So Swiss: Genève et Moi, in Retrospect

WOW. I didn’t imagine I would ever reach a year. I can still vividly remember the time I first came here. With me were thoughts of a global city. For one, Geneva is dubbed as an important financial district in Europe, next to London and Zurich. Also, Geneva hosts many international organizations; that includes headquarters of the agencies of the United Nations and the Red Cross. Geneva as one of the most expensive cities with the highest quality of life to boot, would I be blamed for expecting too much?

Unlike the more sophisticated airports of Hong Kong and of Heathrow in London, the arrival area in Geneva airport is an unwelcoming sight. It’s like a plain, boring waiting hall for visitors like me to see, c’est tout. I arrived on a Sunday and Geneva appeared to be a ghost town that day. I came across the train station (gare Cornavin) and met rather peculiar strangers along the way. It was an eerie, to the extent, disheartening experience for a first day.

I came to realize that it’s an entirely different place, and that my life would change dramatically; in a good way or not, at that time then, it’s hard to figure. A greenhorn I was, I struggled with speaking and understanding the language (it’s French, people!), knowing where and how to go (it’s a different way of commuting, only better, I admit now), handling my finances (it’s all shockingly expensive I must say), finding my kind of coffee (even this, yes!), trusting people I meet, among many others.  I thought I was already adventurous, open-minded and strong-spirited enough.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t. I got overwhelmed, “This isn’t my place, not the kind of life I wanted.”  During my first two months, all I was ever thinking of is going home.  I’m officially away from the usual comforts of home with my family, and so I began to similarly feel what others had also felt in this same moment.

Obviously, Geneva and I didn’t mesh perfectly well at first, but it is in this city my life in Switzerland began to unravel. Luck found its way for me. I feel grateful that I found good Samaritans who helped me achieve what I wished for.  As opportunities start coming along, Geneva has become an indispensable lot. My views towards this city have gradually changed and I begin to appreciate what it has in store.

I still couldn’t entirely say that Geneva is the right place for me, but at least, it is in Geneva I truly started living a life on my own – a life in Europe, away from home. I’m beginning to blend in.

apartments in Geneva

My first stay in an apartment in Geneva, I was unaware then that I had a nice view of Salève and Mont Blanc from afar. No skycrapers around, most of the apartment/office buildings here don’t go beyond 10 floors. Some are even a hundred years old and more. This apartment I first stayed in is situated in a pretty quiet spot. The grannies were the neighbors. Everyone’s expected to speak in hush tones, not to make any noise. Hush.

the flower clock in the English Garden

Time can be such a drag for someone impatiently waiting. Time can be felt too short when one is having fun. Oh sorry, I digress. This must be the flower clock in Jardin Anglais (English Garden), symbolizing the prolific watch industry of Switzerland. Right in front of it are the high-end stores and one of which are for the watches. Rolex? Mont Blanc? Patek Philippe? Jaeger-LeCoultre? Hublot? Cartier? Franck Muller? Breitling? If you are a diehard, Geneva must be a watch haven for you.

Le Jet d'eau

The iconic symbol of Geneva is originally a simple security valve at an hydraulic factory and was moved to this area to make it a tourist attraction. You can dupe the kids by telling them (that) the Geneva lake does not dry up because the city is pumping up more water onto it.

Priceless.

Half slice of salami baguette, 6.00chf (270php).
Nice natural ice tea, 1.95chf (87.75php).
My very first surprise, priceless (or maybe it is worth 357.75php, just for a snack!).

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Genève

The St. Pierre Cathedral is the known church situated in the Old Town of Geneva. It is also popular as the adopted church of John Calvin, one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation.

green belfry of the cathedral

Without me knowing that people before me knew about this interesting spot, this green belfry was such an eyecatcher I took a shot of it. Et voila!

around the Old Town

I could say that the Old Town is the most tourist-friendly spot in Geneva. There are other interesting sights (the cathedral is already one) like boutiques, cafés and restaurants that you can find as you pass by.

