Dear friends and family:
This marks our finally note home for 2001. The week has been filled with
Monday and Tuesday were difficult to fill. If Switzerland "shuts down" on Sundays, then they roll up the sidewalks and move to another country for Christmas day. On Monday we stocked up on food and then walked around the old area of Vevey.
On Tuesday Leon, Michael and Heather abandoned everyone else for the cinema event of the year: The Lord of the Rings. Heather still insists that Harry Potter was a better movie. Leon, on the other hand, believes it was the best movie he has ever seen. Michael thought "it was a pretty good movie". Leon agreed to drive him back home anyway.
On Wednesday we visited the Castle of Chillon, right out of a fairy-tale. It was built onto Lake Geneva around 1000 ACE, and was restored around 1937. It is now a museum, party hall, historic site, and even apartment building (for the keepers). It is also in desperate need of central heating. It was bitter cold the day we visited, and the hot soup and fondue we had for lunch once we left was all the more welcome.
On Thursday we drove about an hour north to the village of Gruyere. Yes, that's where they make the cheese. Again we were struck by the relative normalcy of places like this. In America, many places like this would be sterilized into a historical village that is devoid of any modern life; or "disney-fied" into a character of the place it actually was. In this case, Gruyere is indeed a tourist location and sports a larger-than-usual number of restaurants. But each building has a set of apartments where real people actually live; a post office that is the same as any other village around here; and all the other amenities needed to support daily life. It just so happens that "life" in this case exists in a fortified castle structure with a 360 degree view of the Alps.
It had been snowing regularly all week, so on Friday Michael got to experience the Swiss Alps first hand. Luca, a co-worker of Leon's went up for a day of snowboarding and graciously offered to take Michael along. Without going into deep details, Michael quickly noted that there a few differences of scale between the ski slopes in Cleveland and those in Switzerland. We'll leave it to your imagination to fill in the blanks. However, Michael safely returned home with all his bones in the same shape as when he left.
Saturday dawned wet and stayed that way all day. We had planned to drive to Geneva and look around, but after 10 minutes there we realized it was much too wet for anything of the kind. We drove around the city for a little bit, and then crossed the border into France to go to a shopping area that Debbie knew about. Yes, we have done our fair share of Mall-hopping. You can take the American out of the US, but....
Sunday was bright and sunny, just the kind of day we needed to take another trip to France. This time, we went to a beautiful little village named Annecy. It's about 2 hours from the house, but was worth the drive. We timed our visit to coincide with the weekly market, and walked around the old buildings looking for bargains. It reminded us all of the town in Belgium named "Bruge" - canals and bridges separate different parts of the old part of the town, and the architecture in some cases is hundreds of years old.
In actuality, the whole week has seen a fair share of shopping - either for new foods we bring to the table in the evening or for interesting things to bring home. We are sure that Alison and Michael will leave with heavier bags than when they came!
This week we know that Monday and Tuesday will again be relatively quiet. On Wednesday we've planned a day trip to Milan (3 hours by train). Beyond that, we're just keeping our options open.
We hope that everyone reading this has a happy, healthy, and safe new year.
Debbie, Leon, Heather, Isabelle, and Joram
(and Alison and Michael)