Switzerland: the stop of disappointments

First off, let me apologize that my blogs are going to be heavy on man commentary. Most of my readers know I’m single and when you travel alone it’s kind of high time to put yourself out there for adventure/dating. So, pardon all the wink-wink-nudge-nudge content but you’re just gonna have to deal or stop reading. #sorrynotsorry

2015/01/img_0046.jpgI arrived in Basel after a short flight from Barcelona to find a grey cute germanic town that I honestly didn’t have much desire to explore. Nonetheless, I decided to find a place for lunch so I could take my pack off, relax, and write my Barcelona post. While taking the bus to the train station I kept my eyes peeled for spots while simultaneously trying not to stare at the handsome guy next to me. He was an older Swiss version of Andrew Hozier-Bern – swoon! We arrived at the train station and I walked back to a place I had spotted – Tacoteca. First I checked out the Marktplatt but it was not as promising. So, my first meal was Mexican in Switzerland…well, Basel is on the border of Germany, France, and Switzerland but technically I was in Switzerland. The south of the border cuisine seemed fitting in an ironic way.

After eating a relatively good, albeit not authentic, Mexican meal – I met a nice American ex-pat living in the area. He told me his name but I can’t remember it. We had a long talk about living abroad and he gave me some tips and hints about Switzerland including warning me of the awful prices and exchange rate for Americans. He also gave me a pep talk regarding prospecting European work via international companies – he also guessed my age at 25 or 26…winning! While we were discussing family, taxes, etc. he tells me that his son is an undergraduate in Germany and the tuition is…free.

2015/01/img_0044.jpgThe next morning I woke up with a start, in the midst of a dream I had forgotten where I was and rolled over as if I had more bed to utilize. Instead, I ended up with a chair corner jabbed into my clavicle. It was unpleasant and I can still feel it. Later in the day, I realize that I could never live in Switzerland, especially the German side. It was a yawn fest and EVERYONE smokes. It’s gross. I explored Bern in a matter of hours on Tuesday, it was a beautiful city but there is not much to it. Parliament – check; Barengraben – check; Zytglogge – check; Old Town – check; Rosengarten – check. Since the exchange is abominable I didn’t shop at all and only bought lunch, otherwise ate food from the grocery store (Coop) I had stored at my host’s apartment.

2015/01/img_0043.jpgRather than complain like some ungrateful bastard, I should say that I am so lucky to have friends that are willing to help me find free places to stay. Michal is a friend of a friend’s mother and he allowed me to stay in his apartment alone while he was in Poland taking care of his parents. Since he was unable to be home to host me, I didn’t have access to the mountains and skiing but I’m extremely thankful for his generosity.

I packed certain base layers and socks assuming I would be able to ski or do some winter activity while I was here in the Alps but now they are dead weight. Ugh, totally bummed especially since that’s the only exciting thing happening around here during this time of year. When Daniel, Michal’s son, met me at the train station to show me the apartment and give me the key he told me that a store staying open until 8:30pm is late for Bern. Yeah, I stayed in the apartment binge watching Netflix (thank God, it works in Switzerland) at night…exciting. Also, Tinder tourism in this area is pointless. Not enough attractive men – one on a bus is not enough.

On the up side, I was able to do some laundry in the community washer then line dried (yep, they don’t have dryers) and now I smell like a flowery European. I was also mistaken for a French woman a couple times, no one had a clue I was American until I opened my mouth. The two dominant languages in Switzerland are German and French so most people saw me as probably a French speaker…maybe I should finally commit to learning it. I do feel like I connect with that culture and the men seem to like me.

Down side, my Spanish hair dryer doesn’t work in the Swiss electrical sockets. A girl just wants nice hair, is that too much to ask?! Luckily, I needed to wear a hat the entire time since the temp was around freezing the entire time and it was lightly snowing which was nice. Now I’m headed to Geneva to do a bit more touristing until I head to Nyon to bunk with another friend of a friend – Joanna until my flight to Italy!

