Farm-o-Matic

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On day five in Zürich, we walked to the top of the Zürichberg (the name of the big hill we live on) and saw the cemetery and wandered through the woods down the other side of the mountain (to see what we could see….). What I was really hoping to find was a farm vending machine that I had read about on the English Forum. We were unsuccessful that day.

This Sunday we tried again. First of all, I noticed that in 6 weeks I am in much better condition than I was when we arrived and could hike the up (and down) much faster. Without stopping at the cemetery (closed on Sundays, it appeared) or the Zoo (which was doing a great business), we sought out the farm with produce for sale. Just when we didn’t think we’d find it (and the post we had read was four years old, so we were not sure if it was still there), our perseverance paid off. You rather have to know that you are looking for it, or you might never venture over to the farm off of the road.

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As advertised, we found apples (4-5 kinds), potatoes and eggs. We bought a kilo of apples, a kilo of potatoes and 6 eggs for the great price of $9.45.

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It is a two-hour round trip, so I don’t think this will be a weekly habit, but I was so happy to find this place!

The apple trees are under nets.

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The farm had some cute goats, and, of course, we saw some more cows.

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Luzern

IMG_5434 Even though we left the Alpabzug after eating lunch, we weren’t quite ready to come home. Our tickets had us changing trains in Luzern, and we decided to stop in that fabled city for a few hours to see the sights on such a glorious day. Add Canton Luzern to our list. We rarely go anywhere without planning what we will do or see (or at least have a starting plan), and we arrived in the HB with no map. No worries. Follow the i sign to the tourist info and pick up a free map. We knew about the covered bridges, and, in good fashion, much of the stuff you want to see is right out the train station doors. Lake Luzern was ripe for the wandering and sitting and looking out across at the mountains. The view of Mount Pilatus was a little hazy, but perhaps we will go back someday and ride the world’s steepest cogwheel railway to the top. IMG_5469 IMG_5440According to the map there were some towers attached to the original city walls that could be climbed, so we walked up the hill to see. IMG_5465 IMG_5464The views were pretty good (still hazy, but we got the idea). Back down the hill we strolled across the bridges and admired the artwork on the roof supports. IMG_5480 IMG_5460 More old town wandering, a stop at a cafe along the river for a drink, we wandered back to the train station. IMG_5451 IMG_5436 Luzern reminded us of Zürich a little, but it is smaller and more quaint. Upon arriving home, I remembered that the city has a transportation museum that is supposed to be fabulous. I think we’ll save that for a cold winter day’s entertainment.

