Month: September 2015

Zurich after Dark

Zurich after dark

We’ve managed to go out twice (!) in the past month, thanks to having on-tap babysitters (my in-laws) in town.

It was somewhat of a revelation to experience Zurich after dark on a Friday and Saturday night, respectively. You almost forget sometimes that people are still going out, eating dinner in restaurants, drinking in bars and throwing it about on dancefloors. Anyway, I thought I’d give a couple of mini rundowns because we checked out some great spots and I feel like a few important pieces of the puzzle are now in place – eg: Zurich’s rock and goth bars, ha ha ha!

Friday Night around Langstrasse (Kreis 4&5)start of night

The area around Langstrasse comprises Zurich’s red-light district. I’ve been there during the day and it’s a little grimy but pretty tame. At night, it’s not exactly super-seedy but on a Friday it does have a decent buzz. If I were to compare to Sydney, it’s probably more Newtown or Paddington than Kings Cross. In London – maybe more Islington than Camden. Although I’d have to say it’s on the whole less batshit busy and with fewer falling-about drunkards than Australia or the UK.

We ate dinner at Josef – a restaurant that’s been on our list for a while. This place is pretty trendy. It’s decked out with shiny mosaic tiles and cool, moody b&w posters of 70s punk chicks and Matt Dillon in The Outsiders. And they’re doing the small plates thing that’s so hot right now.

There was a good crowd in the lively bar area near the door and the maitre d’ was refreshingly honest about seating us when we arrived a bit late (after 8pm for a 7.30 sitting because: kids) – “if you sit here, I won’t have to kick you out at 9…” And then when we finished around 10pm, he didn’t hide his glee “oh this is perfect, because someone else has just arrived and wants a table.” heh. There was also an Aussie waitress from Adelaide, so that was cool – there’s not that many Aussies in Zurich so it’s always nice to meet one. I guess half of them work in hospitality (see below.) And she gave us some really good wine recommendations.

The food was good, if not ah-mazing. We went for 3 small plates each (CHF51ea – pricey but normal for Zurich, to be honest, we probably should have gone for 4 plates at CHF62 or the “menu” for CHF67 as we weren’t exactly stuffed afterwards). However, we tried a pretty good selectionCocktails at Blurred (I think!) of the menu. The place was dark(ish) and fairly bustling and we were sat in between two other couples (3 separate tables but not much room between), which was fine, if not the most romantic of settings. However, we enjoyed the ambiance and we really enjoyed our meal.

Would I go back there? Hmm; maybe – I would definitely pop in for a cocktail en route to elsewhere in the area but there’s a few other places I’d rather try before eating at Josef again.

Next up, we trotted along Langstrasse to Mata Hari Bar a tiki-themed rock bar. We sat at the bar, which I love. They had a range of tiki-themed cocktails, which I don’t (rum isn’t really my thing) so I settled for the old standard safe bet Jack Daniels and soda. I’d actually forgotten how much I like JD – in fact, yep, I am practically Slash. Mata Hari was nice, good to know it’s there for next time certain friends visit (Mad Dog I’m looking at you), and I have to say it was possibly the cleanest rock bar I have ever been in. I couldn’t see any frayed upholstery, lifting lino, scuffy decor or anything. Even the toilets were surprisingly neat – with about 3 pieces of graffiti and not even puddles of mystery water to wade through. They didn’t even smell. I had to laugh thinking back to Big Red or The Intrepid Fox.

Feeling as though we were owend of nighted a cocktail, we trekked further along Langstrasse, under the rail bridge, to the Kreis 4 end. This side was a bit more happening, actually, with kids outside bars and clubs and cars of dudes cruising by in traditional Friday-night-stylee. We stuck our heads in the gin bar Dante but it was about 4-deep to get a drink and we couldn’t be bothered. So we skipped across the road to Total Bar. And it was great. A Lisbon-themed bar a bit like Bar Kick in London but with Lisbon-looking dykey types shaking up neat cocktails and not too crowded. It was also Lisbon prices so we had a couple of cocks apiece. They weren’t the finest drinks I’ve ever drunk but the price was right, the place had a nice feel and, let’s face it, by this time of the evening, we weren’t so picky. Would definitely pop back in to this little gem.

Saturday Nght in Wiedikon (Kreis 3)

For our Saturday night out (a couple of weeks later), we wanted to check out a different area, as well as having a bit more of a special meal, to mark our 10-year wedding anniversary (actually in October but we have babysitters now!). I’d read about Maison Manesse on a Zurich food blog I’ve been following, Zat for Zurich, and it sounded interesting. Himself and I are both kind of foodies who enjoy something a bit different/ molecular gastronomy type shit, so this place sounded like the goods. For dinner, it’s a set menu/degustation and prices were at the high end. We figured it was a special occasion so let’s go the whole hog and were glad we did.

