New Blog Site

October 25th, 2012

Hello all,

Claire and I have updated to a new version of WordPress and placed the continuation of this blog at a new address.  The address of the new site is: 

Due to silly and frustrating limitations of the 1and1 hosting package that we have, we are unable to easily migrate the old blog to the new version of WordPress.  1and1 has been quite unhelpful in this regard! If you have questions about this issue, please leave a comment and I’ll contact you.  Needless to say I’m not very happy with 1and1 right now!

Thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoy our new blog!


Turkey week 2

June 15th, 2010

I am writing this post from Winterthur, our one day stop on the trip back to Canada.  So this is it.  The last post from an amazing eight and a half months in Europe.  Enjoy and Claire and I will see you all soon!

We just finished one week in the south of Turkey in the town Fethiye.  Our family friends Tom and Robyn have a place in the city and invited us to stay there.  This was actually one of the deciding factors for our trip to Turkey.  Being surrounded in Europe by places that we have never been, having a location with a home base and a good recommendation went a long way.

The bus trip from Marmaris to Fethiye was a painless 3 hour trip.  We arrived and were picked up by the Tom and Robyn’s caretaker – a real privilege for us hard-line budget travelers!  She drove us through town, pointing out destinations that would be important, like the fish market, minibus station and restaurant district.  We arrived at the apartment and as we walked in the door, my jaw dropped at what a wonderful place we had been offered.  After a week of hostels (and 8 months in a shared apartment) we had a place to ourselves, with a large, fully equipped kitchen and wrap around deck that overlooked the town of Fethiye, the bay and the mountains behind.

p6070374.JPG Claire on the deck looking north at the cloud shrouded mountains.

Fethiye was far more to our liking than Marmaris.  Marmaris was a rich town, with very little in the way of authentic feel left.  It was glitz and glamour and most of the tourists looked like they arrived by yacht.  Fethiye on the other hand had a much more down to earth feel.  While it is still very touristy, but it didn’t have the 25 m all wooden yachts lined one after the other, and most restaurants didn’t have food at 30 lira a plate (as a comparison, the normal kebab price is 3 lira).

p6100427.JPG Seth wearing an “authentic” shepherds hat.  I don’t know how you could watch a flock through this thing!
p6100412.JPG An improvised dock at the ship yard.  Three sunken boats tied together.
p6080383.JPG A really cool natural sculpture from eight small trees.

Fethiye hosts a market every Tuesday and Friday.  The Tuesday market is veggies and “stuff” (like knockoff purses, t-shirts, etc) and the Friday one is just veggies.  We walked through the Tuesday market and found the the majority of the ‘stuff’ to be very, well, kind of crappy.  Many of the prices were marked in British Pounds, and as a result were way too high.  On top of that, it looked like it was all made in China.  Needless to say we bought nothing.  The veggie part of the market is another thing entirely.

Turkey has some of the most wonderful and delicious fruits and vegetables that I have had in a very long time.  Claire and I splurged and spent 25 Lyra and ended up with more as much food as we could carry.  Eggplant, peppers, onions, potatoes, peaches, strawberries, fresh figs, tomatoes, cucumbers, the list goes on, but it was all local and some would have been hard to find in North America at all.

p6080379.JPG A view of about 1% of the veggie market.  Yum, yum!

We had only a couple days where we did anything of note (I love holiday), but one of them was a “12 Islands Boat Tour”.  We booked with a company called Popeye and took the Olive Oyl to three of the islands and steamed passed the other nine.  The boat was 28 Brits, two Turks, and us.  We spent the day just messing around in confined quarters, sunbathing, and swimming.  Overall it was quite pleasant, with a tasty lunch and friendly staff.

p6090394.JPG Claire standing at the bow of the Olive Oyl.
p6090400.JPG The ice cream man makes his round of the yachts.
p6090396.JPG One of the sailors on our boat prepares lunch on the on-board bbq.

The other thing that we did that is worth mentioning was a hike along the Lycian Way.  This is a multi-leg, multi-day trip along the southern coast of Turkey and is the first trail of its kind here.  We did a pretty short section from Faralya to Kabak Valley.  It was a three hour hike and that seemed like plenty in the nearly 30 deg temperatures.  The landscape alternated between pine forest and open, terraced farm land, that was at this time of year dry and unused.  The views along the coast and down into the amazing Butterfly Valley were breathtaking.  The gem of the hike though was the end.  We arrived at Kabak Valley and expected to find another tourist beach, but what we found instead was closer to a secluded hippie commune.  There were about 15 people at the beach with 4 rustic sun huts that were free to use setup along the sand (compare to previous post).  It was deep in a valley and not a single person offered to sell us anything while we were there.  This was the Turkey that Claire and I had hoped to find.

p6100418.JPG What are you hiding under here?
p6120440.JPG Claire standing over Butterfly Valley.

