Me and 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.  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 image

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 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.

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.

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

And so, 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 and 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.

*     *    *

Some of my bloggin’ buddies have asked me to write more about our time in Geneva, and I figured it is about time I did.  It was a wonderful experience, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss my  non-home-away from home, Switzerland.

88 Comments

Filed under Driving, Elections, Geneva Stories, Humor, Music

88 responses to “Me and Julie

  1. Pingback: This Really Gets My Goat | FiftyFourandAHalf

  2. Pingback: Ancient Shit | FiftyFourandAHalf

  3. Life isn’t complete if you don’t stop and smell the shit, too, sometimes. I’ve also been to Switzerland. I spent about 6 hours there, waiting for a connection on a flight from Istanbul to New York City. It looked beautiful from both the air and ground, but sadly I was not allowed to leave the airport and go explore. Wish I could have lived there, like you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a wonderful adventure, and I was very reluctant to come back. We lived in a spectacular setting (awful house), and were in the center of Europe so we got to travel quite a bit. I’ve written lots of blogs about our adventures.

      I will always feel lucky to have gotten to live there. French and manure notwithstanding!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This was super fun to read! I love how just when I was imagining the mountains in all the glory, I suddenly went “oh crap!”
    Life has a way of mixing the ordinary with the extraordinary, doesn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Definitely an experience of contrasts 🙂

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  6. The Queen spent a year studying abroad in France her sophomore year of college. And, she travelled, as is a requirement when you do such things. Not only did she have the good fortune of visiting the alps… that was the first place she decided that it would be fun to go snowboarding, so, she did.

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  7. You should visit my native Texas. They have monster piles of manure. They aren’t steaming since it’s not cold enough. However, the hot sun dries the cowpatties so that you can play frisbee with them. lol

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  8. GOF

    I can understand your special memories of Switzerland…..mountains are magnificent…..we have very few decent-sized mountains in Australia but when I first went to New Guinea and saw a 14,000 foot mountain I was filled with amazement. Oh, and there was plenty of shit in NG too to moderate the magnificence. 🙂

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    • I think it is necessary to keep a significant amount of manure in the lives of those folks who live in places like that. Otherwise, they’d be insufferable!

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  9. Geneva is a pretty city, in a lovely setting. But there isn’t all that much to do. I usually recommend that visitors to Switzerland go to the Jungfrau Region, which I preferred to the Zermatt/Matterhorn region. Hiking (or skiing in the winter), wandering. Yodeling. Alpenhorn-ing.

    But you will soon be taking a little one. And when you do, Italy is the place to go. Italians love kids of all ages. I have a wonderful recollection of a dinner in a restaurant in Florence that was started in the, I think, 16th century. The waiters took 8 year old Jacob to a corner of the room, under a centuries old fresco, to play marbles. John and I got to have a lovely bit of adult time. It happens all over Italy, in my experience.

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  10. I love traveling. I’ve never been to Geneva, though…

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  11. This was the perfect story. Majestic. Moving. And then–poop! I can totally see that happening to me when I finally visit Italy. Gotta keep it realz, yo!

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    • In Italy it will be pigeon, not cow poop. It’s a weighty difference.

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      • oh, thank GOD! Just have to make sure none of it lands on my head or into my wine glass…

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        • If it lands on your head it’s good luck. If it lands in your wine glass it’s bad luck.

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        • Switzerland certainly is one of the most beautiful places on earth. We went a few years ago on a heritage trip, to see the little town of Bonfol, where our family had lived and left in the early 19th century. It was an amazing trip, with some incredible finds–like a cousin who had traced the family back to the First Crusade. t was fun to discover your blog. I look forward to reading more of it.

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          • Thanks, Naomi, for your nice comment and for following my blog!

            I looked up Bonfol in Wikipedia, my bible. What a lovely little village. We never went that far up into Canton Jura, but it’s lovely. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the villages. They are always perfectly clean, flowers in window boxes for much of the year, village fountains that have been running for centuries. There is just so much history in each step you take.

            How cool that your cousin was able to trace the family back that far. We don’t even know the story of who what where and when with my family. Great grandparents on both sides claimed to have left the old country behind and would say nothing. I’m pretty sure I come from a long line of axe-murderers.

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            • Hah! There’s a story there,I reckon. We were just lucky enough to have a cousin who was persistent and enthusiastic enough to do the research. So glad to have met you, and look forward to getting to know you better.

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  12. I’m looking forward to reading more about your time in Switzerland. We visited there a few years ago and the scenery was absolutely surreal! And then there’s the cheese,..

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  13. Perfect. Why didn’t I think of that? I will, of course, never be able to listen to that song again without thinking of that. Thanks, Pal.

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  14. The hilllllsssss are alivveee with the smell of fecessssss!

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    • You know, Speaker7, after thinking about it, this comment may well be the funniest I have ever gotten. I am still chuckling about it (and I still have the damn song stuck in my head) hours later.

