30 November 2008

City of tiles

One of the strong characteristics of Lisbon is the degree of colour and details that marks its' buildings.

The palaces and other public buildings are often plastered and have detailed decorations including e.g. columns, statues and carved stone as we know it from other European cities. But where Lisbon really stands out is in regard to the partiality to cover the façades of apartment buildings with tiles. Painted tiles contain numerous possibilities to differentiate one's house from the neighbour's, and some houses are obviously more tasteful than others, just as some houses and tiles are better preserved than others. But let us share here some examples with you (click on photos for bigger versions).

28 November 2008

Segway police officers

On our trip to Lisbon last week we noticed a couple of Segway police officers who were kind enough to slow down for a photo when they noticed we had the camera out. It was the first time we saw this phenomenon, but apparently it's quite common.

Furthermore it was a reminder that we still haven't tried a Segway tour ourselves despite talking about it more than once. For some reason we never did get around to it in Santa Barbara and we haven't seen it offered here in Geneva. Lisbeth has been dreaming of trying it ever since she saw this hilarious episode of Frasier, in which Niles Crane is driving one...

23 November 2008

Zürich has one; Locarno and Lugano has one each; Bergamo has one; Lyon has even two...

In this mountainous part of Europe the public transport systems of many cities include one or two short cable lines connecting the higher lying parts of the city with the lower lying parts. These are usually fairly old installations and are known in French as funiculaire (German: Standseilbahn, Italian: funicolare).

Despite numerous visits to Paris, Lisbeth was surprised to find that also there is one - going to the top of Montmartre of course - and then we tried that instead of going up the stairs next to it:

How it is possible for her to vividly remember walking down these same stairs earlier without having noticed the funicular remains mysterious... the Parisian funicular was built in the year 1900!

22 November 2008

21 November 2008

125 mL T-Shirt

As mentioned our trip to Paris included shopping in Muji - another store which Tue hadn't been to before and which Lisbeth already knew quite well. The Muji we went to (in Le Marais) is actually no less than 2 stores: one with clothing, and one with their other goods. In the clothes stores Tue couldn't resist the temptation to buy a t-shirt which came in an unusual packaging: pressed into a small cube. As is hopefully visible in the picture, it was pressed so hard it kept the shape just fine after being unwrapped. In fact it took a little time to figure out how to best unfold it. Last but not least, we can tell you it was still rather crinkled after being washed the for the first time... and after being worn for half a week... and probably also being washed again...

17 November 2008

Viva las.... Paris

Although we experienced the Las Vegas version of Parisian atmosphere (incl. Eiffel Tower) a couple of years ago, the time had now come to let Tue explore 'the real deal' for the first time! Even though the trip was short we managed to squeeze in a lot: biking along Champs-Élysées, seeing the Eiffel Tower both at dusk and broad daylight (unfortunately the queue to go up was way too long both times), wandering the Marais Quarter and Rue Mouffetard, shopping in MUJI, eating croissant aux amandes, viewing the first and the second and the third triumphal arch, viewing the skyline of Paris from Arc de Triomphe (the second of the arches listed before), being in awe of the size of the Palais de Louvre, going up to Montmartre and being annoyed by all the hustlers up there, eating French onion soup, andouillette and crème brûlée for dinner, wondering about the queue to Centre Pompidou, being delighted with the same building and not least the Tinguely fountain in front of it, walking along the Seine and generally just admiring all the famous buildings (such as Notre Dame, Palais Royal, Grand Palais, Hôtel de Ville, Panthéon, and Musée D'Orsay) and plazas (a.o. Place de la Concorde, Place de la Bastille, Louvre's court yard, Place de la Bastille and Place du Trocadéro) while we were making our way around the city.

The timing of the trip was primarily dictated by Lisbeth's friend, Xiaolei, making a week long stop-over in Paris on her job transfer from the US to Singapore. Regretably we didn't take her photo for the blog here so you'll just have to believe that we had a lovely dinner with her Saturday night.

16 November 2008

Autumn in Geneva

Recently the blog might have mainly described the trips we have made away from Geneva but we have also enjoyed the autumn here. The weather has been quite lovely and so far not with too much rain and for a while we had the colours above just outside of our windows. As the leaves are falling we can see more and more of the surrounding mountains again and we are eagerly keeping an eye out for snow every morning.

On one of our walks we collected a heap of chestnuts which are now decorating our living room instead of the Halloween decorations that we could have put up had we lived somewhere else.

