Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day seven in Switzerland/home to San Francisco

I spent the night at this hotel as it was close to the Airport.
The 8 hour flight home went quickly. I spent the time watching season seven of "24" on my portable DVD player, napped, read my book, and consummed junk food. Why is it that traveling and junk food seem to go hand in hand?
My first experience going through Customs was at JFK. It probably took about an hour. After customs, (no horrow stories to tell) I had to recheck my bag and go through security again. The departing flight from JFK was delayed 1 hour because of bad weather. But, the scheduled arrival time into SFO was only late by about 30 minutes. The flight from NY to SF seemed endless. I was glad to be out of that cramped space and breathing Bay Area air again.
My housemate, Carl, picked me up and I was back at Ocean Beach by 8:PM. I couldn't figure out why I felt so strange and disoriented....dah!...I had been up 24 hours and it was time to go to bed.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day six in Switzerland/Zurrich

This reminded me of Venice..not that I have ever been there. They even have gondola rides here on the river but it was too late in the day as I could see them tied up next to the dock. Zurich is very clean, even the water is clear and clean. On my next trip, I would like to spend a few days in Zurich and do it up right.
My plan leaves tomorrow for JFK at 10:20AM via American Air. I plan on getting some proper sleep tonight.
ta ta

Day six in Switzerland/Zurrich

It was like being in a foreign film... the ones back in the 60s (I'm sorry that some of you cannot relate). I sat at a table, sipped on some espresso, had a light salad and watch the scene. I love it!

Day six in Switzerland/Zurrich

I loved Zurich. I took the city train from my hotel to downtown and then walked to the "Old City" which is pictured here. This is exactly what I wanted to experience....the European way of opening up the restaurants to the streets. All bars and restaurants did this...they were at every alley way and on every corner.

Day six in Switzerland/Zurich

The train back to Zurich through the mountains was as spectacular as it was going. Changing trains 3 times was not so much a drudgery as I thought it might be. I was much better at it this time. Pictured here is Lake Zurich.
I connnected with a couple from San Diego (Mike and Carolyn) while on the train to Zurich. They had been in Switzerland for a month and were headed back to SD. They took advantage of the "home exchange" site from the internet. A family from Bern exchanged with them and they said it has worked perfectly and it is very cost affective. They encouraged me to do the same the next time I travel.

Day six in Switzerland/my last day in Gstaad

Ok, at the request of my cousin, here is a picture of me at the Gstaad Train Station with my big red monster...I'm talking about the suit case, Cheryl....

Day six in Switzerland/my final day in Gstaad

It rained most of the night and when I went to sleep around 3:AM there were only brief shower periods. This morning it is cool and the coulds are still hanging about.

I will miss this little valley and its ever changing mood. It's time to go but I will be back.

The train leaves for Zurich at 10:15 and I'm mostly packed and ready to check out. The hotel shuttle will take me to the train station.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day five in Switzerland/the final concert

The pipes at Rougemont Chruch.
After the concert and back at the hotel, I briefly said my good byes to Michael and Yvonne and I noticed that Mihaela, the pianist from tonights concert was sitting in the lounge area with her boyfriend. I just had to meet her so I went over and introduced myself. She is very "down to earth" as I expected. She will be in California in August for concerts in Fresno (I didn't have the heart to tell her about Fresno) and also in San Francisco "at some big museum that sits on a hill and looks like a Greek building." "It has to be The Palace of The Legion of Honor. " I described the building to her with Rodin's "The Thinker" perched at the entrance. "That's the place." She is part of the Artists concert series that The Legion offers. And, as a museum member I will get advanced notice of her concert dates. I said good night to them both and did more graveling about her talent. I am looking forward to see her perform again.
I then spent some time at the bar with Daniel Helfrich who is the lounge pianist at the hotel. By that time it was after 11:30PM and he was through with his evening gig. Very talented pianist and vocalist. He plays and sings mostly American songs (in English) because that's what the tourists like to hear. He comes from a musical family...his dad is a choral conductor. Daniel lives in Grasellenbach and I forgot to ask him where but it's somewhere near Berlin, I think (forgive me Daniel).
He plays for the Steigenberger Hotel during the Summer only. The rest of the time he performs his one man comedy act on TV and in night clubs all over Germany
The German night clubs are closed during the Summer and that's why he comes to pick up some extra money during his down time. The Hotel gives him room and board plus a salary. Now that's a great way to spend a Summer. His girlfriend is a councilor for people with eating disorders. She is presently in San Francisco lecturing in clinics. We exchanged emails and said our good byes.
Bye the time I got to bed it was 3:AM.