Brunswick monument

Genuflecting in front of this monument is not required, but you might feel a bit compelled. It is because Charles d’Este-Guelph, Duke of Brunswick lies here. Mind you, he is not quite an ordinary guy. This duke left Geneva with a tidy sum of money and one of the terms he asked for in return is to build “a mausoleum in an eminent and worthy location, executed according to the established concept by the finest artists of the time, without consideration of cost.” The monument is also an exact replica of the Scaligeri family tomb in Verona, Italy, work of the 14th century. As the cityfolks put it, this (vain) man owns Geneva.

Pont du Mont Blanc

Out of the four bridges in Geneva, this is the only bridge exclusive for road-traffic, and the quickest way heading to  Geneva from the expressway and back. That’s why this bridge is quite notorious for backlogs during rush hours.

United Nations Office of Geneva

J’ai été une étudiante when I first visited the United Nations in the heart of Europe. I look a year younger on these photos, don’t I? Oh, this monumental wood sculpture right behind me, another tourist attraction, is the Broken Chair, signifying the support for an international treaty on a ban on cluster bombs, which was signed in 2008.

Comité international de la Croix-Rouge

In English, it is The International Committee of the Red Cross. I just quickly passed by. I didn’t intend to donate blood. I heard there’s a museum inside, but it is temporarily closed for renovation until 2013 *sigh*.

Le musée Ariana

This very exquisite structure houses 20,000 ceramics and glass objects from 12 centuries.  Built in neo-classical and new baroque architectural style, this edifice was built only to house the private art collections of a tremendously rich man from Geneva. Named after his mother, this architectural beauty, along with his other real estates and assets, was eventually bequeathed to the city of Geneva.

white swan

They’re the ballerinas in Lac Léman.

quiche and tart

During my first few days of stay, I got addicted to quiches and tarts. These were my daily fix, apart from coffee.

a lamb kebab rice meal

My penchant for Middle Eastern food as well, there are many Arab restaurants in Geneva.

You-and-I moments

It was during those times when I still didn’t know how to order my kind of coffee in regular coffee shops yet. If I’d say café, they’d give me a strong-brewed espresso. Starbucks coffee in Geneva was my refuge until I found a solution to my supposedly petit problem. Café creme is long espresso; café noissette, espresso with a dash of cream ; and café au lait, coffee light with heated, frothed milk. At any rate, there’s also Nescafé Gold instant coffee at home to save the day. Or shout, cappuccino or café latte in an Italian-owned coffee shop and they’d understand.  D’accord!

my first pals in Geneva (another one, Pia, she's not on this photo though)

I first met them in my French class and we became friends since then. I only recognized Elena as Filipina. Bootsie looks like an Indian mestiza for me but when she started to speak I counted her as another. Well, Paola told everyone in the class that she is Americaine and for me she looks like a Latina who was brought up in the States. But Elena could smell Pinay blood from her and she’s not mistakened afterall. It takes a Pinay like Elena to know one, bravo!

Parc des Eaux-Vives

When I visited the park in Eaux-Vives, it made me realize that Geneva ain’t that bad at all.

Genève plage

The more I enjoyed the look of Geneva when Elena invited me for a very early breakfast by the lake on a Sunday. Here, for the first time, I began to appreciate the Swiss steamboat that passed by, and the lake itself. Elena’s such a very nice tour guide, and a true confidante as well.

Swiss steamboat

This steamboat travels along the lake end-to-end, from Geneva all the way to Montreux and back.

Le Parc des Bastions

Bastions Park is a former botanical garden and site of the first university in Geneva. You will also see the Reformation Wall commemorating four of the Protestant founders of the reformation.

I'm still loving it!

