The Road Less Travelled 

My few days in Switzerland were absolutely fabulous. They were comprised of dinner at a fromagerie, with, my friend Julia, who I met in China and traveled to with to Bali. Saturday cheese fondue in Gruyere and then Lausanne for a walk around the lake. Sunday was my birthday and we spent the day walking through vineyards along Lake Geneva and dinner in Montereaux. Monday, I woke to a beautiful blue sky and was finally able to see Mont Blanc from my bedroom. Just in the knick of time since my flight to Madrid left at noon.

A surreal day on Lake Geneva

I arrived in Madrid to a perfect Spainish atmosphere – warm with a beautiful blue sky and the faint scent of cigarettes. My plan was to prepare for the Camino by mailing my suitcase ahead and buying some provisions. However, it was a holiday in Spain and nothing was open, so I walked around the city for a few hours and turned in early so I could leave bright and early for the train to Leon.

High and sight, I should’ve done a little planning and less sightseeing in Madrid, because when I got off the train, I had not a clue what to do and where to go. I needed to mail my bag, get some groceries and find a place to stay. Had I planned, these things would not have taken me several hours. But, once I completed them, I grabbed dinner, visited the city a little and went to the pilgrims mass, not that I understood anything. My spainish is non-existent thanks to the last four years of french. However, there was a sweet older man, who was so excited I was there. He walked me and a few other pilgrims around the cathedral, blabbering away in spainish that none of us understood. In the end he shook our hands and wished us all a “Buen Camino”.

The first night in the pilgrim albergue was not very good. I got the last bed in a room, which meant I was on the top bunk. I almost walked into the room and said, “Can we agree that if you’ve had more than two abdominal surgeries in two years, you deserve a bottom bunk?” And if anyone has me beat, I’d lay down my cancer card. But, the Camino doesn’t work like that. Then, I had a hard time falling asleep. This was mostly due to excitement, but it was also hot and the others in my room where going to the bathroom every five minutes. Then, most of the room was awake at 6 am, rustling their plastic bags and packing up to get out the door. So, after five hours of poor, restless sleep, I conceded and headed out as the sun was rising.

I’m glad I did, because it was quite poetic to see the sun waking up behind the cathedral and gracing the old monuments with a perfect light.

Sunrise behind the Leon cathedral


Getting out of the city area was typically ugly and I opted to take a longer,
alternative, more scenic view. It was at the fork that I made my first Camino Amiga, Margie from San Francisco, who broke away from the two friends she came with for the road less traveled, rather than that which was fastest. We talked and walked for hours and at lunch time, we easily threw together a picnic with the items each of us had. Canned chicken, cheese, nuts, fruit and chocolate. Not too bad of a meal for being on the side of a rural road, in the middle of nowhere Spain.

Eventually, we arrived in a little village of Villar de Mazarife. The first house in the village was an adorable albergue promoting a (rare) vegetarian menu. Bed, dinner, hot shower, wifi and breakfast for 21€. Done. Margie opted for the more expensive private hotel, since she pretty much had it with snorers and early risers.

The wonderful albergue in Villar de Mazarife

I settled into my bottom bunk (three cheers) next to, of course, a couple French guys (Man, I just can’t escape them). After an amazing dinner of salad, pumpkin soup, veggie paella and a crepe, I tucked myself in for a solid seven hours of sleep.

Story of my life… (:

Switzerland: Breaking Laws and Hearts

Saturday my “handsome brother” and I hopped on a plane from Paris to Nice where he and his girlfriend recently moved. The promise of the warmth and sun of the French Riviera was not fulfilled, but, sometimes you’ve gotta bring your own sunshine. Am I right or am I right?

We spent the next few days galloping along to Côte d’Azur. Dinner in Antibes, long walks along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, another dinner in Villefranche, a long, rocky hike in the Cap Roux and spending a wonderful last day in Monaco, where the sun made an appearance. I’ve not spent much time in the south of France, but can see why it’s such a hot spot. Blue water, (usually) sunny skies, with the mountains as a backdrop- how can you not love it? I look forward to coming back when I can swim in the warm Mediterranean and I’m so lucky to have family who graciously opens their home to me, making it quite affordable.

The beach in Antibes

Cloudy Nice

Hiking Cap Roux

Monaco

Wednesday it was off to Geneva to see one of my favorite people on the planet. Lara and I grew up across the street from each other and spent our twenties having a blast together under the same roof. If St. Cyr en Val is my 3rd home, wherever Lara is is my 4th.

She had to work Thursday, so I went into Geneva alone to do touristy things. I started at the Red Cross Museum, which was just ok. After an insanely overpriced sandwich (Switzerland is crazy expensive), I went to the United Nations for their afternoon guided tour. I arrived early, so I sat on a bench eating an apple and taking pictures. I asked the security guard if I could throw the core in his trash. First, he wouldn’t even acknowledge me, but I was literally standing right in front of him and asked again. He said, “no,” and waved his finger at me. Really?!?! Lara had warned me about the probability of rudeness. So, in an act of revenge, (and because I couldn’t find a bin) I littered my apple core in the flower bed. Take that United Nations! Stacie -1. World – 0.

The scene of the apple crime

Once it was time for the tour, I handed over my passport, was asked several questions (none of which had to do with littering, thank God) and went through security. They gave me a visitor badge and then I was free to move around the campus as I wished. I found this very strange.

The tour was pretty awesome though. Our guide Pablo (Spain), lead our group through several rooms, shared what historical events took place there and told us fun facts about the UN, world leaders, art work, procedures and policies. It was really interesting and I highly recommend if you’re ever in Geneva.

My next plan was to take the bus to Old Town. After a little searching, I found the stop and was 99% sure I was going the right way. I prepared my fare and when the bus driver pulled up, I asked (in French and English), “Does this bus go to Old Town?” The driver, looked at me after I asked nearly four times and refused to respond. Then, he started driving, as I was still standing, knowing that I was not 100% confident of my direction. Really?!?!? What was even more surprising is that no one around acknowledged this or tried to intervene. And they say French people are rude. So, in my second act of retaliation against the Swiss, I did not pay the fare. Take that, Switzerland!

Fortunately, I was on the right bus. I got off in Old Town, visited the cathedral and stopped in a cafe to rest and have a coffee. I then walked to Lake Geneva and spent the next couple hours walking along the water admiring the Jet d’eau, birds and beautifully manicured spring gardens. I made a couple creepy, but harmless “friends” who offered to show me around Geneva. I said, “Sure, my name’s Lara,” and shared her number with them. Haha! I’m kidding, but it was fun seeing her face when I told her she should be anticipating some calls. All kidding aside, it feels good to have my pretty back, even though it’s only my husband’s opinion that I care about.

And can I just add that I have greatly overestimated my ability to be away from said husband – missing him!

Lake Geneva and Jet d’eau

Flower Clock

Swans and such

In the early evening, Lara picked me up and we went to an adorable little village for a drink before heading home for dinner and hours of great conversation. The kind of long talks that you can only share with your nearest and dearest. Love her and excited to begin our 36th year together this weekend.