Switzerland

October 6, 2018 to January 8, 2019

This post is going to be a bit longer than normal. I’m going to attempt to capture the highlights as well as what I was feeling on the inside. I’ve been thinking a lot about this particular blog post as I feel now, as I look back, that it was a really hard time for me emotionally, but now I see what I was doing and why and what I should have done and what I’ve learned about myself going forward.

Lausanne
I love Lausanne. The architecture, the feeling of the city, the cobblestone streets. I visited Lausanne several times. Once with Kim. Once with Vivi. Once for a date night. It’s only about 15 mins by train (the LEB) from Luc’s parents’ house in Jouxtens to Lausanne. Lausanne in Christmas time is just so picturesque. It’s hard to really put a finger on what it is but it’s like this fusion of old historical buildings with new funky vibe. When you go, visit the Cathedral for outstanding views of the city.

Vevey
This place has my heart. 8 years ago we lived here when I was on maternity leave. Jaedyn would go to school down in Vevey and me and Vivi (6 months old) hung out in a little apartment while Luc went to work during the day. Vevey is right beside the lake and has the most incredible vibe. The lakeside is the best part of it and we really loved Pizza Taxi both 8 years ago and even today. You might know this place by the giant fork or the Charlie Chaplin statue. This year they are having the Fete de Vingeron (only every 25 years or so) and Luc had hoped that he could go back there before heading home at the end of July. It’s not to be. We came to Vevey over and over again for a date day, for a date pizza and when Jaedyn came for Christmas we came here to reminisce and walk around and of course visit Pizza Taxi. I feel one day I will live here again beside the lake when I’m old and want to stare at the lake and mountains forever.

Montreux 
We walked from Vevey to Montreux one day and it wasn’t exactly as we had remembered. We thought there was a beautiful lakeside path that took you the whole way but in actuality there a lot of road walking. As you get closer to Montreux, the path comes back and it’s gorgeous. We had a DELICIOUS fondue at the Christmas Market (I didn’t really share because I think Luc made fun of me – you’d think he’d learn). The Christmas Market here is really outstanding. Lots of things to buy and mulled wine and so many things to taste. Montreux is where the rich and famous come so be sure to stop by here if in you’re in the area. It is beautiful and also lakeside.

Geneva
Vivi and I took a train one day to Geneva in December. Luc didn’t want to go but wanted to visit with some friends and play in the snow so her and I went. I really wanted her to see Geneva and I hadn’t been yet since coming back to Switzerland.

It was COLD! About -2 I think. We explored: visited the outside of the United Nations, walked along the lakeside, had a sandwich, hot chocolate, the Christmas Market and watch the Jet D’eau. We basically walked until we were too cold and then ducked inside to get warm and then outside again. Geneva is an old city. Almost hygienic in its cleanliness and lack of colour. I’m glad I went, I was equally glad we went home. On the way home, the train stopped for about a half an hour because it said that something was on the rail road tracks. I had heard earlier that this happens a lot because people jump in front of the train to commit suicide. No idea if that’s what this was, but we got out and walked home from that stop.

Opening of Dr. Gabs
Dr. Gabs…. Delicious dark (or light) micro-brew beer. I loved this beer. This company was created by 3 men who went to school together (one of them lived down the road from Luc and is friends with him) and started brewing beer from a birthday present that was given to one of them – a home brew kit. From there they have grown and grown and grown. Luc went to work very part time at the factory.

While we were there, they opened a store/small pub/the lab in the most famous and expensive street in Lausanne: Rue de Bourg. So we had to visit. It was the second week of December, and it was opening night. We had a blast checking out the new digs and the beer was exceptional. Another impromptu date night!

I only wish I could import their beer back to Canada. It’s that good.

The Olympic Museum and Ouchy
Some stuff about the school system in Switzerland bugs the hell out of me. You can’t take your kid out of school for a day unless you have a doctor’s note. When we went to Ouchy (by the lake) we wanted to meet Vivi’s class at the train (as they were coming back from the pool) and then directly get on the train to go to Ouchy. Instead of Vivi walking back to the school and us walking up to the train again (she would have missed about 20mins of class time) but the teacher wouldn’t allow it unless she had a doctor’s appointment. Sigh…

Anyway, after doing it the “right” way we got on the train and headed to Ouchy. There’s something about this place – I think it’s the proximity to the lake. I’m beginning to realized I’m a water girl through and through (I am a Pisces after all) and all these places that I adore are close to massive bodies of water (no wonder I want to go home).

