worst displays of “football” I have seen. After we had our fill of suntanning we made our way out of the city center and back to Gabri’s apartment. It was imperative that we scram as Milan was hosting a major soccer game and the Italians tend to go a little banana sandwich over soccer. To avoid being mobbed/crushed to death Jill, Allie, Gabri, and I went back to have dinner at a restaurant near her apartment. A couple bottles of wine and heaping plates of pasta later we were making our way home when we presented with one pleasant surprise. A party was in full swing at the shopping center directly across from the apartment. The only choice in this situation is to join, so we soon found ourselves dancing along with Italians to such hits as “Mambo Number 5” and “Tubthumper.” Is it even possible to say “No” to a line dance?  After we finished tearing up the dance floor we made our way upstairs for (in my case) a short night of rest.

The Duomo in Milan

Blue Man Group: Gabri, Danielle, Jill, Allie, Me

The park where we lounged in the sun

I awoke at 5:30 in the morning to make my way with Danielle to the train station so we could head on to Cinque Terre. Thankfully, it was easy to get there and there were no problems. We arrived in Riomaggiore and were directed to our hostel. The proprietor informed me that we would be sharing a bed, which is slightly unusual. Jill and I shared a bed in Cadiz but that was only because we feared for our lives. What he neglected to tell me was that this bed would be located in the kitchen. Seriously. You walk in the hostel/apartment and you see a range and sink to your right, a table and chairs to your left, and the bed straight ahead. Through a doorway is an actual dorm where the other 6 people slept. Luckily, everyone was cool and I didn’t feel the need to sleep with one eye open. Danielle and I threw on our swimsuits and headed out to explore. This was, hands down, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I’m sure it would have still looked as beautiful had the weather not been so great. But, it hovered around 80 degrees and the sun was turned on Full Blast. I wish I could describe it better but you will just have to look at the pictures to see for yourself. It’s a place I would definitely like to visit again. Mid-way through our hike we decided to select a spot on some rocks with other travelers and soak up the vitamin D. I have a pretty righteous tank top tan and shorts from all the running I do outside. I’m sure I looked pretty silly in my suit, but nevertheless it was nice to lay out for a bit. More hiking and imbibing in the local dry, white wine completed the afternoon. A definite Must-See.

Houses just built on top of each other on all the cliffs

This is where we sunned for the afternoon

Nature, nature, nature

Vernazza at sunset

I Stay for the Wine

All I see is nature!

Alas, I am home, safe and sound, from my trip to Italy with the family. Let me preface the storytelling by saying that in no way was I needed on this trip. There was only one instance the whole week when I was left alone at the house with Little Bean, and this was so everyone could watch Nonno (Grandpa) buy two more chickens. Fantastisch. That being said, I actually had a really nice time and felt very lucky to be there. I cannot think of another time when I would have stayed with a family, on their own vineyard, surrounded by miles of other vineyards, where they grow several kinds of grapes to make their own wine, set in the middle of the Italian countryside. It’s opportunities like this when I remember why the dirty diapers and (seemingly) incessant nagging are worth it.

I cannot say that I thought this trip would go well from the start. This thought occurred to me about 3.5 hours into our 5 hour trip, right after the kids had their snack of a granola bar and fruit juice. Traffic was minimal and I was enjoying the mountains and valleys, a stark contrast to the Kansas landscape. About twenty minutes after consuming the aforementioned snack I heard what could only be described as “liquid being poured.” I didn’t remember Rapunzel, who was sitting directly behind me, having anything left in her water bottle, which meant only one thing… A shrill cry broke me from my thought process and I snapped my head around to find Rapunzel covered in her own vomit. It. was. everywhere. Maybe I have made mention of the extreme amount of hair she has (and if I haven’t, then the name should clue you in) but let’s just say it currently had purple highlights. She was completely stunned and had no clue how the contents of her stomach managed to find themselves all over her Hello Kitty t-shirt. After a side-of-the-highway clean-up it was back on the road.

My abode for the week.

The house, set in it's own vineyard.

