Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Corsica - TBF FREAKS OUT At Breakfast!

One of the things I look forward to the most when Mrs. TBF and I go away on vacation is the hotel breakfast. When we're at home, I'm a good boy, and I always eat a very light breakfast. When we go away - it's time for me to gorge!
Now, it doesn't have to be a huge buffet breakfast - although that's my preference. Let me tell you, there's nothing better as far as I'm concerned as coming back to our breakfast table with the contents of every chafing dish on the buffet table stacked on my plate resembling either the Eiffel Tower or the Great Pyramids (depending what kind of mood I'm in). So when I saw that our hotel in Corsica had no buffet breakfast, I just gave it a c'est la vie and decided I'd go a la carte (Damn those French lessons paid off!).
I saw that they offered a "continental breakfast", but I decided to take a pass. At 25 Euros, it seemed kind of expensive for coffee, orange juice, a bread basket, and maybe a couple of other things like preserves, etc. I began to peruse the a la carte offerings, and that's when I saw it: freshly squeezed orange juice: 7.50 Euros.
I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It had to be some kind of mistake. I looked at the rest of the menu - an omelette was 8 Euros, scrambled eggs and bacon were 9 Euros, a pot of coffee was 5 Euros. I looked around at the other tables. I thought that maybe people would have a liter pitcher of OJ on the table, but NO! It was just a regular little juice glass FOR 7.50 EUROS!!!!! It took every muscle fiber in my body to avoid being like Captain Kirk in the scene from the Star Trek movie where his whole body begins to tremble, and then he just yells out "KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNN!"
I started saying things like "It's SHITE like this really FARKS with my mind!", and other muttered verbal lashings that are still echoing somewhere in the valleys of Corsica. I seem to recall using the word "extortion" at some point. I might have wished eternal hell on the Corsicans at some point. Perhaps a curse was attempted - I'm not really sure. I suddenly became aware of the fact that it was at this point that Mrs. TBF began speaking to me in an unemotional monotone as if she were a hostage negotiator speaking to a terrorist. "", she said. ""

I have to admit that she handled the situation very well. That was, until I had finished my breakfast. My blood pressure was just coming back down to normal when she told me to look at the table next to us. The people had just finished their breakfast also, and they were getting up from the table. That's when I noticed it: the lady had left about a half-inch of her OJ in the glass. I began to freak out again, and that's when Mrs. TBF took this picture.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Corsica - Boat Trip

Yes, we actually did venture off the grounds of our hotel while we were in Corsica. After having breakfast the first morning, and passing on the 7.50 Euro freshly squeezed orange juice (more about that later...I'm still fuming...!), we went to the front desk to see what there was to do as far as activities were concerned. We already knew that we weren't going to be taking taxis all over creation, so we were pleased to find out that there was a boat that left for Ajaccio several times a day from a dock about a 30-minute walk from our hotel in Porticcio. And, the best part??? The round-trip boat ride only cost 8 Euros per person (as opposed to 90 Euros for the taxi).
I just want to point out that six years ago, when we were living in the U.S., the thought of a one hour round-trip walk for a boat ride would have resulted in me heading directly to a chaise lounge next to the pool with a cigar in one hand and a stack of magazines in the other. But alas, we are now Europeanized, and we actually relished the idea of getting out for a little exercise. 30-minute walk? No problem.
So, we made the walk along the side of the road. We occasionally came across a sidewalk, but most of the journey was along dusty paths. After arriving at the boat dock, we actually decided to buy tickets for a three-hour journey to the Sanguinaire Islands. We weren't expecting much more than a leisurely boat ride, but it actually ended up being the highlight of our trip.

We didn't realize it when we booked the trip, but we actually were allowed to get off the boat and roam around the island for an hour. The main island, a nature preserve, was quite beautiful (in a deserted island sort of way). It's covered with with le maquis which is what the Corsicans call the wild herbs that grow all over the island. The sun was shining, the seagulls were screeching, the breeze was blowing, and there we were looking out at the blue sea. It was really nice!

We hiked up the rather rocky hillside, admiring the flora from time to time. Mrs. TBF insisted that this was wild chamomile. I wasn't so sure. Anyway, we saw a bunch of wild fennel, rosemary, and a bunch of other plants we weren't able to identify. After awhile, our attention pretty much turned to the fact that a lot of the people walking around the island had very inappropriate footwear for hiking up "crumbling" hillsides. Plus, they looked as if they hadn't had too much exercise in....oh, let's just say...a long, LONG time. I was kind of expecting to see someone come sliding down the hillside sporting a nasty "le maquis" rash, but no such luck!

