Month: April 2014

Running in Avignon

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I realize I look a little crazed…

Since we arrived last Wednesday here in Avignon, France, I’ve run 21.61 miles, my highest mileage week so far while traveling. I feel like I’m finally getting into a good groove, running every other day. Like I mentioned in my Running Abroad post, I take precautions when I go out for a run, and only now have begun to listen to music if I’ve run the route before and felt safe and secure. I couldn’t find much information about where to run in Avignon online, so I just started exploring. I would start my runs in the afternoon, which I now know was a mistake. There were so many people everywhere, I was the only one running, people like to walk at a slow pace here, and there was a lot of dodging pedestrians and cars. I finally got up this morning to get out the door early. It was a whole different story. I saw multiple people running (always a welcome sight), there were families walking on the path that I had found previously that seemed deserted, and just the decrease in the amount of people out was a huge relief. I did seven miles, and ran the last mile at 8:30, which I was pretty proud of. It was just one of those runs that feels really, REALLY good. As opposed to the one on Monday that I cut short because I just wasn’t feeling it.

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I start running from our apartment and then right outside the walls of Avignon, to a bridge that crosses the Rhone River. Here there’s a path that follows the river, and eventually leads to a nice bike path.

Tip to anyone running in Avignon: don’t run directly next to the wall because you will be dodging dog poo the entire time and it smells like urine (and I passed two men peeing on it).

These are a few pictures I snapped during a few of my runs:

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There’s that bridge again.

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Running under the bridge.

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The walls that surround Avignon.

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Tomorrow we get back on the train and head to Narbonne, where our housesitting guests will pick us up and take us to a small wine village nearby. I’m pretty excited!

Les Halles Indoor Market in Avignon, France

The view of Avignon from across the Rhone River.

The view of Avignon from across the Rhone River.

Jeremy and I have been in Avignon for about a week now, and we’re really enjoying the historic town. We’re staying in an Airbnb in a seriously perfect location right next to La Place des Corps-Saints (the best Place in town in our opinion), the town is small enough that you can walk everywhere, there are tons of alleyways to explore, and the pace of life is nice and slow. I’ve gotten some nice runs in, and we’ve seen a lot of what the town has to offer. I don’t know if this is the case for everyone or if it was just because my mom is French, but I grew up with my mom singing me “Sur Le Pont D’Avignon” all the time, and now each day when we walk by the bridge, I get the song stuck in my head. Here’s a children’s video of the song in case you haven’t heard it (which is apparently very popular, 3.5 million views!):

Le Pont d'Avignon in real life.

Le Pont d’Avignon in real life.

One of our favorite things to do has been to visit the indoor market Les Halles and get makings for a picnic (because you guys know how much we love picnics) and go sit across the Rhone River with a view of the town and eat our food. Avignon has had some pretty nice weather, but it has been getting pretty windy quickly (thanks to Le Mistral, the infamous wind that often takes over Provence), and although there have been blue skies pretty much all the time, there have been a few sudden rainstorms as well (seemingly as soon as we step foot outside the apartment). When the weather is perfect and surely not going to rain, we have been stopping into Les Halles and buying cheese, bread, and dessert for our lunch. It’s a really fun place to wander around and try testers that the vendors are handing out. You can buy pretty much anything you need there, including produce, seafood, baked goods, herbs, olives, flowers, prepared foods, meat, cheese, wine, etc. And there are cooking demonstrations anyone can attend for free every day at 11:00am. The market is open every day except Monday from 6am-1:30pm on weekdays, and 6am-2pm on weekends (we still haven’t gotten used to it closing so early).

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A really cool vertical garden covers the entirety of the front of the building that houses Les Halles.

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The first thing you see when you walk in the main entrance... aka heaven.

The first thing you see when you walk in the main entrance… aka heaven.

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The herb selection is incredible.

The herb selection is incredible.

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I LOVE OLIVES SO MUCH.

I LOVE OLIVES SO MUCH.

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So much fresh fish to choose from.

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And who could forget cheese? No one.

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We opted for some prepared foods for one of our picnics.

We opted for some prepared foods for one of our picnics.

And of course there's dessert.

