Swissing Around

Swissing Around

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sleep, Football, Sickness

There hasn't been much in the way of great sleep going on here lately. B1 had chickenpox a few weeks ago, then B2 came down with it. Poor sausages -- they've been troopers but it hasn't been easy in this heat. 

And the World Cup started last night, so it's going to be a right car horn fest in these parts for a few weeks. Today I look like a sleepwalker. I think I need a dip in the lake (it will still be freezing) to knock some sense into me. Denis emailed me a beautiful photo today -- a picture of the tent he's been sleeping in in the mountains in Ticino. Moonlight. City lights down below. 

He's been away for a few days, working on a beautiful story, sleeping in a tent and making me really, really, really want to sleep in a tent on this other side of the country, just for a night. 

He won't let me use the photo because he's saving it for one of his work blogs. Talk about strict.

I took this quiz to determine which World Cup team I am. Germany. I've changed these last few years, clearly, but this may explain my new-found respect for the rules and for even asking Denis if I could use the photo in the first place. 

I wanted that quiz to tell me I was Portugal, where we were a few weeks ago. I think Portugal is becoming my favourite place on earth. I want to live there.

Who are you going for in the World Cup? Do you care? I don't think I do, but time will tell.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Party Time!

We celebrated the Fête des Voisins (Neighbours Party) last Friday. It's my favourite event of the social calendar, although truth be told, my social calendar looks like this most weeks... 

Anyway, the weather wasn't shaping up well, but that didn't stop us from venturing to the park, on a mission to avoid partying in the laundry (as we were forced to last year). Here we are trooping off to the park, laden with food and booze. I made a bacon, caramelized onion and Gruyère loaf (middle offering in the middle photo below), because it's easy to do and good cheese is easy to find in these parts. There was a lot more food and a lot more booze than these pictures suggest. Everyone in this building seems to be a good cook; there were incredible Moroccan meatballs, chocolate cake, Italian baked goods, sausages galore and nifty little nibbles on sticks.

The kids played badminton and caroused all over the park. They were the only jolly ones when the heavens opened and we were all soaked.

So instead of our usual spot underneath the big old tree, we had to hightail it (with trays of food, drinks in hand and even lit grills) to underneath the little archways at Voltaire's old digs. 

I retired early (two small kids and all), but had a ball regardless. We have such great people here. I don't always love our apartment (it's a weird old shape and it's often hard to tell it's clean even when it has just been cleaned) but the people who live in our building are a rare bunch (even the Swiss tell me how unusual it is to have such a genuinely friendly atmosphere so close). 

One of our littlest neighbours may have partied a little too hard and vomited in the foyer upon her return home. Her mum and I mopped up and yesterday I was presented with a bouquet of white roses and told 'Thanks for cleaning up my vomit.' These Swiss kids, they have manners galore.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Last weekend we hit London for a wedding. What a town!

The wedding was between one of my oldest and goldest friends, Mel, and her 'Happy Viking', the lovely Brian. The wedding, one of five around the world that the bride and groom have organised, took place in a pub deep in the East End and let me tell you, there was a lot of love in that pub. It was once of the best weddings I've ever been to -- tears and laughs in equal measure.

Mel is one of those friends who ends up becoming a relative you never had. In this case, she's like a big sister. We've known each other since we were teenagers, appearing in uniformly awful plays at the Australian Theatre for Young People. In our first play together, we played Westies (the kids call them Bogans now). In our second (which was performed at the Sydney Opera House, of all places, and written by Thomas Kenneally), we played bees. Neither one of us acts anymore. I don't know why.

Managing London with two small kids is both easier and more difficult than you imagine. On the plus side, there are so many incredible places to see and things to do. We kept it to sensible wish-list, knowing that the sheer size of the city and our limited time would make ambitious plans an exercise in frustration. On the minus side is the number of stairs in the Tube stations. I still love the Tube though. I could ride it and people watch all day long, although at times it sent both boys to sleep.

So, the day after the wedding we met some dear mates for brunch in South Kensington and then hit up the Museum of Natural History, where the queues were long (there were two of them) and the ventilation was imaginary. The T-rex was a little too realistic for B1, who covered his eyes and only calmed down after a visit to the big whale and the Capybara. Thank you, friends, for sticking with us through the whole thing, even though you could have bailed and had another cappuccino in peace.

There was a blindingly good park just near where we stayed. Quite possibly the best park I've taken B1 to. And so many kids! If they weren't in Victoria Park, they were scoffing fish and chips at Fish House on Lauriston Rd. B1 fell in love with English crisps, which doesn't surprise me one bit, because I've always said the greatest thing to come out of England is its crisps. Closely followed by its signs. It saddens me that most places like airports in the UK still need to remind the general public not to assault the staff, but I guess that's the way of the world now.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Switzerland Traveler -- Hotel Krafft

Ever had a hotel that you found yourself recommending over and over again? Basel's Hotel Krafft is that hotel for me. I could live there. My first trip here was in 2008, when two friends gave D and I a night at the hotel for our wedding present. Isn't that a brilliant idea?


