Monday, December 28, 2015

The things I see when I walk my dogs...

This morning, after a rather intensive German Duolingo session, I decided it was time to walk Zane and Arran.  I usually wait until Zane begs for a walk, but the sun was out and I was feeling very motivated.  So I got dressed, grabbed my phone, supplied myself with shit bags, and got the dogs on their leashes.  We started walking and Zane promptly dropped a load near a neighbor's house.  While I might have been tempted to leave the pile, since so many others seem to do it, the lady of the house was outside shaking out her rugs.  Besides that, Zane went next to the sign pleading for people to clean up their dogs' messes.  I felt guilty, so I cleaned up the mess.

Since we were so close to the poop can, I decided to go the route that passes it.  As an explanation, there's a fork in the road on my dogwalking route.  I can go one way, past the recycling bins.  It means not having to climb a hill on the way.  Or, I can go past the dog poop can, allowing me the chance to drop off any deposits the dogs might make early on.  It means climbing two less intensive hills and going down the tough one.

Anyway, since I had a bag to drop off, I went past the poop can.  As I was about to drop off Zane's crap, I looked down and noticed that someone had left their glasses under the can.

What the hell?

I don't know why, but I often run across strange things when I walk the dogs.  I don't understand why someone left their glasses under the shit can, but I'm sure there's a story.  If only those glasses could talk!  I'm glad today it was glasses, though.  On occasion, I have also seen someone's undergarments stashed in the treeline near the poop can.  

Someone left this child's desk and chair on the hill from hell.  It's mystery who left it and why.  But it's been sitting there for months and I've never seen anyone using it.

Over the summer, Bill and I were walking the dogs and we saw liquor mysteriously sitting on a bench.

Yes... this is a pretty full bottle of what appears to be Jack Daniels.  Who left it there?  And why?  

As I was cleaning up a second pile of poop, a stern looking local passed me.  I was suddenly glad I had two bags with me.

We kept walking, dodging a car illegally driving on the road that is supposedly meant for farm vehicles and bottle recyclers.  We finally passed a friendly old guy who had walked to the recycling bins to drop off his bottles.  I said "Good morning" to him.  He responded in kind and started saying other stuff I don't yet understand.  So I explained in German that I am American and don't speak German.  Then I corrected myself and said I speak a little German.  Hey, I'm getting there slowly.  If I would stop and talk to my neighbors, maybe I could say more than "Hello, I don't speak German."  Oh, and "Ich bin eine Banane."  No joke.  That was an actual sentence I learned on Duolingo today.

Well, now it's time to write a book review.   Bis bald.  ;) 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

No lifeguard on duty!

This morning, one of Bill's friends posted a picture of their cute little girls enjoying an indoor swimming pool.  The girls are absolutely adorable, so they alone should have been enough to capture my attention.  What I actually noticed first, though, were the walls around the pool.  I could only see two of them, but they were heavily adorned with huge warning signs.

The first sign says in huge, bold letters:

WARNING: NO LIFEGUARD ON DUTY.  No swimming alone.  Children under 14 years of age and non-swimmers shall not use the pool unless accompanied by a responsible adult.

The next sign says...


Another sign says...


I'm sure the "no diving" sign is posted because the water is probably only four feet deep or so...  It's hard to find an "old school" deep pool in America anymore.  Luckily, they are everywhere in Europe.

Easily visible in the photo, there is also a long list of pool rules in type too small for me to make out, but I guess they cover everything not already covered in the big signs.  I see another sign that looks like a crude picture of food and beverage crossed out.

Now, had Bill and I not recently gone swimming alone in an Austrian beer pool, maybe these signs wouldn't seem so over the top to me.  When I lived in the United States, I saw these kinds of anti-litigation signs everywhere and never thought much of them.  Now that I live in Europe again and have walked along the sides of ponds with no protective fencing and observed children walking and riding their bikes alone in our neighborhood, the signs seem strange.  At some point, Americans surrendered their common sense and businesses and insurance companies became hyperaware of the need for warnings.  Seems like this wasn't the case when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s.

