• Switzerland

    Smoking In Switzerland

    Can you guess from which age a child can legally purchase cigarettes in Geneva? 15 years? 18 years? Perhaps even older? I bet not many of you would have guessed that a child can buy tobacco here as soon as it is able to walk and talk. There is absolutely no restrictions. You could, if you wanted to, send your toddler into a shop to buy your cigarettes. This really threw me, when I heard it on the news yesterday. The legal age from which children are able to buy cigarettes is set by the Cantons, the Swiss states, not the central government. Which means that you may be able…

  • Switzerland

    The Swiss Apartment Rules

    Did you know that the Swiss have rules that restrict many activities that most of us would find totally normal? The Swiss apartment rules are particularly strict, so we’ve always been thankful that we live in the countryside with no direct neighbours. Today my husband was preparing for the big 4th July Party that we are hosting on Monday. Part of this involved a bit of garden work – we have a large linden tree in the garden, it’s yellow flowers are pretty for about 30 seconds before it sheds the flowers onto the grass. Raking the flowers and leaves takes a lot of time and effort so we bought an electric…

  • Geneva,  Switzerland

    Filets de Pêrches

    If you go into a restaurant in Geneva area then there is a good chance that one of the dishes on the menu will be Filets de Pêrches – fillet of perch. After living here for sometime, a colleague of my husband remarked that it was a wonder anyone could swim in Lake Geneva, the amount of Perch that was on offer in the restaurants. He was of course alluding to the fact that the restaurants give the impression of offering fresh fish from the lake, when it is anything but. It is imported frozen from other countries. Some restaurants do sell perch from Lac Leman, as Lake Geneva is…

  • Switzerland

    Spring Alpine Pass Tour

    One of the great things about living in Geneva is the short distance to the Alps. Even before we bought our 1973 MGB Roadster last year, we loved driving the windy Alpine pass roads, through Switzerland, France and on to Italy. In the past years we have ticked off the Simplon Pass (through the village of Gondo), the Majolapass to St Moritz, Col d’Iseran and Col du Mt Cenis. Last week my mother came to stay, and my husband and I headed for the hills in the MGB, leaving Granny to have fun with the kids at home. We had planned a route but at the last minute changed plans,…

  • Geneva,  Switzerland

    Schools in Geneva

    One of the most important issues when expats move to a new country is schooling. You can out up with a less than stunning kitchen (and you often have to here) or a slightly boring social life but if your children are unhappy in school then the assignment will be a short one. Or of course if you are unhappy with the school. When we moved to Geneva we faced the decision – local schools or international/bilingual schools. Cost was not a factor, as my husband’s company would pay for private schooling for the duration of our stay in Switzerland. Our children were still quite young, just 4 years and…

  • Switzerland

    Ingredients for Baking in Switzerland – Where to buy Baking Powder, Soda etc

    When we moved to Geneva, one of the things that I found most difficult was finding ingredients for baking in Switzerland. I was used to the issues with baking powder and baking soda, not to mention finding self-raising flour, from my time in Germany, but in time found shops where I could buy these ingredients. Before I could start baking in Switzerland, I had to do a bit of research! Baking Powder – I buy in Manor in little tubs. Don’t be fooled by the sachets by Dr Oetker – they are German style Backpulver which is, I have been informed a one rise agent. You need a two rise agent…

  • Switzerland

    Féte de Bonhomme Neige

    Tonight we went to the Féte de Bonhomme Neige – the Snowman Festival – with ritual burning of the snowman to mark the end of winter. Not that there was much of a winter to speak of this year. The ski resorts of Morzine, Avoriaz, Chamonix et al were pretty much bare this year. We had a big dump of snow the first week of December which thawed not long after, then another flurry around Christmas and that has been just about it. The mountains had a bit more than we did, but from what we could see, not much. The snow cannons have certainly earned their keep this year,…

  • Geneva,  Switzerland

    Visiting Geneva With Children – City Walk

    One of the things that we noticed when we moved to Geneva is that the Swiss are very child-friendly. It is a great place to raise a family. Children are a part of everyday life here and are welcomed almost everywhere. You can go into even the most exclusive restaurant with your children and they will be greeted with a friendly smile. Even going for a meal in the evening is no problem. If you are planning a short trip to Geneva this walk will take you around the main attractions of Geneva without boring the children. Parc de la Grange/Parc des Eaux Vives   Geneva is full of parks.…

  • Switzerland

    My Atomic Bunker

    Not long ago I wrote a light-hearted post about our Nuclear Bunker. Who would have thought that not even 4 months later, I would be envied for my bunker. And not in a joking “ha, isn’t that a cool thing” kind of way. All over Europe concerned citizens are watching the developments in Japan and asking themselves if a similar incident could happen here. The risk of an earthquake on that scale, combined with a tsunami is incredibly low but there are other scenarios – from aircraft strike, terrorist attack or human/technology fail. As we wait for news from Japan, the German Chancellor has reacted – the announcement that the government…