The Hotel Krafft, one of the stylish city's most plugged-in places to stay, attracts fierce devotion from its many regulars (did you know that Hermann Hesse commenced his novel Der Steppenwolf here?).

Enjoying a prime Rhine-side location, the hotel's interior blends 20th-century design with a gentle lived-in charm (the parquet floors have a reassuring creak to them). Rooms are airy and filled with natural light. The bathrooms are spare and somewhat sterile, but this makes a refreshing change from all those overblown bathrooms that seem to be doing the rounds, with their rain showers and sofas and tubs bigger than a dam. 

Obviously, the rooms with views of the Rhine river are best, although they also tend to have a little more noise in the summer months, when the riverside terrace restaurants and bars are in full swing. The staff is bend-over-backwards helpful and the dining and drinking options definitely worth leaving your room for.

Address: Rheingasse 12 CH-4058 Basel

Monday, April 28, 2014

The First Straw

There are times that being at home with two small kids leaves you feeling that you rarely leave the house except to head to the supermarket or the sandpit, both perfectly reasonable places to spend some time, but far removed from your previous life as *cough* go-getting mover and shaker who enjoyed ample time to read in bed and do housework alone (which is my preferred method).

Last week, D had an assignment that meant he needed to travel to Jura region of Switzerland, right on the border with France. We decided to make it a family affair so we loaded up the station wagon with tonnes of camera gear, piles of baby-and-child gear and a spare pair of underpants and a toothbrush for each of the adults. I miss the days when I could plan to be a little more fragrant and stylish when travelling.

A few years ago I researched this area of Switzerland for the current Lonely Planet guide to the country. I visited the Grottes de Réclère and Prehisto Parc and Ferme Montavon on my own. They were all pretty cool, especially the last one, which straddles the Switzerland-France broder, meaning you can have a foot in each country should you choose, but seeing these places with children, in particular with our four year old, was especially gratifying. He pretty much bounced from dinosaur to dinosaur at Prehisto Parc, and at times I wondered if I should have packed a spare pair of knicky-knoos for him.

That night we dined at Ferme Montavon (nothing says local like an egg that was laid a mere 25m from your table) and slept in the barn there. It was my first time 'sleeping on straw', and while I can't say it was the most comfortable night's sleep I've ever had, it was pretty special. We all slept in sleeping bags, except for B2, who made good use of his combinaison, which he's almost getting too big for. I was initially worried that the baby would cry during the night and disturb the other guests we were sharing the barn with, but he was a trooper, and slept soundly, as did B1, who only woke up once during the night to announce 'Okay, we can go home now', but soon resettled. 

B2 has already slept in two five-star hotels, which strikes me as a tad excessive for any kid who isn't a product of Kimye. I'm glad I was able to balance things out a little by dossing down with him in the straw, cattle gently lowing, bats twittering (I thought they were birds and I'm glad I was ignorant until after the fact) and my antihistamines silently going about their business. Waking up with the dawn light coming in through the gaps between the wood planks, a little frost on the window and our two boys snuggled up next to us was a lovely experience. The country breakfast that followed was even better -- homemade bread, butter and jam, coffee with warm goat's milk and watching B2 play with the kids he'd only met the day before (who arrived by horse and cart!) but who were already firm friends.

A short trip, but one with so many charming memories, and so much straw still turning up in strange places.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Where was I?

I wish I had a wild 'n' crazy answer to that one, but the fact of the matter is I've been at home with a newborn (who's now six months old!), a four year old and a pile of washing. I've not had a single snowboard session this season, and I think it's fair to say that that particular ship has sailed. Maybe next year.

I've done small amounts of work and am gearing up to cover my home town and surrounds for Lonely Planet's next guidebook to Switzerland. I also did a review for one of the flashest hotels I've ever stayed in (check out the pics), the Chedi Andermatt

This property will be on sale at at some point this year, and if you have the chance and the means, then I say go for it. Over the years I've travelled to Andermatt and this place was a building site. I'd look at it, look around Andermatt and wonder how they were going to pull of five-star splendour in such a sleepy, low-key spot (albeit with great skiing). They've pulled it off is all I can say. It's worth going there just for the food and the pool.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Siren Song

It's that time of year again!

Switzerland tests its sirens every year on February 5th. It can be a confusing thing for those new to Switzerland. I remember thinking something was going horribly wrong in the car park across the road when I first heard it. Another friend thought that Switzerland was under attack.

Here's a clever TVC about the big event. No sheep were harmed during the making of this ad.