Before anyone mentions it, I don't think Stella Liebeck, the lady who spilled hot coffee from McDonald's, is necessarily to blame for this hyperwarning society we have right now.  For one thing, Stella Liebeck was well within her rights to sue McDonald's.  They sold her coffee that was way hotter than the industry standard.  Yes, she stupidly put it between her thighs so she could add cream and sugar, but the coffee was so hot that it gave her serious burns that affected her for the rest of her life.  Moreover, she had originally only asked McDonald's for about $10,000 to cover her medical bills.  They offered $800.  She sued and a jury awarded her big money, most of which she never got.

On the other hand, it does seem like since the big 90s era McDonald's hot coffee case, Americans have gotten a lot more interested in disclaimers that cover every possible scenario that could come up and lead to a lawsuit.  I would expect a similar attitude in Germany, where people seem similarly prone to litigation.  And yet, when I go swimming at the Mineraltherme, I don't see humongous signs posted warning about what's not allowed or what could happen while floating in the pools full of many peeing patrons and face suckers (sorry, but it's the truth).  I don't even see signs warning me that I might see nudity, not that that's dangerous per se, but what will the children think?  ;-)

I contrast the sight of those signs in the American pool with what was on the walls at the Starkenberger Beer Pools in Austria.  There, we saw many murals, many of which were very bawdy and probably not suitable for audiences under age 13.  Bill and I were left alone to bathe to our hearts' content, drinking as much beer as we wanted.  There were no lifeguards on duty and no one was there to check our ages or tell us not to dive.  Fortunately, we were smart enough to survive the experience.  I'm proud to say that we lived by our wits that night!  And what memories we have!  It was one of the most fabulous evenings we've had since our move back to Europe.

The only sign at the Starkenberger Beer Pool...

A magical experience!

I wonder if those signs really do prevent drownings or other tragedies...  Somehow, I doubt it.  What they do is make it somewhat harder for people to be sued.  At the same time, they also kind of curb the ambiance and remind everyone that there are dumb people out there who have to be explicitly warned not to do dumb things.  It's a little depressing.  I'm a big fan of Darwinism, but that's probably because I'm nobody's mother.

I have spent the whole holiday weekend holed up at home.  Perhaps later today, we will go out and try a new restaurant.  But for now, I will think about how lucky I was to get to swim in beer with no lifeguard on duty and no warning signs protecting me from my own negligence.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ten things I learned on my trip to Austria, Italy, and Switzerland...

Here it is, time for another ten things I learned post.  I like to think of these lists as a good way to sum up a trip.  It so happens that I learned a lot during our most recent travel.  I may have even learned more than ten things.  So, with no further delay, here's my list of what I learned this time.

10.  Bier Bottich Bad...  apparently, it's a beer spa franchise and other hotels are jumping on the bandwagon.  The experience pretty much looks to be the same at the places who offer this particular beer spa treatment.  Other types of beer baths exist, but if you find one with this logo...

It's distinctive, isn't it?

you know you're in for a beer jacuzzi soak in what looks like a beer keg and a rest in oat straw.  Now that we've done it twice, I think it may be awhile before our next beer spa treatment, unless we go somewhere that's different.

9.  Good brakes are an absolute must in the Alps.  This should go without saying.  I'm mentioning it, though, because there are some very steep passes in the mountains.  Before you drive there in your car, you may want to have your mechanic check and make sure your brakes are in tip top shape.

8.  Tipping is not a thing in Italy.  Sure, it's likely that your tips will be appreciated by some servers, but it's not something that Italians really do.  At least not based on my observations...  A lot of times, you pay a cashier separate from the server, which doesn't lend itself to tipping anyway.  If you do tip, just round up the bill.  Otherwise, you may end up being unintentionally offensive.  Also, remember that in a lot of Italian restaurant locations, you pay a couple of euros as a cover charge.

7.  Smog is a thing in Italy.   It's very sad, actually.  I never realized just how polluted the air was there until this particular trip.  It makes me realize that environmental laws are a good thing.  The air quality is noticeably better in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

6.  You may see Confederate battle flags in Italy.  My Italian friend Vittorio says that some southern Italians have co-opted the so-called Stars and Bars because they relate to the American South and the whole Civil War thing.  I don't know how true that is or if he's just pulling my leg, but I sure as hell did see a Confederate battle flag in an Italian Agip station.  By the way... shopping, even at truck stops, is awesome in Italy.

