Monthly Archives: January 2011

London Bridge is Falling Down…

One of the great things about being in (or for those fortunate enough, living in,) Europe is the easy access to, well, Europe! It’s not quite a hop skip and a jump, as I’d like to believe, but it’s only a walk, train ride, flight, and tube ride away! Plus the difference in price from flying in from NY vs. flying in from Zurich, is at least 60%

So A has a client meeting in London tomorrow and we decided why not make a weekend out of it? So here I am, writing you from the tiniest hotel room I’ve ever seen! Well, the second tiniest if you count the room they tried to put us in in the first hotel which looked like a glorified cleaning supply closet! But as tiny as it may be, I at least managed to get us the King sized bed rather than the two twins pushed together (why oh why do they still do that??)

So far, London has been great! I have been before, but not since I was 15 and thought it was the coolest thing in the world that I could order a daiquiri at a TGI Friday’s without raising any eyebrows. But now, it’s a whole new experience…and much much better. The city is full of life, and bars and shopping and amazing restaurants. Yes, I tend to think British food sucks, but that’s just their heritage, and they have more than made up for it with the abundance of delicious restaurants filled with ethnic foods of all kinds, or just your classic steak joint, (mouth watering here.)

I’ll have to do a write up of the restaurants we’ve eaten at so anyone who might be coming here in the near future is guaranteed a delicious meal at not-too-pricey (in comparison to Zurich standards) prices! Plus, they have TEA! And I find myself saying, on more than one probably embarrassing occasions for A, “I’d like a spot of tea!”

I'm a British Teapot....

London is also endlessly fun for it’s funny language, (of which 99% of the time I have no idea what people are saying to me and need to ask them to repeat themselves a good 3 or 4 times before it’s just plain embarrassing and I smile and nod politely,) and their wonderfully entertaining signs, like the one I’ve posted below.

Seen on a community garden in Kensington

Better watch out that the Courtfield Ward doesn’t assist the garden community with your ejection!

Zurich in Images

Shot of the river and lake just beyond in Zurich from one of the bridges that cross over

Shops, restaurants and homes lining the western side of the river

Now the eastern side!

The Zurich Winter Running Experiment

So I took a huge first step for me in my running experiments, and ran outside. In winter! To say I was nervous before would be a gigantic lying understatement…I was terrified. What if I was too cold? What if I couldn’t run anymore? What if all the strange Swiss people stared at me like I was crazy. Ha – well that last one wouldn’t matter after having experienced many runs through the streets of Asuncion! Perhaps , from here on out, we should refer to this as the Zurich Winter Running Experiment.

I was dressed like a champion: full length thermal leggings, thermal long sleeved Nike running shirt with a little bit of a turtle neck and thumb holes (love thumb holes!), short socks (oops), North Face Fleece, fleece lined gloves and a thick fleece headband. I headed out of A’s apartment and onto the streets of the old city. The feeling of fear was washed away as I felt my feet hit the cobble stones and the faces of those around me watched in…was that admiration?

Part of the running path alongside the water's edge

Zurich is truly a beautiful city. It is divided in half by a long river which opens up into Lake Zurich. Lake Zurich is not only massive, but it’s completely surrounded by snowcapped mountains and picturesque homes. Not to mention the Swiss were thoughtful enough to build a walking/running/biking path along the entirety of the water’s edge. It is truly the perfect place to run or even just relax, as you can’t beat the views! And, oddly, it never seems to get icy here – so it’s even better for outdoor activities!

Wish my phone took a better shot of this view! Notice snow capped mountains in the background.

So on my first run a few days ago, I learned the valuable lesson that I could in fact run in the winter, and that at 30 degrees I needed much more layering than at 40 degrees, (when I was dying of heat from the fleece and gloves!) I even managed to run over 5 miles on my second run! Granted, there were many little pauses and stretch points along the way, but I’m still proud I did it! And now I know that with each run it will start to get easier again.

So far, my Zurich Winter Running Experiment is going well!

Two Thumbs Up for Running in Zurich!

I’d like a table outside the window, please.

Another thing I’ve noticed in Zurich the last few days, is that no matter how cold it is (read: 25, 28, 32 degrees) people still seem to prefer eating outdoors. Of course any good restaurant will give you the option to sit in or out, but I have been surprised by the number of people choosing to sit outside, bundled up in their coats and scarves and hats enjoying a good meal. I think more surprising still is that restaurants even offer this option!