Parting shot of Turkey
p6120452.JPG Claire resting from the sun in Kabak Valley.

Turkey – Week 1

June 6th, 2010

We were finding it difficult to say goodbye to the good life in Europe, to return to unemployment (Claire) and thesis (Seth), so in order to delay the inevitable, we decided to take off to Turkey for two weeks.  Good family friends of ours generously offered up their apartment in the beach town of Fethiye, in the southwest of Turkey, and so we decided to spend one week getting there, and then a week there.

We started off like many visitors to Turkey, in Istanbul.  We followed advice from a friend and found a hostel on the ‘Asian side’, in what turned out to be a lively, local neighbourhood that seemed a bit like the Istanbul version of Kits in Vancouver.  However, there, instead of the coffee shops every 9 metres, they have tea shops, located in shady gardens, where you can play games like backgammon and dominoes while smoking apple tobacco.  It was a great neighbourhood to come ‘home’ to after the bustle of the touristy parts of Istanbul.

p6030325.JPG Our hostel in Istanbul was very ‘casual’ in its signage.  That means that there WAS no sign, just a little sticker on the doorbell.

We took three and a half days there to see the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, as well as some palaces and bazaars.  Two highlights were the corn on the cob vendors that we found on every corner, and the chewy Turkish ice cream.  Hard to describe, but we think it is due to the fact that the ice cream vendors stir and work the ice cream with big long sticks ALL day.  It is kind of typical for our highlights to be edible…


We also spent a lot of time wandering along the seaside, where Seth was fascinated by the life-size symbols designating the bike path.


Next we took an overnight bus to the beach town of Marmaris.  We had heard that overnight bus trips in Turkey were no picnic, and we still have some bad memories from our bus trips in Laos and Thailand, but we didn’t really have a choice as they don’t have train lines to the south and air travel is either inconvenient or expensive.  So we equipped ourselves with a travel pillow (Seth) and earplugs (Claire) as well as copious snack food, and set out.  Even with these supports, it was still a trial.  The bus was full, the trip lasted 13 hours, we discovered too late there was no bathroom on the bus, and the Turkish people were SO excited to practice their English, even at 3am.  Claire tried to make a subtle hint that it was a lot harder to speak in another language when you are exhausted, but the Turkish man replied, ‘But I will try!’…

We arrived here, and immediately felt that it was all worthwhile.  Our arrival coincided with the regional folk dancing festival, which was fun and educational, as neither of us knew what Turkish dancing was.  It started with a big parade, and finished with the ‘dance off’ in an outdoor amphitheatre.  The instruments were really cool, like a bagpipe that looked like it was recently a sheep, and the dancing was at times boring military marching, but at other times exciting, knife-wielding, river dance stomping extravagance.


Other than the festival, we have spent the time on scooters or bikes exploring the coast, swimming, and relaxing in the sun.  It is lucky that we have the bikes, because we have had to travel a distance to find beaches with room to put a towel.  Of course, any beach is public and free to use, so feel free to put your towel wherever you want, however if you want to use a sunbed you will have to pay!

p6060354.JPG One nearby beach…I guess you could put your towel under the chairs…


The highlight in Marmaris is, for once, not edible.  However, it eats a lot.  I think the picture will suffice.  Fat Cat.  The favoured pet at our guesthouse here.  It is worth mentioning that all the other 10 cats that hang around here have a combined weight that may be less than this one cat.


We will miss the cat, but are looking forward to having our own home in Fethiye, where we will be spending the next week.

Reflections on France

May 28th, 2010

On Tuesday I said my goodbyes to Grenoble and came to Winterthur to join Seth. His last day of work is today, and we are going to head to Turkey on Monday, and then back to Vancouver on June 16th.

Even though I am looking forward to both Turkey and going back to Canada, it was extremely difficult to say goodbye to France. Despite all my efforts to NOT put down roots, over the course of 8 months I established some really strong and special ties. For me, no matter where I am in the world, it is the people who make it feel like home. As I was leaving Grenoble on Tuesday, I realized that I was saying goodbye to a home that I won’t soon forget. The following photos and descriptions summarize the incredible memories I have forged over the last 2 months.

