Bits and Bytes

One week in Switzerland

I emailed my friend in Switzerland when I first bought my tickets to France.

I can’t believe I just made this commitment, but I’ve just booked tickets to Paris. Arriving 01 June 2009 and leaving 30 June.
My nephew is graduating 06 June in Juno Beach.
My parents fly out of Frankfurt 09 June 2009.
I have a friends in Bretagne, Alsace, Toulouse, and Italy to visit.
Anyway. Would be nice to catch up with you if you want to.

Let me know,

I don’t really have time to plan anything before I actually get there. I’m always working—or trying to catch up with things. I also just let things happen. Not a great life plan I know, but I used to believe that it’s good to have a general plan and just experience the rest the along the way. (I’ve changed my mind—but that’s a story for another day.)

A few days before I arrive in Switzerland, I actually make plans. I plan how I’m going to get from St. Malo in France to Lausanne, Switzerland. I make a plan. Then, I make a backup plan with later trains. Well. Because when I’m travelling, somehow, it takes me longer. And I worry about recognizing my friend.

I email again: “I still have red hair. And I’ll be dragging a black suitcase behind me.”

He replies: “I don’t think we’ll miss each other on the platform.”

And I manage to get on the right TGV from Paris. I actually get on the wrong part of the train and have to run to change carriages when we arrive in Dijon. At least I get there—on the train I said I was going to be on—the first one.

Once we arrive, I descend and look for my friend. I just stay in one place. I look up and down the platform. No signs of my friend. And I begin to worry about the whole thing. I turn to gather my luggage to start to wander into the train station. Maybe, I will have better luck inside. I turn back and start pulling.

“Hello Jennie.”

I grin. He’s walked up behind me.

“Hello.”

He bends down to give me three kisses (left cheek first)…the Swiss hello. I give him a hug. A California hello.

He takes my luggage to his car. I can’t believe how clean the parking garage is. Practically sparkling. The floors are polished. In which country do they polish the floors of the parking garages?

He drives from the train station to his apartment—giving commentary along the way. Once we arrive at his apartment, he gives me the tour. I tell him I think his apartment is very masculine. It’s got white walls and pretty stern furniture: black leather couches, metallic coffee table and side board, a 40-inch screen. Modern. Comfortable. Masculine.

He grins and shows me the inside of his refrigerator. It’s packed with Coke Zero. He explains: “It’s the masculine version of Diet Coke. “ But, he has so much of it in his fridge, he says it’s emanating masculinity to the rest of his apartment. I tell him I think the feeling comes from the austere black and white.

We go out for dinner and catch up.

Crepes for dinner.
A glass of wine.
Coffee.
Dessert crepe.
And so starts our holiday.

We go back home to make some plans for the week. My friend is a project manager–making and executing plans is what he does. I realize that I haven’t done any research as to what I might want to see. How unfair is that? Leaving it all to him? I tell him we should do things he hasn’t done yet. There’s nothing like getting bored taking people who visit you to see the same thing over and over again.

So we make a plan. Two days in Lausanne. A day driving around the Swiss countryside. Two days in Valais. And…we’ll see how that goes. I don’t want to overstay my welcome and I may change my plane ticket back to Canada.

When I said earlier: “And so starts our holiday.” I meant it. We would start with a light breakfast in the morning. Coffee from his Nespresso (a very Swiss company), bread, and jam. I named his Nespresso machine George – based on the fact that George Clooney is the official spokesperson for Nespresso in Europe.

We go out to walk about, but I think also just to find a café for a second morning coffee or a pre-lunch appero. We’d take an appero. We’d find another place for lunch. And continue to walk around and visit. We visit monuments and visit ourselves–catch up time. Sometimes, we show up for a museum or something—only to discover it’s closed—or changing it’s exhibit.

We just move on to the next thing on the list. One day it was the Musee D’Olympics (as the International Olympics Committee (IOC) is based in Lausanne). One day it is a watch museum—not open. We tried to get a tour of a watch factory…to no avail. How many watch companies are there in Switzerland anyway? We stop in a village and visit an abbey – from the 16th Century. A bit of history. MORE local food.

One day we go to Musee de l’Art Brut. A museum of raw art from the marginalized and dispossessed. It’s not like I would buy a piece or anything. But I enjoy seeing how other people express themselves. I’m not marginalized and I’m only slightly dispossessed—I wonder if they would consider digital art or blogs for their exhibits.

I see embroidery, sculptures, paintings, obsessive colourings, writings, everything. I actually like the display of an autistic guy. His medium is brown paper serviettes. He rearranges calendars and dates until they make sense to him. One display was a day of seven from each month in 2023. —

He also rearranged all the Fridays in 2011 onto a chronological calendar. I think I would be lucky if I could rearrange all of my memorable days into one consecutive year.

We go to Valais for two days. La Miege—where my friend has grown up. All week he’s been telling me: “Wait until we go to the Montanges. Wait. The air is fresher. The food tastes better. It is always sunny in Valais. Wait until we go to the montanges!” Which I later figure out are the Alps.

I’m always leery of what people call mountains. Coming from the Yukon in Canada, I’ve just never seen other mountains that even compare. Today I Googled: highest mountains, Canada and I get this Wikipedia entry.

NOTE that the top ten highest peaks in Canada are over 15,000 feet AND they are also in the Yukon. No wonder I’m leery about what other people call mountains.

The Alps come pretty close though. Ack. Well. They are real mountains. I won’t deny that. But I think of how I would define a mountain:

  • High, jagged, untamed
  • Snow year round, glaciers
  • A definitive tree line

The difference between Canadian mountains and the Swiss Alps though, is people.

The Alps include people. I think there are people and villages at every altitude. There are villages. At the lower altitudes, there are vineyards. There’s chalets (houses made from wood). There are resorts (Cans Montana) and tourist attractions (Zermatt and the Matterhorn).

Canadian mountains include more bears than people—and in the Yukon, probably more snow.

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