I also have an amazing memory of my stagette starting here 10 years ago during August. It must be the memories coupled with the water that gets me all nostalgic.

We walked over to the Olympic Museum and had lunch with Luc’s cousin, Chiara. It was a delicious lunch and so nice to catch up with her one last time before leaving.

Chateau de Chillon, Luc’s Birthday and Halloween
On Luc’s birthday we had a loooooong lunch and then to Chateau de Chillon beside the lake just past Montreux. I’ve been in this castle 3 times now I think… It’s really beautiful. I especially love the dungeon and the story of the guy who lived there for years and years. Not sure why I like it so much… maybe I’m a bit twisted?

Being that Luc was born on Halloween, every year he has to share it with the trick or treating. But this year we made it back too late to trick or treat so Vivi missed out (I think Luc was secretly happy). We ate cake for dinner. Vivi asked for a salad. I think it was really nice for Luc to be home for his birthday to spend it with his parents and friends.

Vivi’s Canadian Birthday Party
Speaking of birthday’s, Vivi celebrated her birthday at a patisserie with a few friends the last week of school before Christmas break. Since she was really missing home, we had a Canadian themed party! If you can believe it I managed to find some Canadian and BC flags, little Canada pins for the good bags, Luc had Canada flag stickers from his stag and we decorated in red and white.

I think it was a pretty big success. It was a wonderful way for her new friends to send her off and for her to feel like her birthday was a big deal. Which it was. She maybe missed Canada just a little bit less for a little bit.

Making friends
While I was there, I got to reconnect with Lauren and Francois and their two girls. The let us stay in their place for a few days between New Years and Vivi’s actual birthday.

We had dinner with Julian and Stephanie and Emily and Yann and their kids. That was really fun. We also partied for Julian’s birthday (I partied a bit too hard if you know what I mean).

We had a few meals with Maxim and Filis and their two kids. One extraordinary fondue in their little cabin behind their house. And another garden meal with Maxim’s parents that was also out of this world.

I was happy to spend a day with a friend back home, Kim who coincidentally was there visiting a friend just about 10mins drive away. That was really neat to see a familiar face so far from home and to be able to talk about life and such.

Walking to and from school 4 times a day
But most of my days after returning from the Camino was filled with walking 1km to and from school sometimes 8 times a day. Vivi went to Luc’s old school and she needed to be walked to school in the morning (the I walked back). Two days a week, she walked home for lunch (we would meet her to walk her home and then walk her back 1.5 hours later). And finally at the end of the school day.

Now, something that Luc and I didn’t agree upon was whether should could walk alone. I felt that 8 years old walking that distance, without a phone, was too far. Call me reserved, scared, fearful, whatever, this is just how I felt. Luc on the other hand was totally fine for her to walk there and back alone – so you can imagine the contention.

For the most part I liked walking her. It got me outside, away from the house, in the fresh air. It was time that we got to be together and the view was gorgeous. It didn’t rain much either and sometimes we drove if we were running late. Sometimes I would meditate on the walk home.

Running and walking
A lot of times I would walk Vivi to school and then I would set off on a run somewhere or a walk to Renens to take some time by myself. I would also walk to a bench and then meditate.

I loved running around Jouxtens and the area. It was fall and the leaves were changing and it was cool. My body temp tends to run a bit on the hotter side so running in the fall is perfection. The cool temps, gorgeous leaves, beautiful swiss architecture – it’s all just a little wonderful.

Creating my business and writing my book
At least 3 times a week I would walk to Renens to a coffee shop there and work on building my business and writing my book. Sometimes I would do research for our trip. I would spend a good 4 hours there before I needed to come back for lunch or something. I loved this time to myself and away from the house. It was always a peaceful time for me – getting to be me.

Our Airbnb rental
After a while of living with Luc’s parents in their house, I felt we really needed to connect as a family unit again. So I looked up a little Airbnb not too far away so that Vivi could still go to school on the Friday and the Monday.

Luc and I had a lot of conversations about this Airbnb rental. He felt that his parents would wonder why. He wanted to go further so we could explore somewhere else. He didn’t want to spend a lot of money. I held strong in that I wanted this place to be a place of down time. To play games, watch movies, connect. This wasn’t a time for sight-seeing. To be honest, Luc and my relationship was not doing well and Vivi was so homesick. I was close to depression and I needed to have some time together and away. Some autonomy.

