I can’t tell you how many people (both in Europe and in the States) asked me when / if I was going home for Christmas. Most were shocked when I told them I was staying on this side of the pond. In the middle of year, I considered going home. After all, we get five public holidays here for Christmas and New Years. But when I thought about all that I wanted to do during a visit to the US, I decided to make the trip in the fall. I realized that traveling around the holidays meant three things I didn’t want to contend with:
- Risk of snow wreaking havoc on travel
- Friends celebrating with their families meaning less availability to hang out
- Colleagues taking vacation time meaning few people to meet with during a visit to the office in St. Louis
If you remember my post about my home leave a couple of months ago, you may recall that none of those items were a factor – making it a very successful visit. Inevitably, the people questioning my holiday plans quickly followed up with questions about what I would be doing while I was in Europe. Most were shocked when I laid out the plan:
- Host one of my college roommates & her fiancé in Vevey for four days
- Celebrate Christmas Eve & Christmas morning with expat friends (aka my Swiss family)
- Spend a week traveling around Jordan with friends
- Host two more friends from Miami University in Vevey for four more days
While I’m only 3/4 of the way through that list, I can tell you that it has been incredibly wonderful! I haven’t been homesick or bored, and I’m so grateful for that. Before picking up my first visitors, I skyped with my brother’s family & my mama while they opened Christmas gifts together. While I was super sad to miss their weekend together in Atlanta, I was happy I could participate from afar.
[My nephew gave me an up-close “show and tell” of nearly all of the presents that were opened.]
[It turns out my nephew is a HUGE fan of my mama’s famous gingerbread man cookies. Like father, like son.]
[And now, he’s ready to help her with the baking next year!]
My roommate and her fiancé arrived in the evening on December 20th. The Geneva airport was SWARMING with people. I don’t know if they were all there to pick up visitors for Christmas or if everyone was coming to ski or what, but it was NUTS. Thank goodness her fiancé is tall, so I could spot them exiting international arrivals. (They knew to be watching for the person bouncing in the crowd.) And hooray for being efficient. I parked and found them within 10 minutes, which meant free parking! On Sunday morning, we went to church for a special Christmas service. Several of my friends played instruments or sang.
After church, we drove up the mountain to have lunch at a traditional Swiss restaurant in the countryside. We really enjoyed our meal and the chance to play on the swing set after eating!
Since my friends don’t get a lot of Christmas festivities in China, we had to go to the Montreux Christmas Market to get some Christmas lights, music, and food!
[Despite the nervous face, everyone can rest assured that Tartiflette is DELICIOUS! I mean, it’s cheesy potatoes with ham and onion. What’s not to love?!]
The one request from these friends before their arrival was a day to ski & snowboard. Unfortunately, there was very little snow prior to their visit, so our only option was Verbier. (Not that that’s a bad option.) The snow quality wasn’t great, but they had a day on the slopes!
I went up to meet them for lunch on the mountain, but I spent most of my day walking around the town, reading in the “Living Room” at the W Hotel, and enjoying their spa.
Unfortunately, her fiancé was feeling sick, so my roomie and I headed to Gruyère on our own for a day of CHEESE! We visited La Maison de Gruyère, which is a museum dedicated to all things Gruyère. “Cherry the cow” serves as the narrator on the audio guide. Two things I took away:
- It takes A LOT of milk to make cheese
- Gruyère cheese is only produced in this region of Switzerland, and the Swiss consume 2/3 of it
[Of course, eating fondue at Le Chalet in Gruyère is a must!]
I am so grateful for some extended time with this dear friend. It’s exciting to think that the next time we’re together, we will be celebrating her wedding in the UK!! They left early in the morning on Christmas Eve. I spent the rest of the day preparing for more house guests and for my trip to Jordan. Mid-afternoon, the guys came over, and we headed to our friends’ Christmas Eve Drop-In. We spent a couple of hours mingling with fellow expats who chose to stay in Europe for Christmas.
[The sunset was magnificent AGAIN. We were blessed with such beautiful weather that week!]
After the drop-in, the Jordan crew headed back to my house for games, dinner, and “Christmas Vacation.” We played the 2004 Game of the Year (in Germany) – “Ticket to Ride.” So fun! In case you ever wandered if Santa really visits EVERYWHERE in the world, I’m here to tell you that he does! He came to my house during the night, and on Christmas morning, we had breakfast & opened presents together.
Celebrating with my “Swiss family” made my first Christmas away from my family much easier. I am incredibly grateful for them. Hope you had a wonderful time of celebration! In my opinion, Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year!