Oh...and by the way...does this look gay? We like to use this big Longchamp bag as a travel/beach bag when we go on our trips. There I was, minding my own business, when suddenly Mrs. TBF said something like: "Um...hon [short for honey...aww...aren't we cute?] about if you give me the bag. You look...kind"
Imagine that! The nerve!
On the way back to Ajaccio, we actually saw real-live, wild dolphins surfacing by the boat. Dolphins in Corsica - who knew?
After arriving back at Porticcio, we ambled down the dock on our "sea legs" and then set off on the 30-minute walk back to the hotel. Suddenly, Mrs. TBF didn't think that me carrying the orange bag was so "gay"!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Corsica - Screw The Diet!

We ate very, VERY well in Corsica. We ventured into Ajaccio the first night for dinner next to the marina at a place called Le Floride. Although the dinner was very good, my complaint was that it was about a twenty minute taxi ride to go from our hotel to Ajaccio. Actually, it wasn't the twenty minutes that bothered me. What bothered me was the fact that the taxi ride cost 45 EUROS EACH WAY! The taxis were more expensive than they are in Switzerland - and they're pretty freakin' expensive here. The food at the restaurant was good, but in my opinion not worth spending an extra 90 Euros on transportation. So, as is often the case, our frugal inner voices began speaking to us and we decided to eat dinner at the hotel from the second night on. This turned out to be a very good move, because the dinners at the hotel were OUTSTANDING!

The restaurant (L'Arbousier), had a four-course prix fixe dinner every night (actually five-course if you count the amuse-bouche) which didn't cost much more than the round-trip Ajaccio taxi fare. Plus, the food was really, REALLY, good. We ate a lot of fish, "baby pig", Corsican cheese, all washed down with some really good Corsican wine. Having never really had Corsican wine before, I just asked the two head waiters (one looked like Freddie Mercury, the other one looked like Vladimir Putin) to pick the wine for us each night. They did just that, and I have to say that they picked out some really nice wines. Corsican wine - a big thumbs up from The Big Finn! Dinner at L'Arbousier - four thumbs up (from me and Mrs. TBF)!!!

After that first night out in Ajaccio, we only ventured out of the hotel for a meal one other time. On our second to last day in Corsica, we rode the boat (more about that later) to Ajaccio and had a nice lunch at a place called L'Altru Versu. Agnes - the lady who couldn't locate a rental car without a stick shift for us - recommended it. And, I have to admit, that she didn't steer us wrong. Although I was a bit concerned when we arrived at the nearly empty restaurant, our starters came out and looked pretty darned tasty (they were!). Our table was outside right next to the front door, and we got on with the business of enjoying our lunch. Suddenly, this huge tour group showed up (it must have been a least thirty people), plus a few other couples, and the restaurant that had been nearly empty minutes earlier was suddenly packed! Fortunately for us, we had put in our order just before the group showed up, so it wasn't too long before we had our lamb chops wrapped in bacon main course. It was so good that I'm not ashamed to admit that I picked up my chops and gnawed them down to the bone. Then, I took Mrs. TBF's chops after she was finished, and...I gnawed on the bones until they were almost void of any meat whatsoever! DAMN....THEY WERE GOOD!!!! that I think about it...that was almost the perfect TBF day: sunshine, bacon, cigar, & marital relations. The only thing missing was a sauna - I don't think our hotel had one.
I guess you can never have it all!

Corsica - The Patio

We ended up not doing as much as we had planned during last week's trip to Corsica. Our original plan was to rent a car for a couple of days and drive around the island to take in some of the sights. However, the concierge at our hotel had "trouble locating" (I say...didn't try very hard) a rental car with an automatic transmission. I never learned to drive a stick, and Mrs. TBF hadn't driven one for about twenty years. Deciding that switchback roads with a 1,000 meter drop wasn't the place to learn/practice - even though the concierge said, "...don't you just want to try it?" - we opted to pass on the rental car. For the most part, we just relaxed around our very nice hotel - Le Maquis.

Probably my favorite part of the vacation was that our room had an enormous patio. Although we didn't have the biggest room at the hotel by any means, I'd say that we probably had the largest, or at least second largest, patio. It was really a nice bonus, and we spent a lot of time on the patio being lazy, looking at the scenery, soaking up the sunshine (only one bad weather day out of six!), watching the sunsets, and pretty much doing a bunch of nothing.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Five nights at Le Maquis in Porticcio, Corsica, France: one "gazillion" Euros...