2015/01/img_0042.jpgGeneva was much more my speed: urban, amazing shopping, lots of interesting people, and things to do. I was able to see the site where my favorite movie was filmed – Trois Coleurs: Rouge. It was such a thrill to walk Valentin’s steps considering I had thought of it so many times when watching the film. Within easy walking distance was the Grand Theatre, Old Geneva, and the Lake. I often forget how close together everything in Europe is so I end up buying a one-day transit pass but only use it once because I can walk the rest.

One cultural observation from Switzerland: trust. It seems as though the Swiss (or at least the Bernese) don’t worry much about crime and/or dishonesty. The transit let’s you on without checking your ticket, the neighbors leave their bikes and baby carriages in the stairwell. Unfortunately, they aren’t exactly warm people but they are honest and forthright. This sort of explains Michal offering up his apartment despite the fact that he has never met me. Staying with Joanna was interesting since she is a French/American expat – she grew up in France but lived a large part of adulthood in the U.S. until the economy tanked then moved with her hubbie to Switzerland. Her unique perspective was really fascinating to listen to especially since she was quite the exuberant talker.

I can’t say I connected well with the Swiss culture but I guess that is probably for the best since, according to Joanna, Americans aren’t exactly welcomed with open arms in Switzerland. Something to do with our banking laws…

A huge THANK YOU to Michal, Daniel, and Joanna for providing me free places to stay during a time when the Swiss Franc was destroying the American dollar. I am forever grateful!

Barcelona: la tierra de no rubias!

Upon arrival in Barcelona I thought the terrain reminded me of Southern California, dry, brown, sandy, with miles of beach. However, once the train reached the city I was pleasantly surprised to find an old medieval city center with kilometers of winding non-sensical streets lit by large lanterns. Nothing like the ever changing modernity of SoCal. The charm was immediately apparent and I was excited to explore as much as possible. I was forewarned by a few friends that my blonde hair would garner some attention since it would be obvious to locals that I was foreign but I didn’t notice anything until…

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I got to my AirBnB rental around 12:30pm but it wasn’t ready for a rest so I dropped my pack and went to a local café for almuerza. Marveling at every turn at the cobbled small streets with a gorgeous cathedral in the middle of it all. I entered that café and they didn’t even attempt to speak Spanish to me, I was greeted immediately in all English…my hair. I was grateful mostly because I was too tired to utilize my language skills – I had slept less than three hours the night before – but the attention due to my hair (or at least I’m assuming that was the catalyst) began. I was checking out social media on my iPad while I ate a delicious three course lunch when I noticed out of my peripheral vision that the guy a few seats down was staring at me. I quickly looked up and he looked away. Yep, definitely staring.

My AirBnB host, Alejandro, came by the café to meet some of his friends and informed me that my room was ready. In fact, I had paid and was leaving when he called to me across the cafe “Linda!! Linda!!! Your room is ready!” If you’re not familiar, “Linda” means pretty or beautiful in Spanish. I made my way back to my room to find a rock hard bed that was uninhabitable. When Alejandro came back to the flat, I asked him if he had another room and he realized he had given me the wrong one. So, he made up my proper room with a memory foam mattress while I began Tindering…ay, muchos hombres guapos.

By the time my room was ready for a nap, around 4:30pm, I had many matches and more than a few guys asking me out. I was jazzed for the prospect of dating in Barcelona since most men in Spain are my physical type and I actually know at least the basics of the language if not a little more. What actually happened? I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the morning. Friday is apparently the night for dating because every prospect dried up by Saturday night. Ugh.

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Saturday I started my tourist activities and made sure to hit up as much as possible since I had already wasted an entire afternoon. I went to Las Ramblas, La Placa de Catalunya, Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, Sagrada Familia, and finally wandering Barri Gotic where my flat was located. The shopping was fantastic since, as mentioned previously, it is sale season in Europe. I went a little crazy with the ceramics in a charming shop near my place. The woman didn’t speak English but we figured it out with my basic Castellano. Shipping was expensive but I knew it was going to be – worth it!

