17 May 2015

Like the Perfume of Your Lover's Neck

Among the first signs of spring turning to summer in Canton Neuchâtel are the fields of colza blossoms covering the countryside. As you cruise along the country lanes, the floral aroma is subtle and slightly sweet, like the natural perfume of your lover's neck. The seeds of this plant make colza oil, which is very healthy and a good frying oil thanks to its high smoke point. Unfortunately, it tastes rather blah. But who cares? It’s beautiful when it blossoms!

10 May 2015

Neuchâtel Flood

OK, not really much of an actual flood, but the lake was a good 1.5 meters above normal the last few days. That put our Saturday lunch restaurant's terrace ankle deep in water. The swans took that for an invitation, but they had neglected to make reservations.

15 April 2015

The Coveted C

So after 5 years living here in Switzerland, I have gained my Permit C.

"What does this really mean to you?" asked my Swiss wife. After all, in most ways very little will change.

Still, the Permit C means I won't have to re-apply every year to stay in Switzerland, as I did with my Permit B. Now I'm good for 5 years and probably forever assuming I don't murder anyone or get caught eating fondue in the summertime.

It also means I can now vote in local and cantonal elections. I'm excited about this responsibility, which will be doubly interesting as the U.S. presidential election spectacle is gearing up. You can't imagine two more different methods of electing politicians. I'll laugh, I'll cry.

But none of this explains what the Permit C really means to me. What it means is that I somehow feel a tighter hug on the life Marie-France and I have in Switzerland, this place we both love.

08 April 2015

Zürich says Willkommen

What is it about Zürich? I tried to give some idea of the verve and joie de vivre of this historic and hip city in my just-published story for Discovery magazine, the inflight for Cathay-Pacific Airlines. You can have a look on my Imagery Ink website if you'd like.

29 March 2015

Chocolate vs. Olive Oil

In a Swiss grocery store, about this much shelf space is taken up with dozens of kinds of chocolate. In Athens, well, as you see, it's all about the olive oil.

26 March 2015

Athens Alive

Sorry, Athens, but I'm going to say out loud what we both know -- you are not a handsome city overall. The 5-year economic crisis has taken its toll in chipped concrete and dirty sidewalks. Though yes, it's true your metro system is spotless, the stations and the trains, which run right on time. Bravo to whomever decided the metro is a priority in rebuilding this 3000-year-old city. And your taxis -- cheap and always just a hand-wave away. 

Bravo most of all to the brave Athenians, who remain welcoming and charming, rejuvenated by their new handsome young prime minister, who refuses to wear a tie even when locking horns with Frau Merkel. How could she resist him? In Greece, one minute you're strangers, the next it's like this. 

During lunch in the Monastiraki neighborhood these people saw me admiring their choices and immediately insisted we taste their pork in tomato sauce and their fava bean purée. They also shared their tsipouro, a clear Greek spirit like grappa, and we likewise shared ours. We can't wait to taste the olive oil they make at Hellenic Food.

Monastiraki's narrow lanes are a modern-day souk selling everything from tourist schlock to authentic antique treasures.

With great places to eat and drink everywhere. 

 And provocative galleries.

After lunch we crossed Ermou St. and rediscovered our fave little quarter in Athens -- Psirri.

Some stunning graffiti here; these artworks all next to each other on one block

Now we're home, all too soon. But you never leave Athens behind entirely.

18 March 2015

Cernier Sculpture Garden

To buy wood pellets to heat our house I usually take the winding two-lane through the beautiful Val de Ruz valley to the big discount homewares store in little Cernier.

To be honest, Cernier is not a memorable town. Except for one thing. The school there -- l'Ecole des Métiers de la Terre et de la Nature de Cernier -- contains a rather amazing sculpture and plant garden.