Iceland

In March we visited Iceland with a group of friends. Thanks to the detailed and thoughtful planning of our friend Arpad we basically just had to show up (Arpad Tours are highly recommended 🙂 ). The landscape was incredible and unlike anything we have ever seen. We stayed five days in the capital city of Reykjavik and from there went on several excursions.

We took the popular Golden Circle bus tour. The tour includes a walk through the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (the fault line between the Eurasian and North American Plates), a stops at the powerful Gullfoss waterfalls and the active geyser Strokkur, and ends with a visit to the Hellisheidarvirkjun geothermal power plant. Icelanders have made the most of their seismic heat source and use geothermal energy to heat 90% of homes. It is also used to feed a nice thermal resort called the Blue Lagoon. A soak in the Lagoon was just what we needed one day after a freezing 3 hour whale-watching expedition on which we did not see any whales, but did spot some dolphins.

Not surprisingly Iceland’s traditional food comes from the sea. We had a tasting menu of Icelandic fare at Tapas Barinn that included puffin, minke whale and a delicious blue ling fish in a creamy sauce. We also ate at a nice restaurant called the Fish Market which had great sushi. We sampled a wide range of local brews at the Micro Bar. We ordered a flight of 12 beers and had a good time rating them on the comment card provided.

On the third day of our trip Arpad had planned a guided tour of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, but due to a huge storm with incredibly high winds, it was cancelled. We waited until after lunch when it seemed the storm had passed and decided to embark on a little adventure. We rented 2 cars (the only ones left without four-wheel drive) and set off for our own self-guided tour of the peninsula. We had the place to ourselves and came across only a few other tourists for the entire day. The landscape was amazing. We saw dramatic cliffs on the ocean, waterfalls, snow capped mountains, and lots of Icelandic horses. Our last stop was Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall where we apparently lucked out to actually see water flowing. A group of serious photographers we met there had been waiting three days for the ice to thaw to get the perfect shot. After the sunset we stopped in a small town for dinner just as a snowstorm began to hit and make the trip back more interesting. It was a slow drive off the peninsula, but on the way we caught our first glimpse of the Nothern Lights. It was a veiled green glow due to some cloud cover, but we were hooked. Instead of going home we drove around until 6am chasing auroras and trying to find a place with the darkest, clearest sky.

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Hallgrímskirkja – Lutheran church in Reykjavik

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Fault line

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Arpad presenting Gullfoss (Golden Falls)

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Overlooking the falls

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Snæfellsnes Peninsula

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Snæfellsnes Peninsula

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Kirkjufellsfoss – on the peninsula

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Kirkjufellsfoss

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Ready to see some whales at 8:30am!

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Dinner at the Fish Market

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Northern Lights

It was an amazing trip and we brought home our very own Icelandic wool blanket as a souvenir. We are thankful to Arpad for planning and for everyone who went along and made it a great trip!

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Skiing in the Alps

Wow – it’s been nearly 9 months since our last post so I guess we are overdue. This year our resolution was to see a bit more of Europe, and we are already making good progress. Here are some updates.

For nearly every weekend from mid-January through mid-March we skied at a different place in the Swiss or French Alps with friends. Places we visited included: La Clusaz, Léger, Chamonix, Ovronnaz, Flaine, Les Diablerets, and Verbier.  Some days were sunny and clear and others we could barely see through the snow. Either way, I always looked forward to the apres ski with plenty of hot mulled wine (vin chaud) 🙂

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Thanks to everyone who shared pics on What’s App! We’re a little sad to be returning our skis next weekend and looking forward to next year!

Barcelona

Two weeks ago we had our first house guests – Jake & Katie, fellow OSU alums came to check out Geneva and some other sights around Europe. Unfortunately, the weather in Geneva was cold and rainy, but luckily we could escape for the weekend to sunny Barcelona.

We only had 2 days, but we saw the typical tourists stops including the still unfinished Sagrada Família designed by late Catalan architect  Antoni Gaudí. The church is amazing and strange. It’s clear Gaudi had an incredible imagination and attention for detail. As Katie put it there was “no self-editing”.