In April, I was invited by a friend, Claire, to stay with her family for a few days in a small village outside of Nîmes. I jumped at the chance, and was warmly welcomed into her family, where we spent 4 sunny days BBQing, chatting with the neighbours, suntanning, and reading. I really appreciated how her family made me feel so at home. They took some time to teach me some cooking, as well, and I learned how to make a chocolate fondant (chocolate cake that is warm and runny in the middle) and a blackberry charlotte (a dessert named for it’s shape). Her family had built their house, and had an ingenious, although slightly precarious, method for storing their dry goods – they bolted the lids to the ceiling!
The rest of April and May was spent finishing up work at the high school and fooling around with my roommates. We did lots of hiking, and even planned one epic trip into the mountains for a big weekend of climbing. Sadly, it was aborted at the last moment due to bad weather. However, to make the best of a disappointing situation, we decided to all ‘camp’ in the living room, which was thankfully big enough for all 6 of us. We ate camping food (sardines and bread) and put up a sort of sheet-tent. It was really fun. I really lucked out finding those roommates, because they were creative and always up for adventure. The final art project we did together was a really amazing and huge painting, (2 by 2.5 metres) which was a metro plan, which each roommate designing their own metro line. We named the stops for important moments in our lives, or things we really liked or that had influenced us, and when we had something in common, the metro lines crossed. We all, of course, crossed at 3 rue lesdiguières. I took a picture but seem to have lost it, so will post it later when I get ahold of a copy.

The last 10 days in France were some of the most special. My good friend Sarah invited me to go on a roadtrip with her and her cousin (yet another Claire!) to visit all of her aunts, uncles, and cousins in Normandy and Bretagne, and then to stay for the weekend with her mother in the Bay of Arcachon, near Bordeaux. We spent 9 days traveling around and visiting family, which gave me the chance to see so much of France that was new to me.
Our first stop was Sarah’s uncle in Verneuil. He was a farmer and made his own apple cider and honey. Everything that came from his garden and farm was so delicious, and I think we spent an average of 3 hours eating each meal. We had fresh egg omelettes with chives from the garden, roasted duck, and fresh sausages. If there is a heaven, I am almost sure that it is exactly like that farm. When we weren’t checking out the big tractors, he showed us around the region to see the birthplace of Laval, an important figure in the history of Canada, and some really beautiful chateaus. We had fun picking out the one we would buy if we were multi-millionaires!

Next stop was cousin Armelle and her 2 impish daughters, who live in Corneuil. I was greeted at the door by Maiwan, age 7, and her dog. I said, ‘Bonjour, j’aime ton chienne.’ (hi, i like your dog) She replied directly, ‘Ca n’est pas une chienne. C’est un chien.’ (It’s not a ‘chienne, it’s a chien). I had, actually, meant to say ‘chien’, the masculine version of the word, but I still make lots of pronunciation errors, and had said the feminine version. That started a beautiful relationship between me, the student, and her, the teacher. She thought it was hilarious when I talked, and treated it like her personal duty to correct me every time I made a mistake. Thankfully, both girls were really sweet, and we spent lots of time in the backyard playing games. You can see one of the games in the photo, a brilliant concept where you fish for objects in the whale’s mouth, and if you are too clumsy the whale squirts you with water. However, as fun as the kids were, I think the highlight was the dinner of galettes (crepes made with buckwheat flour) that Armelle made for us, using the crepe machine that her grandmother had used. They were light, crispy, and so delicious.

Next we headed to Bretagne to stay with Sarah’s other cousin Lena, her husband Fred, and her 3 little boys. We stayed there for 3 days and were EXHAUSTED when it was time to go. The boys ranged from 14 months to 7 years, and had so much energy. I was really impressed by the calm, laid-back way the parents ran the household. Lena and Fred worked during the days, so Claire, Sarah, and myself had lots of time to explore the coast of Bretagne. The sun shone on us for 3 days straight, which is apparently a record for rainy Bretagne. The thing that was the most impressive, I think, was our boat trip out to an island literally covered in a kind of bird called Faux Bassan. Apparently they only like to nest in very particular places, and they really liked this rocky island. We hung out there for about an hour, amusing ourselves by watching them come in for a landing, which was not easy seeing as each bird had a space of about 10cm squared. An interesting thing about this bird that I learned is that they catch fish by diving headfirst into the water at a speed of about 110km per hour, to a depth of 40m. Not all babies learn the good angle of entry right away, and after their first 2 years, 70% of the birds have injured a wing and died. Nature can be really cruel.

In this last picture of Bretagne, see if you can see my napping spot.

