Back with Julie

One week after landing in a hazy, overcast, gray Geneva, Switzerland, I had my very first taste of what I’d moved 3,000 miles to experience.  And it was, of course, magical.

I was alone for the first time in weeks.  Exploring.  John was working, Jacob was safely at his first day of school.  I was on my own, with only our Bernese Mountain Dog, Charlie, for company when it happened.

I was driving down the Route de Divonne when the clouds, at long last, parted.  And there they were – just past the now glistening Lake Geneva — the mountains.  The Alps!  Mont Blanc, with its year-round snowy peak, the highest mountain in Europe. The Alps danced right there — just through my windshield.  I could practically reach out and touch them, taste them, smell their beauty.  It was magical.  Breathtaking.  Inspiring.  Unforgettable.

Google Photo

Google Photo

I felt like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.  You know just what I mean, don’t you.  I felt like Julie when she is up there in the mountains all by herself.  When she throws her arms wide and sings with all her heart, The Hills Are Alive, With the Sound of Music.  And they are.  Trust me.  They are.

I slowed down, tried to breathe, tried to memorize the moment and keep it in my heart. Tried to capture the moment forever.  I also tried not to hit another car.

And then, well, something else happened.  From a side street to my left came a small car.  It turned in front of me, pulling behind it a long green open-air trailer.  Neatly stenciled on the back in a lacy, delicate script were these words:

jardin naturel

“Natural Garden,” in French.

On top of that trailer sat the largest pile of steaming cow manure I have ever seen.

Yes, my first solo excursion in the Swiss countryside became a metaphor for life as an ex-patriot living there:  There were moments of majestic beauty that I call “Julie Andrews Moments,” when I was filled with beauty and awe.  When I honestly felt like the luckiest person on earth.

And there was a lot of shit.  These two elements combined with travel to places I never dreamed I’d see, made our time in Geneva the adventure of a lifetime.


*     *     *

My bloggin’ buddy, Naomi, a wonderful traveler who actually posts her own pictures and does not cut them from Google, wrote this post about a trip to Switzerland.  Naoimi inspired me to re-post this old, old post.  I wrote it back in the days when you didn’t know me.  When you didn’t realize that some way, somehow, shit is always a metaphor for my life.

And if you ever get the chance to go to Switzerland, do it.  Do not pass GO, do not collect $200 — it’s not worth all that much over there!

Google Photo


Filed under Adult Traumas, Bloggin' Buddies, Driving, Family, Geneva Stories, Huh?, Humor

74 responses to “Back with Julie

  1. So funny! I love the metaphor, and now my living room is alive with the Sound of Music! My son just peeped over the top of his book–not so much a Julie Andrews moment for him–but he’s a good sport.

  2. ***I felt like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. You know just what I mean, don’t you. ***

    Yes. Yes, I do!!!!! x

  3. You can’t have rainbows without the rain! Thanks for re-posting! It sounds like a metaphor for my life.

  4. cortney

    One of my favorite stories of yours! Thanks for reposting – it sums up the experience perfectly.

    I was hiking yesterday near your old digs and though the morning haze hadn’t fully burned off, the mighty mountains were visible across the lake. And the rapeseed fields have begun to bloom!

    I think you’re long overdue for a return visit :)

  5. Very much enjoyed your little travel log, and especially all these great comments. Thinking back on our past travel experiences is like living them all over again, especially when you have great photos to make them come alive!

  6. Love this, yes beauty and shit all rolled into one. Somewhere in my archives are pictures of my brother and I with the Matterhorn behind us. My dad took that picture on a trip, we were staying in a gausthause (sp) where they had goats and sheep and other farm animals. I have never forgotten that trip, I gained my hatred of goats there. Every day they chased me, head butted me, threw me to the ground and trampled me. Every day my mother and brother thought that was just a laugh riot.

    It is beautiful though, I would love to go back. For some reason, as many times as I have been back to Europe over the years I haven’t been back to Switzerland.

  7. yup…Murphy’s Law, “Así es la vida” , “C’est la vie”. Stuff happens everywhere. Love your photos and your adventures in Switzerland.

  8. We must be on the same wavelength, I have a draft post for today that includes this song. Your experience is much more majestic…well, minus a few droppings.

    • Oh, there were plenty of dog droppings when we lived there. And the Swiss love their dogs (and ours) — it’s great. You can take the beast anywhere.

  9. Without the shit, we couldn’t appreciate the fresh air of the mountains, eh?

  10. The HILLS are alive….with the smell of cow….poop.

    Great, now I’ll be singing it that way forever.