  • Switzerland

    Chateaux Chillon

    The Chateaux de Chillon, near Montreaux is, according to their website, the most visited historical monument in Switzerland. The weather was sadly not great today, cloudy and overcast so the pictures are not as stunning as they could have been. On a clear day there is a fantastic view of the Alps from Chillon, as you can see on the website. We went with our two children, 8 years and 6 years and I would say that it is a good age for visiting a castle. They were fascinated by the dungeons, the secret passages, the latrines (as only 6 year old boys can be). I was slightly disappointed that the…

  • Switzerland

    As Swiss as Chocolate and Mountains – The Swiss Nuclear Bunkers

      Want to come into my cellar and see my nuclear bunker? That’s quite some chat-up line, right? Not so much here, since the Swiss nuclear bunker is just a part of life here, and everyone has one. Not sure why it has a window Air filter Door   We live in a small detatched house near to Geneva and the Swiss/French border and in the event of a nuclear incident, we can serenely skip downstairs and enter our safe little Swiss nuclear bunker. Up until recently every house built in Switzerland had to have a bunker; a communal one for apartments and a individual family bunker for houses. Anyone…

  • Switzerland

    The Swiss School Run

    That when we were young, almost everyone walked to school. I can’t remember any school friend being driven to school, even one friend who lived quite far away walked. Today, when doing the Swiss school run,  I had the impression that quite a few of my childrens’ classmates were driven to school, and from what I hear from friends in UK, I would imagine that most British parents drive. According to the UK Department of Transport,  road traffic accidents involving taking children to school have doubled in the past twenty years. Today on Twitter, I undertook a very unscientific study, and found that although some people lived too far from the…

  • Switzerland

    Montreux Christmas Market – Merry Christmas Freddie Mercury

    We headed to Montreux today to take my parents to the train. They were traveling with the Goldenpass Express to Gstaad then onwards to Bern. The children and I took the opportunity to wander around the Christmas Market and check out the Freddie Mercury statue. When we arrived in Montreux today we parked at the railway station and walked down the stairs to the Christmas Market to be greeted by some friendly faces – and that was just the animal sculptures.  Freddie Mercury statue on the lakeside, where there are always flowers from fans.

  • Switzerland

    The Swiss Vote

    The Swiss have a unique voting system called direct (or half direct) democracy. This means that basically any Swiss citizen can propose a change to a law. Around four times a year votes are cast on local and national level – this can be anything from a major change in the constitution to a local “minor” issue. Today the Swiss voted on several issues. We were aware that a vote was imminent as there were placards up around the town. This poster caught my eye: The Genevoise were voting today on the issue of longer store opening hours. This poster exhorts citizens to vote NON otherwise the poor sales assistants…

  • Switzerland

    Classic Cars, Lake Geneva and Sunshine

    A pretty good combination, if you ask me. A couple of weeks ago we went to the Morges British Classic Car Meeting. It is an annual event, attracting over 1500 cars and motorbike and over 20 000 visitors. The town of Morges is situated on the banks of Lake Geneva. The pedestrianised shopping street is not far from the promenade and is particularly inviting on Saturdays because of the Farmers’ Market. We had a wander amongst the French antiques, soaps and delicacies before heading down to the Lakeside where the cars vied for attention with the lake and the mountains beyond. We had a pretty good spot, opposite the harbour. There…

  • Switzerland

    The Swiss and Their Tunnels – Gotthard Breakthrough

    The Swiss are famous for many things, chocolate and watches, banks and tunnels. Tunnels? Well, yes. Switzerland has over 40 road tunnels over 2km length, with 11 more tunnels either planned or already being built. It is not hard to guess why there are so many Swiss tunnels, the picturesque mountains and valleys may be a rambler’s dream but they are a driver’s nightmare, if the driver wishes to get from A to B fast. When we travel in Switzerland we chose – scenic route that takes hours or autobahn that gets us where we want to go quickly and efficiently. When we drove to Italy last year we travelled…

  • Switzerland

    Rebirth of a Village – Gondo 10 years after the catastrophe

    It has been ten years since the landslide in Gondo, that cost 13 villagers their lives, and destroyed a third of the Alpine village. Gondo is a small town, close to the Simplon Pass, right on the border to Italy. 10 years ago, few had even heard of the village, but the events that were to unfold on the 14th October 2000 meant that every Swiss person knew where it was by the end of that fateful day. Heavy rainfall for three days caused a massive landslide which crashed through the centre of the village, destroying everything in its path. Ten houses, the school, shops, the road and most of…

  • Switzerland

    What does a ski resort look like in the summer?