Kerns 4th Annual Alpabfahrt

IMG_5348 Now I can say we’ve really been in Switzerland! Well, the trip two weeks ago to the Lauterbrunnen Valley was also a very Swiss experience, but yesterday was a cultural highlight. An Alpabfahrt (or Alpabzug) is an event celebrating the descent (in the fall) or ascent (in the spring) of the cows from or to their summer munching grounds in the Alps. Abfahrt means departure (departing the Alps) and Abzug means departure or withdrawing from. I saw both words used. We arrived in Kerns (in the Canton Obwalden) after several hectic train rides and a Post Auto Bus. (This could be another blog post, but I’ll spare you and just say that when the weather is supposed to be sunny and 70 degrees on a Saturday, everyone and their dog and especially their hiking poles in the rucksack, is on the early train to get out into the glorious outdoors. Standing room only, folks! Pushing and shoving the norm.) Town of Kerns.IMG_5282 Cheese booth in the village. IMG_5283 The flyer said that the festival would be from 10:00-14:00, and we wanted to be there in good time, so we arrived in the small town by 9:40 and wandered around a bit, planning where to stand so we wouldn’t be looking into the sun. Here is the map of the parade route. Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 9.44.58 AM We planted ourselves at the church (upper left corner of the route) and watched as people came and lined the route. We met a family from Minnesota who have moved to Baden with their three kids (who after 10 months here can speak High German and Baden Swiss German) and we chatted with them for awhile. The man on the loudspeaker said some things that I couldn’t understand, and the girl said, “He says thank you for your patience.” The parade finally started around 11:00 (I’m guessing that Swiss cows do not wear Swiss watches, nor can they hear the church bells over the bells they have around their necks.) Here is the start of the parade. Adorable children in adorable costumes. Lots of sunflowers. IMG_5292The men’s yodeling group singing as they walked. They stopped later for a little concert. IMG_5293 More adorableness. IMG_5299 IMG_5301 Then the Alphorns (or Alpenhorns) came. They stopped at the curve and played for us. IMG_5306 IMG_5311 Then a guy on a tractor with a little trailer with chickens and wooden sandals among other things. Following him were a herd of sheep. IMG_5333 IMG_5336From what I could tell about what happened next, one family would parade their cows around the square once or twice. After a break, another group of cows, decorated slightly differently came along. And so on. You could definitely hear them coming. IMG_5340 IMG_5342 IMG_5352 IMG_5380 This little flag is the flag of Kerns. IMG_5389 A boy who took his role in the parade very seriously. IMG_5402Then there were goats. IMG_5404 I asked my new friend from Minnesota how you say goat in German. A lovely lady next to me answered me and said Geißen. She proceeded to chat with me in German, telling me that these were special goats with long hair, then asked me if this was my first Alpabzug. Ja, I told her, und es ist ganz schön. (And it is very beautiful.) After about 5 families of cows came around, we thought it would be good to see what the food vendors had, so we looked at the various booths and came up with some bratwurst (which we now know is finger food) and then some Raclette. We had been waiting to try this very Swiss of dishes, and this was probably the right atmosphere. Think gobs of gooey cheese over potatoes, and there you have it. Since the cheese may have been made right there, it was pretty delicious. We shared this plate (and the bratwurst) and decided that was the best way to go. Too much Raclette might disagree with your stomach. IMG_5428We weren’t sure we were up for any more cows, so we took the Post Auto Bus back to the train station and went on our merry way. Here is my little youtube video of the day.

The Strengthening Dollar

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When I first found out how much we would be paying in rent here, I went online to see how that translated into dollars. At that time, the Swiss Franc cost between $1.12 and $1.14. Then the dollar gained a little, and it was around $1.10 for a franc, and I could do the mental math of adding 10% to the Swiss price. I’ve been tracking the dollar’s rise and yesterday this picture popped up. So, since I started budgeting for the year, our rent has effectively decreased enough so we might decide to eat out once in a while. Now there’s a concept!

However, the price of a loaf of Ruchbrot has only decreased 10 cents from $1.25 to $1.15 a loaf. Always a good deal. We go through at least two loaves a week.

Joie de Vivre

For my last Parisian post, I must close with what it felt like to be in the City of Light. Coming from Switzerland, the first thing I noticed when I walked into the train station is how multi-ethnic it is. It felt, in that way, like being back in L.A.

That’s not exactly what I was thinking, though, when I planned this post. I want to write about the happy feeling of being in this huge city. Of course, we were on vacation, so it was easy to feel happy – not rushed, enjoying museums and wandering and food.

The first night we were there, we wandered onto the bridge between the two islands with our ice cream cones from Berthillon.

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The sounds of Dixieland Jazz made us stop and sit on the curb.

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While we were enjoying the fine art of sitting, other people were enjoying the fine art of dancing to the tunes.

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These are the things you can’t put into a guidebook and the things you remember.

We were not the only ones, of course, who know about the fine art of sitting. We saw evidence of that throughout the city.

In parks:

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In the Place des Vosges

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A typical bench

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Luxembourg Gardens. I could have stayed here for many hours.

In cafés and restaurants:

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Café des 2 Moulins

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404 – Moroccan restaurant in the Marais

And just eating the very best strawberries ever from the Rue Cler:

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Au revoir, Paris. Until next time!

