29 December 2008

Surface mail

Actually we don't know what happened to the rest of the ship, but at least the anchor is here.

This is another example of a rather sturdy stand for the mailbox - but since neither the mailbox itself nor the 'anchoring' to the anchor appear unusually robust one might ask what good it does.

27 December 2008


In Carouge we found this example of how unfortunate the result can be when the facade is renovated on only half of an otherwise identical block of appartments.

26 December 2008

And then it was Christmas again

Lisbeth came home again on the 23rd (known in Denmark as 'little Christmas eve') as planned and there was Christmas in the little home after all - with Christmas duck, red cabbage sauerkraut, Christmas cake, a wide selection of cookies, and surprisingly many gifts.

On Christmas eve we were by ourselves, but on Christmas day we had a couple of Tue's colleagues over for a Danish style Christmas lunch with pickled herring, schnapps, liver pâté, cuts of cold roast ... and more Christmas cake and more cookies.

After the guests went home we spent the rest of Christmas day relaxing on the couch reading.

Now the shops are open again and we are going to venture outside...

23 December 2008

Christmas preparations

While Lisbeth was sent to Denmark to fetch our Christmas presents (and run a couple of other errands) it was Tue's job to look after the little apartment and shop for the holiday festivities. Particularly the latter can be time consuming when looking for unusual goods and only speaking a broken French. In an attempt to have at least some Christmas traditions we have decided to repeat last year's Christmas cake. For this we require of course the Italian hazelnut liqueur Frangelico, but that shouldn't be so hard to get here, this close to northern Italy where the drink originates? Wrong! Most places that Tue entered and asked for it, he was greeted by a puzzled "C'est quoi, ça?" ('That is what, that?!'). So in the end it was also Lisbeth's job to parallelly import a bottle purchased at the Italian store Supermarco in Copenhagen.

It went a little better when shopping for various cuts of pork. The butcher at the supermarket Migros did have a funny look on his face when Tue asked if he could buy "graisse du porc" ('fat of pig')? Not to be deterred by such, Tue persevered with "lard sans viande" ('bacon without meat'), after which the butcher concluded that perhaps the product in mind was "bardes" ('broad strips of lard'). Once it was confirmed that they agreed and he was busy weighing out half a pound of it the butcher wanted to know what it was to be used for, so Tue had to try to explain liver pâté. Then he didn't have any more questions. But Tue did: what about a "rôti du porc avec sa peau" ('pork roast with its skin')? For this he could only suggest a pork shoulder - with the shoulder bone still in it, that is. Not optimal for Danish style pork roast. At the butcher in the supermarket Coop things didn't go any better. Only when Tue entered a real butcher store, was he told that he could come pick up the piece of meat he was looking for the next morning.

Thinking of specific tasks to perform, a wish had been expressed for a nail on the door for hanging a Christmas decoration from - actually we have practically no nails, but Tue succeeded in finding a single nail, left over from the assembly of some piece of Ikea furniture earlier in the year.

Likewise, a wish had been expressed for the baking of more cookies, particularly the traditional Danish cookies vanilla wreaths and perhaps also the so-called Jew cookies. Before any baking took place, intelligence arrived that both of these two types of cookies had been donated from Lisbeth's mother, so perhaps it would be preferable to try to bake something else. Tue then chose to make the not particularly Christmassy pistachio shortbreads, and the modern compliment of the Jew cookie, the palestinian cookie, giving a fresh breath of some different spices.

Last but not least, the purchsed lard was of course used to bake the intended batch of liver pâté and when Lisbeth's flight touches the runway tonight the pork roast will probably be in the oven at home...

22 December 2008

Mail and Cacti

We have previously broached the subject of how much space a mailbox can take up. And related, how large numbers can be used for writing the street number of the house. To be fair, we have to add that these guys seem to be number in both categories.

The cactus garden one can see a bit of behind the mailbox is, BTW, decidedly one of the more tasteful in that neighbourhood.

21 December 2008

Winter weather

Now it's Christmas vacation time in Geneva - and somehow it just is more Christmassy here than in ever was in Santa Barbara. During the Christmas-shopping-frenzy time has been allocated for taking a few pictures.

By now there is at least a little snow on all the mountains we can see from here. Unfortunately we can't always see all that much, but on clear days it's quite pretty.

The low water level in the Arve is also to be noted when going to Jonction.

20 December 2008


As previously mentioned, we are by now the two proud owners of Swiss postal accounts. Of course this includes net banking (ehh ... net-post-banking). But before getting started on the latter one has to wait for the post to mail this thingamajig. Which in combination with the smart card is used to generate access codes every time the system entered - this on top of your customer number (in itself a little hard to walk around remembering since it's not used for anything else - and the homepage has been conveniently programmed so as not to allow the browser to remember this field) and personal password.

