Browsing Posts published in January, 2013

Second Hand Rose

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I like to think of myself as a friend to Mother Earth. Now I’m not out lying naked on glaciers to protest climate change, so maybe I’m more of a casual acquaintance. But I do use those cellulite enhancing light bulbs that last 100 years, I have fabric grocery bags, and I recycle as much as I can. Plus, I’ve signed up to donate my organs once I’m finished using them—the ultimate recycling program.

Of course I have no idea what is truly eco-friendly, I don’t think anyone does, but I have to say that buying less feels like a step in the right direction. Back in my days of pagers and paycheques, I bought a lot of stuff, and then I bought some more. In fact, I had no idea just how big a consumer I was until I resigned myself to carrying an empty wallet. Continue reading “Second Hand Rose” »

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Rusty Rides Again

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Thanks be to Jaysus my husband is home. I met him at the train station last Friday afternoon and he looked a little less than fresh, but who wouldn’t after that mess? A delayed midnight flight from Halifax, Nova Scotia to London, hours of hanging about in Heathrow, followed by a flight to Geneva, although the view from that leg of the journey can’t be beat—”Ladies and gentlemen, we will be landing shortly, please put your chairs in the upright position and your eyes in the open position. The Alps welcome you.”

Then through Swiss customs, a train to Lausanne and finally another train to Vevey. All that on top of two very busy weeks of work. Poor man, I’m exhausted just typing it out. But never mind him, unbridled narcissism is the theme here, so in fine Finding Me fashion, it’s all about me. Continue reading “Rusty Rides Again” »

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The Sausage Summit

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The more I see of Switzerland, the more I like it. I made it to Zurich sans escort (applause please), a place I’ve always wanted to see and a place my husband has yet to see, which means I now have the upper hand in the relationship. I love it when my life makes sense.

I arrived on a snowy Friday evening and as soon as I stepped off the train into the beautiful station, I could smell something in the air. Ah yes, ’twas the scent of money. Zurich is one of the most expensive cities in the world and believe me, it shows. It’s not flashy or ostentatious, it’s just somehow always there, in the pristinely clean streets, the state of the art buses, the luxury shops, the finely presented locals (note to my sister: you’re right, they are the best dressed men on the planet) and stately bank buildings.

But you know me, I’m more impressed by Swiss Alps than mountains of cash. There are no snow-capped peaks in this part of the country, but the river is fabulous…

And, thanks to my gracious host, husband-induced starvation was held off. We started at Zeughauskeller which began its life as an armoury in 1469, then functioned as a grain storage loft, later as a warehouse and office building and now, naturally, serves up beer and sausage and wienerschnitzel that I can only describe as divine. Continue reading “The Sausage Summit” »

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Internal Compass

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You know, it always catches me off guard when people assume I love to travel. I most definitely do not. In fact, I’d rank it alongside any situation that necessitates the use of a cold speculum. It’s entirely possible that I am the worst traveller on the planet. Don’t misunderstand, I love seeing new places and experiencing new cultures, it’s just that my preferred method of arriving at any destination would involve the phrase “Beam me up Scotty.”

First, there are the practical issues. I have too many back and neck issues to count, so hauling and dragging loads of luggage about is a significant pain, literally. Usually I have the services of Big Red Porters International and I manage quite well despite the enormous tip he expects.

Second, I have directional … shall we say … challenges. I’m capable of thinking only in terms of left and right. I mean what is this east, west nonsense of which people speak? Mystifying. Unlike my better two-thirds who appears to be part Bedouin (he can find his way anywhere using the North star, a twig and strong sniff of the air), I am confined to the repeated idiot circle, a hapless giraffe constantly chasing her own tail.

Finally, because I can, I spend my travel time rubber necking, oohing and aahing over the sights, which means I haven’t the foggiest idea how we actually get anywhere. I’ve become de-skilled in the art of getting from A to B. And not once have I ever travelled in Europe on my own, so you can imagine my delight over the prospect of getting myself to Zurich and back in one long piece.

It did not begin well. I decided to book train tickets online, so clever me. How hard could it be, right? Between Swiss internet credit card security and printer woes (again, the domain of He of the Great Absence), it took 3 hours to hold the tickets in my hand, longer than it actually takes to get from Vevey to Zurich.

