Monthly Archives: May 2011

When Summer approaches, the only thing I can possibly think of is spanish food. Could there be anything that screams beach and sunshine more than a paella with meat and sea food?

I’m grateful for having found a bunch of people that feel the same way I do about food (and drinks) in Switzerland. People that, just as me, enjoy preparing copious meals just for the sake of it. People that prepare a paella with meat and sea food on a sunday, to share with a group of friends.

Spending a sunday afternoon getting tipsy on spanish wine and Orujo, talking about ingredients, cooking techniques and taste or texture preferences just felt great. Yes, I have been savoring some haute cuisine. Yes, I’ve also found spanish tapas near my work place.

What I didn’t find, until today, was the spanish attitude towards food, in general.

Switzerland enjoys a good meal, there’s no doubt about that – but once its finished, you’ll move on to the next activity. Spain, on the other hand, can spend 5 hours having lunch. Better – it can combine a lunch and a dinner, without ever leaving the table.

I’ve been keeping a secret from you, but can’t hold it back anymore.

I’m moving to London in September!

London Eye, London (UK)

I got the offer to move within the company and the current department I work for to London. Although the tasks and projects will still remain the same, this is a big jump in my career. In the new office, I will no longer have someone sitting next to me whom I could ask anything in case of doubt. I’ll be responsible to develop new business opportunities with UK-based bankers, I will be in between our in-house metals and energy traders and the external financing resources.

Thoughts and emotions have been roller-coasting in my head.

Can I hold up to my company’s expectations?
Do I want to move into the exact opposite of Switzerland?
Do I want to go through all the phases of culture shock, again?
Will I be able to deal with all the fog and rain?

Some of Switzerland’s characteristics I’ve loved before even arriving in the country, and others I’ve learned to appreciate with time. But, as any other place in the World, there are cultural aspects that, although I have partly learned how to live with, I do not share.

There will be countless peculiarities I’ll miss from Switzerland – more than I had ever thought I would – but there are also some luxuries I’ve missed from living in big cities. Not to mention about living in a country where I can make myself understandable without pointing on things and making ridiculous descriptions.

After finishing my one month summer french course in Nice, I went on a road trip through the South of France. This was already 5 years ago. Time flies, and my french isn’t getting any better!

We spent some days along the coast side before breaking into the french countryside. It was going to be my first time in the deep Provence. Fields of lavender and villages made of stones – that’s all I could think of.

Yes, I was uneducated and naïve.

The Gorge du Verdon is known as the Grand Canyon of Europe. It runs for around 25 km, between Castellane and Moustiers-Ste-Marie and goes down to over 700 meters depth. There are plenty of viewpoints along the road but the best views can be found when standing on one edge of the gorge. One of the main ones is Les Balcons de la Mescla, on the southern wall. This natural balcony overlooks the point in which the Verdon and Artuby rivers meet.

I never expected such a landscape in Provence.

When staring down hundreds of meters, I was fascinated by the color of the water carried by the Verdon river. From the top, it shines in an inviting deep turquoise-green!

At the western edge Gorge du Verdon, the river flows into lake of Sainte-Croix. From there, we rented a canoe to paddle into the gorge. Once you get to see the river closer, you’ll realize that the water has a somewhat milky appearance. This immediately made me alert: I couldn’t really see what was swimming next to me!

I sat there, in the canoe with the sun shining in my face, watching other people jump into the water and weighting the pros and cons of taking the risk. After a couple of minutes, I putt aside my fears of being trapped by seaweed or bitten by one of those deep sea creatures (river version), and took a plunge into the milky turquoise river!

The fresh water was perfect to cool down from the hot temperature. And once inside, I completely forgot about deep river creatures and seaweed, and enjoyed the afternoon.

I have a confession to make.

Ok, it might not be exactly a confession since you will probably have noticed and deduced it from my blog – Switzerland has turned me into a bon vivant.

I’ve always enjoyed the taste of food. It was clear to me that I wouldn’t be able to resist in Switzerland – host of the two best hotel schools in the World according to the annual TNS Global Survey: Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne and Les Roches (in Crans-Montana). I would have never thought that Switzerland had such a broad variety when it comes to restaurants. There’s a plate for each palate – from the classic fondue to molecular cuisine. Your pocket (and maybe transport) is the only limit.

