Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I do believe that I have reached the end of my travel desire, at least in Europe. Although, perhaps it's just a combination of the dreary weather and my ever approaching departure date. My last two trips have both been epic failures compared to most of my adventures. Lausanne was unfortunately another travel that had the motivation akin to a 6 year old to clean his room.

My friend Annie and I had planned to go to Lausanne, see the sights and then meet up with some other friends for dinner and karaoke. We ended up delaying our arrival in Lausanne until 4pm due to a late night before and a general lack of sleep.

Once we finally got through Geneva, Starbucks, and took the train to Lausanne we really didn't know what to do. We began walking in the general direction of the shops to see if anything was going on. Nothing was so we decided to take the metro to the lake and see the view. We weren't sure how you bought a ticket for the metro so we just hopped on and hoped for the best. At the next stop we saw two guys who may have been ticket checkers so we quickly bailed the train and waited until the next one. Perhaps we were a bit paranoid, but we didn't know what the deal was with tickets and decided we didn't want to know. Once the next metro came we again hoped on and made it to our destination.
Once we were outside we could see what could have been a beautiful scene, the lake, mountains and trees but unfortunately it was really cloudy / foggy / hazzy / winter so we couldn't even see the water and only a small glimpse of the snow on top of the mountains. Eh, oh well. We walked around a bit more and after deciding that there wasn't anything to do hoped back on the metro (this time with tickets) and went back to the Starbucks area.

Once we reached the Starbucks we got into the absurdly long line and Annie went to see if there were any open tables. There were none so we decided to go search for a different place to get a coffee and relax until my friend Jenna was going to come and meet us.

So now, if you'll allow me I'd like to rant a bit. Switzerland has the most obnoxious store hours I've ever had the unfortunate pleasure of knowing. During the week it isn't all that bad because stores are open until 7pm however on Saturday they all close at 5pm. Yes, that is correct, on a Saturday when people are out with time to spend to do things like grocery shop or shop in general everything closes at 5pm. So in a city like Lausanne or Geneva, after 5pm where do you go before dinner (around 7:30pm) but after all the stores have closed? That's correct, you can go to a bar, Starbucks or McDonalds. Hence why every Starbucks after 5pm in any city in Switzerland is packed! Especially in the winter when it's cold and you can't just go sit in a park somewhere. (End of Rant)

So, after our failed attempt at a table at Starbucks we went up the road a bit more and found La Durée, a fancy macaroon boutique. Yes, us Americans have our cupcake boutiques, but the French (or Swiss French) have their Macaroon boutiques where people will spend around $2 for one tiny macaroon. I bought 3 (Vanilla, Chocolate and Salted Caramel) and they were absolutely delicious.
After purchasing macaroons, we went a bit farther down the road to the only other open option, McDonald's. Why Annie and I have ended up at McDonald's on both of our trips we don't understand but it is unfortunately where we decided to get a coffee and hang out for the next 2 hours. Once Jenna was finally on her way we walked back down to the train station to meet her.

Next we headed towards Les Brassieres for dinner. We each got meals that you wouldn't find in the U.S and after finishing our Mushroom Omelette, Thin Crust Pizza type meal that I can't remember the name and Spinach stuffed Eggplant we headed back out into the cold to find a karaoke place.

Jenna had been to this place before, but what is a trip without at least an hour or 2 of wandering trying to find somewhere right? Eventually we were able to find the place after a kind person lead us in the right direction. Once we were there we waisted no time finding a bottle of wine to share and get some liquid courage in us. Then we signed up to sing 3 songs, "I will survive", "Ain't no mountain high enough" and "Don't stop believing". Once that was done we waited until our turn to proudly belt out some American tunes! An hour later it was our turn! This was my first karaoke experience so I was pretty nervous. I didn't stop shaking the whole time, but I put on a smile and danced with the music while holding the mic hoping that I didn't sound too terrible.