We stumbled into the house and found dinner waiting for us. this was the first of a week full of outstanding meals. Both the Nonno and Nonna are excellent cooks and then spared no expense on filling our bellies. Some of the dishes (all homemade) included: pizza (made in the wood burning oven they built), gnocchi with porcini cream sauce, Italian sausage with asparagus, pumpkin soup, roasted turkey legs with yellow peppers and zucchini, and one indulgence that featured three different kinds of meat– lamb, chicken, and roast beef. What am I, a dinosaur? I don’t need that kind of meat in my life. But, I won’t refuse it. Every meal, including lunch was accompanied by two things: dessert and wine. For the first, featured sweets were: strawberries and cream, layer cake, ice cream, and one afternoon I walked outside to find the family eating fresh-baked pear cake. I had just finished an hour yoga session in my room and was in a total state of zen. I will blame it on my trance that convinced me to have a 45 degree chunk of that cake. I promptly went back upstairs for an hour nap. Waste of space is a phrase that comes to mind. As for the second accompaniment, the  Dad’s family (which is whose house this is) makes their own wine, which is fantastic. Now, I can’t sit around a table and dissect flavors and ingredients in a glass of wine. You will never find me saying, “Ahh, yes, I can pull the tar out of this one.” But, I do enjoy a glass of vino. In this case, it’s more like 2 or 3 glasses, which is what I was served each night. That doesn’t include the glass or two I had at lunch, or the apero that occurred in afternoon. Thank goodness I was not expected to watch the kids that much while I was this heavily influenced. Granted, I was extra smiley and rosy-cheeked throughout the week, but I blame that on the sun I got and the bliss that comes with relaxation. What can I say, they love their wine. The Nonnies could polish off a bottle easily by early afternoon. Double bottles were opened each night at dinner and were often supplemented with another single bottle or two. Suffice it to say, all my pants fit a little snugger this week.

The kitchen where all this went down.

The family and I took little excursions to nearby towns and castles in the morning, one of which was the Grinzane castle. The area is located in the Barbera region and that is the prominent wine that is produced. The castle provided information on how this became a high production zone for these grapes and how such production has shaped the economy. We also went into Alba, the nearest semi-big-ish city, and visited a church and some shops. The trip was mostly to make a jewelry purchase for the Mom, but the kids and I scored some gelato out of the deal. Just what I needed, more dessert–at approximately 11:00 in the morning. I was happy to get out and moving as I was not totally sure how to keep the kids occupied at the house. There is of course the vineyard we could wander around in, chickens and ducks to visit in their pen, a toy Jeep for them to drive, and a random assortment of toys, but it’s hard to try to entertain kids when they just want to spend time with their parents, grandparents and aunt and uncle. This is why I feel I was completely unnecessary. I was so aware the whole time that I was a part of another family’s memory-making. I can’t help but wonder if they ever feel weird having a relative stranger apart of their holidays and vacations. I know it’s kind of strange for me. How do they think the rest of us manage on our own? I honestly just played with the kids while the parents sat and watched. Still hard for me to wrap my head around that.

That being said, I was given plenty of time to relax. After lunch I was free to do as I chose. Sometimes I would just lay outside in one of the lawn chairs and read/pass out in a food-induced coma. Everyday, save the last one, I did about an hour of yoga in my room. It was great to practice and stretch, something my body was in need of. I would then read or nap, or do both, usually until I heard 5 o’clock roll around downstairs. A couple times I ventured out for a walk around the land. When I left for my first outing they asked, “Do you know where to go?” Oh yes, I’ve just been Lewis&Clark-ing it up in my room, planning routes each night. No, I have no idea where I’m going, but that’s kind of the best part. I think the best way to get to know a city is by foot and to just go out and explore. So that’s what I did. On one particular day I had been gone for about 25 minutes when I heard the first crack of thunder. It only took 5 minutes for the sky to open and my person to become soaked. I made it back just as the hail began to fall and spent the remainder of the afternoon doing yoga with my windows open and the smell of rain filling the space. Again, another “once in a lifetime” moment.

This is the view from my window. Tough life, right?

