February 21, 2017

Swiss Export Shopping

It is common for expats to develop quirks about favourite foods and other items from their home country. If you have ever lived abroad you know the feeling.

Strange shopping habits can be spotted before leaving home and returning to an expat destination. Our family calls it Export shopping: it results in a family shopping spree around the Coop (sometimes Migros) stacking the trolley with our favourite food which has now become our comfort food.

These items cannot be found in the host country and may or may not have actually been part of the expats' lives in their home country but which given half a chance - and with some luck a car rather than a suitcase to fill - will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of being back home.

A bottle of Ramseier Apfelsaft, a Branchli or a Ragusa, an Ovo crunchy spread or Champions Birchermuesli will make us feel just a little bit better when we get hit with homesickness or nostalgia. A glass of Dole Blanche or a moité-moité cheese fondue will certainly hit the spot. And nobody makes bouillon cubes like the Swiss. NeoCitran, a widely-used cold remedy, will do the job in case of sickness, and the earplugs that come in a pink box let me sleep through thick and thin. And don't get me started on the chocolate... cooking chocolate, white hot chocolate, dark powdered chocolate, marzipan chocolate tablets, nutty chocolate bars and chocolate pralines!


Nor can we resist a Swiss bakery

Suntigszopf im Ussland

Familia Birchermüesli with Hirz Yoghurt... a champion's breakfast!

Le Chiacchiere di Carnevale... bring back sweet memories of Lugano

Ramseier or Rivella? 

A typical Swiss Export shopping bag

February 18, 2017

A week made in heaven

Every year we religiously drive back to Switzerland for a week's skiing. This year the Gods were smiling down on us and we arrived to catch the first rays of sun after several snowy days. In other words: perfect skiing conditions!

The saying "Feeling on top of the World" takes on a whole new meaning when you get to spend a glorious week of skiing with your childhood friends and everybody's family gets to join the fun!

Where to start?
Skiing, eating or suntanning?

A feeling of Swiss nostalgia

Weather forecast a week before we left

The view on our first day of skiing

My skis might be vintage but they still get me up and down the mountain just fine

A close encounter 

Chässchnitte uf de Alphütte

Teatime treat after skiing: Vermicelle at Charly's

Adelboden, a new discovery!

Anybody home?

The snow is melting rapidly after 6 days of sunshine

We could always try sledging down the mountain?

I am born to suntan!

I am intrigued!

The village of Rougemont

When teenagers are left without WIFI!!!

February 14, 2017

Love is...

... riding a chairlift side by side on a glorious winter day...

February 10, 2017

The Hague, a city of friendly smiles

After having missed an important celebration of two of my close friends last year, I decided that this year I would travel near and far in order not miss the opportunity to celebrate life and honour true friendship.

It was with this spirit that I left my family in Paris and took off to The Hague for 24 hours last weekend following a Dutch friend's invitation whom I met in Paris not too long ago. We connected in a way only expats do; with a look, a smile, a conversation, a coffee and after lunch we both just intrinsically knew we were going to be friends.

We don't see a lot of each other but when we do, we thoroughly enjoy each others company.  Therefore when the invitation came for her birthday party I accepted with pleasure. Who cares if it was in The Hague. I couldn't think of a better reason to travel to a place I have never visited before.

I dug up the number of another Dutch artist friend of mine who used to live in Madrid at the same time we did and sure enough she was thrilled to hear I was coming her way.

Three hours of train ride and I had entered the land of smiling faces and friendly English-speaking Dutch. No, they were not wearing clogs nor did the ladies have white bonnets on their heads but I did come across the most amazing inventions of 2-wheeled vehicles. The bakfiets is very common for transporting children, dogs, and frequent larger loads.  Another popular style includes a carrying rack mounted to the front of the frame.

The evening was spent meeting the Birthday girls' friends who were all chatty, charming and curious. They were eager to hear my story (for I had come all the way from Paris, really) and I was interested in hearing theirs. I was not disappointed, the conversations were uplifting, enriching and fun.

The next day my artist friend gave me the tour of The Hague and let me in onto some of it's secrets. We got a glimpse of Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, admired Mondrian's floating cubical pontoons on the Hofvijver, the small lake in front of the centuries-old Dutch parliament, did some shopping and enjoyed each other company over a glass of bubbly!

24 hours is all it took to pull me out of my routine. It was an invigorating, inspiring and stimulating weekend. As the Dutch put it: Gezelligheid kent geen tijd. The English equivalent would be "Time spent together is time well spent".

Orange doors. It must be Holland!

The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government and a home to the royal family.

Every type of bike under the sun

Lovely architecture and a welcome change form the Haussmannien style

The poshest hotel in town: Hotel des Indes

The Lange Voorhout Palace was once Queen Emma's winter residence.
Now it's home to the work of Dutch graphic artist MC Escher.

View from Mauritshuis, the art museum, onto Mondrian's cubical pontoons

The real thing!

Entrance to a law firm

Strolling through The Hagues alley's on a Sunday afternoon

Made me smile!

A well deserved aperò

Even the cats are gsellig

Interior deco of the local train... pretty funky?!