It was actually quite exhilarating and I really wished that we could have gone again. Unfortunately, we had to leave to catch our train back to Geneva in time to take the night bus. 2 hours later I was back home. Perhaps we'll go again but if I'd guess I'd say that the next time I'll be partaking in karaoke will be back in the US where my American accent won't give me an advantage.

Well, in terms of trips I don't have much planned, but that won't stop me from leaving thrilling blogs about leaving after a year in a new country and perhaps a one month back post. I am also thinking of starting a new blog once I get home but more on that later!


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Thursday, February 17, 2011


First, I'd like to apologize that there is only one picture of Lyon on here. The week before this trip my camera underwent an unfortunate schmelting... I mean... crash and collapse accident resulting in a completely broken screen but working camera. So if any of the pictures in my next few blogs look a bit unbalanced it's due to the fact that I own a touchscreen camera and don't have a view finder... (or buttons that I can see since it's a touchscreen).

Ah but, the show must go on. My friend Annie and I decided about a week or so ago that we both wanted to go to Lyon, France for no other reason than "I heard it is nice". Our original plan had been to go to Nice, which resulted in many a joke about how "nice" it is, but after discovering it was a 6 hour drive we changed our minds. Thus, we decided on the under 2 hour drive to Lyon. So we piled into her host family's Audi turned up the heated seats and off we went in the direction of all signs pointed towards Lyon.

This was quite possibly my most unprepared trip thus far. If you're an avid reader (like there are any), or just know me personally, then you know that I'm a bit of an over-planner, pre-travel anxious mess. Well, this trip I was completely the opposite of normal and if I'm not putting anyone into a state of shock by saying this, I liked it. That's right, I, Brittany, set off on a trip, without a plan, map, or any idea of what to expect once we reached Lyon without having a panic attack!

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I'll continue.

Annie and I started out well, in that we continued to see signs for Lyon. Then we started to see signs for Paris and Dijon but no more for Lyon. This posed a problem since we hadn't brought a map or any kind of direction device. So, we did the obvious choice and turned around. Eventually we started to see signs for Lyon again and we made sure to pay closer attention so that we wouldn't miss any exits. We continued to follow the signs all the way to the "Ville Centre" (city center for those non-french speakers) and then to find parking. Once we were parked we grabbed our bags, closed the doors and headed up to the street level.

From there we looked around and decided to walk back towards where the majority of the people seemed to be. It's a strange thing to go somewhere new because you don't know where the best sights are. We just decided to follow the crowd which lead us to a shopping street with a lack of restaurants for our growling stomachs. After discovering that most restaurants' kitchens were closed (it was around 2pm) we decided to just head back to the McDonald's and disgracefully grab a burger and fries. Yes, I know, here we are in a city known for it's food (or so I learned after the fact) and we waited 20 minutes for a burger at McDonald's. Not one of my proudest moments, but I digress.

After lunch, we walked in the direction of the river and followed it for a bit. We were beginning to get pretty bored with Lyon and started to walk back towards the car to see if there was anything of interest going on there. That's when I heard a band playing off in the distance. We followed the music and rounded an alleyway to find a band complete with distressed clothing, bass drum chairs and an overly loud trombone. We listened to it as we looked off to the right and saw it, the ville centre.

There among the gray was another McDonald's, a Starbucks and an H&M, all in the same block. This I have dubbed as the city center for most European cities. If you can find all of these near each other, you my friend, have found the hot spot for tourists. (Unless you're in Italy where there are no Starbucks). I'm pretty sure that this works on most cities, at least in Europe.

After trying to shop for a bit but getting impatient by the crowds we started to walk back towards the car. Since we didn't find anything else that we wanted to do we decided to book it back to Geneva.

Once we were in the car we decided that there was no way we were going to get lost. We paid attention as intently as we could to the signs and only had to make one U-turn!