This was a surprise.  So was all the olive oil and other Italian food stuff for sale.

5.  If a waiter offers you a glass of Champagne in a five star hotel, it could be Cristal and you may get serious sticker shock.  Granted, it was our own fault for not simply requesting the wine list first.  We weren't thinking.  Lesson learned.

4.  Power outlets are different in Switzerland.   I had totally forgotten about this little idiosyncrasy of life in Switzerland.  We will have to invest in a couple of adaptors for our next excursion.


3.  German sounds different in Austria.  At least it did to me.  But it could be just that I am a long way from being able to communicate or understand the language.

2.  Not every European country totally shuts down on Sunday.  We found stores open in Austria and Switzerland.  We weren't in Italy on Sunday.  My guess is that Italy does shut down.  Someone can correct me if I'm wrong.

1.  Italian truck stops/Auto Grills are amazing.  You can pee there for free and they offer very good food and relatively convenient parking.  You may have to run the shopping gauntlet maze to escape the store, but you won't have to fish out fifty cents to take a whiz.  Of course, you also won't get to sit down on a toilet seat.  The toilets in the ones we visited were all seatless.  I recommend the Auto Grill because if you get off the Autostrada just to eat, you'll end up having to pay tolls more often.  It's a pain in the butt.  Also... if you drive in Italy, make sure you have cash to pay the tolls.  Italy is not unlike New Jersey, toll booth capital of the USA...  

George Carlin about sums up driving, especially in Italy.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A whirlwind trip to Austria, Italy, and probably Switzerland, part 13

Finally, it was Sunday morning, the last day of our three country business/leisure trip.  As is our habit, we woke up at about 6:00am.  Although I initially had a great impression of the hotel in Vevey, our experience having dinner in the restaurant had dampened my enthusiasm a bit.  We probably should have searched for another place to have breakfast; they are definitely available in the area around Grand Hotel du Lac.  But I remembered the excellent experience we had at breakfast on Saturday morning and was hoping another great breakfast experience would make up for our run in with the snotty Swiss waiter from Saturday night (ooh... try saying that three times fast!).

The best shot I managed to get of the lake.

We got dressed and went back to the restaurant.  We waited a few minutes until another young man, not the one from Saturday night, greeted us and invited us to take a seat.  We chose the same table where we sat the night before.

We were the only ones in the restaurant at 8:00am.  That's probably because the hotel has a brunch from 12-3pm on Sundays.  I bet it's very expensive, though I have read that the food is excellent.  We needed to get on the road, though, so we opted for the regular breakfast buffet.  Instead of coffee, I asked for hot chocolate.  I figured since we were in Switzerland, the hot chocolate would be something to write home about.  Alas, it wasn't.  The waiter brought out a cup of steamed milk and three sachets of hot chocolate powder, one of which was Ovaltine.  I haven't had Ovaltine since I was about twelve years old.  Maybe I should have asked for a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream on the side.

"Hot chocolate"...  Now I know how real southerners felt when I waited on them at The Trellis in Williamsburg and invited them to sweeten their iced tea with the sweeteners in the caddy on the table.

Anyway, I decided not to order anything else special.  I noticed that unlike the awesome lady who had run the breakfast on Saturday, Sunday morning's waiter had not put out labels for the food items.  I ended up being affronted by a chafing dish full of grilled tomatoes and sauteed mushrooms.  This is not a huge deal... I only mention it because the other lady had paid such great attention to detail, while the young chap serving us yesterday seemed to still be learning.  However, I give him credit for being very pleasant and not irritating us.

Also, I noticed that the plates stacked in the plate warmer were much warmer than the ones on Saturday.  The pat of butter I struggled to put on my plate ended up melting by the time I sat down.  We also had to use napkins in order to handle the plates.  Again, not a big deal... just a minor oversight that made an impression.  I'm sure there's a reason why the awesome lady who identified our room number without a hint was working Saturday morning, when more people would be eating breakfast, and the greener waiter was working on Sunday morning, when more people would probably choose brunch.