Maison Manesse menu

The food was really awesome. I haven’t eaten at El Bulli or anything so maybe this would be a poor imitation, but for us, it really impressed and delighted. It started with an Uzazi seed from South Africa as a palate cleanser. Similar to Sichuan pepper, as you chew it, it sets your whole mouth buzzing, then watering for several minutes. Wow. Next was an appetiser of frozen rocket and chilli guacamole – I love rocket. Then onto the menu proper (complete with Joy Division refs :)). There was hardly a bum note in all seven dishes. Each course was served on its own unique plate that was matched to the dish, rather than each other. Stand outs were the 63-degree egg that morphed into a delicious nutty goo almost like satay sauce; a porcini mushroom with chuño – a Peruvian potato product; the scallop and the dessert – a fried apple thing that tasted like the best waft of donut-scent at a funfair. The meal ended with an extra dessert thing from the kitchen (what is that called? Dessertpetizer?) of marshmallows and fruit gels. You toasted the mallow at the table – a cute Swiss twist in the country that adores raclette, fondue and all forms of table grilling!

We got chatting to Fabian, the founder/chef, when our meal was over and of course he is half Aussie (and half Swiss). When we asked about the marked presence of Peruvian ingredients on the menu, he said it was due to a trip he’d done there a few years back that really blew him away and that he’s basically the only guy in Zurich using a lot of these flavours. The cellar was also impressive, with a spreadsheet wine list describing around 400 varieties. There were bottles for CHF1,500 on there. Suffice to say, we chose something a little more modest. I discovered only today – after the fact –  that Maison Manesse has a Michelin star. So I’m impressed we even got a table, considering I booked it on Thursday for the Saturday night… love Zurich!  Would I go back there? Yes definitely. The menu completely changes every couple of months, too.

Dessertpetiser (or whatever it's called) of table-toasted marshmallows

Afterward we walked around the corner to check out Zurich goth bar Bonesklinic which was like every goth bar, ever. Groups of dark-clad, pierced and interesting-haired friends getting drunk on beer, wine and shots, etc. They talked to each other and completely ignored us. So far, so normal. It was decked out inside a bit like a mobile home: cheapo wood panelling and tartan-upholstered booth seating, albeit with many alpine drinking horns hung everywhere. But they were playing Queen. And they gave us a free welcome shot in a plastic skull. And the smokers out the front were extremely quiet and well behaved. I didn’t check out the toilets but I bet they were clean and had toilet paper. So a bit of a departure from, say, the Dev of old in Camden – with its SECRIFICE MYSELF TO YOU Jesus and Mary Chain graffiti in the horrible loos that I must have spent at least 5 hours of my life looking at if you add up all the time we spent in there. Heh. Would I return? Depends who I was with and where we were off to – it’s a little off the beaten track but if an appropriate gig was nearby, or if/when I manage to befriend some of the local goth kids: sure!

But I digress. 2 fancy, foodie Zurich restaurants: tick. Rock bar: tick, Lisbon lesbian bar: tick. Goth bar: tick. Can’t wait for our next night out!

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21 unexpected benefits of being a sleep-deprived mother of two