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  15. When I travel, I always hear music playing in my mind. The Sound of Music was perfect for this piece. I’m glad you’re writing about your travels. It allows a vicarious vacation for all of us.

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    • Thanks Barb. I had always planned to do it, but all of the stuff I wrote when i was actually there got lost. I have been devastated for years. But I figured I can just make up stuff.

      This story was not made up at all though. This is just how it happened.

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  16. Magical – exactly! I remember plenty of jaw-dropping, awed moments from childhood, but I think we experience those with far less frequency in adult years (at least I do). Life in Switzerland just keeps ’em coming.

    But what can we call magical-Julie-Andrews-followed-by-shit moments? I think I’m having one now: there’s an open-air concert in the square my apartment overlooks that began about 30 minutes ago. Lovely music. I opened the windows to let it in and am now sharing the evening with precisely those giant flies you referenced. Blast!

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  17. Switzerland is a beautiful country. A few years ago, I spent a week there – Montreaux, Gruyere, Zermatt and Lucerne – it was a fantastic trip. Though I agree that Italy is also fabulous, especially the food and wine and history.

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    • Switzerland really is incredible. Gruyere is one of my favorite places (there is a picture of it in front of me here in my office). All of it is lovely, picturesque. And Swiss wine is FABULOUS (but they drink it all and export none of it!) But we found the cities lacked that “Big European Feel” as there are few and small museums, no cathedrals, etc.
      That’s why, when someone is planning their first and maybe only European trip, I always recommend Italy. Because it has everything.

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  18. As I was reading and you wrote “I also tried not to hit another car.
    And then, well, something else happened.” I said to myself, “Oh please don’t let a car/truck hit her!!! I was quite happy it was “only” cow manure. Great read from start to finish. 🙂

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    • Thanks for worrying about me, Georgette. But no, no cars or bodies were broken in the making of this memory/post.

      Glad you liked it.

      Like

  19. So funny. I went there after college and loved it. Went on a cheesy tour with a friend. We saw lots of sites from the movie. We went from being in awe of the passing scenery to actually watching the scenery on a TV screen on the bus. Nice.

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    • Glad you liked it, Mom.

      We, sadly, didn’t do many cheesy tours (unless you count Gruyere!). Sometimes and with the right folks, they can be a blast!

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  20. As long as there is no cow poo in your coffee, I’m OK with that! Thanks for spending your morning with me (and Julie).

    But this really, truly is the way it happened.

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  21. Oh well done! I love Julie, watched that movie every year as a kid and always got a chill from that first scene. And just when I thought maybe you were getting just a little mushy, you brought out the cow poo. Snorted my coffee. Bravo.

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  22. twindaddy

    Well, hopefully you didn’t go full on into that trailer full of shit, a la Biff in Back to the Future (parts 1,2, AND, 3!!).

    I’ve always wanted to see any place in Europe. England, France, Spain, Germany, you name it; I’d like to see it.

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    • No, but that area is farm country (as is much of Switzerland). There was always the smell of fertilizer in the air — particularly when we were enjoying a meal outside!

      My recommendation for anyone is to go to Italy. Because it has everything. Breathtaking scenery, art, museums, architecture, fabulous food and the people are the nicest anywhere.

      Like

  23. To clarify, chocolate as in Swiss chocolate.

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    • You know, even as good as Swiss chocolate is, Belgian is better. I would have gained way more weight had we moved to Belgium instead.

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  24. Great story. What I want to know is was there chocolate involved?

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  25. When I liked in Germany, we soon learned we had to stop hanging our clothes outside. Smelled just like the stuff on that truck you describe.

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    • You’re right. We found a little chalet to rent in farm country. Which meant we became way to familiar with that there smell. And with the flies. They say there are no bugs in Europe (and no screens), but there are flies the size of hummingbirds …

      Like

  26. Fun post! The ‘Julie Andrews Moments’ remind me of the movie “Unconditional Love”… there’s a couple of Julie Andrews gags, featuring Julie herself… if you’ve not seen it, I highly recommend it. (none of this has much to do with your post, but, I’m famous for drifting aimlessly) 🙂

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    • Thanks for the recommendation, John. I haven’t seen it. But I do love Julie Andrews and think she has amazing comedic timing. She is a pretty cool woman.

      Drift away, John, no worries!

      Like

  27. That was an excellent post. Thanks for sharing it. I really enjoyed it very much.

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  28. Noice! Another place I will go someday, if only in my dreams…

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    • It’s worth a trip. But I was enthusiastic about moving there because I’d always wanted to go there and because I knew that it was so expensive that I wouldn’t be able to see it otherwise. But it was magical, truly.

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  29. Great piece! The first time I saw Sound of Music was in Munich in German. My mother rushed out direct there after and bought my poor baby brother Lederhosen and me a Dirndl, she was intent on turning us into little miniature Trapp children.

