Megs and I have been looking forward to this trip for months. Intellectually anyway. We've both been so slammed with work, school and, for me, book-related events that we simply didn't have enough emotional space to devote to the potential "incredible" this trip is filled with. We finished our last tests/evaluations on Tuesday and flew out Friday AM early. (Huge thanks to Megan's dad for driving us to the airport!)
The flight was San Diego - Chicago - Brussels - Geneva, with a 1 hour layover in Chicago and a 5 hour layover in Brussels. Yup, 5 hours in Brussels. This was one of the first times my flight/travel credit card really came in handy. A few months ago they informed me they added a new feature called Priority Pass, which gives us access to the business class lounges in 400+ airports.
Megs crashing in the Brussels airport lounge
Brussels happened to be one of them. It isn't free, but for what we paid ($27 each) we were provided with a safe, quiet place to spend time, couches to lounge/sleep on, free continental buffet, and, since it's Europe I guess, all the beer, wine, and liquor you want. Plus an abundance of plugs to recharge our computers (a serious plus as airports are notoriously dearth of plugs) and internet access. Megs crashed for about 3 hours while I attempted to power through, occupying myself with food, internet and several episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender (season 3). Easily in my top 3 favorite animated series of all time.
The flight from Chicago to Brussels was fairly smooth with only a few bumps. One was the tease of having a fully functional TV/video game remote embedded in the armrest, but NO screen to go with it! The other was that though my Gluten free meal request was registered by the reservation website, Megan's Vegetarian meal request wasn't.
Megs' first class veggie meal
After everyone else was fed, the attendants were nice enough to put together a meal selection from first class.
The flight from Brussels to Geneva only took an hour; a bit like hoping from SD to San Fran in California. I finally nodded off for about 20 minutes but woke just in time to see our first Alp. The snow covered landscape satisfied the imaginary Switzerland that lived in my brain. Getting through customs was very easy, both in Belgium and in Switzerland so soon we were greeted by the smiling face of TV's Brett Jackson (he's not really on TV, we just like to call him that). The train/trolley trip to their neighborhood was also easy, taking less than 20 minutes. Unfortunately, the snow covered, Christmas-light-laden Geneva that also lived in my imagination wasn't as fully realized.
Our first Alps-sighting
Geneva doesn't get much snow because of the stabilizing effect of Lake Geneva. My second sleep-deprived observation of the city was that they have graffiti here. Brett assured me, though, that Swiss graffiti was heavily laden with political and socially relevant material and less plain-old tagging as in the States. Which somehow made me feel better. Europeans, as we all know, are far more sophisticated. Ok, that lives in my imagination as well.
The Jackson's flat (apartment) was satisfyingly continental. Even the radio station sounded like the soundtrack to "Amelie". You can see the Arve River from their balcony, which eventually connects to the Rhone, and the sunset was brilliant. When asked if we were hungry I tried to describe the signals my stomach was giving me.
Rosti, made by Chef Brett
It was hungry. Very hungry actually, but it wasn't entirely convinced I was going to do anything about it so it didn't really want to commit to being hungry. I decided it would be best to force the new sleep/eat time table on it, so Brett treated us to a local dish called 'rosti' consisting of potatoes, onions, tomatoes and eggs. Emily claims he has become quite a master at preparing it, and after having partaken, I whole-heartedly agree.
After dinner I followed the Jackson's to one of their local markets, called Migro. After the third or fourth time hearing them make reference to Migro, I must admit I had to make them clarify what it was they were saying. 'M' is quite close to 'N' on the hearing scale, and we were VERY tired.
XXL Buns and an American flag. Brilliant.
Apparently, Migro owns Switzerland. Some examples of their far-reaching existence are: Migros grocery, Migrol Petrol, MMigro Store, MMMigro Store, (the number of M's tells you how large it is), Migro Ecole (school), Migro Bank, Migro Money Exchange, etc, etc. Brett likened it to Lex Corps.
I always enjoy going into stores overseas. Inevitably you find consumable products that use US symbols in their advertising and it's always fun to see what that means to the locals. In this case, Migro carries two brands of bread that fulfilled this requirement. I'll let the packaging speak for themselves.
Speaking of entertaining European advertising strategies, I had to do a double-take when I walked past a Coke machine in the Brussels Airport (see attached photos).
What a colorful Coke machine. Wait, what...?
I'm not sure I want to "taste the Coke side of Belgium" if that kid is doing what I think he's doing. Plus there is a bizarre series of espresso machine ads that involve a cup of coffee sitting on George Clooney's face. Brett says George is very popular in Swiss ad campaigns. I assume the point of the advertisement is something to the effect of, "the only thing good enough to cover/sit on George Cloony's face is coffee made from our machines." Perhaps my niece Maggie, the advertising guru, can give me a better interpretation.
I finally crashed about 7pm Swiss time last night (10 am US time) after having been up for ~25 hours. My sleep was coma-like and filled with highly detailed and bizarre dreams. Not bizarre as in alien-terrorists, extra-dimensional landscapes and talking furniture.
From the Jackson's deck.
Those are fairly normal for me. These were REALLY freaky. I was living in some fictional though reality-based small town, listening to my brother complain about the construction guy who lives in the granny-flat out back not paying his rent. And later on buying beef jerky at the mom-and-pop owned food mart while flipping through what was apparently my old year book and talking to the white-trash chick behind the counter I got the impression I knew a little too well. Oh, and for those of you who knew him, Matt was there, too. Wearing horn rimmed glasses and a red sweater vest, carrying school books. He looked like a Mr. Rogers groupie. And if that isn't a dream freak show, I don't know what is.