And of course there’s dessert.

The square that Les Halles is in, Place Pie, is also charming with lots of good-looking restaurants.

The square that Les Halles is in, Place Pie, is also charming with lots of good-looking restaurants.

There's a flea market that has been going on in Place Pie most days we've visited Les Halles with some really interesting vendors.

There’s a flea market that has been going on in Place Pie most days we’ve visited Les Halles with some really interesting vendors.

I think Avignon is a great stop for anyone visiting Provence, which is a beautiful region of France everyone should see at least once (in my humble opinion). And Les Halles is an absolute must once you’re in the town that dates back to the 12th century.

One Month in Europe

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À votre santé!

As I sit here in Avignon, France at the kitchen table in a house that dates back to the 1800s with the windows open, listening to the French TV coming from another apartment in the courtyard that has been blasting nonstop since Thursday, I realize that things can’t get much better. Today marks one month since Jeremy and I arrived in Europe, and it feels like an important milestone. I keep hearing people say, “I can’t believe it’s May already.” Well, I can’t believe it’s ONLY about to be May and that we only stepped foot in Iceland four weeks ago. We have done so much, seen so many things, and traveled so many miles that it feels like we’ve been here six months already.

My office currently.

My office currently.

To recap the past month in numbers:

4 – countries we’ve been in (Iceland, England, Switzerland, France)

4,821 – approximate number of miles we’ve traveled (by plane or train, including flight from NYC to Iceland)

2 – places we’ve housesat

18 – pets we’ve taken care of

46.83 – miles I’ve run (20 of which in the past week)

100 – approximate number of picnics we’ve had

2 – glasses of wine spilled on the train

Avignon, France.

Avignon, France.

Time Doesn’t Move Fast Anymore

I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune when this whole trip is over and we’re back in California reminiscing over tacos and guacamole, but right now, it feels like time is moving slowly, which is a completely different story than when we were back home. It felt like every time I blinked, a year had gone by, and I’d wonder, “What did I even do last year?” Sure, Jeremy and I had a lot of fun the past few years in Santa Barbara, had some incredible sunset beach walks, made really good friends, took some great weekend trips and a long road trip to the Pacific Northwest, spent quality time with my family including two new nephews, but all in all, it felt like we weren’t actually DOing anything, but instead just working and waiting for the weekend, which would be over before we knew it. It just felt like something was missing. I think I can put my finger on it now: adventure.

La Place Des Corps Saints in Avignon, next door to our apartment.

La Place des Corps-Saints in Avignon, next door to our apartment.

I realize how fortunate we are to be doing what we’re doing. We are lucky to have extremely supportive families that encouraged us and didn’t make us feel like we were making a huge mistake, I’m lucky that my parents took me traveling almost every year growing up and it’s always been an important part of my life and has made me confident that I can navigate foreign countries by myself, we’re lucky that Jeremy and I have similar interests and get along so well that we can hang out 24/7 for months on end and still have a good time every day, etc. We were also at a point in our lives where we were able to leave our jobs and start a new chapter, which I realize is not common.

[Side note: I love to read others’ stories about how they dropped everything to travel the world and how it’s totally possible for anyone to do it. Here’s a good one on a travel blog/resource site called Nomadic Matt about how a guy saved up $14,000 in six months working at a pizza place to travel for a year.]

Tarte aux Framboises from Ginette & Marcel.

Tarte aux Framboises from Ginette & Marcel.

