With only a few shopping days left, I have to admit that it does not feel like Christmas. Yes, we have some snow on the ground and downtown Geneva is sparkling in lights and other holiday decorations. However, our flat remains void of any signs of Christmas. For the first time in many years (possibly forever) I do not have a proper Christmas tree and all the other decorations remain boxed and sitting on the top shelf of our hallway closet. Because we were in the States for two weeks over Thanksgiving and we will be in Italy for Christmas and New Year's, I figured it would be silly to spend time and money on adorning our half-furnished and disorganized flat with random Chirstmas paraphanelia. Well, for someone who usually loves Christmas, this was an awful decision. I truly miss having a Christmas tree filled with all the ornaments that I have been given over the years from my great Aunt Helen. I miss my Charles Dickens' Christmas village as well as my red and green stockings. I even miss attempting to untangle all the Christmas lights and then eventually giving up and buying new ones! So, with only a few days left before Christmas, I decided to take matters in to my own hands and today I bought a small Christmas cactus. I know it is not your typical Christmas tree but at least it is loosely associated with the holidays! Even though I have no one to pawn them off on, tomorrow I might even bake some cookies! Merry Christmas!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
This weekend, one of Geneva’s biggest events took place. L’Escalade is the annual celebration of the defeat of the surprise attack by troops sent by the Duke of Savoy during the early mornings of December 12th, 1602. The Savoyards marched on Geneva and tried to enter the city walls by scaling tall ladders (a climb in French is an “escalade”). The night guard in Geneva rang the church bells to alert the townspeople, who joined the fight. According to Genevois legend, a local mother of 14 children who lived above the city gates, seized a large cauldron of hot soup and poured it on the attackers. This heavy soup landed on the head of a Savoyard attacker, killing him. This commotion further roused the townspeople. Only a few of the Savoyards were able to enter the city gates. The rest became confused and cold. They were all forced to retreat. During the attack, the Genevois lost 18 men during the attack while the Savoyards suffered 54 fatalities. Thirteen invaders who were taken as prisoners during the attack where hung the next day as thieves.
Modern day celebrations of the attack from 1602 take place throughout the weekend closest to December 12th. People break chocolate cauldron filled with marzipan vegetables and candies wrapped in the Geneva colors of red and gold. It is customary for the youngest and oldest person to hold hands and break the cauldron while reciting Ainsi périssent les ennemis de la République! " (Thus perish the enemies of the Republic). Other traditions include hot, spiced wine, vegetable soup, and children in Halloween- like costumes singing Escalade songs for money. There is also a massive running race the weekend before all the other Escalade celebrations. While Jignesh I were unable to participate in the road race last weekend (we were experiencing some jet lag from our trip back from the states), we did attend some of this weekend’s events. We sampled some of the yummy veggie soup and joined thousands in watching the Sunday evening parade. The parade portrayed many of the individuals from that night in 1602 including the local housewife and her 14 children, the attackers of the Savoyard, and the Genevois militia on horseback and holding tourches. All were dressed in period costumes and carried lifelike weapons from that time period. There were even characters that represented the attackers who where hung, complete with shackles and nooses around their necks! Who needs a Mickey Mouse parade when you can have fire, nooses, cannons, and 10 foot spears!
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Until now, I have always been a window type of gal. The thought of curling up against the window for a long nap while avoiding the constant barrage of service carts and flight attendants always seems appealing. (In reality, I can never get comfortable no matter where I am seating and I can never get a wink of sleep regardless of how tired I am). Well, after this most recent flight, I am officially a changed person. Attempting to be a good international traveler, I followed all the tips by eating healthy and drinking plenty of water. I boarded my 9 hour flight with visions of curling up with my pillow and dreaming the night away. Yeah right! Just moments into the flight, the overweight, middle-aged and balding man next to me fell into one of the deepest sleeps that I have ever witnessed. I am convinced he was not a person but a bear in hibernation. He snored so loudly that he was getting stares from people more than five rows in front of us. Of course, the cup of coffee and over 60 ounces of water that I had drank leading up to the flight started to catch up with me! At first I waited it out and thought that the man blocking my way to bladder comfort would soon wake up. Well, I was wrong. He slept right through dinner and some rocky turbulence. I tried all the tricks in the world to gently wake the man up. I "accidently" hit his arm while fumbling through my backpack. I turned my overhead light on and off serveral times in a row. I loudly coughed and cleared my throat. And as I had heard on tv, I even laid down and played dead. Nothing worked. It was useless. So, I waited a bit longer convinced that Spring was around the corner and this bear would eventually emerge from his den. Who can sleep this well on an airplane? (Oh, I later found out that Jignesh was on a flight only miles in front of mine with three seats to himself enjoying a winter's rest of his own). After no sign of life from my seatmate and with my bladder about to explode, I was no longer going to play nice guy. I literally shoved and kicked him to get him to release me from my pain. Still, no luck. I thought about climbing over him or asking the flight attendant to help but decided that neither were the best ideas. So, I spent the next 7 hours watching two bad movies and one not so funny episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway trying to distract myself but actually staring at this bear for any sign of life while simultaneously crying from the immense pain. I even got so desperate that I considered using the barf bag as my personal toilet. FINALLY, with exactly 54 minutes left in the flight, my neighbor woke up when the smell of pastries filled the cabin. I politely asked him to let me out and then sprinted down the aisle to freedom. That was the longest and most satisfying pee that I ever taken! So, from now you will always find me in an aisle seat!