Melted butter...

Once again, the food quality was very good.  I wasn't as dazzled by the experience as I was on Saturday morning, but at least I didn't leave the restaurant annoyed like I did on Saturday night.

We packed up all our stuff and hauled it down to the car.  Bill went in and settled the bill for our two night stay.  The grand total was 1340 francs.  Again, the bill was presented with a box of chocolates to soften the blow.  It was not the most we've ever spent on lodging, but it probably was the most we've spent for only two nights.  For the most part, we really liked the Grand Hotel du Lac.  I would not hesitate to stay there again or recommend it to others.  If we ever go back to Vevey, I will think about whether or not the deluxe upgrade to the room is worth it.  Had we been in town all day on Saturday, we would have been able to enjoy the lake views.  The sun eventually came out after we got on the train to Gruyeres.  As it was, the times we were in the room we couldn't see the lake due to the morning fog and it being dark outside when we returned.  Also, we could hear faint strains of the piano player because our room was right over the restaurant, though thanks to Advil PM, it was a temporary nuisance.   On the plus side, the rooms on the first floor had bigger balconies than the ones on the higher floors.

The restaurant also seems to be hit or miss.  We had one really great experience there, one poor one, and one that was about average.  The food was uniformly good, but for what we were paying, I think the restaurant should have been better than it was.

The rest of the staff was very kind and helpful and the property is really beautiful.  In fact, the whole area around Lake Geneva is gorgeous.  I'd love to go back and see more of it sometime.  I think if we have the time and chance to do it, we will return... after we save up some money.

Our drive back to Germany was mostly uneventful, if foggy.  Switzerland is an interesting country.  Since they have so many official languages there, you can see when you cross over to another area.  One minute, all the signs were in French; the next minute, they were in German.  We stopped at a rest stop, which was very bare bones.  Basically, it consisted of a row of unisex stalls that weren't all that clean and offered no sink for hand washing.  I did spot a spigot on the side of the building.  Maybe that's for those who want to rinse off.

Swiss rest stop.  At least it was free!


Blurry German sign.

Bill struggled to distract me from playing with the seatbelt.  He's a safety freak and I get bored and restless on long car trips.  We eventually made it back to Germany in one piece after crossing the two lane border.  Since it was almost lunchtime, we stopped at a truck stop, hoping to find chicken.  We decided to pass on eating there, since they didn't have anything that looked especially appealing.  That was a mistake, since we ended up stopping in Horb and couldn't quickly find anything there.  The one place we tried was booked solid.

We'll have to go back to Horb and explore it more, though.  It looks like a really interesting town.  Had I not been in a hurry to get home and reunite with our dogs, we might have tried harder to find a spot for lunch.  I did at least get a few photos.


Weird sculpture.  It smelled like it had served a few public urinators.

I kind of identify with this one...

A black cat followed us...

Overall, we enjoyed our trip.  It was great to be able to get away for awhile and actually do some traveling instead of hanging around Stuttgart.  Our next planned trip is in March, but I'm hoping we can do a short trip sometime before then.  For now, I guess I'll get back to trying and reviewing local restaurants and attractions!

A whirlwind trip to Austria, Italy, and probably Switzerland, part 12

After our trip to Gruyeres, we came back to the hotel and were once again enthusiastically greeted by a staffer.  The singer/piano player was back, too.  Bill and I went to our room and I said I thought I might prefer to order room service.  I was feeling really tired and fatigued after spending the day dodging kids.  We looked at the room service menu, but Bill seemed more interested in trying the hotel restaurant.  So we went downstairs, dressed in the same clothes we wore in Gruyeres.  I think we were clean.

Another shot of the Christmas lights.  I was on the balcony when I took this.

Someone got married.  We ran into the wedding party just before we were seated for dinner.  The mother of the bride teetered a bit on her high heels.

