Travel Suisse: Montreux and the Jazz Festival

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I think there is no doubt that I live in a very cool place. Geneva is beautiful, but some of the biggest benefits come from the location – how close so many interesting places are from here. I certainly felt blessed a few weekends ago when I had the opportunity to do some incredible things, so easily. It started when I went to go pick my friend up at Chamonix after she hiked the Mont Blanc trail (so impressed by her, by the way). Firstly, I love how going to Chamonix is really no big deal – the drive is less than an hour. And secondly, while we were there, we took in the Climbing World Cup. We cheered on the Canadian, who climbed that thing like a spider, falling just below the top line. So much fun. Continue reading

Book reviews

I have finally reached a point where I just cannot take the heat anymore. I now look at the weather forecast and sigh. This entire month has had highs of above 30C every single day but two, and consistently it’s above 35. With no air conditioning. I was trying to think, though, whether it’s as bad as being in Alberta during the winter and the answer is no. When I saw a forecast where the high of the day didn’t break above -30C, and the rest of the week didn’t look much better, well, I wouldn’t sigh. I would whimper. So even as I write this paragraph, I’m going to try really hard not to complain. But I had to dash for a bus today in 36C weather, and it wasn’t fun. Nor is it great once you finally find some shade and stop for a second, to realize that you’re entire body is basically melting – sweat dripping down my face, arms, legs – and I’ve only just started my day.

I am envious of some of these European women’s ability to look so effortlessly chic in this weather. I’ll be waiting for the bus with my two kids, baking in the sun, wearing rumpled shorts, a dirty t-shirt and not a stitch of makeup (in a bad way) when some lovely women sails by on her bike, in a cute perfect sundress and a bouquet of flowers in her basket. I glance around for cameras. This must be a set-up, right? She’s filming something? No one should look that good in this heat. Oh well, I suspect “mother of two” is often going to be a reason I’m not looking all that chic for the time being. Continue reading

Travel Suisse: Les Diablerets and Glacier 3000

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Guys, we just survived the most intense heat wave. Well, certainly the most intense heat wave I’ve ever lived through. That’s not saying much, but it was gross. A high of 38 degrees for a week straight. One day it hit 41. Degrees. Celsius. And there is no air conditioning here. We really were in survival mode. How to sleep at night? How to make sure the kids don’t get heat stroke? We’re are all good and now that it’s down to a measly 31 degree high, I already kind of miss it. Because I have zero memory, apparently. We sat around with the blinds drawn inside all day with the fan. Sometimes we’d hang out in the basement. Going outside was not an option (and try staying inside with a two-year-old!)

It was all a bit much until my very smart husband had an awesome idea – if the cool won’t come to us, let’s go to the cool! One brilliant stifling hot Sunday we decided to visit a glacier. If nothing else, the two-hour drive would happen in our car, which does have air conditioning, so it was the coolest place around. Continue reading

Travel Suisse: Pants-wetting passes and Martigny

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Traveling home from a vacation isn’t always the most fun part of the trip. Back to reality. Although I have to say leaving on a Friday was a special kind of awesome. We had a whole weekend of relaxation at our home to look forward too, rather than a panicked spree of activity getting ready for the work week.

We were sad to leave Lugano, but we decided to make our own fun and head directly through the Swiss Alps to Lake Geneva. This route is the most direct as the crow flies, but takes the longest because: the Alps. We wanted to see some new scenery, though, so about an hour into the road trip we got off of the beaten track that follows a series of tunnels up to Luzern (the way we came) and instead took the path OVER the mountains, at Gotthard Pass. This is what the road looks like. Continue reading

Travel Italia: Lugano and Como

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Welcome to paradise. A week at a resort on Lake Lugano, settled in the northern Italian Alps. While I imagine the weather can probably get quite rough during the winter, it being in the middle of the Alps and all, you can’t really tell in mid-June. In fact …

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… you would be forgiven for thinking we were on some kind of tropical island. The vegetation is SO GREEN around the lake, and grows so densely it’s a surprise that there’s any development at all. There are villages and whole towns that cling to the cliffsides, heading down towards the crystal waters of the lake. But even they can barely get a handhold in there. A part of what makes this so lovely is that it’s not super built up. Continue reading

Travel Suisse: Road tripping with babies and Luzern

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Lucky us, Z and I finally have been able to do some traveling with the whole family! We’ve been laying low in the last months of my pregnancy, and the first months of E’s life, because that’s just the way things work out. But now, E is a healthy solid baby, three months old, and we’ve decided to tackle the easiest of trips with babies: the driving trip.

I was actually complaining not too long ago about how much quicker I recovered from X’s pregnancy and delivery than I did from E’s. However, I’m not actually sure that’s true. I spent the first three months of X’s life in near complete “confinement.” It was Calgary mid-winter, it was damn cold and I wasn’t going anywhere. I spent all day napping next to X, or feeding him, and if the laundry got done it was a minor miracle.

Two years later, I’m still feeding and caring for an infant, but I have a healthy active toddler that demands things from me ALL THE TIME. There is no resting, no delightful hours of baby cuddles or gazing at her face in adoration until the whole day has passed and I sheepishly smile that I hadn’t even gotten up yet. (I still do baby cuddles and adoring face gazes, but in much quicker doses!) I was still in immense pain from the delivery when I was out and about, taking X to classes or the park, while carting around my bemused infant. To her credit, E is up for pretty much anything and fazed by little – she is my awesome angel baby that I’ve earned with good karma through caring for X. Continue reading

On turning 33 and pub food night

I very recently turned 33 years old. Who cares? you ask. Well, I do. 33 was always a big number for me when I was little. I’m not sure where I got that number, but it seemed to me (from the vantage point of an 8-year-old) that when you were 33 you had your shit together. Like, that was fully grown up.

So it’s interesting to me to consider this from the vantage point of a 33 year old. And as it turns out, I might have been onto something as a little girl. More and more, over the past few months and years, I’ve been feeling more grown up, in a really good way. I used to be: well, I just turned such and such an age, but I still feel like a teenager. Now, I no longer feel like a teenager. I’m still the same person, but with lots more experience, and responsibility, and cares, and grey hairs, and wrinkles.

I thought it would bother me. We do live in a society that worships youth, in all its accidental beauty and occasional ignorance. And yet, it bothers me not at all. I feel more comfortable in my own (scarred and stretched out) skin then I ever have before. Here in Geneve everyone refers to me as Madame. I thought this would bother me too, like how you’re supposed to protest when someone calls you Ma’am instead of Miss, as if this is an insult. But here, it’s meant as a sign of respect, and I take it as one. I feel more substantial, more important than I did when I was a girl. Words I speak are listened to. I feel more free to walk down a street, without worrying that I will get catcalled or be harassed by some young man. It still happens sometimes, but I can shut it down with a look and I don’t feel guilty or like I should smile no matter how awkward I’m being made to feel.

It turns out that along with the grey hairs and wrinkles, I have a better sense of humour and a calmer way of dealing with things that used to send me over the edge. It might even be something like wisdom, although I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Life does balance things out, somehow.

Grown ass woman is a term that’s been kicking around in my head for awhile. I am a grown ass woman. I am 33 years old, a member of this society, traveler of the world and bearer of children. I have to tell you, 33 feels damn good. Continue reading