I had heard that the best restaurants are often hidden gems in tiny villages that are rather difficult to spot. When my mom came to visit, we rented a car and took this chance to explore Vaud’s less obvious gastronomic treasures. This is how we found Le Guillaume Tell, in Aran-Villette, a cozy fairy-tale village with a population of less than 600 people.

We entered into a living room with not more than 8-10 tables and were kindly seated on the only remaining table (we were lucky – we should have reserved!). The decoration was warm and one immediately felt at home. No opulent adornments, lushness or luxury. I like that – it proves that the food is the star and there’s nothing that will distract you from savoring it.

To start with an amuse bouche (appetizer), we were surprised with a wasabi snowball and the below gazpacho, which was followed by our entrées: duck liver terrine and a deer and veal carpaccio.


Followed by a pigeon and its own foie and a tender beef filet with two sauces.

To finish, we had home made sorbets and a crème brûlée with orange confit.

I left the restaurant happier than ever. Not only did I had an unique dinner but I also realized that, when it comes to food – small is beautiful. Why eat 500g beef steak if you can eat less and therefore have a first course and desert (and maybe even a cheese plate) as well? The joy is in the variety of flavors and one of the main elements of haute cuisine, I guess, is finding the right combination.

Would you rather have one plate or several smaller portions?

You might have heard about the French Riviera – the French coastline that extends from around St. Tropez to the italian border and has been long known to be a playground for the rich and the famous. Ports are flooded with the World’s most expensive yachts – some of them include a heliport on the top, some simply have a huge pool on the top. During my summer in Nice – that first attempt on learning a french a couple of years back – I enjoyed my afternoons sitting at a nearby cafe and guessing which yacht belonged to Elton John or how many wives that Sheikh had on board.

But the french are not the only sophisticated ones with exclusive clientele – Switzerland also has its own Riviera. The Swiss Riviera.

Vevey, Switzerland

Switzerland’s Riviera stretches along the northern shore of Lac Léman – being Vevey and Montreux (home of the infamous jazz festival) its two largest villages. My favorite place to go wine tasting in Europe, Lavaux, also belongs to this area.

The Swiss Riviera does not have the Europe’s biggest yachts nor P. Diddy strolling along its beaches. Its exclusivity, though always latent, is rather subtle.

Old Village, Vevey, Switzerland Lac Léman and Alps, Switzerland

Its clean cozy streets and breathtaking lake and mountain scenery convinced many celebrities to spend a great part of their life in the region. Hemingway, Charles Chaplin and Freddie Mercury and only some of the personalities that have walked its paths and gazed at its unique sunsets.

Sure, Vevey is not among Europe’s top party places, which I prefer so – I don’t want to come across Paris Hilton and a bunch of paparazzi following her from one boutique to another. Life in the Swiss Riviera is relaxed – no rush and no hurry. No paparazzi.

It’s a simple life made luxurious – its vineyards overlooking the lake and the Alps, unnoticed boutiques with offering both quality and fashion as well as the finest collection of top quality restaurants hidden in tiny neighbor villages.

Vevey, Switzerland

There’s no need to say more – this is where I want to live (when I’m rich and famous), too.

Where would you live if you were one of the rich and famous?

Filets de Perche

Filets de Perche: A speciality in the area of Lac Léman

On my first trip to Geneva, back in 2006, a friend’s family took us unexperienced spaniards to a small restaurant near the lake. Its speciality was local fish. We ordered filet the perche – an indigenous specie in Lac Léman served in small fillets that traditionally is served with sauce tartare and french fries. Going out for filets de perche is a good excuse to sit on a terrace next to the lake on a sunny afternoon and its a must try when in any of the villages surrounding Lac Léman.

During the last year and a half, filet de perche have been many of my lunches and dinners in Switzerland. However, they were not always as good as I expected.

I soon found out that Lac Léman does (by far) not have enough perches to satisfy its demand – the local catch only covers 6% of swiss consumption and so the remaining 94% are frozen filets coming all the way from Estonia.