Prix fixe dinner at the hotel's restaurant: significantly less than one "gazillion" Euros...

Coming back to your room to find that turn-down service replenished your dwindling supply of toilet paper: PRICELESS!

Stay tuned - more pictures from Corsica will soon be posted!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Let The Traveling Begin!

The bad news is that we have to take a taxi to Basel Airport at 5:15 tomorrow morning in order to catch a 6:30 a.m. flight. The good news is that we are leaving for Corsica tomorrow morning for five days of relaxation/adventure.
We're flying on Air France which means that I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they don't go on strike tomorrow morning (which is always a possibility with Air France). After connecting in Paris, we'll fly down to Ajaccio. If all goes well, we should be at our hotel by noon.
We're staying at a place called Le Maquis. If you check out their website, you'll see why we're really excited about this trip. It's a very small hotel which, from the pictures, looks like it might just be as close to "Heaven on Earth" as you can get. We actually booked our room on August 20, 2005, AND we had to put down a 30% deposit to hold the room! So, the anticipation has been building for some time now.
This will be the first of four trips we'll be taking over the next five weeks or so. In June, we'll be taking little weekend trips to Alicante (Spain), London, and Liverpool. I'm not going to take the laptop along, but we'll take loads of pictures and post them when we get back. We both have our own cameras now, so that should mean twice as many pictures as before.
We'll talk to you next week.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Yes, I'll admit I haven't been keeping up with recent events...but I've been a busy traveller. Just wanted to take a quick flashback moment. Remember when TBF was in Chicago last month? Well, I was also busy travelling. While he was gone I went to Athens (business), Milano (pleasure - shopping), and Geneva (business). Following are a couple of pictures - note that I inherited the old camera now that TBF has a new one. The first picture is the view from my hotel room in Athens - the famous Acropolis. The second picture is me and my oh so lovely companions (Rammy and Di) on our fast and productive weekend in Milano for shopping. The bar tender at the Grand Hotel e di Milano took this very nice shot of us just before we went to dinner. Sorry - no pictures from Geneva - that was all work - must protect the innocent.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Weird Day...

Today was a weird day for me. Several things happened to me that just do not normally happen.

1. I was driving back from Reinach toward out apartment when a car heading toward me suddenly veered into my lane. The car was about 100 meters or so in front of me - so death was not imminent. However, it was close enough for me to notice that there was a driving school sign on top of it, AND I was able to see the driving instructor grab the steering wheel and steer the car back into their lane.

2. After arriving back at home, I walked next door to the Migros to buy some plants for the garden. After buying the plants, I got into the elevator with a Swiss woman who proceeded to speak to me in Swiss-German. After listening to a couple of completely undecipherable sentences, I gave her a "wie bitte?". She repeated herself, and then I just said in English: "I'm sorry, I can't understand one word when somebody speaks to me in Swiss-German." She replied in English: "I'm problem...nevermind". I wonder what she was talking about...

3. I took the elevator up to our apartment. When I pulled my cool cigar puncher key chain out of my pocket, the magnetic tip disconnected and...fell down the stairwell to the second floor. ended up having to go down, down, down until I finally found the thing. Hey, I like my cigars and my cigar puncher (sorry dad). What can I say?

4. I took the 4:01 tram to the gym. Upon getting on the tram, I noticed that there was only one open to a nun. I have nothing against nuns, but I just thought it was kind of strange - me sitting with my gym bag in my lap, listening to Billy Idol on my iPod, next to a nun in her full "penguin" regalia. Why was that the only seat available. Is one not supposed to share a seat with a nun for some reason?

5. After working out, I was getting dressed in the locker room next to an old man who was putting on his adult diaper. First of all, I've never actually seen an adult diaper, and I've definitely never seen a person openly wearing one in public. The guy was older than dirt, and I have to say that I was pretty impressed that somebody that old AND needing to wear an adult diaper would still feel compelled to go to a gym for a workout....KUDOS!

6. (added the next day) I just remembered this one: It was a nice evening, so Mrs. TBF and I had our first al fresco meal on the balcony. We ate our salads, and then I threw a couple of pieces of salmon onto the grill. When the salmon had about a minute to go, I asked Mrs. TBF to go in and check on the asparagus that was steaming....or, supposed to be steaming. As it turns out, I forgot to put water in the pot. That's something that I can honestly say that I have never done before. Fortunately, the asparagus (and the pot) was not ruined. Doh!

