Monday, April 27, 2009

NE Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and a Blogger MeetUp.

Can you travel by car from San Diego to Maine and back in one weekend? No.

Can you travel by car from SW Switzerland (Geneva) to NE Switzerland (Au) in one weekend? Yes you can.

And that is exactly what we did this weekend. We made the 5 hour drive to NE switzerland to the canton of St Gallen and checked out the beautiful Appenzellerland and Liechtenstein. We stopped along the way to see Lake Constance and walk waterside for awhile. There were a ton of sailboats about and we chilled in the shade after our long drive. We then headed into Liechtenstein and up to the castle. Liechtenstein in on the Swiss currency and there was no tolls. A few small villages make up this whole country and their license plates are black in color!

We then drove up the hills into the heart of Appenzell and met up with Amanda/Isiah and Edie/Paul for a swiss dinner in the outside beer garden. Lots of conversation and laughs and catching up for Amanda and I. Rob finally got to a Rosti and we enjoyed yummy beers. See below. Amanda and Isiah were kind of enough to let us stay in their AMAZING apartment and cook us pancakes for breakfast! What fantastics hosts! Thank you guys again! It was a quiet night of sleep compared to our usual Geneva street noise from the windows.

On Sunday after breakfast we headed into Zurich for the blogger meetup at Google and the Cafe afterwards. I didn't take many pictures but I am sure in the next few days you will see a few posts about it all on other blogs. It was great to meet people in person and put a real face to a actual blog. We didn't get to stay long since we had to hit the road and drive back home. Hopefully it gets done again and we can make the trek up! Thanks Jessica and Amanda for hosting and organizing! Check out Jessica's post about it here. The Zurich google office tour was a lot of fun and we got to slide down the fire poles and slide into the kitchen.

Anyways, I could elaborate for quite awhile on this fun weekend, but the grocery store is going to close VERY soon! Damn 7 PM closing time!

Lake Constance - we think the 3rd largest lake in Europe?
Number one being in Hungary and Lake Geneva is #2.

Liechtenstein Castle.

Rob in tiny Liechtenstein. Cross one off the list!

I love these kinds of signs.

Appenzell Cheese - Old and Ripe vs. New and Mild. ~ Mild wins!

Appenzell Beer - enjoyed at the beer garden in the cute old town where we had dinner with Amanda & Isiah, and Edie & Paul.
4.8% brewed by Brauerei Lucher right in Appenzell
They make a ton of varieties and wish I tried the Lager Dunkel.
But we have tried a earlier a variety in a bottle here in Geneva brewed in Appenzell.

Isiah shared his favorite beer so far with us.
(this one is HARD to find information about on the internet)
Maybe Amanda could get Isiah to help me fill the rest of the info.
I did find this great website on Swiss Beers to help on my quest in the future!

Rob and a Schneider Weisse.

Jessica with a SchneiderWeisse and of course - cinnamon sauce apple strudel.


La Trappe Quadrupel

Oh yes. Another Trappist Beer
Purchased at a wine store in Balexert.

La Trappe Quadrupel - 10%!
Brewed by Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven in the Netherlands.
Tastey - but meant for sharing with a movie and some popcorn.
Sip it slowly and feel the tingle.


Travel to Annecy, France and a Beer in Carouge

Part 1: Travel

Last Sunday, we headed down to Annecy, France after being told by a few of Rob's coworkers that is was a nice place to visit. It is only a 35 minute drive from Geneva and to avoid any French toll roads, we took the back way. It added 30 extra minutes to the drive, but is was worth it. Driving thru green hills on back country roads, admiring lazy cows, glancing a multicolored trees, is very relaxing.

I didn't take a ton if pictures since we do plan on visiting here often. The town in on a smaller lake but has amazing Alp views. You can rent paddle boats or motorized boats and float around for some relaxation. We totally intend on doing that this summer. There is a huge park right by the lake with a ton of picnicer's and the old town next to the park has great shops to visit. Lots of crepe stands and bakery goods. It seemed to be mostly French tourists. I read somewhere that the French really only like to vacation in other parts of France, and I guess this is one spot they come to.

Part 2: Beer

We visited L'Imprevu in Carouge since it was the ONLY thing open on a Sunday night in this part of town. Rob has a fantastic SchneiderWeisse and I had a Leffe Brown. It was not busy at all and had set out great lounging furniture on the sidewalk. A lot of place in Geneva have started to put their patio table out and I hope it encourages smokers to stay outside! Maybe then I could go inside a place without gagging. We were adventurists and order the "chips and guac with salsa." We apparently never learn our lesson. So let me repeat it, NEVER order guacamole in Europe. Not unless you know if comes from an actual avocado and not from a jar mostly of peas. Yuck.

