aka: Shannon's Shananigan's (Since there seems to be less & less knitting and more Shananigan-ing going on as of late and well, let's face it, she's just going to always be a techygeekgirl!!)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"The King" in Zurich

Just got back from Zurich a little bit ago. I went with Heather J and some of her friends. It was fun. We took the "fast" train down there, then took a lunch boat ride around Lake Zurich. It was a little chilly and overcast, but beautiful. The mountains are at the southern end of the lake, which give a magnificent view. (but, truth be told...I prefer Lake Geneva!!)

After the boat ride, we walked over to the museum along the Limmant River. The weather warmed up considerably by then, so it was a lovely walk.

The King Tut exhibit was interesting. It took about 2 hours to go through and we got the Audio tour too, which helped. Most of the displays were written in German, as well as the movies that were shown. I was rather disappointed that the exhibit was just copies of the actual items that were found in the tomb. It was neat to see the history and some of the items though.

After the exhibit, we headed for home. The group was going to stay for dinner, but it was already getting late and we wouldn't be back until way after 10. I actually fell asleep on the train on the way home, so leaving early was a good idea.

I fly home on Friday and will be home for a little over a week. I'm excited to go home, but I've been getitng used to being here. I do feel that I'm getting a little spent over here, so the break will be nice. Still have a bad case of Spring Fever though...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Blind Cow, Irish Pub & Dijon, France

I had quite the eating experience on Friday night. A group of 15 of us ate at a restaurant in Basel called Blindkuh, which is translated to "The Blind Cow". It is a restaurant that you eat in complete darkness, in order to give you the experience as if you were visually impaired. They lead you into the completely dark restaurant in a line and sit you at the table. The menu was given to us before we entered, but we order from our visually impaired waitress, Frainy, who was wonderful for putting up with us! I sat between two of the UK Boys who were a riot. Before we even got our drinks, they had taken all the silverware and glasses and moved them to one end of the table! I ended up eating the "Menu Surprise" for dinner, which included soup, a main course of meat, potatoes and vegetables and dessert. It was strange trying to eat, as honestly, I used my fingers a couple of times to figure out where all the food was! The meat was odd - beefy, but gamey. (The meat turned out to be Black Wildebeast, but they would not tell us until after the meal was over.) Towards the end of the meal though, members of our group decided to change shirts with each other. Most of the guys ended up in the girls' shirts, which was a riot. We got pictures, but I was threatened if I post them!! It was a cool experience, though I don't know if I would ever want to do it again....

After dinner, our group went to the Irish pub that we usually hang out in. A couple of us had stopped for a bier on the way and someone had brought an empty bottle into the bar, to throw it away (open containers are allowed). After everyone had gotten their biers and sat down, the owner came over, picked up one of the bottles and threw us all out - without letting anyone explain. (biers are 10CHF/each and everyone had at least one!) I got about 2/3 of my Guiness finished before leaving. Tony K, the only true Irishman with our group and probably the only one in the bar, tried to reason with the owner, but he would have none of it and Tony called him every name in the book. Needless to say, we'll be finding a new place to spend all of our money at in the future!

Yesterday a group of 11 of us drove to Dijon, France for the day. The weather was mostly sunny and in the 50's for the day, so it was good for walking around around. (I think we walked between 3-5 miles total!!) It was a pretty town and there were a lot of neat old Catholic churches:

St. Benigne

Notre Dame (notice all the Gargoyles on the front of it - there are a ton of them all over this church!)

St. Michel

They were all beautiful and had gorgeous artwork, tapestries, stone and woodwork and stained glass windows in each (I took another 100 pictures in all, so I have more with the details in them!). I found it refreshing to be in a Catholic church again too, so much so, that I found an English-speaking Catholic church to attend tonight in Basel!!

We also walked up in the Tour la Philippe Le Bon at the Palais Des Etats - all 317 circular steps of it!! The view was amazing and you could see all of Dijon and beyond.
The view was amazing and seeing all of the churches and various architectural styles was pretty cool. I have a 360 degree video here. The palace was impressive too:

Of course we could not stop in Dijon without buying mustard, so we bought some at Boutique Maille, which shows that it's been in existence since 1747! The mustard was more spicey and flavorful than the Dijon mustards I have had at home. It came in a little crock with a cork, after being dispensed from a TAP in the store - that was so cool! I ended up buying 2 jars, as two of them were absolutely fabulous! (Now I need to find some good pretzels or brats and we are in business!!)

We stopped for afternoon drinks at this outdoor cafe (which is pretty famous and all all the touristy stuff):

I did find a pretty bracelet in shop along a side street in town too. It was a colorful glass bracelet from a designer in Paris. Ok, so it was a little pricier than I would pay normally, but absolutely fabulous and how cool is it to say "I got it in France" when someone asks!!
Most of the streets looked like this:

There is a replica of the Arch de la Triomphe in Dijon too:
The white things in the middle of the flowers are ping-pong balls on stakes that I guess are supposed to look "cool" when lit up at night...

