So one time an old lady yelled at me in German...

Trip Start Jan 14, 2011
Trip End May 17, 2011

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Where I stayed
Gwen de la Kethulle's Apartment

Flag of Switzerland  , Vaud,
Friday, April 8, 2011

As I needed a bit of a pick-me-up last weekend, I journeyed to Lausanne, Switzerland to visit Gwen de la Kethulle, who was the French T.A. at PC last year, hailing from Grenoble, France. I was super excited for my first out-of-France voyage as well as my first time in a train sleeping car, or couchette. The earliest train to leave Montpellier for Lausanne on Saturday, April 2 was 10:00 AM, which would put me in Lausanne at 4:00 PM--no good. So I decided to take the night train, which left Montpellier at 10:50 PM on Friday. To kill time before I had to go to Gare St. Roch, I went out for a galette dinner with Ashley (yum!) and then just chilled in her apartment with her for a while. I arrived at the train station with plenty of time, just in case anything went awry (I was walking alone in the dark to the gare. Eek!). But at this point, I consider myself a train-pro (OK, maybe not a pro but I'm pretty comfortable with the whole system now), and I got on to the train without incident and found my little bed (the middle bunk of three). I had some trouble falling asleep, as I believe that the mattresses on those things are made of granite, and I'm unaccustomed to sleeping while moving, but I was just on the verge of sleep...when a train official opened the door to the room, letting light pour into the room, and then poked my half-conscious head demanding to see my ticket and 12-25 discount card--I was semi-conscious, blind, and a little ticked off. I drifted in and out of sleep for the duration of the seven-hour train ride until another train official came in to help someone else with their baggage. She informed us that there was a 30-minute delay, so we would not arrive in Mulhouse in time. Darnit! Consequently, I missed the train from Mulhouse to Basel and had to catch a later one, which placed me in the Basel train station with two hours to kill before the train to Lausanne. Sooooo...Basel is in the German-speaking portion of Switzerland so everyone was speaking German, which I, of course, do not understand. I was trying to get a little more comfortable while reading on the bench in the main hall of the station when this bitter old lady with a backpack came up to me and started scolding me in German! I gathered from her hand motions that she was telling me to move my feet, which I did, and she placed her backpack where my feet had been (even though there was plenty of space along the bench) and then left, giving me the evil eye as she turned away! Of course, when she left, I put my feet back on the bench, but then a few minutes later some Swiss army men (haha!) started scolding me in German for the feet-thing again! It was a metal bench, OK? I couldn't possibly hurt it with my feet. Speaking of Swiss army men, for a neutral country, Switzerland sure boasts a lot of them! I saw more of them at the train stations than I have seen French soldiers. But what are they all doing, really? Being in Basel made me realize how my dad and sister must have felt when they were visiting me in Montpellier--the feelings of disorientation and confusion that come from not understanding the language everyone around you is speaking! Luckily, all of the people I needed help from also spoke English. But then when I went to buy a tea, the cashier gave me the price in francs, and I was like, "Whhhaaaaat!?" I totally took it for granted that Switzerland was part of the European Union and used euros. But, no, it's Switzerland, so they're not into that. Luckily, they accept euros at the train stations along the border (good since that's all I had). Tea in hand, I started the final lap of my journey there.