What We’ve Learned

Packing Light is Easier Said Than Done

For a trip this size, it was hard to be fully prepared for it. The couple months before leaving were filled with questions like: What should we pack? How much stuff should we bring? What kind of luggage should we get? If we’re there for different seasons, how do we pack to be prepared for the extreme temperature changes? I’m a creature of habit, and wear pretty much the same thing almost every day, even when I’m home with an entire wardrobe in front of me. I still like to have options though, and didn’t know if I would lose or gain weight, rendering some of my items useless. We learned from our packing mistakes early on, and have since downsized and changed luggage situations three times, and sent a big box of stuff back to America from England (even though it was really expensive, it was worth it). I kept repeating “pack light” in my head, but then defensively thinking, “well how am I supposed to pack light but still be prepared for glaciers in Iceland and hot beach weather a few months later?” I think we’ve come to a good compromise with luggage: I have a backpack that I put my laptop, camera bag and purse in, and a suitcase that rolls (that is unfortunately too big to be a carryon). Jeremy has a backpack and a duffle bag. Right now, it’s still been fairly cold when we travel, so we wear many layers on our bodies, which leaves room in our suitcases. Soon, though, it’s going to be hot and we’ll need to stuff our jackets in our bags, which might cause problems. Luckily, my parents will be meeting us in a few weeks, and hopefully they will have some room to take some of our winter clothing back with them. BUT, what if we’re here until winter at the end of the year? I think it’s more important to shed these items now, rather than hold onto them in the case of that happening. We can always buy cheap jackets when that time comes.

Slow Travel is the Way to Go

We’ve also learned that slow travel is best for us. We don’t feel the need to stay in a hostel in a city two nights and try to cram as much as possible into those two days, then move onto the next place. I’ve done that a couple times (minus the hostel-staying), and we’re going for quality over quantity this time around. I’m not saying we’re old, but we’re also not 18 and looking to party. It’s more cost efficient to stay somewhere for a week or a month (places on Airbnb have rates that go down the longer you stay), and it’s also just more pleasant for us. And we don’t have to be in a major city; discovering smaller cities and villages has been really fun, and even here in Avignon, I feel like we know our way around and people recognize us at the bar in the square downstairs we’ve been frequenting (this may be wishful thinking). This is another reason discovering housesitting has been so great; we never would have gone to the small village outside Geneva, the country house in Kent, and the one we’re starting on Thursday is in a really small village in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the South of France.

Another view of La Place des Corps-Saints.

Another view of La Place des Corps-Saints.

How to Travel on a Tight Budget

The only way we’re going to be able to stay over here a while longer is to be very careful with money. In the past month, we have learned what to spend money on and about how much we should be spending on food and lodging, how to avoid expensive countries from now on (I’m looking at you, Switzerland), how to survive on the cheapest food you can find at the grocery store for two weeks [which will probably be pasta and bread (again, damn you Switzerland)], how to celebrate not being in Switzerland anymore by splurging on bottles of French wine for €2 as soon as you step foot in France, and how we need to spend more time places to get better rates on rental apartments. It’s also currently the off-season, so things are cheaper. As we get into June/July/August/September, things will begin to be more expensive and good deals will be harder to come by. We’ve been planning ahead to secure rentals now instead of being forced to spend a lot at the last minute due to a lack of options. Luckily we secured a month-long housesitting in August, and we won’t have to worry about finding a place during the busiest summer month.

A perfect picnic.

A perfect picnic.

As far as food goes, it is much more cost efficient for us to go grocery shopping and cook our own meals (which is one of the main reasons we rent apartments instead of staying in hostels/hotels), and unfortunately this means foregoing eating at some delicious restaurants. Dining out wasn’t even an option in Switzerland (the “cheapest” lunch we could find was about $30 a person, and that was considered a really good deal), but here in France things are less expensive and Avignon has some delicious-looking  options. The first night we were here, we did go to to a restaurant and get pizza, but we made sure to take enough home so that it would be our dinner the next night. We’ve decided we’re going to get a nice, not too expensive dinner on a few special occasions: our birthdays and wedding anniversary.

A rare dinner out.

A rare dinner out.

Another important thing we have learned is to never, ever leave your errands (especially grocery shopping) for Sunday, because everything in town is closed and you will be SOL.

These are just a few of the things we’ve learned so far, and I can’t wait to find out how we feel after month two. Thanks for following along and all of your encouraging words!

Pretty boats on the Rhone River.

Pretty river cruise boats on the Rhone River.