Day five in Switzerland/the final concert

The graveyard at Rougemont Church. Michael and Yvonne visit California every year as their daughter lives in the Bay Area with her boyfriend..they are avid windsurfers. Michael and Yvonne have both been to Ocean Beach to watch them windsurf and know ecactly where the condo is. We exchanged emails back at the hotel. They plan to visit SF next Spring. I will look forward to making contact with them.

Day five in Switzerland/the final concert

Inside the church at Rougemont. The couple from Montreux (Michael & Yvonne Boehler) told me that the churches in Switzerland (only Catholic and Protestant) are all government supported. The citizens pay taxes to the Swiss Government and, in turn, the government supports the churches. I quite forgot about that part of my World History classes.
What a separation of Church and State! Maybe the US should try it..I don't think it would be a problem....NOT!
If you do not want to belong to the Church, you can reduce your taxes by petitioning the Government. But, however, as Michael said, when you die it is difficult to find a cemetray that will take you as they are all owned by the Swiss Gov. So it's best, he says, to pay the church tax and not worry anything as the Gov will pay for all your funeral and burial espenses.

Day five in Switzerland/the final concert

Another view of Rougemont Church. The concert was by Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Violine, and Mihaela Ursuleasa, Piano. I knew that I would like them when they first took the shoes...they were bare foot! They are truly entertainers in the total sense of the word...they are performers times bordering insanity...the energy that they brought to the church I'm sure was the reason for the thunder and lightening storm which started at the onset of their playing and continues even now but less intense. They both are Romanian from Gypsie fact Patricia's mother is a Gypsie violinist and her father plays the Gypsie cymbals...not quite sure what that is. But you can see how the fiery gene in their blood has enhansed their performance...that together with their musical ability make for a first rate show.

Day five in Switzerland/the final concert

My final concert was at the Rougemont Church. Rougemont is about 10 minutes from the Steigenberger Hotel in the French speaking part of Switzerland. You literally pass a marker to the side of the road that tells you this. A couple that I met (they rode their bikes that morning from Montreux..on the shores of Lake Geneva... to Gstaad)were also in the hotel shuttle and told me much about the area.
At this mement, we are having a big thunder and lightening storm and the computer keeps going off internet. I am taking a break to go have a night cap with the couple from Montreux and hopefully I can get back on with no problem and finish telling all about the performance...quite crazy.

Day five in Switzerland/my last day in Gstaad

I spent about 2 hours on the Promenade. Had a double espresso at the outside tables of the Artist's Cafe, people watched as the tennis fans headed to the Swiss Open, and did some shopping at Bach & Sign. This is my last picture of the Promenade before I head back to the hotel, and begin the packing process.
It is now 5PM and we just had a small alpine rain shower. The sun is out now and it looks like another perfect evening for my final concert.

Day five in Switzerland

Keeping a low profile this morning, I am. Had a late breakfast (9:30) but there will be no long walks today. I think it's time for some serious shopping at the Promenade in Gstaad. The weather this morning is the same as yesterday....absolutely perfect. In the shade it is probably 72f but in the sun it is at least 80 to 85.
This picture is looking out from the Hotel front. That's another hotel in the background.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day four in Switzerland/fourth concert

The pipes in the church at Zweisimenn.

Day four in Switzerland/fourth concert

Inside the church at Zweisimmen.

Day four in Switzerland/fourth concert

More floral grave plots in Zweisimmen.

Day four in Switzerland/fourth concert

Just one of the many floral grave plots at the Zwiesimmen Church.

Day four in Switzerland/fourth concert

My fourth concert was in Zweisimmen about 20 minutes over the hill from the hotel. Sort of NW as if you were heading back to Zurich. This church was built in 1898 and has recently been restored. It is known for its beautiful grave yards...all made to look like flower gardens...quite appropriate. Pictures to come later.
As I mentioned earlier, this is the same group that I had heard in a noon concert at Wispile Peak. And, they certainly did not disappoint me (you can log on to to see the program. Just a note on Bartok's Divertimento For Strings (the fouth piece played); in August of 1939 Menuhin invited Bartok to Switzerland and commissioned him to write a concerto for strings. As the story goes, Bartok composed this great work right here just above the Saanen Chapel while in swim trunks and reclining next to Menuhin's swimming pool. 70 years later and they are bringing it back to where it was born. I felt very priviledged to be here on this historic occasion.

Day four in Switzerland/get ye to the mountain

View of Gstaad from the gondolo while riding back down Wispile peak.

