Saturday, November 7, 2009

American Mommy in Zurich - Letter One

My mom has decided to live with us in Zurich for a month. Lucky us! Part of her duties while here (besides being the maid, cook, hair colorist, and doggie au pair) is to be a guest blogger. We will be featuring a letter a week of her adventures and impressions as an American Mommy in Zurich.

Dear friends,

I don't even know where to start but I promised an update to a few "very select" friends. Deb has made me promise that I will also add some comments on her blog and I'll let you know when I do. Life in Zurich has been WONDERFUL! It doesn't seem like I'm living in Switzerland...then I go on the streets and everyone is talking German and all the street names have jillions of letters that end in "strasse" or "platz" or "weg" - and I KNOW I am in Schweiz. I am trying very hard to learn a few words here and there but mainly to be able to at least pronounce the words correctly. Today I even went to the store all by myself and returned an item with a clerk who spoke no English!!!

My flights here were amazingly smooth. Even landed an hour early. Then the adventure truly began. Deb and I took the train and then a tram to Bahnhof Enge (the train station of her "canton" in Zurich, Enge). OMG. I had to go in one of those little tiny photo booths and take my passport pictures so I could go get a month transportation pass for zone 10 and the surrounding areas....see I'm learning something. That's Zurich and any zone that touches zone 10...make sense?? Of course! We laughed so hard because you must not smile and look straight into the camera and keep your eyes level and have your face line up in this oval on the screen - and remember all of the instructions are in German so I think I'm doing it right - the pics are sooooo bad but who cares?? It got me my bus, tram, boat, train pass for a month!!

Off to Deb's on Tram 7...I'm learning!! Get off at Brunaustrasse and then up, up, up the hills with all my bags to Deb and Josh's apartment. Stella the Pug went berserk when she saw me like we hadn't seen each other for hundreds of years. Lots of pug kisses (sorry, Max - I do miss you!!). Then I started unpacking (I will show you pictures once Deb downloads them). I could bring 2 suitcases up to 70 lbs. but mine only weighed a very heavy 53 and 57 lbs. (plus my small carry-on). You'd think I had brought lots of clothes and shoes for a month, right?? Not so. I am wearing the same three outfits. The suitcases were filled to capacity with "stuff" requested from the States. Are you ready for the list???? Kraft Mac 'n Cheese and Velveeta (remember I am in the land of cheese but I had to bring these!!), Hot Tamales (and not the Tex Mex kind), vitamins, ibuprophen, vitamin C and sugar-free cough drops, vanilla extract, and the list goes on and on....wait until you see the picture of her stash!! On top of all of these items, I also brought things that Deb ordered and had delivered to me - camera battery, rainboots, Uggs, and more shoes. Didn't leave much room for clothes for me so hence the three outfits and a coat and jacket and workout items (which so far have only been used to lounge around the house or on "Hausfrau Day"). Chad, I promise to be better next week - I have been walking tons and no matter which direction you go from her apartment, it is downhill which means it's uphill on the way back (like when you walk the dog, have full suitcases, or bags from the grocery store)!

Being here for a month, I actually got a shelf in the bathroom medicine cabinet and in the hall closet for my stuff. I unpacked and Deb then caught me up on some of the oddities about Zurich living. They are very conscious about recycling and it costs $2 per bag of garbage so you don't empty the garbage any more than necessary. Which means when you have "stinky" food, you put it in a Baggie in the freezer and not in the trash. When the garbage is finally stuffed full, then you put it in the trash before taking it outside!! You know how all houses have little quirks?? Usually you have a warn a house guest about how to jiggle the handle on the toilet or something else, but Deb then informed me that the water level in the toilet is very low and so there is a brush next to it and it is not just to clean it out once a week - no more description is necessary, I'm sure!! (Remind me when I get home and I'll tell you what the signs at Google said about the toilet brushes!!) Through all of this, Deb and I are in hysterics - maybe it was jetlag or maybe it's just because it is very, very funny.

Bus 33. Off to The Coop (pronounced cope, not co-op). That's their mega-grocery store/Target (kind of but definitely not in price). Have I mentioned yet how incredibly expensive EVERYTHING is in Zurich?? just wouldn't believe it. (Dave and Tina, bring lots of money with you in December.) Next lesson learned - Deb would only let us take one handbasket per person at the grocery store. Why?? Because remember when I told you about going uphill to get back to Deb and Josh's??? Never buy more than you can carry - and don't buy heavy food! I won't tell you everything but just wait until you read Deb's blog ( "follow" her) about our experience buying hair dye and then even better is preparing to dye her hair and actually doing it. All I can say is that my last French class from 1974 really came in handy. Eileen, even though it came out really great, you don't have to worry about me becoming your competition and I still want YOU to color MY hair for me!! I had to come 4700 miles (or 7500 km) to dye my daughter's hair!!! I guess I'll now have to come back every 8-12 weeks! What a mother doesn't sacrifice for her children. We ate lunch 1 (of many I'm sure) at Google where Josh works.

