Monday, 30 May 2011


Good morning dear followers!

I hope you have all had a wonderful weekend and some sunshine. It has been an incredibly hot weekend here in Meilen with temperatures on our terrace reaching 45 degrees centigrades! We were litterally melting in the sun...

But this hasn't stopped us from going out on Saturday afternoon to experience an unusual slice of Swiss life. A holzerwettkampf (the literal translation is timber contest) was taking place in Pfannenstiel and drew competitors from all over Europe as well as hundreds of locals.

The concept is simple: take lots of strong men and a fair amount of trees. Mix with tools I'd be too scared to touch for fear of losing a limb and add a lot of beer and a sausage grill...and you have a really fun, if not different, day out. Mr T and I were very excited about this event all week. Alf was just excited to be out for the day and chatted up a few lovely canine ladies.

This was an international competition and everyone took it very seriously. Chopping wood is an art you see. No sarcasm here, it is truly amazing (and dangerous) what those guys can do. So all competitors were registered and had numbers, and all judges (wearing the yellow t-shirts) were busy measuring both the speed and the accuracy of the lumberjacks.

Machines and horses were also competing...

Men were racing each others up trees...

...while an artist was creating some amazing sculptures with a chainsaw!

We had a really awesome time! What have you been up to this weekend?

PS: Some of you may have noticed that the blog design has been changing quite a bit in the last few days. Please bear with me while I try new things. I am not completely happy with the template as it is currently...I need a background picture to fit perfectly with the Made in Suisse spirit and I haven't found it yet. So you'll have to do with Alf for now...Apologies but this blog is very much still a work in progress!

Friday, 27 May 2011

A 5 minutes crafty project

Welcome back to Made in Suisse, blogging live from Zürich!

I can't emphasise how nice it is to be back home after three weeks away. I have had a lovely time in France but there's nothing like being able to do what you want in your own house! I am still unpacking and settling back in my Swiss life so this will only be a short post today.

I was very lucky to come back home not to one but to two parcels sent by some Glaswegian friends. One of them contained lots of small crafty goodies which you will discover as I put them to good use. There were some beautiful and delicate butterflies as well as uber-cute little heart-shaped pegs in the parcel which I turned into a photo display with the help of some ribbon I had in my stash.

A no-brainer 5 minutes craft project that looks fabulous. Thank you V!!!

Go and check out my Crafty Goodness page to discover what was in the second parcel...

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Nîmes: part II

So if you enjoyed what you saw of Nîmes in my previous post, what you will see next should convince you further to take the trip to the South of France to visit this little gem. As promised, I will reveal the Big Three, the top attractions thousands of people travel to Nîmes to see.

1) Les Arènes - the Roman amphitheatre

Built towards the end of the 1st century AC, les arènes constitute one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world. Not as big and impressive as the Colliseum in Rome (so my sister says), I was still impressed by its dimensions (133*110 meters) and how beautiful it still looks.

During the Roman empire, 25000 spectators would assemble here to watch wild animals and gladiators fight.

As you can see from the picture above, it is mostly used today for the famous ferias (corridas-bull fighting)
which take place in Nîmes every June. Concerts and other shows are also often held in there too.

2) La Maison Carrée

Built between 4 and 5 AC, this Roman temple is truly amazing thanks to its unequaled state of conservation. This temple, dedicated to Caius and Lucius César (grandsons of the Emperor Augustus), used to be at the centre of a much bigger structure, the forum (the economic centre of the Roman city).

Me standing in front of the temple to give you an idea of its size!

3) La tour Magne

Built between 16-15 BC, this tower is one of the best remains of the fortifications that once surrounded the Roman city of Nemausa. Located at the top of the  mont Cavalier, you have to cross the jardins de la Fontaine (which I spoke about yesterday) to reach it. Although the last floor of the tower is now missing, you can still enjoy panoramic views of the city from the top.

If you ever have the opportunity to go and spend a few hours or a few days in Nîmes, I would highly recommend that you buy the combined ticket to go and visit all three monuments (<10 euros and valid 3 days, it is well worth it). Have a stroll in the city centre, enjoy a coffee sat on one of the little squares and get a healthy dose of Roman culture and history!