Day four in Switzerland/get ye to the mountain

Lots of hiking trails at the top of Wispile Peak which is 1911 m above sea level.

Day four in Switzerland/get ye to the mountain

Looking down from Wispile Peak. Strip farming is very evident and an important aspect of Swiss agriculture.

Day four in Switzerland/get ye to the mountain

The meadow at Wispile Peak. Besides the llamas, there were also some cows and goats. Most of them had bells around their necks and with every movement they created a magical mixing of musical sounds that would echo all around you. I sat here for awhile and thought about Dario. He would have loved this.

Day four in Switzerland/get ye to the mountain

Looking down on Gstaad from Wispile Peak.

Day four in Switzerland/get ye to the mountain

Wispile Peak is also a favorite for hang gliders and glider planes. You may have to enlarge the picture to see a bunch of them in the center.

Day four in Switzerland/get ye to the mountain

Little did I know what a treat was instore for me when I took the gondola up to the Wispile peak. The car can carry up to 4 people so if you are by yourself, and just like in skiing, you get on with other singles or couples. I got on with a husband/wife couple and introduced myself as being from San Francisco and that I was in Gstaad attending the Menuhin Music Festival. Get this, the man's eyes got really big and he said "thank you for attanding the festival" and introduced himself as Leonz Blunschi, president of the Festival (well, spank me with a wet noodle!). He and his wife were riding up to the Wispile Peak for a free noon concert by the Menuhin School London (pictured here)...the same group that will be performing at tonights concert. And, to think I almost didn't make the trip. I walked about 5 miles to get to the gondola base and was just not feeling 100% up to it. But, I just kept saying "trust yourself" there's a reason to go here and kept pushing. Well, what can I say, it was just "too much happiness" and I was thrilled, so say the least. The concert was about 1 hour long and I will look forward to seeing everyone I met here at tonight's event.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day four in Switzerland

This is the first morning that the sky has virtually been cloudless. I got a good 7 hours of sleep and I feel somewhat refreshed but have a strange feeling....could be the wine????Naaaa....more like still experiencing jet lag. Strange, though. Today I will be hiking to one of the nearby gondolas and ride to top of a local peak. I will post pictures and comments.
Tonight's concert is at Zweisimmen Church about a 30 minute by car.

Day three in Switzerland/third concert

I had dinner at this outside cafe before tonights concert at the Saanen Chapel. That is a horse drawn wedding cart pictured in the street and it is empty... must be a story there.
The concert was a tribute to Menuhin's Music featuring the Camerata Salzburg, Gregory Ahss, concertmaster, and guest artist Daniel Hope. You can check out the program at click on 2009 schedule and go to 7/25 concert.
I had a chance meeting at the concert with a fellow San Franciscan. At intermission this elderly gentleman sitting next to me said something in German and I said "I only speak English". He asked where I was from and I said San Francisco. He said that his home was in Saint Francis Wood and asked what part of the City did I live and I replied on the Great Highway at Ocean Beach just below the Cliff House. Well to make a long story short, he had been making yearly trips to this area for severl years at Christmas time and five years ago he developed high blood pressure and later was diagnosed with bone cancer. The doctor has not let him travel since his diagnosis so he is "stuck" here as he put it. Almost too much information for me here but we had a good time talking about the concerts. He kept making jokes about "Arnonld" and said he has had lunch with him many least that is what I think he said as his speech was sometimes slurred (probably due to his meds) and he talked with an accent. We said our good byes and I never did find out much more about him than what I have related here.
I walked home from the concert instead of taking the hotel shuttle. The sky was clear and the path was only lit by the bright stars. It was actually quite thrilling to be doing the Swiss Alps...with no fear. Except for the giant Snow Lizards but they are only on the prowl during the Winter.
ta ta

Day three in Switzerland

View of Steigenberger Hotel from the road. There are 8 buildings at the top to the right of the flag pole. Taken while walking back from the 2nd concert.

Day three in Switzerland

View of Gstaad with glacier in background...while walking back to the hotel after 2nd concert.

Day three in Switzerland/second concert

Interior of Gstaad Chapel.

