This year I will be spending Christmas in Palm Springs, California. My dads moved down there a few months ago. Since they didn’t come up for Thanksgiving this year, it will be the first time since the move that the whole family has been together. While I’m very excited about the family time, I’m also stoked to be leaving behind the Idaho cold. As I get ready to head out somewhere different this Christmas, I’ve started reflecting about the Christmases I’ve spent abroad. There are two that really stand out in my mind. First up: Switzerland.
When living in Madrid, a couple of my friends and I decided that for Christmas we would travel around Switzerland. I should point out that I’m not really a fan of the cold, so why I decided to do this is still completely beyond me. But I can say that while I couldn’t feel my body for most of the trip, I did a have a fantastic time.
We visited several towns while we were there: Geneva, Nyon, Lausanne, and Lucerne. However, we actually spent Christmas in Interlaken. I had been to Geneva before when I’d backpacked through Europe, so I’d already seen the major sites, including the Jet d’Eau, but it was still nice to visit.
I think the coolest thing we saw in Geneva were these lighted figurines which made it appear that there were people flying through the night.
Nyon is a tiny little town on Lake Geneva, halfway between Geneva and Lausanne, so it was a great place to stop for a day. We did a tour of the city and stopped by a few museums.
Lausanne was another small town that we stopped in for a quick visit.
Me, all bundled up. It was cold!
I have to admit, we had a lot of fun with the names while we were there.
Who wants a douchy crepe?
Or to visit Ouchy?
We also stopped by the Collection de l’art Brut, which is by far one of the most interesting museums I’ve visited. According to the site they “present works by self-taught creators who, for various reasons, have escaped cultural conditioning and social conformity….those who produce Art Brut include prisoners, inmates of psychiatric hospitals, eccentrics, loners and misfits. They work in solitude, secrecy and silence, unconcerned by public criticism or the gaze of others.” It really is a site to see.
One of my favorite places we visited was Lucerne. I didn’t visit this town when I was backpacking through Europe, but I’d heard amazing things about it, so I was very happy that we were squeezing it in. I’m quite a bit of a nerd in many ways, so I was super excited to visit the Glacier Garden. Not only is it beautiful, but I felt so small looking at these geological traces dating back 20,000 years.
Equally stunning was the Lion Monument or ‘Dying Lion of Lucerne’ which was carved in memory of the Swiss mercenaries that died at the Tuileries in 1972.
Other pics of Lucerne:
We spent Christmas Eve and day in Interlaken. I had already told my friends several times about a tradition my family has where we go see a movie on Christmas Eve. This was my first Christmas away from home, so I really wanted to keep that tradition. After we arrived we soon realized that this wasn’t going to happen. Unlike the States where everything is open on Christmas Eve and often open late, here everything was closed so that people could spend time with their families.
Adrienne headed up to the mountains to go skiing early on Christmas Eve and Isa and I split up and spent most of the morning apart, chatting with family by phone and exploring the town. By late morning, Isa and I found ourselves back at the hostel with nothing else to do. So we decided to catch the train, head up to Grindelwald, and see if Adrienne wanted a hot chocolate break.
We were about halfway through our trip when I got a call from Adrienne. “Natalie, you have to get on the train and come up here right now! There’s a hotel with a movie theater and they’re showing Happy Feet this afternoon. If you catch the next train you might be able to make it,” she told me excitedly.
She laughed when I told her that we were actually already on the train because we were going to come surprise her. She said that she would join us for the movie as she wasn’t having as much fun skiing by herself.
When Isa and I arrived the three of us met up, got a hot chocolate and went to the ‘movie theater.’ I use this term lightly as it was a screen the size of a big TV with about 6 chairs in the room, but at the time it was the best movie theater in the world. We giggled through the entire movie and afterwards walked around a bit before making our way back down the mountain.
When we arrived back at the hostel, I unpacked the rest of my bag and set up for Christmas. My mom has always sent me care packages when I was living away from home. Since it was my first Christmas away from the family she wanted to make sure it was still festive, so she sent me a small tree. She also insisted that I take my presents with me so that I could open them on Christmas day. Not wanting Isa and Adrienne to feel left out, I’d secretly brought them a couple things as well. In fact, I even made stockings for them (and this shows how much I cared, because I absolutely hate to sew!) We had gotten some goodies the day before when the stores were still open and that night we had our own little party for the 3 of us. We didn’t have a refrigerator, but were grateful to find we had a fat windowsill so we could chill our wine outside.
Photos taken from the train:
You might recognize this one from my header:
Our table of goodies:
Holidays can be hard when you’re away from home. I believe that it’s important to do what you can to keep your traditions alive, as well as participate in local festivities. This trip was a great learning lesson for me of how to blend these two. I am also eternally grateful that my first Christmas away from home was spent with dear friends who went out of their way to help me keep my traditions, even if they thought I was a little crazy at times. Not everyone would take a train up a mountain just to see a movie on Christmas Eve. But not everyone would call their friend in the middle of skiing and tell them to get on the train so that they don’t miss that movie either. I hope you all are surrounded by family this holiday season, whether it’s those you’re born with or those you choose.