I wish I could say the ride home went as smoothly (barring the barf episode) as the ride there. I’m almost positive everyone in Switzerland was on the road coming home from holiday. A five hour journey turned into eight. The only thing holding me together was knowing that at some point in my life I would be back in my bed. As we were sitting in traffic, having essential Climbed Every Mountain in detours, I looked out my window to discover, could it be? SNOW! I had to close my eyes and focus on the music flowing in my ears. By midnight we were home, once again safe and sound. Overall, it was a good holiday and I managed to survive. We return again in October for the Truffle hunting season. Count me in!

Looking out from the gravel drive

More Spain

I am in Laax with the family for the Easter weekend and enjoyed a long hike this morning before taking over for the Grandma this afternoon. After being away from this town for a few weeks I was reminded today how beautiful it is. A beach fan myself, I can’t help but be in awe of the view here. Looking around at the picture-perfect scenery makes the early mornings and cranky toddlers all worth it.

Now, for more of my holiday:

Day 3: Jill and I woke up, tip toeing around around the room in order to not wake our slumbering roommates. We were also inclined to get out of there as soon as possible lest someone offer to dread our hair. Optimistically we put our swimsuits on underneath our shorts, grabbed a towel and set out to find some breakfast. Unfortunately the Spanish coffee was the highlight of the day; cloudy skies and a wind chill dampened our spirits and we were forced to wander aimlessly through the streets of Cadiz. Cruzcampo jokes dominated the majority of our conversation and we set out to find some fruit for sustenance. The only supermarket we came across that day had a large stockpile of fruit in the back, past the salted pork rinds and expired cans of who-knows-what. Just in front of this gleaming treasure was a sign written in not one, not two, but three different languages reading, “DO NOT TOUCH FRUIT.” We were banished back to the streets to wonder what to do for the day. After putting some generous mileage on our legs throughout the afternoon, we made it back to the hostel to shower and hopefully meet some new residents of the Casa. On the roof hammocks abound and one can swing away and contemplate the natural world, which is exactly what we found three young travelers doing. Except these fellows were not interested in becoming our friends. They only wanted to tell us about how they dream of living on a commune, growing pot and vegetables, making music, and having no money. Really aspiring. Jill and I were clearly nonplussed and made haste to get downstairs. The rest of the evening proceeded with more tapas and hanging out with some other guys from our mixed dorm who teach English in Madrid. Thankfully, they hated Cruzcampo and had no plans to “reject common ideals” so they proved to be good company.

Day 4: Today we decided to book it out of Cadiz and make our way back to Madrid and spend some time in Sevilla along the way. All of the trains and buses began to take their toll by this time, but frankly it was so great to see so many different parts of Spain. This culture is worlds away from Switzerland’s and it was nice to have a break from the usual. Also, I was finally able to use some of the Spanish I learned in high school. The only differing factor is that in Spain, as opposed to Mexico, they drop most all their “s” sounds and instead insert a “th.” So, essentially, everyone is running around with a lisp. Clearly this is fine, but it just isn’t what I’m used to. Let me tell you, there is nothing more intimidating than a 200 pound man siddling up to the bar to order a “thervetha.” Nevertheless, traveling is what I came to do and I am thoroughly enjoying it. It also doesn’t hurt to have a buddy who is great company. Luckily, Jill and I have a lot in common, including taste in books and music, and also have a very similar social agenda. We both wanted to see the sights but also knew when it was time to take a break and simply people watch. A nice sangria to accompany the people watching always sounded good to both of us. It was also fun to swap stories from high school and college. We even went as far back as elementary school to discuss all the long term relationships we were in in second grade and our all-time favorite movies. It made the trip so much better. After a six hour bus ride and beautiful stop in Sevilla we finally made it back to Madrid. Lady Fortune was back on our side when we found a restaurant around the corner with Negro Modelo and some of the best chips and guacamole I’ve had in a long time. All that was left to do was rest up for my trip home the next day…