We finished this wonderful trip by a few days in the Bay of Arcachon, near Bordeaux. We stayed with Sarah’s mom and her boyfriend, who treated us to walks on the sand dunes, swimming, boating, and a day trip to Bordeaux. Again, the weather was great and the food was wonderful. The highlight of this part of the world was an ice cream shop that we visited after dinner every single night we were there, because it had 80 flavours of delicious ice cream to try. I even found the flavor ‘popcorn’, which would have been better without the soggy popcorn pieces that they put in there. In fact, by the end of the trip Sarah found out that she had gained about 2.5 kg, but happily, that knowledge didn’t bother us. It is not every day that you get the chance to taste so many amazing foods!

One of the photos below is of a cool art installation in the centre of Bordeaux. It is a flat surface that they spray water onto every 10 minutes, and in the summer it is really refreshing and fun for the kids, but is also really beautiful because the surface reflects the beautiful, old buildings around it.

It was hard to come back to Grenoble, knowing that it was all coming to an end. And after a week of giggling with Sarah, I realize that I am really going to miss that girl! We do hope to see each other before too long, because she just finished a bike trip from France to Turkey, and has the next one planned from Alaska down the coast to South America. Hopefully we will be able to join her and her boyfriend on at least part of it.

As things come to an end, Seth and I are both starting to get really excited about seeing all our friends, family, and the dog again. We are looking forward to bringing the best of all we have experienced culinary-wise in Europe and have lots of delicious dinner parties back in Canada!

God comes out in the spring

May 21st, 2010

It’s spring time, and you know what that means!  Well, normally showers and flowers, but here it apparently means that Jesus was very active dieing, rising and doing all sorts of very holy traveling. As a consequence, in modern Europe we have all sorts of holidays! Yippi!


To take advantage of this illustrious time of year I decided to take a rather unholy trip to München and then follow it by a trip to Nürnberg. München has been one of the towns that I’ve wanted to visit my whole time here and I really had a good time.


p5130253.JPG The weather in Marienplatz may not have been warm, but but the beer gardens sure were.


I was in München for the a large, biannual religious festival that is held in a different city every time. It drew huge crowds to the city and every square in the old town had a stage with music being played in it. It was totally crazy, but many of the festival goers were young and they were all in an inexplicably good mood.


The downfall of the religious holiday was that the bar in my hostel was closed, so I had to visit the famous Hofbräuhaus alone. As it turned out this wasn’t a problem as I quickly found a table of English speakers that I got along quite well with – a group of PhD students and a computer scientist from the Southern European Observatory! I had instant streetcred when I dropped The Big Bang Theory (the TV show, that is) and PhD Comics. We had a great time and after two, 1L beers we went to a club and I didn’t get back to my hostel until nearly 6 in the morning. Wow!


p5130255.JPG I am now the owner of that mug. When you serve that much beer at a time, people tent to act out of character.  Also, that photo is an uncanny reconstruction of that beer garden…


p5140257.JPG The crew from SEO


The next day I met Tim and Franzie at the train station and we went for a trip around the city, having lunch with some of their friends (I was rather unsocial, owing to my three hours of sleep, sorry guys) and then went out to the Olympic park and saw more of the religious festival.  That included stopping by the tents that T&F’s scout troop had set up. After that we went back to their home town of Erlangen, about 1.5 hours north of München.


p5140267.JPG The really cool construction of the canopy at the Olympic park was amazing even to my bleary eyes.


p5140268.JPG Tim and Franzie at the scout camp


The next day Tim and I took a trip into Nürnberg and checked out the local famous brewery, the Nürnberg Schöner Brunnen (literally ‘beautiful fountain’) and the Deutsche Bahn Museum (aka The Traffic Museum). The DB museum was only €2 if you had a train ticket on you and was well worth the visit. Very interesting stuff.


img_0220.JPG The Schöner Brunnen.  img_0219.JPG There’s a loose ring in the fountain gate, and myth has it that it brings good luck to turn it once – but only once!


img_0224.JPG All aboard!  I can’t believe they let me drive that antique.


On the last day of the trip Tim and I went for some hiking (very nice) and caught the train home (which was very bad). Our plan was: leave Erlangen at 5pm, and be home at 10:30pm. Unfortunately, our first train was 20 min late and we missed our connection by 2 min. When we went to the help desk they gave us our new schedule – arriving in Winterthur at 5:38 am, the next day! Naturally we were livid, but nichts zu tun, and we started on our way. In the end, 3.5 hours of that were waiting in Zürich for the first train in the morning, and three of us (we met another disenfranchised traveler on the train) ended up taking a $100 cab from Zürich to Winti, which Tim is trying to claim from the German rain company.


seth-and-tim-hike.JPG A nice waterfall – all I really wanted though at this point was a drink of water. I was coming down with the flu but thought it was the Bavarian beer that had done me in!  That flu was another factor that made that train ride so rosy…


p5160270.JPG Even the gnomes here had had a bit too much to drink!