Looks Cozy!

The minute the air turns crisp in New York, the outdoor tables are put away and plastic wrapped doors and awnings are set up to keep the cool winter air out of restaurants. People won’t even dare to wait outside for a table, knowing that it’s only a matter of time before their toes begin tingling and they long for a hot beverage to keep their fingers and throat warm.

Maybe the people of Switzerland are so used to their outdoor activities that the cold weather while enjoying a hearty meal is nothing out of the ordinary. They are so used to being out on the slopes or walking to work that the chill in the air doesn’t penetrate their skin and take hold of their bones in the same way as other places in the world.

While I admire their determination to enjoy their beautiful landscapes in all seasons and despite freezing temperatures, I will continue with my tradition of preserving my extremities and dining indoors.

What can he say?

On the Road Again – in Zurich

It is well known that Switzerland is home to some of the wealthiest cities and people in the world. This is exemplified by the outrageous cost of food, and living expenses in general in this country, with specific reference to Zurich, (where I am currently.) You can rack up a dinner bill of over 100 CHF (about $106 USD) for two main courses and a bottle of wine. Not to mention the cupcake I just bought to indulge on yesterday was about $6 USD. SIX DOLLARS FOR A CUPCAKE?!

My cupcake was not much larger than this, nor was it encrusted in gold...

Using the gym is another example. My boyfriend, who has been living here for almost 9 months now, finally caved and signed up to use a gym in the heart of the city (with a couple of locations at his disposal throughout Zurich.) In order to sign a contract with the gym, you must decide today that you are committing to one year of usage. They do not allow month-to-month memberships, and you cannot commit for less than 12. This is pretty standard, even in the U.S. where the gym wants to make sure they have you as a definite member. The difference, however, is that in Switzerland they ask you to pay the full 12 months upfront. There’s no waiting for the paycheck to come in, it is just assumed whatever your paycheck is can afford a hit of $1,000 or more in one shot. That is money talking. Then you have to feel sorry for those travelers (ahem, yours truly) who want a good day at the gym, but simply cannot afford it at the rate of 30 CHF per day for a “guest pass”. I’m still floored by that number!!

The Swiss definitely know how to live well and to live in luxury, and I suppose that is how the system has always been set up. People are paid to be able to afford the cost of living in their country, and everyone gets a fair price on products and goods so that they too can afford their way of life. The only problem is for anyone from the outside coming in looking to enjoy themselves, which is quite nearly impossible for any reasonable sum of money. Guess we should all just strive to be rich like the Swiss!

How to Kick Jet Lag

Time change can be a b*tch. Either it takes no time at all to adjust, or it’s like slow torture. Unfortunately, in my most recent trip flying from New York to Zurich, Switzerland, it has been like the latter.

This guy has the right idea.

I have to take fault where necessary and admit that I wasn’t exactly going to bed before 2 or 3 AM every night in New York (read: 8 or 9 AM in Zurich) so I don’t know how I expected my body to suddenly flip and adjust, but I’m already on day 4 and no closer to a normal sleep schedule than when I arrived! However, I still think that putting myself to bed before midnight each night should warrant me waking up refreshed around 8 or 9 the next morning…but unfortunately as I heard my phone ring as a dreadfully early 12:30 PM earlier today, I realized I was screwed!

Still waiting for my body to say, “Oh right, I apologize for that!” and fix itself, but until then I’ll be signing off – Groggy in Switzerland.

Always Missing Someone Somewhere…

The ups and downs of moving around all the time definitely balance each other out, but I have to admit that every time I move, or leave one place for another, I always feel I am leaving someone behind. There is always the opportunity to miss someone somewhere.

Having just left New York for Paraguay, I missed my family and my friends, I missed my pets, I missed my favorite restaurants…but now that I’ve returned, I miss my Paraguayan family. I miss the people from my office, I miss the close friends I made, I even miss the 4 queso empanadas I was eating too many of towards the end.

And now I sit on yet another precipice…between this world and Europe. My boyfriend lives in Switzerland and anywhere I am that is not there, has me missing him terribly too. I am grateful to be going to visit him next week…but who will be there to cuddle my cats at night when I’m gone?

I love moving, I love learning, I love experiencing the world, and I recognize how lucky I am to have these opportunities and how lucky I am to have so many friends in so many different places in the world. I am lucky to have so many people to miss. But it still doesn’t make those transitions any easier, and it still hurts my heart every time I say good bye.