A World Away from Home: Zurich

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Lakeside Zurich

On our second day in Zurich we had big plans to go hiking, but instead we ended up lazing around the apartment all day and relaxing. It was nice to have a day where we did not need to do much at all.

In the evening we decided to go out for a delicious pizza dinner. According to my sister, you have to reserve ahead of time, otherwise it’s nearly impossible to get a table.

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Pizza!

It’s also a lot more expensive to eat out in Zurich than it is in Vancouver. If you’re planning on visiting Switzerland, make sure you have a decent amount to spend on lodging, transportation, and food!

It was delicious pizza – some of the best I’ve had. Well worth the money.

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It was also warm and sunny, so we were able to sit outside and enjoy the weather.

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Afterwards we decided to walk to the lake with some ice cream. Zurich, apparently, has the worst ice cream in Switzerland. Still tasted pretty good to me, though.

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The Opera House

It was really nice to see public chairs available for people to relax with friends or on their own in the big plaza. There was a beautiful view of the sunset and lots of space for everyone.

The sky in Zurich was filled with jet streams from planes. It created some beautiful artwork in the sky.

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We listened to a very talented violinist who was busking nearby, and then slowly meandered home. A wonderful and relaxing day to recuperate from the busy days we’d been having.

Treasure Hunting

Nature and food. Two treasures that I love.

Christine Fichtner Quarry Rock hike

Isolated

Lucky for me, I live in a city that has a ton of both. How could I not take advantage of it?

As my first hike of the year, it was probably a good thing that I ended up going on a shorter, easier trail. (I may have huff and puffed anyway…)

My friend Miki called me up and we headed out to Deep Cove to hike up to Quarry Rock. It’s a gorgeous hike, and the view up top is spectacular. It’s a fairly popular hike, and by the time we started to head back, the trail was getting a bit more crowded.

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Feeling accomplished post-hike!

There was not a lot of wildlife to be seen this time around, but seeing a raven hanging out around all the hikers at the top was quite something. It must be quite used to humans, since it did not seem nervous at all despite having at least twenty people  and five dogs sitting or standing around.

Christine Fichtner Quarry Rock

A spectacular view.

There’s something wonderful about being surrounded by trees, secluded, away from the reaches of urban life.

It’s rejuvenating for the body and mind. It’s something that never fails to lift my spirits. The life, the energy, everything about it, I believe, brings out the best in us.

Christine Fichtner Honey's donut

How could I not?

Of course, after hiking we had to stop by Honey’s for some incredible donuts. The maple donut was well worth the trek across the city.

The weather has been incredible this year, and I plan to take full advantage of it. This means plenty of hikes and time spent outdoors.

I live in a beautiful city full of opportunities to enjoy nature. What about your city? If I were to visit, where would you send me?

 

Sunny Day Adventures

Sunny days are rare here once fall hits. That’s one of the reasons everyone is constantly talking about the weather. We all appreciate the sun to its fullest, since we normally only get it during the summer.

Today was one such day.

Waiting for my ride in the warm sun and cool breeze

Waiting for my ride in the warm sun and cool breeze

With only one class to teach in the evening, I was free to procrastinate on my writing, and spend a day gallivanting around.

We started off with dim sum. It was a bit far away from my house, but totally worth it.

Western Lake Chinese restaurant on Victoria and 34th. Absolutely delicious. 20$ per person, with leftovers for everyone.

So much good food

So much good food

After a delicious start to the day, we decided to pamper ourselves at a nearby salon. Pedicures for all!

My feet have never been so soft. Nor have they been tickled quite this much in ages. None of us was able to resist laughing.

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It’s worth it for clean, massaged feet and pretty nails!

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Definitely Missed This

Not only did I miss having a full-sized oven when I was in Korea… I also missed having a place large enough to cook this much food, with this many friends.

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Four full-sized pizzas, eight people.

No leftovers.

Pretty epic food night.

There’s something special about making food from scratch, especially with awesome friends. And then mowing down on pure deliciousness. An awesome way to bring everyone together and spend quality time. Also cheaper than going out and buying pizza at a restaurant.

Food, glorious food.

The best days are always the days that are filled with good food.

I love eating Korean food. It’s delicious.

But sometimes I get foreign food cravings. Yesterday was one such day.

I spent the day traveling around Seoul with my friends, eating amazing food, and sneaking in some shopping in between.

I started off in Gangnam at Butterfingers, where I ate the most amazing buttermilk pancakes.

Vanilla butter. Mmm.

With Vanilla butter. Mmm.

Then I went to Myeongdong, where I got Red Mango frozen yoghurt.

Red Mango

So yummy

And finally I ended in Itaewon, where I got amazing Thai food at Wang’s. The Green Curry and Pad Thai were delicious, and not Korean-ized, which is what I find happens with a lot of foreign foods such as Vietnamese Pho. The restaurant was really busy, and we waited quite a while for a table, but the food came very quickly, and it was well worth the wait.p20130324-000105

A happy stomach means a happy me.

I had to travel pretty far to get such a variety of foreign foods, but it is definitely worth it!

Next thing you know, they’ll start using storks.

