I'm back! I spent this weekend attending family events celebrating a branch of A's family. The main event was yesterday and brought around 150 (out of 250 invitees) together. It was quite possibly the single largest gathering I've ever taken part in and definitely the largest family reunion I've seen. My grandparents threw big family reunions together to celebrate my grandpa's 70th birthday in 1998 and their 50th wedding anniversary in 2002, but even those maybe only brought 20-25 people together. This was something else entirely.
(Keep Reading for pictures of the closest thing you'll get to me frolicking in the countryside. Also me being sentimental.)
December's been an odd month. I've dealt with a lot of phantom anxiety, found sudden motivation to nail down my new thesis, /and/ found great peace. Christmas last year was a great mess with too much going on and too many emotions in play, but this year has been almost surprisingly calm. I went all out with decorations, wore glittery red nail polish all month, and decided to spend the holiday with A and his family.
Coming from a divorced family spread out over two continents, I've spent a lot of holidays away from "home," but I'd never spent one away from at least part of my family. I didn't quite know what to expect (despite films like The Family Stone telling me to expect disaster), but I know I certainly did not expect everything to feel natural and easy. The short week was surprisingly anxiety-free, and everything about it felt right. Nothing awkward, despite my having interacted with sixteen different people in only a few days! I'm still a socially quiet cookie, so I didn't suddenly start chatting with everyone I met, but I still managed with only one little withdrawal into A's room in the middle of only one of the dinner parties.
My favorite bit though –– other than the moments where I introduced A to a few of my favorite Christmas films (A Charlie Brown Christmas! Miracle on 24th Street! The Year Without a Santa Claus!) –– was when we went on a long walk with A's mom through the countryside near their house. It wasn't a hike by any means, but we passed beside fields and vineyards and walked through part of a forest, and it brought back memories from when I used to go on hikes with my grandparents when I was little. It was brilliant and got rid of all the "athletic" fears I had when I first met A. I'd repressed how much I enjoyed doing things outside over the past decade or so, but now I'm actually excited to think of hikes or maybe even skiing again. We'll see what time brings...
Otherwise, I really enjoyed getting out of the city for a bit and getting to know more of A's family. I also managed to make pancakes for ten people one morning, and I feel oddly proud of myself. Even that wasn't hard (and was even enjoyable?!) and again, excitement! I'm so thankful this year has brought my love of the kitchen back to life.
Here's to more anxiety-free holidays in the future...
My mom was briefly in town this weekend, and we decided to take advantage of the fact and the beautiful autumn weather by going on a drive through the countryside and (mostly) through the vineyards along the lake.
The day after we got back from Zürich, A and I headed to Fribourg to visit his grandparents. They invited us to stay with them and show us around their city an entire year ago, so needless to say, our trip was a bit overdue... but with A spending last autumn in York, the general craziness of the spring and the summer travels, finding a time that worked for everyone was harder than it probably should have been. I'm so glad we finally managed though because the trip was lovely and getting to know his grandparents a bit better was wonderful. I've really appreciated seeing more of A's family over the past few weeks. He comes from such a well-adjusted, loving, and engaging family that it's not only gratifying to see where he gets certain qualities but also quite honestly comforting to see that such families exist.
I had meetings for most of the day in Geneva the day we went out to Fribourg, so we didn't arrive until dinner time, but we got up and headed out to explore the city the next morning with A's grandmother. Below are some of the photos I took during our walk:
On our last afternoon in Zürich, Rory and A and I met up with A's aunt, uncle, and cousin at the Kunsthaus. After spending three days mostly surrounded by medieval and early modern visual culture, I was ready to see more modern art and wander around looking at pieces I actually recognized. Of course, we ended up taking more time in the medieval rooms anyway, but I still got some time with Van Gogh and Monet, so all was okay.
Looking back on our trip to Zürich two weeks ago, I can think of two things: the conference I talked about in my last post, and the end of summer. It was very, very hot and very, very sunny the entire time we were there... and then it plummeted in temperature a few days after we got back. Consequently, all my pictures from Zürich are very bright. You can see my favorite shots below:
The end of summer this year seems to be all about A taking me to his favorite local museums. He took me to his favorites in Lausanne (in early August), the Landesmuseum and the Kunsthaus in Zurich (this weekend), and the Musées d'Art et d'Histoire in Neuchâtel (two-ish weeks ago) and in Fribourg (yesterday!). I'll get to all of them with time, but today I'm going to share pictures from Neuchâtel.
A's been talking about an incredible room at the museum in Neuchâtel basically since our second date last year. He visited the museum with his grandparents the day after our first date and has been promising that I'll love it ever since. The pictures he posted on Instagram don't really give away how truly amazing it is, so I was honestly a bit skeptical — Pre-Raphaelite painting aside, we don't tend to be passionate about the same kind of art. Thankfully, I was wrong about this.