Overall it was an action packed four days and a lot of fun as a last bash in Europe. The Bavarians were friendly, foreigners were fun (all the physicists were foreign), and the landscape was really beautiful. Good stuff.


erlangen-beach.JPG Chill’n on the beach in Erlangen. No worries about that landlocked ‘problem’.

The view from a bicycle

May 14th, 2010

This Friday evening is the first time in as long as I can remember that I have my apartment here in Grenoble to myself. The silence is lovely. I decided to take advantage of it by going for a swim at the pool and then coming back for some dinner and a movie. But just now I decided to organize all my recent photos, and got inspired to update the blog. So I sad down with a pot of fresh mint tea and some dark chocolate, and am ready to share some photos and memories from our recent cycle trip through Switzerland and Germany.

Seth and I have been wanting to explore the region by bike for awhile, and as ski season finally wrapped up, we decided to take 9 days in April to head out, starting from Winterthur, where Seth lives, and just going as far as we could along the Rhine River. We started from Seth’s front door, and made it all the way to Freiburg, Germany! We were hosted along the way by friends, colleagues, and even a really cool Australian lady who we found through, which is a kind of couch surfing for bike tourists. Our route took us northeast to meet up with beautiful Lake Konstanz and one of Seth’s colleagues, Maria, and from there we pretty much followed the Rhine all the way to Freiburg. It was such a wonderful route, almost completely car and hill free. (our biggest hill day was a 100m climb…) We rode through forests, fields, industrial sites, and all kinds of towns and cities, and met interesting people along the way. (thank goodness for Seth’s German!) We liked it so much that we are sure we will be hopping on our bikes again as soon as possible, although it will be hard to measure up to this rainless, flat, gorgeous, beer and sausage filled adventure! What follows is some of the highlights.

The pictures above show us leaving from Seth’s house, and encountering our first baby animals a few hours later. Against all dire weather forecasts, the sun was shining and we were feeling good. We made sure to keep our energy levels up by frequent stops for coffee, beer, or ice cream, and we soon learned that with all the lovely cafés and sunny terraces, our smushy brown bananas would NEVER win the battle for the most appetizing snack. I think the photo below summarizes the tempting assortments…
For the next few days we followed the river, crossing the border between Switzerland and Germany frequently. The border doesn’t follow the river exactly, so some days we would end up crossing the border 4 or 5 times. But the picture here shows how relaxed it was!claire-german-boarder.JPG
The scenery was really beautiful, and we really liked all the quaint little German towns that we stopped in.
We made a 2 night stop in Basel, a really cool town that is actually located in Swizerland, Germany, AND, France. It was here that we met our Australian host Biff – she was so laid-back that she sent us an email, never having met us, giving us her address and telling us where her hidden key was in case we arrived before she did. She hosted both us and another couple at the same time, an american guy and a french girl, and we made dinner together and relaxed in her apartment. The city of Basel was really cool too, and I got the chance to see it from the water, because Biff was, in fact, a champion dragon boater, and invited me to head out with her team for a practice. Unfortunately one of the team members was away, and in order to ‘balance the boat’ they made me paddle. With all the former Olympians and such, it was obviously useless to even have me try, but I did my best!basel-dragon-boat.JPG
The end of the road for us was Freiburg, where we stayed with a friend of mine Franzi, who was also a language assistant with me in Grenoble. We stayed for 2 nights and really liked the feel of the town. With all the university students and the old center, it was a lot like Grenoble, but with cheaper beer!

One thing about this trip that was really interesting for me, was that it made me realize I had some random prejudices against Germany. I don’t know if it was due to the emphasis on WWII in my history classes, or the rampant stereotypes of beer and sausages being the only consumable items in Germany, but I definitely didn’t think I would love Germany as much as I did. The people were so nice, the food was diverse and delicious, and the scenery was really beautiful. I will just finish with our last photo, which does not in any way summarize our adventure, but more shows all the maturity and wisdom we have acquired so far on our European adventure.

The final weeks of winter.

April 18th, 2010

Well, that’s it. I believe that the end of the ski season has just passed. It came faster than I actually expected (it always does) but it marks this year a rather important landmark. Claire and I have moved to Europe for the winter, and that’s now over. It really makes it feel that the end of this trip is closing in on me. As part of this auspicious event I wanted to post some photos from the last few big trips and fun weekends that Claire and I have had together, and a few notes from a few solo adventures.