Running Abroad

When Jeremy and I were first planning our trip, I was in the midst of half marathon training. I ran four halfs last year, and generally felt super fit and in shape for the majority of the year (I was actually in the best shape of my life thanks to running and the Jenny Schatzle Program). I had all these daydreams about running multiple half marathons in Europe, and eventually running my first full marathon here too. I even registered for one (the Cork City Marathon) and got my parents to work it into their traveling plans so that they could be at the finish line with me on that special day. A couple months passed, I developed runner’s knee, and my parents decided they couldn’t fit Ireland into their trip. If I’m being honest, I had a feeling in the back of my mind that it wouldn’t happen. Marathon training is such a huge commitment, trying to do it while traveling the world might be too much to take on. But I’ve actually been running a good bit (considering), so my blog name and tagline is not a total lie. And I still plan on running a half marathon or two while we’re over here, it’s just a matter of which ones fit into our itinerary the best. I get butterflies all over again thinking about choosing which race will be my first full marathon (my hometown Santa Barbara Marathon? Napa? San Francisco? Los Angeles? ahhhh) and picturing myself crossing the finish line with my family waiting for me and cheering me on. I’m especially motivated after watching the Boston Marathon on my computer from Switzerland on Monday.

Running in the Swiss countryside.

Running in the Swiss countryside.

For the first time in two years, I have no races on the horizon. I am not following a training plan, but merely running just to run (and to try to counteract at least a small portion of the amount of bread, cheese, and wine I’ve been stuffing my face with). It’s also a wonderful way to explore these towns and cities we’ve been visiting.

For safety purposes, I don’t run with earphones (which is very new for me), I carry my phone on me, and I tell Jeremy where I’m going and how long I’ll be gone. I try to map out my route beforehand, and luckily I have a really good sense of direction so I don’t get lost easily. But I usually do out-and-backs so that I can just follow the same way home.

I’ve noticed that I’m MUCH thirstier on my runs here, and I know it’s because of the change in eating habits we’ve had, and I just need to drink more water throughout the day. Jeremy and I had a very healthy diet back home and didn’t eat much salt, and all that changed when we started traveling. I also used to have my Lifefactory glass water bottle with me at all times, and would drink water all day without thinking about it. I find myself not wanting to drink a bunch for fear of not being able to find a bathroom while we’re out, or only finding one you have to pay for. I need to work on hydration, because getting dehydrated and feeling like I need water NOW two miles into a run where I don’t know where a water fountain is located, has not been fun.

Here are some running highlights so far!

Running in London (or, my first run abroad)

I tried not to be too hard on myself that I didn’t actually run until we got to London, but we had been walking so much up until then (6-10 miles a day), I thought that adding running to the mix might be a bit too much. I finally got out the door of our friend’s flat and ran to the local park, Peckham Rye, for a nice run. It actually wasn’t THAT nice, since the smog levels were so high, London officials were warning people about going outside. And my run didn’t feel great since it had been a few weeks since my last one, but hey, at least I got out there.

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Pretty Peckham Rye.

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I love seeing these public exercise centers over here.

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Running in Kent (or, the one where I found a castle by accident)

My runs in Kent were a different story. The weather was great, the air was fresh and crisp, and my legs felt good. The thing is, I had to run on the roads that scared the crap out of me and Jeremy due to the speed at which cars were driving (read more about that here). I didn’t enjoy that aspect of it, but during one run, I saw a sign pointing to Chiddingstone Castle, and immediately turned down the road toward it. It took a couple miles to get there, but it was so fun to just run down the road and not know what to expect. I happened upon Chiddingstone, a really pretty Tudor one-street village that dates back to the 16th and 17 centuries, named after the Chiding Stone, which I also visited. I finally made it to the Chiddingstone Castle, and it was early morning and so beautiful, and I was the only one around. I had a Downton Abbey moment before turning around and heading back.

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St. Mary’s Church in Chiddingstone, which dates back to the 13th century.

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A cemetery near Chiddingstone.

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Love those trees.

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Entering the one-road village of Chiddingstone.

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Chiddingstone Castle.

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The Chiding Stone, where the village reportedly got its name.

The National Trust owns the village of Chiddingstone (except the castle and the church), and according to the Wikipedia page, it is "the most perfect surviving example of a Tudor village in the county."

The National Trust owns the village of Chiddingstone (except the castle and the church), and according to the Wikipedia page, it is “the most perfect surviving example of a Tudor village in the county.”

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The fields and church near the house we were housesitting.

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I love the English countryside.

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I couldn’t get enough of these fields.