    The summer months are long for a ski resort, and many of them are ghost towns at the moment. Particularly in the months directly before and after the ski season, there is nothing at all to do. Most of the hotels and restaurants are closed, no cafes, no bars. It is difficult to imagine that in a few short months this place will be packed with holidaymakers, whizzing between the slopes, the chalets and the apres ski parties. We were in Avoriaz last weekend, and it was dead as a dodo. There were slightly more people out and about in Morzine, but even there we could not find anyplace to…

  • Switzerland

    Vineyards in Autumn

    I have been experimenting recently with the settings on my camera. Until now I have let the camera do the work for me but wanted to teach myself how to use the manual settings to get – hopefully – better pics. Different scenes – playing around with the depth of field really makes a difference to a shot.           Can you spot the difference?

  • Switzerland

    MmeOiseau comes for tea

    What an adventure I had on Thursday! After the school run I returned home to the sound of a bird squawking in distress. It was so loud that I thought that somehow our dog Daphne had caught a bird and was eating it. Steeling myself for scenes of carnage I searched the kitchen and dining room but could not see anything. Shouting out for Daphne, I was surprised when she wandered sleepily out from under the desk in the office looking rather put out at the shouting and squawking so early in the morning. She is not a morning person, our Daphne. I discovered to my horror that the noise…

  • Switzerland

    Saint de glace – or why it is is cold today

    At the school gate today, I complained to one of the locals about the cold weather we are injuring at the moment. After several weeks of balmy Spring days it was quite a shock to have to put the heating back on and dig my winter jacket out of the cellar. I was expecting an exclamation of “La Bise, La Bise!” which is normally what happens when the cold wind whistles down Lake Geneva.  Non. It is apparently the Saint de Glace, the Ice Saints. I can remember from my years in Germany that there was a rule to wait until after the Eisheiligen to put the flowers onto the…

  • Geneva,  Switzerland

    Avec la bise, lave ta chemise – it is washing day

    I don’t think that I have blogged about La Bise, the bitingly cold Northwind that whistles down Lake Geneva from the Alps. Probably because if La Bise is blowing, my fingers are too cold to type. Anticyclones (whatever they are – I am copying from the fascinating Winds of The World section on WeatherOnline.co.uk) over North West or Central Europe push the air through the gap that Lac Leman was formed in, whooshing down to the end of the Lake where some silly fool decided to build Geneva. Gust can reach 7bft, which I have discovered means 60km/h. That is faster than you are allowed to drive in Geneva, I…

  • Switzerland

    Swiss Sirens

    Am currently sitting by the lake watching DS and his friend play while their sisters are at football practice. I was feeling smug as I felt the gentle rays of the sun on my face, listened to the waves lapping on the shore. Rather blissful and idylic. Then the atomic air raid siren sounded, shattering the tranquil moment. The Swiss test their sirens once a year to ensure they are still working. I can hear the sirens in the towns miles away reverbating across the lake. Do I have time to empty my atomic shelter? I emailed a recently arrived friend to let her know that the sirens are merely…

  • Switzerland

    The Swiss and their Dogs

    This is a picture of Daphne and her sister, Holly. They are from two different litters, born a year apart and are quite different in temperament. Daphne is more outgoing and friendly while Holly tends to be more shy and timid. Owning a dog in Switzerland is not as straight forward as one might think. There are a list of regulations that vary from canton to canton. As Swiss residents have to obey laws made not just on a cantonal level, but also federal laws, and those made after a referendum, the list of dos and don’ts is long and confusing. They vary from canton to canton so if one…

  • Switzerland

    Lausanne and Morges

    Lausanne is an interesting city, the old town is perched on the top of several hills, there are bridges and walkways connecting the different areas of the city. It is slightly confusing at first but once we had wandered around for a while be began to get our bearings.     Sadly, the 2nd January is a holiday in Switzerland it seems. We had checked online and were informed that only the 1st January is a holiday but when we arrived in Lausanne we found not just the shops were closed, there were also very few cafés or restaurants open. We wandered around then went for coffee in Starbucks, aside…

  • Switzerland

    Santa Claus House – Le hameau du Père Noel

    Today we headed over to France to Santa Claus’s house, Le hameau du Père Noel after a tip from a friend. It was well worth the trip, a truly magical house filled to the brim with interesting things for the children to discover. Outside in the Jardin de lutins (the Elves Garden) the sleigh awaits the big night.To assist Rudolf and his crew, there is a large ramp at the end of the runway. Inside the house, the children were fascinated by the kitchen – cookies were being made, the recipe book open on the table. In the elves dining room the table was set for dinner, and when we…

  • Switzerland

    Morning in Switzerland

    Sometimes I open the shutters in the morning and the first thing I do (after shouting OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THAT) is grab my camera. This was one of those mornings.

  • Switzerland

    Escalade Celebrations

    This was taken down in the village, early evening. I love the colours in this picture. We were down at the Salle Communale for the village celebrations of the Escalade. The football club had invited the children and their parents to a procession and disco. It was great fun for the children, and the adults were able to relax and have a glass of wine (or three). A chocolate cauldron called a marmite was lowered to the floor and smashed, the filling of marzipan and sweets spilling all over the floor to be snatched up by the waiting hordes. The disco afterwards was great fun, the DJ was great and…