Paris and Final Days of Switzerland

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Wednesday morning came very quickly as we had to be out of the house by 5:00 am in order to catch the train to Geneva. This meant a 4:30 am alarm was in order. It’s interesting how quickly one’s body adapts to a different schedule as not long ago a 4:30 wake up was an all-too-often occurrence. However, that morning, it was brutal in every sense of the word. With eyes half open, hair askew, I slipped in to some clothes I had set out the prior night and ate a bite of cereal though I wasn’t at all hungry. We grabbed our modest suitcase that was packed full and quietly stumbled out the door towards the train station located a short 5 minute walk away.

We bought our train tickets for the four of us and sat waiting for the train to arrive for what seemed like an entire REM cycle. As you would expect there’s not much happening at 5:00 in the morning on Wednesday’s in Nyon, or many places in Switzerland, for that matter. Thirty minutes or so later, the train arrived and we were off to Geneva to get to our pre-booked speedy train that would take us to Paris.

Following a mad dash sprint to catch our next train with luggage in hand, we were able to sit down and relax knowing that we didn’t have to stress about a thing for the next few hours. The train was nearly empty which allowed us to sneak ourselves into our own seats to get a bit more leg and shoulder room.

A benign 3 hour train ride — albeit at speeds of over 165 mph at times — and we arrived to the buzzing train station in Paris. Whilst making our way out of the station, we stopped at a tourist information booth to grab four tickets to Orsay Museum and a pack of 20 metro (Paris’ subway system) tickets which would prove to be very handy as Paris is overwhelmingly spread out and just gigantic in general.

A short 4-stop metro ride later and we were ready to drop off our luggage at our hotel and explore the city. Our hotel was located very near to the Louvre with the Luxembourg Gardens to our south and the Orsay Museum just to our west. We didn’t exactly have a game plan coming in — besides chatting about places I would like to see during our previous train ride to Paris — so we got to walking and would figure out as we went!

We quickly spotted the Louvre Museum which, to my amazement, was astoundingly larger than even I had read about. I guess it’s one of those things that just can’t be realized unless one is standing staring at the massive proportions to this old palace. As our time was short and the crowds surrounding the entrance were overwhelming, we decided to skip out on getting in. No matter, as Lisa and her parents explained that with so many people, the chances of actually seeing anything of worth would be rare. If you did actually venture to see the Mona Lisa, you would have to risk getting your hair or perhaps even arm pulled out in the foolish effort.

Our next stop on the walking tour of Paris was the Notre Dame Cathedral. Again, words cannot describe the intense detail that was taken over the years to build this amazing place of worship. As expected, the line was long and the temperatures were hot, so we settled on a few pictures and continued on our way.

We were getting a bit hungry so we found a nice place to stop and grab a meal nearby.

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Myself and Lisa’s mother Wendy had the veal with truffle sauce paired with some pasta and an arugula salad. It was quite delicious! Lisa and her father ordered the mussels in a garlic and tomato broth which was also very tasty.

The rest of the afternoon consisted of more walking around town where we found a little garden area to rest our tired feet before continuing on to St. Paul’s Cathedral, a spot to grab a snack and a coffee and back to the hotel for a quick recharge.

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After our nap, we went to a grocery store nearby to grab some beer, variety of cheeses and bread and some nice salamis to munch on for dinner considering how much we had already eaten throughout the day. We decided it best to grab a taxi from the hotel to our nest destination which was a river boat cruise of the city at dusk: Bateaux-Mouches. There was an emphatic and crazy rush with lots of pushing, shoving, grabbing and the like to get a seat on the top of the boat which was the obvious place to be. Someone even offered to pay me off for the awesome seats that I was able to acquire. I was fortunate to hold on to them long enough for the rest of the family to navigate their way through the crowds to find me.

Two hours and about two thousand photos later, we made our way off the boat and continued on to find the Arc de Triomphe. A few photos here and we were tired from the ten or twelve miles we had walked throughout the day. Check out the photos from the boat and Arc de Triomphe below:

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The following day we reserved primarily for Orsay Museum where we spent about three hours enjoying the famous artwork seen below:

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Later that day we walked to the Palais Garnier (Paris Opera House) and grabbed some lunch nearby. Back to the hotel for a little rest and relaxation, followed a little bit later by a nice spot to experience a real-deal crepe!

