Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Perfect Quote

You know that I am no fan of the Christmas shopping frenzy. Nevertheless, Christmas or not, I needed candles and a picture frame. Therefore I found myself in a department store, walking around the third floor, not finding the candles, when suddenly I realized ... how much stuff there actually is in a department store. Have you ever REALLY like REALLY noticed how much stuff they sell? And, please, don't let me start on the stuff they sell in the supermarkets. Do we really need to choose from that many brands of yoghurt???
It's certainly not the first time I write about this but in that particular moment? It hit me hard. I felt overwhelmed. Our stores are FULL of STUFF and when I think that our so-called "elites" suggest that we need to consume even more in order to increase the growth of our countries?
Consume more? How is that even possible?

I finally found my candles (more than 50 different colors and shapes - I counted, already having this post in mind) and went home thinking of some words written by one of my favorite writers, the late Tiziano Terzani. I re-read his book "Lettere contro la guerra" (Letters Against the War) written just a few weeks after 9/11.
(Unfortunately) not much has changed since … SIGH

[...]Anni di sfrenato materialismo hanno ridotto e marginalizzato il ruole della morale nella vita della gente, facendo di valori come il danaro, il successo e il tornaconto personale il solo metro di giudizio. Senza tempo per fermarsi a riflettere, preso sempre più nell'ingranaggio di una vita altamente competitiva che lascia sempre meno spazio al privato, l'uomo del benessere e dei consumi ha come perso la sua capacità di commuoversi e di indignarsi.
E tutto concentrato su di sé, non ha occhi né cuore per quel che gli succede attorno. [...] 

English translation (MY English translation, therefore all mistakes are mine!):

[...]Years of uninhibited materialism have diminished and marginalized the role of ethics in people's lives. Values like money, success and personal benefits became the only standard of judgement. Without the time to pause and to reflect and, at the same time, being caught up in a more and more competitive life that leaves increasingly less space for privacy, humans of welfare and of consumism have lost the ability to feel moved or outraged by anything. Everything is centered on them. They have no eyes and no heart for anything that happens around them. [...]

Friday, December 7, 2018

December Wish

Ladies and Gents ... 2018 is almost over, can you believe it? It was a strange year. Some moments felt ... endless. Others just went by so quickly (never the right ones though SIGH)
For December is wish for peace. I know. I know. I should have thought of something fancier. Peace and Christmas kind of go together (at least on paper). But I didn't feel like thinking of something fancy. Peace is what I wish for (for you and me and our world).
I mean peace as in "not fighting" as well as in "quiet, silence, calm".

I love December (never as much as I love summer, obviously haha). I love it when all the house owner in my neighborhood get out their Christmas decoration and when our municipality puts lights on a big fir that is fortunately visible from my windows! Makes me feel happy just looking at all the lights. Makes me feel joyful.
Happy December to you and your loved ones. Full of peace and joy :-)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Andalusia Road Trip: Sevilla (some more photos)

I think that the tiles (azulejos) are worth a separate post because they are simply too beautiful to be put with some other pictures :-) What exquisite (here's the word again haha) craftsmanship!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Andalusia Road Trip: First Stop Sevilla

I've been back a couple of days and I am starting to go through all the pictures I've taken during my one week road trip through Andalusia.
What a trip!
I know what I say about every trip I go on: it was magic. It was wonderful. Unforgettable. You name the adjective and I've probably used it (hahahaha).

Andalusia was certainly all that but with an unexpected twist though. I didn't expect myself to love the moorish/arabic architecture as much as I did. I LOVED IT!!
But let's start at the beginning.
I arrived in Sevilla in the late afternoon and before it got dark I was able to take some picture of the cathedral (I couldn't visit as it was already closed … you know, winter time opening hours!).