While wandering the gorgeous carrers toward my flat, I encountered many men who would stare as I passed or nudge their friend to stare. Then I passed a really hot guy on a bicycle who made eye contact, I smiled at him, and he immediately turned back to me to say something I couldn’t understand in Spanish but was DEFINITELY a come on. I round the corner to enter a kid’s toy shop and the guy working there…gorgeous! I couldn’t help but flirt shamelessly and buy two items then managed to convince him to let me take a photo of him. High on attention, I was convinced that I didn’t need a Tinder date to make something happen while in Barcelona. So, I went out to a bar for tapas and a couple drinks then Sidecar, a indie music nightclub. NO ONE talked to me. Lots of people stared but not one person approached me. Everyone was in a group or a couple so I never got a chance break the ice with anyone. However, when I decided to give up and go home at 2:30am I had not one but two guys hit on me on the street. Neither of which was interesting to me. Meh.

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After sleeping until noon on Sunday, I finally made the short trek to Park Guell. I accidentally took the wrong route because I was following the bus/car directions rather than the walking signs but I got there eventually. It was a beautiful albeit chilly day and the view was spectacular. I also managed to get a workout by walking there, let’s just say it’s a bit of climb. I think my legs and ass are going to be seriously toned by the time I get back to the states because Europe is all about the stairs!

All-in-all I really enjoyed Barcelona but I think when I return I need mis chicas! I think it would be a hell of a girls vacation and I’m hoping I can make that happen…soon. Who wouldn’t want to return to a city that garnered at least two “Guapa!” comments each day and a plethora of eye candy? Love Spain.

**By the way, I know there a misspellings in the Spanish names here but my writing app on my iPad does not have a symbol function. I’ll attempt to correct it as soon as possible.

Embarkation et Paris

A surprisingly beautiful day in Seattle marked the first day of my month long sojourn to Europe. The past three weeks have been chock full of family, holidays, and numerous social engagements. One of those engagements kept me out until 5:00am on a Tuesday, admittedly drunk and in a hot tub with a few friends, entertaining my 20-year-old Aussie cousin. On the brink of catching the plague-like cold virus from a multitude of hosts in addition to the mild hangover, I attempted to keep the sore throat and fatigue at bay with an overdose of Vitamin C and 12 hours of sleep per night. I spent my last day in the states in bed, watching 18 hours of Gilmore Girls on Netflix drifting in and out of consciousness. My departure was marked more by solemn thoughts rather than giddy excitement. Nonetheless, I peered out the window of the Boeing 767 and was reminded how beautiful my home, Seattle, truly is complete with snowcapped mountains, puffy white clouds, and cerulean blue sea.

Next stop, Charles DeGaulle airport – Paris.

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Two days in Paris so far, even though my digestive tract has not gotten used to my foreign surroundings, I feel great. I suppose it helps to have a friend/translator, a full nights sleep, and a rudimentary knowledge of Paris as my starting point. I’ve already dabbled in Tinder tourism and it was not disappointing. The energy of this city is teeming with national pride and solidarity following the terrorist attack. You see “Je suis Charlie” in nearly every shop window – sort of like the American flags after 9/11 but this movement is much more pointed regarding the freedom of expression. The first time I was here they elected Hollande as their new president over Sarkosy now this – it always something when I’m here. Apparently, Hollande was way down in the polls but after the attack, his response was well received so he is much more popular. I think Hollande should pay me for my presence in France, it seems to work in his favor.

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Since I have been to Paris and did all the important tourist stops last time, I’m mostly lying low and doing a few things like shopping and visiting Montmartre to bide my time. Did I mention it is “soldes” season in Paris? I am dying…I have no room in my pack to carry around new items but I really want to buy everything. I found a gorgeous purple coat, a Furla handbag (50% off!), and a million other things that I would love to bring home but I am restraining myself. So far, I’ve bought my niece and nephew gifts plus one baby gift for a co-worker. Otherwise, I just treat myself to food (chèvre et miel pizza) and the comfort of a hair dryer. The biggest downside of visiting a bachelor friend, no hair dryer, or toilet seat for that matter. Insert eye roll and look of frustration here.

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Right now, I sit in a Starbucks (blame my mother, she requested a Paris Sbux gift card for her present but I’ve found it may not exist) across the street from Moulin Rouge writing this blog posting. You’d think this place would be filled with tourists yet I hear French from every patron surrounding me. I suppose Rick Steves was right when he said visiting Europe in winter is visiting the European’s Europe. I haven’t heard English once! Now I will take the metro back to the 15eme to retrieve mon ami so we may visit the fromage shop and le boulangerie which will be our dinner with a movie at home. Are you jealous yet?