Paying Homage

Paris is a very, very, very big city with a long, long, long history. That means that many people have expired there, quite a few of them famous. If you travel with me, you are bound to seek out cemeteries and final resting places. We got to four in Paris.

Cimetière de Montmartre

Here we found the graves of Berlioz, Degas (De Gas), Nadia Boulanger, Foucault (of pendulum fame), got lost a little, enjoyed the shade of a warm afternoon, and ran into a man feeding cats. He waved us down and asked if we spoke English (which we now know is a cue to shake our heads and run) and proceeded to ask us for money to help him feed the 100 cats in the cemetery. He pulled out a little card of the WWF to imply that he is somehow related to that organization. H gave him half a euro (I know it’s not much), and the man was offended and said that he couldn’t buy anything with that. He softened when H said that was all we had, but he didn’t offer to give it back. I don’t think we wanted to hand over a 20 euro note, and we were short on change at that moment.

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Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

This is the big Paris cemetery. You have your choice of three metro stops around the perimeter. We almost walked by one of the entrances by accident until I looked up above the wall and saw some of those little houses peeking above. There are so many famous people buried here that I will spare you them all, but here are a few pictures of ones we found.

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Bizet

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Balzac

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Chapel and Crematorium

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Columbarium

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Oscar Wilde – you can no longer kiss the front of his tombstone. The family got tired of cleaning it, so they put up a shield.

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But apparently you can still kiss the side

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Gertrude Stein. Alice Toklas is also here, but not her inscribed name.

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Stones and Metro tickets on Stein’s grave. Haven’t found a good explanation of the Metro tickets’ significance.

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Jim Morrison.

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Chopin

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Panthéon

Along with the kids on a field trip, we saw this grand indoor space. The tombs are downstairs. We also saw Louis Braille, but it was very dark (how appropriate) and I didn’t want to use my flash.

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Voltaire

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Dumas – All for One, One for All!

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Marie and Pierre Curie

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Les Invalides

And finally, Napoleon. You’d think he was rather keen on himself, what with a huge rotunda above him….

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Following Amélie

In preparation for our Paris trip, we re-watched Amélie, a sweet French movie about a shy waitress in Montmartre. Then I dug around on the internet and found the filming locations of some of the spots and wrote them on the walking map we had of Montmartre. We started on the back side of the hill with muffins and lattes at Soul Kitchen (decaf to be had!). Sitting along the bar at the open window and watching people walk by on their way to work on a sunny Tuesday morning, we knew we should have arrived a little earlier as we watched three trams of tourists drive by. Oh well. IMG_4858 We walked to the top of the hill to get a good look at the Sacré-Coeur, the Huge Basilica and to look over the gloriousness that is Paris. Well, when it’s not hazy, it is probably a wondrous view. IMG_4863 The Basilica is grand, and we enjoyed the outside without feeling the need to enter. I’m sure it’s grand inside, too. IMG_4868 Wandering around and trying not to look like pickpocket targets, we had a hard time finding the little grocery store from the movie where Amélie runs her fingers through the beans, but we persevered and were rewarded for our efforts. No beans, but lots of lovely fruit out front. IMG_4877 We also found the the Abbesses Metro Stop and the carousel. IMG_4873 IMG_4889My favorite part of Montmartre was the 2 Moulins, the restaurant where Amélie worked. We ended up eating lunch there and thoroughly enjoyed the food, the nice waiter and watching all the tourists come in just to take a photo. I sat in the seat that the guy sat in in the movie, but the glass behind it is not there. I also went to the famous bathroom. Watch the movie to see what I mean. IMG_4908 IMG_4912That evening we continued our Amélie quest by walking from our flat to the Canal St. Martin to see where it was that she skipped stones while standing on the lock. I would not have done that, and it looked like no one was allowed to go out there. IMG_4932 IMG_4934It looks way more glamorous in the movie.