About the beers:

SchneiderWeisse - Hefeweisen - 5.4% - Brewed by Private Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn. - A pretty popular brew in Germany and in German speaking CH.

Leffe Brune - Belgian Dark Ale - 6.5% - Brewed by Abbaye De Leffe. They make 9 different Leffe beer's and many are sold in the COOP. Ta


Spring Has Arrived!

So, I'm a little behind on catching up with the rate of taking pictures to the rate of making blog posts, so I am going to attempt to catch up now!

Last weekend, Rob and I stayed close to town and wandered around Geneva in search of soaking up sunshine and enjoying city life. Both of us consider ourselves suburbanites and really have never lived in the heart of a "big" city before. To get out and walk around and to be able to see so many sights is really a luxury. Now that spring is finally here, we intend to take full advantage.

These amazing pink trees are starting to bloom all over town. I have no clue what kind of tree they are, but Geneva sure has A LOT of them.

Monkey's play in trees. This is pretty good evidence for evolution right here.

Rob obeys random street signs well

Another carnival in Plainpalais. Yes, there seems to be a carnival here all the time. Plenty of random American 80's music and ripped off disney characters. Taken from a bench where we were chilling a little bit away.


Monday, April 20, 2009


Rob misses subway. But they do their cheese all wrong!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bon Secours - Biere Vivante

Bon Secours - Biere Vivante - 8% - Belgian Style Ale
Brewed By Brasserie Caulier
According to Beer Advocate, this beer is retired and is no longer brewed.
We were watching the movie with Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happiness, and the depressing moments were stressing us out. We enjoyed this Belgian 8% to calm things down a bit. 


Friday, April 17, 2009

Recipe - Pesto Spinich Stuffed Salmon

Cooked and Served With Caramelized Mushrooms
 Before Putting into Oven

Recipe Adapted From All Recipes - Spinach Stuffed Salmon


Two Thick Fresh Salmon Fillets - I purchased them from Halle De Rive In Geneva

10 oz bag of washed baby spinach- chopped into small pieces

1 spoonful of prepared pesto

2-3 chopped up sun-dried tomatoes

Zest of 1 lemon and Juice of 1/2 a lemon

2 Garlic Cloves Chopped Finely

Plenty of Ground Black Pepper

Pinch of Sel De Mare - "Sea Salt"


Slit fillets into two halves creating a pocket but not cutting all the way thru. Combine all ingredient besides lemon juice. Place filling into salmon pockets. Squeeze lemon juice on top. Salt and Pepper top if desired. Bake till salmon is done and flakey!

As for cooking time, I would just keep an eye on it. We have to bake everything in a toaster oven, so the time I give you would be way off then regular oven!

Rob really enjoyed this meal so I decided to share it with you!


Beer ~ La Fin Du Monde

As a Canadian Beer, I wasn't sure this one was worthy of the beer adventures of the year. But, I did drink it while living here and it has a french name, so I suppose I can let it count. Also, this is a big production beer and can EASILY be found in the US. Whatever, it still tastes good. 

La Fin Du Monde - Triple Fermented Golden Ale
9% - Brewed by Unibroue in Quebec
Tasting Notes : Strong (hit me quickly even after eating dinner), Great Aroma and Color. 
Bonus : Rob is in the background of the picture!!! :) Isn't he cute? 


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cinque Terre

How we got there:

For the long Easter weekend Rob has both Friday and Monday off. We took off in the car Thursday night and drove thru the Mont Blanc tunnel and got to our stopping point in Santa Margarita. The car ride was about 5 hours from Geneva with a small stop at an Autoroute for some craptastic sandwiches. We stopped on the Italian side of the autoroute for dinner at a place we had been before. They normally have pizza available too, but since it was so late, it was all gone.

We parked the car in Santa Margarita for the night on the street right next to the water in the "blue zone" where the front desk said it would be okay till 8 AM. We woke the next morning and ate our complimentary hotel continental breakfast. Cereal, croissants, and nutella/jam. Not much else you could ask for. We thought Santa M. was going to be a sorta lively town since we drove in and people were still out drinking on the main drag. It turned to to be exactly like we thought, but more resort town like. We were not in a hurray to get to Manarola since we could only check in after 2 PM so we stayed around Santa M. for a while. We walked the coastline (which was gorgeous) and walked around the small town square weaving in and out of the little street. Although we didn't know it yet, it was a taste of what was going to come all weekend.