2014 – a lag year in my blogging

These stats prove one thing: my readers love hot guys!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,900 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Interstellar

InterstellarI saw Christopher Nolan’s latest epic on 35mm in the recently restored Egyptian Theater on Capitol Hill in Seattle last night and it was…intense. I cannot think of a better word to describe this film. First of all, let me warn you that this dystopic future piece is three hours long. However, it kept my attention the entire film unlike other hero movies that leave me bored around the two hour mark, but I still think they could have cut a lot and it still would have had the same impact. Nonetheless, if you’re a fan of Nolan and his score heavy, plot/logic twisting style, you’ll love this film.

I won’t divulge an entire summary of the plot but it does provide an appropriate vehicle for the McConnaissance leading into the next Oscar season. A widower family man leaves Earth to save the world and his family only to find impossible odds. The narrative is nothing new to moviegoers but the cinematography is spectacular. In the vein of last year’s Gravity, in fact, that scientific concept is the driving force of Interstellar, coincidence? Doubtful. I’ve read a few articles online that the C.G. black hole in the film is very scientifically accurate – just a nugget for those astroscience nerds out there.

Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, and Casey Affleck star in this film. If McConaughey and his down home colloquialisms annoy you, don’t bother seeing this in the theater, because the main character is an amusing combo of his classic Texan persona with a twist of serious actor and he’s in 90% of the film. Although I’m not a huge fan of Hathaway, her character isn’t major enough to ruin anything and Jessica Chastain’s performance overshadows all other female roles. As for Matt Damon, he’s a villain and an obstacle to the fateful hero, but the entire audience laughed as he was introduced on screen. Why? The only reason I can come up with is because of Team America. I can’t see this actor without that line, “Matt Damon” running through my mind. It is so hard to take him seriously.

One big thing I did not enjoying during the film: the sound. The overall film score was like an emotionally abusive boyfriend screaming in your ear to feel what he’s feeling no matter how irrational or extreme. I don’t respond well to heavy-handed emotional manipulation so I only had one brief teary moment during the entire film when there were at least 5 big tear-jerking scenes. Nolan is known for his ominous scores but this one actually distracted and often disrupted the diegetic sound and dialogue thus leaving the audience saying, “Huh?”

The story as a whole is long, complicated, emotionally overwrought, scientifically compelling but ultimately a bit much. There was so much going on in the film that it took an hour to tie up all the loose ends. Personally, I prefer films that end on a semi-ambiguous note and this one did not. It was too neat. Considering the magnitude of the story, I felt that more could have been left up to the audience to resolve in their own imaginations.

Overall, I enjoyed the film but it had plenty of flaws, however, it’s worth seeing in the theater if for no other reason than experiencing the cinematography. I give the film three and a half out of five spectacles.

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Yelle live

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Yelle Live in Seattle @ Neumos

A few weeks ago, my French friend invited me to see one of her favorite band perform, Yelle, in Seattle at Neumos. The ticket was relatively inexpensive and from what I saw of their music on YouTube it seemed like a fun idea. Little did I know what a rockin’ show Yelle would put on and how many people would be there screaming like schoolgirls. First off, Yelle is known for her supposedly crude lyrics of song, “Je veux te voir,” that responded to a French band’s, Cuizinier, sexist and vulgar song. I like any woman willing to stand up against the patriarchal hegemony whether it’s here or in France. Regardless of lyric content, the show put on for us at Neumos (a relatively small venue), was superb. Below is a little taste.

I wish I had more to say about Yelle and their music but I don’t speak French and I am very new to their repertoire. I’ll be sure to add them to my Spotify next week and keep an eye out for another show. The production value was amazing considering the small space they had to work with but the lights were just perfect. The music is pop and highly danceable. If you’re into just getting down to some great beats, check Yelle out. I loved the show and would recommend Yelle to anyone into dance music.

By the way, either GrandMarnier or Tepr is hot! I couldn’t see her drummer and keyboardist very well from where I was standing but one took a video of the crowd. Whom ever it was, voux etes un mec chaud…add in a French accent, jump on it!