Day 5: I have named this one Disaster Day. I arrived at the airport at 9:13 sharp for my 10:20 flight to Basel, from which I would take a train to Zurich. I came across the first set of monitors and decided to check which Hall I needed to go to for check-in and saw it : CANCELLED. I actually had a miniature “Home Alone” moment, you know when he slaps the side of his face and screams? Well this involved all the hand gesture but instead I just said, “No!” I ran to the next set and was greeted with the same response. And then at the next set. Isn’t the definition of insanity repeating the same behavior and expecting different results? I headed to the Easy Jet counter and commenced to wait in line for an hour before speaking to someone. He told me I would be able to fly back to Basel on the 2nd of April. Negative, Sir, those kids can’t watch themselves, I need to get home. I was instead put on a flight to Milan, which left three hours later. That flight was delayed an hour and I happened to be sitting in the “family section.” A baby actually lost her voice on the hour and a half flight from crying and screaming during the whole thing. Of course when we land she is making spit bubbles and smiling. From the airport in Milan I take an hour bus ride to the train station. I wait at the train station for two hours before finally taking a four hour train ride home to Zurich. My town is 40 minutes by train from Zurich Main Station. When it was all said and done I finally was home by midnight. It was a hot mess of a day. But here’s what I learned: I am actually incredibly capable of getting myself around, even in a foreign country (or two). This one day taught me quite a bit of making lemonade out of lemons and thinking on my feet. In the grand scheme, it was only one day and life goes on. Many a person can relate to having a terrible day of travel, but how many people can say they were in three countries in one day. I thought I came over here for a reason…

Day Tripping

I’m very sleepy as I write this but I would be remiss not to document the events of today. As per mention in a previous post, today was the day trip to Lake Como. There’s something so interesting about waking up and falling asleep in one country, but spending most of your day in another. Four of us traveled together by train, bus, and foot to experience a little of Italy. We took a train all the way to the last city in Switzerland before the Italian border and literally walked across into the city of Como. Never has entering another country been so easy. No one so much as glanced at us as we walked through the scantily guarded “security check.” Upon arriving in the new country we stumbled around a bit until we figured out how to get to city center by bus.

Upon arriving at what we presume to be the center we formulated a plan. A beautiful church lay a stone’s throw from where the bus dropped us. But, alas, the lake was equally as close and there lay a plethora of restaurants beckoning us with the delicious smell of Italian food. We decided to fuel up before taking Como by storm. We located the perfect dining establishment as we were taking some quality photos to document the day. All of us wanted pizza and a little wine to celebrate. Upon looking at the menu the waitress had to pick all our jaws up off the floor, as we couldn’t believe the prices of the food and drink. Zurich is by no means cheap and these prices were deceptively low. Why only get 1/4 litre of wine when for only 1 Euro more you could have 1/2 litre? So that’s what we all got– 1/2 litre of wine. My goodness, what were we thinking!? We sat at our sidewalk table, soaking in the sun, for close to two hours working away at our jumbo-sized pizzas and small barrels of wine. It was blissful. The temperature hovered just over 50 degrees, which is downright hot for us, and the sun shone on our pasty (but now rosy-cheeked) faces.

As we glanced out over the lake we noticed a variety of water crafts cruising the waves. No doubt fueled by the wine, we were struck with the brilliant idea to rent a paddleboat and burn some kcals from lunch. We slowly made our way over the docks to inquire about our master plan. For the outrageously low price of 16 Euros we could propel ourselves around the lake in one of these boats. So we did what any 4 sensible girls would do on their day off– we got a bottle of wine, four to-go cups and jumped in a boat. (At this point we are probably starting to sound like drunks, which we most certainly are not. We know our limits. Trust me.) I personally never powered the boat, but from what the other three said, it was good exercise. And as a passenger it was great fun! Lots of laughs and more pictures were taken out on the lake.

Going into the day I knew I would need to get my hands on some gelato, so that was are next stop. I almost, almost forgot how good gelato is. I haven’t had the good stuff since I studied abroad 2 1/2 years ago, and man was it, and the sugar coma I feel into on the train later, worth it. Just so delicious. We finally ambled our way over to the church we saw upon arriving and took even more pictures. We also found ourselves at an outdoor market around the corner, where I decided I needed to help support the local economy with the purchase of two beautiful pairs of earrings.

It was a great day, surrounded by great people and lots of fun. I loved being back in Italy, if only for a few hours. And the change of scenery was much needed and appreciated. But, the best is yet to come, because… Mom is currently on a plane, on her way here!! WAHOO!!