That's it. Weird is exhausting.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Home at last

Yes, I'm home for a while after a week of travel. The business part of the trip took me to Grand Rapids, MI which was much bigger than I expected. It has a population of about 195,000 people - so I was told. It was an interesting looking place filled with red brick buildings that were either old restored and converted warehouses or new buildings that are made to look like restored warehouses. It had a surprisingly large number of restaurants and a lot of activity. From there I went to visit my mom and other family and friends for 2 1/2 days before heading back home. While in the US I ate some things not readily available locally or very expensive like sushi, a juicy hamburger and BBQ ribs (not readily available). I took mom out a couple of times for dinner, had breakfast with TMS and TSK, and spent some quality time with TBF's sis and her family. And, not to go unmentioned - dinner on my entry evening with my bro and sis-in-law. I also did some shopping, although not very successfully, but managed to get some basics that I like from the US - socks, hosery and underwear. I arrived home Sunday evening after missing TBF for the week and then had to off to Nyon yesterday for a brief visit. But, now I'm home and enjoying an evening with TBF. It's time for us to start discussing our next adventure in travelling, so I have to go now. More later.

Open Wide!

I've never been to a dentist in Switzerland, and neither has Mrs. TBF. We just go to our old dentist in Deerfield, Illinois when we're back visiting the family and friends in Chicago. We've been going to Dr. Mike Burns (don't call him Burnzo!) for about twenty years, he's familiar with us, and it's just plain easy. BTW...Mrs. TBF just had her first cavity EVER filled while she was in Chicago last week. Hooray!!! Burnzo...I mean...Dr. Burns finally makes some money off of Mrs. TBF.
From what I've heard, going to the dentist in Switzerland can set a person back a small fortune. And, from what I've seen in our local grocery store newspaper, this must be a fact because there are three ads which advertise traveling all the way to Hungary for dental work. People, I kid you not.
The first ad claims that "our bus leaves every Sunday for Hungary!"'re joking, right? A bus full of people with toothaches traveling from Switzerland to Hungary? No thanks!
Then, a couple of pages later, there's another ad that promises "...huge savings!", ten years of experience, and a 5-year guarantee. Wow!
Finally, a couple of pages after that, there is yet another ad that claims " can save THOUSANDS of francs!" This one is just a travel agency that promotes their "luxury bus" that will whisk you away to Héviz, Hungary to a "modern dental practice" (I hope so!) so that you can have done whatever it is you're needing done to your teeth. Travel packages begin at "399 francs for 8 days".
I'm really curious about this. Does anybody here in Switzerland know of anybody who's taken one of these trips in order to have work done on their teeth? If so, what the heck was the problem that would make it worth traveling all the way to Hungary? Can one really save "thousands of francs"? I mean, I travel all the way to Chicago for my check-ups, cleaning, and x-rays, but I'm not doing it to save money. I'm doing it's just plain convenient. Plus, it's just one of the many things I do, like clockwork, when I'm in Chicago.
Eight-day trip to Hungary? I think I'd rather pull out my own teeth myself. Don't laugh...I had an uncle who did it. That's right - he pulled out his own teeth with a pair of pliers. But, that's a story for another time.

All I can say is: thank God Mrs. TBF and I have good teeth.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Let Me Be The First... wish The Medium Swede and The Sour Kraut a very happy 40-something birthday.
TMS and TSK are an extremely rare breed. They are husband and wife who...were born on the same day AND in the same year. Wow!
I think...I mean...I KNOW they were a bit miffed because I didn't blog about us getting together while I was in Chicago. But, I had it in mind that I'd hold off until their birthdays. Honest!

I've know TMS for going on THIRTY years (WOW!), and I've known TSK for the better part of fifteen. They have two boys, and a dog named Zoë. Zoë is (I think) eleven years old now. When I was at their house a few weeks ago, they kept asking me: "Doesn't she look good for her age?" To which I replied something like: "Yeah...but in a couple of years...she'll RIP OUT YOUR HEART!!!" I know...nice guest!

TMS, TSK, the boys, and I ended up going to a Mexican restaurant near their home for some muy bueno Mexican food (duh!) and some margaritas that were touted as being made with Grand Marnier. Let me tell you - I'm gonna go out on a limb here by saying that my margaritas go a little heavier on the Grand Marnier than these puppies...but, they were pretty good nonetheless. Plus...THEY WERE HUGE (I think I saw a goldfish swimming in mine)!!! I'm not'd need to finance the margaritas if they were this big in Switzerland!!!
Now, The Medium Swede and The Sour Kraut told me that they don't really care to have their blogs linked for the rest of the blogging world to see. But hey...when the heck did I ever listen to what anybody else said? Plus, I think they'd make a mighty fine addition to our little blogging community.

