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.

The Time Has Come, the Walrus Said

Actually, it was my host parents who said it, but yes, it’s time for more holiday. Finally, I get to see my family. It simultaneously feels like forever and yesterday that I said goodbye to my parents; ages ago since I saw Matt and Courtney at dinner. Today I will travel to Dublin and I cannot wait to see them. I’m jumping out of my skin. I’m psyched out of my mind. I’m going a million miles a minute. Tired of my hyperboles? We batted around a few ideas of where to go, and ended up deciding on a UK tour: we start in Dublin, hit a few more spots in Ireland, scoot on over to Scotland for Edinburgh and Glasgow, and wrap things up in Manchester. At this point it doesn’t even matter where we go as long as I can soak up as many good times with my next of kin as possible. For the next 9 days I will be cruising around with them, relishing in a reprieve from the family that is more than welcome.

Following this small slice of heaven I will commence holiday with the family at their other home in Portalban, on Lake Neuchâtel. I’ve never been to this little cottage, but I’ve heard it described as rustic, charming, quaint, and teeny-weeny/itty bitty. It will be a tight squeeze with all of us in there, but I’ve always been fond of the lake so I believe it will be a nice time. I’ll be here for just shy of two weeks, drinking in the solitude and “getting back to nature.” I guess the Internet is rather slow so I won’t even bother with my computer. Technology and I had a little talk and we agreed that it would be best if we took a break; re-evaluated our relationship.

Finally, to wrap up my 4 weeks of holiday, I will be heading to Portugal for a week with some friends. We’ve made plans to stay in Lisbon for a few days and then cruise down to the southern coast, the Algarves region. Here, the most strenuous activity I plan on doing is flipping from my tummy to my back in the hot, hot sun. To say that I am looking forward to this week of zero obligations would be an understatement. It’s just what I”ll need before beginning another couple of months without a holiday.

So. I will be out and about for the next several weeks and I’m not sure when I’ll be back to update. There will be the odd day or two when I have access to this device we call the InterWeb, but I can’t promise anything. Hopefully I can throw some pictures up here and a crazy story or five. I’ve set up a few songs here that I’ve been drawn to recently. Some are old and some are new, but hopefully they will keep your toes tapping. Bis Später! Tschüss!!

The Only Souvenir I Forgot is the Accent

It took me approximately 19 hours to fold and put away laundry this morning. This is due to two things: it is my least favorite step in the entire laundry process and I was Skyping with Jill. It went about like this: fold a shirt or two, type some witty quip, read her response, roll on the floor whilst laughing, put said shirt (or two away). A sample interchange is as follows:

  • Jill: So if I’m eating a yogurt that expired, ohhhh 6 days ago, what are the odds I’m going to die?
  • Me: Slim to 50%
  • Jill: I’ll take it.
  • Me: So I may or may not see you for running today? Is that what you’re saying?
  • Jill: Yeah, I don’t think so. Or ever, because I’ll be dead.
  • Jill: See ,people that only see our hilarious wall posts don’t even know that these are like all our conversations. We’re this funny all the time.
  • Me: How do we put a trademark on our hilarity?
  • Jill: Two words: Comedy Troupe.

Jill and I have dreams of becoming a Dynamic Duo, taking our shtick on the road. I can see us now, jumping on a tram doing the double-wave screaming, “Hoizame!!!! Wie geht’s?!”  (Hello All! What’s up?!) After our routine is over and people are slowly stitching their sides back up, we will once again throw the double-wave and exclaim, “Thank you Banhof ______!! You’ve been awesome!” But, for now this is just an aspiration I often alight on while riding home on the train. Until then I guess we will have to settle for clever commentary via Skype, Facebook, and face-to-face communication.

Now for more important things: I just got home from my trip to England! It was great. I really liked seeing the country again, as well as checking out a new city, Manchester. And to be totally honest, it was nice to be in a place where I didn’t feel guilty for speaking my Mother Tongue. I arrived in Manchester on Friday night and set out to do some exploring. My hostel sent me a handy guide with places to see and visit. I started with the first place in the “Nightlife” section, Trof. It’s a three-story bar located just down the street from my hostel, which sits in the Norther Quarter. The NQ is Manchester’s trendy and upcoming neighborhood. I’m really glad I ended up staying here because not only could I glean some tips on how to become cool someday, but it also had a hip vibe and I enjoyed seeing the area without many tourists; it gave me more of a native feel. I grabbed a pint at the bar at Trof and started talking to the Manager. I asked him if he had any suggestions of where to go and he sent me to The Ruby Lounge, a sort of underground club around the corner. A couple bands were playing there, and although the crowd was considerably younger, I still had a good time.

The next day was for sightseeing and aimless wandering, both at which I have become quite proficient. Manchester is definitely a place you want to see with others as it’s a very social scene. I got along fine, however, browsing through vintage clothing and record stores and perusing the streets. The Manchester Art Gallery was also a good stop with an especially interesting photography exposition. The weather was great and I managed to relax in a park with Mancunians and travelers. As I mentioned earlier, the John Mayer concert was cancelled (cue me shaking my fists at the sky) so I had to find other means of entertainment. The bar Night N Day across the street from the hostel was having a concert, similar to every other joint in the city. Seriously, you couldn’t walk down the street without hearing live music. So for £6 I could listen to 6 different bands, including: Polka Party, The Books, Loubeta, and Rubika. They were all surprisingly good and it was great to listen to the local sound, which differs slightly from what I am often drawn to.