How can one escape from the frozen filets offered in many restaurants?

The high season for filets is between July and October, that is, its likely that a restaurant announcing filets de perche in January will be importing them from Eastern Europe. Obviously, there are some exceptions – restaurants specialized in these filets will have a deal with local fishermen who will exclusively deliver to them all-year-round. My personal favorite is Café de la Poste, in a fairy tale lake village called Lutry (where I took the picture above).

My recommendation is to always search for filets de perches frais du Lac Léman to get the real taste. Due to the low local supply, restaurants that actually do serve the fresh catch will make sure that’s clear for their customers

It’s not all about filets de perche

There are more than 50 fish species in Lac Léman – why obsess with one kind when you can eat your way through the lake? I’m putting this concept into practice since saturday – having started with these filets de féra with pommes frites and Lavaux wine at Chateau d’Ouchy.

filets de féra Pommes frites Glass of White Wine (Lavaux)

View Over Masca, Tenerife

I’m not afraid of flying, nor do I feel nauseous when I look down from the top of a skyscraper. But as I walked along the narrow uneven paths to Finca Guergues in Tenerife, I suddenly lost my confidence in equilibrium and felt an irrational fear of slipping and falling down the gorge.

I closely watched each step I took and balanced my body against the unpredictable wind that waited for us around each corner. I tried not to look down into the gorge. But I did – I was curious. I wondered how deep the gorge may be. I guessed 800 meters – with too any sharp-pointed rocks. I would never survive that fall, I thought. And at that moment, for a minute, I paralyzed.

Narrow Paths, Teno Mountains (Tenerife)

I had been there before – my heart beat accelerates, my breathing quickens and overall I feel tense.

The only thought that dominated my mind was falling. I continued walking, but with every step I felt insecure – I doubted each movement I made. Part of my fear was because of the rushing wind that pushed me towards the gorge. But another part was caused by myself – I just didn’t trust in my own feet.

Does this make any sense?

No. Not really.

My fear of falling is irrational, as are so many other fears and phobias. It only hits me some times – when I particularly feel unstable on the ground (because of the wrong footwear or strong winds, for example) and am standing on a narrow path next to a cliff or, in this case, a deep gorge with sharp-pointed rocks. And even then, I still manage to keep on walking.

Walking Teno Mountains, Tenerife

I know what you’re thinking: If I have a problem with narrow paths and am afraid of falling down – Why oh why do I keep on going to these places? Well, it’s two things: the spectacular views (when I dare to look) and the proud feeling of having accomplished a several hours hike with an additional challenge.

Do you have a phobia? How do you deal with it?

PS: If you think you can handle the path and height in the pictures above, then you might want to try out the scariest path I’ve ever seen – El Camino del Rey (Check out the video here!).

Practical Information

Route: From Casas Araza to Finca Guergues (Tenerife, Spain) – circular
Elevation gain uphill: not much, approx. 120m
Elevation gain downhill: 120m
Length: 7 km
Duration: 2 hrs
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate (depending on the weather and how comfortable you are with nights!)
Wikiloc: If you feel like hiking a bit more, you can extend the route a bit more like this guy did:Finca Guergues.

I’ve been looking for the opportunity to improve my photography – to learn about exposure and aperture, and experiment on my own with lights, wide-angle lens and optical zoom. When my mom kindly offered me to take her Fujifilm Finepix S9600, I immediately accepted (and secretly hope she will fall in love with my pictures and never asks me to return it back).

On Sunday, the weather was lovely and so I packed my camera bag and rollerblades to make my way to Vevey – a little idilic town at the boarder of Lac Léman. I skated for hours along Vevey’s promenade, trying to get used to standing on wheels and making my best efforts to stay still when taking photographs (this did not always end up well).

Spring in Vevey, Switzerland

While skating along the path that draws the contour of the lake, I stopped to rest at this pink blooming tree. The afternoon sun shone through its branches and reflected on its blossoms. The sky was clear and the Alps could be perfectly outlined in the background. For a minute, I had this little piece of the promenade all for myself. The only sound was the breeze gently brushing its leaves. That moment was spring peak for me.

Spring in Vevey, Switzerland

What does spring look and feel like where you live?