I have you have enjoyed this little French interlude in the last couple of weeks. It has been a very enjoyable experience for me to spend so much time with my niece and nephew in my home country. I am, however, glad to be going back to La Suisse later this week and see Mr T and Alf again. Next  post will be live from Zürich.

À bientôt!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Nîmes: part I

I left the South of France on Sunday and started travelling back to Zürich. I have stopped, en route, for three days to stay with my parents who live near Lyon. On Saturday, my sister came back and we all went for a day trip to the city of Nîmes, also known as the French Roma. The "Colonia Nemausa", as it was known by the Romans, became a Roman colony under the Emperor Augustus. To this day, the arms of the city show a crocodile chained up to a palm tree, a symbol celebrating the conquest of Egypt by Augustus and its submission to the Roman rule.

I took you to Montpellier a couple of posts ago, and you may remember that I had mixed feelings about it. I absolutely loved Nîmes and would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to go and visit this city. I gather that it is a rather popular tourist destination in the summer, when its population is multiplied by 10, so it may be best not to visit between June and August if you can avoid it.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Castor
Nîmes is famous for its Roman history and monuments but the city in itself is very enjoyable. The mostly pedestrian city centre is full of nice shops, little restaurants with tables outside on a square, small paved streets and architectural surprises.

Block of flats

Café in front of the tour de l'horloge

We went to Nîmes to visit the Big Three (which will be revealed in another post...ah ah this is a trick to have you all come back and visit again later this week!) but we also spent an hour or so having a stroll in the beautiful Jardins de la Fontaine, located on an ancient Roman site which was built around a spring at the bottom of Mont Cavalier.

Temple de Diane (2nd century AC)
Now, for the truly fantastic bits of Nîmes, you will have to be a bit patient and come back very soon to visit yours truly :-) À bientôt!

PS: A Posh and Beaks update! I've been told by Mr T that all the chicks have fledged. Very exciting news but I am a bit sad to have missed all their progress in the last three weeks. Apparently Beaks was doing a little dance to Posh the other evening so there may be hope for a second clutch??!!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Montpellier part II

Here is the 2nd installment of the Montpellier series you have all been waiting for [I want to believe you have :-)] I loved looking at all the details carved on the various monuments I showed you yesterday. From the gargoyles to the Virgin Mary, so much delicate work has gone into producing those beautiful carvings. It is sometimes difficult to fully appreciate them as they are often located way above us and we don't tend to walk looking up (definitely not in Montpellier where people don't bother picking up their dog mess! I was truly shocked considering how clean our streets are in Switzerland and how everyone cleans up after their dogs).

That's why the zoom on cameras was invented for, so here is a little gallery of some fine examples of old stone craftmanship for you to enjoy!

La cathédrale Saint-Pierre: gargoyle

La cathédrale Saint-Pierre: front door
La place royale de Peyrou: Nature having its way

La place royale de Peyrou: carving on the château d'eau

La place royale de Peyrou: entrance
Man and snake: église Sainte Anne
Angel: église Sainte Anne

PS: This post was meant to go up on Saturday but thanks to blogger messing up it is a few days late. Apologies...I wanted to blog today about my exciting trip to Nimes at the weekend but do come back tomorrow to hear more about it!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Montpellier part I

Bonjour tout le monde!

I'd like to welcome the newpeople who have joined us as followers here at Made in Suisse! It's nice to see you around!

I took advantage of a doctor appointment in town to go and spend the whole day wandering in the old city centre of Montpellier. It was a lovely day although I left with mixed feelings. I loved the small and narrow alleys, the houses made of sandstone, the remains of old buildings scattered throughtout the city...However, a lot of those places looked (or smelt) rather shabby and left to decay. There was a definite sense of it being "the South" with all its good (and lees good) connotations.

So today's post will feature some of the highlights of my short visit in Montpellier. There are a few places I could not visit as I had to be back to pick up the kids from school at 4pm. However, it gives me an incentive to come back.

