Thursday, July 28

Raclette Night

Dinner with Mathesons and WatsonsThis week our house was packed with visitors - Steve and Bev Matheson as well as cousins Alice and Julia. We had a traditional Swiss dish for dinner - no, not fondue, but raclettes. This is melted cheese poured over boiled potatoes (+ salad), very simple but tasty.

Dinner followed a busy day touring, including a visit to the Cailler chocolate factory, the chateau at Gruyeres, icecreams at Vevey and a walk around the gardens at the Olympic Museum, Lausanne.

Wednesday, July 27


Last weekend we took our latest visitors, Steve and Bev Matheson, up to Zermatt to check out the famous Matterhorn. It's Switzerland's highest peak at 4,478 metres and is a 3-4 hour drive from Geneva. We stayed overnight at Zermatt, a very touristy town near the base of the mountain. Thankfully most of the mountain was visible when we arrived, so we got a glimpse of it before heavy cloud set in for the evening.

There are heaps of walks to choose from in the area. We opted to take the funicular up to Sunnegga and then walk down to Zermatt, which took us about 2 hours. This picture (taken on a clearer day by another user) is of the spot where we started our walk. Despite being all downhill, the walk was quite tough on the legs and I am still having difficulty walking down stairs four days later!

Sunday, July 17

On a Mission

Amir Temir MuseumI spent last week in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on my first 'mission' (the UN term for work trip). I was there to help deliver training on Gender Statistics to statisticians and users of stats from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan and Iran.

It was a fantastic experience, both from a professional and personal perspective. Getting out of the office to meet and help people in our region has given me a new appreciation for what our division does. It was also a great opportunity to visit a country in Central Asia, a region I know very little about. Even though my brief visit didn't allow much time for site seeing, I was able to meet and talk with local people about their country and culture.

Hotel PoolThe week was a busy one, with 5 days of lectures, discussion and computer workshops. I delivered three presentations, chaired a couple, helped setup the computers and facilitated the practical exercises. The most challenging part for me was that most participants spoke no English, so we were simultaneoulsy translated into Russian by local interpreters. This is the first time I've worked under these conditions and it was bizarre to know that people weren't hearing my presentation, but rather the translation of the interpreter.

Tashkent RestaurantTashkent is the country's capital and is a city of about 2.5 million people. I found it to be quite westernised (Uzbekistan declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991), with plenty of advertising, modern cars (lots of old Soviet Lada's too) and mobile phones. Being a double landlocked country, many goods are expensive (eg computers) but food is apparently plentiful and cheap. The people were friendly and the streets seemed safe, although we did always have a local with us. Our views of the city were mostly from a car window as we were driven around to visit a local artist's studio (a friend of our host), a beautiful silk shop and then on the last night, dinner at a restaurant which was in a 100 year old traditional Uzbek house (see photo above).

It was 40+ degrees most days, but we spent most of the time in our air-conditioned and very nice, five star Radisson hotel. When we did venture out, the heat wasn't too bad as it is quite dry, unlike Geneva where 30 degrees feels like 40 sometimes! It was surprising to hear that in winter, Tashkent gets snow and can be as cold as minus 15 degrees. Click here for more photos.

Weekend in the Mountains

Fiona in GryonWe spent the last weekend of Fiona's visit to Europe in the mountains. Bob & Zydre were very kind to lend us their chalet at Gryon, where we stayed on the Friday and Saturday night. Despite the cool climate and rain on Saturday, we had a a lovely picnic lunch on our drive up to Les Diablerets. The next day we left Gryon and drove to Chamonix in France where we took the telepherique to Aiguille du Midi, a 3,842m peak adjacent to Mt Blanc.

Fiona Mt BlancHaving conquered the first peak, we decided to push on to Italy in the small cable cars that take you over the most incredible valleys of glaciers. As we glided efortlessly along, we returned the waves of climbers, struggling through the snow beneath us.

Fiona is now back in Australia, having had a fanstastic holiday visiting Geneva, Paris and London, and a few spots in between. It has been wonderful to see her and to show her around our new home. Jess missed the last few days of her visit due to a last minute work trip to Uzbekistan (more info on that coming soon). We now have a week before the next batch of visitors arrive!

Thursday, July 7

Fiona OK in London

Some readers of our site would know that Fiona is currently in London visiting her friends Julie and Aleisha. Thankfully she was able to call us shortly after news broke of the bombings, to let us know she and her friends are fine (although understandably stressed). Fiona is scheduled to fly back to Geneva tomorrow as originally planned, but she's now on a later flight to allow time to get to the airport.

We were also very pleased to hear that cousin Alice is fine (thanks for the quick email Al).

Tuesday, July 5

Paris Revisited

Fiona in GenevaFiona is here and we have been showing her the best Europe has to offer, well a bit of it anyway. Peter and Fiona took off to Paris last Thursday in 'The Beast'. The drive takes about 5 hours if you take the motorway, but about 12 hours if you don't. Peter has some tips for those of you ever contemplating driving into Paris:
  • do not arrive in peak hour
  • do not arrive during a heavy thunderstorm
  • do not visit the day major school holidays in Europe start
  • know where you are going or at least have a rudimentary map
  • speak French, so you can ask for help.

Needless to say, Peter is speaking from the experience of having violated every one of these! He reports that the French approach driving like everything else – with a carefree attitude & scant regard to road rules. They considerately do not hit one another & do not toot.

Moulin RougeOn the Saturday, Jess flew up to Paris on EasyJet, the Virgin Blue/JetStar equivalent in Europe. That night we went to the Moulin Rouge - a late night as we couldn't get in until the 11pm show. Despite Paris being a 'city that never sleeps', the metro does sleep between 1 and 5am, meaning we had to get back to the hotel by taxi. Not so bad as the prices were reasonable compared to Geneva. Actually, any price would probably be reasonable compared to Geneva!

Earlier on the Saturday, we visited the Louvre, a first for all of us. We were typical tourists and made a beeline for the Mona Lisa. Time limitations meant we could only have a quick look around. Wow, the Louvre is certainly amazing!