What do you think?

Now You See Her...

...and now you don't.
I picked Mrs. TBF up at Basel Airport yesterday afternoon. Yup, she was gone for a week. I never like when she's away, but a whole week...sheesh! Fortunately, I stayed busy getting the garden ready, going to German conversation class, painting class, and a million other minor tasks that consume my waking hours. Plus, there was the added bonus of being invited to dinner at Andy and Di's house on Friday night ( was Di and the kids since Andy didn't get back from Copenhagen until after midnight!) and John and Rammy's house on Saturday night. Oh yeah...I ate well while Mrs. TBF was away.

On the way home from the airport yesterday afternoon, Mrs. TBF said, " remember that I'm going to Nyon tomorrow...right?". "Um...yeah...I guess I remember", I stuttered (I didn't really!). I have to admit, that her going away again threatened to put a damper on the evening. However, we managed to enjoy a sunny evening in the garden, eat a light dinner, and then enjoy a rooftop fire before Mrs. TBF ran out of gas. I can't really remember when she went to bed - something like 10:30 p.m. I went to bed at midnight, woke up the next morning, and then drove Mrs. TBF to the train station. Now she's gone again.
I just spoke with her a little while ago while she was having dinner with some colleagues in Geneva. For some reason, it bothers me more when she's away on business a couple of hours away rather than overseas. Oh least she'll be home tomorrow evening. Then, it'll be only four days until we go away on a 5-day "holiday" (...Medium Swede: Are you cringing?) to Corsica! Plus, after we get home from Corsica, I think Mrs. TBF doesn't go back to work for four more days!
I guess we'll be seeing a lot of each other then!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Two Saturdays In A Row...

Last Saturday, we had our Cinco de Mayo party. Last night, it was Indian night at John and Rammy's house.
Even though they had seen us just one week ago, John and Rammy (along with their son Oliver) invited me (Mrs. TBF is still in Chicago), Canadian-Swiss, and Orange-X, to their house for a very nice evening of authentic Indian cooking (Rammy was born in India). As usual, Rammy laid out a spread that caused us to eat until we almost burst. As if the Indian food wasn't enough, she also served an unbelievable dessert that resulted in me feeling the need to loosen the belt a bit. Afterward, the men went out for cigars on the covered porch. It was raining, and John said something like: "I like the sound of the rain when it hits the leaves." Which caused me to say something like: "Of course you're English!" A little while later, the ladies joined us on the porch. Then, Rammy said: "Oh...I like the sound of the rain hitting the leaves." Once again: "Of course you're English!" All the while I was thinking: "When the Hell will it ever stop raining in Basel for God's sake??!?!?!"
It's now 2:30 a.m. I just got home (thanks to Canadian-Swiss and Orange-X for picking me up AND bringing me back home), and it's getting to be time to hit the sack. Mrs. TBF is on her way to O'Hare, and she'll be taking the 9:15 p.m. flight to London, and then it's onward to Basel. I'll pick her up at the airport later this afternoon.
Home at last!

Friday, May 12, 2006

It's Been One Year...Already?

I hooked up my...oops...our PowerBook and iPod one year ago yesterday. To say that they've had an impact on our lives would be a bit of an understatement.
First of all, the iPod has totally changed the way we listen to, buy, and think about our music. The way we think about music has become totally song-based rather than CD-based. Secondly, by downloading our friends' CDs, we've really broadened our musical horizons. We listen to stuff now (i.e. French, Italian, Cuban, country, folk, techno, etc.) that we never would have listened to before because we wouldn't have bothered to buy the CDs. Finally, by using our Bose docking station, we've found that we just listen to music and talk after dinner rather than turning on the T.V. I'm not kidding, there are weeks when the T.V.'s probably on only for a total of two hours.
As far as the PowerBook goes...I love it. Switching from Windows to Mac was really easy, and going from a desktop to a laptop (along with our wireless network) was a great move. I love the fact that I don't have to go into our office to use the computer. I can use the thing on the balcony, rooftop garden, or wherever - AWESOME!
So now that it's been a year, I thought I'd report on our "most played" songs. Here it goes:

1. Sarah McLachlan - Possession

2. Geddy Lee - Working At Perfekt
Sarah McLachlan - Plenty (tie)

3. Foo Fighters - Times Like These
Stereophonics - Maybe Tomorrow (tie)

4. H.I.M. - Sweet Pandemonium
Pink Floyd - Hey You
U2 - Beautiful Day (tie)

5. Cheap Trick - Surrender
H.I.M. - Join Me
Sarah McLachlan - Ice
Queensrÿche - Silent Lucidity

Most of the time, we just listen to the songs in shuffle mode. Therefore, I'm not really sure why Sarah McLachlan is so prominently represented on the list. I like her, but it's not like I make a point of listening to her. Maybe Mrs. TBF is listening to her when she's traveling.

Anyway...I'd say we have room for about 3,000 more songs. We're up to 6,533 songs, 19.5 days of music, and counting!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Getting Soft...

While I was cleaning out the office last night, I came across a business card I picked up after biting the shite out of a steak at Pete Miller's in Wheeling, Illinois with Jo, Perry, & Renee a couple of weeks ago. This reminded me of something: I do NOT like my vegetables and pasta al dente.
You see, I ate a pretty nice rib-eye-bone-in at Pete Miller's. No complaints about the steak here. However, they served up a side of green beans that were kind of crispy. I'm sorry, I'm going to go against the rest of the world (excluding my dad) here, but vegetables should be soft. I know...I KNOW...vegetables retain more of their vitamins if you "undercook" them, but I take vitamins - COOK MY VEGETABLES UNTIL THEY'RE SOFT (not soggy)...THEY TASTE BETTER!!!
The waitress came by and asked how everything was. I told her: "You ask people how they want their steak done. You should also ask people how they want their vegetables done." She offered to take the beans back to have the chef "soften" them, but I opted for the crispy vegetables instead of soft vegetables with spit in 'em...thank you very much.
I say pasta should also be soft. Once again, I'm going against most of the civilized world here. Everybody, that is, except for my mother-in-law Jo - and she's an Italian-American for God's sake! Here's my formula: if the package says eight minutes to al dente, I boil it for eight minutes, turn off the heat, and then leave the pot on the burner for another minute. Soft and slippery pasta...YUMMY!!!! I have got to begin remembering to tell the waiter when I order pasta that I like it beyond al dente. It really bothers me when there's a bite to pasta. Al dente means undercooked dagnammit!!! Has the whole world gone insane???
SOFT...PEHMEÄ...WEICH...DOUX!!!!!! Thanks for allowing me to get that off my chest.

I'll be over for dinner tomorrow evening at 8:00 p.m.!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Why Am I Still Awake?

Because Mrs. TBF is in the U.S. on business, that's why! She's in the exciting town of Grand Rapids, MI this week for meetings. Conveniently, she connected in Chicago which means that she'll be able to visit with family (and maybe a couple of friends) on her way back home.
As you may or may not know, my schedule goes into the crapper when she's gone. Last night, I went to bed at 3:00 a.m. and I woke up this morning at 11:00 a.m. Earlier this evening, I read Gretchen's post about cleaning out her kitchen cabinets which inspired me to go about organizing our office. Of course, I became 100% absorbed in organizing the office which meant that I completely lost track of time. That was, however, until Mrs. TBF called around 1:00 a.m. Basel-time to let me know that she and a group of colleagues were heading over to The B.O.B. for some dinner. After speaking with her for a few minutes, I became completely reimmersed in all things organization. Now it's 2:08 a.m., and I'm supposed to wake up in less than six hours so that I can make it to my German conversation class on time. Ummm...I don't think that's going to be happening.

I sure hope I can wake up in time for my watercolor painting class at noon!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cinco de Mayo 2006...

First order of business: special thanks go to Kirk for pointing out to me in an e-mail that it's CINCO de Mayo, not CINQO de Mayo. I've been spelling it incorrectly for ten years, and he's the first person to ever point out my mistake.

We still find it hard to believe that this was our FIFTH Cinqo de Mayo party in Switzerland. How the time flies... As usual, a few days worth of shopping, getting the margaritas ready, and cooking culminated in another festival of fun. We had about twenty people at our apartment this year, and that was a good number. Also, we actually had decent weather for our party for the first time ever in Basel which meant that we were actually able to bring the party outdoors a bit without freezeing our butts off. Here are a few pictures...

