Switzerland

Plus ça change…..


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

(Rue des Epouses, Fribourg, Switzerland)

I recently returned from an all-too-brief writing trip to my beloved Switzerland. 38+ years since I first traveled there as a wide-eyed college junior, bound for life with my classmates on a journey of discovery and appreciation. I’ve been back numerous times, with my sister, my mother, my husband, but this solo trip gave me space to contemplate.
A lot has changed in Switzerland, and I noticed it more this time. Certainly, technology plays a huge part. Mobile phones are attached to everyone, train schedules are available on the phone, tickets are scanned by the conductor’s phone. 


(Rue de Lausanne, Fribourg, Switzerland)

Tastes change, and reflect the demographics of an area. This restaurant used to be known for its raclettes (from the French verb racler – to scrape – it’s a meal of melted cheese, boiled potatoes, and gherkins). Now it offers gourmet burgers. The Lucerne train station has plenty of takeaway food shops – Indian, Middle Eastern, vegan.


(St. Nicholas Cathedral with the Schweizerhalle in the foreground, Fribourg, Switzerland)

And yet, some things remain. A cathedral dating back to 1430. 


(Pizzeria Mary, Lugano, Switzerland)

This café in Lugano, exactly as it was when my husband and I dined there in 2009. Even the  same gruff waiter was there!

(Atop Mt. Rigi)


(Marie and Marcel, proprietors of the Chemin de Fer in Fribourg, 1979)


(Brian Falzetta, Terry Cook, Mike Sirius, 1979, Fribourg)

Some friends have passed, too soon. We can hold onto memories and smile at photos.


(Martha and Fabiola Abbet-Dreyer, 2017, Chernex, Switzerland)

And when we have the chance to reconnect, we take it. ❤❤❤

I’m Here, Not There



This morning I’m here, not yet there. By tomorrow morning, I’ll be there, not here. For a time that seems not long enough, yet is the only length of time I dare be away. And I’ll be by myself, not with the man who’s been my travel partner for nearly 23 years.

There were a lot of trips abroad, mostly to Switzerland, so I do know my way around. This time, on my own, I have a purpose – to continue with a new novel I’ve only scratched out so far, but have written in my head. And I’ll be meeting up with two women – one I haven’t seen since that first year spent at the university in Fribourg, the other someone I’ve never met in person but who found me through my books. How great is that?!

And on Friday, I’ll be there, not here. Yeah, I’m okay with that, as I had no intention of watching the inauguration. It’s going to happen with or without me. And I’m not going to say anything else about it. Instead, here’s ‘there.’

Happy Book-iversary (to me)!


99centsMy first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was published on August 12, 2012 – nearly four years ago! (It was republished with a new cover in April 2013.) In those four years, I’ve written and published six novels, all of which have given me tremendous pride and a sense of accomplishment. I’m doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing, and that is sufficient. Well, pretty much.

New novels can trigger a sales flurry, but sales drop off after a time, even for beloved best-sellers.

So….for the coming week, every one of my six novels will be discounted to 99 cents for the e-book (Kindle version). I have no control over the print price, but if you come to the RI Authors Book Expo on December 3, 2016 http://www.riauthors.org/riexpo/ , I’ll have print copies available for a great price.

You can grab a three-book series, described by one reader as “writing (that) draws wonderful pictures of the characters and allows you to really ‘fall into’ the book ~ which is one of my favorite things about reading.” Or read about a group of classmates readying for their 25-year high school reunion and visiting old grievances. A novel about a young woman pursuing her dream of becoming a best-selling author, only to face a harsh reality check. And finally, a lighter story involving two friends who gamble on a dream of turning a rundown farm into a premier wedding venue. If you’ve already read these books, here’s a chance to give some gifts. In any event, I’m grateful – so very grateful – for all the positive feedback and encouragement I’ve received, from friends and strangers new friends, over the past four years.

You’re Going to Leave the Country?


1980t

In 1980, I was a recent college graduate, intelligent but politically ignorant. I’d first voted in 1976 for Jimmy Carter. My father was infuriated. But I tended to lean left then, even if I wasn’t entirely sure why. I made the bold proclamation that if Ronald Reagan was elected president, I’d leave the country. Oh, how easy! I was 22 and full of ideas.

Reagan was elected, and in April 1981, I flew away. It wasn’t just because of Reagan, of course – I’d desperately wanted to return to my beloved Switzerland, so I bought a one-way ticket and had enough money to last a few months.