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Our 36-hour journey of Paris was nearly over so we packed up our suitcases back at the hotel and made our way back to Nyon.

The final days of the trip were spent in a very relaxed setting where we were able to spend some quality time taking care of baby Maya and taking copious cute baby pictures:

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We also made a drive to a relatively nearby winery (of which there are many) to taste some of the local wine that Switzerland chooses to keep to themselves by not exporting any of it for the rest of the world to enjoy. We also drove to Divonne to check out some horse racing as Lisa’s dad has been following horse racing for many years now. After that, it was time for Lisa and I to pack up all of our things and head back to the US!

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The past two weeks abroad were truly fantastic but it’s nice to be back home so that I can get back to work working on my golf game!

Thanks for catching up on my travels and stay tuned for more updates including a recent weekend trip to the Charleston area to play some golf and hang out with my best bud Erick!


Switzerland Trip (Days 3 Through 7)

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Friday August 7th

The following day, we decided to check out the East end of Lake Leman by way of our rental car. Our destination was the quaint little town of Vevey, roughly an hours drive away from Daina’s Nyon apartment.

The ride was incredibly scenic though the pictures I attempted to take were all skewed by the reflections made by the car window. Even still, I can remember us winding our way through the mountainous Switzerland freeway high above the lake elevation taking in the gorgeous views. At certain points throughout the drive, the freeway would direct us right through the terrain by way of a tunnel.

Apparently, the Swiss also care deeply for their countryside and choose to tunnel straight through the mountains in an effort to retain the natural landscape instead of knocking down the sides just to save some money on the infrastructure. In my personal opinion: money well-spent. There is something deeply appealing in a place that seeks to keep the original beauty and character of the land. In doing so, the identity and fingerprint are unaltered creating an inherently better experience and more complex connection to nature.

Upon arrival to Vevey, we promptly found a short term parking lot and began our journey to find a nice place to eat some lunch. The difficulty with this endeavor was soon brought to my attention as many of the local eateries serve much of the same food. I don’t necessarily think you can wrong in whichever you choose, though not having a cell phone with service to check reviews makes the decision that much more luck-based. In the end, we chose how most tourists probably would: we looked for the busiest restaurant with the highest concentration of locals and found a seat.

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We ordered a traditional European-style lager as well as some plates for us to share. The special lunch offering of the day included a creamy chanterelle soup and a pan-fried white fish with a beautiful citrus reduction served with boiled fingerling potatoes. We also chose local perch filets with pommes frites and ordered a traditional “rosti” — what I am calling a Swiss version of hash browns — topped with chanterelles to get the full experience. Needless to say, we did not leave hungry!

Following lunch, we walked around town, taking in the local sights and sounds, then headed down to the water to check out the views.

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To finish off the afternoon, we grabbed a gelato and hopped in the car before our 2 hour parking meter expired. It was a very warm day and we decided we should go back to the apartment to check in on baby Maya and her mother Daina. A short nap, a few beers and some grilled food at the homestead and the family was ready for bedtime.

Saturday, August 8th

We took our time getting out of bed and eventually decided to make breakfast which consisted of some nice baguettes, a selection of salamis and cured hams and some fried eggs. The morning was rather uneventful as we were saving our energy for the evening which entailed us taking a train to Geneva to explore and take part in the Fetes de Geneve (Geneva Festival).

From the train station, Lisa and I broke off from her parents to walk around and see a few places that I had not been to, as this was my first trip to Switzerland. I had requested to see the Patek Philippe Museum and that was the first place we visited. This was a very neat place that detailed the famous watch company from its inception back in 1839 all the way up to the present. There were thousands of timepieces on display and based on current pricing, there had to be at least a billion dollars worth of inventory on hand. Pretty incredible!!

From the museum, we simply strolled around the city sidewalks while taking a few selfies along the way. We eventually made our way to a small bar outside of the meeting place we had made with Lisa’s parents before our separation. We relaxed, had some peanuts and a beer and waited for her parents so we could go across the street to eat some dinner at Ingelwood, a fantastic place known for their mouthwatering burgers.