I don’t mind saying that I was a little nervous as I set off. What if I fell asleep and missed the stop? I had 6 minutes to make my connection in Lausanne, so what if there was running with heavy luggage required? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, somedays I wish I had servants.

Anyway, there are many things to love about Switzerland and the famous transit system is just one of them. They make it very difficult for anyone, even me, to get lost and they offer wonderful scenery to soothe the skittish passenger…

I know you’re waiting for the latest installment in my humiliation chronicles—a tale of how I wound up in Berlin not realizing for 2 days that I wasn’t in Zurich, but too bad suckers. I made it, safe and sound.

Oh of course I did. While there’s no doubt my navigational needle points toward daffy, I’m not a complete fool. I may not always know exactly where I’m going, and I admit I need guidance from time to time, but one thing I know for sure: I’m on the right path—north of the expected and just south of greatness.

 

 

 

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Hail to the Chief

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I don’t think I’ve mentioned my new neighbours yet. Across the hall from us lives a young couple. They are quite friendly and, naturally, quite Swissy chic (he’s a dancer, she’s a choreographer expecting their first child later this month) and they have a cat. And the cat’s name? Barack Obama.

There’s nothing wrong with cats per se, I’m just more of a dog person, that is if I were responsible enough to care for something more needy than a cactus. This cat must have been on very good terms with the previous tenants because he spends most of his time on our balcony.

For the most part I don’t mind as long as he stays out of my business, but for the past few nights he’s been steadily scratching at our door and clearly wants in. Although I’ve done my best to ignore him, much like his namesake he’s prepared for a second term. He’s been pushing on the door and meowing up a storm, but I know if I give in and let him in once, he’ll never leave. At least that’s what happened with Neil. Continue reading “Hail to the Chief” »

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Starvation concerns aside, there are benefits to being sans Rusty. I’ve been forced to focus on the perks of solitude to avoid racing through the Manor grocery store like a lunatic screaming, “Where the frig are the eggs in this godforsaken place?” Merciful Jaysus. And while I’m on the topic, what kind of fancy pants grocery store sells 7 kinds of wasabi paste yet does not sell a single bag of chocolate chips. I’m telling you I don’t know how he does it.

As I was lumbering back to the apartment today, laden down with grocery bags, I reflected on the time I’d spent Sunday trying everything under the sun to deal with my suddenly absent internet connection required for my laptop, our stash of movies, and my sanity. Again, this is Neil’s domain. I finally gave in and had to do a walk through with him on the phone. Continue reading “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” »

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Walking on Water

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I’m not sure how bottled water ever caught on in the world but I do know the first bottle I saw had “Evian” written on it. I must’ve been an impressionable teenager because I remember thinking it was somehow a better class of eau than the cold, clear stuff flowing freely out of the Newfoundland taps.

Now I’m old and jaded so I just assumed Evian was actually tap water from Shanghai packaged and pushed into the hands of hapless suckers. Mais non! And I can tell you that with a fair degree of accuracy. See, I live just across the lake from Évian-les-Bains and last weekend I took a little detour back to France.

That might possibly be the swankiest town hall I’ve ever seen and why not? I mean if you live in place where Evian water fills your toilet bowl, you’d expect nothing less. I expected a sleepy off-season experience but instead I stumbled upon the last day of an annual event that has nothing to do with water and everything to do with wood. Continue reading “Walking on Water” »

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Table for One

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Well, here we go. Again. That supposed “saint” I live with is off to Canada soon to do his duty for queen and country, meaning working to keep me in Switzerland. Oh I love a man committed to a noble cause. I’m not sure how many times I’ve had to endure this foolish fending for myself in a foreign land, but I have noticed that the duration of his business excursions keeps getting longer. The universe is testing me and I’m not in the mood.