On Sunday I headed to Cambridge for another concert and more exploring. It was a soggy day, which made my 6 hour bus journey a little more palatable; at least I wasn’t missing any sunshine. I arrived and was picked up by my Couchsurfing host. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this experience, basically people can connect all over the world by offering up their place of residence. This is a great way not only to meet people, but also save money while traveling by skipping the expense of a hostel/hotel. After I explained it in further detail to mom she also said I could have died doing this, but that is not what I chose to focus on while finding a host to stay with. It’s actually a great idea and offers a great way to see an area with a local who can often show you interesting bits about the city you might have otherwise missed. For example on Monday, Mark, my surfer, offered to take me to the Evensong service at King’s College Cathedral. It was an amazing experience that I might have otherwise missed out on. In any event Cambridge was great. I hadn’t been there since my high school trip so it was fun to see it again. It was fun to watch students exploding out of buildings as the finished their end-of-term exams. Champagne bottles were being popped and there was a general air of celebration. The night was topped off by an out-of-this-world show by Band of Horses. It was almost as if they came up to me before the show and said, “What would you like to hear tonight? And in what order?” Seriously, it was that amazing; all my favorite songs were on the menu.  They played at a relatively small venue, which gave it an intimate feel. Overall, I was very pleased with their performance. Tuesday was reserved for travel, and thankfully I made it home with no incident. And how great was it starting the work week on a Wednesday?!

To only add to my joy this week, the weather has finally improved! It is beautiful and sunny, and today I will enjoy a run by the lake. The following song is one of my favorites to run to. It’s so upbeat I can’t help but smile as I run. That action combined with the inevitable sweating make for quite a sight.

Manchester Cathedral

Canal Street in Manchester

Trinity College in Cambridge

King's College Cathedral, the place of the Evensong

Cambridge is known as "Cycle City"

Excellent spot for people watching

Students on Cambridge grounds

The Hills Are Alive…

…with the sound of my labored breathing. Seriously. I feel like lately I have been huffing and puffing my way around the city. My pedometer is racking up some serious mileage (kilometerage?). This weekend is a perfect example. It finally warmed up around here and I almost don’t recognize the city. The Swiss have  come out of hibernation and are traipsing around like they own the place. Saturday was filled with plenty of aimless wandering, as Jill’s friend was in from Milan and we were giving her a tour of Zurich. The day happened to be my “anniversary” of arriving here. That’s right, it’s been 3 months and they a have flown by faster than any I can remember. I try to treat myself to something on these joyous occasions and this day was no exception. I truly indulged and awarded myself with a Diet Doctor Pepper, which cost me a cool CHF 3.50. Yes, you are correct, that translates roughly into $3.50, which is hands-down the most ludicrous amount of money I have paid for a pop, but let me tell you it was absolutely worth it. Seeing as DDP is my all-time favorite I thought it was a worthy treat, if not ridiculously over-priced.

Yesterday, however was the real gem of my exercise. If I had a dollar for every time someone made a reference to me either becoming Mary Poppins or living in my own “Sound of Music” I could actually afford to live here. Sunday Jill, Gabri, and I decided to hike up Üetliberg and see the city from a bird’s eye view. One can either hike up or take a train, and being an thrill-seeking trio we decided to gear-up and walk the trails. I had some sense and wore Converse shoes, but Jill was in her Topsiders and Gabri in moccasins, so one could say we weren’t necessarily dressed the part. That didn’t stop us, however. Without actually realizing it, we took the path, out of several, that was the most steep and heavily wooded. About 200 meters up the climb I peeled off my cardigan and the elusive sweatstache was making its appearance. I feel like I am equally justifying my physical fitness and and dispelling it through my writings. The hike wasn’t the hardest thing I have ever done, rather I just didn’t mentally prepare myself. About halfway up when we were all re-evaluating not only our decision to come on this journey, but also our friendships, Jill, with her identical twin, Positivity, began to sing “Climb Every Mountain.” I had to grab onto a railing for support as I was laughing so hard. It was exactly what I needed to hear. The remaining trek passed in alternating fits of side-splitting laughter and animal-like grunting. Finally, a little over an hour after take-off we reached the summit. We were quite the group as we approached the other patrons at the lookout site. Thankfully my white tank top hid the “make it rain” effect my sweat glands tend to have. I’m almost positive people could smell us before they saw us, and if not, they would notice the big black cloud of bugs that had somehow become our climbing companions. We were a full-on nasal assault. I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but one can assume it was not my finest moment. The view was great though, and definitely worth it, as was the celebratory beer. It was on the list that sits on my desk of things I want to accomplish whilst I’m in der Schweiz so I am very proud of myself.

On an equally exciting note, I booked more travel today! I will be in Manchester and Cambridge June 4-8 to go to a couple of concerts: John Mayer and Band of Horses. I know what you’re thinking, “Going to John Mayer, what a sell-out.” But, this is not true as I am not 14 years old with an irrational crush on his brooding, self-deprecating, and semi-obnoxious persona. I just happen to like his music. And Band of Horses is amazing and I have wanted to see them live for a while, and what better opportunity than abroad. Looking forward to a weekend full of melodious sounds.