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Symmetry at its finest.

 

Running in Zurich (or, my favorite run to date)

Zurich is a beautiful city (see my post on it here). The scenery is beautiful, the weather when we were there was perfect, its impeccably clean… I could go on. Jeremy sat by the lake while I ran around it for an hour, and I didn’t want to stop. I had a view of the lake pretty much the entire time, and I found some neat things along the way. When I got done with my six-mile out-and-back, I had such runner’s high that I didn’t want to stop. I ended up leaving Jeremy again and running, actually sprinting, the opposite direction for another mile. I just kept going faster and faster, dodging all the tourists, and feeling better and better with every step. It was one of the best feelings in the world, and reminded me why I love running so much.

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The view from Quaibrücke.

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Looking over Zurich Lake.

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This drinking fountain was a sight for sore eyes.

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Jean Tinguely’s idle machine sculpture.

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If the water was a little warmer…

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Running in Wünnewil-Flamatt (or, the one that turned into a trail run)

Going on a run in the countryside has its positives. There are less people, less cars, and beautiful scenery. But on the other hand, it’s a lot easier to get lost. My run through the countryside in Wünnewil-Flamatt, outside Bern, was not as easy as I was hoping it would be. The good people of Switzerland care about hikers and bikers, and there are little yellow signs all throughout the country pointing them in the right direction to get to neighboring towns or nice hiking trails. I tried to follow these signs from the Airbnb we were renting, but soon came across a closed road with huge cattle being led across it. I’m sure that hikers are meant to go around the crossing, but I’ve watched enough episodes of Locked Up Abroad to know to not risk breaking any rules. A few times during my run I had to turn around due to a sidewalk ending, and I saw no other runners the entire time. I got many stares from the townspeople, looking at me like I was an insane person. I found myself on a highway-type road with cars going really fast, but suddenly spotted that familiar yellow sign pointing to a trail. I braved crossing the highway, and starting trekking up the steep mountain. When I got to the top, there were dairy farms, pretty fields, a golf course, and a small village. Luckily the yellow signs continued, and I had to walk through some rocky terrain for fear of twisting my ankle, but I made it a good ways before deciding to turn around and head back.

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Shortly before being made to turn around due to a cow crossing.

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If it weren’t for those little yellow signs, I’d be living at some dairy farm among the cows by now.

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The trail up the mountain (it was steeper than it looks here, I swear).

It continued...

It continued…

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Celebrated not getting lost in the countryside by popping the cap on this exclusive, probably vintage, red wine so expensive the convenience store simply named it ‘Red Wine’ and some Swiss cheese.

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I haven’t been running enough to need to carb-load, but I’ve been doing it anyway. Bigtime.

Running in Geneva (or, the one where I felt like Maria von Trapp)

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(dramatic reenactment)

Like I said, Switzerland cares about hikers/walkers/cyclists. Surrounding the house we were sitting outside Geneva, there were miles and miles of nice paths through beautiful fields, complete with horses, vineyards, and views of the Alps.  It was pretty much a runner’s dream. There were no cars to worry about (my favorite), and all you had to do was watch out for people riding horses. Not to mention, everyone I passed gave me a huge smile and a friendly “Bonjour!” On one of my runs, I took a path going up a big hill covered in vineyards and got a really nice view of the valleys below. I got no less than three bugs in my eyes during my runs, but it’s the price you pay for running in the beautiful Swiss countryside.

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View of Mont Blanc on the right from the top of the vineyard-covered hill.

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Prepared for rain, but it never did.

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The hills are alive…

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An ominous scene.

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Another view from the top.

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If you look closely, you can see a horse with a rider at the top of the trail, where I ran at one point.

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My new friend.

I’ve had such a good timing running through Europe, and I can’t wait to see where else I’ll get to explore!

Housesitting in Geneva

The reason we decided to go to Switzerland so early on in our trip was because we secured a housesitting assignment in Geneva for a week surrounding Easter weekend. It’s been really great to be given these assignments so we have certain things to plan around. Otherwise, I worry that we would feel a bit lost as far as deciding where to go next. But luckily, we’ve worked it out so that we have plans up until the end of August. A lot can happen during that time, so we’ll see where we are at after that’s over.