Clockwise from bottom left: King observes while Gretchen (eating for two), Kirk, DxDave, Judy, and Andy enjoy Mrs. TBF's Mexican cooking. Finding ingredients for Mexican food in Switzerland can be a bit of a challenge. Last year, we found a place in Basel where we can buy tomatillos, ancho peppers, and poblano peppers. That was a real find because before finding that place we usually ended up bringing the stuff back with us from Chicago...which could really add some weight to the luggage.

First spill of the party honors went to Chris. Her drink fell to the floor in the exact spot where Gretchen spilled her drink last year. However, since Chris was walking with a crutch due to a jogging mishap, we cut her some slack. Having learned from previous years that Cinco de Mayo spills are a normal occurrence, the mop and bucket were on hand, and the spill was cleaned up within seconds. We even let her have another drink...or two.

Not too long after Chris spilled her drink, Kirk also had a spill. But I have to say that this spill was much more bizarre. Kirk and I were talking out on the balcony, when suddenly his plastic margarita cup just broke in his hand. I told him to ease up on the "Kung Fu grip", the mop came out, and a new drink was in his hand in a couple of minutes. Gretchen holds the remains of his cracked cup. I think wasted Margarita officially counts as a sin!

Cinco mamacitas: our next-door neighbor Suzanne, Mrs. TBF, Judy, Rammy, and Canadian-Swiss. The first version of this picture was not suitable for a "family-oriented" blog such as mine. So, I opted for the tamer "G-rated" version. Aaaahhhhh...the magical powers of the Margarita!

Wendy declared me the winner over Eric in the smooth face competition. I'm glad I remembered to shave right before the party.

I have to say that we have really good neighbors. I've heard many stories about how intolerant the Swiss are regarding noise - our neighbors must be the exception. We've had several dinner parties that have gone into the "wee hours", and we've never had a complaint from any neighbor. I even saw the lady who lives right below us in the elevator yesterday afternoon, and she didn't even mention the noise. Overall, I'd say that we were pretty well behaved at this party, and the party actually didn't go past 4 a.m. like past parties. As a matter of fact, this picture of the last guests to leave - Rammy, John, Canadian-Swiss (sporting her new glasses), and Orange-X - was taken at 1:54 a.m. And I have to say that they all look like they're in pretty good shape.
Maybe I'll have to increase the strength of the Margaritas and Mexican iced teas next year!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Geneva Just May Be...

my new favorite Swiss city. I like Luzern, Lausanne is good too, Basel, Bern, and Zürich are fine, but I decided yesterday that Geneva might be the Swiss city where I would most like to live.
Yesterday, while Mrs. TBF was working her butt off in Nyon, I took the train to Geneva with no particular plan of action. The weather was great, I had on some comfortable walking shoes, and off I went...
I think one of the reasons why Geneva appeals to me is that it's built along a lakeshore so it reminds me of Chicago. First I walked along the shoreline right up to jet d'eau. While I was standing there, I decided that it might be nice to see what it looked like from the lake. So I paid my 9 CHF (an unbelievable bargain), hopped on a boat that took me on a "Beautiful Shores of Geneva" one-hour cruise, and spent the next hour basking in the sun. It's a good thing I had decided to slather SPF 15 on my head and face that morning.
At 12:15, I was back on shore and decided to get something to eat. Unfortunately, most of the outdoor tables at the various restaurants were packed, so I decided to head up the hill to check out the archaeological site under the Saint-Pierre Cathedral. Mrs. TBF and I have tried to see it two times. The first time, it was closed. The second time, the lady sitting at the desk wouldn't let us in because it closed at 5 p.m. even though it was only 4:30 p.m. We told her we'd go through it quickly, but she would not budge. So, I'm happy to report that this time I was successful in seeing the site. It was pretty cool, but not the greatest thing I've ever seen.

At around 2:00 p.m., my stomach was talking to me. The lunch crowd had all gone back to work, so I sat down at a shady spot outside of a place called 50-50 and enjoyed a pizza and 1664. Let me tell really hit the spot.
Having refueled, I meandered back through the old town (which I think is one of the nicest ones I've seen in Switzerland) to Museé Rath for the Le Corbusier ou la Synthèse des arts exhibit which I really enjoyed (and managed to stay focused on for more than an hour...believe it or not...), and then it was time for a quick jolt of caffeine before heading back to the train station, and back to Nyon.

Mrs. TBF took a taxi from the office to the Nyon train station, we bought a couple of Cokes and some snacks, and then we hopped on the train for the 2.5 hour ride back to Basel.
...not a bad day...for both of us!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

7:04 a.m.!!!