Santa Margarita

We left Santa M but decided to take the local roads to Levanto instead of the Autoroute. It was a gorgeous drive but took probably 3 times as long since we weren't carving out way thru the terrain via tunnels and bridges like the autoroute. We really felt "at home" with the ocean breeze, the window down, and the mountainous terrain right next to the water. It felt very central coast CA, like driving thru Big Sur. We did end up getting on the autoroute for one section, but freaked out because the machine didn't give us a ticket in the beginning but we drove onto the freeway anyway. We were contemplating how much a lost ticket cost would be since we probably couldn't explain our way out of it. Luckily, we got off on the next exit, and there was a sign in Italian over the machine. We had not idea what it said, but the gate was open and we drove thru! We think it was probably free for the holiday weekend, but maybe it was just out of order? We will never know and hopefully we don't get a ticket in the mail!

We finally arrived in Levanto and knew of a parking lot near the train station. On the internet, somebody said it would be 9 euros a day and we were prepared to pay it. Nobody ever said that the meters only take money for a MAX of 24 hours and that we would have to come back to Levanto everyday to put more money in the meter! Oh well. The local train for the Cinque Terre includes Levanto as the Northernmost stop and La Spezia as the southernmost stop. It was just a quick 20 minutes train ride everyday each way to change out out metered parking space ticket, so decided to leave the car.

We opted and bought the 3 day Cinque Terre card for tourists that allows you to hop on and off any train between the cities and walk the trails. It also grants you access to all the museums of the area and supposedly a free mountain bike hire for three hours? We didn't take advantage of the last two.

The cities are in the order from North to South - Levanto, Monetrosso, Vernaza, Corniglia, Manarola, RioMaggiore, and La Spezia. We went to all of the besides La Spezia since it was a big town and we kinda wanted to get away from it all. The trick is to get a train schedule from any cashier on a small white piece of paper that tells you exactly when each train is leaving from each city. You have to be careful because some of the trains skip towns. They often skip Vernazza, Corgnilia, and Manarola at certain times of the day. Therefore since we stayed in Manarola, we had to be careful to get on a train at the appropriate time. The Italian trains don't have many markings on them when they speed into the station. There are no sign that say which one it is and you have to rely on the announcements in the station and the one monitor that shows arrivals and departures.

Where we stayed:

Since it was Easter weekend, we knew it was going to be a popular weekend and booked about a month in advance. I found a company online that rents rooms/apartments out and had an English website. We did all of the booking thru email and paid cash for the place once we got there. There are a lot of different options for accommodations, but I always think apartments are the way to go. There are actually very few hotel options and a lot of what is advertised in La Spezia (the bigger town in the south). We were extremely happy with out choice and felt like we stayed among the locals. The place was in the "high" town of Manarola and was a serious hike from the main drag up to the place every night. We had a lovely balcony and view and enjoyed in thoroughly.

View from our bed. I love waking up to beautiful views! The hillside in Manarola was covered with grape vines. The side of the town with the our place was full of cute buildings on the hillside. 

What we did:

Friday we decide to take the easiest of the hikes from Manarola to RioMaggiore called the "Via Dell' Amore" or the "lover's walk". Only 20 minutes along the rugged coastline and at the end was a great wine and snack bar that overlooked inlet near the Riomaggiore train station. We stopped and have some cheap local wine (2 Euros a glass!) and some Bruschetta. It was self service since it was a Friday and had open tables right along the balcony edge. Very relaxing! We headed back to Manarola and had dinner three doors down from our place at Trattoria Dal Billy. (See previous food post about this). When we got back to our room we were ready to fall asleep. From the lack of sleep the previous night, and the bottle and a half of wine we drank, we were ready to hit the hay. It was only 10 PM. Right before we totally were in sleepy land, a really loud group singing noise came from the town. We didn't investigate we we could tell that the locals were gathered at the church and signing songs for Good Friday. It was really beautiful. Although, we couldn't understand any of the Italian, we still smiled at the scene and fell asleep.