We went to visit the Airbnb about 4 days before our check in. It was perfect. We each had our own rooms, our own kitchen, our own living room and dining room. Then the woman said that we could come early – 2 days early even for free! It was like the universe was giving me exactly what I needed and wanted.

We took advantage of our time there and entertained for 3 meals. It’s something that Luc and I really love to do, to have people over to our house, cook a nice meal and connect. It felt so right to do this in our own space.

All in all, the Airbnb was amazing. I’m so glad we went. It at one point was almost just me and Vivi as I took a strong stand for my well-being and told Luc that if he didn’t want to go, that was fine, Vivi and I would go alone. He made a great choice joining us. It was so important for our family to get back to being our family again.

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Istanbul, Turkey

October 16-21, 2018

Kidney Stone Watch: 
A little nervous about leaving to go to another country not knowing what’s going on inside me. I vow that as soon as I get back I’ll get checked at a hospital in Switzerland. During this time away the pain and discomfort comes and goes and starts to become a little more regular. It starts to feel like I have to go to the bathroom more frequently. It’s super annoying and really fatiguing.

Before we even left for Turkey, we were faced with the possibility that I might not be able to go to Turkey because we didn’t realize that I needed to have an extended permit from Switzerland before I could return back from Turkey. If I didn’t get the permit before we left, then it was possible that I wouldn’t be allowed to go back into Switzerland even though my Swiss passport carrying family could.

This caused some sleepless nights for Luc as he was a bit stressed about the timing (we’d also been through the exact same issue last time we came back from Egypt and the guy at immigration almost didn’t let me back into the country). We came up with a back-up plan that he would go and visit his friends there and I would travel around Switzerland with Violette for a week.

None of that happened because the permit showed up while we were at Europapark. Turns out we didn’t even need to do all that worrying because when I went through immigration on the way back, the woman didn’t ask for it at all.

We started our journey on Turkish Airlines. One of the best airlines I’ve been on. I would say, think about how good planes used to be 20 years ago and Turkish Airlines is that. Great meal, screen with new movies, blankets, head phones, a toy for the kids. Great customer experience.

We arrived at the old airport and the airport was so smooth on our arrival. Our luggage came as soon as we get to the conveyor belt. #perfection.

The first thing I notice is Istanbul is massive. The city sprawls and sprawls. There’s signs everywhere. Shops, houses, hotels, apartments for as far as the eye can see.

We arrived at our hotel which looked online a lot better than what we actually are greeted with. I’m not disappointed, I’m just a little surprised at how the photos can look so much better. The breakfast is out of this world (we sample it in two days). It really has everything you could want. EVERYTHING.

We take a walk to the beach which is just around the corner but it’s cold. Like 12 degrees cold. Now I’m a bit disappointed. When I was on the camino, Luc was trying to organize this trip… I was tired of visiting big towns and really just wanted to be near the ocean and near some peace and quiet. Luc on the other hand wanted to visit a big city! So we compromised and got a hotel by the beach so we could venture into Istanbul. I would say that he won out as we couldn’t really spend any time at the beach as it was too cold.

The next morning, we met up with Can (pronounced John) and Christina his Canadian wife. When Can was in Canada studying, he met Luc and Christina. They have two girls who speak Turkish and English and are about the same age as Vivi. So Vivi became instant friends with them. So nice for her as she had spent the last 3 months without any English speaking friends. I didn’t realize it but this family would be our tour guide for the entire time we were in Turkey! So incredible that they showed us all around and gave us really a locals tour. We are so incredibly grateful for the time we got to spend with them and the time that they spent with us.

They picked us up from our hotel and took us to a typical Turkish breakfast. This breakfast consisted of everything you can imagine: cheese, French fries, meat, tea, fruit, veggies, pickles, olives, bread, croissants, sauces… we ate and ate. This is where I tried my first Turkish coffee – STRONG!

We went with them to a market by their house and Luc bought a belt that was way too small and paid full price (ask Luc about this story).

We then headed to Can’s restaurant. This place is AMAZING! He has a full restaurant and also 20+ little wooden yurts that people can go BBQ their meat. There is also a fireplace that you can enjoy. No where to sleep unfortunately LOL! Since Can owns the restaurant the food was plentiful and sooo good. We ate like kings until we couldn’t eat anymore. It was so delicious.

