28 July 2010

Sorry to my readers!

Dear all,

I have not written in a while. My private life suddenly went all wrong, so I needed a break to find my balance again and look at life and Zurich with open eyes and the usual bit of amazement. I shall be on holiday in August and then get back to you in September!

Hang on! I'll be back!


18 May 2010

Vive Montreux!

I've been very busy lately! My mother was here in April and then my brother for 2 weeks. My cousin is arriving later today, so I'm enjoying a 5 minute break! Just about! Anyway, just to say that I've played tourist in the last month or so and really discovered great things about Switzerland. One of them was re-discovering Montreux.

Since my arrival, I've been a regular at the Monteux Jazz Festival. The atmosphere is great, the concerts as well and the view is just splendid! I am now boycotting though as the prices have become just ridiculously high, e.g. Phil Collins' Concert rates at 140/320/380, the first price being the price standing and the others seating. I just don't like crowds, so it would cost for 2 a minimum of 640 CHF for one concert, and then you need to get there, get a hotel room and eat out. Sorry, but for that price, I could get all CDs and DVDs from his concert. Or better get myself to Prague for a weekend!

Anyway, enough motzen, as the Swiss say, and let me get to the point: I went to Montreux last weekend, off Festival season, and discovered a very nice place! I had booked a cool jazzy (whatelse!) hotel called Tralala in Les Planches neighbourhood. I was so surprised to discover the old town of Montreux where it was located!

It was a lovely little village up on the mountain. So cute and quiet! It's small, but very enjoyable. I could not believe that I always had walked the same stretch along the lake and never this typical part of town. I had two restaurants noted down for the evening and the hotel clerk sent me to the first one on my list called Le Caveau des Vignerons (sorry no website!). Nothing fancy, quite rustical actually. We had a breaded tomme cheese on salad as an apetizer and then a big steak that you grill yourself on a hot stone. This was so great! It came with homemade French fries and a mustard sauce. I just saw the second restaurant on my list in the May edition of Monocle (isn't it the greatest magazine ever!), so here you are: Le Museum, famous for Charbonnade too!

On the next morning, we went up Les Rochers de Naye with the train. It's an almost 1 hour up the mountain above Montreux, so you have agreat view in the Lake Léman (or Geneva if you prefer) and behind, direction Jura as well. It's at 2'042 m of altitude and the view is great! As it was May, there was still snow so we could not go hiking around. I would recommend going later in June. Here are some views:

We finished the day with the traditional visit to the famous Château de Chillon. Switzerland is not a country of castles like France or the UK, but this is really THE castle you should visit in Switzerland. It's location is magnifique and it's truly a beauty.

So I hope you will visit soon and enjoy yourself as much as I did!


02 May 2010

A great magazine…. And it’s free!

If you have been in Switzerland for a while, you know that nothing is free. After the first time you were at McDonald’s and asked for ketchup after payment and the cashier asked you for more money for those tiny bags of ketchup, nothing amazes you more than real free things! At least, it impresses me.Le Shop and Coopathome have started sending samples with your order. It was inconceivable in Switzerland just a couple of years ago, but now, it seems to be a new- welcomed- reality here too.

Some years ago, I discovered the Credit Suisse Magazine called Bulletin. It’s released in German, French, Italian and English. They have great themes, among them my favorites to day: north, oceans, breakthroughs and Switzerland (of course!).

They always have a broad orginal approach to their theme. For example, the March/April edition has “Neighbors” as a theme. There were some articles about the Canadian city of Standstead being divided between two countries (there really is a line dividing the city, quite amazing). So far the kind of article you would expect from such a theme. Then there was an article about residents committee in Japan because people were alone and dying unoticed. Further an article about bacteria: aren’t they our closest neighbors? As you can see, they take their theme a step further and it’s always very informative and entertaining. I can highly recommend a subscription. Enjoy!

24 April 2010

Kunsthaus Zurich: The Bührle Collection

Last week, I went to the Kunsthaus to visit the Bührle Collection. This collection used to be housed at their private museum, but they got robbed in 2008 and decided to close the museum. Two major pieces by Cézanne and Degas are still missing.

I had never made it to the old museum so headed up to the Kunstaus to see some 180 exhibits of that collection. Let me tell you that the security was no joke to them. If your purse was too big, you had to leave it at the coat check. In the entrance fee, a pricey CHF 18.- quite usual to the Kunsthaus, the audioguide was included (D/F/E). I really recommend taking it or joining a guided tour: you’ll just learn so much more about art in general, the painter, the painting, the era, etc.

The exhibition is very famous for its impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. It includes, amongst others, Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Cézanne, Manet, Monet, Degas, Gauguin, Signac, Picasso and Braque. But it also comprises older works from the Middle-age- a series of Gothic sculptures- and some paintings from the 16th to 18th century. Even though I did not fully appreciate this first part of the exhibition, I understood the need of Emil Bührle to include it in his collection to demonstrate the origine of the Impressionist movement. So I just went through quite quikly and headed to the next part.