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Despite the long wait for our meal since the place was packed, it was the hands down best burger I have ever had. Ridiculously flavorful beef with local Gruyere melted on top, paired with what seemed to be an artisan-style apple wood smoked bacon and a perfectly fried egg sandwiched between a light and airy poppy seed bun. They only cook their burgers to a medium-rare unless otherwise instructed. I know this would scare a whole lot of people but let me tell you, the beef was so fresh and of such high quality, I would not have it cooked any other way. It was a truly euphoric experience that I will never forget.

To add to the already memorable evening, we made our way to the lakeside to witness one of the most spectacular fireworks show in the world. The show lasted over an hour and a half and consisted of perfectly timed explosions of color to coincide with the dramatic music (i.e. iconic Harry Potter compilations from the movies, and many other well-known songs and orchestrations) that played clearly in the background. Although I was able to get some reasonably good photos, the experience was far greater than the pictures alone. It was no wonder the streets surrounding the area were literally flooded with people standing shoulder to shoulder to catch a glimpse of the show. I was unable to secure any hard figures on attendance but I would have to wager a guess in the neighborhood of 50,000 or more.

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Once the show was over, we made our way through the masses back towards the train station to eventually end up at the apartment for a good night’s sleep.

Monday, August 10th

We took a break from any sightseeing on Sunday to rest up for the busy week ahead. Monday came around quickly and Lisa and I decided to take a ferry across the lake to visit Yvoire, France.

After nearly missing the 12:30 boat, we enjoyed a rather speedy ferry ride across the lake and arrived in Yvoire. The sun was shining with few clouds in the sky which made for some great pictures in a tiny, but lovely town. We walked around a bit and found a great little gem to eat at where we sampled some great fish from around the area and a delicious risotto as well.

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As Yvoirre is so small, we ended up navigating the entire town in around 30 minutes (this does not include the time it took to eat lunch) even with a few stops in some local antique shops. Deciding there wasn’t much else to do or see, we caught the next ferry back to Nyon for a quiet rest of the afternoon.

Tuesday, August 11th

We had made the decision Tuesday morning that we would visit the Nestle-Cailler Chocolate Factory in the Broc/Gruyere region. It was quite the drive there as the iconic back roads of Switzerland are no more than a car-widths wide. This makes 2-way traffic a bit of an adventure as one must yield and pull as far over as possible while the other swerves off-road. To add to the difficulty, many of these roads are as winding a passageway that I can remember traveling on, which at times makes spotting the on-coming car rather last second. It all adds to the excitement, I guess!

We arrived in one piece and were directed to park in a grass lot about a quarter of a mile from the actual factory. We bought a pre-made sandwich and crepe from their on-site store and waited for our tour to begin.

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Once “inside the ropes” we got an idea of the history of the company as well as some fun facts and history about chocolate including its roots dating back to the Mayan civilization. We then got to see the inner workings of the factory and learned some basic details about how they make chocolate at Nestle-Cailler (no secrets revealed…darn!).

The tour wouldn’t have been complete without a tasting area where we could sample several of Cailler’s different brands of chocolate from hazelnut-infused chocolate to espresso and dark chocolate combinations and everything in between. Regardless of one’s affinity for chocolate, there was something there to please even the toughest of critics.

Lisa and I finished the tour by taking a silly tourist photo in the provided booth and continued to the Cailler store where we would of course have to buy some of our favorites to take back with us.

We bought a few things and headed back towards the apartment. On the way, we stopped at an artisanal cheese shop to grab some gruyere to sample back at the homestead. Luckily for us, Lisa had remembered a good amount of French from her high school days to help us in understanding and communicating to the nice lady behind the counter.

We got home and quickly relaxed until it was time to make dinner. We called it an early evening in preparation for our trip to Paris, which would start very early the next morning.

To be continued…(including Paris and the final days back in Switzerland before our return home)

Thanks for catching up and I will be much quicker to post here as I still have so much to fill everyone in on!!