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    • Oh, to be Trapped in a Dirndl ….
      Hilarious comment. Me, I bought us all special Swiss hats (like the ones the boys wear in the movie). But I got them during one trip when we stopped for lunch in Lichtenstein, which we did because I really love the sound of “lunch in Lichtenstein.” Yes, I am a total sap!

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      • Someday I will recount some of the travel adventures I had with my family in Europe as a child. They were not all terrible. We lived there for two years, I once told my father I was going to buy Linderhof (the hunting lodge of Mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria) and live there forever. It was one of my favorite places.

        http://www.schlosslinderhof.de/englisch/palace/history.htm

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        • I’d love to read those stories. We remember much of the crazier aspects of life over there. Well, like the manure trailer. We saw only the part of Germany around Munich (which I loved) and visited some places that I’ve wanted to write about for a while, but haven’t. I fear that now that I’ve started, I might not stop.

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  30. Hi,
    I can only imagine what that must of felt like to see those beautiful mountains in full view for the first time, I can certainly understand why it reminded you of the Sound of Music.
    How dare that car full of manure cast you out of your spell, not fair at all. 😀

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    • Thanks, Mags. I think that the manure actually helped ground me. It made me laugh. It STILL makes me laugh, because this really did happen and in just this way.

      I think that when you set about for a big life-change, sometimes your expectations are way to high — like those mountains. But it’s important to remember that there are the, well, less pleasant aspects, too!

      Like

  31. I’d love to hear more about your experience. I’m planning a trip to Ecuador to see if it’s a place I could move to, or just a place to explore briefly. I’ve pushed for a foreign assignment since I started working 23 years ago, but it wasn’t to be…so I guess if I’m ever going to live overseas it will be in retirement.

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    • I moved to Switzerland without ever having been there. My husband took a job for what was originally 2 years, but we stayed 5. It was wonderful and terrible — which is why the metaphor, which happened the way I described it — is apt.

      The adventure is wonderful. Language barriers are tough (I learned that I am not a linguist (here’s my take on that: https://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2011/10/25/merde-101/). While I can’t advise, I would be willing to share my experiences. My email is on my gravitar!

      Like

  32. Please write more about your time in Geneva! As I had just finished reading your third very evocatively descriptive paragraph here, I was truly amazed – because I thought ‘Wow… looks like Elyse isn’t going for humor this time, but she is going to take our senses away on a stunningly powerful and profound trip!’
    And then… there was “jardin natural”. Lol 😀 You still score high marks for stunning and profound, but now that was funny! And yes, very much like a metaphor for the complete experience of life… (no, really!)

    And yes, of course I know just what you mean, because I have often felt just like Julie when she is up there in the mountains by herself, and then I throw my arms wide and sing with all my heart, “The Hills Are Alive, with the Sound of Music.”

    I even wear the exact same outfit too. LOL

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    • Actually, I think that it is profound to be able to look at beautiful scenery AND poop at the same time and realize that it is a metaphor for life.

      And Chris, I would pay big money for the video of you in that novice’s outfit. BIG money.

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      • I agree. But it’s also an amusing metaphor, Elyse. 🙂

        So just what kind of BIG money are we talking about here? Because yes, I can be bought – but I don’t sell myself cheap. I have a problematic and perverse history with “The Sound of Music” and it would take an entire post to explain why – and for once, I realize that this time. Lol

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        • I was talking about seriously big money. It’s all over there in Switzerland. Just ask Mitt Romney!

          And I hear the sound of a post coming from you on the movie …

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  33. Sounds like you are a very appreciative person and I’m happy you shared your experience of living in Switzerland.

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    • Thanks, Maureen. I actually recorded a lot of it, in the hopes of writing a memoir. But sadly, most of it was lost. What I’ve found isn’t nearly as interesting/funny as I remember it being. Oh well. I’ll just have to reach back into my memory! So there will be more stories, periodically.

      Like

  34. The combination of the Hills of Alive and a truckload of steaming cow manure is a priceless metaphor for life. Too bad – this would have made for a great discussion on Oprah.

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    • Well, it certainly made me laugh and brought me back down to reality. Life tends to do that to me, and I imagine to just about everyone else!

      Damn, I can’t believe I missed Oprah. Do you think Geraldo would be interested?

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  35. Nothing like a steaming pile of manure to snap you back to reality. I was reading along, all jealous of your experience and engrossed in the beauty and…bam. It sounds like an amazing experience that should be shared!

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    • Often in my writing I exaggerate. I can honestly say, that this is exactly how it happened. There aren’t too many times when you actually experience a metaphor!

      Like

  36. There is nothing like travel to ignite the passions inside of us. I love this piece and can identify with the urge to belt out The Sound of Music from the tallest Alp. Way to go!

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    • I agree — travel is such a wonderful, broadening experience. I wish I could do more, but I am so very lucky to have been able to go to the places I went to!

      Of course, I’m known to want to sing when I do the dishes, too.

      Like

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