Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for... Questions

Q is for Questions!

So far I've had four questions:

Who is Louis Favre?

His was the first statue I saw when we arrived, in the park across from our hotel:

I didn't search too hard, as his Wikipedia entry was fascinating enough. Favre was an engineer who took on the Gotthard Rail tunnel project in the 19th century, building a tunnel through the Gotthard massif to connect Switzerland and Italy:
"The project was, for the time, a vast undertaking, verging on folly according to many critics. Construction of the tunnel was accompanied by very considerable loss of life and escalation of cost, arising out of the novelty of the endeavour and the most insurmountable difficulties which presented themselves."
He died in the tunnel before it was completed. Apparently the tunnel is currently undergoing renovations. As far as I can tell, the oldest rail line is the Brenner line and (again according to Wikipedia) "is the only transalpine rail route without a major tunnel."

Passages across and under the Alps are fascinating! There seem to be a lot of them, all with their own fascinating histories: carriage passes fashioned for Napoleon's army! Not to mention Hannibal and his elephants!

But what does the word Alps actually mean? A fun description is on the Wikipedia page about Hannibal: "Italy is a part of the African continental plate, not the European plate; the Italian peninsula has been jammed into Europe through tectonic plate movements, which created the Alps and more particularly, made the Italian side of the Alps considerably steeper."

(I feel like a kid cheating on an essay with all these Wikipedia quotes)

The word is derived from Celtic, through French, as a word for high mountains, possibly stemming from *alb (hill). "Roman Albania was a land by the Caspian Sea (modern Daghestan); in English Albania was occasionally also a name for Scotland." (from the Online Etymology Dictionary)

So perhaps that's why Scotland is Alba (scroll down to the last song)!

"It's likely that alb ("white") and albus have common origins deriving from the association of the tops of tall mountains or steep hills with snow." Apparently, strictly speaking, the word alp refers to the
"grazing pastures in the alpine regions below the glaciers, not the peaks. An alp refers to a high mountain pasture where cows are taken to be grazed during the summer months and where hay barns can be found, and the term 'the Alps', referring to the mountains, is a misnomer. The term for the mountain peaks varies by nation and language: words such as horn, kogel, gipfel, and berg are used in German speaking regions: mont, pic, dent and aiguille in French speaking regions; and monte or cima in Italian speaking regions." (Thank you Wikipedia!)
We haven't had a chance to visit the Alps yet, but while apartment hunting, came across an artist. All the street names here have brief descriptions telling you who the streets were named for, which is very handy and interesting. Who was Jean-Etienne Liotard?

He was an artist and art dealer from the 18th century and apparently he visited Constantinople and painted "numerous pastels of Turkish domestic scenes; he also continued to wear Turkish dress for much of the time when back in Europe" as many others have done, including Lord Byron.

Here's his The Chocolate Girl:

While we're all drinking some chocolate, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise for being so slow with the A to Z Challenge. My new job is lots of fun, but the hours are long, and we've also been busy finding an apartment! If all goes well we're moving this weekend, but that also means no internet access for a while. Whatever shall I do without Twitter? I promise to visit all of you and keep up with my Minion duties, just more slowly than planned. And ROW80 goals have been set aside a bit, too, unfortunately.

And now, trees! What are these trees?

I've mentioned them before, and it was Hilary I think who suggested they might be plane trees. There are in fact two of them, the darker-bark ones that have been budding and the eucalyptus-type-bark ones that aren't flowering at all. If anyone has more information, please tell me!

Finally, here's a Pulp song celebrating trees:

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for... Ariana Park

P is for Ariana Park, the park on the grounds of the United Nations.

"The park was originally owned by the Revilliod de Rive family whose last descendant bequeathed it to the City of Geneva. ...

One of the bequest's conditions was that peacocks should roam freely on its grounds. It is not unusual to see peacocks dancing in full splendor in the Palais grounds. Most of the birds that visitors can see today are peafowl donated to UNOG in 1997 by a zoo in Japan. Others were a gift from the Permanent Mission of India. The birds are fed and cared for by the park's gardeners. ...

The grounds of the Palais des Nations house three nineteenth century villas: La Fenêtre, Le Bocage and La Pelouse, dating from 1820, 1823 and 1853 respectively. These villas were originally private residences. ...

On 9 June 2009, the United Nations Office at Geneva [was] awarded the prestigious "Nature Reserve Certificate" by the Swiss non-profit organization "Fondation Nature and Economie". This well-known environmental quality label is awarded to entities that protect nature and contribute to biological diversity by managing at least 30 per cent of the green areas around buildings in a natural manner. UNOG's many initiatives to qualify for the Certificate include, among others, avoiding pesticides, utilizing compost and making use of sheep instead of lawnmowers. [I can't wait to see the sheep!]