The impressionist and post-impressionist paintings were the most important part and most enjoyable part of the exhibition to me. They had masterpieces everywhere and the audioguide comment were very interesting. It was just so impressive to be amongst so many masterpieces at the same time. I particularly like the Signac and the various works from Toulouse-Lautrec. The Nympheas from Monet, part of the permanent collection of the Kunsthaus, but a guft from Emil Bührle, had been relocated to this temporary exhibition too. There always such a pleasure for the eyes! Hard to believe that these cost almost nothing as their format is huge and they were seen as under-work back then.

So, I highly recommend to visit before it’s too late! It’on until 16 May 2010. afterwards you will have to wait another five years to see them back at the Kunsthaus Expansion.

03 April 2010

Geschmack: an exhibition about taste at the Mühlerama

I just visited the exhibition “Geschmack” at the Mühlerama, located at the train station Tiefenbrunnen. It was such a great experience! You go through the show blind (with something over your eyes) and an iPod. There is a railway guiding you through the various stops. At every place mat, you need to stop and listen to various people telling you their story about food. There is a blind lady saying how she cooks and shops (well she can’t!). Some scientistst talk about how taste works or how the industry works with (too much) aromas. We also get to hear a famous chef. Sometimes to make their point better understood, they will have something to touch, to smell, to drink or to eat. I don’t want to spoil your experience, but the slow food comparison was so great. I think it really helps that you don’t see a thing, as all the others senses really take over.

Unfortunately, the narration exists only in German / Swiss German. It is not my native tongue. In fact, German is my 3rd language, but I understood most of it. But I’ve been here for 12 years now, so you need to know if you will be able to understand. Perhaps it’s worth a try with the iPod, being blind and being able to really concentrate on the voices.

The Mühlerama has a very interesting store too. They sell kitchen items, spices, food postcards and fresh bread (or flour) made on site. I higly recommend taking some bread home. Have a look at their website for opening hours, admission fees and other visitor information.


21 March 2010

Switzerland has a place called Bitch!

Well it's spelled Bitsch, but the pronounciation is surely Bitch!

Now we all now about Schmuck standing everywhere on Bahnhofstrasse, but do you know of any others? I would love to start a collection of those...


13 March 2010

Is it possible to eat cheap in Zurich?

A reader has asked me for cheap places to eat in Zurich. Well, well, I have been thinking about it for more than a week now and that is a problem because Zurich is not a cheap city. Not for the normal tourist, not for the normal employee.

In the summer, one can go to the Migros or Coop, grab some bread, cheese, cold cuts, salad and fruits and have a picnic along the Limmat, the lake or in a park. Another option is to go to any good bakery and grab a sandwich, a salad, a müesli or a quiche (Wähe) and have it somewhere around. I like the Bäckerei Stocker down the HB. Finally you can as well go to a butcher shop, e.g. the one right next to the train station on Bahnhofstrasse 102: Metzgerei Traiteur Kauffmann and get something warm or cold, e.g. a Wurstweggen (sausage in a dough) or Canapé. It’s still very cheap, quite good, but you will have to stand somewhere and eat it which is a problem in the winter.

Now a lot of people will get a great sausage (don’t forget the Bürli- the bread) at Vorderer Sterne at Bellevue. The line-up is long, you still have to eat outside, but at least you are doing it with a lot of people. I can highly recommend it!

Cheap restaurants in Zurich will include the ones from Migros and Coop (e.g. Migros City next to Löwenplazt and Coop City on Bahnhofstrasse). Their food can be quite good and fresh. Another option would be to go to the University Mensas http://www.mensa.uzh.ch/ .But then it is not centrally located. As a guest, you will pay between CHF 10 and 16 for a meal.

For around CHF 15, you will get several Asian menus all around Kreis 4 and 5. The closest one to the HB would be Chiang Mai Thai on Josefstrasse 13 (see this post from the Blog Half the Sugar Bowl: http://www.halfthesugarbowl.com/2010/03/asian-grocery-stores-in-zurich-part-3.html). And then for about CHF 14 you will get a big sandwich (grosse Pide) at Manta Bar, Bahnhofstrasse 42. Prepare for a line-up, not much space inside to eat it (they have tables outside in the summer), a waiting time to warm up the sandwich, but it’s fresh and tastes great. My favorite one is the chicken and pesto. They always ask you if you want some chili oil in it, so be careful what you answer here!