After a day of walking the town, we had dinner at the Les Halles de Bistro for dinner. It was really good and not as expensive as I would have guessed for all of us. (France was not as expensive as Switzerland!) We ended up leaving Dijon at about 9:30 and got back to Basel at about 12:30 and caught the tram home. It was a long but really fun day in France!!

Today it's supposed to be about 65 and mostly sunny today, so I think I'm going to take a book and a bottle of water out along the Rhine to read, then catch church and maybe dinner with the group tonight. I'm looking forward to a lazy day here, as it's been a crazy week and weekend thus far!!

Next weekend is my last on this Basel trip, so I'm hoping to "shop Basel" and explore the town. Hopefully the weather will cooperate with me too!!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Lake Geneva Trip with Commentary

***Just a note: I posted a bunch of pictures from this trip yesterday, so scroll down to see them. I will add some more pictures as I go here too...

So some of you may know that I have been suffering a case of homesickness the last couple of weeks. It actually started before I left and continued into this week. It was bad and I did everything I could to combat it, but it was tough. Finally on Thursday this week, I was able to kick it - kick it hard and I've been good ever since!! I think planning this trip helped me get over it...

We met bright and early on Saturday morning at the train station to take the 6:01 train from Basel to Speiz. There were 7 of us in our group, which was a good size. The rest of the team went skiing, as it was the last weekend really of ski season. We bought 1st class tickets this time, so that we could access better seating later in the trip. 1st class was nice - plushier seats that reclined and not as many people. Not sure if it was worth the extra 27CHF in general, but it was nice.

In Speiz we boarded the Golden Pass train (special scenic route/line) on our way to Montreux. The first leg of the trip was Ok, but after changing trains again, the second leg proved to be breathtaking. We traveled through the Alps on the way to the lake and it was AMAZING to come over the top of the mountain and see the lake surrounded by the French Alps on the other side. Words cannot even begin to describe the scene:

Once in Montreux, we walked around a bit, to get a feel for where we were. Down from the boat launch and tourism center, we saw the Freddie Mercury memorial.

Apparently at some point in time he moved to Montreux and worked in Mountain Music Studios which is located there. While not a Queen fan, it was one of those "must sees", as we came that way and seeing all the "touristy" things is just fun.

From there, we walked about 1.5 miles along the lake to Le Chateau de Chillon (the castle). The walk was beautiful, as the weather was in the 60s and sunny. It was so incredible to walk along the lake with palm trees and look across and see the Alps!

There were a ton of sailboats along the shores and we imagined that the houses and apartments along there too were probably pretty pricey, but well worth it.

There were some great views as we came up on the castle and I took a ton of pictures. The view of the castle, lake and mountains in the background was spectacular and I just couldn't get over seeing it.

Since we opted for the walk, rather than the boat ride, we had about 45 minutes to spare waiting for part of our group. There was a courtyard outside the entrance with chairs along the lake, so we relaxed with an ice cream and sat for awhile. (I even got sunburned on my face!) We loved taking pictures with our feet up on the stone wall, next to a beer overlooking the lake and mountains.

The castle tour was great. It was self-guided, so we wandered all over looking at everything. Again, I took a ton of pictures, though my favorite were of the mountains through the windows -

there was just something about looking through those historical windows out over the lake to the mountains. The history of the site dates back to the 17th & 18th century BC, though the castle itself was built (or at least started) around 1005 AD. There is a lot of history with it, as it was mainly a prison. And there is fabulous artwork and interesting facets of the building which were really impressive. I am very happy that I opted to buy the 2GB card for my camera, as I took pictures of EVERYTHING! (now I need a new battery though, as it ran out first!)

After the tour of the castle, I purchased a "tacky" magnet and the little history book of the castle, along with a 2-pack of wine as souvenirs. One of the bottles will probably make it home, though the other will be enjoyed here. We took the bus back into Montreux, as most of us were tired of walking and "hung out" for the 5:15 boat to Lausanne.

The boat to Lausanne was really cool. We started out sitting outside upstairs (1st class ticket!), but once the sun went in, it got chilly fast and we ended up inside. I still took a bunch of pictures from outside though.

All along the lake are vineyards built into the sides of the mountain. (see picture 7 in the previous post) We were marveling at the ability to be able to plant them like that and how tough it must be to harvest!!

We landed in Lausanne and decided to eat dinner, as most of us were pretty hungry and tired. After dinner, we caught the tram to the train station and made the train home with time to spare. Luckily it was a 'fast' train, so after a switch in Bern, it took us a little over 2 hours to get home total. We had been gone for over 16 hours, but the day seem to fly by really.

I was really impressed with Lausanne and may have to go back soon. We really spent no time there, but from what I could see, it was beautiful.

It looks like I'm going to be here for most of May and most of June. The Eurocup 2008 is coming to Basel, so June will be crazy, but fun! More on that later...

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Montreux & Le Chateau de Chillon on Lake Geneva

Just got back. Took over 260 pictures. Totally spent, so no stories today - Only pictures. (I'll fill you in later...)

Enjoy the breathtaking beauty.... (It's a bit different than Lake Geneva in Wisconsin!!)