19 December 2008

Multiplet mailboxes

As previously mentioned it isn't uncommon to see clusters of mailboxes along the highways in the US. Interestingly, the phenomenon is also encountered in cities. For example (in the left side of the collage), both the "twin" mailboxes and the fairly Little-Claus-and-Big-Claus like mailboxes are from Santa Barbara. In the right side of the collage you see larger clusters of mailboxes: the most mixed set is typical of the Isla Vista neighbourhood right next to UCSB while the string of identical mailboxes was found, curiously, in Hilo, Hawai'i.

18 December 2008


We hadn't been in Geneva for long before we actively decided that we definitely weren't going to try eating fondue before it was winter.

While Lisbeth is in Denmark, Tue has attended the End-of-Year event with the research team. This year it was held at Café d'Avusy in the village Avusy. As implied by the board in one of the pictures people in Avusy do not appear to share our opinion of when to enjoy fondue. But now it's the middle of December and even though there isn't much snow here in Geneva, there was a pretty white cover everywhere out in Avusy.

After the party consumed a couple of trays of thinly sliced dried beef the little heaters on the tables were lit. Shortly after the pots with preheated fondue were put on the tables. There wasn't really time for sneaking a peak in the kitchen, but it is said that such a fondue is made from 3 cheeses, white wine (to dilute), and a little starch to prevent the wine and the cheese from separating. Using the small spikes the bread pieces were dipped in the cheese .. and yum. With this drink white wine. And so forth until there is no more fondue or one is completely full - whichever happens first. Although, we did get desserts afterwards...

And what is the verdict then? Tue would do it again - although not too soon!

17 December 2008

Post barns

Another recurring theme amongst the US mailboxes is the mailboxes which mostly resemble barns, garages, dog houses, and other miniature outhouses. Executed with varying attention to detail, of course.

16 December 2008

The Fish Box II

Yes, it isn't only in Hawai'i one can find a fishy mailbox - such can also be found in Goleta.

It may not be as impressive as the Hawai'ian one, but at least we found it on the corner of Sea Gull St which somehow seems very appropriate.

15 December 2008

Approved mailbox

Unlike many other US mailboxes the decoration of this one doesn't appear the least bit home made (and it certainly wasn't unique - we found a couple of it in the neighbourhood we lived in).

One of the most fascinating aspects of this mailbox is the message, part of the cast, that the mailbox is approved by The United States Postmaster General - that is, the head of the US mail service. Which, by the way is an authority which can pride itself of being older than the US constitution as the office was founded already in 1775.

14 December 2008

Marmite de l'Escalade

This time of year it is traditional for the Genevans to commemorate the only fight they actually came out of victoriously.

On the night of December 12th 1602 a French army, sent by the duke of Savoy (encouraged by the Pope), marched towards Geneva along the river Arve. The locals largely ascribe the victory to Mrs. Royaume who, for unknown reasons, was busy preparing a large cauldron of soup in the wee hours of December 12th. The Royaume family lived near one of the city gates and when the French soldiers attacked they had Mrs. Royaume's hot soup coming down on their heads. This killed one of the attackers (presumably by being hit by the cauldron itself - otherwise it might not be so flattering for the local culinary reputation), and the rest of the city was woken up so they could defend the city.

Therefore, in the days leading up to December 12th, one finds lots of chocolate cauldrons in different sizes in the shops. On the day itself people gather around such a pot and find the youngest and the oldest person in the group. Together these two will smash the cauldron while yelling in French "Thus perish the enemies of the republic". Afterwards one eats the chocolate and the marzipan vegetables it contained. As it also quite widespread to dress up for this candy feast, there seems to be a few parallels with Halloween...

11 December 2008

Patriotic Mail

People sometimes have funny tendency to want to show off their flag - we know it from Denmark (which unfortunately we don't have a good picture of), from Switzerland (the other little huts also had flags on full right next them), from France (notice particularly the trees along Champs-Élysées in the upper left corner of the collage).

As such it shouldn't really come as a great surprise that the phenomenon is also found in the US. But we were still a little amazed to find this mailbox exactly in Ojai, California - hippie-town Ojai is mostly known for all their purveyors of alternative treatments, and for not allowing chain stores within the city limits.

10 December 2008

The Mail Train

This little mail train from Goleta has certainly been waiting its turn to get on the blog. Not least considering it is one of the mailboxes that gave us the idea for the mailbox theme in the first place.

But here it is.