Everything is so ‘빨리빨리’ here. No time? Get it delivered! I bet they’d try to get time itself delivered if they could.

I bought a ring, but they had to resize it, so they delivered it to me a couple days later.

I get so many flyers for food delivery on my door. Chicken, pizza, you name it.

Can you imagine if they started delivering McDonald’s?

OH WAIT THEY DO. And you don’t even have to call them and use your worse than bad Korean.

Hmmm, why not use that as your 7:30am alarm? “Knock knock, breakfast is served” sounds like a great idea.

It’s so convenient. I love it. Even if it’s dangerously tempting all the time.

But seriously, next thing you know, they’ll start using storks to deliver babies right to your doorstep.

Beautiful Cafes

Standard Cafe

Standard Cafe

I come to this place often enough that they smile in slight recognition as I enter. And they speak to me using as much English as they can, because they know that I don’t speak the local language.

It’s warm inside, very warm. My glasses fog instantly. I shiver once as residual cold air kisses my skin farewell.

I order in broken Korean. They smile patiently.

It takes too long to translate the cost in my head, so I just hand them a large bill. The change I get back looks about right.

It’s a cozy cafe. The floor is dark, but the multi-coloured glitter embedded in the tiles makes the light dance. Rustic chairs and tables occupy the walls, surrounding the island bar.

Self-serve water and a chalkboard menu waves to me from the right. A raised platform of tables greets me from the left. I choose a window seat so that I can see the cloudless sky. I prefer summertime when I can sit outside.

Finally I am warm enough to remove my scarf and jacket. I settle down comfortably, and open my laptop. I love how fast the internet is here.

My order takes a while; they’re meticulous with their drinks. But when it arrives, it’s beautifully designed. A soft thank-you passes my lips. Any louder and I worry that they’ll be able to pick out even more mistakes in my pronunciation.

It’s a little bit more expensive than the other cafes around here, but I come here anyway. I like it here, though I’m not quite sure why I prefer it. Maybe it’s the good memories, maybe it’s the atmosphere. Or maybe it’s just the fruit and ice cream waffles.

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I love cafes. I love relaxing and writing, or reading, or studying, while sipping a delicious drink. Cafes here also tend to have amazing desserts, such as waffles or thick toast.

I was debating whether to post this here or in my Creative Writing blog, but in the end I decided that it fit better here.

 

Hermes-Priced Produce

I was devastated when I cut open a freshly bought apple and found out that the core was mouldy. It’s nothing like a mouldy apple in Canada.

Apples in Korea are expensive.

I might as well have thrown 3 000W down the drain. That’s, like, 9 red bean pastry fish.

Not cool.

A Challenge Worthy of a Fool

I can feel the burn of their taunting eyes. The slow drag of tongues over lips betrays their anticipation as I swallow. My smile emerges as a grimace. Strange. I was pretty sure that I was grinning just a moment ago as I put the chopsticks to my mouth. Odd. Everything is a little bit blurry, but I can’t figure out why. My recollection of the events leading up to this seems to be as fuzzy as my vision. What had I done?  Ah yes, a few minutes ago I had boasted that I could conquer any food. What a fool I was to take this food. And to eat it, that vegetable gleaming so innocently red.

My gasp only drags the agony downwards. Yes, now I know why my lips refuse to turn upwards, and why my eyes are drowning.

My cutlery clatters as my hand claps over my mouth. It burns.  Little imps with thorny feet are summoning a demon on my tongue.

I should have known better, but I really am too easily fooled. It was sweet at first, caressing my tongue with its smooth outside, sliding reassuringly past my lips. Encouraged, I bit down. Fire exploded, sending molten sensations throughout my mouth. Like an angry firebird it spread its wings, consuming all until only flames were left, encasing my tongue in its wretched dance. It screeches whenever I breathe and caws its horrible laughter when I attempt to soothe its fiery wrath.

Water falls, abandoning me along with my ego, along with my trust.

My other hand flounders, searching desperately as my mind screams obscenities. I must have looked comical, with a face as red as the source of my agony. So powerful it was to have taken over my body so quickly, so easily. Sweat trickles down my neck, and I can only dream of the soothing embrace of the Northern winds.

I can hear their laughter, as agonizing as the little imps sashaying across my tongue. Into a jester they had made me. What I thought was bravery was naught but foolishness.

Salty droplets flee for the safety of my shirt. Proof of my failed conquest. My hand lights upon a small white package, and I grin again. Or was it grimace? I manage to wrestle my other hand away long enough to open it and pour the content into my mouth in sweet, sweet relief.

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This is a piece that I wrote a while ago, and then finally decided to edit and post. Based off of the prompt of writing about one of the five senses. 

Cheap and delicious street food

The only kind of fish I can eat

The only kind of fish I can eat

Yummy red bean insides

Yummy red bean insides

There is a lot of delicious street food in Seoul (and probably the rest of Korea too). This pastry fish with red bean inside is one of my favourites. Especially at 3/1 000KRW (or 6/1 000KRW for the mini ones). You can also get custard cream and chocolate inside. Delicious and cheap. Found at your local street food vendor. Available all winter.