Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer Fun In/Around Geneva (My Fave)

OK, this is simply impossible. I could write a series of posts to answer the simple question often asked of me of late:

So what do you recommend for us to do in Geneva?

Well, I've composed a (very) short list of options (in no particular order) if you're spending one/some summer day(s) in the city. It does no justice to the incredible amount of fun you can have, but this is what I'd be doing:

Friday, June 25, 2010

Our Visit Chez U Bobba

Well... (I've realized I tend to start posts this way... But, you know, sometimes it just cools you down and alows you to start at the beginning.)

I saw some nice reviews of u bobba at resto-rang, an amazing site. (Check it out if you're looking for a place to eat in Switzerland.) And as on calling them they told me they accept the Lunch Check Suisse coupons (which we have tons of), off we were walking down rue de la Corraterie, one of the nicest rues in Geneva.

The location is a plus. Now that tramways are being upgraded to a noiseless level, you hardly notice them. I love the flags down the street and the Old Town just next to the restaurant. The terrace, where we were sitting gives on the Place Neuve and the street and behind you you can see the old city wall.

OK, we've got to the hard part. I'm not going to lie, we didn't like our dinner at u bobba very much. I'll tell you why. But I'll also tell you what I loved about this place, because it was charming and to only point out the things we didn't like wouldn't do it justice. I don't want any of you think ill of this place. Simply don't go there on a date with a significant other you'd like to impress. Unless your idea of a date is much different from mine. :)

So it was a rather windy evening and still the restaurant was sort of closed from the front and everyone was sitting on the large balcony. So there we made our way, and I guess we wouldn't have been served inside anyway. It felt a bit cold and my future hubby's been caughing ever since. But we stuck around all through the meal.

Being vegetarians, I knew we had three options, because I'd checked the website in the afternoon. Well, we had two, and only one was on the menu.  Not the best start, but we ordered one of each and were ready to overlook the issue. At this point we weren't really worried about prices, because we were looking forward to our feast at this nice (though cold) place.

We usually don't eat much, that's why we started with the main courses. But we could have eaten multiple plates of salads till our dishes arrived. I started to get impatient and sulky. When we got our fair share of their goods, my sulkiness lifted considerably. Fried tofu, some tiny bit of flavored rice and a considerable amount of the vegetables sauté (love! love! love!). I felt like in heaven. (I'm known for my love of rough food.)

My date mate was a funny sight. I'll give you the details so you can imagine. He's a very tall man, and likes his food substantial. A gourmand, you could say. Not that he eats much but he likes to eat well once he sets to it. And he was staring down at a tiny amount of (very special)  risotto on a huge plate. Ladies, if you wanna look slim, try wearing a huge plate. It works for risottos.

I'd say it was a nice risotto with some white wine in it and wild mushrooms, but it had absolutely no salt in it (and I cook practically without salt, ask my friends). And when a dish is not salty enough, it just doesn't have a taste. And when you've waited ages for your meal and it arrives in a tiny portion and it has no taste... That's when you get really disappointed. Which he duly did.

We ended up sharing my dinner and having his risotto as a sider (salted accordingly). I absolutely loved the vegetables, which I should as I often make them at home as well. The stakeholder of the evening was left unimpressed and feeling cold. But to give the place another chance, we ordered dessert.

Now you have to be aware of the fact that some people might not like icecream on a cold windy evening. I like icecream each and every evening, night, morning or any other moment it happens to be around, but some people don't. Now they'll have a hard time choosing a dessert. There were like six or them, one was the usual kind (creme brulée or something) and four had icecream in them. So he chose the Panna Cotta with some berry sauce and I chose a tarte tatin aux mangues with white chocolate icecream. I've once eaten panna cotta and I remembered it as a white, delicious cheese and cream mousse. As the waitress told us it was an Italian specialty, my memories revived and I recommended it to my partner with a wide smile. He also loves cheese and he didn't want the creme brulée (or whatever). When the thing arrived, however, our smiles melted.

My dessert was awesome! And it's not just my weird taste, my date (who ended up having a bit of mine as well) also loved it. The icecream was top notch with white chocolate slivers and the tarte had hot and crunchy leafy layers with real fat mango slices on top, upon which the above mentioned i.c. sat.

