Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
We tried a sample of this cheese at a market in Barcelona and I thought it was wonderful, so we purchased some to bring home. I was a bit surprised when we opened the package. The rind smells exactly like a used litter box. The good news is that the rind is not eaten and the cheese tastes and smells great.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
After the nap we headed to Casa Mila via the metro. The metro stop closest to where we wanted to go was under construction and the elevators were not working. We had to put the stroller on the escalator a few times, which was no big deal. Unfortunately, there were a few instances where I had to carry the stroller (and Muriel) up the steps. I wasn't too happy.
Emily and Rowan went into Casa Mila while the girls and I wandered around. Emily and Rowan liked the exhibit, but it didn't compare to the Sagrada Familia even though they were designed by the same person.
After the Casa Mila we decided to look for the Enric Rovira Shop, which meant another metro ride. After carrying the stroller back into the metro station I realized that we had to exit the station and go in another entry due to the construction work. We finally made it to the track only to realize that we were on the track for the wrong direction. We went back up the steps and down the other side. We finally got to the correct station and then we couldn't leave the station because the stroller/wheel chair exit wasn't working correctly. We had to have someone come over and unlock a door for us.
All that and we couldn't find the shop. We may try again tomorrow.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
- Checking a huge folding map while standing in the middle of the sidewalk. Either move out of the way (preferred) or get a smaller map so you aren't taking up so much space
- Having a group take up the entire sidewalk while walking down the the street. I know this doesn't just apply to tourists, but there was a group of tourists blocking my path today.
- Using the GPS function in your iPhone for directional purposes. I had to listen to a guy on the bus make statements based on the output of his iPhone GPS. His statements weren't even close to correct. At least he was smart enough to ask the bus driver for clarification when he noticed everyone else was getting of the bus.
- Not having all of your liquids in a Ziploc bag at airport security. I can't believe that there are people in 1st world countries that haven't heard of these rules.
Friday, December 26, 2008
The wires in the control room were either loose or disconnected (my french isn't good enough to understand the exact issue). The tech fixed that and the Internet was immediately working, but not the phone. There is an issue with the dsl/phone adapter that is causing the phone not to work. I'm off to interdiscount in a few minutes to get a replacement.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Emily took Rowan up one of the towers and walked back down. I went up after on my own and can't imagine walking down with a 4 year old. The steps were steep, narrow, and, at least in some places, dark. The good news is that we went early and there wasn't a crowd. I don't think it would have been too enjoyable if the stairs were just one big line of people.
The markets in Morges, Basel, and Colmar were all very crowded and selling the same junk. The only difference was the type of food being sold.
The market in Barcelona was mostly dedicated to Nativity figures. At least 80% of the booths were selling these figures vs. maybe 20% at the other three markets.
Rumor has it that Vienna has a fantastic Christmas market, so we've put that on the list for next year. I'm hoping it is something special instead of just more of the same
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
After we got off the train a lady made sure we knew where to find the elevator to the street. Another lady tried to help with the exit that wouldn't open.
I have to say I am impressed.
Rowan and his hot chocolate
Things are a bit different in Switzerland and in most of Europe. Employees have the choice on whether to accept the pay reduction or not. If they choose to participate in the pay cut, they then have another choice to make.
- Option A: Take a 10% pay cut (work 10 days and get paid for 9)
- Option B: Give up 2 "Work Life Vacation Days" per month. These vacation days are either days carried over from previous years or days purchased by the employee. Keep full salary.
The good news, at least so far, is that Switzerland is not included in the layoffs that are occurring in Japan, Scotland, and parts of the US.
- Rowan and Niamh come into our rooa at 00:04 begging for water. I assume this has something to do with me turning up the heat to the mid 90s to help clothes dry
- Muriel waking up at 1:30 for a snack and being wide wake for about 90 minutes
- Rowan falling out of bed at 2:30.
- Moving Niamh back on her mattress at 2:35
- Rowan waking up at 5:00 asking if it was morning time.
- Rowan waking up at 5:15 asking if it was morning time
- Rowan waking up at 5:35 asking if it was morning time
- Rowan waking up at 6:05 asking if it was morning time.