If you like Japanese noodle soups and are around Stauffacher, you could try Ooki: http://www.ooki.ch/ at Bäckerstrasse 39. The place is very small, so you need to be ready to wait for a table, but the soups are great and cheap. There is not much more than soups though (some giozas and onigiris- which can be very filling as well!), so you need to like them. Drinks are expensive, but so are they everywhere else in the city. You can always ask for tap water. Some waiters are rude enough to give you a mean look, but usually it’s fine to ask.

Hope that helps Aaron and some others! If you have any other cheap spots you’d like to share, please do leave some comments.


06 March 2010

A cheese fondue in a chalet at the airport

A cheese fondue just tastes better in a chalet up in the mountains. Unfortunately we cannot spend all our weekends in the Alps. So if you want to have a good fondue, in a traditional chalet, head to the airport. At Barraca Zermat, next to the bus terminal of the airport, you will find a typical Swiss chalet with the usual cheese fondue menu.

There is a lot to appreciate from this restaurant:

- They always have a “Gruss aus der Küche” (amuse-bouche). This time we had a great carrot soup.

- They serve the fondue with 2 different breads and potatoes. I just love the potatoes!

- They give you some Matterhorn chocolates with your bill. These are delicious! I would say perhaps a chocolate cream with caramel and a pinch of salt. Brilliant!

We had the Ricola fondue. As you can imagine, it was the one with herbs. It was very good.

However my favorite herb fondue is the Gletscherfondue from Pontresina and I order it online on http://www.sennerei-pontresina.ch/index2.html and it takes about 2 days to arrive. Their other fondues are great too. I think you can find them at most Globus Delicatessa, though they never have the herb one.

Barraca Zermatt will be opened until the end of March and then again from November on. In the sommer months, they move to the top of the AlpenRock House and serve “Tatar Hut” grill food. I’ve never had it, might go have a try and report on it.

For more info: http://baraccazermatt.ch/index.html and the sommer one: www.chaletedelwiis.ch (not really readable, hopefully it will work soon).


02 March 2010

The Spice Gourmet is looking for a new place

My favorite Indian restaurant is looking for a new place. Not sure why, perhaps the restaurant is too small with its 16 places, but if you know of a place, please contact them.

Otherwise go have a meal before 30 April! It’s a less than five minute walk from the train/tram station Enge. Their menu is quite short, but everything is fresh and delicious. Be careful: sometime very spicy! I love to start with the avocado & mango salad followed by a chicken tikka masala (with naan bread!) and no dessert but a chai tea. Their chai is perfect. I’ve never been to India, but I like to think it’s the real thing. They have a special lunch menu, but it’s not much cheaper than the evening one. I have been twice in 3 days and I paid 80.- CHF for dinner with some wine and almost a CHF 100.- for lunch for two (we shared an apetizer, just one drink each, no dessert, but coffee& chai).

Service here is great. It’s always the same agreable man. I think he’s the owner. He waits on all table, so perhaps you should not be in a rush. Indian restaurants tend to be kitschy, but not this place. It’s minimalistic and warm. I just noticed yesterday their shelf to exchange Indian books, isn’t it great! I loved the idea!

So here is the website: http://www.spice-kitchen.ch/ if you have a good new place for them, do contact them. We’ll all be greatful to keep this jewel in town.


27 February 2010

Top 5 Restaurants in Kreis 5

As I said in my first post, a great thing about Zurich is the choice of restaurant. Statisticaly Zurich should not have that many restaurants, but it seems that people here have a lot money so they eat out a lot.

Now perhaps Swiss people don’t really care about service, but as a North American I am more often than not appaled at the service we get here. Waiters are NOT friendly, are sometimes snob, they are not there to please you, but perhaps the contrary is true! Tyler Brûlé wrote a very interesting colum in the FT complaining about service in Switzerland and got some many reaction about it, not all good. Well, perhaps Swiss people are just not used to good service or are not demanding enough (can the Swiss even complain in public?), but your Canuck here wants what’s best.

So on this list you will find restaurants with good service, great food, special ambiance (except for the smoke but that should be resolved soon enough).

In no particular order:

- Rosso: Geroldstrasse 31, 8005 Zurich. You can find it next to the train station Hardbrücke. This part of town is booming and a mine gold for a night out. Their pizza is great! But beyond pizza, they make great original Italian food. Their antipasti is to die for. I hade the chance to go to a wedding there and got served about 20 of them. Just amazing! Lets’ talk about the décor here: not what you would expect from any restaurant really. It’s under minimal. It’s an old building with tables and chairs to eat, so just concentrate on the the essential here: the food.
- La Salle: Schiffbaustrasse 4, 8005 Zurich. Now here is a place to be impressed by the interior. It has been built in the Schiffbau, an old ship factory. It’s surrounded by glass and has this one big Murano glass lustre in the middle. The crowd is mixed here, perhaps half of the people are foreigners. As for the food, try whatever pleases you. It’s all good!
- Josef: Josefstrasse/ Gasometerstrasse 24, 8005 Zurich Here there are no apetizers and main course, but a choice of about 15 dishes which come in a smaller portion. If you are a skinny woman who has been on a diet forever, you’ll take 2 and probably the salads, normal people have 3 and they could all be with meat. Very hungry: choose 4. Dessert is ordered separately. If you feel more traditional, you can order a salad, then risotto or pasta and finally the meat. I tried 3 meat dishes one, it was great! Their cordon bleu is great, but so are most plates here. They are seasonal, so never expect the same. It’s a very “in” place so expect the usual “in” crowd.
- Taverna Kalymnos: Josefstrasse/ Motorenstrasse 25, 8005 Zurich. Almost across Josef, I really hesitated to put this place here. I would like it to be the best kept secret in town, but I’m afraid it’s already very famous, so I’ll share it with you. This place is tiny. A couple of tables, that’s it. You’re almost under the impression you’re in somebody’s flat. The owner is very nice and friendly, but food does not always come fast, so take your time. As the name gives it all, it’s Greek food. The usual Mezes and co. What you need to try here is the chicken or souvlaki Kalymnos with honey and cinnamon. It’s delicious! I always go back for more.
- Alpenrose: Limmatstrasse/ Fabrikstrasse 12, 8005 Zurich. I don’t understand why all tourist go to the Zeughauskeller. No really, it’s crowded, they get you in and out as fast as possible and the card is several pages long.... For a real cosy Swiss atmosphere, I can only recommend going to Alpenrose. It feels good to be there, not stressful. And the food is very good. Perhaps not only main stream touristic Swiss food, but great food discoveries.

I almost put Cinque on that list. It used to be one of my favorite restaurants, but after they let several times, people smoke cigare in there, I stopped going. The food was great, but wasn’t anymore when I suffocated under the cigar smell. I might try it again once it’s forbidden to smoke, but in any case, I am disappointed in the first place with the owners for letting a few people spoil the evening of so many. Is that what I expect from a good restaurant? No, I don’t think so!

Now come on, get out of Kreis 1 and get your stomach to Kreis 5!

21 February 2010

Fasnacht in Zurich

This weekend was Fasnacht in Zurich. Fore more background on Fasnacht, I found this article on Wikipedia:


The highlight of Fasnacht is the parade in the old town on Sunday. There are music bands ( Guggemusik), lots of witches and other mountain creatures, kids can get candies and nice women will probably get lots of confettis in their hair or worst in their purse!

Here are some pictures:

So what do you think? Do you find this interesting? Scary? Fun?
Let me know.


I love Zurich: Why in a Top Ten

I love Zurich: why in a Top Ten

Why do we love a city and hate another? In a trial to summarize what I love about Zurich, here is my ( I know it’s not so original!) Top Ten of Zurich:

- There are lots of pedestrian areas: along the Limmat, in the old town and along the lake. It’s both very relaxing and useful, as it’s quicker to walk everywhere than drive in the center.
- The choice of restaurant is amazing for such a small city (my top ten to follow).
- Again for a city this size, the cultural choice is fantastic (and why not write a top ten on that as well -to be continued…)
- Everything works: from trains running on schedule to registering at your Gemeinde to postal services (yes, your A-Post letter will arrive a day later anywhere in Switzerland… Amazing!).
- Zurich has history. Perhaps not so great for Europeans, but amazing to the Canuck that I am. Everywhere you walk you feel it. Best places: Lindenhof (the Romans were there. Can you believe it! They surely were not in Canada!), Niederdorf, Oberdorf.
- The city is clean and agreable. You can still be theorically in Zurich but be on the top of a mountain with a great view (Uetliberg), be swimming in the Limmat or cruising on the Lake. Which other city has this all?
- This one is really personal, but I love the fact that Zurich has so many fountains. They are everywhere, look great and give a great look to the city. I’m thinkin about writting another Top Ten just about that!
- Zurich is very Swiss and very cosmopolitan. I know it’s contradictory, but it just feels this way. And the mix is exactly what I need.
- Life in Switzerland, so including in Zurich, is very much season oriented. The year has several events, one after another which give life here a certain rhythm. You have to go through a whole year (or perhaps several of them) here to realize that. For example, on 11 November at 11:11 we have the carnival start in Zurich (but not the real carnival, just the start of it), then days get shorter and darker and it’s Rabeliechtli, and then Christmas (and all the markets) and Sylvester with fireworks, and Carnival, etc. There are all these customs who are regulars to all Swiss calendars. It’s both interesting and comforting. It gives you something to look forward to, at any given time of the year.

Okay then, it was Top Nine! At least something original about it! So tell me: why do you love Zurich? All answers are welcomed (perhaps not if you love the dialect though...). Cheers!