February 7, 2017

The salary of an Expat wife

Usually I refrain from commenting on politics although I do enjoy following certain countries' politics and passionate campaigns. However, M. Fillion's hiccup is just too good to pass up.

Francois Fillon, the conservative politician tipped to become France’s next president has found himself at the centre of a political scandal after he was accused of paying his wife as - what he calls - a parliamentary assistant.

Penelope Fillon reportedly received the equivalent of 900'000.- Euro of taxpayers’ money.
“Just because she is my wife she should not be entitled to work? Could you imagine a politician saying, as this story did, that the only thing a woman can do is making jam? All the feminists would scream," he said.

Ok. M.Fillion, I would like to thank you. You just put a number to all expat trailblazing wives' duties;
(in brackets would be my personal interpretation of the duty he cited during yesterday's press conference):

- Personal secretary (family social agenda including travel planning, medical visits, documentation)
- Events planner (Playdates, Sleepovers, Sports events)
- Communication officer (Rules and Regulation policy commander in chief, Media coordinator)
- Family representant (Associations, School, PTA)
- HR coordinator (Personal development, siblings litigations, in-laws coordination)
- Customer service (Complaints department, Guarantor of WIFI service, warm meals and clean clothes)

Monthly salary: EURO 4'700.-

Oh... and by the way this does NOT include the housework nor the endless administrative paperwork that comes with every move! However, we could throw in some jam-making if you're really nice to us.

February 2, 2017

Paris in a flash

Walking through the streets of Paris it is difficult to resist stopping every couple of meters to take pictures. It's a passion I indulge in, even when I'm rushing or running, I don't miss the opportunity when my eye follows down yet another of this city's impressive perspectives or my mouth starts to water at the delicacies in the window displays. I marvel at the every day objects and silent scenes that I pass on my way to the metro station and admire historic buildings imagining what stories the walls would have to tell if only they could speak! 

Join me in exploring Paris on:

or on

Looking onto the Eiffel Tower through the peace monument at Champs de Mars 

A morning at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs

Walking past a heating vent next to the post office

A break from French cuisine

Escalier de service during a paintjob and still they are picturesque

Need I say more?

Side entrance of the St.Sulpice Church

Either too cold or too early to attract customers, not even the smokers!

January 31, 2017

Just keep going girl...

So it has become a little tradition... just to keep my motivation going. It might be an inverted New Years' resolution - since I don't believe in such intentions - but every year in January I take a picture to remind myself that I must keep on jogging no matter what. It's exercise, it good for me and I actually do enjoy it.

Many years ago in order to prove my Triathlon friend wrong, I defied Parisian weather and went out for a jog. A jog in wellies and holding an umbrella. No, I am not proud of that moment in my Parisian adventure but I was pretty desperate to shed off those excessive Christmas kilos and the weather just would not cooperate.

Therefore, here goes year number six and I am ready to keep going strong. My route has changed a third time as we have moved in the meantime but the Champs de Mars are a spectacular alternative to the Bois de Boulogne and Avenue Foch even when it snows.

My new route around the Tour Eiffel

She's come along way but the show must go on...

January 28, 2017

Each friend represents a world in us

Over the years of being an expat I have made many friends. Sometimes we hit it off right away, other times it took months even years before we got to know each other better. Some friendships were made over kids' playdates, others through the working world. I made new friends at a dinner party or thanks to a photography course. I have made friends through projects I believe and work for. Neighbours have also become friends as have some friends of friends who contacted me for advice upon arriving at their new destination.

Don't get me wrong, I do pick and choose my friends but from the little girl back in Zürich whom for most of her single life had just a handful (extremely loyal) friends - and who believed you could not possibly have any more that you could call real friends - I have gone to calling upon friends across all four corners of the globe.

Expatriate life has its pros and cons. We expats always worry about our kids not having any roots and this is true. However, the upside of this lifestyle is that you really do become very close with people whom would never have crossed your path had you not started to move around.

Every Expatriation comes with its adventures - positive and negative - which you get to share with a whole new set of people each time. You enjoy the good times and support each other through the bad ones. The latter usually allows you to get very close very fast and before you know it you have made a new best friend, one that you can count on through thick and thin. Your family is thousands of miles aways and this new friend just "gets you" because she is in the same boat at the same time. No explanation needed, looks can say a thousand words.

You live through experiences together that bind you for life. Of course, this sounds like a bunch of clichés but when you have to give birth for the first time in a country a million miles away from yours, listing to the nurses not understanding a word they are saying, wondering how on earth you managed to put yourself in this situation and all of a sudden you see a foreign looking girl with the same look on her face, you smile and you've bonded for life.

Decades later when your children are grown up and instead of exchanging baby stories you talk about your path of life, your achievements, your projects and your beliefs once in a while you will come across a like-minded woman, sometimes bold, sometimes introverted but you can sense that strong conviction of having achieved what is important to her and you know you have found another companion to share your path with.

And for a little while we ride the same boat in the same direction until destiny pulls us apart. But as Anais Nin so nicely put it: "Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."

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