A former professor at the university where I’d spent my junior year of college helped me answer a couple of ads. One was local – a couple needed an au pair for at least the summer. The other was at the prestigious Monte Rosa boarding school in Montreux. One paid very little, one paid considerably more. I heard back from the couple first, and, needing to secure employment, accepted their offer. (The Monte Rosa contacted me a few days later, and, trying to be honorable, I turned them down and another American took the job.)

The husband of the family interviewed me at the hotel where I was living. We sat outside, at a tiny table, and drank strong coffee. His Italian-accented French was easy to understand, and we conversed without problem. He said to me, “You Americans, you’re always saying, ‘We’re Number One!'” He demonstrated with his index finger while smirking at me. I answered, “That’s because we are,” and grinned back.

I’m reminded of this exchange, and that long-ago summer, as I hear and read about people – adults my age – saying they’ll leave the country if Donald Trump is elected our next president. I’m sure some feel the same way about Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee on the other side. It’s not that easy to move to another country, and you know it. Unless you’re loaded with money and extraordinary connections, relocating for at least four years is nearly impossible. My life abroad in 1981 lasted less than six months. The Swiss government made it clear that my ‘visit’ was coming to an end.

If you go, be sure to send me a postcard!

On Pentecost and Hitchhiking


In 1979, Pentecost fell on the first Sunday of June (June 3). That’s because Easter wasn’t until mid-April that year, and Pentecost is fifty days after Easter (the word is derived from ‘the fiftieth [day]’ in Greek). Since June 13 is the latest possible date for Pentecost to occur, we were well along that year.

And in Switzerland, the Pentecostal holiday lasted for five days, beginning on Thursday, or on May 31 in 1979. For those of us who were students at the Université de Fribourg that year, it was a sweet holiday toward the end of what was a truly memorable year abroad. Five days off! Of course, few of us had enough money for train travel, but hitchhiking was accepted, especially if done in pairs. Most girls knew enough not to hitch alone. Two girls had a greater chance of being picked up. Sometimes it seems absurd that we’d done this, but times were different. Really, they were.

Peter hitchhiking

My pal Peter and I decided, like most students in our group, to head south, to the French Riviera, where our journey had begun the previous September in Nice. The general idea was to take a train from Fribourg to Geneva, head out to where the autoroute began, and hope for a long ride by a kind driver. One of our friends advised taking a different route, however. It’s better and more scenic to travel on the secondary roads, he said. And we believed him.

Screenshot (1)

It took two days and nearly twenty rides to get to Saint-Raphaël, along the Côte d’Azur in southern France. But once there, we were richly rewarded, with pristine beaches, hot sun, sweet oranges, and a nightly fish soup that was recommended to us by a very dear friend. 

And fortunately, on the way back home, we were picked up by a young couple in Citroën 2CV who brought us all the way back to Fribourg (via the autoroute).

Smile and Say……”V” is for Vacherin Fribourgeois


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For my friends who thought I’d cop out and feature this

 

VelveetaLet me just say that “V” is NOT for VELVEETA!

No, “V” is most definitely for Vacherin Fribourgeois.

Creative Commons/Tombat24

Creative Commons/Tombat24

Vacherin Fribourgeois is a Swiss semi-soft cheese made with raw cow’s milk in the towns of Bulle and Fribourg. The milk for the cheese is sourced from the Fribourgeois breed of cows that graze on the Alpine grass and wildflowers all the way through the late spring and summer. As early fall arrives, the cows are brought down to graze on grass and summer hay. That’s all they eat!

This traditional cheese making process ensures that Vacherin Fribourgeois has a pleasant nutty flavor underpinned by notes of fresh hay and milk. The inedible rind is stinky (it is!), but the cheese is not. The cheese itself is smooth and buttery.

Today Vacherin Fribourgeois is produced only by small number of artisanal cheese makers and is very difficult to find. Vacherin Fribourgeois is used in the best fondues, cooking and as a table cheese. It is a great melting cheese. Big and bold wines such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, or reds from the Rhone Valley in France will compliment the cheese well.

 

 

Smile and Say……”R” is for Raclette


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Today begins the push to the end of the alphabet – thanks for sticking with me through this cheesy series!

“R” is for RACLETTE

Welcome back to Switzerland! I couldn’t stay away for long.

There are two melted cheese dishes popular in Switzerland – or, perhaps I should say, popular for tourists in Switzerland: fondue and raclette.

Fondue (from the French fondre, literally, “to melt,”) is better known, and if you link back to my “G” post, you can read all about it. Well, raclette comes from the French verb racler, literally, “to scrape.”