On Tuesday, Deb and I went to Jumbo (Jume-bo) which is kind of like an Ace Hardware - a lot of stuff and such an interesting assortment but no fireplace grate. Off to Jelmoli (Yel-moe-lee - the J is pronounced like a Y), a super department store right off of Bahnhofstrasse, the fancy, shmancy shopping area (all overpriced even by Zurich standards). The best part about Jelmoli was the basement (level negative 1; the ground floor is 0; the 2nd floor is level 1; etc.). It was filled with the most unbelievable assortment of gourmet foods and take-away foods (or you could eat there). Amazing!!! Sushi, Italian, breads, olive bar, steaks). We decided to see if they had a turkey since Thanksgiving is coming up. Deb had not seen a turkey in Zurich yet. We found one - frozen hard as a rock - about 15 lbs - for 103 CHF!!!! So no turkey for us!! We ate some incredible CHINESE food while we were there. Makes sense to me - go to Switzerland to eat some of the best Chinese food I've ever had. makes perfect sense. Only one problem was that when we went to pay for lunch, Deb pulled out her credit card and he said only cash!! I had not exchanged money yet and Deb didn't have enough francs on her. Luckily, she had Euros which were accepted. Thank goodness. When you are in Zurich, you must carry large sums of cash - so many places don't accept credit cards. It is very strange to someone who never has money on her. So after lunch, we went to the bank and got me 200 CHF (about $200). I never even have $5 on me at home!! It all still feels like Monopoly money though. While we were in Jelmoli, we also bought tickets to see "Madame Butterfly" at the Opera House next week!! Can't wait! So will it be in Italian with German titles??? I think I better read the synopsis of the opera before then. On the way home, we decided that we had to try some of the heissi marroni (roasted chestnuts). Let me just save you 3 CHF...don't try them!!!! These stands seem to have popped up all over the place where ice cream/gelatto stands where we I was here in July.

The weather has been either gorgeous or very rainy or windy or not or sunny or cloudy or all of the above in the same day. The people all wear scarves, pretty heavy coats and BOOTS - aren't they used to cold weather??? Overall, it's been great. We have begun to plan some side trips for the upcoming weeks. For sure we are going to Prague and we're also looking at Munich and/or Salzburg. We will also take some little side trips, usually day trips except for the one planned for two nights at a spa - "taking" the waters (mineral baths). CAN'T WAIT!!!! Since Wednesday is Deb's day to use the washer and dryer (see her blog for more info on that), we spent Wednesday at home having "Hausfrau Day" - cleaning, washing, watching the Roomba vaccuum...turned out the weather was pretty crummy that day so it was nice and relaxing staying home - and it was Deb and Josh's 3rd Anniversary and we spent it cleaning!! That evening though we met her friend Stacie (from Tulsa, Oklahoma married to Hanspeter from Switzerland) at the movie theater. An interesting experience. $18 for a ticket; $10 for a large popcorn. Reserved seating. We walked into the theatre to see "Julie and Julia" in English with German and French subtitles and the theatre was sooooo tiny - maybe 50 seats!! They sell TVs larger than the movie screen. But we LOVED the movie. Laughed so hard - Meryl Streep is the best Julia Child. It was great. I had been warned but right in the middle of the movie, mid-sentence I think, they break for an intermission. They needed to sell more $10 popcorn I guess. Afterwards, we went out for drinks and a very nice - but smoky - bar. EVERYONE smokes here. We took our tram back home and on the way home, there was a (don't know what his title is) guy who checks everyone for their transportation passes. (It is the honor system here but if you get caught, it can be a very steep penalty.) Deb looked and looked for hers but it must have been at home so she was given a citation. Deb was busted!! That meant that the next morning we had to stop at the office at the train station to show her pass - and she had to pay 5 CHF (Swiss francs, about $5). She has now been paroled and is free again to travel on the trams, buses and trains!

Yesterday, Thursday, Deb. Stella and I took the train to Rapperswil at the other end of the Zurichsee (Lake Zurich). It was such a delightful afternoon. We had lunch by the seashore at a very nice sidewalk cafe - salad, pizza and latte machiatos!! Then we walked around Altstadt (Old Town), saw the old castle, looked one way toward the Sea and the other way to the Alps! Not bad, huh??? A very quaint, lovely town and only 35-40 minutes from the main train station in Zurich. Stella acted like she was Queen for the Day but crashed on the train on the way home - snoring and all. (Another story for later is the buck and his mating rituals....very interesting, not a sight you see every day!)

This brings me up to today. Josh's mom Pam flew in today so Deb went to meet her at the flughafen (airport) while I went off on my own to The Coop. First time to find the bus stop, get on the right bus, get off at the correct stop, find the mall and shop!!! And then get back on the right bus, off at the right stop and find my way back home from the bus stop, use the key, etc., etc., etc. I did it!!!! Deb taught me to ask "Sprechen sie English?" Limited myself to buying only 3 types of cheese (plus cottage cheese, does that count too??) and two loaves of bread. Many nights we start off with a "fromage platter" - fruit, bread, crackers and cheeses and then we're too full to eat dinner. Sometimes that's it and sometimes we eat some cereal (museli is wonderful here). I was quite proud of myself. Even came home and got Stella and walked with her to the train station and back. Not bad, huh???? Pam came and it was back for lunch #2 at Google!! So now Hotel Peterthal (Peterson + Rosenthal = Peterthal) is full!! I have moved from the guest room to an air mattress on the floor in the living room - and I'm loving it!!! I love being in Zurich but I am even happier that I am able to spend this kind of time and have these experiences with Deb and Josh. This is very special time that I know I'll never, ever forget. This is the best B & B in Europe. Way above 5 stars - even on an air mattress!!

Tomorrow is tasting on 12 boats on Lake Zurich or something like that. The fun continues. I know I wrote almost a book...never intended to do that but so much has already happened and I don't want to forget any of it. I do miss all of you but I am afraid that the month is going to fly by.

Love to all. Auf wiedersehen!


  1. What a delight!Thanks for letting us live vicariously through you. May all of your adventures be as successful and as much fun.
    Keep writing. Looking forward to seeing the photo's that go along with your stories....

  2. Also - If you or your friends happen to get to Berlin contact Jeremy Minsberg (Jon's Brother)at: He gives an incredible tour (with his specialty being Jewish Berlin) His dog Cooper often comes along and adds a special dimension that you would love.


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