France to Switzerland to Austria.
20.06.2013 35 °C
It's pretty interesting but I am finding it much more difficult in Europe vs. India to access a computer or sometimes even wifi. India was so easy!
Where did I leave off... oh yes! Buxy.
So we left our little piece of heaven, Buxy, after saying goodbye to our host. I had another 'awkward European kiss' encounter and forgot they kissed both cheeks when saying hello and goodbye. Let's just say I might have lingered on one cheek and kissed the other earlobe. Awkward. Anyway! We jumped on a train to Lyon (apparently the city of amazing chefs and food). We rented a room out of an apartment and we shared it with the tenant, a really nice woman in her 30's who does freelance market research. The plus of this spot, it's literally right in the middle of the city 2 minutes from the train station on one of the most popular streets - Rue Victor Hugo which is a pedestrian street with cafes, stores, restaurants, etc. We arrived, got settled and went for a walk. Alright so I said it has the reputation for amazing food... I didn't say it was inexpensive. Quite the opposite actually. We wanted something other than pasta or sandwiches so found a Chinese restaurant for lunch and after sharing 2 tiny courses with a side of rice (smallest bowl ever) that we thought was included, we get our bill. 27 euros... Yes. About $40. And the rice was NOT included. It cost $9. We didn't eat out in Lyon for the rest of our time there. Shocking, I know.Anyway, we head to get groceries and then to the apartment and call it an early night after making a cheap dinner.
The next day our hostess had a huge breakfast ready for us - cereal, milk, toast, ham, Nutella, peanut butter, jams, chocolate breakfast cookies (ok they were just chocolate cookies but we classified them as breakfast), tea, coffee, the works! I sure didn't eat all that but let's just say Derek... Indulged. We went to get ready and I'm looking for my SLR camera. I can't find it. I ask Derek, he doesn't know. Then we realize Derek left it at the Chinese restaurant the day before. I almost freaked (ok I did a bit) and made him RUN there. Luckily, it was still there and I didn't hurt Derek. We did some sightseeing and spent the day by the river under the shade, it was over 30 degrees!
On a side note, we are having India flashbacks from the heat and are started to 'ugly sweat'. It's so hot here. Over 30 degrees most days for the past week or so. Plus I have 5lbs of hair on my head that makes it feel like I'm wearing a winter scarf and hat combo. I need some cheap clothing to supplement my wardrobe. Otherwise it'll look like every photo taken is from the same day because we are wearing the same outfits. That's the end of my complaining. First world problems to an extreme.
Anyway, back to Lyon. Our last day we walked across the river to a used book store for Derek to buy French books and for me to buy anything in english. Such a cool store, like a maze with books everywhere - upstairs and downstairs. Afterwards, we walked about 4km to Tete d'Or park which is on a lake and just massive. They even had a zoo within the grounds but neither of us are keen on seeing zoos... I don't like how the animals have such little room and within an unnatural habitat. Once we saw the giraffe, it was just weird. Overall, we had a great time in Lyon, it's a really neat city with great people!
From there we headed east towards the Swiss/French border and stayed at a house in Annemasse (France) which is about a 5 minute drive to the border and 20 minutes to Geneva, Switzerland. We rented a room out of the house from a really nice man who works in Geneva and also has an apartment there. He is originally from Haiti but has lived and worked in Geneva for over 25 years with a background in International Relations. We arrive and he tells us there are 2 others renting a room, one from the Ukraine and the other from Canada - both doing PhD research in Geneva for a few weeks. When we meet the man from Canada we find out he is from PEI ( can't even believe it!) and we realize Derek went through school with his brother in law. Talk about a small world! That's the island for you in a nutshell. The next day we hung out around the house and got a few essential things done for the fall and that evening Derek and Mark (the guy from PEI) went to a discussion our host was a speaker on a panel nearby about Haiti and the amount of corruption surrounding the earthquake relief. I didn't go because it was in French and my grasp isn't so great with fluent speakers. Derek gave me the rundown on the discussion. Apparently 94% of fundraiser money pledged by other countries went back into those countries, meaning for example (this was used at the discussion), the US pledges 50 million dollars and the US navy is sent down for 3 weeks and it costs 30 million dollars. It doesn't actually go into Haiti but to pay salaries of those working because it was not volunteer based. One of the only countries that actually fulfilled its pledge promise was Venezuela. Most other countries didn't fulfill their pledge promises at all (including Canada). Very sad... Also, the fact that the big international aid organizations were handling the money was not a good thing... the United Nations and other huge organizations that we trust to handle the money to ensure it makes it into the right hands ended up in the pockets of many people working for the organization. Derek also mentioned that our host was explaining how NGO's working there can also be a huge issue because 1) they are unorganized 2) there are usually 6 NGO's who are doing the same thing which is a waste of resources 3) they attract the brightest people from Haiti away from government work so no one is working to rebuild at a government level. Basically the generalizations of the discussion were that other countries won't rebuild Haiti, it's the people in Haiti who will rebuild it. Interestingly enough, 25% of Haiti's GDP came from Haitians working abroad and would send money home (similar to the Phillipines).