...visitors can enjoy the rich biodiversity of the 46-hectare park, with majestic trees over 100 years old. Over 800 species can be found in the park. Six hundred have been identified so far. Plaques indicating the country of origin, Latin and common names and species have been affixed to 120 of the trees in the areas of the park most frequented by visitors. A team of five gardeners maintains the park and its alleys and plants the flower beds."

A brief description of the history

Long view

United Nations entrance

Rare plants rediscovered!

Meadow and wildflowers!


Mont Blanc

Cherry blossoms!

A cedar from Lebanon that's nearly 200 years old

View from the UN


Sequoia from above!

Villa Bocage

Tolstoy used to stay there!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for... Outlander

O is for Outlander!

Okay, this doesn't have much to do with Geneva - except for the question of how on earth I'm going to watch the Outlander series when it starts in June.

How to summarise this for those of you who haven't read the books? Let's see... Once upon a time a friend leant me a copy of a book called Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. I was wary about reading it, since I don't usually enjoy books recommended by others, but it was a historical, set in Scotland, so already I was positively biased.

Once I did start, I couldn't put it down. Lucky for me, not only was it a Big Book, but it was part of a Big Series, and I was coming in right at the time that the latest book, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, was released in paperback. I got to read all the books at once, and then join in the loooong wait for the next one, An Echo in the Bone (but how much more other fans must have suffered in the wait between the second and third books, when the protagonists were separated by both space and time and there was no knowing if they'd ever come together again!).

Diana describes the extent of the series better than I can:

Also, her challenge with regard to the first book still holds:

As for how to describe Diana says: "Frankly, I've never been able to describe this book in twenty-five words or less, and neither has anyone else in the twenty years since it was first published."

But here's her description anyway:

And here're all the books:

(photo from MommaRake)

She's in the Final Frenzy of writing the next one, and it should be out in a few months!

If you're wondering why I keep referring to her as Diana instead of by a more formal form of address, it's because I feel like I know her, mainly because the best side effect of reading this series was joining the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, which Diana has called the greatest "electronic literary cocktail party" out there. You should have heard my squee the first time I addressed a message to her and got a reply!

Actually, I just did a quick search, and I think this might have been it: a thread about Susan Cooper. Here's another thread from a little later, discussing cover blurbs. And here's us talking about me writing a review about one of the Lord John books. And here's the review itself, of Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade.

There are lots of Outlander themed blogs out there. A yummy one is Outlander Kitchen, featuring recipes inspired by the books.

And yes! They're making a tv series of the first book. Everything you ever wanted to know about it is here on the Outlander Starz page. Can't wait!

Which series would you recommend?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for... Nyon, and Being Nicole's Minion (and finally my ROW80 goals!)

N is for Nyon -- and being Nicole's minion!

I'm really enjoying being part of the A to Z Challenge so far! And it's fun being one of Nicole's Mighty Minions, too!

I guess all of us are feeling the pressure to keep up with visits and comments. There are 2107 participants this year! Some of course, once you visit you realise, aren't actually participating; I saw an apology on one blog that said the blogger just couldn't make it after all. So far the best part for me has been discovering blogs outside of the writing and reading circle -- sometimes I forget that people blog on topics other than books (or food and cats)!

Speaking of books, I hadn't had a chance to post my ROW80 goals. I've got two for this round: write an essay for Bizim Anadolu, and do my own version of the NaNoWriMo Writing Marathon! The official marathon was last Saturday, but I'm hoping to do mine on the final Saturday in April. A full day of writing and nothing else! Who's going to join me?

And now, some shots from our day trip to Nyon:

I like the name of this street: Passage des Pirates

Not sure who this fellow is...

Flags! (Why the fish, I wonder?)

The castle square

Other side of the square

Arched entrance

View from the castle, looking towards France

View from the castle

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for... Magnificent Weather

M is for magnificent weather!

We've been really lucky with the weather since we've arrived - it rained one morning (my first day of work, actually), and even then it was warm.

I've got some gratuitous shots of sunshine and spring blooms!

Sunshine over the lake

The flower clock in the Jardin Anglais (English Garden)

Another sunny day, with the Alps in the background

No idea what these flowers are - they're so jaunty!

Jet d'Eau in sunshine

Spring blooms! Such a contrast after the endless cold and snow in Montreal

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for... Lac Leman

L is for Lac Leman - and bathing!

The other day the temperature rose to 22 Celsius (so far it's only rained one morning in the two weeks we've been here!) and I was sorely tempted to go swimming - before I thought of how cold the water might be and chickened out.

They've got an area on Lac Leman marked off for bathers, and it's a lovely spot:

Look how clear the water is!

Lighthouse at the end of the bathing pier

 Sunshine on the lake

 A long view

 Wonderful spot to swim... maybe when the water's a bit warmer

 The bathing pool