Browsing Posts published in November, 2012

Checks and Balances

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Obviously, there’s a lot to love about putting a book in the world that has your name on it. No matter how simple it is or how few copies are sold, it endures (at least until it goes out of print). But probably what I love best are the emails I receive from kind souls who take the time to tell me how much they liked it. Well, that and an email from my publisher that includes the words “royalty cheque.” Perhaps the best part of that discussion was asking if she could wire the money to my Swiss bank account. All I need is an archenemy, a gun and some missing microfilm.

Yes, apparently the time has come for me to finally, finally see some green from this whole debacle. And not a moment too soon. There’s a long Swiss winter coming and my 8 year old boots are not up to the task, plus there’s that bill for 2 tons of sour cream and chocolate . Continue reading “Checks and Balances” »


Well, it appears that Saint Martin really is a saint after all. Without the festival that bears his name, I’d actually have to write something clever today. Finders, I’m just too tired. I’ve been averaging about 4 hours sleep a night for over 9 weeks straight. So, if it’s a clever story you’re after, you’re shit out of luck. But if it’s cultural exchange you’re seeking, well, today’s your lucky jour. Without further delay, more from the Foire de Saint-Martin.

As I told you, giant slabs of meat were not the only points of deliciousness …

And while marinated olives, specialty nougats (Mom, I know you’re drooling), spicy gingerbreads and sugared honey cakes called Nonnettes (words cannot describe) are, as almost everyone will agree, reason enough to give thanks to any saint, what I really love about these fairs are the people.

A young woman making tartes—tattoos meet tradition …

Vevey’s revered Chicken Man who speaks any language you like, has raised roasting poulet to high art, makes a porc Chinoise to die for and, on occasions like this, tosses plates of sticky ribs and frites …

And then there’s the oyster guy, for those who like to eat on the wild side …

I tend to get stuck on the food at these events, but there is always something for every taste, from jewelry to books to every kind of knick-knack and bric-a-brac. The one thing that always grabs me are les foulards.

Oh if only I had a paycheck, every one of those would have been draped around my ridiculously long neck. But who has time to be distracted by pretty scarves when there are “T-Shirts Americains” to be had …

Don’t laugh, these babies were selling at 49 bucks a pop. To whom remains a mystery. Americans, I weep for you.

What a time this was and what a way to fall in love with a town. It’s less about the goods on display and more about experiencing something wonderful and unexpected. Like haphazardly pointing your phone at a crowd and not realizing until days later what was inadvertently captured …

Whoever you are, you two, my sentiments exactly.


Meat and Greet

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Like most market towns in Europe, Vevey has its share of traditional celebrations and I’m hoping to see every one of them. First up, the 543rd (!) annual Foire de Saint-Martin. Okay, all you végétariens out there, brace yourselves and maybe even avert your eyes.

It all started, as does any respectable party, with the roasting of a whole ox in the town square.

They stoked the fire and turned the beast all night in anticipation of feeding the masses the next day. Of course the masses were in no danger of going hungry while they waited. Behind the rotisserie, giant vats of pea soup were stirred and endless links of Swiss sausages were grilled, all just a prelude to the main event. I imagine the barrels of red wine balanced out any ill effects of this festival of cholesterol. All things in moderation I say, especially moderation.

The next day was an absolute jewel of autumn—brilliant sunshine streaming through red and gold leaves, crisp mountain air and a soft breeze that could only be described as, well, beefy. Nothing like a giant BBQ to bring folks together …

The town bells clanged the chow chime and fancy soldiers marched through the square, hoisted their guns and fired, heralding the arrival of the first wave of plates.

A giant slab of meat and a whack of potatoes au gratin. What could be finer on such a glorious Fall day. These market festivals are one of my favourite things about living in this part of the world. For over 500 years the residents of Vevey have been doing this and it was a fantastic introduction to my new town.

But it wasn’t all guns and grizzle and next week I’ll show you more. For now, I’m back to conducting elaborate imaginary tirades against my well-heeled neighbour, waiting for the powers that be to put a stop to her demonic behaviour. Bon weekend mes amis.



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Back before I landed here on the Swiss Riviera, I was blabbing about feeling that there was some reason for me to be here, that I was being drawn to this charming town by some intangible force beyond the lure of snow-capped mountains, sparkling lakes, chocolate, watches and multi-function army knives.

Charlie Chaplin spent his last days here and, in what can only be called a fitting tribute, there’s a statue of him not far from where I live.

What does a statue of a short, American man with a goofy mustache that have to do with me? Well, the point is the crowd here have a tendency to erect monuments to greatness—food, silent film stars and unusually tall Canadian women with plates and screws holding their necks together…

This goofy giraffe stopped another one in her tracks the other day. I’d never seen it before. It’s enormous and I have no idea what the hell it’s doing there. There’s no toy store nearby, no zoo, no pet store, no nothing. Just a gigantic, twisty neck giraffe in the centre of town. Although, the fact that it is just outside the French language school was not lost on me. Clearly, they’ve been waiting for me all along.


This Could Get Hairy

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You know, it’s the oddest thing. I noticed it in France and now the same thing here in Vevey and La Tour-de-Peilz. The most common place of business is a bakery, right? Not even close. I’ve never seen so many hair salons in my life, sometimes three right in a row.

This surprises me in these cultures where the majority of women have long hair piled haphazardly on their heads. Don’t misunderstand me, they all look très chic, but their haircuts are either very simple or, just to be totally honest, very bad. Let’s just say the concept of even layers has yet to catch on in this part of the world. Continue reading “This Could Get Hairy” »

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