09 December 2008

Snow on the Juras

During the last 2-3 weeks, the part of the Jura mountains that we can see has been snow-capped. The extent of the snow varies from day to day because so far we have been blessed with mild weather and some lovely sunny days - quite often on Sundays which we obviously don't mind.
We are also grateful that we currently have approximate two more hours of day light than what we were used to from Denmark this time of year.
All this contributes to our not missing the Californian winter weather TOO much...

08 December 2008

Scandinavian Christmas and Cookies

Saturday we went to Globus (the Swiss equivalent to Macy's) and noticed that their Christmas theme this year is 'Scandinavian Christmas'.
According to the catalogue this has been interpreted as black and white geometry but in all fairness it should be mentioned that in the store we did also see decorations in green and red as well as plenty of mooses and birch.

The promoted products are the 'usual suspects' such as Georg Jensen, EvaSolo, Iittala, Lego, salmon and Akvavit so nothing new and exciting in this respect.

We must have let the theme inspire us in our Christmas cooking though since we spent Sunday making 'Finnish Bread' and 'Swedish Chocolate Breads' - not unlike last year. Although one would think the current 4 tins of cookies should be sufficient for the two of us (even if it's rather small tins, they are in addition to the tasting samples Tue brought to lab today!), Tue is now contemplating whether it is possible to make 'Vanilla Wreaths' - an infamous Danish christmas cookie - without the special shaping tool ... If he succeds we will surely keep you posted.

07 December 2008

Facades in Carouge

In order to avoid only having posts of what we do when we're away from Geneva we'll share with you today a small observation from our own city. On the other side of the river Arve one finds the neighbourhood Carouge, where we go - either by foot or by bikes - every now and again. On one of these little trips we noticed this house:

Seen from the front it is quite impressive - perhaps even pompous. But going a few meters further along the street one quickly realizes it's all in the style of the late Potemkin.

04 December 2008


We hadn't been in Lisbon for long before spotting our first mailbox there (see above) - it wasn't exactly easy to miss it. As it turned out, this model with built in stamp vending wasn't actually the standard. The rest of the weekend we saw a lot more of these somewhat smaller, but still highly recognizable mailboxes (see below).

03 December 2008

From Lisbon the world was conquered...

Portugal's past as a proud sea-faring nation is obviously also part of present-day Lisbon and thus we went to Belém - the neighbourhood where all the voyages of discovery in the 15th and 16th century were launched.

In Belém a very beautifully situated monument has been erected which is adorned by Henry the Navigator (the front figure above) and a number of his contemporaries. It also provides the option of going to the top of the monument from where one has a sweeping view of Lisbon, the mouth of the Tejo river and the Atlantic Ocean and not least an overview of the compass mosaic below the monument that dates the years of the Portugeuese discoveries.

And yes, the bridge across the Tejo is inspired by the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.

02 December 2008

Transportation in Lisbon

By now trams are not so unusual for us - when not riding our bikes we primarily use the trams here in Geneva - but these old wagons in Lisbon were more fun than the modern ones we have here. The very steep and narrow streets they ran up and down were also far more interesting and at times we wondered if the brakes could actually keep the tram from sliding when stopping for a red light.
Unfortunately we didn't have time to try out Lisbon's furnicular but Lisbon offers a - for us - brand new method to tackle differences in level: an elevator!
In 1902 they simply built an elevator to make it easy to come from the city centre to the higher laying Bairro Alto neighbourhood. There are wonderful views from the top of the elevator (where there is a café as well) and it is possible to walk via a pedestrian bridge to Bairro Alto without worrying about finding a tram or putting unnecessary wear and tear on one's knees.
The architect (i.e. Raul Mesnier du Ponsard - for the elevator connaisseurs :-) was a student of Gustave Eiffel, which the construction might bear imprint of. At least, the idea of an elevator in Lisbon is almost as excentric as the idea of a gigantic viewing tower with three elevators in Paris

01 December 2008

Ode to Lisbon

Okay, let's admit it: we love Lisbon!
The city is old - in certain places even dilapidated - and modern in a charming blend and there are numerous, quite different neighbourhoods to explore. It is beautifully situated by the Tejo river which is so wide that it seems like an ocean and the climate suits us very well (i.e. sunny in November!). Furthermore, when the cuisine consists primarily of grilled fresh fish and the Portuguese all seem to speak English perfectly, well, then it's hard not to be enthusiastic about the place.
That we also stayed at the absolutely best hostel/hotel we have visited so far only adds to the experience. Lisbon Lounge Hostel is located smack in the middle of the city centre and is very clean and cleverly furnished - and offers great breakfast and very nice employees.

Portugal and Lisbon as well as the Lounge Hostel should all expect to see us again some time in the future.