Making music together

  1. I get things done in a crazy adrenaline rush with the idea that it might give me time for a nap later. Today I dropped my eldest at Kindy, took the empties to the bottle bank and completed my grocery shopping by 9am. I never take a nap later.
  2. I give less fucks about attempting my abominable German in shops now, and then switching halfway through to English anyway. Haben sie putzessig? Um… you know… für… putz-er-(mumble, mumble) cleaning?
  3. Sometimes I don’t even bother putting on makeup before leaving the house. This is a big deal for me.
  4. Likewise, I tend to choose one outfit and wear it all week. Maybe a fresh top here and there. Fuck it. Who am I trying to impress?
  5. When my husband’s away, I can get both kids through dinner-bath-story-bed in about one hour flat. If he’s around to help, it takes 3. Once they’re down, it’s wine o’clock.
  6. That said, I drink less. I just can’t handle the hangovers when I’m up several times in the night and there’s no lie-ins. So that’s a health benefit.
  7. I’m thin from all the anxiety. I may look haggard, I may eat poorly, but I am thin. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate that.
  8. Trips to the basement laundry room, rather than being a chore, are now a delightful “me-time” mini-break. Ditto for showers. 5 minutes when I can’t hear if someone’s chewing on the power cords or stealing each other’s toys. Bliss!
  9. When I see my friends, I can download information about everything I’ve been thinking, feeling and doing for the past week in about 30-minutes flat while we’re both kid-wrangling. My friend then does the same. We’re like socialising supercomputers. Or something.
  10. If I think I can hear my kid crying in the Kindergarten playground (it’s right next door to my house), I “just walk away” – maybe my heart is breaking but I gotta be callous and let him work it out himself. I’m so tired anyway: fuggeddabouddit.
  11. I used to be great at remembering birthdays, sending cards etc. Now they just whizz by and I don’t bother. Meh. Does the world need more Hallmark? I think not.
  12. Emails from friends are precious missives – I often read them several times over and look forward to sending my replies. Please write! 🙂
  13. I’ve become so efficient at clothes shopping – nup, nup, nup, yep that’ll do. At the moment, I no longer even consider dresses (because: breastfeeding), shoes with heels, “office wear”, anything with tight sleeves (can’t heft a baby with constricted arms) or anything too tight really, straight skirts (can’t sit on the ground), plain tops (show too much dirt), etc. It makes shopping very efficient, if rather boring. I don’t shop much for myself anymore.
  14. A night out is so rare, I get stupidly excited. I can’t believe I used to take this for granted! It’s almost worth having no social life in exchange for how wonderful it feels when I do finally get to go out of an evening. Almost.
  15. The precarious loveliness of small overtures – two playdates, a few yoga classes, a lot of information-sharing about our kids, and we’re becoming friends. We’re all just hanging by a thread, it feels like sometimes we just catch each other by the fingertips before one of us slips through the net.
  16. The look another mum gives you when you think you might have gone too far, but it’s fine because we’re all so exhausted and we understand.
  17. I’ve only got time to “play it forward” – I can’t remember enough day-to-day to return favours and I’d like to think we’re all helping each other as and when it’s needed. Plus, it’s SO NICE  when it comes back around.
  18. A true appreciation of the money vs. time/effort equation. Here in Switzerland I call it the “Going to Germany” conundrum (cheaper prices, but more time and effort).
  19. I’m learning to switch off my phone and shut down the laptop and try to spend “quality” time with the kids… um not right now as I’m writing this, obviously.
  20. Getting better at saying “no” or, at the very least, “not now”. It’s still hard and I don’t like it. But the saying-no-anxiety seems to melt away quicker with so much else on my plate!
  21. My emotions are much closer to the surface. I cry easily, whether it’s due to happiness, sadness, anger or stress. When I do something enjoyable (sightseeing, swimming, a good conversation, dinner out) I really love it. I may be finally learning to acknowledge my emotions. It’s a crazy time. I wouldn’t swap it.

St Gallen

Another day, another day trip. I took my in-laws up to St Gallen this week and it was simply stunning. Autumn in Switzerland can deliver these crisp, sunny days with amazing dark blue skies. It was warm in the sunshine but cool in the shade – perfect weather for sightseeing, really!

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We visited the Stiftsbibliothek – where no photos are allowed. I don’t quite know how to convey how awed I was by this place. Having studied Medieval History and medieval manuscripts at university, I felt quite moved to visit this ancient library. They had texts there from Charlemagne and the Bishop of Wurms – stuff I’d read about and written essays on! Seeing the illuminated scripts (under glass) in this environment really gave a wonderful impression of how it might have been as a monk back in the day in the presence of all these incredible books. I think I’m actually still processing what I saw and the enormity of it. Texts dating back to 800-900 – those early middle ages are such a fascinating time. Wow.

St Gallen is a small(ish) town in the mountains with a beautifully preserved medieval main square (Gallusplatz) encompassing a UNESCO world heritage site. In the old town centre, many buildings feature ornate oriel windows dating back to the late middle ages (shades of The Name of the Rose – a book I also read while at uni, thankfully at the time I knew the most Latin!). Apparently the oriel windows were a sign of wealth and St Gallen has some of the best/most examples of them around.

We also visited the cathedral/ the Dom. I’m always taken with just how different the impression you get of a church is from the outside compared to how it “feels” when you step in. This place was a serene, baroque fancy, all decked out in soft green-painted plasterwork and gold leaf. You get the feeling there’s still no shortage of cash in and around St Gallen! The green colour was reminiscent of copper roofs (which many churches have) or tree moss, so gave a lovely sense of the outdoors inside. And it was so light. Just beautiful.

I really enjoyed our trip to St Gallen (1.5hr by train from Oerlikon).

Rheinfall

I’ve had my in-laws here this month and we’ve done some great day trips so I thought I’d post a couple of photo blogs for the 3 people who read this that aren’t Foolbook friends…

This was our visit to the Rheinfall (Rhine Falls) – the largest waterfalls in Europe. Even at what is probably the lowest ebb of the year, the sheer volume of water was impressive. It would be amazing to go back in spring when all the snowmelt is pouring down! Also for 1 August (Swiss National Day), they have fireworks above the Rheinfall, which would be something to see!