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Jeremy and I took the train from Wunnewil to Fribourg, then changed trains for one that went directly to Geneva. We like to have some red wine for train rides, but we didn’t have plastic cups to use for the ride. Jeremy MacGyvered some out of the bottom of a water bottle we had. We were sharing the “cup” that had a really sharp lid from where it was cut, and the lady pushing the minibar cart up and down the aisles put two real plastic cups in front of us as soon as she saw us try to drink from the makeshift one. It was greatly appreciated. We’ve also been living off Barney’s Best peanut butter (the only kind I’ve seen in Switzerland), and it’s so sugary. It’s basically dessert. Delicious.

Our fancy wine glass fashioned out of a plastic water bottle.

Our fancy wine glass fashioned out of a plastic water bottle.

Much better.

Much better.

The view of Lausanne from the train.

The view of Lausanne from the train.

I really enjoy train rides, but we had a bit of trouble on this one. There weren’t reserved seats, and when the train pulled up we mistakenly got in a cabin that was for first class passengers only. We went through the inside of the train trying to find the second class cabins, but during the time it took us to do that, the other cabins had pretty much gotten filled to the brim. We spent the first twenty minutes of the train ride going up and down the aisles with our luggage looking for empty seats. We finally found some and were able to relax. I remember that happening years back when Jeremy and I met up in Europe only a few months after we started dating. It’s really stressful for me to do things like that, because I’m such a planner and I like to know exactly where we’ll be sitting and what to expect.

Our housesitting host picked us up at the Geneva train station after we walked around a bit, and we were off to her house right outside the city.

Geneva Lake.

Geneva Lake.

Vineyards outside Geneva.

Vineyards outside Geneva.

After we got settled in the house, our host took us over the border to a grocery store in France. I have never been so excited and relieved. The fact that there were things for sale under a euro and we could actually buy vegetables and wholesome food (instead of just pasta and bread) was so great. Not to mention bottles of red wine from Bordeaux for about two dollars. Our host was waiting for us outside so we made a rushed job of our grocery shopping, which was a mistake. We didn’t get nearly enough food, and ran out of it quickly. Another thing about visiting the grocery store was that I got to use my French for the first time this trip. It was really exciting!

I love French grocery stores. I could live in this cave, if it didn't smell so much like farts.

I love French grocery stores. I could live in this cave, if it didn’t smell so much like farts.

It was a little too far to walk from the house to the city center (especially with Jeremy’s injured knee), so we took the week to explore the plentiful walking paths around the house and stayed close by. Everything was closed for Easter Sunday and Easter Monday (aka Marathon Monday), so when we ran out of food, I took the dog we were looking after on a hunt for a gas station to find something to eat. I ended up stumbling upon a patisserie a couple miles away that was like walking into heaven. The amount of baked goods and desserts was overwhelming, and even though it was hard to resist, I ended up just walking out with a baguette. I found a gas station and bought some Swiss cheese and chocolate, and that managed to hold us over until dinner. Our time in Geneva was really nice and relaxing, Jeremy was able to rest his knee some more, I got some great runs in, the animals were really sweet we were caring after, and our hosts ended up coming home a day early and cooked us dinner, gave us nice wine, and we talked for hours.

Walking Sam the dog with the Alps in the background.

Walking Sam the dog with Mont Blanc in the background.

The reward of my miles-long hunt for an open gas station on Easter Monday.

The reward of my miles-long hunt for an open store on Easter Monday.

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Our adorable abode for the week.

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A neat antique store I found in the neighborhood.

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Morning in Geneva.

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Sam the cutie.

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Cats can’t resist Jeremy (part one).

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Cats can’t resist Jeremy (part two).

 

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There was wisteria everywhere.

 

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Our neighbors.

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Watching the Boston Marathon!

Watching the Boston Marathon!