One of the most fun trips that we haven’t written about yet was our excursion to the Netherlands. A good friend of ours (and many of you), Elaine, was finishing her internship and much to our enjoyment she invited us to stay with her on her last weekend in Utrecht. Patrick (Elaine’s bf.) was arriving and the four of us were planning on hanging for the weekend before they headed off to Asia for 5-6 months of travelling (their blog – written in English and German – can be found at: The trip was amazing! The Netherlands was a real gem of Europe, harbouring a population that I really felt a kinship with. They bike everywhere their friendliness was almost unparalleled. Apparently, around 50% of population in Amsterdam bikes to work on a daily basis and we were never made to feel anything except totally welcome.

dscf3832.JPG The perfect family transport :)

dscf3844.JPG Us in Utrecht

dscf3840.JPG Elaine Patrick and Claire in the bar at about 3am…only in Europe.

dscf3839.JPG A long, Dutch beer list – Wow!

dscf3848.JPG Claire and me at the very creative University in Utrecht

After this trip ended I wend back to Winti and Claire wend to Brussels to visit her cousin Kate. The photo below is from their attempt to try all the beers in Brussels – which is an even longer list than in Amsterdam!

dscf3866_907×680.jpg Kate and Claire

dscf3854_907×680.jpg Dinner in Brussels

Following that trip was a visit by Claire to Winterthur. She came, as normal, on Friday evening and we had a fun packed weekend. Saturday we took a trip to Säntis Park in St. Gallen. Säntis is a hot-springs pool. It is not really hot like a hot tub, but it is basically a big indoor/outdoor pool with water slides, and a wave maker. It was really cool to see and a fun relaxing trip, but Claire and I didn’t fit the typical demographic of either 1) a family or 2) a dating teenage couple. While I did my best to appear to fit #2, there’s just something about sitting in a public pool and making out for hours on end that I just seem to have lost the desire for. Strange.

p3130171.JPG Claire at Säntis park

p3130169.JPG Me at Säntis

The next day Claire and I went with my friend Lucie and one of her friends to Laax ski area in southeastern Switzerland. While Laax was a very impressive mountain, in size and and view it was shockingly expensive, blowing everyplace that I had been in France or Switzerland out of the water for cost. For me, this is a deal breaker on being labelled a must do for European skiing, however, it was obvious that there was one place where this resort could shine – the terrain park. It had both the fun little ones for Claire and me (which included a huge inflated mat after a jump that people with no experience could try anything they wanted on) to enormous jumps were we saw people doing inverted helicopters, back flips and spins – all on the same jump together! Very cool.

p3140174.JPG Claire at Laax

pano2.jpg Lucie’s friend, Claire and Lucie at Laax

This brings me to this weekend. I went to Grenoble and visited Claire last weekend and we spend the weekend together, just hanging out and allowing me to get a feel for what her life has been like in the last few months (she has been to Winti twice since Christmas, while I had not yet gone that way). I was then planning on going on a trip to Germany over Easter, but a tragedy changed my plans.

The passing of our good friend Tom Bennett made me want to be near family and friends, and for this reason I travelled back to Grenoble this weekend and from there travelled to the 3 Vallees ski areas with Claire to see Hermione. The three of us were good friends with Tom and felt that one of the best ways to remember him would be to ski hard and spend time together.

dscf3874.JPG This one’s for you Tom. You were taken from us too soon, but you will live on in our memories and hearts.

dscf3876.JPG Seth and Hermione at the top

Finally I want to just share a few photos from Switzerland.

p3210189.JPG A Swiss luftseilbahn, this form of transport shares a root with “Autobahn”…seems to be giving it a lot of credit to me!

p3210186.JPG Ronja, Adam and me riding up

pano.jpg We didn’t end up skiing on this trip…

Time between Claire’s holidays

March 10th, 2010

As you are all aware, Claire gets so much holiday that she feels guilty about it.  That’s a lot of holiday!  However, this post is just so that she doesn’t feel quite so bad, showing what I have gotten up to in the time between her last couple of holiday breaks :)

In the last month I have made a bit of a habit of going night skiing with my friends Daniel and Lucie.  Night skiing hasn’t always been my cup of tea, but with limited time it seems to be a great way to hit the slopes at least once a week and still have your days free to do other things…like work.

The closest night skiing to us is in Wildhaus in the Toggenberg valley about an hour away.  This is on the northern edge of the Swiss Alps and provides lots of the talent that we saw kick butt in the Winter Olympics.