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What will work?

Helvetiaplatz

I haven’t had much time for this blog lately. Life has definitely got in the way! It feels like a new chapter in my Zurich life is beginning – or maybe it’s already begun. And that chapter is loosely titled: Work

I’ve been doing bits and pieces of work for a while, of course. Maybe I never really stopped. I seem to remember submitting in a very scattered piece of writing the week before I gave birth (thankfully salvaged by a kind editor who was aware of the situation and forgave not being up to my usual standards!) and I’ve been chipping away at various things ever since. Including taking on quite a lot (too much!) freelance while Himself was away for a month. It kept me sane. Or rather, helped me feel insane in a reassuringly familiar way.

But now things seem to have ramped up a notch. The baby is 8 months this week (time flies!) and I’m ready to put some regular childcare in place and increase, or at least formalise, my workload.

But

What about those German classes? I did a few back-of-envelope calculations this week during some much-needed downtime (thanks to Himself and the in-laws being around) and, well… I find myself in a bit of a quandary. Assuming I can find a childcare place for the baby (I’m thinking half-days at this stage) should I use that time to work, or to learn?

Work it, baby

Work it, baby

Picking up my German studies again is something I’ve been trying to do since I stopped prior to our Australia trip last October. It’s been a year. Oddly, despite thinking I’m “going backwards” by forgetting some of what I learnt, I actually feel more confident to bust out some Deutsch lately. Maybe it’s just my brain is so full of other stuff I have to give less fucks about being embarrassed. Tiny things like making myself say “Ich habe ein termin mit Laura” at the hairdresser instead of “I have an appointment with Laura” – which they would totally understand of course, but it’s so much better to attempt German. (and I’m sure I got tenses, articles and spellings wrong there, but the point is, I should say it anyway). Because otherwise, I just speak English and then I hear English in reply and how does that help?

And working is… work. I dunno. I’ve always worked. I like it. I get a lot of my personal identity out of the work I do. Maybe (probably) I identify more with being a writer-and-editor than I do with being a mum, for better or worse. I’ve done the latter for much longer, after all. So there’s that. Versus being a student, which I’m not exactly bad at, but maybe not great at either. I don’t know if I enjoy learning as much as… doing? Doing my job? Doing a job. Being a parent? Maybe I shouldn’t include parenting in the mix. It’s not something I can chose to do or not right now.

So working versus learning. It’s something familiar versus something new and challenging. But the familarity of work also has challenges within it. And, of course, I get paid for working. Whereas I have to pay to learn. Speaking to another expat recently (about a job), she said she didn’t feel 100% at home in Zurich until she joined the workforce here. And I get that.

Work can be fun

Work can be fun

Then again, there’s no doubt that learning more German will also help the assimilation process. And it will probably even enhance my career prospects in the long- or medium-term. Hell, maybe even in the shortish term if I can get to the stage where I could do basic translations/editing from German to English (with the help of Google no doubt!).

Work also stresses me. Quite a lot sometimes. Does language learning stress me? I think maybe not so much.

Assuming that I can, and will, work for the rest of my “working life”, but I can probably only learn German now, while we’re here in Switzerland (for however long that may be) I should probably take this opportunity… But if I have to pass on work to do so? Tough one. I guess I want to do a bit of both. But I don’t want to do a bad job on either. Hmm

I also have to give up some parenting time, particularly to do both. It’s quite a juggle. And time with friends? I haven’t yet attempted language learning while having a baby so that will also be interesting.

I read a really good article recently – Why Does Learning a new Language Feel Soo Bad? – about how we often feel it’s a moral failing if we haven’t mastered the local language. It really struck a chord with me. I don’t want to tie my self-worth up in German lessons. But I do seem to tie it up in the work I do (and in parenting, and maybe my social life). And now all these things are duking it out for my time. I’m not quite sure where that leaves me.

 

 

The start of something?

Dreams

I lit a little fire

Planted a small seed

maybe one will warm my heart

the other hunger feed

 

I’m being rather quiet

It’s not a lot like me

Trying to protect the spark, the soil

I guess that we shall see…

 

It’s hard getting nothing back

Sometimes you have to wait

and perhaps I’m even learning

about blooms that happen late

 

Autumn’s fallen, a time to reap

But I’ve just sown my bed

So I’ll have to lie in it awhile

see what’s up ahead

 

It’s easy enough to begin

‘specially when you start small

And ending’s a fine thing

But to continue… right now: that’s all