Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Chalet Shenanigans - Chapter 28

The Season of the Visitors

Auntie has done her European vacation and here are the things she learned:

1.        Business class is not all it is cracked up to be.  Yes, Auntie might possibly be the first person
 in the world who disliked Lufthansa lay-flat beds (these things are NOT comfortable, Trailing   Spouse!), or four-course dinners (speck?  What is speck?), or all the alcohol one can drink.  C’est la vie.  Uncle Wade, rest easy, I did not spoil her for your future travels.  Girl prefers coach.

2.        It is possible to do all 5 Big Landmarks in Paris in one day using the metro and simply running your visitor up the metro steps, snapping the photo and running back down the metro steps to the next

3.        The Paris metro has a certain aroma and a certain ambience which can be alarming to an older, very white, very sheltered American who lives out in the countryside.  ‘Nuff said.

4.        Even Baptists can get carried away upon seeing the Pope.  Okay.  This was hilarious.  The morning that we visited Vatican City coincided with a Papal mass wherein the newly inaugurated Pope, Francis by name, was actually conducting the outdoor mass himself and making/crowning/inducting a bunch of new saints.  (I don’t know the right verb for turning somebody into a saint).  Anyway, there were more than 100,000 people out in the square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica and I was appalled.  I have been to the Vatican before and it has been very calm and you can go inside and get some great pictures of the Swiss guards, etc.  Not on this day.  On this particular day there were soldiers everywhere with guns and helicopters hovering overhead and metal stanchions all over the place strictly dividing where one could and could not venture.

Suddenly, for the first time in four days, Auntie comes alive and decides that she wants to take the lead of our little threesome, as opposed to following Mr. Big and I everywhere and occasionally
clutching the back of my shirt when she thought she was going to lose me.    So, out she pops, all 4 feet 10 inches of her, and starts tunneling through this HUGE crowd because she wants to be IN FRONT and get some up close photos of these various High Holy Figures.

ME:  Mr. Big, where in the hell is she going?

BIG:  I have no idea.  She’s YOUR aunt.

ME:  Go get her ass and get her back here before she gets trampled.

By this time, we had already lost sight of her tiny self and so Mr. Big had to elbow his way through all of these devout worshippers who were not too happy to have their feet stepped on but Mr. Big didn’t care.  He finds Auntie after only about two minutes (I swear, Uncle Wade, it was only two minutes!!) and he tells her, quite forcefully, that SHE CANNOT JUST GO MEANDERING OFF on her own in a crowd of 100,000 penitent Italians.  Well, Auntie was upset that us nasty young people spoiled all of her fun.  To make up for it, we showed her the Vatican City Post Office, (really just a single-wide mobile home that they set up in the middle of the square), where one can send a post card anywhere in the world, adorned with Pope Frank’s face, and postmarked from Vatican City.

After she mailed her post card to poor, unsuspecting Uncle Wade, (Huh?  Why am I getting a post card from the Pope?  Aren’t we Baptists?), we then had to fight our way back into Rome proper through a ginormous anti-abortion parade.  Really?  Can we have any more fun today?  Have YOU
ever tried to keep track of a very short lady in a foreign city going against the flow of 10,000 pro-life protesters?  I have.  I, myself, am going to be sainted on the Pope’s next go-round.  It’s true.  I got a letter.

5.        The Alps are indeed, high, and Switzerland is indeed, cold.  Nevermind that the calendar says June.  Even on sunny days, to an American, it is cold here.  It’s a fact of life.  I try to explain to people that we are on a latitude exactly equal to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Would you go to Canada and not even bring a sweater?  Exactly.  Auntie was a shivering mass of flesh the entire time.

As for the altitude?  The first time we went over the Alps we went over the Grand St. Bernard pass.  She passed out in the back seat at about 2,500 meters and didn’t really revive until the next day around lunch time when we left the Val d’Aoste.  It’s a good thing I took pictures of our first night in Saint Vincent at the Hotel Alla Posta, because she, to this day, has absolutely no recollection.

Lest you think I am picking on Auntie, rest assured, I think she had a good time overall.  Once she got over the shock that there’s no such thing as bacon and eggs for breakfast and people here start drinking wine at lunchtime, she was okay.  Immediately after Auntie left, we welcomed Mr. Big’s dad, his wife and two of their friends.  Luckily, I had warned them ahead of time that, according to Auntie, it was freezing here, so they came fully equipped for fall-like weather.

We had a lovely stay with them, although, again, I think they were appalled by the fact that we eat approximately 10% of the amount of food on a daily basis that Americans routinely eat.  Also, hard
liquor is a rarity because everyone drinks only wine or beer.  And, if the hard liquor drink that one prefers is kind of off-the-beaten-path, that drink will not be duplicated with any success for the entire length of your stay.

Let me explain.  If you have guests coming who drink things involving more than two ice cubes, a
blender, strawberries, a TWIST of lemon, the verb “to muddle”, anything involving a dairy product, a “sprig” of anything, etc., their drink wishes are not going to be fulfilled.  These things just do not translate well.  I cannot stress this enough.  We do not even have CLUB SODA or TONIC WATER here.  

There are some close facsimiles, but they are not right.  I could go on and on about this for days, but,
be forewarned, if you want a hard liquor drink in Europe, you had better trim that sucker down to its’ bare essence.  In other words, to a simple shot of whatever is your pleasure.  A shot of vodka.  A shot of single malt scotch.  A shot of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey.  You see?  Don’t be trying to order a Sex on the Beach or a Long Island Iced Tea or a Mojito or anything involving cranberry.  Not gonna happen.

Enough about the drinks.  Let’s talk about the amazing things.  The day that we went to Yvoire on the Nyon-Yvoire ferry was fantastic.  The flowers in Yvoire were out of this world.  The day we took our visitors up from Chamonix to the Aiguille du Midi to see Mont Blanc was crystal clear.  (Freezing, but clear).  

Gruyere, as usual, was quirky but quintessentially Swiss.   Mr. Big’s crowning achievement was finding an English-speaking Catholic mass here in Lausanne for some visitors who wanted to go to
church.  They went twice!  (Thank you, Father-from-Ireland-in-Chailly who made them feel welcome!)

And, if you think MY visitors were challenging, let me tell you about my friend who lives in La Croix sur Lutry.  She had a niece from America come to visit this summer who went walk-about.  While in Greece, this niece GOT HIT BY A BUS and wound up in a Greek hospital.  The niece’s mother had to fly here to rescue her.  The whole visit included hospital visits in Greece and Switzerland, extra plane tickets, much angst, three-way translated phone calls in Greek-French-English, etc.  A nightmare.  All is well, though.  Niece is fine and back in Missouri or Ohio or wherever. 

Me?  I consider myself lucky that none of my guests wound up needing health care!


  1. Yay, you posted again, so good to read from you!

    It is always interesting to learn how Switzerland and Europe are perceived by first time visitors from the U.S.

    Looking forward to your next adventures :-)

  2. Great Blog, dear Niece. You were kind to me in it, considering! lol

  3. Great Blog, dear Niece. You were very kind to me in it, considering! lol

  4. I love your blog! Can we be friends?I am Lost In Translation here from the states. Coffee? thanks for your humor! It is essential to my survival in CH!