A and I went to a museum on our second date, and museums have played an important role in our dating life since then. We've been to quite a few over the last year, in London, Paris, York, and Geneva, and we like to set days apart every now and then to explore others. A few Sundays ago, we decided to spend the day in Lausanne so A could show me some of his childhood favorites. We went to the Palais de Rumine, which houses quite a few small museums, and then made our way down to Ouchy after lunch to go to the Musée Olympique (and to have amazing gelato). Here are a few of our photos...
As I mentioned in one of my "Life Lately" posts a couple of weeks ago, I went to visit A at his family home before they left for Scotland and we left for Italy and I actually managed to get A to put his books down and go for a walk. Of course I didn't get the pictures off my camera until this week, so I'm posting them much later than I would have liked.
There are stone houses and flowers everywhere in A's village, and they do a wonderful job with amping up the lovely Swiss aesthetic stereotypes.
I gave up with the camera about midway through our walk and handed it to A because he has far more fun with it, and I'm terrible at putting my phone camera away.
This is the little "castle" in their village. It's very cute and they take pride in it, but I'm not quite sure what I think of it architecturally...
And of course what little Swiss village would be complete without your random cows or goats?
One of the greatest things about living in Geneva is being so close to so many literary landmarks. I'm awfully aware of the Shelleys when I walk along the lake beneath Cologny, of Edith Wharton when we lunch in Ouchy, and Zelda Fitzgerald when we walk through the flowery lakeside in Vevey. I've personally mythicized their presences in the area over the years, but none of my private musings really compare to the very public, very known story of Lord Byron and the Château de Chillon.
George Gordon Byron traveled to Chillon with Percy Bysshe Shelley on the 26th of June, 1816, two hundred years ago yesterday. He was so struck with the place that he wrote a poem, "The Prisoner of Chillon," soon thereafter about – eponymously – a prisoner in the dungeons of the castle. The castle dungeons look out onto some of the most gorgeous spots on the lake, so that Byron was struck with the contrast between the bleak, stoney interior, and the pristine views of Leman and the Alps is not at all surprising.
Many people travel to visit Chillon these days, some inspired by Byron, others keen to visit the most popular tourist site in Switzerland, and I was able to make two of my own pilgrimages to the castle this year. I'd try to visit it on many occasions in the past, always asking my mom to stop on our drives along the lake, but I had little luck until one of my friends suggested she, A, and I all go on a visit together in September (sadly without my best friend who was supposed to come but was stuck in Italy).
A arranged for us to take a steamboat from Vevey, and we arrived at the castle shortly before lunch. We ate in the gardens and then took our time exploring every nook and cranny of the medieval castle. We were enchanted by the dungeons (pictures of which you can see here) and the faded murals of the castle. Little furniture survives in Chillon (which, let's be honest, is usually one of my favorite things to see when visiting castles), but just about every room looks out on to the mountain-drawn lake and little of the castle consequently seems bare. We spent hours going through the castle that day, going so far as to climb the very narrow stairs to the top of one of the towers (which ended in A needing to go down the stairs backwards and guide me because I hated how narrow and steep they were and was terrified to go back down again), but I knew then that we'd have to come back.
And come back we did! As part of the two hundredth anniversary of the summer Byron and the Shelleys spent around Lac Léman, the universities of Lausanne, Neuchâtel, and Geneva banded together and organized a study trip going from Lausanne to Chillon to the Foundation Bodmer in Geneva (a place for which I have great affection, but that's for another time) to celebrate both the inspiration behind "The Prisoner of Chillon" and Mary Shelley's creation of Frankenstein. A was lucky enough to audit the class that organized the trip in Lausanne, and Rory – aforementioned Italian Best Friend – and I managed to get tickets to tag along from Geneva. We had a wonderful day, starting with an early morning train ride to Lausanne to have pancakes, eggs, and full English breakfasts at the Blackbird Coffee & Breakfast Club (a place A and I discovered in March and love), and then we made our way to Chillon with our universities.
This latest trip was at the end of May, and the castle was set up to host the "1816-2016 Byron is back!" exhibition. We got to listen to a talk about the exhibition, walk around the castle, and take part in a reading of the poem – or rather A took part in a reading of the poem while Rory and I listened.
Visiting was just as fulfilling this time, both aesthetically and intellectually, and had the benefit of being even more caffeinated as we were greeted at the castle with coffee. Having now seen the castle at different times of year, I can easily understand why it's such a haunting and inspirational place.
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I'm Olivia, a twenty-six year old grad student studying in Switzerland. This is where I share my thoughts on the academic journey, culture, travels, baking, and my daily life abroad. Read More.