Raclette cheese is usually formed into wheels that weigh about 13 lbs. In times past, half the wheel was held, cut side out, to a fire, and when it was melted, the cheese was scraped onto a plate that contained little boiled potatoes, gherkin pickles, and pickled onions. Traditionally, Swiss cow herders used to take the cheese with them when they were moving cows to or from the pastures up in the mountains. In the evenings around a fire, they would place the cheese next to the fire and, when it had reached the perfect softness, scrape it on top of bread.

Times have changed. Now, most people use an electric raclette grill like this one from Eiger. You place a slice of raclette cheese into one of the little coupelles, or small pans, and melt the cheese under the grill.

And always remember, the best beverage to drink with melted cheese is something warm, like tea. Room-temperature white wine is acceptable. Cold drinks? Non non non.

Smile and Say……”G” is for GRUYERE


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I guess you can figure out my theme for the 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge. That’s right, it’s cheese!  I hope you enjoy these posts!

“G” is for GRUYERE

Photo by M. Reynolds

Photo by M. Reynolds

Same view, different seasons (and my photo is from 1979).

Now, you may recall that my “G” post last year was similar. Right! Last year, in my “Oh! The Places I’ve Been” theme, I listed the small village of Gruyères as my “G.”

Gruyere cheese is probably my favorite – yes, partly because it’s made in my beloved Switzerland, but its taste is so unique. It’s a good melting cheese, and you shouldn’t make a cheese fondue without using equal amounts of Emmanthaler (“Swiss”) and Gruyere cheeses (that’s known as moitié-moitié – half and half).

gruyere ch

 

First Day of Spring


Montreux in March - photo by M. Reynolds

Montreux in March – photo by M. Reynolds

By the calendar, anyway. Who knows? My husband told me this morning we may have a snowstorm next week. (Can you hear me screaming?)

My last few posts have been more somber, I realize. That was intentional. It’s been a rough month so far. My father-in-law hates this month; after all, he lost his father and his wife on March 18th, in 1968 and 1993, respectively. And I’m beginning to think he may be right about March. The brother of a dear friend, a college pal, and a former boss, all have passed this month, all around the same age (58,57, 60).

And yet here we are, on the first day of spring. Rebirth, regeneration, and hope.

“Spring is God’s way of saying, ‘One more time!'” — Robert Orben

Note: I’m preparing for the April “A to Z Blogging Challenge,” so this will likely be the past post until April 1. I hope you’ll join me for my alphabetical posts all month long (except Sundays).

Kicking January to the Curb


On the train to Engelberg, Switzerland. Photo by M. Reynolds

On the train to Engelberg, Switzerland. Photo by M. Reynolds

Who else is happy to see this month end? You, Atlanta? New England? Fargo? I get it. We’re done with January 2014. Onward!

The month that seemed to drag on forever, with long icy fingers that tightened around our throats, is fading away. We move into the shortest month now, with longer days. Here in Rhode Island, the sun rose this morning at 6:58. It sets at 5:01. Yippee! By the end of February, the sun will rise 36 minutes earlier, and set 34 minutes later. Seventy more minutes of daylight.

Tomorrow I’ll meet Nancy and Karen for breakfast, both high school pals. I haven’t seen Karen since we graduated – a long, long time ago. But through the miracle of social media, we’ve seen pictures of each other. Karen and Nancy are both ageless. Isn’t it something that when you look into the face of a friend from more than 30 years ago, you don’t see crinkles at the eyes, or silver at the scalp? You see the girls you whispered and giggled with. I treasure these times.

And from what I’m seeing, there could be a mini-reunion the following Saturday. I’m signing copies of my novels at Sweet Twist in East Greenwich, which is owned by three sisters, one of whom I remember from high school (this is what happens in Rhode Island – two degrees of separation). With a trilogy of chocolate-titled books (and one about a high school reunion!), Sweet Twist is a perfect venue. And, as an author/publisher who’s had some difficulty getting my books into independent bookstores (I don’t get that – you’re indy, I’m indy, can’t we work together?), I’m grateful for the chance to showcase my books in a beautiful boutique that sells, among lots of other things, chocolate!

And before you know it, February will be blowing through and dragging March in. It would be lovely if we were done with snow this winter, but the way things have been, I doubt it. The Great Blizzard of 1978 occurred in early February, and we’ve had plenty of snowstorms in both February and March. Either way, it sure feels good to say goodbye to January. And just one last note to the folks who live down the street from us: you can take down your Christmas ornaments. You know, the ones you hung in the trees and along the roofline. Really, it’s time.