Day three in Switzerland/second concert

Featured artist Giulietta Koch

Day three in Switzerland/second concert

The concert this morning at the Gstaad Chapel was by a 17 year old pianist Giulietta Koch. A very gorgeous, talented young women. You can see her bio at Her program had not yet been announced at time the website was loaded. Today she played A Chopin Ballade #1 op.23, a piece by heitor Villa-Lobos entitled Valsa da Dro, and the Chopin Sonata #3 op.58 in 4 movements. Standing ovations well deserved. Give her another 20 years and if she is still on the concert tours, her maturity will add even more depth to her playing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day three in Switzerland

Yes, indeed a chilly morning. Despite the good sleeping weather, I only had 3 hours of shut eye last night. There is a 10:30AM concert in the Gstaad Chapel and I'm thinking it will be nappy time after that.
There is much excitement in Gstaad today as it is the first day of the Swiss Open Tennis Matches. The hotel is alive with many people who came in for the weekend just for that. The little air strip (just at the church steeple) was very busy yesterday. It's thrilling to watch them land and take off.....great effort is made to miss the trees and mountains, I'm sure. Yesterday, I watched a glider hover at this end of the strip just like a hawk. It made 3 circles lowering in altitude like a cork screw. At circle 3 the glider was in position to land and did so very smoothly. The small jets are best to watch. They gain altitude quickly, bank to the left, and they're gone.
I will post after the morning concert.

Day three in Switzerland

Big dip in temperature last night. It was 38f this morning. This is an AM shot also from my balcony looking to the left towards Gstaad. My internet card ran out of time last night before I had a chance to use spell check. But decided to leave the mis-spelled words as they are. It somehow fit the the mood....the good wine and all.

Day two in Switzerland/the first concert

Saanen Chapel ingterior shot. The bells can ring all night...I don't was all "too much happiness" as they say in G&S. Besides I bought a bottle of 2000 Chateauneuf-Du-Pape and I am sipping even as I blog.
The concert tomorrow night will also be in the Saanen Chapel and I'll see if I can get some better pictures.
over and out.

Interior Saanen Chapel

interior Saanen Chapel

Day two in Switzerland/the first concert

Well, I take back all making fun I made of the Saanen Church and the bell....It was built in 1604! What a beauty inside. My pictures do not it justice. It was pooring rain when I took this outside picture. The program was all Mozart-the last works. Go to if you want a run down of the program.

the inside was all wook and frescos on the walls. I managed to take some interior shots. IT WAS A GLORIOUS EVENING.

Day two in Switzerland

One of my several espresso cafe stops.

Day two in Switzerland

Here is another picture of the promenade with a banner advertising the festival. I picked up the concert tickets today and the first one will be tonight at the Saanen church, just down from the hotel. It's the church who's bell chimes every 15 minutes and on the hour (I'm sure you can hear it all the way to the US). Everyday at 4PM it rings for 15 minutes straight. Can't quite figure that one out. Not really complaining...just having fun with it.

The rain has really started to come down now and not at all uncomfortable. I am sitting at a small table (with just my bottom sweats on) next to the door which is open and a nice cool breeze blowing in....very refreshing.

I will post pictures of tonights concert later.

ta ta

Day two in Switzerland

This is the promenade is downtown Gstaad. I won't bore you with the details you can go to to find out more of the history. It's very quaint and lots of sidewalk cafes to sit at and people watch. It's about 1 mile from my hotel but to walk there you must take some switchback paths. I spent the better part of the day there and had too many expresso it! I just walked back, (mostly uphill) and settled in and we are having another afternoon rain. No hail this time, but a big clap of thunder.

Day two in Switzerland

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood and I'm off to explore downtown Gstaad. I got a good 8 hours sleep last night and feeling very refreshed. The continental breakfast at the hotel (complementary) was much more than just coffee and a sweet roll. It was a champagne buffet breakfast the same as you would find at any nice hotel in the US on a Sunday bruch menu. Excellent!

Day one in Switzerland

Another view after the storm.

Day one in Switzerland

View from my hotel room balcony after the storm

Day one in Switzerland

View from my hotel room balcony before the hail and rain storm

Day one in Switzerland

More train views en route to Gstaad

Day one in Switzerland

Some views on the train from Zurich to Gstaad.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Still Day 1

I was so tired after the last blog, so I took a little nap...3 hours. I was awakend with a thunder clap and wind blowing the door curtains like in a Hitchcock movie. I had the door to my balcony open as it was very humid and about 76f. After the thunder ,came some torrential hail and rain. It lasted about 2 minutes and then the sun came out and the green valley was visible again. It is now 7:PM and we just had another rain. Again, 2 minues and it was gone. I must download my pictures so you can see what my eye see.