  11. Your metaphor is perfect! It does seem to describe “life” in general. Of course without the breathtaking view.

  12. Ah, great. Yet another place I need to visit before I die.

  13. yes, life, perfectly summed up. beauty, awe and a lot of shit.

  14. 1jaded1

    It all balances out…Beautiful picture that you painted, poop and all.

  15. Great metaphor for life. Shit somehow makes the flowers bloom! It’s the contrasts that make it interesting…

  16. Sorry Elyse, slight puzzle. Where are you now? Still in Geneva or ……………?

    • Sorry — your response got stuck in pending somehow — I didn’t see it until now!

      We are back in the Washington, DC area — Northern Virginia, to be exact. I haven’t been back to Geneva in the 12 years since we’ve been back here. Except when I write that is!

      Are you an ex-Pat? If so, where are you?

  17. Elyse, oh how I too remember the s..t in Switzerland, Geneva and Zuerich as well. Lucky you for having been able to live in this city for some time. I only hope that your companies put your salaries drastically :) :) – we are again here (Bangkok) for a month break and it is affordable, even in 5star hotels :). But of course no glittering lakes and no majestic snow capped mountains. Love your posts.

    • What an interesting life you must have — I’ve never been to Asia at all, and Bangkok sounds so very interesting. An old friend grew up there and he tells the most marvelous tales of being a child and running through the marketplace.

      My husband and I both worked for international organizations when we were in Geneva, so we didn’t live the life of many others who were with companies. But we made enough to live comfortably and to travel. And it really was the chance of a lifetime. We’ve now been back for 12 years and it is still like a dream.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  18. I spent a year in Thun Switzerland and recently visited Zermatt and Lauterbrunnen. I can’t agree with you more when you say everyone must check out Switzerland at least once. I hope to do the Zermatt Marathon next year. What a beautiful photo of Mt Blanc you posted. Definitely one that makes you pinch yourself and think about where you are.

    • So you’re lucky, too, Lexi! It is so very lovely. And it doesn’t matter where you are in the country (or the surrounding areas) — it is lovely. In fact, it was always hard to decide where to go when friends/family visited.

      We actually had a better view of Mt Blanc from the tiny house we rented — it was front and center from every angle, and we could see the lake and Nyon Castle. I do miss it. I am not sorry to be home, but I wish I could go back — I haven’t been back in 12 years!

  19. The shit mixed with the joy is one of the best parts of traveling. Fantastic landscape!

    • It certainly mixed with the living there … but I will always feel lucky — incredibly lucky that I got the chance. Just looking out the window on any given day was well worth the hassles!

  20. I did some posts with pictures of my travels in Switzerland… I met some cool dogs…

  21. I could smell the fondue… mon dieu

  22. What a wonderful view … and Switzerland is on my to-do list. Meanwhile, your post reminded me of this classic scene and line.

    • It was, Frank, it was one big pile of shit. Although when we rented a house it was in farm country. So I got to see (and smell) LOTS of manure! Oh well.

      Absolutely put Switzerland on your list. But save your pennies — it is ridiculously expensive!

  23. I have a dear friend who lives there. Perhaps it’s time to add Switzerland to our for-travel-someday list. :)

    • Absolutely. Put it tops on the list — because it is REALLY expensive to stay there. And there are loads of things that interest kids there — CASTLES and BOATS and YODELING. Seriously it is a great place. Magical. Where is your friend located?

  24. Haha! I have had very limited travel experience, but I was obsessed with “The Sound of Music” from ages 8-20. And I totally get the “shit” metaphor!

    • Even though it is always accused of being schlocky, I love it too. And I swear I felt like that young novice! There is something about the mountains that makes you feel holy. Or in touch with God — even though I am not at all religious those were the times I felt a higher power.

      And then shit happened. Sigh. Life!

  25. I think I mentioned to you once before that one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen was from a tour boat on Lake Lucerne. Absolutely breathtaking.

  26. The highlight of my travels throughout Europe (in the late 70’s!) was a stop in Zermatt where I was mesmerized by The Matterhorn. How lucky you are! Enjoy your adventure, take it all in, and report back to us!

    • Zermatt and the Matterhorn are amazing, aren’t they?

      I am actually back (I should have been more specific in the post). Now our time in Switzerland (1997-2002) seems very much like a dream. When I saw Naomi’s post (ref’d above), I missed my home-away-from home!

  27. Eva

    Oh, wow. That photo is gorgeous. As for the shit… well… you make it funny, my friend.

    • It’s a HUGE part of my life … literally as well as metaphorically! My real photos are actually better. But I don’t have one from this angle — the location of the story!

      It was a fabulous adventure.

Play nice, please.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s