La cathédrale Saint-Pierre dates from 1364 ac

La chapelle Saint-Charles (chapel of the General Hospital) built in 1678 by order of Louis XIV
 for the use of the hospital's patients

View from the Jardin des plantes (botanic gardens)

L'aqueduc des Arceaux- built in 1754 to supply the city with drinking water from the source of Saint Clément

Place royale du Peyrou- le château d'eau (water tower built at the same time as the aqueduc)

Place du Peyrou- statue of Louis XIV with the château d'eau in the background
Place du Peyrou- l'Arc de Triomphe celebrating Louis XIV

Come back tomorrow for different views of the city!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

You can trust kids to...

1. (sometimes) be really sweet when you need cheering up. My 6 years old niece came up to me with a folded piece of paper saying she had a present for me. I am now the proud owner of a trendy teddy bear necklace she has made!

2. often not require much to be happy. I made chips for lunch today, took them to the cinema to see "Rio" and bought some popcorn.  They have (mostly) been smiling all day and later told me they had an awesome time. Wouldn't it be nice sometimes to be that age again and feel content with the little things we do everyday?

Thanks to all of you who left a comment or emailed me on Tuesday after reading my post. It was really nice to read your kind words and I felt better for it. Yes, I am still gutted about it, but I believe that there must be a place for me in Swiss academia! If I managed to get a researcher position at Imperial College London (ranked 3rd best university in Europe), I must be able to find something (anything?) over here...

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Off day

I tend to be a "half-empty glass" type of person. You say "maybe", I hear "no". You say "it's ok", I hear "it's crap but I don't want to make you cry". Anyhow, I am having an off day. And no,  it has nothing to do with Switzerland coming last at the Eurovision song contest...

I did not get the job I applied for in Zürich. Even worse, I wasn't even invited for an interview. In science, and in research in particular, job openings are far and few between. There likely won't be relevant positions I can apply for in Zürich for several months now. I kind of hoped that this job would work out to solve my joblessness and residence permit situation. As an unmarried trailing girlfriend, I cannot obtain a residence permit to stay more than 6 months in Switzerland. We arrived in January...

I try not to let this get to me but I have been feelish pretty rubbish. Being away from home without Mr T or Alf to cheer me up has made it worse. I have been looking at cute photos of baby animals to try and cheer up but it does not work.

What to do??

Elephant and baby, Mikumi National Park, Tanzania 2010

Monday, 16 May 2011

Vamos a la playa

It's typical! The kids are at school all week when it's beach weather. Then you make plans to go for a swim at the weekend, and the clouds come out of hiding and the wind starts blowing. Nothing was going to stop us, we went to the beach on Sunday with our jumpers!

The photos are quite deceptive. The sky was blue (in between clouds) but the wind was rather chilly.

As a result the beach was unusually deserted which was rather nice. Time to sit down and relax: my niece insisted on giving my feet a special sand scrub.

We only stayed for an hour and half as the wind got the better of us but the trip to the beach was a very nice touch to the weekend.

What have you all been up to?

Friday, 13 May 2011

Réserve du Méjean

Thursday was a good day. Everyday starting in a beauty salon having a facial is a good day. Especially when your lovely sister pays for it. She may have felt guilty about the little creases on my forehead that have appeared since I have started frowning at the kids everytime they're about to do something daft this week. Anyhow, today's post will not be about my rejuvenated skin but about the 3 hours walk I took afterwards in the Réserve du Méjean.

This nature reserve would be a patient bird watcher's heaven. Borded by the Mediterranean, the reserve is a favourite stop over for birds on their migrating route to Africa. Although a lot of the reserve is not accessible (protected areas), armed with patience and binoculars, you should be able to watch a lot of birds including some exciting ones (I must admit I find birds rather boring most of the time, unless they are big or ridiculously colourful). I did not have either (binoculars or patience) but had an enjoyable walk on the two trails that take you through the reserve.

The flamingo trail did what it said on the tin, although I almost did not spot the only 5 flamingos that were around. There were all sorts of other water birds on this little island although I was too far to really be able to identify them (possibly a cormorant, a seagull and other birds).

The trails were not well signposted but it was nice to see that they had been made wheelchair and pram friendly.

I did see a couple of herons...

Some colourful ducks... (I did warn you my knowledge of birds was very limited!)

But my favourites were the stork chicks!

I'm hoping to go on some more adventures this weekend to discover a region of France I know nothing about. That's the plan anyway, but we'll see what the kids have to say about it...

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