Break for tapaas

Tapas before sightseeing…

Sagrada Família

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Família

Sagrada Família

Plaça de Catalunya

Plaça de Catalunya

Katie & Jake at Mutis

Katie & Jake at Mutis for dinner

Waiting for the tram after a Barcelona Saturday Night

Waiting for the tram after a Barcelona Saturday Night

The beautiful beach was the highlight of Sunday, but first we took a quick stroll down Las Ramblas, which is the main tree-lined street of Barcelona. We stopped at a tapas place for brunch complete with churros con chocolate. Then we headed to the beach…

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

The beach!

The beach!

After a cool dip in the Mediterranean

After a cool dip in the Mediterranean

Along the beach

Along the beach

Lunch break by the beach

Lunch break by the beach

View of the balmy Barcelona beach

View of the balmy Barcelona beach

Before Doug and I had to head to the airport we made a last stop at the Olympic Park and grabbed some delicious ice cream on our way back.

Barcelona Olympic Park

Barcelona Olympic Park

The end of our adventure

The end of our adventure

Ice cream for the road...

An ice cream for the road…

We are so grateful to Jake & Katie for their company and for spurring us to see more of Europe…we are already planning our next weekend trip 🙂

 

Isabel & me after the game

World Cup

Another rainy day in Geneva, so a good opportunity to catch up on our posting. Thought it would be good to start with sharing a picture of some fun we had watching World Cup games at Vernets, which is an outdoor fan zone with lots of food vendors and a huge screen. I watched the US vs Germany game here with friends from work. As you can see my German desk mate Isabel was super happy after the game :).

Of course Germany went on to win the World Cup, but we missed the final game vs Argentina because we were on a flight back from Barcelona…see next post!

Isabel & me after the game

Isabel & me after the game

Le Lacustre

Penn Dinner at Le Lacustre

A few weekends ago one of Doug’s professors from Penn was in town and organized a Penn dinner at Le Lacustre in Bellevue. The restaurant is on the west side of the lake, north of Geneva. On a clear day you can see Mount Blanc on the horizon. The restaurant’s specialty is perch caught from the lake. We ordered the menu of the day which was a lightly breaded perch fillet with fries and a mouth-watering butter-lemon sauce. The atmosphere couldn’t have been more perfect. When we arrived the sailboats making their last rounds on the lake, and we were able to enjoy a beautiful sunset over dinner. As we were finishing dessert, the first-year Penn students took a traditional dip in the chilly water off the restaurant pier before we headed back to Geneva.

Pier near Le Lacustre restaurant

Pier near Le Lacustre restaurant

Ellen and Dominick on the pier (Dom is a fellow Penn & OSU alum)

Ellen and Dominick on the pier (Dom is a fellow Penn & OSU alum)

Dinner at Le Lacustre

Dinner at Le Lacustre

View of the Lake from our table. Mount Blanc is faintly visable just to the left of the peak in the foreground.

View of the Lake from our table. Mount Blanc is faintly visable just to the right of the peak in the foreground.

 

Summer grilling

IKEA Furniture Assembled

It’s rainy today in Geneva (with a side of tiny hail), so thought it would be good to share some pictures we took a couple weekends ago when we finished assembling our new furniture. Here’s a little tour of our appartment:

The living room

The living room with the west-facing balcony. You can see we are keeping up with the World Cup. Also the fresh Swiss air is our new dryer.

The kitchen

Doug in the kitchen preparing the meat for grilling. We are lucky to have a small washing machine (to the left). Dishes, however, are done by hand 🙂

The north balcony

The north-facing balcony, for flowers and grilling

The bedroom

Doug picked out the deer duvet cover 🙂

The bathroom

The bathroom…everything but the toilet, which is in a separate “water closet”

The foyer

The foyer

Our Apartment

This is the outside of our apartment building, which is above a pharmacy. Our apartment is just to the left of the one with the American flag (6th floor). It turns out that our neighbor is from Chicago and is showing his support for team USA in the World Cup.

Geneva sunset

Geneva sunset

So as you can see we are starting to settle in, and we have two sofa beds so COME VISIT!

Rainbows at CERN

Double rainbow at CERN

Double rainbow at CERN

Rainbow at CERN

Rainbow at CERN

Frequently the rain comes in over the Jura mountains, and we get beautiful sunshowers. This one came with a brillante double rainbow that we saw while heading to dinner at Chez Ma for a co-worker’s birthday. Chez Ma is a great little place in Geneva that specializes in chicken with a very good sauce. It is one of the few places to get a relatively cheap meal, and it is the first place that I took Deb when she got to Geneva about two months ago.