Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Sixty Days in Suisse - Part IV

Sunsets, Sight-seeing and Sausages

More SQL Server studying in my fourth week here, with me sat in front of my laptop for more than 5 hours each day. It certainly was not easy, although learning a brand new subject by yourself is never something that is easy to do. Undeterred by the blurry eyes I had at the end of each day, I plodded on with my studies, aiming to take the MCTS exam within the next couple of weeks.

To take a break from the learning, Nelly and I went out for a walk along the lake in Vidy late one afternoon, just as the sun was setting.^

Queue some more photography - I managed to get a few nice shots of the sun disappearing behind the distant mountains, with the last of the sun's rays reflecting on the surface of the water.

It seems so easy to take nice pictures in Switzerland, as almost everywhere you go has some sort of natural beauty, whether it's a lake, a mountain or a rolling field in the countryside. Photographers must love it here!

On the Wednesday I headed to Geneva to meet up with Sami Jaballah, (Nelly's cousin's husband), as he works in the city and had offered me some guidance previously on trying to find a job in Switzerland. As I sat on the train from Lausanne, it struck me that I had never actually been to Geneva to see the city itself - I had been to the airport on countless occasions before, but never actually set foot outside the airport. That would all change today as I arrived at Geneva train station and attempted to find Sami's office.

Those who know me know that I do not necessarily have the greatest sense of direction, and my internal compass would once again let me down as I spent about 45 minutes circling the train station, searching for the road that my little printed Google map assured me would take me to where I needed to be. Eventually, having tried every other road leading away from the station, I found the right one and soon met up with Sami, and we then went for lunch at a nearby restaurant (where I ate filet de perche / fish and chips).

Geneva's Jet d'eau
After parting with Sami I thought I would take in the famous sights of Geneva - actually I could only think of one: the Jet d'eau (or water fountain in English). I knew this monument would be in the lake, but after trying in vain to locate some form of tourist map or information document in the train station, I had to rely on my faulty sense of direction to locate the lake.

Luckily I applied logic to this problem, reasoning that the lake would probably be downhill somewhere, so I walked down the nearest hill hoping I would be heading at least in the general direction of the watery shore. Half an hour later, I reached the lake, albeit via a very long detour when I studied the map afterwards.

Many photos later I decided it was time to go home, picked a street that went uphill and somehow found myself at the train station less than 10 minutes later.

As I boarded the train and sat down I couldn't help but notice how comfy and spacious the seats were. "My," I thought, "this train is better than the one I had coming here" as I sank into the soft cushion and began to relax. Whilst settling in for the ride I noticed lots of other people boarding the train and walking past all the empty seats that surrounded me - after checking whether I was perhaps a bit pungent after hours of walking around in a suit (which I wore to impress the folks at Sami's company), I began to wonder whether Swiss trains have a first class section.

I discretely looked around for some indication of the class of the carriage I was in, being careful to not let on to the other passengers that I might be out of place, but could see no obvious signage to show I was in the wrong place. Still somewhat uncertain, I sent a text message to Chris to ask her if Swiss trains have separate classes as the seat was so incredibly comfortable - Chris' reply was something along the lines of "Yes they do, get out of there before you get a massive fine you idiot", so I stood up, pretending I was looking for the toilets, and moved down a couple of carriages to the lower class section, easily identifiable by the tiny seats with little leg room.

As I plonked myself down on the hard seat, my buttocks longed for the comfort of first class, just as the inspector passed through the carriage and asked to see my ticket. I'm not sure how much the fine is for not possessing a valid ticket for First Class, but at least now I understand why the tickets cost extra. 

Sunshet in Ouchy
At the end of my Geneva adventure, I decided to take the Metro down to Ouchy, having noticed the beginnings of a nice-looking sunset as the train entered Lausanne. 

This was an opportunity for yet more photos, and I duly obliged by snapping away like the papparazzi do whenever Victoria Beckham gets a haircut.

I'm pleased with the results, and was even more pleased when Chris picked me up and drove me to McDonalds for dinner - I sampled another "Semaines Suisse" delicacy as I wolfed down the McRoschti. Verdict: not as good as the McFondue, and not a patch on Holy Cow!'s Big Cheese.

When the weekend came round, the whole family - including Pascal's brother and sister, plus his parents and their friends - headed to Basel for a day out. After a two hour train ride, we arrived in the town, which is in the German part of Switzerland. It still amazes me that you can travel to another part of the same country you live in and not be able to understand the local language. Mind you, the same could be said about travelling to certain parts of the United Kingdom, so maybe it's all swings and roundabouts.
Ein brattwurst bitte!

Anyway, Basel is a very nice, old town, and had a really interesting market full of little wooden chalets instead of the standard market stalls that you see everywhere else.

We wandered round for a couple of hours, having a nose at what each of the unique vendors had to offer the market-goer, and then stopped in the food hall for a bite to eat - not just a bite, in fact, but a huge German sausage served with french fries.

It was delicious - those Germans certainly know their way around a sausage.

View of Basel from the ferris wheel
Once we had seen the whole market we took the bridge over the river that cuts the town in two, and found ourselves in an area with several large theme park-style rides. We all piled on board the ferris wheel where we were treated to spectacular views of the town of Basel.

Pascal was not feeling very well on this particular day (due to an over-indulgence of chicken and mayonaise the previous night), but still wanted to go on a couple of the more faster-paced rides, so I duly accompanied him. The first one we went on was great - a huge swinging arm threw us through a complete circle, while the little cage we were in spun us through 380 degree loops. It was brilliant fun, although I'm not sure Pascal would agree, as he looked decidedly white when we got off the ride...

However, he decided to give a slightly gentler looking ride a go, so Chris and I joined him for moral support - in fairness, it was quite a stomach-churner of a ride, although the look of utter fear on Pascal's face as the machine spun us in circles whilst also turning us upside down brought such laughter to Chris and I that we barely noticed the ride at all. After we had finished laughing at Pascal, we took the train back to Lausanne and went to bed for some much needed sleep. 

That brings us up to the end of my first month in Switzerland. I think you could probably sum it up by saying I did a lot of sight-seeing and ate a lot of burgers, so generally speaking I am in my element.

Check out the next blog, "Sixty Days in Suisse - Part V" to see what I got up to in month 2 of my new life on the continent.

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