The panna cotta was sad. Small and "nothing special", the worst any cotta can be. I had the last bite of icecream, he shoved in the last morceau of the tarte still yumming, and we asked for the bill.

With the 20% off we had ("last minute" reservation bonus as advertised on resto-rang), and the fact that we were paying with our coupons, we should have been satisfied with the deal we'd got. This wasn't the case. We totalled some  CHF 65, preposterous for such a small amount of food.

We were kidding about stepping in at the Armures for a fondu before heading home. We passed that favorite spot of ours, saw it was full (but really full), and went home brooding on what makes a restaurant good or bad. Food has definitely something to do with it...

Thank you for reading!
Have an awesome weekend,
go hiking, rent a pedal boat,
or just have some white chocolate icecream out in the sun. ;)
P.S. There are things to like about u bobba though.  It reminded me of the places we used to have a coffee/tea or a cocktail with my friends back in Hungary. It has live jazz music on Saturdays and has a really nice, sort of unique jazzy atmosphere. So definitely check out this place for an after work mug or glass of something spiriting, or even have a tarte to accompany it. ;) Prices might actually be set just for this type of fun.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Q: "Do you know a good restaurant in Geneva?"


Well, I know several, but I'm always willing to try new ones. And you can get 20% off today at ú bobba, if you say the word.

Ohh, the word is merci. :)

Have fun, eat well and keep tuned for our humble opinion
on the food chez ú bobba
and in other places we've tried.

"How's Wedding Planning?"

They keep asking me. And I keep saying, welllllll,...

I'm a bit like a fish out of water with all of this. Normally I make impulsive decisions on the spur of the moment. Of course there is a (slight =D) chance that I don't chose the absolute best but most of the time my choices turn out to be stunningly appropriate and anyway, I never look back to brood on what I should've, could've or would've done. Usually I form next time...! statements, and there's quite a list of these in my mental notebook at this age. :)

But wedding planning is different. One (usually a bride, dam' tradition!) has long lists (a guest list, a to-do list, a shopping list, a groom's wishes list, a responsibilities list, perhaps even a death roll by the end...) that one's to consult every now and then and organize the decision making. You cannot just draw up a plan and send it to your caterer/hairdresser/vendor/friend, because there's the groom/your aunt Jane/the venue/the weather/the dress/the photos/the airport schedule/thousand other things to consider... It gives me a headache just to start thinking about one issue on any of those lists.

You know what? I'm seriously thinking it's all rather like a huge board game, a cooperative one, with some evil spirit (Life?) on the other end of the board... And we've gotta win!

It's not so terrible at all, that' not what I'm driving at. It's simply that I'm so terrible at it. Seriously, I suck at organizing such huge events, with tons of people involved. And it's not even that I'm trying to cater for their needs (no pun intended), but I do want this day (these 3 days) to be perfect -- in our way. And this means I cannot just order any cake but I have to find the right one. I cannot have the flowers look just nice, I have to have them our way. And (I learned this quickly) our way is a little off the beaten track. So we're beating that track through mud and jungle.

OK, enough of the complaints, for my friends know me for despising them. I'll give you the news, so you can see that we've been actually doing something instead of sitting down and crying.

My dress(es) are being made and they are awesome!
Yes, they are. I'm willing to recommend my Hungarian seamstress to anyone. I'm pretty sure if she was living in New York or Paris, she'd be working for some of the greatest designer houses! Her work is a marvel and she's supertalented in how to make one's figure look the best, what color suits what complexion, etc. She's gooood! (Check out her page, soon to feature me among the pics! =D)

The groom's dressed too!
Yes, the miracle has happened. We've found suit, shirt and tie for by beautifully slender, unfairly tall husband-to-be. He reminds me a lot of the Bonnie & Clyde myth wearing his new suit and cuts a real off-beat groom! ;) I'm (obviously) really impressed with this development.

We're negotiating prices, etc.
Which means "we have a plan". And that's a big step forward. We've submitted queries and are awaiting answers and propositions. So as soon as we have those, details about the venue and the food will fit into place.

