31 December, 2007

Geneva old town

This year we spent our Christmas in Nyon. Nyon is a municipality in the district of Nyon, in canton Vaud in Switzerland. It is about 25km from the city of Geneva. It's a lovely town lies on the shore of Lake Geneva.

Petty's family lives there.

On Christmas Day itself, after an extremely heavy breakfast consisting of fua gras, smoked salmon, toasts, parma ham and various types of French/Swiss cheeses, we were stuffed till we could hardly breathe. Lying on my mom-in-law's sofa, we looked as if we were about to doze off for the day. Seeing us in such a state of sluggishness, Petty suggested, "why don't we go to Geneva old town for a spin?"

I wasn't exactly thrilled about the idea as I'd been to Geneva many times. On two occasions I was there on business trip. But then I must admit I didn't spend much time there during each of my visits. And so I couldn't form an unbiased opinion about Geneva. My only impression was that Geneva was a messy place with lots of foreigners hanging around the city centre. Not a particularly good impression, right?

But Geneva old town is an entirely different world!

When we arrived at Geneva old town, I was struck dumb by what I'd seen as we were driving pass this church.

The Russian Orthodox Church

Topped with golden domes in the shape of huge onions, this beautiful 19th century Russian Orthodox Church left me speechless. "Stop the car! Stop the car!" At one click, I got myself the first photo of our trip to the old town.

My travel brochure told me that back in 1859, the tolerant Geneva Authority authorised the building of a church for the growing Russian Orthodox population in the city. The Grand Duchess Anna Fyodorovna who was the aunt of Queen Victoria and the sister-in-law of Tsar Alexander I, was at the time residing in Geneva. She funded the construction of the church. It was completed in 1866.

Not far away from the church, I found the majestic-looking The Museum of Art and History.

The Museum of Art and History

Designed by architect Marc Camoletti, the construction of The Museum of Art and History spanned over 7 years from 1903 to 1910. It was built as an encyclopedic museum housing Swiss and European arts and artifacts dating back to pre-historical times. It has by far the largest collection of Egyptian antiques in Switzerland.

As I was wandering around, I saw this bronze sculpture on the green field right in front of the museum.

I was wondering: Can it be Henry Moore? It CAN'T be Henry Moore right? I CAN'T be so fortunate that I just stumble upon Henry Moore as casually as this on a field in Geneva right? RIGHT? RIGHT? When I moved closer to the bronze figure, I noticed a small plaque with these words engraved on it: Reglining Figure Arch Leg H. Moore 1973.


It's a shame the Geneva Authority has misspelled 'Reclining' as 'Reglining'.

At this point I was getting ecstatic and I called out for Petty and the kids to join me in my discovery. But they were nowhere to be found. By the time I caught up with them, they were standing in front of this mosaic fresco by Alexandre Cingria depicting Julius Caesar’s arrival in the city in 58 BC.

I suppose 58 BC was a time of utmost violence and turbulence. Do you notice, a coloured man, stripped naked, tied by the hands with a rope, watching the victorious parade by Caesar?

As we approached Place de la Taconnerie, we were confronted by a bronze sculpture of Prophet Jeremie by Auguste de Niederhäusern-Rodo.

Jeremie by Rodo

In front of the sculpture stands St. Peter's Cathedral. It is best known for the adopted home/church of John Calvin, one of the leaders of the protestant reformation.

In 1536, The Catholic Cathedral of St. Peter became a protestant church. John Calvin preached here from 1536 to 1564. During such time the cathedral became the guiding centre of Protestantism.

St. Peter's Cathedral

Construction on St. Peter's Cathedral began in 1160 and lasted 150 years. However, recent excavations on the site have revealed a rich history dating back to the Roman Empire.

Another corner of the Cathedral

One can't afford to visit Geneva without checking out its fashion scene. I am crazy about shoes. I found it difficult to drag myself away from this shop window.

Along Place de la Taconnerie, I came across this cute little cafe with warm dim light piercing through its window curtains. Given the weather condition, which was so damned cold, it was indeed a very seductive invitation for us to go in for a cup of hot chocolate!

