Friday, September 30, 2011

Ich bin ein Züricher...

About this time last year, our friends, Paul and Irina, and my husband and I, started talking about the possibility of our families taking a trip together.  We settled on a long weekend in Switzerland, Zurich to be precise (as the Swiss always are) with a day trip to Luzern.   This weekend coincided with our oldest's 13th birthday, so while the Dads took the boys to the largest indoor water park in Europe, Irina, her mom and I spent lovely day walking around Zurich.  Irina and I agreed that we were in love with this city.  Even though it's nestled in the Alps, we spotted a palm tree on a small side street in the city.  An environment that will sustain palm trees is one of my prerequisites for a retirement location...and Zurich also has the adorable window boxes with the hanging flowers that we associate with the Alps.  It's the best of both worlds!

We loved this florist shop...Walls of pine cones and baskets full of flowers...just gorgeous...
We went window shopping.  Zurich has some really nice high-end thrift shops with clothes, coats, shoes and one-of-a-kind jewelry...

We could totally see ourselves living in Zurich.  The streets are so neat and tidy, lined with shops and cafes, like Cafe Schober, whose hot chocolate (pictured below) was to die for!!  What a gem!
 
Another reason to live in Zurich?  The fondue!  This little restaurant with the blue cow on the balcony is said to be one of the best for fondue in Zurich.  It's called Restaurant Swiss Chuchi.  If you want to do fondue outside next to the lake, you can dine in restaurants where you'll be treated to candle light and faux fur blankets, like the one below to keep you warm.


















And what a lake it is...people were out sailing on this cool fall day!
This man was feeding quite the variety of water fowl!
Then as if it was fate, we stumbled upon the Grand Re-Opening of Zurich's equivalent of their Town Hall.  We had no idea what was going on.  Children were throwing confetti out of the windows, ladies were handing out cookies, and there were a ton of people milling around.  We asked someone what was going on and they told us about the re-opening and how the event was open to the public.  Since we had adopted the city as our own that day, we decided that as "Zurichers," we should go in and tour the town hall too.  It was our civic duty as new citizens...we were treated to a tour of the beautiful building and a great lunch with some kind of apple cider drink.  We didn't dare ask what it was, otherwise we might blow our cover...

We all know kids love confetti...
But apparently, it's pretty hard for adults to resist as well.  This lady is secretly sprinkling some confetti  in her friend's hair.  
Below is a look at the inside of "our" town hall!
Waiting in line for lunch...
Seriously, who wouldn't want to live in a city where you can come back to your parked car and find it covered with confetti...
We loved being "Zurichers," if only for one day!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday #70


Friday, September 23, 2011

Taking the Long Way to Puente Via Oropesa...

One of the last times we were in Puente, we visited the town bakery, Repostería Pastelería Gutierrez. We have named his fabulous spongy pound cakes, "puente cakes," (I know, very original), and we have to call ahead and place a special order or the townspeople get upset when we buy out the bakery. Anyway, when we went to get our Puente Cakes on our last trip, he asked us if we had ever visited Oropesa, less than 10 miles down the road. He told us there was a beautiful parador there that used to be an old fortress. We didn't have time to visit that day, as we needed to be back in Madrid to get the kids off the bus, but I decided the next time I went on a pottery run to Puente, I would make a stop at Oropesa. In July, I needed to go pick up some pottery we were giving as a wedding gift, and since being back for the bus wasn't an issue, my friend, Nicole, and I had the chance to check out the parador in Oropesa and to walk around the town...


Paradores are medieval castles, Moorish fortresses, monasteries, palaces and manor houses that have been converted into fabulous hotel and resort styles properties. According to Frommers.com, "Funded and maintained by the government, Spain's paradores are hostelries that showcase a building or setting of important cultural and historical interest. Some are much older and grander than others."