The following day our host drive us into Geneva to walk around. He was going for a leisurely 12 km run (runs in 12 marathons per year around the world). No big deal. We walked around the incredible lake all the way to the United Nations headquarters and about 10 other HQ's. These buildings are just massive... makes you a little frustrated that all this money goes into the insane salaries of the workers, huge expensive dinners out, etc... who are we to trust when making donations? Unfortunately, if an organization advertises huge salaries, are you really attracting the right people?
Geneva is just oozing money... you can see it everywhere. There are a lot of celebrities that live there because of the low tax bracket. The prices of everything are ridiculous. The Swiss Franc is about the same as the Canadian dollar but the prices or things are at least 2-3 times the price of anything at home. For example, we walked by a restaurant and the menu indicated the soup cost $22 Canadian. AH. We were walking along the boardwalk and there was a little truck stand sandwich shop, 1 sandwich cost $16 Canadian. Double AH! Our host had warned us about this and recommended we pack a lunch, which we did and it was great. Nothing is worth those prices! Early afternoon we met up with Mark and spent the rest of the day in a park by the river with a couple frosty beverages under the shade (oh did I mention it was over 30 degrees?). That night our host had a BBQ for us and we had such a great time! The next morning, Mark, Derek and I walked 10 minutes to this huge outdoor market and Mark bought us pain de chocolat (chocolate bread) - yummmmm. Then it was off to our next spot outside Zurich!
We trained it to Zurich and then caught a bus to a smaller town just outside of the city where we rented a room from a couple with 2 small children, it was really nice and totally accessible by bus and train to head anywhere. We only had 1 full day there so took a train to Lucerne and bought tickets (thanks to mom!) to take an hour boat up the river where we caught the cable car to the top of Mount Pilatus for the afternoon, then a gondola ride back down to Lucerne and went to a nearby lake so Derek could get in a quick swim. The next day it was off yet again to our next spot. So that brings me to now! We are in Innsbruck, Austria and this small city has just wowed us. We realize more and more that this size of place is perfect... the mountains go all the way around the city and we are staying about a 20 minute walk outside of the downtown in Innsbruck Hoetting with a very nice older woman. She is just the sweetest! That's the other thing so far, everyone in every country we have been to is just so helpful and nice... yesterday we walked along the river to downtown (if there's a river in Europe, there's a city built around it) to the old historic center and came across the police band playing in the middle of a small square. Next to us 2 women were laughing and dancing around with each other, just having such a great time. It was very euphoric. People are just amazing beings. We went to go get a drink at a cafe by the band and that turned into a full fledged Austrian lunch of 5 wurstlteller (5 different amazing homemade sausages with fries and glorious mustard) & Kasspatzle (cheesy noodle dish native to Austria). Topped off with local beer (Derek) and local wine (me) it was amazing. We look behind us to see the huge mountains setting the backdrop... sigh... I love it here!
We walked back to our place and on the way saw something that is a little foreign to us but very normal here - a 3 year old boy riding a 2 wheeled bicycle (no training wheels!) up and down hills in a park with his father... was I even walking then? haha Yes... but here it's so normal for kids to be hiking, biking, skating, skiing circles around everyone else. Later yesterday afternoon, we took the train about 20 minutes away to Rum where there is a gorgeous manmade lake called 'Baggersee Rossau'. It looks like a natural lake and they have volleyball nets, basketball courts, ping pong tables, etc back in another little park area. Just amazing and it was packed. It cost about $8 total for us to spend the afternoon there. The water was cold but so refreshing with the 35 degree whether. Such a great idea!
Here we are today, at an internet cafe trying to get a few things done (because it can't be ALL fun and games!). Heading to an Austrian restaurant which is a traditional hall for lunch, should be really neat!
Until next time!