ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – The tourist industry in Switzerland is arguably suffering more than any other business area from the too-long too-strong Swiss franc, so hat’s off to the Swiss Convention & Incentive Bureau for clearly selling the pleasure and beauty of Swiss travel to a key group, incentive business travel managers.
If you’re not already in Switzerland and traveling, you will wish you were when you read this description of the eighth Switzerland Meeting Trophy, “an annual familiarization trip”, written by one of the members of Team North America. Check out the photos of people having a good time at the event, on My Switzerland, and you’ll probably start thinking about a career change.
BERN, SWITZERLAND – A lot of travelers’ blogs run past me during any given week, but few reflect the sheer joie de vivre of Marie-Michele Gagnon‘s pause in Bern, shared on her blog. The 22-year-old ski racer from Quebec is photographing and filming her world travels and she has just done a fine job in Bern where, of course, the famous bears were nowhere to be seen. Chances are that a skier will only be passing through when the bears hibernate but here is hoping their schedules match at some point.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The new website for Genève Aéroport is a visual treat, compared to the old one, but more importantly, it is being developed as a travel portal. The airport has hooked up with various companies so that you can use the site to order flights with ebooker, hotels, cars, parking and more. It’s a significant improvement over the old site.
Too bad for me that I live in Vaud, because residents of several other cantons and of neighbouring France can take advantage of a number of discounts, such as reduced rail travel, through the site.
Tip for French and Italian (Val d’Aosta) residents: you can get “up to CHF40″ discount on the CHF40 Swiss annual road tax you need if you’re driving on the autoroute, by using a coupon from the new site, although how much off you get in real terms isn’t immediately clear, and the coupon is linked to a booked flight.
Journalist Jou Ying-Cheng from Taiwan, who worked in Geneva for a few years and who contributed occasionally to GenevaLunch while in Switzerland, is back working in Taiwan and traveling in Asia. He shares with us a extraordinary view of the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam, “Very defiant motorcyclist”:
Now and again a travel writer does the world a real service, and Rick Steves has done just that, with one of the most sensible, straightforward articles on The Toilet Problem when travelling in Europe. What caught my eye was his puzzlement over blue toilets in Bern, which I haven’t encountered myself, and his comment that the blue lights discourage drug users, who can’t see their veins there. No idea if he has a good source to back this up, or if it’s just his own travel-savvy assessment, but it made me read the rest of the article, which has sound advice for travellers anywhere.
I don’t know about your mother, but mine was a lot like his, always suggesting that we should use “the facilities” while we were in a place because you never knew when you’d find them again.
The only thing I would add is that in my 25 years in Switzerland I have rarely found a cafe or restaurant that objected if I asked if I could use the toilets. And gas stations usually have them outside, and are happy to give you the key if you ask.
By students at Collège Voltaire, Geneva
When we first heard the name of the play, we thought it was very long and weird for a title. It interested us and we were curious to see what the play was talking about.
The authors of the play wanted to talk about the subject of death, because nowadays our society avoids any contact with death and they believe perhaps it is good to talk about it.
The play “J’ai l’impression qu’André est mort dans les toilettes” was written by Hélène Cattin, Sandra Gaudin and Christian Scheidt, who are members of the Lausanne company “Un Air de Rien”.They were inspired by philosophers like Spinoza and Platon as well as poetic and scientific research.
We were expecting a boring play, but in the end we found it very interesting. There were some dark, sad, anguished, deep moments, but we laughed a lot at sketches on the subject of the death.
Going to the theatre is a real change in our habits. It talks about a serious and taboo subject, which is death, but with a lot of humor.
At the Saint-Gervais theatre, the last week of April 2009
Ed. note: This review was written by two students in the OS English classes at Collège Voltaire in Geneva, part of a week-long programme where the school and GenevaLunch collaborated to help students set up their own online newspaper.
Ed. note: I published this a little over a year ago as a journalist-blogger post in the Tribune de Genève but with their move to a new web site last April older posts are no longer available. The information is hard for English speakers to find, and I’ve been asked to publish it again.
Photo, Julie Schindler. Of course, not all cars can be leased, such as the antique ones on display in Morges at the British Classic Car Show.
The practical life: how to lease a car
My neighbour, who repairs bathtubs for a living, drives shiny new Porsches and Mercedes. I always assumed that he must be very successful in his business. I hate to think what he’s thought of my business, based on our family’s recently discarded old clunker. Fortunately, most of my work is done online rather than in person so I rarely have to impress customers with my car.
When the old family Fiat died I decided the time had come for my company to get a car. I would drive it some of the time for personal use. Two accountants have told me since 2002 when I created Zidao Communication, a small online publishing business, that I should lease a car instead of owning one, then calculating my travel and billing the company for it as a personal expense. Two good reasons for this are that car payments are tax deductible and companies are not obliged to pay a deposit, freeing up capital. Maintenance and kilometres are tax deductible.
Notes from conversations in the US last week:
Insurance agent, Kansas City, on tatoos: They are the work of the devil, and people who get them are in league with him. They’re evil.
Colorado forest fire fighter, on SUVs: Don’t they ever ask themselves how many soldiers in Iraq die for each time they fill their gas tanks?
Real estate agent, Chicago, on selling houses in today’s market: Buyers expect you to do more, to do everything possible to sell without lowering the price. The latest thing is to add video clips to the agent’s web site, not so much tours of houses, but the agent talking about the house and presenting a reassuring face to the world.
Recent widow, age 45, New York, whose husband didn’t leave life insurance but left unsuspected credit card debts, on selling her house in today’s market: If I have to keep coming down and down I will – I just want to get out and start life again. But I don’t have the money to pay for health insurance, and I don’t think you can go without it, so I’m putting it on credit cards. But how will I pay that?
Advertising senior executive, New York, on Swiss history: PBS (Public Broadcast System TV) is showing a terrific documentary on Switzerland in the second world war. You see this huge map of Europe and Africa, with all the territory Hitler took over and then you see this little dot – Switzerland – that was neutral, and it’s clear that they must have done a deal. It doesn’t make sense otherwise. And you can be sure a banker will have been involved.
Product manager, Pennsylvaia, large dinnerware company, on the impact of Chinese-made toy recalls: We’re pushing the American design line. We’re sure that people will be looking for American products in the next few months.
Real estate agent, New York, on selling condos in the city: People talk about the "value" as if it’s a real thing, and they refuse to accept that if the market isn’t paying that, it is isn’t worth that value. They want us to work harder and not lower the price. But the buyers just aren’t there.
Banker in New York, on keeping up a big house and paying taxes in the suburbs, as well as golf course fees: I hate it. I just want out.
Editor of GenevaLunch, on getting our lives in perspective: this article and video, run by the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, should be required reading/watching for all of us. A young but dying man who can make you feel optimistic about life is wroth listening to. Don’t miss this one.