- Niamh waking up at 6:25
- Rowan's first temper tantrum at 6:47
- Emily waking up at 6:49
- Rowan's second temper tantrum at 6:51
Monday, December 22, 2008
At the upper funicular station there is a cable car that takes visitors to the top of the hill. The cable car doesn't open until 10, so we had about 45 minutes to kill before it opened. We walked over to the Olympic stadium. It wasn't nearly as big as I expected it to be. I have to say I was disappointed at how small it seemed.
We walked back to the cable car and waited in the short line to go up. The ticket machine is a little strange. I had to do two transactions: one for the adult tickets and one for Rowan's ticket (Niamh and Muriel are free). I was a bit frustrated that it couldn't be done in one transaction. The ride up was fun and no issues were encountered. We got to the top and Rowan said he didn't want to go in the castle. That caused a small problem until we told him it wasn't really a castle, it was more of a big building. After that he was fine with it. We walked around the castle grounds for a while, but did not go into the museum. Rick Steves indicated it was fairly dull, so we decided to skip it. We were about to go back down the mountain when Muriel decided that not only was she hungry, she wanted to use a bottle. This wasn't good news, as we didn't have a bottle with us. Muriel cried the whole way down the hill in the cable car and funicular, as well as the 5 minute walk back to the apartment.
In front of the "big building"
Sunday, December 21, 2008
On a related note, I though Switzerland was now in the passport free zone, but I guess I was wrong.
Upstairs they had a bunch of interactive stuff for the kids to play with. Niamh and Rowan didn't want to leave, but we had to go find a grocery store.
We walked towards El Corte Ingles to find some groceries and found the remains of a Roman tower. Once we found the store Emily and Muriel (strapped to Emily) went to buy the groceries while I walked around pushing a stroller filled with sleeping kids. Emily came out a few minutes later with a screaming Muriel and no groceries. Needless to say, neither mother nor daughter were in a good mood. We walked back to our apartment listening to Muriel scream the whole way.
Muriel had a quick snack and went to bed. The other kids had a sandwich and went to sleep. All three kids were in bed and quite by 6PM.
Emily went back to El Corte Ingles to look around and buy groceries. She did quite well and found a few items that are not easily located in Switzerland (Kit Kat Dark and American hot dogs). The seafood section is supposed to be amazing. I hope to check it out after the kids go to bed tonight.
Niamh and Rowan both slept well until about 3:30 when Rowan fell out of bed. It woke them both up, but they went back to sleep fairly quickly. The good news is that Rowan didn't fall on Niamh, who was sleeping on the floor next to his bed.
We had a slight issue with the stove yesterday. The control knob for stoves in the US seem to get hotter as you move in a clockwise direction. That doesn't seem to be the case here. That wouldn't have been a problem, except there are no labels on the stove. It took a long time for that first toasted cheese sandwich yesterday afternoon. I played with the control knob a bit after that and the 2nd sandwich was done in a normal time frame.
I think we've discovered four issues with our apartment, none of which are major issues.
- no broom or mop in the apartment. Niamh and Rowan are eating breakfast now and the might be more cereal on the floor than in them.
- no plug for the bathtub. This makes bath time a bit more complicated.
- small elevator. There is an elevator, but our stroller won't fit in it. It isn't the end of the world, but it would be nice not to have to carry a stroller with a sleeping baby up the stairs
- the curtains don't keep out the light. There was enough light coming through the curtains last night that we didn't need any lights on in the apartment.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
We left our apartment in Morges at 4:45 this morning to catch our 7:05 flight. The airport was packed with people. I don't think I've ever seen it that busy. We used our gold status to use the first class check in line, which probably saved us over an hour. The security line was very long as well, and they didn't have an express lane or a process for people with three kids to go to the front of the line.
We made our flight with minutes to spare.
Rowan, Niamh, and I sat on one side of the aisle and Emily and Muriel were directly across from us. Right before we took off the flight attendant came over and said that Muriel had to sit on the other side of the aisle, as the A321 has 4 oxygen masks on the right side of the aisle and 3 on the left. Emily was not impressed with having to sit with three kids. (I couldn't, as Muriel was going to want to eat.)
The flight took about 70 minutes and was fairly unexciting. The kids were each given a cheap toy from the airline to play with.
More on our arrival after I get Muriel to sleep.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
UPDATE: Dec 18 -Swisscom is coming this morning to see if they can solve the problem.
UPDATE: Dec 19: Swisscom came, but couldn't find any issues with the lines. We're trying to arrange for somebody to come back today.