Saturday and Sunday we hiked around each of the towns and saw some great views. Our camera was constantly on and taking pictures as we uncovered scene after scene of great shots. We hiked up the nunnery in Vernazza, up to the church in Monterosso, up the lemon fields for limonino, and from Corniglia to Manarola (the 2nd easiest hike after the lover's walk). We stopped a lot a just stared at the views. There were lots of spots to sit and just watch the waves crash and people walk by. We noticed a lot of Europeans taking advantage of the picnic areas along the trails and the super touristy type hanging out by the water. The tourists were dressed very "hiker-y" with cargo's, big hats, and hiking boots galore. This place has some magnificent hikes, and people come just for them. Rob and I took a little from both worlds. Relaxing and Hiking. Each town was unique and it was just fun to try to walk down every little path, up every stairway, and into alleyways to try to find new things.

A view from Corniglia up to Vernazza and Monterosso. 

Manarola White Wine Vines. Walking the trail and this is view toward Corgnilia. 

Monterosso Al Mare

Getting Artistic. . . haha 

I loved this archway. Beyond it was small patio and then the ocean!
This photo was taken on the path up to our place in Manarola. 

Happy in Manarola

Monday we decided to take a detour on our way home and stop in Piza for a picture of the leaving tower. I really have always wanted to do this, but had no idea of how HUGE of a tourist trap it is. Piza is a shitty little town with one famous attraction. Luckily it was only a couple hours out of our way and we only paid 1.50 euro for parking across the street from it. It was funny to see all the tourists posing and "lifting" the tower up!

Our detour to Piza

There are way too many good pictures to share on the blog. We took over 900 and I uploaded about 85 to my picasa album. If you would like to check the rest out - Click Here.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

In my quest to eat healthier and more like an herbivore . . . I have been reading vegan food blogs and trying out some of the recipes. This one from Happy Herbivore turned out well. Rob hasn't tried it yet, but hopefully he will enjoy it. I am really on a muffin kick and baking them every week. Banana Crumb, Blueberry, and Oatmeal. 

Tami - this one is for you! Try it! 


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ligurian Foods Of Our Trip

I want to share everything about our Cinque Terre Easter weekend trip, but there is just too much for one post. So, to break it up, I am going to share about the food first!

A great trip always has great food. So far, Rob and I have always been disappointed with Italian food in Italy. But the Cinque Terre has changed our minds! We knew great food existed, but we were never able to find it before. I did some extensive research on places to eat in the 5 towns and we ate a the top 3 places I wanted to try.

It's Italy - We must eat Brushchetta 

Dinner on Friday night ~ Trattoria dal Billy in Manarola.

This place was only 3 doors down from our apartment and we couldn't resist getting there a little earlier then everyone else since we did not make reservations. The waiter brought us a small free cherry aspertif and insisted that we order one on the specials. The special was fresh fish brought in from the boat that day baked with potatoes. When we ordered it, he brought us up the stairway to a big platter of ice with different fish on it. He made us pick one out and we got it served to us just 20 minutes later! It cannot get any fresher then that! We ordered a local wine and tried a Cinque Terre specialty of sardines with lemon. When the whole fish was served to us he plopped down a big bottle of olive oil with it. He insisted we eat the fish with the oil and he was right. It tasted fantastic!

Dinner on Saturday night ~ L'Ancora della Tortuga in Monterosso

I found this place from a NYTimes travel article on how to spend 3 days in the Cinque Terre. We had made reservations early in the day and got a great table for two on the balcony that hung out from the walkway and overlooked the water. There was only enough room for two tables of two and 3 chairs. The restaurant brought out pillows for the bench wall to create a fourth chair for Rob. It looked a little awkward but the view and spot was amazing! This restaurant is actually built in an old war bunker on the side of the hill if you sit on the inside. It was beautiful weather so we braved not having jackets into the evening and sat outside anyways. The food was very good and we had lots of seafood. Rob even ate a Tuna Tartar which is the first raw fish he's had in Europe.

Our amazing table to the right under the one umbrella.

At L'Ancora Della Tortuga. My dish of seafood pasta was perfect. 

At L'Ancora della Tortuga

Fresh Medditarenean Fish (Caught that day!) and Potatoes

Dinner on Sunday night ~ Il Pirata in Vernazza.