I must say, there’s Swiss quality in McDo. My favorite McChicken burger tastes way better here! They’ve got unlimited wifi, too. So when I was scrimping back then, I used to hang out more often here, together with middle school dudes and dudettes.

my very first classic Swiss experience

I cuddled with a big Saint Bernard stuff toy I’d like to bring back home, watched performers play with traditional Swiss music instruments like the alphorn, and relished cheese fondue and raclette. All in one at Hotel Edelweiss.

my first "formal" rendezvous

It’s my first teeny-bop birthday I attended in Geneva. Cute and fun.

moi at Les Automnales 2010

It is a yearly trade show at Geneva Palexpo featuring all products of Switzerland. This event occurs every November, which is quite timely for the early holiday shopping.

snow comes...Bootsie's take

It is my first experience of snow. I like the view but it’s the terrible freeze that I don’t like, especially when the snow starts to melt away.

....and spring goes. still from Bootsie.

I enjoy spring, next to summer.

10 Things I’m Loving Now – say summer

What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade. -Gertrude Jekyll

From life’s simple stuff to grandiose pleasures, bring it on!

1. Summer

A summer place in Geneva

It’s the best season ever, no matter how hot it is gonna be.

NEXT: Thank God It’s Friday

Galaera Diaries: Revisiting my Lakbayan Grade

Here is my map today…


My Lakbayan grade is C-!

How much of the Philippines have you visited? Find out at Lakbayan!

Created by Eugene Villar.

My map used to look like this two years back. Can you see the difference?

If only I visit Palawan, Ilocos, Batanes, Bicol, Bohol, Siquijor, other parts of Cebu, and some parts of Mindanao like Cagayan de Oro and Davao, my Lakbayan grade will get upgraded. Yes, I’m giving you folks a hint.

What the Shrek Just Happened?

It took me another month before I formally blog something here again.  Call it another writer’s block moment, distractions are everywhere!  Believe me, I would already be in the flow until something (or someone, a cute kind!) gets my attention. Just like that, the words and ideas would take a back seat over and over I’d end up posting something quick instead, like for my mini-series, Spend-a-Friday-NightI-Super-Want-to-WatchCoffee Reads, Apprendre la langue francaise, etc. UPDATE: Plinky might help.

After my birthday, I felt like days passed right through me I just wasn’t bothered, except now.  May be the year added to my age hasn’t sinked in yet, that’s why.

But how can I ever forget it of course?  The trip to Mindoro was indeed a break away from everything in the city. It was another chance for me and Nature to become one (yeah, the drama).

And finally, I was able to visit the much talked about island situated in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, the Apo Reef Natural Park, which is acclaimed as “the best in Asia and second largest in the world, a diving mecca in the Philippines.” Yeah, another marketing spiel.

Welcome to Apo Reef Island in Mindoro

It's another summer view to enjoy.

Perfectly blue, it is!

Top view of the island, you can see how far and wide we snorkeled around this island. Ehem, well not entirely. Though on our way back, we passed by an area where the dead corals are, which were brought by illegal fishing. Call it another dead place under the sea. This explains why they closed this island to public for many years until recently.

And this is what you see when you go deep under, say, 20 to 30 feet? This is not from the aquarium of Manila Ocean Park, mind you. But yeah, you'd feel you are in it. But still, this is a much closer encounter, a real one! So, boo to Manila Ocean Park! Hehe.

Nemo and his kinds are just cute! These fishes were just being watchful because I heard they can really strike back when they feel threatened. Enlighten me, can they? They just look so harmless!

I hope you can see it from this photo a camera-shy reef shark we just passed by. Truth is, I got quite scared. Apparently, he got scared from us.

It wasn’t really tough to get there as I had imagined when we decided to travel by bus and boat. Just expect the long hours of travel, of course. You can take the Dimple Star bus stationed at Cubao in Quezon City and bound to San Jose. It will take 2 to 3 hours until you reach Batangas Pier. The bus will be loaded on the Roro boat headed to Abra de Ilog at Occidental Mindoro and another 2 to 3 hours will be spent at sea. From Abra de Ilog, the bus will travel again on the way to Sablayan for 3 hours. If you cannot endure this long travel, take by plane via Cebu Pacific or PAL Express bound to San Jose and from San Jose, take a bus ride that will only take an hour until you reach Sablayan.