I also found this antique shop selling artifacts from Byzantine and post Byzantine era. The shop window is so tiny it's befitting a scene from Gulliver's Travel.

And not forgetting this delicate-looking bronze sculpture in front of a main door.

Such intricate artwork. I quickly whipped out my camera for a picture.

Just as I was about to click on it, all of a sudden, I heard someone barking right next to my left ear, "IT'S SO BLOODY COLD! LET'S GET OUT OF HERE!!"

It was Petty. I could hardly understand why he was wearing leather jacket when the weather was so cold. What a killjoy. I haven't covered Geneva old town properly. But I can always come back.

29 December, 2007

Happy birthday to me

We have birthday celebration year after year. As time goes by, it has become an excuse for indulgence. I am always happy when the big day arrives, which means, hey, I have again peacefully got through another year. As long as I am still alive and kicking, I don't really mind the fact that I'm getting older each year.

Before having our kids, in the name of celebration, Petty and I, together with some like-minded friends, would take all the trouble to fly all the way from Zurich to Ibiza on a Friday afternoon. That same night you would find us in some clubs.

In a matter of a weekend, we could manage to rush from
Amnesia to Space, and from there move on to Cream and Manumission. Clubbing till dawn, only then we headed back to our hotel - just in time for early breakfast. After a hearty breakfast feasting on bacon, baked beans and fried eggs, it's time to sleep like a log/pig until afternoon. We would then be enjoying the hot Spanish sunshine either by the pool or the beach. At such a moment, I thought: This is how life should be.

But right now if you ask me to do the same again, I definitely will turn you down. Clubbing, yes I'll join you. But please don't ask me to rush from one club to another. I have no energy for such foolishness anymore. Moreover I do need my eight hours beauty sleep.

That's why nowadays when we do have birthday celebration, we'll invariably end up in a good restaurant instead of dancing the night away in some smokey dodgy back alley kind of club.

For my birthday celebration back in December, Petty took me to Restaurant Le Léman in Nyon. He reserved a table for us long before my birthday. Our two kids, as arranged by Petty, were looked after by my mom-in-law. How nice to have mom-in-law, sometimes!

Restaurant Le Léman had great ambience that night. With the use of candle light and dim ceiling light, they managed to set the mood for romantic dinning.

Initially there were only Petty and I. At a later stage, knowing that they could leave their children at home by themselves, Chris's brother, Olli and his wife, Niko decided to join us.

Escargots de Bourgogne

My first course was half a dozen of snails. I love snails. No I don't love the animal but I do love eating it. Having snails involves the use of a number of 'instruments'. Check out the picture above. Don't they look like the same instruments used by the gynaecologist?

Filets de perches

Petty particularly likes a kind of fish found mainly in Lake Geneva called perch. Perch from this part of Switzerland is small in size. But when cooked, its flesh can be so tender and sweet. It has tiny little bones that are edible. Filets de perches is Restaurant Le Léman's speciality.

Bobo de crevette

For our main course, Niko and I opted for grilled prawn cooked with coconut and coriander. Hmmm....this was so yummy. Check out the picture above. Can you see the grilled scallops amongst the prawns?

One can't do without good wine when having good food. The four of us killed a bottle of Grand Cru Classé 1999 Pessac-Léognan. This lovely red wine produced in the French region of Bordeaux was the right stuff to cleanse our palette. Hello Mr. waiter, can you bring us another bottle please?

The atmosphere was so cozy inside the restaurant. Who would have guessed the temperature outside was 5ºC?

Tarte Tatin

After the main course, I was so full I could hardly move anymore. But Petty suggested a dessert called Tarte Tatin. Apparently it's a very common dessert in the French part of Switzerland. The combination of warm apple pie and cold vanilla ice cream was just too hard to resist. I ended up finishing the whole thing in a matter of minutes.