 

Bern, Switzerland

I had been to Bern, Switzerland once before with my parents, and even though the weather was pretty cold and dreary, we still enjoyed ourselves. So I knew I wanted to go back with Jeremy. As I’ve mentioned before, Switzerland is extremely expensive, so it’s been kind of a struggle doing everything we want to do, without feeling like we are breaking the bank. I didn’t realize when booking our trip just how pricey everything would be, including public transportation, so I figured we’d spend three nights in Zurich, then three nights in a smaller town to experience something else. We also got such a well-priced apartment in Zurich that I still didn’t realize, even after buying the plane tickets. Once we left Zurich and got to our Airbnb in Wunnewil, we kind of stayed put. We knew we wanted to go into Bern, but after being at the train stop and using the machines to buy tickets, we saw that it would $40 round trip for us to go into the city, and it was already the afternoon. We decided to stay back so Jeremy could rest his knee, and I went on a run. The next day, we made it out of the apartment slightly earlier (we have trouble getting out of our temporary residences early for some reason), and headed to Bern, the capital of Switzerland.

Beautiful Bern.

Beautiful Bern.

No visit to Bern is complete without visiting Zytglogge, the town's main clock, at the hour to see the little show the moving figures put on.

No visit to Bern is complete without visiting Zytglogge, the town’s main clock, at the hour to see the little show the moving figures put on.

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The astronomical clock was built in 1530. The king on his throne waves his scepter in one hand and turns an hourglass for each hour in the other.

 

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Bern has some really great fountains.

Bern has some really great fountains.

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Where Einstein lived from 1903 to 1905. I took a tour of the apartment with my parents a few years back, but skipped it this time around.

Where Einstein lived from 1903 to 1905. I took a tour of the apartment with my parents a few years back, but skipped it this time around.

Jeremy doing his best Einstein impression outside his house.

Jeremy doing his best Einstein impression outside his house.

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We hiked up to the Rosengarten to get a really nice view of the town below.

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Those rooftops kill me. I love them.

Those rooftops kill me. I love them.

View of the Alps from Rosengarten.

View of the Alps from Rosengarten.

Another main attraction is the Barengraben, or Bear Pit. Bears are the symbol of Bern (and its literal translation), and bears have historically been placed in a concrete pit in the city center. Thankfully, the city opened up BarenPark in 2009, a much larger piece of land that includes some of the River Aar for the bears to play in. You can see the BarenPark in the left of this photo.

Another main attraction is the Barengraben, or Bear Pit. Bears are the symbol of Bern (and its literal translation), and bears have historically been placed in a concrete pit in the city center. Thankfully, the city opened up BarenPark in 2009, a much larger piece of land that includes some of the River Aar for the bears to play in. You can see the BarenPark in the left of this photo.

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Even though they have more room to roam now, I still couldn’t help but feel bad that these huge, majestic creatures were in captivity. But I feel that way whenever I’m at a zoo, too.

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I much preferred this statue of a bear I could ride.

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How to disembark from a bear statue with perfect form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course Jeremy and I had to have a picnic, so we picked this nice square near the Parliament building (these public squares that people sit on are so incredibly clean, it's very impressive).

Of course Jeremy and I had to have a picnic, so we picked this nice square near the Parliament building (these public squares that people sit on are so incredibly clean, it’s very impressive).

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Picked up a can of Prosecco at the market... Jealous, Lis?

Picked up a can of Prosecco at the market… Jealous, Lis?

Blusecco advertisement.

Blusecco advertisement.

Jeremy getting our picnic ready.

Jeremy getting our picnic ready.

After our picnic, we walked around some more, stumbling across this square with the coolest church in it I've ever seen.

After our picnic, we walked around some more, stumbling across this square with the coolest church in it I’ve ever seen.

The crazy detail of the church. Too bad the sun was hiding half of it.

The crazy detail of the church. Too bad the sun was hiding half of it.

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Jeremy admiring the church’s details. There was haunting organ music coming from inside…

This guy was on the ledge of the church when you looked up.

This guy was on the ledge of the church when you looked up.

Another pretty church.

Another pretty church.

I really like seeing people play huge games of chess.

I really like seeing people play huge games of chess.

Self portrait.

Self portrait.

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The beautiful opera house and theater.

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Historical Museum of Bern.

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Everywhere you turn, there are nice views.

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I would not mind if that was my backyard.

I would not mind if that was my backyard.