This place is recommended by two different sources. One being Rick Steves who made the Cinque Terre popular and brought A LOT of tourists in. And the other being trip advisor. Rick Steves recommends breakfast, and trip advisor recommends dinner. We went with dinner and made reservations the day before. The place is more casual then the last two dinners but the atmosphere was a lot of fun. Two Sicilian brothers run the place and they are a hoot. The place is mostly American tourists who read about it on one of the two sources I listed above. We had yummy pesto dishes and followed with amazing desserts. If you travel to the Cinque Terre - the Cannelloni's they make are fantastic! They have a ton of different pastries and cookies for breakfasttime. When we were leaving, one of the brother packed us a few pastries for breakfast since he knew we were staying in a different town then Vernazza. One of the brothers talked to us about living in Switzerland and his feelings towards the Swiss. He, as an Italian man, has always felt how stuck up they were and and felt their coldness. He also told us that 60 years ago in Switzerland there would be signs on the doors of restaurants that would say "No Italians". He has never been himself, but would like to go one day to the Geneva Car Show!

Lunches ~ Foccaciaria!

Everyday we ate focaccia for lunch. It was quick, easy, cheap, and you could take it to a viewpoint and enjoy. In total, we ate at 6 different places all over the Cinque Terre. (A few of these were snack not lunch!) The best places were in Levanto when we first arrived. They had a fresh sun-dried tomato and lettuce one that had a ton of olive oil. They also had a fresh Caprese one which was actually hard to find in the other foccaciaria's. The other great one was the in hillside town on Corniglia. The only unfortunate thing about this place was the French! The french were trying to cut us in line! Argh! Besides them, the focaccia was yummy and we tried the Farinita. (see pictures below).

Onion Foccacia - (There were a ton of different types but this was our favorite)

Farinta - A local fried bread chickpea snack. Yummy! 1 Euro!

In Monterosso Al Mare - we stopped for a glass of wine. 

Crisp Local Cinque Terre White Wine and Local Dessert Wine Called "Sciacchetra"


Monday, April 13, 2009

姥姥 - I love you and goodbye

(This post as written as a personal note to my grandmother who passed this weekend. I am unable to attend the seven days of mourning and the funeral but I felt I needed to do/say something about the event. Plus, I had a dream that my mother was being hurt and tortured by it all and I have just felt terrible since)

姥姥. The title says it all. I love you and goodbye. I know you lived a long and happy life. You raised 5 children, with my dear mother as your middle child. I will always remember you as a kind gentle woman who always looked at me with love in your eyes. I will always have happy memories of visiting your home and walking to the market with you. Even though we couldn't speak the same language, I knew you loved me and you knew I loved you. I am happy my mother was able to be there with you in your last moments.

In your Buddhist traditions, I wish you a quick path to your "happy place" and hope that you can take all the things you need from this life to your next. As for me, I know the matter that made you into a human, is being returned to our universe to become future beautiful things. You will always have existed in the history of time and space and I will always feel lucky to get to spend some of this time with you.

My mother, me, and 姥姥 in 2006
(Taken during our honeymoon)
I am very happy Rob was able to meet her before her passing.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Jesus Zombie Weekend & Blog 1st Anniversary!

Can you believe this blog has been around for one year? I didn't really start using the blog till November 08 when we moved, but my first post was back on March 23, 2008 (right around Easter Weekend). One year ago, I set out to record my thoughts and adventures of preparing and moving to Geneva. I think this blog has served it's purpose well so far. So thanks to those who read and comment. Thanks for the emails and hugs to everyone.

In other news, Happy Jesus Zombie Weekend! In celebration, I am eating plenty of garlic focaccia this weekend. Or, if you are religious - Happy Easter. (You can catch more flies with honey)

Rob and I are heading out to the Cinque Terre, Italy this weekend and I will have plenty of pictures to share when we get back on Monday!


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bonus Pictures From The Weekend

These came out great. Mini Cheescakes. We also made some with chocolate chips in the cheesecake with strawberries on top. Recipe Here

The fountain we can see from our apartment window turned on! We had no idea it was even there. Spring is bringing lots of wonderful things with fountains all over town being turned back on and flower bed pots being replanted. (Our apartment building is in the background ~ yeah the ugly ugly concrete one)


Saturday Relaxation at Ferney Voltaire Farmer's Market

On our way taking Geneva's TPG - decorated like "home"

I love heirloom tomatoes. They are everywhere now!

Whole smoked legs of ham

Tapenade - The top left sundried tomato is fantastic.

Crazy Seafood Snacks


There it is - my favorite bread - Viennoise Chocolat
Rob waiting for our favorite bread guy

The season is starting beautifully

I love the way the stems create cool curls


About This Blog

Tina & Rob have relocated their lives to Geneva, Switzerland. This blog is a story of their adventure during the year and all the details inbetween.

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Finding Simplicity

Three rules of work: Out of clutter find simplicity; 
From discord find harmony; 
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
Albert Einstein

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