We were greeted by a young male waiter and a man I assume was the manager, as he was dressed in a business suit rather than a uniform.  They showed us to a table and handed us menus.  The waiter came over and immediately explained the menu, which was actually pretty self-explanatory.  He suggested a number of items, none of which really interested me and, I noticed, were among the highest priced selections offered.  Then he offered us each a glass of Champagne.

Now... I know that real Champagne by the glass from the Champagne region in France is expensive.  What I didn't know was that the waiter was pouring Louis Roederer Cristal.  When I saw the label on the bottle, I knew we were about to get sticker shock.  Cristal Champagne is very expensive.  If we had known that was what they were pouring, maybe we would have declined.  On the other hand, I was pretty much in "fuck it" mode at that point.  I knew we were going to have a big hotel bill anyway, so I just went with it.

Bill sipping very expensive Cristal.

I wasn't that hungry.  Neither was Bill.  And frankly, I was a bit perturbed that we were sipping glasses of Champagne priced at 39 francs a glass (close to $40).  Don't get me wrong.  The bubbly was very good, though I would have been just as happy with Taittinger, which is much less expensive than Cristal is.  Hell, I could have had a whole bottle of Taittinger on the train for about 80 francs.  Now I wish I had splurged then instead of in the restaurant.  On the other hand, at least now I can say I've tried Cristal.  I have the same opinion of it as I did when I tried Dom Perignon the first time.  I enjoyed it, but don't necessarily need to drink it again.

Anyway, since I wasn't that hungry, I decided to forego a starter.  None looked appealing enough to justify the high cost and I really just wanted to eat, take a shower, and go to bed.  The waiter brought us our sparkling water and an assistant brought us bread, along with butter, olive oil, and a very delicious smoked salmon spread.  Bill asked for the wine list.

Time passed.  The wine list never appeared.  Bill reminded the manager, who got our pushy waiter to bring it.  Naturally, the guy tried to make suggestions to us... I was getting pretty peeved, especially when he said we could have a half bottle.  No... I needed a full bottle, thanks, especially after making his acquaintance.  And we know what kind of wine we like better than a waiter who has never seen us before.  That didn't deter our obnoxious waiter, though, as he pointed out high priced bottles on the list.  Bill finally picked a white wine from Montreux, which came in a flowery bottle.  The waiter made a point of telling us that the winemaker also makes a limited edition syrah that is hard to acquire (and probably very expensive).

The amuse.  It was good.  Crab meat with guacamole and a chili sauce, along with cilantro.

As for dinner itself, I had sea bass and Bill had lobster.  Both were prepared very well and beautifully presented.  However, the waiter seemed to have a bit of a snotty attitude.  Though I hadn't said anything about the wait, he made a point of telling me that the food would soon be ready.  Then, he brought out a truffle and took it around the dining room, inviting people to smell it.  He was telling people that they could have some shaved on their meal if they wanted it (for an extra charge, of course).  I don't happen to like truffles and am very sensitive to and repelled by the way they smell, so as he started to offer me the truffle to sniff, I quickly said "Not for me, thanks."  I probably also made a face.  The waiter actually seemed offended.

I then watched him take the truffle, which he had in his bare hand and had waved under Bill's nose, and present it to people at other tables, inviting them to sniff it.  I couldn't help but wonder what he planned to do with that very pricey food item once he was finished passing it around the dining room like a joint.  Truffles are rare and very expensive.  Was he going to throw it out, now that so many people had sniffed it?   Somehow, I doubted it.  Anyway, that little trick, along with the Cristal shenanigans really put me off.

My sea bass.  It came with a clam fritter type thing-- see the standing up triangle.  There was also a savory custard.  

Bill's lobster was more interesting, especially since it included squid.  He doesn't normally go for squid, but said it was good in that particular dish.

When we were finished with our entrees, we asked to see the dessert menu.  Sure enough, our waiter had something to say about that, too.  He recommended the chocolate tart, which was, of course, the most expensive item.  Ordinarily, I love chocolate and I probably would have gone for that... but the waiter had pissed me off, so I chose the slightly cheaper creme brulee instead.

This was actually more like gingerbread with a layer of custard and burnt sugar top.  Little dollops of mousse were on top, along with a touch of ice cream on what tasted like shortbread.

