Tag Archives: World Cup

Swiss Bliss (äis)


Way back in February, Josh and I sat down for the first time to actually start making concrete plans for this trip. We went online, bought tickets to see Jack Johnson in Paris, and considered our trip planning done! In my excitement, I did what I so rarely do and updated my status on Facebook. The next day, there was something even more engaging than the morale-boosting “likes” from all my friends: a comment posted by Andréanne, my exchange partner from a 2004 Québec trip. Although Andréanne and I had connected incredibly well during the exchange and became fast friends, we had lost touch upon returning home and had not spoken to each other in 10 years. And yet here was her comment: “Just so you know, I’m living in Switzerland ;)”

To backpackers, Switzerland is like the steak section in a restaurant menu. It’s smack in the middle of all the other options, tempting you with its decadence, but you force your eyes to roam around it because it’s so prohibitively expensive. However, as stated so many times before, our whole goal for this trip was to pursue any connections we had across this continent. So, one sunny afternoon in July, Josh and I hopped off the Lausanne metro at the hospital where Andréanne was working as a nurse. Leaving Josh in the waiting room, I nervously rode the elevator up to the Urology department (this was thankfully a travel experience new to me), found the nurses’ desk… And there was Andréanne jumping up to meet me, looking so familiar I refused to believe it had been 10 years since I had hugged her goodbye at the airport!


We had a wonderful few days reconnecting and wandering over beautiful Lausanne, making ourselves “comme chez nous!” as Andréanne insisted.

Our lovely tour guide

An incredible thing to stumble upon: Roman ruins from the ancient city of Lousonna

Lac Ouchy (note the impending clouds of doom…)

From sunny skies to hurricane rains: getting blown away while attempting to watch the France/Germany World Cup match!

From Lausanne, we caught a train to Bern, where my uncle’s sister Irene and her husband Martin had offered to host us for the weekend.

A Swiss feast of Raclette

Bern’s bears!
Irene bear

The next day, Irene & Martin took us hiking up to Mürren, a village nestled at the feet of the Schilthorn Mountain. We spent a wonderful day admiring the Alpine wildflowers, wildlife and, of course, the majestic Alps themselves.


A lovely lunch stop

Not a bad view for a coffee break…

Trummelbach Falls: a series of 10 glacier waterfalls churning INSIDE a mountain
Is falls
Fall dark

Our evenings were spent not only devouring raclette, but also learning more about Irene’s work in raising awareness and fighting against human trafficking. Compounded with what we had learned about human trafficking in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, it was both empowering and humbling to hear Irene’s stories of horror and courage, and then to have her ask us (and expect an answer), “And what are you planning to do about it?”

There is so much injustice, exploitation, and tragedy in the world that there is a lot to talk about. But I know I can get carried away with rhetoric and forget that merely talking about injustice takes time away from actually working to alleviate it.

Hold me accountable to this! In spring, I started volunteering with the WISH (Winnipeg Interprofessional Student-Run Health) Clinic. WISH acknowledges that health is affected by social as well as physical determinants, and thus works to provide “non-judgmental, socially responsible, holistic health care to a population that struggles with poorer health than the rest of the city.” WISH is an incredible community of students, healthcare professionals, and the Point Douglas residents who together want to learn to care for each other better. I can think of no better place to lay aside my rhetoric, so feel free to hold me accountable to continuing to volunteer with these guys this fall.

A huge thank you to Andréanne, Martin & Irene for opening up their homes to us and giving us so much to think about. However, our time in Switzerland was not over yet…


Dutch Blitz 2: Bikes & Beaches


From Amsterdam, our train passed through Rotterdam, but since our photographer friend (read the backstory here) was shooting a wedding in Norway, we continued on to Delft to pay our respects to the great master of light, Vermeer.


A mere hour in Delft, Vermeer’s lifelong home, is enough to understand the bewitching quality of light that inspired Vermeer’s paintings. Three days in Delft is enough to inspire you to start a career in painting yourself!*
*Just to clarify, I mean your own career in painting, not a career dedicated to self-portraits.