I had arrived in the south :-)
The next day it rained but I didn't mind as I knew I would spent quite some time inside … in the cathedral and the Real Alcázar (King's palace … back then and still today. When the actual king is visiting Sevilla than it's here he's staying).
I decided to start with the Real Alcázar because I assumed that the crowd would be huge (it was!).
I picked up my audio guide and … it was love at first sight (SIGH).
Exquisite comes to mind. Mind-blowing.
I spent more than 3 hours walking the Palacios and the Patios and I got cramps in my necks from all the looking up.
What do you think?

I spent another couple of hours in the cathedral where I couldn't take any pictures (it was way too dark). It's one of the biggest gothic churches (second after the St Peter's Basilica, my audio guide informed me). Crazy what they built back then!

Once I was back in my hotel room, I started to realize that maybe this trip would be different from the others I've taken so far. I realized that I would probably be able to explore another kind of culture, one I didn't know yet, the Moorish/Arabic culture/architecture.
I was right.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Christmas Shopping Frenzy Has Begun

A couple of days before leaving for my Andalusia road trip (I will soon share some photos and my impressions! Let me just say that it was amazing!), I had to buy a new suitcase (I buried my old one after 15 years of loyal services hahaha). While shopping for a bag I realized that ... we were back to the "every year the same story" Christmas shopping frenzy.
I don't know why, year after year, we seem to get more and more ... how should I put it? ... obsessed? And, year after year, it feels like the shopping frenzy starts earlier (I'm probably wrong on that one! But so it feels to me.).

Well, I bought my suitcase and was happy to not be part of the "Christmas shopping in November frenzy crowd" because, you know, I actually like Christmas. Just not the whole shopping experience...

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The (Unexpected) Audience

I was practicing the flute on Sunday … yes, I'm still playing the flute! I went through a period of "I want to throw this thing out of my window" but I somehow found the courage and the joy to continue. You should hear me these days … I am doing really well and with so much gusto … who would have thought? I am surely glad that I kept on practicing even though I (very strongly) felt like calling it quits.
Where was I? Right. Me practicing this Sunday. Suddenly I noticed a movement on my balcony. I had an audience. A dove (not the grey ones you see all around the city but the white/grey ones … I think the correct word is turtle dove). A cute little thing that has been my neighbor since spring. I woke to her "gru gru" sounds for the last couple of months (I love it!) and today she seemed to enjoy my playing. She turned her little head and looked at me with her little black eyes (through the windows).
My first audience … I felt honored!

Friday, November 9, 2018

November Wish

What to wish for November? The word "sturdy" came to mind.
This is how I feel and how I wish for you to feel. Sturdy.
Your feet on the ground, your head in the air.
Strong and confident and resilient.
Because November can be tough on people. The days are shorter, the weather harsher and some already think of (and fear) the Christmas frenzy that lies ahead.
Keep calm and love life.
2018 is almost over and, although I already had an inspiring idea for my 2019, let's, for the time being, not talk about the future. Let's just make the best of the 7 remaining weeks of 2018.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

A Cure To My Itchy Feet

Last winter I decided not to renew my membership to my gym and I decided to no longer attend my line dance classes. I was left with my weekly yoga class and a question: what now?
Even though I am not a very athletic person, somehow, my weekly yoga class seemed not enough.
None of my ideas (or those of my friends) was inspiring. All the pondering though made me realize that I wanted to spend more time outdoors. So I thought: why not hike or walk once a week, let's say between 1 - 3 hours?
Yes, actually, why not.
I started walking or hiking once a week (I work part-time - makes it easier) and surprise, surprise (sometimes I surprise myself hahaha), I'm still going strong! I not once skipped my weekly walk or hike and most of the time it was more 3 hours instead of 1 (even during hot summer days! imagine!!). I sometimes walk alone, sometimes with friends. It's always great.

I love to be on the move. I not only discovered new places but also something about myself. My weekly walks made me feel happy and alive (like I usually feel while traveling). I still went on some nice trips to France, the US or to Lago Maggiore but the time in between my trips felt shorter.
Itchy feet are part of who I am. It helps to make them a bit less itchy by simply moving.
In the truest sense of the word.
Walking and hiking does me good. Seeing new places, abroad or not, does me good. So, I keep on moving!