Bill had a cheesecake, though at this point, I'd be hard pressed to describe it in detail.

Candies presented before the check.  We skipped the coffee.  I got up to use the ladies room and the waiter actually walked me there.  It was not necessary.

Our bill was about 233 francs, I think.  

The whole time we were eating, the pianist/lady singer was performing in the bar/lounge area.  She wasn't terrible, but seemed to be playing songs she didn't know that well.  The end result was a woman who wasn't emoting very much as she performed.  It sounded a bit like karaoke, albeit from someone who had a decent singing voice.  We did notice that she didn't use sheet music on a few numbers.  Those she played noticeably much better and with more soul than she did the pop songs of the 70s and 80s.  For instance, I was impressed by her version of Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther Theme".  Bonus was that she didn't have to sing it.
At one point, she played a rather ridiculous rendition of "Careless Whisper" by Wham!  I have always thought that song was kind of cheesy, but when it's played much faster than intended and without any real passion, it just sounds stupid.  Bill had a good time watching my facial expressions as she played bloodless corny number after corny number culminating with a very annoying version of "Your Love Is Lifting Me Higher", a Rita Coolidge cover that was a hit in the late 70s (probably before the lounge singer was even born).  I actually cringed when she did that one, mainly because her piano playing sounded a bit like a doorbell that wouldn't shut off.  She could only play the simplest melodic line of that song, so it sounded very amateur.  She would have been better had someone who knew the song been accompanying her. 

I am a singer myself, have studied voice on and off for years, and am pretty good with music...  and while I can't play the piano worth a damn, I can definitely sing a song.  I say without hesitation or even arrogance that I could have done a better job singing than the musician they had working the room during our stay.  But only if I had an accompanist, of course...  :D  Also, the singer was younger and prettier than me... especially if one goes for long haired, exotic, Asian types, with nice figures.  She had that going for her.

Anyway, we thought the food in the restaurant was pretty good.  The service could have been much better than it was, mainly because I think suggestions are the kind of thing that shouldn't be offered unless someone asks for them.  Our waiter seemed very intent on running up our bill and not too interested in what we actually wanted to eat.  He needs to take a few lessons on what service really is and polish up his act a bit.  I mean, if you're going to pad a bill, at least try to do it in a less obvious way.  From now on, I will ask for a wine list before I accept a glass of Champagne from a waiter.  And next time I think I might prefer room service, I will definitely heed the impulse.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A whirlwind trip to Austria, Italy, and probably Switzerland, part 11

I talked Bill into taking the train to Gruyeres, mainly because I knew he was tired of driving.  I figured it would be easier to relax on the train and he wouldn't have to worry about parking.  Having now been to Gruyeres, I can say that it seems to be an easy drive there and there's plenty of what looked like free parking.  However, the train is also a treat.  You go through some absolutely gorgeous, remote, Alpine villages.

The surreal blue lit bathroom at the Vevey train station.  It cost 1 franc to use it.  It was the handicapped stall, which I used because the other stalls appeared to take 50 cents and I didn't have the right coin for them.  

Note the sign, written in four languages...  I guess if you're Spanish or Dutch, you're out of luck.  (kidding!)

Originally, Bill got us second class seats.  He said it was because the lady who helped him didn't speak English very well. I talked him into upgrading when we got to Montreux.  It was no problem, especially since that time, he got a lady whose English was perfect.  I'm not sure we had better seating per se; that's just how we've gotten used to traveling on trains.  We took a six minute train to Montreux, then a GoldenPass panoramic train for the 45 minute trip to Montbovin.  Our car was full of guys who appeared to be from India.  They took pictures the whole way.  I drank prosecco (9,90 francs) and Bill had a large Boxer beer (6,50 francs).  They also had other beverages, including my favorite bubbly, Taittinger, and snacks for sale.  I almost splurged on Taittinger, but even I have my limits on what I'll spend money on.

Bill takes his seat and checks the menu.  I was a little worried we'd miss the train, since he went to upgrade the tickets.  He made it with plenty of time to spare.

The view... pardon my reflection.