I dread these separations. Not because I miss the witty banter, the litany of compliments, the endless hours of gazing into each other’s eyes in the candlelight—I’ve been missing all that for the better part of a decade. I miss being fed. One of these times he’s going to come home to find me stiff and withered like a giant stick insect, my face covered with dried chocolate, 3 days dead from either a massive glucose overdose or starvation. Continue reading “Table for One” »

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Girl Talk

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Last time there was a lot of big talk about living the dream. And god knows there’s a lot about this life that is decidedly dreamy, like looking at this every evening…

But there are sacrifices to be made if one wants to live as I do. And I’m not just talking about going without Miracle Whip. Continue reading “Girl Talk” »

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The Road Not Taken

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By now, most of you know my story: I was living in Halifax, had some sort of middle-age meltdown, and traded a six-figure salary for a less is more life in a medieval town in France. Instead of the lofty original goal of cleaning toilets and making beds for a living, I wound up publishing a book, then somehow landed on the Swiss Riviera. I still clean a toilet and make a bed in exchange for three squares a day, but that’s besides the point.

What you may not know is long before I took that decidedly sensible or totally unreasonable (tomatoes, tomahtoes) leap of faith, I tried in vain to craft a way out of my all consuming career. I worked at it for years and I did it all. I hired a career transition professional and nearly inflicted some serious damage to my already addled brain trying to figure out that perfect next step for me.

But there’s none so blind as those who will not see—people who typecasted me in the role of medical doctor and could not envision the diverse skill set a psychiatrist/professor/academic advisor/crisis management expert/team leader/all around awesome giantess could bring to the table. And me, duped into believing I needed to make the same amount of money I had always been making. Continue reading “The Road Not Taken” »

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Wring Out the Old

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Cripes, I’m old. Well, old-ish. Oh, don’t try to tell me otherwise, I have too much evidence on my side. I’m not talking about that grey hair nonsense because my hair’s been grey since my late 20′s, hidden by frantically applied chemicals for decades. No, the knowledge of my getting on in years comes from the perceived effort required to do anything these days beyond turning the page of a book and lifting a wine glass.

Take New Year’s Eve. I used to be the queen of Auld Lang Syne. I don’t know how many times I’ve stood on a snowy waterfront in Newfoundland, half (or wholly) in the bag, braving frigid temperatures in a skimpy dress and nylons (see, I still call them nylons, sure proof of my long in the tooth status) waiting for a countdown and mediocre fireworks display.

This year I was invited to Zurich to partake in the big city festivities, but with the dust on the apartment move barely settled, I was too wrung out for anything more than putting on a coat and hat. The good news is my husband had the same level of motivation this year. He too is in a state of rapid decline, thanks be to Jaysus. Imagine if he was good to go all the time. I’d have to resort to slipping Valium in his coffee and he hates when I do that.

Drawing upon the last energy reserves, we bundled up and hit the Vevey main square at 11:00 on New Year’s Eve. I do enjoy a town that has 3 champagne bars, especially one that lights up…

This was just my speed—a small but festive group, all kinds of folks from all kinds of places. Certainly, the whippersnappers were well represented. There were the Swiss kids, easily identifiable by the casual way they poured champagne for one another into crystal flutes and sipped like they were toasting their latest corporate merger. You just don’t see that in Canada. Continue reading “Wring Out the Old” »

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One of the main reasons I moved here was to be near water again. Living in Burgundy was divine, two words: wine country. But I am coming to learn that this woman cannot live on wine alone, no matter how hard I try. Hailing from the land of the Newfound, an island in the North Atlantic, my blood is two-thirds seawater. Plus, I’m a Pisces, so there’s hard scientific proof of my affinity for all things wet and wavy.

Now I’m not saying living on the shores of Lac Léman (who knew that was what Lake Geneva is really called?) is remotely comparable to life near a stormy sea. If I even hinted as much every Newfoundlander I know would vote me off the island, regardless of how long I’ve been away. My heritage bestows reverence and respect for the ocean. We know its pleasures and its power. It’s hard to explain to landlubbers.

While I miss the romance of the sea—standing on jagged cliffs in flowing gowns, waiting for my lover’s pirate ship to emerge from the thick bank of fog and all that crap—I think the best of both worlds is found not far from my door.

And while the lake is filled with elegant swans and sculptures, there’s the steady swooping and shrieking of gulls for that added reminder of the homeland, as well as the odd heron.

It’s like a kinder, gentler version of the ocean. For all intents and purposes I would never know I wasn’t gazing upon the Atlantic, yet it seems safer than the depths that have swallowed so many of my ancestors over the centuries. Continue reading “You Can Take the Girl Out of the Water…” »

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