14 November 2008

On fait du bricolage

The French title means something along the lines of "one is (or we are) performing hobby-like work and/or doing repairs in the home" and is used here to signify that we Tue finally got our his act together and did something about the remaining problems in our apartment.

It is starting to really manifest itself that the year is coming to an end, and we still haven't understood the deeper principles behind the radiators here in our apartment (we leave them on constantly, but they appear only to be warm on the weekend). Therefore we started out by making a third trip to Ikea on a Friday night to pick up a winter comforter and a small rug for the hallway. The latter making it possible to get to the bathroom without stepping on the cold floor tiles. Oh, and we put our map of Europe up on the wall.

Another consequence of the changing seasons is that by now it is dark most of the hours we're both at home. So it was about time we got some light in the hallway: we ended up moving the socket and bare bulb from the kitchen (putting in its place the three-spot lamp we bought for the kitchen many moons ago) to the hallway - making it much easier to actually look at the aforementioned map of Europe. Being already at it, we installed a small lamp for reading by the bed and a wall hanger. All in all the hallway seems a lot more complete now.

13 November 2008

Mail painting II

As mentioned Lyon impressed us also with its murals. The picture above was taken in Croix Rousse (the old silk worker neighbourhood) and apart from the portal in the lower left corner it is one, flat wall. We have read that the car in the painting is replaced from time to time to be in accordance with the most recent sponsor agreement. Many of the murals in Lyon have some connection to the surroundings - see, f.ex., this mailman next to a real French mailbox:

11 November 2008

Grand Lyon Vélo

Already prior to leaving for Lyon we read about their city bike system. So we were looking forward to trying it for ourselves and finding out if it worked as well as it sounded like it would. We hadn't been on the city for long before seeing the first city bike station.

The system is clearly used quite a lot. We saw a lot of people biking around the city on the easily recognizable city bikes, and some stations were even prone to being "sold out".

The terminals were able to direct you to the nearest stations with available bikes, and the stations were fairly close (at least in the parts of the city we visited).

We managed to get two one-week subscriber cards and to rent two bikes (despite the terminal switching from English to French halfway through the transaction - boooooohh!) which allowed to cover some more ground on our Sunday in Lyon. The bikes themselves were pretty good - they were a little heavy (sturdily built), 3 speed, front basket, lock, and lights front and back (apparently induction powered). We ended up paying 8 Euro per bike, which could have been less if we had been better at returning the bikes to the system when we stopped for longer times around town. Forgetting for a moment the inability of the system to communicate properly in English, we have to declare ourselves very satisfied customers.

07 November 2008


It couldn't wait any longer now - we had to go and experience a real slice of France, rather than this silliness of just biking a few miles across the border and back. We decided on Lyon, conveniently reached in a couple of hours from Geneva by TGV (and this without the train going at top speed as far as we could tell).

After a weekend of fantastic weather we couldn't have been happier about our choice: Lyon is beautifully located where the rivers Saône and Rhône join forces (this seems to be a recurring theme) and offers surprisingly many sights, brilliantly landscaped recreational areas - particularly along the river, a system of city bikes far superior to that found in Copenhagen, several lovely neighbourhoods (not least of which the old town), and impressive murals. Overmore, Lyon is considered the gastronomical capital of France.

It seems the old romans rather liked this place too...

05 November 2008

Low water in the Arve

Earlier this fall when the news told of torrential downpours in central Europe some concerned readers asked us if we had any problems with the water level in the river right outside our front door. We therefore had to remind these readers that the Arve is mostly a glacial stream and thus the water level is generally lower in the fall. The mentioned downpours primarily served to delay the day when we could see how low the water could be. In fact there are practically beaches along long stretches of the river.

03 November 2008

Cruising the Rhône

While wandering around Geneva with Lisbeth's mother we happened to pass the quay where one can take a boat trip on the Rhône - and we decided to try that some other time. We got the chance already one week later, and took it.

Almost immediately after starting we had to pass a lock - conveniently located close to the old pumping station (a building which particularly Lisbeth enjoys beholding). After that the cruise went for a bout an hour in at a leisurely pace to the dam at Verbois. On the way we could enjoy the beginning fall colours on the trees along the river, the odd comment by the guide over the boat's speaker system, a number of bridges (of as many types), and from time to time a view of the Jura in the background. The latter were especially nice since we were so lucky to make the trip on the first (and, as it would turn out, only) weekend in October with snow in the Jura mountains.

Of course it was also possible to purchase a range of beverages and snacks on board, but we were perfectly happy to get by with the "Salt Bombs" (little balls of black licorice rolled in a mix of sugar and ammonium chloride) we had brought along ourselves.