We have a sketch of the reception program.
This is going to be fun! Oh my, I guess I'm a real performer at heart. I was really against entertaining guests at the beginning. But I soon found out that there are other (and more fun) ways than the traditional "torture the couple" type of games. We've found really nice ways to entertain all present, without sacrificing our dignity -- and we'll have our own portion of fun too!

We're awaiting responses to invitations.
In fact, we've already received one. So we'll see how our no-RSVP, "contact us by email" method works. Of course, we've talked to most of the guests personally or through the phone, because the guest list is quite small and they're mostly close family and very good friends.

I know this has been quite long. But you see, we've been at work. :) Despite all the difficulties. ;)

Thanks for reading!
And enjoy the good weather while it lasts...
I'm afraid it'll be back to rain in no time... :(

Geneva Music Festival / Fete de la Musique, Geneve [UPDATE]

Although it was raining quite a lot during the weekend, we had lots of fun at this marvelous event! We went for the world music performers, but there was also jazz and reggae and folk and rock and... some 600 performers all in all! So if you haven't been to this one, definitely schedule your calendar around next year's festival! It's such an amazing quality both in music and in experience, with a lot of that hippie buzz you immediately associate with the term music festival. A MUST:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Geneva Music Festival / Fete de la Musique, Geneve

Hi all, I bet you'll love this!

The 3 day music festival starts this Friday and hosts hundreds of bands an musicians.

Check out the program and pick and choose as you like, for there's no way one can go to all of these concerts! :D

Profitez-en! ;)

Motivated (language) learning

Probably you've noticed that I'm really a believer in motivation. Undoubtedly it is the main force behind all human action, and therefore determines the outcome of any such action. It is thus advisable for teachers and learners to understand it mechanisms.

As a teacher of English for 5 years now, I've found understanding motivation a core of any successful teaching. Working on my thesis I realized there was so little user friendly information on motivation. This is why I created this blog, which, if interested, you are all most cordially invited to join:

Motivated Learning (http://motivatedlearning.blogspot.com/)

If you have any questions or suggestions, or have a topic in mind that you'd like to see discussed here, don't hesitate to comment.

Have a very nice day! ;)

Fleur, MA

Yesss. It's done. I hold an MA. Sounds so impressive! :D

It's no boasting, it's only some juicy details. I guess after 6 years I deserve so much. So I took the exam at my home university in Budapest (Hungary) on June 9, 2010. It was an extremely hot day, lucky that the buildings are so old at the uni that they stay much colder in summer. So on the corridor, where I was waiting some 3 hours, it was actually quite nice. I seriously don't know what I was so nervous about. What could they have asked me after 6 years that I couldn't answer. Believe me, they could think of something. :)

Well, after 3 hours I was in a fairly mild mood. I'd eaten nothing after all and even if you can't be nervous for 3 hours, the morning left me quite tired. So in I went, all smiles and a "whatever may come" attitude. It was a hundred degrees (I'm talking Celsius) in the room and the referees were a lot like drooping lilies. We had a nice chat about my thesis, where some questions were shot at me but I defended my baby like a lioness, and managed to convince them that whoever else doubts my words is wrong. :))) Then I had a go at explaining discourse analysis.

Now that I'm thinking of it, I should have recorded the nice things the head of the English Department said... They were really moved, believe it or not.

Now it's on to PhD and some nice job. After all, I hold an MA! :)

Thank you all for reading!

Fiance Visa [UPDATE] (Q: "How to stay with my fiance in Switzerland?" Aliens' Police -- A Nice Experience! ;))

I've just received a letter from the Immigration Office in Geneva. As you might remember my previous post, I contacted them in order to be able to stay longer than the 180 days/year. It took them like a month to answer, after which I received a very short letter stating that after the wedding I should provide them with 2 passport photos and a copy of the marriage certificate.

I assume this means that I can stay :) I don't know whether I can look for work or not, but I guess it's fine if I start work once we're married.

Well, just thought I'd share the happy news. I'm glad I wasn't made an example of, hauled out by my hair or something.

Curious thing though: I was never examined boarding the plane or landing in Geneva a couple of days ago when I arrived. I don't think they knew I had submitted an application... Or do they check things through some system and registered my entry by my passport number (which is also registered with the authorities)? I was just so prepared to tell the police my story... :D

Good luck to all trying to settle in Switzerland! Not easy but totally worth it. :)

Thanx for reading!

