28 April 2008

Idyllic Swiss Countryside

So far we've been staying in Vessy, which can be considered some kind of Genevan suburb. Fact is that it takes 20 minutes by bike to get to town and on the way one passes what looks like a colony of garden allotments.
With tulips in bloom, vines, alp-like cottages, mountains in the background, and the red-white flag raised one already has a miniature collection of all the Swiss icons, but to make it even more perfect we saw a family sitting outside eating fondue one of the first times we passed by!

26 April 2008

Bail à loyer

The past couple of weeks have been quite frustrating to us housing-wise as we spent all of our time and energy finding a path through the wilderness that is the Genevan housing market. Expect another post dedicated this subject at some later time - for now we'll just say that the process was kind of crazy, which didn't do anything to alleviate our frustration.
But in the end we prevailed! This past Thursday Tue signed a rental contract for a nice little flat with a view over the river Arve and a small balcony in a lovely neighborhood close to university. Hip-hip-hooray! We'll get the keys this coming week and then we can finally get started on really unpacking since we left California.

But first we need to buy a fridge and a stove since apartments here are standardly rented with empty kitchens - sometimes even without the cupboards. Security deposit and mandatory insurance also needed to be dealt with. Oh, yes - we also need to get a bed and some other furniture and some kitchenware ... and ...

23 April 2008

Geneva 1.0

These weeks we are criss-crossing Geneva on our bicycles in search of a more long-term housing solution, which provides us with excellent opportunities to get a sense of the place. The most apparent feature of the city is that it is surrounded by mountains – all of them French. To the north the Jura Mountains stand – currently very beautifully snow-capped – and to the south is a lower mountain range called Salève where the snow is almost completely gone.

Some parts of Geneva are of course characterised by Lake Geneva and in even more parts of the city the Jet d’Eau can be seen.

How tall that Jet actually is and when it springs – we have passed the lake one morning when it wasn’t springing – we haven’t found out, but we were certainly surprised at HOW tall it is the first time we spotted it. That it is a rather tacky landmark for Geneva is another story…

Transition thoughts

The frenzy business in the past weeks of finishing projects, packing up, moving etc. hasn’t left much time to reflect on the significance and consequences of our transatlantic move – reflections that would also be almost impossible to make since none of us had been to Switzerland before and thus we didn’t quite know what we were giving California up for – but before we start to write more specifically about Geneva, it might be appropriate to sum up some of the thoughts we had made about moving back to Europe:

We have been looking forward to moving to a bigger city; Santa Barbara is definitely a gorgeous place but a busy urban environment it cannot quite be said to offer. Along the same lines, we have been looking forward to living in the middle of Europe, surrounded by different languages, foods, and cultures, with the endless possibilities for weekend getaways it provides. To this aspect also belongs that post-doc-Tue will have more days off. Besides Saturdays off, Switzerland will endow Tue with prolonged weekends because of religious holidays and even though we don’t know exactly yet how many weeks of holiday Tue will get here, it is sure to be more than what was possible at UCSB.

On the other hand we will miss the weather (something we already do), the nature, our little flat at West Campus, being able to speak the language, our common lunches at UCSB, and the broad selection of Mexican food. On a more practical daily level we are not quite sure how to get by without Trader Joes, Netflix, and Borders but luckily internet shopping has been invented. In contrast we are already very happy with the quality of the Swiss bread, the unsweetened yoghurt, and not least the chocolate, just as we have found both fresh yeast and vanilla sugar both of which will definitely ease future baking projects.

19 April 2008

Chez Le Petit Robert

Based on the headline the readers might be tempted to conclude that this post will be about something Genevan, but happens not to be the case. Le Petit Robert is in fact a small restaurant in the Russian Hill area of San Francisco which we have managed to visit on every single trip to the city so far. We like the decor, the atmosphere, the food, the service and not least of all the lovely bread you always get while you look at the menu. At this last visit the desserts proved to be equaly nice.

Westcoast friends

Part of our plan in driving from Santa Barbara to San Francisco and flying out from there was to meet up with some good friends of ours (beginning upper left corner, clockwise): Mr. Elephant seal on the beach near San Simeon, a place we have visited multiple time from Santa Barbara; Mr. Drew Lover who flew down from Seattle to say farewell in style; Mr./Ms. Sea lion by Pier 39 in San Francisco whom we actually had not seen again since our first weekend in San Francisco back in 2005; and Mrs. Jeanette Hansen who was on a field trip of the American west coast and just happened to be passing through San Francisco in time to have one evening there together with us.

Big Sur

As promised we will bring a few posts about our last days in California. We dedicated some time to driving slowly up the coast from Santa Barbara to San Francisco - most of the trip on Highway 1 right by the ocean. When driving around the American countryside, one sees from time to time a cluster of mailboxes without houses nearby. This usually means that some people have decided to live at the end of roads so silly (narrow, steep, long, unpaved...) that the mailman can't reasonably be expected to deliver the mail right to their door step. Therefore, a cluster of mailboxes occur at the side of the highway - here the mailman can conveniently deliver the mail and people can come themselves and pick it up. The area near Big Sur isn't unique regarding this system, but rather unusual for the high proportion of decorated mailboxes in such a cluster.


While we were emptying the cupboards in the kitchen in Goleta we re-discovered the pack of "Jell-O Banana Cream Artificial Flavor Instant Pudding & Pie Filling" which Tue inherited from one of the German post-docs he shared his lab with over the years. Lisbeth was very skeptical towards this, but in the end Tue's curiosity won: The box was opened, 3 cups of milk were poured into a bowl and the hand-held mixer was plugged into the socket. The mixture was whipped for 2 minutes and poured into 2 bowls in which it solidified suspiciously fast. Lisbeth wondered if the source of this could be "something disgusting chemical", which Tue had to admit it was after studying the box more closely: The thickening agent was sodium pyrophosphate. The final product had a texture much like pudding, but tasted of bananas in the super-artificial way Danes recognize from banana flavored marshmallows...

06 April 2008


Yes-yes-yes, we know - things have been very slow around here lately. But there was a dissertation and a thesis to finish. The former was due on March 21st - or, that is, actually it was not due until March 28th, but none of those in the know ever informed Tue that the deadline had been postponed. So it was filed on March 21st and later that day Tue also had the pleasure of defending it and afterwards serving shots of a certain black drink to those in the audience interested.
On the way home we went by the campus lagoon and the rest of the weekend was spent celebrating the fresh Ph.D. - first with a trip to the local brewery with a handful of friends, later at a restaurant with the entire research group. Following the festivities were a few hectic days spent packing and cleaning before ending the whole thing with a few days in the San Francisco area. Tuesday afternoon we landed in Geneva and are now busy settling in here. Coming posts will deal more with these experiences.