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes

I've always been interested in environmental topics. Some hearts beat for animals, others for children or refugees or ... you name it. My heart (ever since I was an adolescent) beat for the environment.
I read and talked about the topic, did my duty as a good citizen and recycled whatever could be recycled, I donated money to the WWF or to Greenpeace.
I felt like doing enough ... until I felt like I wasn't doing enough.
I don't remember the exact moment when my perception changed. Maybe because our world changed and took a turn for the worse (or so it feels to me)?
Increasingly, I read about burning forests, deforestation, oceans full of plastic, animals dying a horrible death because of human greed (come to think of it - most of the disasters I read about were somehow linked to human greed ... but that's another story for another post).
Has it always been like this, I wondered, or did my perceptions change because I live a more conscious life these days?
I don't know.
What I know is that I started feeling helpless. I began to understand that donating money and recycle my waste was good but by far not good enough.
But then, what else could I do?
What can one single person do?
Weren't my efforts like a drop in the ocean?
Ridiculous, right?
On the other hand Lao Tsu's said it right: The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
And I also realized that...

I therefore decided, true to myself, to take small steps.
I set out to eat less meat. These days, when going on a hiking trip, I always pick up the trash that I spot on the wayside (so much of it! crazy!) or, when ordering a drink, I refuse the straw. Just to name a few of my life's small environmental friendly steps.
Nothing changes if nothing changes!
All good and well ... except for my "washing my hair with soap instead of using my usual shampoo out of a plastic bottle" experience. Oh my oh my.
I was pretty happy when I finally found a small soap factory that sold good soap with no palm oil, no preservatives, no colorant (during my day trip to Fribourg I discovered this little shop!). Two days ago I gave it a try and well, let's just say ... it didn't go well. I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed soap in my hair (I have a lllooooottt of it) but it was never enough. After what felt like an eternity, I rinsed off the soap but I could feel that my hair wasn't clean. I forced myself to be patient and dryed it first. Oh man, it was disgusting. Not only was my hair not clean but the soap somehow "stuck" to my hair and it felt like I had put gel in it.
To cut a long story short: I had to wash my hair again with the shampoo out of the plastic bottle.
I will have to find another solution for an environment friendly hair wash :-)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Goodbye Autumn

It's almost time to say

I don't know what kind of autumn you had were you live but over here, in Central Europe? It was crazy good. I am usually the kind of woman who struggles when summer comes to its end. I ALWAYS have the impression that it somehow was too short. Way tooooo short. Well, not this year. This year, the Weather Gods were kind (let's, please, for a moment here, not think about global warming because, hey, if you think about it, this kind of weather can't possibly be normal, can it? It definitely can't, I know it, but let's just indulge in some nice thoughts, okay?).
What an October we were given. A gift. Sunny days, blue skies, warm temperatures. I spent so much time outside that I got myself a tan (I was asked last week if I had been on a vacation because of my tan haha) (a farmer tan = tanned face and arms indeed but a tan anyway haha).
Right now though I am ready for winter. I cleaned my windows. my balcony is ready for winter and my closet as well. My boots are ready for use as well as my coats. After all these sunny and warm days I don't mind spending some rainy days indoor. 
Then, at the same time, because, really, whom am I kidding? The whole "I am ready for winter" speech may be okay for right now but then, in end, I am who I am … and so I booked a flight to Sevilla for the end of November. :-)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Discovering New Places

I've been letting myself fall into into a lot of different moments this month … and it's still not over yet! What a ride. It has been wonderful and still is!
There is unfortunately a little downside.
I haven't updated my blog much.
And I am sorry for that but I'll make it up to you … starting right now.
One of the hiking tours I went on made me discover a pretty amazing part of Switzerland that I didn't know: the Jura region.
As soon as we left Bienne behind us, it felt like arriving in a total different kind of country.
First of all there were hardly any houses which was unusual (Switzerland being a pretty densely populated country). We drove up and down the (very green) hills (a challenge for bikers!), coming across … horses. Oh my, I have rarely seen as many grazing horses as during the afternoon I spent there!
PICTURESQUE was the word that came to my mind.