I have visited two, but stayed in none...yet! The parador in Toledo has a terrace with a breathtaking view of Toledo, and the one in Oropesa is truly stunning. What surprises me most about the paradores is the decor. They are decorated with beautiful old world style furniture, with paintings and tapestries covering the walls, oriental rugs cover the floors, dark woodwork is everywhere. I have to say the two I have seen are stunning. My friends stayed in the parador in Santiago de Compostela after walking the Camino for three days and loved it! Click on this link, http://www.parador.es/en/portal.do to go to the official Parador website which you can view in Spanish, English, French, German, as well as the regional languages of Catalunya and Galicia. The site has links to an online digital magazine, an online TV channel, special offers, and the abilities to view pictures of and make reservations at over 80 different paradors all across Spain.
Drive your car through this arcway to the inside of the fortress...Here is a park outside the fortress with a view of the mountains...

Inside the compund offers this view of the fortress...

The upstairs balcony now holds tables and chairs for guest to dine al fresco (a fuera in Spanish)...


Here is a view of the many palors of salons in the parador...notice the beautiful decor...

A cozy place to sit and wait...

The dining room...imagine the soldiers eating in the Mess Hall oh so long ago...


Looking up at the beautiful architecture...

Outside the fortress...

A view of the beautiful mountains...

Nicole and I decided to walk into the town...

The church above and a little hotel below...

I don't know what this used to be, but it looks like a great place to hold outdoor performances to me...

Another beautiful building in Oropesa...

Walking into the Plaza...

The clock tower is the tallest point in the plaza...

This worker definitely gets his exercise in...

A look down one of Oropesa's streets...

Doesn't seem to matter what country it is, old men everywhere seem to love to gather and chat...and they say ladies like to run their mouths. ;-)

An old man walking his dog...I think it is a requirement in Europe that all old men walk with their hands clasped behind their backs...

Oropesa is full of murals of armored soldiers on horseback...




Just charming...glad we took the detour from Puente that day...Hasta luego...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Interview with a Vampire...Bat!


We had a close encounters of a freaky kind the other night...all right, enough with the movie references...but for real, a bat flew into our house the other night and started flying all around the living room and dining room.


A quick aside on bats...am I the only one that thinks it is miracle that bats can fly at all? They totally look like they are going to fly out of the sky, and into your hair, at any moment.


Okay, back to the bat in our house...My husband and I were getting ready to go to bed, when he saw something out of the corner of his eye over in the dining room. He said he thought it was a bat. In our neighborhood, we have lots of bats that fly around dive bombing for insects from dusk 'til dawn. They've never bothered us, so I never really paid too much attention to them. I was happy to have them eating insects out in the yard, but in the house is an entirely different story. Considering that our house doesn't have screens, maybe it's surprising we haven't had a bat in the house before now. With it so bright inside, the bat couldn't find its way back outside. It kept bumping its head into the recessed ceiling lights. I suppose it thought they were like the street lights outside. I don't know, but every time it bumped against a light, it dove down into another spastic spiral. These spirals were coming closer and closer to my head. The bat was obviously NOT finding its way back outside and my screams weren't driving it out either. I told Marc to get a broom, which he apparently never uses since he had no idea where it was. We then had to waste time "discussing" why he didn't know where the broom was. And I told him that I handled the mouse in the house and so this was his problem to deal with this time, and I made a break for it.


A quick side note about the "mouse in the house..." Though you aren't supposed to bring up past events/arguments in your relationships, this was an emergency...When we lived in NY, our quarters (Army housing) were built in the 60's on top of a mountain...cracked foundations and frigid winter temperatures encouraged the little rodents to seek shelter inside our houses. I found this out one morning when I flicked on the bathroom light and found a mouse swimming in my toilet...not good...so began my epic battle to eradicate the mice. This usually meant driving them to the other side of the duplex, but you were mouse free for a while anyway...


So, like I said the bat was my husband's problem to solve, while I took shelter with the dog (I have no idea how he got there) in the foyer, where we watched behind the glass doors. My husband turned off the lights and searched all the nooks and crannies with the broom. We assume that once the lights were turned off, he flew away on his own because we never saw him again...Thank goodness...


No Edward Cullen in my future, after this encounter, if pressed about my Twilight leanings, I am now firmly planted on the Team Jacob side of the fence...hahahaha...Hasta luego...

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