Prosecco for me... in a real glass!

Beer for Bill.

The views alone are worth the train ride.

Most of these little towns were stopped in only by request.  I got a kick out of the English version of the announcements on the train.  The woman had an obvious American accent.  I would have expected a British accent.

From Montbovin, there was another 18 minute ride on a very new train with second class seating to Gruyeres.  Then we took a bus to the village.  You don't have to take the bus, though if you have mobility problems, it may be advisable.  Walking there from the train station involves hiking up a hill with some steps.  Hours later, we walked back down when we'd had enough of Gruyeres.

The first thing we did in Gruyeres was stop into a fondue restaurant for lunch.  In retrospect, maybe it wasn't the best idea for me to go there because there were people eating raclette, which is made with very strong, pungent cheese.  I walked into the place and was almost knocked over by the smell of ripe cheese.  Bill didn't notice it nearly as quickly as I did and he thought it smelled great.  I guess the next time I want to turn him on, I'll just dab a little stinky cheese behind my ears.

First glimpse of Gruyeres.  There's a lot to do here, but we were set on the H.R. Giger Museum.

Bill checks things out.

We had lunch at Auberge De La Halle...  

A half liter of Swiss wine went nicely with our lunch.  It also distracted me from the raunchy smell of ripe cheese.  Bill thought it smelled great, of course.

A salad came with my zander filet.

Zander (pike perch) with sauteed leeks in a white wine sauce and boiled potatoes.  The sauce was very buttery and sinful.

Bill had a salad with cured meats and local cheeses.  He said it was excellent.  I tried a little of the ham and I will agree that it was very good.  Maybe we should have had fondue.  It's made with cheese that isn't quite so strong.

Outside of the restaurant.

A Christmas tree.

Once we finished lunch, we headed to the museum.  For those who don't know who H.R. Giger was (I didn't until I met Bill), he was a surrealist artist whose creations appeared in the films, Alien and Dune, among many other works.  Giger died last year, but was very prolific while he was alive.  His museum is full of his very disturbing and brilliant works, along with some from some other artists.  He acquired the Chateau St. Germain in 1998 and his museum has been operational there ever since.

The front door.

Bill checks out the ground... the inside of the museum has the same type of very intricate etchings.  Bill was fascinated by it.

It cost us 25 francs (12,50 each) to see the museum.  Photos are not allowed inside.  Some people were bringing their kids to this museum.  I don't think that's necessarily the best idea, especially for young children. Many of Giger's works are very sexual and violent.  Some kids may be frightened by what they see.  Moreover, there is a part of the museum where kids are specifically not allowed.  Inside, there are graphic artistic renditions of human genitalia, as well as some disturbing themes that may be hard to explain to youngsters.  Bill loved the museum.  I was less interested in part because I never saw Giger's works and partly because the water and wine kicked in as we were looking.  

After our museum trip, we had a drink in the bar...

A mojito and a vodka royale...  The bathrooms, by the way, are across the way rather than in the bar itself.

A little kid came into the bar with his dad and promptly ran out screaming.  His dad brought him back in and he screamed and ran out again.  While we did see a few kids in the bar who were totally unfazed, it's probably best if the kids sit out the Giger museum and checked out the chateau instead.

This little guy is the tip of the iceberg as to what you'll see in the museum.  Some of it is really weird stuff.

View from the village.

We stopped by a gift shop and bought a couple of things for the house, then got some Gruyeres cheese and chocolate.

Bill had a GREAT day.  The Giger museum was a bucket list activity for him; he's been wanting to go for years.  I'm glad I got to be with him when he finally did it.

The trains only come on the hour, so we were stuck waiting for a bit.  I entertained myself with photography.  Later, I entertained myself by trying to avoid cigarette smoke.

Our ride back to Montreux was on an older train.  We probably should have checked out more of the cars because they had a couple that seemed nicer than the car we were in.  Ours was full of rambunctious kids and their annoyed parents.  Nevertheless, it was a speedy trip back.  After being around people and their kids all day, I was ready for some quiet time.  We thought we'd have dinner at the hotel.  More on that in the next post.

Part 12...