So, as lame as that may sound, that was our trip to Lyon. Not full of as much excitement as usual, but ya know what?, I wasn't stressed out or anxious the whole day and in my world that counts as a pretty successful trip!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Gstadd Ski Trip

If I remember correctly the last time I went skiing was maybe 9th or 10th grade, when I was 14 or 15. That was approximately 8 or 9 years ago. I don't remember being outrageously awful or not being able to do anything without panicking or falling, nor do I remember having to slide down an icy mountain on my butt. So, when I signed up to go skiing in the Alps I thought it was going to be a lot of fun! Woo! However, the reality was a lot more paralyzing.

The morning started out all right. We had arrived with 45 aupairs to our Chalet in Gstadd with only a minor delay. Then we found the perfect room for my friends and I and began to get dressed for a half day of Skiing! We grabbed our gear and started walking to the lift. Some people were able to skiing down the hill at our chalet but no way was I going to try that, I couldn't seem to remember anything from before. I was starting to get nervous about the day and skiing again. I decided to go with my friends (who have been quite often this season) up the mountain. I assumed there would be a bunny hill or somewhere that I could get my "ski legs" again.

Once we reached the top of the mountain I looked down at the steep slopes and suddenly realized that there was indeed no bunny slope. This was indeed the Alps, not exactly meant for beginners. So I decided just to try and see what happened. Well after my first crash and burn I decided there was NO way I would be able to make it down the mountain. Unfortunately, unless I wanted to spend $300 on a rescue sled to come get me that was the only way to get back down. This was the point where I embarrassingly took of my skis and either slid down on my butt or walked down the mountain. There were a few moments when my friends encouraged me to try again but after another wipe out I decided that wasn't the best way to tackle it.

Finally, after 3 hours, 3 crying fits, 1 snowboard sled idea, 2 rounds on my butt, much walking, more crying and shouts of "I really can't do this" I made it to the bottom. Worst. Idea. Ever. After that I felt so bad for holding my friends up I just walked back to the chalet drank a lot of tea and had a good chat with my friend Becky.

Once everyone else came back we started to prepare our cheese fondue dinner, talk, play games and finally go to bed. I fell asleep still feeling like I was falling down the mountain.

The next day I really absolutely didn't want to go again. I was terrified that I would die. literally. I decided to go with the other beginners and Paul who was going to help us out a bit more. I learned that most of them had similar stories from the day before so at least maybe I wouldn't be the only one sliding down on my butt.

We all crammed in the car to drive to an easier slope. I was still freaking out and told myself that I'd only stay until noon if it was awful and find a way back. Once we got there we put on our skis and nervously slid down a small hill to where we could practice. Paul taught us how to turn and stand in the skis. This was a huge improvement already and I nervously practiced all the way down the mountain. Once I got down (without falling) I was so excited that I could actually do it! We all took pictures and headed to the T bar to go back up the slope and do it again.

The rest of the day was spent slowly skiing down the mountain doing turns the whole time and taking breaks at the restaurant. I ended up staying until 4pm and didn't fall the whole day (although there was one point that I was going down backwards and almost fell). I did happen to fall off the T bar once (an upside-down metal T that pulls you up the mountain) but not again on the mountain! I'm so proud that I ended up going again, although I'm not planning on going skiing in Switzerland again. The moment I returned my rental skis was such a relief!

Overall, I'm glad that I went but wouldn't want to do it again. Perhaps in the hills of PA but it's just a little too intense here. I'm perfectly fine accepting that in the things that I am not talented at skiing is listed. The list of things I can do contains things of much better value than that to me.

Signing off,

- B

Sunday, February 13, 2011

London Round 2

Following a business class Eurostar trip we tried to put our morning misfortunes from Paris behind us and move on to greater things. One of these things happened to be the fact that our hostel was right across the street from the train station (less lugging of our suitcases)! Plus, it was right right next to an Irish Pub! So even though we were there later than expected, and short of as much cash as we thought we'd have we were still trying to look on the bright side!