We headed for Saint Ursanne. A cute little town. From there we walked along the Doubs (their river) to Soubey and back to Saint Ursanne. The whole day felt like living in a painting. A painting called "Study in Green".
I was so absorbed in the beauty of the countryside that I didn't take many pictures. Sorry folks. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and I simply forget to pull out my camera! Luckily I took a couple of pictures with my iPhone because I thought of sharing this wonderful green countryside with my Instagram followers (does that make me a bad person? hahaha).

Anyway, one thing is for sure though. I will have to go back. C'est trop beau they would say over there. It is beautiful. As the place is rather far away from where I live, I will have to make it a two days kind of trip. In other words: I've just added a new item on my travel bucket list :-)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Eating Habits

Back in January, I wrote a post about "Eating Habits". Re-reading my words of back then, it doesn't surprise me that, a couple of weeks after having written the post, I started to toy with the idea of stopping to eat meat.
Why not limit my meat consumption to while traveling or when invited, I thought.
Yes, actually, why not, I thought.
And I became, what I call, a part-time vegetarian.

It felt like an experiment at first but then I started to like it. My skin texture improved, my already impeccable digestion became even better. The only worry I have is the upcoming winter season. What will I eat when the variety of vegetables will be really limited? Well, we'll see and I'll certainly keep you updated :-)

Changing my eating habits made me talk and read about what "good" food consists of. And, honestly? It's a bit overwhelming.
So many different opinions.
So many different ways to look at food.
So many different opinions on what is healthy and what not.

Food seems to have become the new top issue to be an expert in. That's the impression I got.
To me it feels like people turn to food and health issues to feel like being at the wheel of at least one aspect of their life. We live in a big and "unmanagable" world. We feel helpless in the face of all the stuff that is happing all around us (the newsfeed is a scary place!).
We get sucked in even if we don't want to.
But we can control what we eat.
We are the boss of our health.
That makes us feel good. In control.

Or do I read to much into the whole issue?
I don't know. What I know is that I want to handle it like every other issue in my life:

Friday, October 5, 2018

October Wish

I have been thinking about what my October wish for you and me could be. Nothing came to my mind, honestly speaking, also because I don't have much time to do some serious thinking (remember my agenda for October?).
But then, yesterday, while reading a book this sentence caught my eye (yes, I have still time to do some reading hahaha - there is always time to do some reading, in my opinion). I read these words and thought: yes, that's it. That's what I wish for October.
Don't think, don't overthink, don't fret. Sometimes it's really just about jumping into the moment.


Monday, October 1, 2018

Tourist In Your Own Country

As my American friend is right now touring around the Southwest of her country (apparently, inspired by the words and pictures of my trip … I feel honored!), I discovered a Swiss city last week.
From time to time, I love to play tourist in the country I live in, and so, last week, I got on the train and went to Fribourg, in the French part of Switzerland.
I had heard nice stuff about Fribourg and I wasn't disappointed. A cute little town. A cute little town with a high quality of life … at least that what it seemed like to me.
The old city is perfectly preserved (it's maybe also due to the fact that it's located in the valley of the Sarine and that there is not much space to built new big houses). Lucky for them.
Discovering the city by foot is a challenge. It's all about walking up and down (my health app stated, at the end of the day, that I had walked 9 floors! Hilarious! That gives you an idea of how many stairs I walked up and down).
Here, what the city looks like from above:

I didn't take many pictures that day. It was more about soaking up the energy and enjoying (one of the last) sunny days of summer!

I loved the houses

Up and down

I would have loved to take this bench with me!

One of the old town gates

bridges everywhere … there was even one built entirely out of wood (in the 1200) … now that I think of it, I forgot to take a picture hahaha

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Being Busy V. Being In The Moment

Are you busy all the time? I mean, busy for months in advance? Are you part of the people that, when you're asking them "wanna go watch a movie tonight?", they go (and their voice implies "are you kidding me???): "Tonight? Impossible! My next free evening is, wait, let me see ... in 2 and a half months."