Old Church

Venice is universally renowned for the beauty of its canals. However, as far as canal towns go, Delft is a strong contender for beauty, and a clear winner for not having its beauty drowned by tourists. The cobblestone streets of this charming town wind over bridges and through the town square, ringed by the Old and New churches and countless little shops offering everything from free samples of regional cheeses (needless to say, we didn’t need to eat lunch that day… Smoked goat cheese, where have you been all my life?!?) to free football jerseys with the purchase of 2 pints of Dutch beer.


Josh cheese


We were given a thoroughly authentic welcome to the town when on our first evening, two young guys hanging out their window holding orange tarps started yelling at us in Dutch. We eventually yelled back in confusion that we didn’t speak Dutch, and they politely apologized in English. “We are trying to turn our windows orange for the World Cup… You know the World Cup? (we assured them that yes, even though we didn’t know Dutch, we still had knowledge of some of the important things in life!) Do these covers look – how you say it – nicer? tucked in? Or hanging free like flags?” We carefully considered the craftsmanship of the tarps from all angles, eventually yelling back that yes, tucked in was superior. The next day, all windows were World Cup ready!

Hup Holland Hup!

Having covered several Dutch stereotypes in our first day (art, cheese, crazy language), the next day we decided to go for broke and check out the famous Dutch bike industry. Much to our delight, this stereotype also proved true!

In Winnipeg, biking is always a political statement. As a cyclist, you are at best committing to rolled eyes and incredulous looks when you tell people you bike to work. More likely, you are also committing to a daily commute of hurled insults and progressively tighter space in your lane as cars attempt to crush their feelings of defensiveness by crushing you against the curb.

This battle against bikes doesn’t exist in Holland: it can’t, due to the sheer number of bikes on the road. According to the European Cycling Federation, the Dutch make approximately 14 million bike trips per day, a fact evidenced by the ubiquitous multi-layered bike parking lots and the clear superiority of bikers’ right of way. In Winnipeg, you feel pressured to constantly apologize for being on a bike and taking up space on the road. In the Netherlands, if you stopped to apologize, you would get run over by a horde of bikes.


After walking to the train station from our lovely Airbnb home, we rented bikes for €7 and spent a glorious day biking from town to town. It was an exhilarating experience to be biking on a highway and be asked by another biker, “Oh, is Rotterdam that way?” In Manitoba, the very odd time we have seen a cyclist on the highway, we always wonder where exactly they could have come from or where they could be going… Since the next town is 200 km away, you always have to assume that Prairie highway bikers are either completely lost or completely insane!

Bike signs

Bike trip from Delft to Den Haag and the Peace Palace. Learning more about the establishment of the International Court of Justice was especially meaningful after seeing the consequences of the Nuremberg Trials (see Josh’s post here).
Den Haag

Biking continued out of the city into the dunes north of Den Haag:

Following the bike paths, we took one turn that we thought would lead us home, and ended up at the beach!

Although delighted by the beauty of the beach, we were furious at ourselves for not thinking to bring bathing suits along. The temperature had soared into the twenties, and after a long day of biking, a swim in the North Sea would have been the perfect reward. However, as we strolled along the sand, we became aware of the fact that this was the ideal beach to have forgotten a bathing suit… How serendipitous! 😉

Jelly bellies

On our last day in the Netherlands, we had one hour in the Rotterdam train station before having to catch the last train to the Hoek Van Holland ferry. That same day, our photographer friend Dorien happened to be back in Rotterdam for just one day, en route from one wedding directly to another, but traveling through the Rotterdam train station. We put our serendipitous one hour lunch together to very good use: as soon as she saw us, Dorien hugged us, then said seriously, “Okay, shall we play cards?” Good thing we carry Dutch Blitz in our backpack! 🙂


For a tiny country, the Netherlands are brimming with character, quirks, and charm. It was immensely difficult to say doei! to the Dutch, but our next adventure was calling us…