Just befoe the last rain, I had just come back from a light dinner in the hotel restaurant. I asked for a glass of red wine and the waiter said he had a California Cab. from the Napa Valley and I said Nah..I drink California wine at home and have been to the Napa Valley many times "I think I would like to try some of your Swiss wine." I looked around the bar area to see if anybody had been impressed with my volley of "Califorfnia wine speak". I was the only one there....but I did impress myself! I asked to see the bottle of the Calif. Cab. I took one look at the lable and exclaimed "the is not Napa Valley wine this is from Manteca, for god's sake". "Don't ever get those two mixed up again" I said to him. "Don't you know that in Spanish Manteca translates as Lard?" HELLO! I really didn't say it that way but I did politely tell him that the Manteca Valley was about 100 miles south of the Napa Valley... two entirely different climates.

I had a light dinner of fresh leafy greens & vegetable salad with a delicious walnut dressing, and a bowl of vegetable broth with local sausage (superbo!). I was full.

I may just go for a walk and then have a nightcap at the bar. But I must try to download those pictures again.

Day one in Switzerland

Patricia lovingly got me to SFO by 6AM and my plane took off on time at 7:30AM. The cieling was was very low and when the plane broke through the banket of white fluf (our fog....for all you non San Franciscans) the only familiar landmarks visible were the very top of the Sutro Tower and Mt Tam. It was a good omen and I knew the trip was going to be full of discoveries and wonderous adventures.

The trip to JFK was smooth and went by quickly. I spent the whole time reading the new book about Merv Griffin. The connection to Zurich was uneventful and I spent the time with some more reading, watched the 7th DVD season of "24", slept about 3 hours, and by the time we finished with a small breakfast it was time to land in Zurich. It was 7:30 AM Swiss time which was 10:30PM SF time.

The train to Gstaad was a bit energy draining because "Roger" packed too much!!!! He had to pay extra airfare at SFO as his suitcase was 13 lbs. over the limit (50 lbs). Lugging the big red monster (the suite case) + a backpack and carry-on bag while changing trains 3 times was a challenge. But he made it. The train ride from Zurich was very picturesque. I will post some picture next....and we'll see how that goes.

1 Day left

Well, as you can see I did not post my 1 day to count down. It was filled with busy preparations, plus calling on some friends in the hospital. I fell asleep at 10Pm.

Monday, July 20, 2009

2 Days to go

It was busy at work today and the time went by quickly. Starting to prepare for the last few things to do before I leave on Wednesday. I must call Mike's brother and sister-in-law to let them know I think he has the flue and tomorrow he will be going to the VA for a Dr. apt. I wouldn't be surprised if they kept him in the hospital just to keep him hydrated. I keep telling him to drink lots of water but he is very stubborn and doesn't hear half of what you are saying.

Tomorrow is also Ed McDonald's birthday and I will be doing his grocery shopping and spending a couple of hours with him. He is very weak and is facing surgery to remove a mass in his colon. The surgery will be scheduled sometime at the beginning of August.

I have a list for the household to get at Safeway so I'm off to get that done. To bed early tonight and up early tomorrow. Only working half a day.

I'm starting to space.

3 Days and counting

This is for Sunday 7/19. The day got by me before I realized I didn't post my countdown activities. I worked at the office in the AM to make up for time I had taken off. I made copies of my flight schedule and hotel contact numbers and furnished these to friends and relatives. Sunday evening was spent with Lamplighter friends who gather once a year to celebrate the memory of Gilbert Russak who passed in 1986. It's good for the spirit to reconnect with these dear friends. I think I fell asleep around 11:30PM.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

4 Days to Lift Off

Really enjoyed sitting in on the MFL rehersal last night...brought back memories of July 1992 when we we first performed it. It's Saturday and I shopped for 2 weeks of supplies so the household would not run out of food....took all morning. Picked up the dry cleaning, more packing, saved cloths for dinner party on Sunday evening with Lamplighter friends. Made copies of itinerary and Switzerland contact numbers. Charged batteries on portable DVD player, and digital camera. Picked up Japanese food for dinner. Patricia came over and we watched a movie. In bed by 10PM as I need to be up early on Sunday and go into work for 4 hours.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Day 5 and counting to lift off.

What to take, how much, suit case too small...bought a big new red suit case at Ross. Must register my itinerary with the State Department, must leave copy of travel schedule with household, how the hell do I download my pictures onto my computer and in my blog???Must have coaching from my co-workers. Too much in my head and I'm on overload!!!! I will attend a rehearsal of My Fair Lady at Lamplighter Headquarters tonight which will help smooth things out. It's been 17 years since we first performed that show in July of 1992. That was one the hilights in my 30+ years with them. I remember it well.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Six days and counting to my departure on 7/22. Leaving SFO and Flying to Gstaad Switzerland to attend the Menuhin Music Festival.