UPDATE: Dec 19: An electrician came and was very confused. He said everything seems to be working fine, but nothing is working. (at least that is my translation of what he said. I called Swisscom back and got escalated to deep deep support. That person indicated there was an issue with the line and was going to send someone to check it out on Tuesday. We don't get back until Thursday, so we had to schedule the appointment for the 26th.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
- Emily lost her glove
- Muriel woke up at 3AM
- The train back from France was very crowded
- It was cold (Not Alaska cold, but maybe Seattle cold)
- Christmas markets are overcrowded
- I found out how expensive formula is in Switzerland. Note: don't buy it at the train station pharmacy if you can avoid it.
- Muriel screaming in a cafe and driving the lady at the next table away before she could finish her drink or croissant.
- Rowan attempting to us the bathroom and peeing all over the toilet seat, floor, and his pants. Then screaming so much that he could easily be heard outside the bathroom
- Counting option 1 and 2 as only one option, as the lady was at the next table when Rowan and I went into the bathroom, but gone when we came out.
She was a bit fussy this evening (following being fussy most of the day), so we got her a gift consisting of a bottle and some formula. She has been having a bottle of milk every night and we thought this might get her back on her routine. It was her first time with formula and I don't think she was a big fan. The good news is that she calmed down a bit and is now sleeping.
- I think I found the "French" platforms that our train will depart from this morning
- Muriel slept almost the entire time
- I found a model train shop.
Muriel just woke Rowan up. The first thing he said is that he missed "six zero zero." (It is now 6:08. Rowan is now telling Niamh she can get up now. Nothing like an early start to the day.
Niamh is up and stated "pretty nice." That is her phrase for just about anything these days.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Basel is a 132 minute train ride from Morges. We saw a lot of snow during the train ride, but there isn't much here.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Niamh examines her boots.
Friday, December 5, 2008
We went to a friends house a few weeks ago and had raclette. We had our own machine 36 ours later. We put the melted cheese on potatoes. As you can see in the photo, putting bacon in the cheese is an acceptable practice.
I was told that the machine is more or less standard kitchen equipment in Switzerland.
CRIME: Switzerland has a low rate of violent crime. However, pick-pocketing and purse snatching do occur in the vicinity of train and bus stations, airports, and some public parks, especially during peak tourist periods (such as summer and Christmas) and when conferences, shows, or exhibits are scheduled in major cities. Liechtenstein has a low crime rate. Travelers may wish to exercise caution on trains, especially on
overnight trains to neighboring countries. Thieves, who steal from passengers while they sleep, can enter even locked sleeping compartments. Thieves have been known to work in pairs to target train passengers; while one member of the pair creates a diversion at a train window or on a platform, the other steals items left briefly unattended.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Switzerland are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Bern, with the
Consular Agencies in Geneva or Zurich, or through the State Department’s travel
registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy, Consulate, or Consular Agent to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Sulgeneckstrasse 19, 3007 Bern; Tel. (41)(31) 357-7011 (2 p.m. – 5 p.m.); fax (41)(31) 357-7280. The Embassy’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The U.S. Embassy website at http://bern.usembassy.gov answers many questions of interest to Americans visiting and residing in Switzerland. The U.S. Consular Agency in Zurich is located at the American Center of Zurich, Dufourstrasse 101, 8008 Zurich; Tel: (41)(43) 499-2960 (10 a.m. – 1 p.m.), fax (41)(43) 499-2961. The U.S. Consular Agency in Geneva is located at rue Versonnex 7, CH-1207 Geneva, Tel: 022-840-51 60 (10 a.m. – 1
p.m.); fax 022-840-51 62.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
- Approximately 11% of the gross domestic product is spent on the public health care system in Switzerland. The average for OECD countries is 8.8%. (All 2005 figures.)
- Total expenditure of health per capita is around $4,000.
- There are 321 hospitals in Switzerland (2007). 68% are public, 38% are private.
- The average stay is 10.9 days.
- Cases treated in 2007: hospitals 1.15 million, psychiatric clinics 107,000 and special clinics 209,000.
Source: World Health Statistics 2008, Federal Statistics Office, Swiss Hospital Association
The complete article can be found here.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
We walked by the Morges hospital, which is where Muriel was born.
back to Morges. The hospital is on the left with Morges behind it. If you blow the picture up, you should be able to see both the church and the castle. Our apartment is to the right of the castle.
This is the bus we rode.