I arrived in Lausanne two hours later, where Gwen met me at the train station. It was so nice to see a familiar face! Gwen was super sweet. She had bought a metro pass for me for the day, she grabbed my bag since she knew I was exhausted from over half a day of traveling, and we headed over to her apartment, where she had a beautiful zucchini ravioli dish ready for lunch! And then, for a special treat, she baked some little moelleux au chocolat--rich yet fluffy chocolate cake with a molten center. Oh. my. God. I will learn how to make these. I must learn how to make these! After lunch, I hopped in the shower to get rid of the travel grit (or grime, as the case may be), and I felt infinitely better. I resisted the desire to nap so as to maximize my daylight time in Lausanne, so after I ceased to reek, we walked through downtown Lausanne to Lake Geneva. On the way to the lake, we stopped in a famous Parisian macaroon shop for a late-night snack: two salted caramel macaroons, a lemon macaroon, and a violet-cassis macaroon. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and as you can see from the photos, the lake with the Alps in the background couldn't have been more picturesque! It was so lovely to just sit on the edge of the lake and chat with Gwen about the good ol' days back at PC last year. :) I also shared all my bizarre and sometimes terrible stories about my interactions with the French. We came to the conclusion that my luck sucks. On the way back to Gwen's apartment, we stopped at a little café (still overlooking the lake) and had some Rivella, a Swiss soda that resembles ginger ale but is a little softer, if I can use that word. It's hard to describe. At this point Gwen pulled the macaroons out of her bag, and we discovered that they had been squished and melted a bit. Caramel everywhere! But they were still delicious. The flavor is so concentrated. Incredible. Then we picked up a baguette for Sunday (where we saw the cute Easter chocolates and chick macaroons). After a light dinner of pumpkin soup, we started the BBC version of "Pride and Prejudice."

I slept in late Sunday morning, though Gwen got up early to run (training for a marathon) and to prepare brunch. She had invited some of her friends from Lausanne over, and they arrived around noon for the delicious assortment that Gwen had prepared for us: homemade crêpes, toasted baguette, ham, cheese, yogurt, mango, blueberries, jellies--in short, a smorgasbord! Gwen's friends were really interesting. They were a couple, and they met in Mexico, even though she is French, from Toulouse, and he is Swiss, from Basel. So basically, he speaks French, German, English, Spanish, and a little bit of Italian. I was very impressed. I asked him which language he dreams in, and he said he really didn't pay attention, but he would start trying to figure it out! :) After a nice brunch with good conversation, Gwen's friends left, and we decided to go to the Musée Olympique since it was an overcast day. In case you didn't know, Lausanne is the capital of the Olympic Games, though the man who revived the games, Pierre de Courbertin, was French. I learned a lot (A LOT!) about the Olympics. The museum had artifacts from ancient Greece depicting the importance of athletics, and a lot of stuff and information about the modern games. My favorite display was the collection of Olympic torches, starting with the first one from 1936--although the modern Olympic Games started in 1896, the torch relay race was not introduced until 1936. Every torch has its own special look; some are more traditional, and others more modern. I had to give a "woot woot" when we came to the 1996 Atlanta torch since I was there. I was seven. Another cool collection displayed all of the medals from all of the games. Again, each has its own carvings to distinguish that year's games. I could go on and on. Like I said, I learned a lot. Bonus points to anyone who can answer these questions: In which year did the U.S. boycott the Olympic Games? In which year did the U.S.S.R. boycott the Olympic Games? We got kicked out of the museum at 6:00 PM, and we returned to Gwen's apartment, where I got to meet her roommate (who had been in Bangkok). Her roommate was really nice--very vivacious and swears a lot! She kept telling me not to repeat what she was saying. :) After finishing the leftovers from brunch, Gwen and I finished watching "Pride and Prejudice" (I was totally hooked, never having read the novel--I know, I know, I should be ashamed--or seen any film adaptations). Then we headed off to bed, as we both had to get up early the next morning. Gwen takes the same train to work that I was taking on my way back to Montpellier. We parted ways in Geneva, and I traveled six more hours to the Midi. I am so appreciative of Gwen for letting me stay in her apartment for the weekend; she was an amazing hostess--she cheered me up, fed me well, showed me around. Overall, a wonderful weekend in Switzerland.
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Aunt Sue on

I need some of those little chick macaroons to take to Seattle when I go for Easter! Sounds like such a wonderful week end with a good friend in a beautiful place. Lots of love, Aunt Sue

Judy Baroody on

Rachel rocks! Sounds like you're having a great experience. You're courageous to travel by yourself and experience the thrill of a night train. Can't wait to welcome you to Paris!

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