My DIY Wedding Invitations [UPDATE]

Oh, I haven't told you! They've been dispatched and now we're awaiting responses. Oh my, but they took a while to get ready! So if you're planning to make your own wedding invitations, give yourself time to prepare them.We had hand written invitations (yes, it was my hand...), because we felt it was more personal. Nevertheless, we wanted the writing to look nice and also used a golden pen, so the whole thing looked rather nice, and we managed to avoid the "postcard" finish.
I used a layer of floral hand made paper (think little ink blue flowers worked into the material) as the "cover" of creme colored folded cards, each bound with an ink blue ribbon of raffia. They turned out really special and cute and totally in line with the general atmosphere of the wedding to come.

Have you crafted your invitations?

Are you planning to craft them?
Tell me what you think of hand made invitations! ;)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

News from Hungary (with the Adventage of Hindsight)

It's been a while. My excuse is that I've just visited my home country for a while (and came back with an MA, not too bad is it?). And the experience made me think. On being an expat, on life in different countries. On Hungary and Switzerland. And I thought it was all worth a post.

Fist off, I have to tell you that I do not believe in Paradise on Earth. Of course I haven't seen all there is to see but I'm sure of this. No place is perfect, just as no person is. The important thing is to be able to live with the deficiencies and appreciate the advantages. Switzerland is no exception. Life is in no way easier here. But I do consider its disadvantages "cute" and I do like the things it offers.

That said, I recommend expat life to anyone not completely satisfied with their current location. It broadens the mind. A lot. Not only in the sense usually associated with traveling. It makes one more rational about the countries involved, about the whole world in fact. Being a tourist is nice enough and one can often imagine one's life in the country one visits, but actually doing it is a totally different thing.

Now that I've spent enough time in Switzerland for the pink fog to lift (fogs don't usually lift from Geneva), I can compare the two countries with the objectiveness of an anthropologist. Not that I ever believed it would be largely different anywhere (you're the same person anyway and if you're rude, for instance, don't expect to be treated differently in any country). I could definitely point out the downside of living in Switzerland, but for me its beauty makes up for everything. I can now, moreover, point out the advantages of living in Hungary, something I never thought I would be able to do. I'm not talking about things that are worse in other countries (like the manners of any national can easily surpass those of the people in the South of France -- offense guys, but you have some stuff to learn for sure!) but rather things that I don't think I'll ever find elsewhere.

First of all, my friends are in Hungary. This is a point that was very difficult for me to admit, but now I see that I do miss them (and my family) sorely. For beauty and fun are only really enjoyable if you can share them and although my future husband and I are having lots of fun in Switzerland, I keep thinking how one friend or another would love this or that.

Then there's the language. This is a sentimental issue, not one I often talk about. I love languages, I love English and French, they're all parts of me and I'd never be the same person without them. I consider English a second mother tongue for all the time I've spent using it and French is like the breeze on which my poetic side sets off floating. But I do miss Hungarian. For what we speak at home is now a weird mixture of the two, a lingua franca between our worlds and the many worlds that flourish in Geneva. It has become part of our identity, but I feel we're losing something of ourselves as well.

What's really difficult in Geneva is that you have to fight every step of the way, and where your rights and values were unquestionable in your home country, you are defined by totally different measures in Switzerland. Your degree might be invalid or you might have to repeat courses or take exams. Your perfect knowledge of a language might actually be taken granted rather than rewarded. Your mother tongue might not be acknowledged at all and if you were considered a speaker of 3 languages at home, here you speak only 2 or even 1. And, above all, you're often considered an immigrant. Note that 47% of Geneva's population is officially foreigner (which excludes tourists, illegal immigrants and the pending, like me), so it does not mean you're an outsider. But I do get that condescending smile too often to like it. (Maybe I shouldn't be pushing my French...)

On the other hand, I love it here. You know I do. I've rambled about it. This post is just a little nostalgic remembrance, so that I give justice to my home country and tell you the truth about expatriate life.

Thank you for reading!
I promise you more content next time! ;)
Have a nice day!
Lots of love from a decidedly tropic Geneva!