The mountain is small and has a bar right at the bottom of the lift.  After their first win in ski jumping, the Swiss started to really get excited and on the next weekend they had set up a full-on party at the bottom of the lift, with an ice bar, bratwurst stand, big screen TV and local television coverage.

p2200104.JPG The Swiss showing some pride after their first win.

partypano.jpg The party at the bottom of the ski run, the dome is the bar, and they set up a huge TV to watch the show.

I have also been seeing the inside of a climbing gym pretty regularly.  Winterthur has one of the best publicly subsidized sports facilities I’ve ever seen.  They have a pool (actually make that 3 pools: outdoor and indoor Olympic size pools and a 30deg C, adjustable depth, 25 m warm-up pool with a water slide), an indoor sand volleyball court, an indoor skate park, and of course, a climbing wall.  All of this is accessible for less than $50/mo and if you can commit to a 1 year membership it’s more like $30/mo.  Pretty sweet.

Climbing here was kind of funny at first.  You go in and pay your fee, sign a release and they hand you a rope, and harness and say ‘viel Spass’!  No instruction, no talk about edict, nothing.  Then the real shock…this is a lead-climb only gym!  There are no top ropes, so you just have to sack up and lead the climb if you want to do it.  And it gets better, they provide all the gear, minus a belay device.  So not only is it lead only, but you have to belay with a Munter hitch!  These guys are hardcore.

p3090164-large.JPG Hardcore food at the climbing wall.  This Coke and…well…hot dog-dick can be yours for only CDN$ 8.50!

As Claire pointed out to me the other day, doing things I like has lead to finding more friends.  I met Daniel and Lucie by going skiing and then, in the same way, I met my friend Tim. I went with the Coop Ski Express to Davos, and as a telemarker was one of the first people back to the bus. The only other person at the bus was also a telemarker (go figure) and we shared some beers and got to talking. Tim has since become my weekly climbing and skiing partner.

As a group of fun people Daniel, Lucie, Tim and I had a pretty good time last weekend doing the Winterthur ethnic bar crawl, starting at the rasta bar and ending at the surprisingly authentic Thai karaoke bar where the local Thai population gathers to sing love songs in their native language and drink Chang beer.

I think that the Vancouverites will know that the weather has been pretty screwy this year.  In Winterthur we got basically the opposite of Vancouver.  January was frigging freezing and even now it continues to be pretty cold.  That said, last week was a glimpse of spring.  The mercury hit 10deg C and with longer days it was making me ready for summer.  However there was one last push at winter waiting for me this weekend…

Saturday was a total snow day here and thankfully I had gone out on a limb in the warm weather last week and planned on skiing.  Good idea.  Sunday was one of the best in-resort powder days I’ve had in years.  Off-piste isn’t a European specialty and Daniel, Tim and I were able to rip up some sweet powder right off the lift!

daniel-parsenn-large.JPG Daniel in the pow.  That is the lift at the top of the photo and this was at almost 10am…

sethandtim.jpg Me and Tim about to hit the sicknar.

tim-daniel-seth-lucie-lunch-parsenn-large.jpg Tim, Daniel, me and Lucie at lunch.

seth-davos.jpg  sethoncat-large.jpg Planning my 007 escape.

lucie-tim-daniel-seth-waiting-for-bus-2-large.jpg Beers in the parking lot waiting for the bus.  Now a regular event – and legal here.

view-from-bus-from-parsenn-large.jpg View from the bus on the way home.

I haven’t ever talked much about work because it isn’t really the point of this blog.  However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun in its own way.  The people that I work with are a good group. The tribology and polymers groups are6 full time engineers and 2 interns (including me).  We sit on the 4th floor and generally have quite a bit of fun. Below are some photos.

p2220124-large.JPG Zimmer ski day at Pizol.  Daniel in the middle with my boss Thorsten on the right in the blue and red jacket.

p2220123-large.JPG Look at that!  Only 8,300 km home!

p2220128-large.JPGMy colleagues Eik and Christine on the way back down to Pizol.

p3090160-large.JPG Making my American colleague feel at home during his visit by building him a cubicle (we don’t have them here).

dscn2257-large.JPG Maria (the other intern) and me doing Zimmer’s dirty work.  Literally.

