Dec 06 2009

Thanksgiving on the Border

by at 11:48 pm

Clearly, Thanksgiving is more than way over, but a certain minaret debate has sort of taken over our blog.  It’s looking a lot more like Christmas these days. (Speaking of which, if you live in Switzerland, come hear Jackie in the Choeur des Jeunes de Lausanne sing Bach, Poulenc, and other Christmas-themed music this week in Lutry on Thursday, La Chaux (Cossonay) on Friday, and La-Tour-de-Peilz (Vevey) on Sunday.  More information at  Anyway, our Turkey-less weekend in November deserves at least a short write-up.

We’ve recently met another family of  American-Jewish expats. They went home for Thanksgiving and needed someone to watch their cat (and house) for a few days. We’re suckers for pets, and we thought spending time in a rural village near Geneva might be a nice change. We were hoping for a cute cat, a home with DVDs we could watch, and that Jackie’s commute would be shortened (it was, slightly, but this turned out to be useless because the UN happened to be closed for a Muslim holiday on the Friday anyway). We also invited a few people for Thanksgiving on Thursday night. The house was in a small village above Nyon. There’s a bus once an hour which is a pretty short ride, and the walk to and from the bus isn’t so bad. Having a car would have made our lives a lot easier, but for the most part it wasn’t so bad.

Of course, there’s no Thanksgiving in Europe, but we weren’t going to let that stop us from the essentials: a big dinner with autumn harvest-based dishes. It did stop us from having a full day to prepare. Instead, we went to school as usual, and headed home after, rushing to pick up vegetables at a farm stand on the walk from the bus and then cook dinner before our guests had to leave.  It was difficult, and there were 5 of us packed into a small kitchen frantically cooking a vegetarian, autumn harvest feast, but everyone managed to stuff at least some pumpkin pie in before catching the last bus down the mountain.

What was more exciting was our Saturday walk to France.  Yes, that’s right.   The house was in the Jura, incredibly close to the French border, so we walked there because we could.  We saw on google maps a fairly sizable town, Divonne-les-Bains, on the other side of the border, so we aimed for that.  The walk to the border was about 20 minutes through sunny, windy, fields of cabbages and apple orchards, with sidewalks.  We passed a small sign announcing our arrival into France, and the difference was immediately noticeable.  Aside from the fact that the town became “Crassy” instead of “Crassier,” it was not as shiny-clean as Switzerland, the design of roadsigns was different, and the sidewalk ended.  Urgh.  After a half hour trek or so down this two lane, sidewalkless, shoulderless road, we arrived in Div0nne.  It was like the French version of a California suburb.  Small suburban housing developments of identical houses and little lawns; strip malls; the works.  It wasn’t exactly what we were expecting.  Since when has France gone suburban? We didn’t take any pictures, as it wasn’t particularly picturesque.  On the other hand, the boulangeries were way better.  Jackie enjoyed a chocolate croissant and we bought a bread and a tarte tatin (which is not even available in Switzerland!) for later.  Mmmm.  It doesn’t make sense why pastries and breads are so much less good in Switzerland.

French/Swiss border!

Border Crossing!

As we were sitting in a tea room, drinking tea, we decided we didn’t really want to walk back as the sun was going down, with cars whizzing by us.  So we hitchhiked across the border.  We figured there were two of us, and, come on, cars were going to Switzerland, it had to be safe.  Anyway, after several rejections of our stuck-out thumbs, a very nice guy who looked around 30 picked us up, drove us 2 minutes to the Swiss border (aggghhh it was unbelievable how painless it was in a car!!!), and we took the sidewalk from there.

Sunset over the Jura

Sunset after our walk back to the house

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Thanksgiving on the Border”

  1. HSFon 07 Dec 2009 at 10:52 am

    I’m so glad you guys were able to throw together a Thanksgiving for yourselves!!! You forgot to inform your eager readers – was the cat cute?

    Two notes: 1) Divonne is renowned in the UN crowd for being a kind of “Disneyfied” village. I think it’s charming but wouldn’t want to live there. And, 2) Swiss tarte tatin is available on the other side of the Röstigraben! Lorenzo and I just returned from a wknd in Grindelwald (in the Jungfraujoch region) and saw lots of menus offering it! Rösti itself, on the other hand, is less appealing…

    p.s. the Captcha this time is “rebels Europe” – I’m starting to think you control them.

  2. Jackieon 07 Dec 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Oh, the cat? It was cute enough. She was very independent, and while she didn’t mind being pet, she preferred sitting by heaters on her own rather than cuddling with us. And she brought home a mouse from a visit outside, which freaked us out. So, if we ever get a cat, we will make sure it remains an indoor one.

    Also, Divonne’s reputation isn’t surprising, but I’m surprised that I’ve never heard that before. Probably because most of the people I know never leave the city of Geneva unless they’re flying to some other city in another country, and also, it is rather difficult to get to Divonne by public transport, I think.

    On roesti, it is just about the only vegetarian and dairy-free food Swiss cuisine has to offer, so Seth gets to eat that a lot. If you’d gone this coming weekend, you could’ve pretended you were eating latkes!

  3. Allisonon 07 Dec 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Jackie, I can’t believe you hitchhiked!!

  4. Jackieon 07 Dec 2009 at 4:06 pm

    😉 Allison, if we weren’t talking Switzerland, I wouldn’t believe it either. Not only would I not have believed it, but I would not have dared it in the first place.

  5. SwissWatching » Hanoucca oy Khanikeon 18 Dec 2009 at 10:11 am

    […] and brought them to Mary and co’s, where we were invited for a celebration along with the family (Liz and co) who lives in Borex. Well, actually, Seth made the donut batter while I was taking a final exam. Once we discovered […]

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