That's what time my deep R.E.M. sleep ended this morning. Let me backtrack a bit...
Mrs. TBF had to go to Nyon on business for one night, and asked me if I'd like to come along. We took the direct train from Basel to Nyon yesterday evening, and checked into the Hotel Real Nyon at around 8 p.m. I noticed on their website that the Hotel Real claims to be a 4-star hotel. I'd say that's a bit of a stretch. It's not bad, but I would say it's more like a 3-star hotel. It's kind of minimalist (which I say means no place to sit except your bed), but it is very clean AND it is right across the street from Lac Léman. Very clean, that is, except for the fact that the shower has a shower curtain instead of a shower door. I don't know about you, but Mrs. TBF and I both find this to be kind of gross. You know, you turn on the water, the shower curtain moves inward, and then you spend the rest of your shower fighting to keep the curtain from sticking to your body. If that isn't bad enough, just keep in mind that the previous 500 or so guests (some possibly of questionable hygiene) have done the exact same thing. You don't really think that hotel is cleaning, or changing, that shower curtain regularly, do you?
After checking in, we made the five-minute walk up the hill to a restaurant called Auberge du Chateau where we had a very nice dinner with our friend (and Mrs. TBF's colleague) Jeanette. A little soup, a little fish with veggies, a little cheese, a bottle of wine, some coffee, some nice conversation, the triple-Swiss-kiss goodbye, and voila...Mrs. TBF and I were back at the hotel and asleep by midnight.

7:04 a.m.!!!!
I woke up to what sounded like a man whistling. You know...the way you'd whistle to your dog. Then, I heard the sound of metal screeching against metal. This was followed by the sound of a truck backing up, and then followed shortly by what sounded like...a...cement mixer. Mrs. TBF mumbled something about it being Migros - the grocery store next to our house that has bread deliveries before 7 a.m. - but we weren't at home. I got up, looked out the window, and THIS is what I saw. As it turned out, the metal screeching was a huge crane, and it WAS a cement mixer. Amazingly, neither Mrs. TBF or I had noticed the night before that a multi deck parking lot is being built directly across the street from the hotel. Imagine that!
So, here's a tip for you if you ever decide to travel to Nyon and stay in this hotel: DEMAND A ROOM WITH A VIEW OF THE LAKE. You'll probably still hear some of the construction noise, but at least it won't be 25 meters from your bed.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Chicago IV - Not All Fun and Games!

Sorry. I'm really beginning to get bored writing about Chicago. It was one week ago today that I left Chicago for God's sake, and I'm feeling very uninspired right now. So, I'm going to keep the rest of the entries short.
I actually ventured into the city on Saturday to visit Dave, Shannon, and their two kids - Stella and Hazel. It was a beautiful day, so I decided to get about one minute of exercise by cutting their back lawn.
It was exhausting - I definitely needed a couple of beers after all that work.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Chicago III - Good Uncle/Bad Uncle

My trips to Chicago usually coincide with my parents' drive from Canada to their place in Florida in the fall, and then again when they make the return trip back to the Great White North in the spring. As you can see from these pictures, the folks will be heading back to Canada this spring sporting some nice tans. I actually had my mom put her face next to Sinead's face to emphasize the contrast.
Since my parents staying at my sister's house makes for a total of eight people sleeping under one roof, I end up staying at Jo's - two people sleeping under one roof...much more comfortable for me.
For the most part, my days while in Chicago involve me going to my sister's house first thing in the morning to witness the "going to school" mayhem, then I sit around for an hour or so reading the newspaper and drinking some coffee, then I go to the dentist/shopping/meet friends for lunch, etc., etc. I head back to the house when the kids are coming home from school, hang out for a while, and then either eat dinner there or go out to eat with friends or relatives. Late in the evening, I head back to Jo's house with a bunch of shopping bags, drop them off in my bedroom, and then watch some T.V. with Jo. Pretty exciting stuff, huh?

As I said before, the weather was pretty nice in Chicago this time which meant that I spent some time with the kids out in the yard. My nephew Finn wanted to climb a tree in the front yard, so he brought out a ladder from the garage to help because the first branch was about six feet off the ground. I took a couple of pictures of Fiona and Finn up in the tree, and then Fiona climbed back down leaving Finn up in the tree alone. Not being one to pass a good photo op, I immediately came up with the evil idea of taking away the ladder, which caused Finn to start blubbering while I snapped photo after photo. it was kind of a jerky thing to do, but it was too good an opportunity to pass up in my constant quest for "photographic gold"!