Holidays…again? …

February 27th, 2010

So after a rigorous 6 weeks of work, I am now on the first of my 2 14-day holidays this spring. (I really am spoiled working in the school systems in France – compared to Seth’s Swiss 40 hour work week and regular holidays, it is starting to make me feel a bit guilty!) But it is also a great opportunity for me to spend some time with Seth, and see some more of Europe. I spent the first week of my holiday skiing with some of my roommates and friends in Grenoble. The second week, I went on a road trip to Italy with my roommates, then picked up Seth in Switzerland and we went on to visit Elaine and Patrick in Amsterdam. Below are some of the pictures from this wonderful holiday. Tomorrow, Seth unfortunately has to go back home, but I am going to make a brief stop in Brussels on my way back to Grenoble to visit my cousin Kate who lives there. She tells me there are over 3,000 different kinds of beer there, so I am not sure if 24 hours will be enough time…

The first is a picture of my beautiful bedroom in Grenoble, and the second is the group of kidsthat I get to teach snowboarding to each Wednesday. The photo is taken on a warm, sunny Wednesday – one of those days where being paid to be there feels a bit unreal. On the snowy, windy, freezing days, it is a little bit harder to feel quite so lucky!


These pictures are from the week of my holidays I spent in Grenoble. Two of my roommates were on their last weeks of being unemployed (both have recently found jobs), so we found time during the week to make delicious lunches and do some snowshoeing and skiing. My favorite outing was a warm sunny day where we snowshoed up a mountain, but brought sleds for the ride down!



For the second week of holidays, all 5 of my roommates, myself, 2 guitars, and a hookah piled into a rental van and drove down to Florence to visit a friend and spend a few days in Italy. Loic, a friend from Grenoble who is doing part of his doctorate in Florence, was a wonderful host, showing us the local markets and cultural sights. However, we were horrified at some of the things we could buy at the market – things like testicles and noses. In the end, being French, we ended up with croissants and cheese…not very adventurous! Olivier and Jeremy tried out their guitar skills in front of the Duomo, surprising everyone by making enough money to buy us all lunch!

That is all I have for now, I am going to wait for Seth to upload some of his pictures from our time in Switzerland and the Netherlands. We have spent a really great time together here in the Netherlands, and I will be sad to see him go tomorrow and return to a normal life of work (for the next 6 weeks).

Adventures in the Alps

January 31st, 2010

We have both been keeping busy with work since Christmas, but have also been doing our best to maximize our weekends to explore the majestic mountains in the area. We are currently hanging out together in Saas Fee, which is a beautiful town in the south of Switzerland surrounded by 18 or so 4,000 metre peaks. We have decided that it is the Swiss equivalent of Aspen, Colorado, and have been enjoying exploring the town deciding who has the most skintight ski bunny suit! We wanted to upload some of the pictures we have from the last few weeks of mountain adventures, both separately and together. Here in Saas Fee, we rented an apartment for the weekend, with the intentions of exploring the over 200 km. of pistes in the ski area, but when we arrived and saw the temperature forecast (-48 with windchill!!!!) we quickly revised our plan and spent the time cross country skiing on the valley floor, walking around and looking at the views, and cooking delicious meals. It has been a really wonderful weekend, but we are looking forward to skiing together in March, when the temperatures will be more humane.
dscf3742_907×680.jpg The updated weather report showing only -41C

p1310095resized.JPG Claire on the balcony of our room.

p1300090resized.JPGdscf3738_907×680.jpg Some photos from around Saas Fee

dscf3736_907×680.jpg Breakfast.  That’s fresh squeezed blood orang juice!

pano3.jpg A panorama of the end of the Saas Fee Valley

p1310102resized.JPG Claire on the cross-country ski track

Seth here, I have spent the last couple of weekends checking out the skiing in eastern Alps, spending one day in Davos at Persenn and one day with friends in Lichtenstein at Malbun. Below are some photos from those trips

daniel-and-lucy-in-liechtensteinresized.JPG My friends Lucy and Daniel at Malbun

davos_parsenn2.jpg A view from the lift at Parsenn.

davos-longest-gondola-ever-30-min-ride.JPG The longest gondola EVER at Parsenn. The ride was more than 20 min!

And now it’s Claire, and I am sharing some pictures I have from exploring some of the local Grenoble massifs with two of my roommates. I have moved into a new apartment with 5 French people, and have been really enjoying learning french cooking with them (we all cook and eat together most nights, around 10pm or later!). Luckily, they all like to ski, and Oliver 1, Olivier 2, and me explored an area in the Belledonne range. We hiked up the mountain, took the skins off our skis, and then proceeded to have one of the funniest descents I have ever experienced. It came to light at the top that while one of the Oliviers loved the mountains and was an avid snowshoer, he had only ever skied once. Needless to say, the descent was slow and comical, as he tried to learn to snowplow for the first time in knee-deep power.