The next day was a day for exploring Istanbul. We drove there and the traffic was INSANE. Took us about 1 hour to drive 30km. 10 lanes of traffic but in actual fact only lines for 6 lanes. People were on their phone while driving and people were weaving in and out of traffic. For some reason I just can’t come to terms with how other people in other countries drive. Not sure I ever will.

We visited the Blue Mosque that was under construction and the under ground city. It’s not really a city but a water reservoir with many many pillars. We also walked to the Grand Bazar which really is GRAND. HUUUUUGE. Luc and Can got matching knockoff Jack Wolfskin jackets (#bromance?). We also had a really great lunch with a flaming pot!

We spent about 2.5 hours to get home as traffic was really bad.

The next morning, Can took us to have a typical Turkish pasta/dumpling dish called Manti out in the hills of Istanbul. These tiny little dumplings are boiled and then a cream sauce is poured on top. Absolutely delicious.

We then drove out to the Black Sea. It was a really windy day and the waves were immense. It was stunning and beautiful to see the power of the sea. It was also our first time seeing so much garbage on the beach in real life. We looked through the plastic to see what we could find. Small pieces of everything from all sorts of different places. So sad to see so much plastic. To be honest, this also was our first experience with so much garbage everywhere all over Turkey. I think I’m becoming a little desensitized to all the garbage as we’ve been travelling.

A few other things I noticed at this point in my trip is there are soooo many dogs and cats everywhere in Turkey. What Can told us is that they are all stray but that the municipality feeds them and looks after them. This is how they look after their animals rather than putting them in places like the SPCA. It’s an interesting way to look after the animals. I remember when we were in Cuba, the strays there were in really bad shape. So skinny and sick and no one looked after them. I think Turkey’s way of dealing with it is better than Cuba’s but I’m still surprised by it because there are just so many.

Another thing: this is the place where men come to get hair implants and women come to get nose jobs. I was again surprised when I saw the first man with tiny red dots on the back of his head and the front of his head and a big white headband around his head. Then I started to notice these guys everywhere. Then the women who’s noses were wrapped in bandages. We wondered when we saw a man with the distinctive headband and a woman with the bandages walking arm in arm if they got a 2 for 1 deal.

That night Luc went to the barber shop! He got a much needed haircut, his eyebrows threaded, a straight razor shave and the hair inside his ears burnt off! We each got a massage which was really enjoyable. We compared afterwards and our masseuses each got on top of us to work our backs. That was new for both of us. After that I took the girls to the pool and we played around only getting in trouble once.

The next day Can picked us up and took us to one of the most famous streets for shopping. We just window shopped mostly.

Following that we drove along the coast. I didn’t know this but Istanbul has a river that runs through it and on one side is Europe and the other side is Asia. I don’t think there’s anywhere else that is split between two continents. As we drove along the coast, we saw many Embassies and expensive houses. It reminded me of Cannes, France. While we were driving we saw a car get rear-ended BADLY. The car was turning left into a gas station, and a car came up behind her and he probably was texting because he didn’t step on the brake at all. I would say he hit her from behind going at least 60km/hour. She had her indicator on which is a small miracle because no one uses their indicator there. (This was at the same time as Kashoggi being murdered in the Saudi Embassy so this was really big news in Istanbul.)

Then back to his restaurant for the afternoon and dinner again. Stuffed again.

Then I had the pleasure and honor of being able to celebrate a birthday for Can’s aunt. All the women gathered around and ate 3 cakes and danced a Turkish dance. All the men went to the river to drink and smoke.

After that, Vivi got to have a sleepover at the girls house. It was such a nice way to end their time together. After 4 days together they had become really great friends and just loved to play and hang out together.

The next morning we met up with the girls at the beach and rented a bike that takes 4 people to ride along the sea. We ate some baked goods and said out goodbyes. Can then took us to the airport.

Next time I do want to check out other parts of Turkey where it’s a bit warmer and less noise. I heard that Turkey has some very different parts to it that are really culturally different.

I’d like to thank Can and Christina once again for being amazing hosts and making our visit to Istanbul and the area so full of fun and culture. It’s wonderful to have to local people show you around and take you to so many awesome places. Thanks you so much and make sure you let us know when you’re coming to Canada so we can show you around and we can hang out!!

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