Thursday, February 21, 2008

Geneva, Zurich, & Amsterdam

On Friday 15-Feb-08, Stephanie crossed the Atlantic from Charlotte to visit. Arriving on Friday afternoon, we hit the ground running. After dropping off her bags, we headed downtown Geneva - first stop - the Ferrari dealer to get a pic of the silver Maserati below. Then over to the Bain des Paquis to get a glimpse of Geneva from the lake. It was freezing, especially on the walkway out towards the middle of the lake. A couple was tossing loaves of bread all over the pier to get the birds to congregate which was a bit odd I thought, but made for a cool-but-spooky picture. Next we headed over to the other side of the lake via the water bus, a first for me. It was actually quite peaceful and fun to ride over by enclosed boat. We then walked through the Jardin Anglais where the statue in the picture above resides. We briefly walked towards the old town and made a detour into Globus (a one-stop-shop coffee shop, deli, bakery, wine bar) for some espresso. Feeling a bit hungry, we made our way back to my place where I made fondue for the first time. It was delicious - not quite the right consistency, but a touch of nutmeg gave it a unique flavor. The next morning, we got up early to catch a train to Zurich where we spent the day. Zurich reminded me very much of Geneva - a lakeside town surrounded by mountains, the primary difference being the primary language was German, not French. After walking around a bit we stumbled onto the Fraumünster church which had amazing stained-glass windows of Marc Chagall. On the way to lunch I snapped this pic of the gorgeous old yellow Ferrari. After lunch we met up with Steph's friend Bea for happy hour - in an English sister pub of Mr. Pickwick's in Geneva where I watched the Super Bowl no less. Small world. After dinner we ran to the train station escorted by our guide and Bea's friend Corky. Amsterdam on a 7 a.m. flight. Getting back into geneva around 1 a.m., we were at the airport headed toAfter checking into our hotel, we headed straight for the Anne Frank house where I managed to snap a picture of the door leading up to the attic in between the crowds. On the way there, we ran into the tree with the little lumberjack man carved into it - how intriguing. Gradually making our way back to the hotel, we caught up on some sleep we missed out on from the night before - waking just in time to go out and have a few beers that night. The next day we made our way out to the river for a canal tour of the city by boat. What a great way to see the city. Amidst the slightly leaning row houses, I tried to spy the oldest moniker on the buildings, the oldest I captured on film was the 1616 in the picture. After the tour, we made our way to a little cafe on a park for a late lunch just before heading back to the airport on our way back to Geneva. The next day back in Geneva, we headed over to the old town to walk around and sit in a courtyard sipping on some delicious vin chaud (warm spiced / mulled wine). We met up with Jason and headed over to the grocery to grab some wine and supplies for dinner - which we shared with the Thomas'. The next morning, Steph took off for the states, and since I had taken the day off of work, I went for a morning ride up the Saleve mountains before heading in to catch up at work for the afternoon.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Côte d’Oex hot air balloon festival & 1st ski

A few weeks ago on Sunday (27-Jan-08), I drove out to the Portes du Soleil area in the Valais region on the other side of lave Geneva with Jason, Kelly, and Lily for the Côte d’Oex hot air balloon festival. (Portes du Soleil has hundreds of kms of trails serviced by the ski lifts and is where Jason and I will be mountain biking this spring and summer). The atmosphere at the festival was uplifting - pun intended. I never imagined seeing so many hot air balloons in the air at once, especially with such a magnificent backdrop. They were going up all day - about one every 10 or 15 minutes. There were balloons of all shapes and sizes, decorative, ordinary, advertising, and even a replica of the Breitling balloon (the silver one) which circumnavigated the earth. The pictures sum up the day best - it was a crisp, yet beautiful day. We wrapped up with some sledding, then a very long drive back to Geneva - we had to sit in traffic for hours with all of the festival attendees as well as all of the skiers for the areas' many pistes. Speaking of the pistes, I went skiing for the first time in France the following weekend with Seigbert (a friend from Crossroads and also a leader in the ALPHA course, I am attending at Crossroads) at le Grand Bornand ski area. This is very close to the area at the Col du Colombier where I wathced the Tour de France last July (which incidentally, the Tour is already a train wreck for 2008 as the former Discovery, now Astana squad including would-be defending champ Contador, and teamates Leipheimer and Kloden, did not get a spot). The skiing was great fun, not a huge resort, yet it seemed the perfect blend of runs and relaxation, including one off-piste area and a trick / jump run which I took several big airs off of. (live-action pics at the bottom). The following weekend, I went cross-country skiing with Jason, kelly, and Lily for the first time ever. It was a fun challenge and a decent workout; most of the tiredness did not hit until the next day - this, I thought to myself, would be fun to do at a marathon distance, maybe next year right? Speaking of marathons, I found out a while back that both Paris and London are full, and since I have no prospect of getting a bib, the training I began in December is slowing down considerably, though I am maintaining some decent base miles in just in case. Nevertheless, this will free up time for my cycling training for my dominating conquest of Alp d'Huez this spring. Stephanie is coming in town today (Friday 15-Feb-08), we are heading to Zurich and Amsterdam, and possibly Montreaux - yea, my first visitor!

Live action sequences (and one still) from skiing with Seigbert (the top of the jump is at the base of the two red poles, imagine a line going between them -- although it is bright, as you can see, this was a big jump, and I went about 10' high and 25' -30' out):