06 January 2015

Trying Not to End Up Like Irving Dunn

In March I will finally obtain my long-coveted C Permit, allowing me to stay in Switzerland indefinitely -- if I don't screw up. I'm especially skittish now about committing any cultural faux pas because of what recently happened to poor Irving Dunn. You can read his sad story and how I'm attempting to behave myself in my latest piece for Newly Swissed.

15 December 2014

A hymn from our 12th-century church

In our town of Neuchâtel, this is where, for a thousand years, knights and ladies have come to praise their Lord. I was lucky last week to find the organist practicing. Here's a little video.

03 December 2014

What Makes a City Great?

The first time I visited Zürich, I walked out of the train station beneath a gargantuan guardian angel, strolled across the Limmat River, and wandered aimlessly into Old Town, where I was shot through the heart with an arrow.

This has happened to me before in other great cities: Paris. San Francisco. Prague. Florence. Barcelona. Within minutes of arriving the first time, I was in love. And the more I explored the city, the more smitten I became.

What makes a city great? A lively street life full of friendly people? A dramatic history that still echoes as you walk through its churches and squares? Intriguing architecture and art? Delicious food? Efficient public services? Colorful seasons? 

Welcome to Zürich.

But a great city has something more, some ... what? ... some frisson that electrifies visitors and grows deeper within those who decide to make that city home.

Again, yes, welcome to Zürich.

What is it about this city? You can add up the elements: The Gothic steeples above the cobblestone. That fun, quirky modern design hotel in the hip quarter of town. The boutiques selling vintage furniture and tomorrow's fashions, and the ateliers offering odd housewares you suddenly must have even though you're not sure what they are. The antique ships cruising the sparkling lake. The welcoming people, many of whom speak English.

Sure, all this and more, including a vibrant café life, a progressive music scene, and countless restaurants serving food from Switzerland and around the world.

Not to mention a great tram and bus system, bringing you to the front doors of all the city's offerings.

Locals call their city "Züri," which, to me, sounds like an incantation. No surprise. Züri is one of those alchemical cities that turns its myriad amazing elements into something even more golden. But what catalyzes this alchemy?

I still do not know. Do you?

09 October 2014

A Glass with a Swiss Winemaker in his Vineyard

My idea of a wonderful morning: sharing a glass (or three) of superb Chasselas wine with the winemaker right in the sunny vineyard where the grapes were grown. You can read about this fine gentleman in my piece for Newly Swissed.

04 October 2014

Street Art Apart in Vevey

Sorry to be sadistic, but I'm going to share a glimpse of the Images Festival of Arts in Vevey, which ends Sunday, Oct. 5th, so probably too late for you this year. For three weeks the lovely town of Vevey has been an open-air art gallery, most of the art devoted to photography -- whatever that word even means anymore.

One minute you're strolling past interesting little boutiques and cafés by shimmering Lac Léman, the next minute you're staring at a photograph that covers the side of a building.

That's just for starters. This year there were 65 international artists -- not only photographers -- exhibiting in spaces outdoors and indoors around this cozy town. I saw all too little during two visits, but still ...

One of my favorite exhibits was Dutch artist Eric Kessels' "24 Hours in Photos," a pile of 350,000 prints of all the photos he found on Flickr in one day. These objects of fleeting worship were provocatively placed in a beautiful Catholic church, where anyone was invited to pick them up, rearrange them or take them.

I looked and looked for a print I'd like to take and finally found this one.

At various places around the festival you were encouraged to get interactive.

Vevey is also home to an excellent museum of the history of photography, which has the Swiss touch.

OK, so you missed the Images Festival this year. But some of Vevey's artworks are permanent fixtures.

And if you spend a few days in this charming town, you might become a permanent fixture yourself.

Meanwhile, if you want to know the artists of any of the works above, shoot me an email.

15 September 2014

Wiith Odysseus and the Greek Pirates

Cruising the Aegean, just offshore the southern coast of Milos island in the Greek Cyclades, I can't help but imagining Odysseus raising his sword against the pirates who once lurked here. We're near the low white cliffs of Kleftiko whose caves were once pirates' lairs from which to attack ships.

We are on the good ship Zephyros,

piloted by Captain Dimitris and his captain, Tania.

Soon we are swimming where pirates once lay in wait.

And too soon, we are heading back, Aegean salt on our lips, a tow rope in our hands, pulling history and legend back with us.

14 September 2014

Neuchâtel Art Expo at Galerie 2016

Cool paintings right now at our favorite contemporary art gallery in Neuchâtel, Galerie 2016. They're showing the work of Belgian painter Marc Kennes.

We love the expos at this gallery because the owners -- our friends, Ella, Marc and Jade -- bring interesting artists to an interesting space.