Mike Map

View Mike Map in a larger map

Monday, December 10, 2007

Places I've Been

I last wrote on a Sunday. On Monday I took a tour and wandered around London. On Tuesday I did the same, but in a different area. On Wednesday I took care of some business down around the Piccadilly area, and on Thursday I few to Zurich and took a train to Bern. I hope to elaborate later about the London stuff, but I have a more pressing need to go over the last few days in Switzerland. Oh, you can visit Bob and Laura's blog to hear about the day Laura accompanied me on a tour.

Thursday: Arrived at 7PM, met Megan, wandered around in search of a restaurant. She showed me a statue of a dude stuffing little naked squirming babies into his mouth (pictures once I get back to Korea), supposedly inspired by a true story. We checked out some nice little Christmas markets, which were selling hot spiced wine and some arts and crafts stuff, but nothing really distinctly Swiss.

Friday: Megan likes to be at work around 9, so she gets up around 7:20, which means I was unfortunately unable to sleep in. It wasn't too bad, though, since I'm sleeping in a sleeping bag on her floor, so sleeping late isn't particularly pleasant. She went to work and I just hung around her room, getting my stuff in order, eating, planning for our weekend, eating again, and so on. Around lunchtime I took the train down to the Zentrum (city center), walked to her lab, and we went out for some take-out Indian food. After eating in some meal room in the lab building, we went out again to get some Swiss sweets, which we brought back to the meal room and ate. I had some little pie-looking thing, with a crust about 3 inches in diameter, then a layer of choco-fudge-pudding, then a layer of limey frosting, then a chocolate gem stuck into the top. Fantastic. I had intended to go wander around town, but I was stuffed and lazy, so I just walked around the lab with Megan and watched her do stuff to heart cells. I also peeked in the microscopes. Then someone came down the hallway ringing a bell - the sweet sound of tea time. We went back to the meal room again, where we found tea, cookies, cheeses, breads, and cold cuts. I had my first salame in over a year. Splendid. After our 3rd meal in 4 hours, we decided that no work was going to get done, so we packed up and left. We wandered around for a little while and then went to a few bars before coming home early.

Saturday: We had originally planned to go to Marseilles on Friday night and stay until Sunday afternoon, but we couldn't get tickets, so we opted for a more local weekend. On Saturday we got up nice and early (think 6:30) to catch the 8AM train for Geneva. The train ride took a little under two hours, so the fun began at about 10. First we went to the tourist info shop to get some brochures and walking guides, then I took over and demanded we try to find the residence of good old Jean-Jacque Rousseau. We found the street it was supposed to be on, and the cathedral next to it, which was just so-so, and we found the numbers progressing from 32 to 38. However, the philosopher's domicile, #40, was strangely absent. Where it ought to have been, there was a toy shop and a little animatronic bear blowing bubbles. You heard me.

After that we walked down toward the water (Lac Leman), looked at the famous fountain that shoots water waaaaaaaaaayyyyyy high up into the air, and crossed a bridge on our way to the old town. In the middle of the lake, connected to one of the bridges, is a little island, called "Rousseau's Island," which is, I believe, where he wrote "Reveries of a Solitary Walker," which is probably a cool book. Also, around the shores of the island, there were some odd-looking ducks with incredibly muscular necks. Really. Like python-necks.

We knew we had reached the old town when we found the cobblestones. We walked around, passed through some little fair with a carousel, and climbed up a huge hill to visit the church on top. It was a sweet Swiss Gothic church, all austere and imposing, and in the courtyard in front they were preparing for a fair, so we could smell burning wood and smoking ham. Also, about 2% of the people we saw were dressed in 1602 Swiss Garb, preparing for some reenactment ceremony.

We scoped out the church, and left once we had seen it al. We were getting pretty hungry by then, so we sought out a relatively cheap restaurant. Most places were selling spaghetti for 16 francs (14ish bucks) a plate, so we decided to try a fondue place where we could split a bowl for 22. I had never tried fondue. It was alright - it had a really sharp taste, and I think there was some wine mixed in. Anyhow, it was too much, and we couldn't finish. When we got the bill, we understood why: they had served us two portions instead of just the one that we had asked for. We also realized that they had charged us 10 dollars for a liter of water. I never thought it would be possible to get angry at Switzerland, but then again I never expected the gentle swiss to dupe me into buying a 63 franc meal. 63 because we also bought a chocolate-pineapple crepe.

Leaving that fiasco behind, we crossed the river again and walked for what must have been 2 or 3 miles until we reached the botanical gardens. We walked around for a while, disappointed in the lack of wild flaura and fauna, until we realized we were just in some random park. So we walked another 10 minutes and found the botanical gardens, some deer, some peacocks, and some interesting statutes. (Photos later). Then we headed to the UN building, mostly to see a statue of a chair with a missing leg, but it's closed on weekends, so we just took pictures of the gate.

Then we walked back along the lake for 45 minutes or so and crossed back into old town. We went for coffee in a bar and listened to them play the first song off of Kanye West's newest CD, which, incidentally, I enjoy. Once we were finally all warmed up again, we headed back to the church square. On the way, we ran into a fife and drum corps, and it looked like some people were just joining the parade, so we did too. We marched with them until we got to the church, where we broke formation to go look at the fire and cheesy reenactment of someone putting a ladder up on a castle wall. Except this ladder was put up against a residential building and didn't even go anywhere. It just landed about halfway up and was totally useless. We clapped nonetheless and basked in the warmth of the medieval torches.

We watched the corps do its little tricks and listened to it play its little music, and tried to buy some authentic medieval swiss snacks from one of the wooden shacks that had been set up. Instead, they put a little kit-kat type chocolate bar into a little rolled-up piece of dough and put it in a waffle press. Very lame. Then we tried the "vin chaud" (hot spiced brandy wine), which was decent, and then went into the church and sang/mumbled along to some hymns in French (we had a program). We listened to a little music there and then scrammed, following a parade of horses until we decided it was time to go home. Which we then did.

Next installment: Sunday's trip to Basel.