So once we checked into our hostel, waited until we could go up to our room and drop our luggage, we went out to explore a bit of the city. We went to Trafalgar Square and got some cloudy pictures before we went into the National Gallery. I think by this point we had seen so much art that as much as we tried to appreciate it we really just wanted to move onto bigger and better things.
Then we found ourselves walked up towards Leicester Square, through Soho and onto Oxford Street. Unfortunately, it being a Sunday, stores were closing early so we decided to hit up the Pub next to our hostel for some Irish grub and drinks. I decided to go with something that almost resembled Bangers and Mash but that were unfortunately not on par with the dish I had in Cork (but let's be honest here...). My sister decided that she was in the mood for another White Russian (since the ones we had in Paris were so divine). Unfortunately, the pub we were at wasn't really the "cocktail serving type". So my sister tried to tell them what a White Russian drink was (even though she herself had no idea). What she ended up with can best be described as a chocolate milk with some vodka.
We laughed so much at her poor looking beverage and I felt like I needed to go set the bartender straight on what the beverage is actually made of. After trying to describe the drink, I concluded that they did not carry any coffee liqueur so they wouldn't have been able to create it anyway... ah well..

The next day we set off to find cheap tickets to see WICKED!!!!! This was one thing that I was absolutely looking forward to and could not wait to see!! So we ended up in Leicester Square again, asking multiple vendors for tickets and striking out each time. This was until we got in line at a vendor who didn't have a very long line and found tickets for around 30 pounds for the next evening! This just proves that "If at first you don't succeed, just try, try again". We were so thrilled that finally something had gone right we hoped onto the tube grinning on our way to a walking tour!

I had taken the same tour during the summer and was excited for my sister and Jenna to learn the same humorous London stories and history that my travel partner Chelsie and I had laughed about. Unfortunately, we highly underestimated the temperature and froze the second half of the tour but that still didn't stop us from finishing it out and moving onto another Pub for some fish and chips! (nom..)

After, we went to check out Harrods (which was having a huge sale and was incredibly crowded). We didn't make it passed the makeup section (where I was able to finally replace my Clinique mascara for a reasonable price) and then decided to leave and go to Oxford Street. Even though we were all pretty poor we still wanted to do a little of what we do best, shop! I found a beautiful purple Longchamp makeup bag for 13 pounds that I love!

Afterwards, we headed back to the hostel to freshen up before we went to meet on of the Texans who we had met in Paris who happened to be in London the same time we were. We grabbed some Thai food then headed to a club called Tiger Tiger. None of us were really in the mood for clubbing but that's were we had planned to meet Paul so we were stuck. It ended up being a pretty big deal in the night life scene and we were all dressed in clothes that would only pass for a small corner pub, not exactly the tighter or shorter outfits that surrounded us. Alas, we stayed and ended up hanging out with Paul until later than expected. We even missed the last tube and had to take a bus back to our hostel. Fortunately, thanks to my excellent travel skills this was cake.

Speaking of cake, the next day we went on a tour lead by yours truly of "The City". It's a separate part of London actually called the city where London originated. (But I said cake right?) No, we're not in Versailles (you may pat yourself on the back if you get that far reaching allusion), but we did find a couture cupcake boutique where we procured delicious sparkly cupcakes!
Afterwards, I lead them through "The City" and on to Tower Hill. Unfortunately, we got there with too little time for my sister to do the tour (which I felt pretty bad about since it was one of the things she really wanted to do). After taking some pictures of Tower Bridge we got back on the tube for "home" to get ready to see WICKED!

I must say, Wicked was everything I thought it would be and more (cliche, but true). Except for the English accent, it was really amazing. (There's nothing wrong with an English accent, we're just used to hearing it with an American accent). Following the performance we went back to the hostel, set every alarm possible, and went to sleep praying that we'd be able to make all of our connections and flights the next day.

After walking, training, training, flying, training, bussing, bussing and walking I was finally home to find out that we all made it safely back to our prospective homes. So even though we had a few minor catastrophes we all survived, and things could have undoubtably gone far worse.

With Love,

- B