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I would also not mind if someone bought me a huge slab of chocolate.

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One last look at the clock tower.

One last look at the clock tower.

This was actually in Zurich, but I forgot to include it. I looked at a vending machine to see if I could afford anything (I couldn’t), and saw that above the cannabis drink there was a pregnancy test (the MaybeBaby pocket), and this was outside the Zurich Zoo:

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Sunny Days in Zurich

When Jeremy and I set up another housesitting assignment in Geneva, Switzerland, we decided to spend the week beforehand exploring the country some. I’ve always loved Switzerland, and I couldn’t wait to share its beauty with Jeremy. We booked a flight from London to Zurich on British Airways. I’ve always remembered flying in Europe to be very pleasant: the flights are short, the planes aren’t full, there’s free food and alcohol and the service is always friendly. I know it depends on which airline you fly (the budget airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet are a different story), but I’ve always had such great experiences with flights within Europe on AirFrance and British Airways. This time was no exception. We also flew out of London City Airport (a first for me), which is close to central London, small, and hassle-free. We waited in absolutely no lines (not even for security!), the gates were nice, and each seat had multiple outlets.

Relaxing in the London City Airport. Look at those outlets!

Relaxing in the London City Airport. Look at those outlets!

Getting on the plane to Zurich!

Getting on the plane to Zurich!

The flight was only a little over an hour long, and we were served drinks and sandwiches as soon as we got in the air.

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Tiny bottles of wine: the way to my heart.

It was such a pleasant experience, I actually hope that we get to fly again soon.

Arriving in Zurich, the train we needed was right downstairs, and it dropped us off five minutes from our Airbnb. The apartment itself was SO nice, and it was really a highlight of our adventures so far. The weather was perfect and sunny, and everyone was enjoying it outside by the lake, drinking and having a good time. It was infectious. We visited a grocery store to get our picnic, and joined the rest of the people. We ended up doing this almost every evening we were there.

Taking the train from the airport to central Zurich.

Taking the train from the airport to central Zurich.

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Enjoying our first evening in Zurich.

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I really liked this beer can.

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Nice sunset picnic.

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Put this with all the other pictures of me holding tiny bottles of wine.

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Interesting cans of beer at the grocery store in Zurich.

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The whole city seemed to be eating and drinking by the lake.

The rest of our days there, we walked around town and explored. The entire city is incredibly clean (all of Switzerland is, actually), and the public transportation system is great, albeit expensive. Luckily you can walk around the whole city for the most part. We tried to take a tram up to a cemetery to see James Joyce’s grave, but it didn’t come to the stop we were at (and we had already bought the expensive tickets… ugh). We figured this meant it wasn’t running that day (it didn’t), so we started walking. It ended up being a really long and steep walk and it took about two hours, and Jeremy’s knee was really bothering him, but we managed to take the tram back down to town. The cemeteries in Zurich are some of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen. There was one in particular that we had to walk by to get back to our Airbnb, and it looked like it was straight out of a fairytale.

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The view from Lindenhofplatz.

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Swiss men playing chess at Lindenhofplatz.

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There were a lot of neat gravestones in the various cemeteries in Zurich.

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The cemetery we walked by every day to get to our apartment.

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James Joyce’s grave.

The pretty cemetery where James Joyce's grave was located.

The pretty cemetery where James Joyce’s grave was located.

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I love Switzerland’s alleyways.

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Opernhaus Zurich in the main square.

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Jeremy drinking coffee on the little balcony of our Airbnb.

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Pretty good looking picnic if I do say so myself.

When our time in Zurich was up, we reluctantly got on the train and headed to our Airbnb in Wunnewil, between Bern and Fribourg. When booking it, I thought it would be a little easier to reach Bern or Fribourg and that it was in a little village, but it turned out that it was so expensive to take the 15-minute train ride ($40 round trip), we just stayed in the village (if you can call it that, there was nothing really there) and went to Bern on one of the days. It was really pleasant though, and it was good for Jeremy to rest his knee.

Another great thing about Switzerland... all the public fountains with drinking water straight from the Alps.

Another great thing about Switzerland… all the public fountains with drinking water straight from the Alps.

Next up: our day in Bern!