Well, me, I don't want to be busy all the time. I sometimes have busy weeks and other times not so busy weeks. My busy times (i.e. my twenties and thirties) are behind me and nowadays my motto is more quality over quantity.
Right. But then how does the figure of speech read again?
The expection proves the rule?

This coming October is MY expection to the rule. You should see my agenda. It's filled with appointments: concerts, long weekends, nephew sleepover, more concerts, dinners (emphasis on the plural) at friend's houses, workshops, time out with girlfriends, hiking tours, etc. etc. I even had to decline an invitation ... Unprecedented.
It feels like I'm back in my twenties (Remember these? When staying at home just one evening was totally not cool AT ALL hahaha.)

Suddenly, it's like everybody wants a piece of my time. I have no idea what happened but it did. I do feel kind of dizzy just thinking about all the stuff I am gonna do the next five weeks but at the same time the stuff is so cool that I don't feel like complaining.
On the contrary.
It's time to implement what I practice during my weekly yoga class ... in a joyful and grateful way.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Remembering: Lago Maggiore ... One More Time

I had been to Stresa, a couple of years ago, and had visited the Isole Borromee. I had loved the places and I remember thinking that I wanted to come back in Summer time (I visited in April and it rained one day out of three). This is what the places look like:

I was curious to discover the other little towns along Lago Maggiore (especially those on the Italian side) and I was right. Retrospectively though, I am glad to have come back during off-season. Had I visited during high season, I'm afraid, my impression wouldn't have been as favorable.
SIGH … what do you want me to say? The disadvantages of mass tourism.

I can't imagine liking the cute little towns with their cute piazzas, their cute lungo lago (lakeside promenade), their cute little shops would they have been (over) crowded.
And I certainly wouldn't have appreciated to spend a weekend in Italy ... hearing German talk all around me!
Don't get me wrong.
I have nothing against Germans or Swiss Germans (remember? I live here hahaha) but it's not the kind of travel that I look for. Put the blame on my being a language aficionada but when I travel, I want the real thing and hearing the local lingo is part of the real deal.
Luckily, I got to have the real deal during my 3 days at Lago Maggiore and I highly recommend it to everybody … during off-season, obviously :-)

Detail seen in the Angera fortress

Rocca d'Angera seen "from the other side of the lake"

More details...

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Remembering: Lago Maggiore

We had aperitivo and dinner al fresco every evening of our stay at Lago Maggiore. And I absolutely loved the sunsets! What do you think?

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Remembering: My Big Birthday on Lago d'Orta

That's it! Now, I'll have to say "I'm 50" (not that anybody ever wants to know … it seems that after you hit your thirties nobody dares to ask anyway hahahaha). Anyway. Here I am. 50 years old.
The first half is over (what a ride!). I'll see what the second half will have in stock for me!

I spent my birthday on Lago d'Orta (my friends let me choose the day program). A magic place. On Lago d'Orta there is this tiny cute little island, called Isola San Giulio.

A boat will take tourists from the town of Orta to the island of San Giulio. There is not much to see besides walking along "Via del Silenzio" (the way of the silence).

So, we walked the small alley … in silence (astonishingly enough, all the tourists kept silent!), stopped at every sign, read the words, reflected on them, went on to the next. A magic quarter of an hour (magic is in the small things!).
BTW, the words were written by Madre Anna Maria Canopi, one of the 40 nuns living in the island's convent. Besides the nuns, the island has 11 official inhabitants of whom only two live on the island all year long.
I didn't take pictures of all the signs (obviously), I picked those which spoke to my heart:

This is how I want to live my second half of my life

A cute little island…

We had lunch in the town of Orta, took a walk up the hill (from where I took the first picture in this post), had some gelato, enjoyed the cute shops.
It was the perfect way to spend my Big Birthday.
In the evening, we went out for dinner and as the temperatures were summerlike I got to wear my pretty dress and my sandals.
What a perfect ending of my first half of life!