Olli's Sorbet

For dessert, Olli chose several scoops of berries-flavoured sorbet. The presentation was extremely pretty and inviting. I don't like sorbet. It may look pretty but I know deep down it's sour. To me, having sorbet is like having ice cream without THE CREAM. What's the fun of having sorbet?

Whenever I have the opportunity to indulge, I always remember what my mom told me: To be able to wine and dine properly is a blessing. So folks, let's enjoy the finer things in life.


29 November, 2007

A walk along Waegitalersee

From Wikipedia:
Wägitalersee is an artificial lake in Wägital, a valley in the canton of Schwyz, Swizterland. The lake is surrounded by the mountains Gross Aubrig, Fluebrig, Zindlenspitz, Brünnelistock and Bockmattli. The reservoir is located in the municipality of Innerthal. The primary economical purpose of the Wägitalersee is to serve as reservoir for pumped-storage hydro-electricity. The power became operational in 1924, thereby creating the Wägitalersee.

Phew, that's Wikipedia out of the way. Let's get down to business.

The Swiss people take their outdoor activities very seriously. You'll find them doing some kind of sports even when it's raining or snowing. The masses like cycling, jogging, hiking and such activities. The dare-devils go for snowboarding, skiing, sailing, hand-gliding etc. This kind of Swiss mentality has a positive effect on us. Come on, even our retired neighbours are riding their mountain bikes every now and then, and they look as fit as bull fighters (OK, maybe not quite there yet).

Therefore we make a point to get out of our house on weekend. We usually go for a long walk. That's how we ended up in Innerthal on a Sunday afternoon. As you've noticed from Wikipedia above, Wägitalersee (Wägitaler Lake) is an artificial lake located in Innerthal.

Our aim was quite ambitious. We wanted to walk round the lake. We reckoned it might take about 3 hours. 3 hours? With Petty pushing Piggy in a baby stroller? And Bearbear? He's only four and a half years old. And what about me? I just gave birth to Piggy 7 months ago. According to Chinese custom, women who have just given birth should be pampered and treated like gold. Moreover, I gave birth to Piggy in the year of the Golden Pig. It's not just any pig, it's THE GOLDEN PIG! In Chinese lunar calendar, this can only happen once every 60 years! (According to Korean calendar, this happens only once in 600 years!) OK, I'm getting out of track here. But the point I am making is, I shouldn't be walking for 3 hours in this cold weather in my post-natal condition. But then, Petty was very persistent. He is the typical Swiss who rants about, yeah, a bit of exercise won't do you no harm dear, bla bla bla. In the end I gave in. Exercise can do us no harm. Period.

Innerthal is a very small village with a tiny population of 200. In 1924, the old village of Innerthal was flooded when the dam Schräh was constructed. A new village was then built along the current lake.

There were many plane trees along the lake. In winter time, all their leaves fell off but they were still standing strong in the bitter cold weather.

I found the weather extremely cold that day. I was walking, step by step, grinding my teeth along the way. Petty was giving encouragement of some sort: Hey, if we can walk round the whole lake, I'll treat you lot to pork fillets at the nearby restaurant!

To hell with his pork fillets! I was feeling so cold I couldn't even bring myself to eat a piece of dragon fillet!

Luckily a girl friend of mine came along with us. She was so well prepared for this walking trip. She lent me her woollen hat. She even let me use her hand phone to take all the pictures I have posted here. Lovely, aren't they?

This time last year Wägitalersee was frozen but look at it now - sunshine was plentiful here. It makes me wonder - could it be that global warming has already had an effect on this part of Switzerland?

Take a look at the colours on this photo above - the contrast of white snow against a backdrop of blue sky is just magnificent.

When I moved the lens a bit further away from the mountain, now, now you'll get to see the Swiss flag in the corner of the picture above.

The Swiss, I must say, are extremely proud of their tiny country. This winter wonderland is like a country girl with great natural beauty. That's why her people are so willingly flying her flags to show that they are truly proud to be Swiss.

We didn't manage to walk round Wägitalersee that day. And yet Petty still took us to the restaurant for a very delicious lunch of perch fillets.

This husband is not bad after all.