Remember the dessert treat-out at Gelatone I blogged about several weeks back? Just for fun, I sent this blog post as an entry to Gelatone‘s anniversary photo contest and lucky me, our entry won the top treat. Yey!  Since Dylan and Janet seemed to be that unavailable, and Mahros eventually begged off because it’s a Sunday and she didn’t wish to travel that far, and the anniversary treat was a one-day affair despite asking the favor to have ours re-scheduled, I then decided to tag my family along instead.  As usual, we enjoyed our bonding moment together with loads of pasta and lots of Italian ice cream in store for us.

Perps, Mahros, Janet & Dylan, congratulations!

Mom, dad, brother and I are spending time together at Gelatone.

Our photo-op with the owners of Gelatone. Many thanks and congratulations!

I cannot withstand this ice cream stand. I can't!

Temperature’s rising up to 38 degrees and so was the election fever in the Philippines. It’s a hot, hawt national event of the year because this is the country’s first attempt to dish out a mano-mano (manual) electoral process and speed it up by placing counting machines named PCOS that speak to you the now-famous catchphrase popularized by another masa’s noon delight, “Congratulations!”, upon successful casting of your vote.  I could have voted (for the first time, ironically) because I was curious over the new process as I’d imagine this seemed to be a lot easier now for a regular voter like me. It turned out not that easy, again.

Apart from this curiosity, the strong influence of social media today has been so contagious that the election campaign joined the bandwagon.  Even though I ended up not registering (again), I placed my bet on Gordon and somewhat campaigned for him personally over Facebook, Twitter, etc. What was even more interesting, on the election day itself, local TV stations had gone sci-fi’d  with their coverage that they got their viewers amazed with the touch screens, iPads, and holy-mother-of-pearl, a Star Wars alike hologram! Add to that is the million votes per millisecond speed that we had witnessed as soon as they began processing the electoral returns. Yes, we were bombarded with everything techie that this time people left clueless on whether they got cheated (again) or not. We’re so accustomed to the usual tallying and it’s easier then to point fingers. Now, well, point your finger to a PCOS and it won’t bark back. Isn’t it that easy? Not.

By the end of the summer month, I caught myself hitting the gym again. This time, I joined Fitness First. Yeah, I belong to the fag circuitry now, I’m such a fag hag now.

Kidding aside, I can say that I’m more focused and determined than the last time I was in the same endeavor, er, two years ago?  It’s even coming to the point now that I set manageable but pretty challenging diet and fitness goals.  As a matter of fact, I keep track of the calories I consumed and burned through Livestrong.com. It is a rather helpful, interesting site. It does not only provide you useful tools like food/fitness diaries, BMI calculator, recipe logs etc., but it also provides good tips on all aspects in health and fitness. Admittedly, I’m hooked!

So in case you are interested to see what I have eaten and what I have suffered myself from just to burn them away, check out my Livestrong.com profile.  It’s an open diary.

Wish me luck. I hope I can lose 10 pebble stones off my weight, easy and fast! Liar.

Did you watch? I didn't but it could be worth watching, right?

My Top Everything of 2009 – iLike!

Here are the things I heart the most in 2009.

1. Social Media/Web 2.0

facebook + twitter

A Good Marriage?

I started with Friendster, and then came Blogger and Multiply few years ago.

This year I came to know Facebook and Twitter, and since then I got hooked!  At the same time, I have become a frequent user of apps like WordPress, Plurk, Ping.fm, Bit.ly, among many others.

the google

Lady Gaga-personified over Google

Of course, the wonders of Google. I am currently relishing Google’s toys like Google Reader, Google Docs, Google Picasa, Google Mail, Google Talk, Google Translate, Google Code, and more. Truly, I have gone gaga over Google in 2009!

Social media is just getting even better.