5: A Few Photos

A sign of homesickness: Buying a McDonalds hamburger and taking it back to the hotel to top with fresh tomato, avocado, dijon and a whack of fresh pepper. It’s not as good as our cottage BBQ burgers with real Canadian cheddar (not available here) and sauteed onions, but it will do for a few more days.

This is Switzerland’s “Italian” tarte flambe. This traditional dish is made up of a flatbread (white-flour tortilla) base, topped with thick cream, raw onions, green-stuff, tomatoes, and cured meat. The basic tarte flambe is a tortilla base, cream and raw onions, scorched briefly over a flame.

Over a year in, and I’m still discovering little hidden cobblestone lanes in Biel/Bienne. This one leads to a private courtyard garden.

Wherever you look up in Swiss cities, you will see signs of life. Pockets of rooftop patios and gardens appear all over our town, even atop retail and business buildings.

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100: So long to hats

Hats lined up across the bed

Hats no more to top my head

Red hat, grey hat, white hat, blue

Farewell hats, every one of you.

I’ve never been much of a hat person, and yet I found eight in my closet this week. My non-hattitude is evident in the photo – I find something I like, and then stick with it. Staring at the photo now, I wonder: Whatever made me copycat Ringo Starr circa 1964 in eight different colours? How did this hatten?

“People do really stupid things in foreign countries,” said Meg Ryan’s character Kathleen Kelly in “You’ve Got Mail.” 

Yes, they do, and that includes me. I bought hats as I’ve never bought them before and I can only blame the cultural pressure that comes with living in a country where four-year-old boys know how to knot crinkle-silk scarves around their necks (yes, b o y s) and eight-year-old girls tote chic leather bags on their arms, routinely wear pumps and coordinate their designer skirts to anchor their saffron-coloured double-breasted pea coats. Seriously.

Three hours ago, in a nearby McDonalds restaurant, two mothers drafted in with five children aged two months to 12 years and any one of them was ready to take over the catwalk or at least model for a Gap catalogue. They all looked fabulous. In my day, a mother overseeing that many children on a fast-food excursion wore her husband’s grey sweatpants, a pablum-splattered t-shirt and a ball cap. She felt pretty good about herself if her socks matched. The only catwalk in her future might be the one vacuuming up furballs when she got home.

I can only explain this Euro-fashion-phenomenon on our proximity to Milan and Paris, each only a few hours away. Couture oozes over the borders.

Hats, as it happens, are about as far as I could go towards blending in with the population. I don’t have skilletos, ie. the ability to tread over cobblestone in stilettos, as so many here do, so I gave up early in the game. I’ve reverted back to my Saucony court shoes, yoga pants, jogging jacket, golf visor, and socks that match. At least, most of the time they do.

As for those hats, they’re gone. In celebration of the fact today is the last three-digit number on our countdown to home, all but one of them came to a horrible end. 100 more days to go.