Posted on July 26, 2017
MB has a Yankee friend called JL from Connecticut. MB remembers JL telling him a story many years back about a 6-month French language course that JL had attended. Now JL has many gifts, but the gift of languages is not one of them. And never will be. The end of the course arrived and JL could only mutter one single phrase en Francais; which was:
“Marie, où est la bibliothèque?”
After 6 months – that was the sum total of JL’s French!!!
Anyway, a few weeks back, MB found himself in Nyon, a small French-speaking town some 15 minutes train-journey from Geneva. MB had heard that there was a castle on the outskirts of the town, on the lake edge, that was worth a visit and a few camera shots.
“Parlez vous Anglais?” said MB to a couple of shop assistants, a few minutes after disembarking from le train.
“Mais oui Monsieur” replied les deux Francais.
And just at that precise moment, all of MB’s school French came flooding back to him. Like un tres grande linguistic sunami, en Francais.
“où est le chateaux?” said MB, casually, to les deux Francais, who looked quizzically at l’Irelandais, wondering if this guy before their eyes wasn’t some kind of major p**s taker. He had just asked them if they spoke English and had then addressed them in perfect Francais. ‘Quell assh**e’ they were thinking for sure, thought MB.
“à droite Monsieur” – instructed les deux Francois.
“Merci beaucoup, merci beaucoup, au revoir” replied MB in accent-perfect Francais.
“Un plaisir (assh**e)” replied les deux Francais.
MB turned right just down the street as instructed. What satisfaction did MB not feel on seeing le beau chateaux before his eyes, a mere 100m in the distance. All as a result of MB’s tres bon multilingual skill-set!
Posted on July 13, 2017
Posted on April 28, 2017
The Arabian gulf is primarily flat desert landscape. So on trips elsewhere, anything other than ‘flat’ tends to be a visual assault on the brain of MB.
During a work trip to Switzerland in 2015, MB took a train trip to Montreaux to take in the sights. Switzerland is anything but flat, and some of the scenery is quite spectacular.
The below shot shows one of Switzerland’s most visited attractions; Chateaux De Chillon, which is walking distance from Montreaux town centre, some 45 minutes along the shore of Lake Geneva.
Posted on March 30, 2017
Posted on June 4, 2016
MB had to stop in Geneva for two days on his way back to the Middle East last week, and took the opportunity to take a few shots of the famous Geneva fountain, which was opposite MB’s hotel.
Geneva (Switzerland) is in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, right on the French border, and is located where the Rhone River enters lake Geneva. The city has a population of approximately 200,000 and is famous as a financial centre & for its watch-making industry, in addition to being the location for a number of UN organisations & the Red Cross. It also hosts the world famous Hadron Nuclear Particle Collider which is located nearby at a depth of 175M, extending under the French/Swiss border.
Everything in Geneva is expensive, and property prices are in the stratosphere. The airport includes a shop where one can purchase Rolex watches and another where one can buy Leica cameras; which both, in themselves, tell a story of the city and its visitor profile.
Some pics of the fountain & surrounding area:
Posted on July 18, 2015
The Swiss make the best watches in the world and have developed a country that is nigh on perfect. Everything works. With clockwork precision. But do they know their salt from their pepper? Seemingly not.
MB had occasion a few days back to travel to Geneva for a work-related meeting. He decided to extend his stay for a few days on account of the Eid public holiday in his Middle East abode. Morning Nr 1 arrived and MB headed to the hotel restaurant for his first Swiss breakfast.
All was as expected. Perfect food and perfect plates and all-round general perfectness. MB stacked up his plate with hot breakfast goodies, fresh breads, Swiss cheese and a lot more besides. He made his way to the perfectly set out tables with their perfect tableware and perfect coloured napkins in the perfectly decorated dining area.
Now MB never uses salt on his food. But he is a total pepper addict. So he selected the multi-holed pepper cellar and started to shake. Suddenly, and horrifyingly, thousands of grains of salt appeared from all 5 orifices of the pepper cellar, covering MB’s formerly perfect breakfast with a colouring of snowy white.
WTF and la grande merde, thought MB, as the sudden unexpected lack of perfectness hit MB like a punch from a heavyweight. “Au secour, au secour” shouted MB loudly (remembering some school French) in desperation – MB was in the French-speaking part of Switzerland after all, and was sure that the French speaking staff would immediately jump in with some salt hoovers designed by Rolex or one of the other famous local watch makers, on hearing MB’s ‘au secour’.
But nothing happened. The Swiss staff continued as if no international incident had just taken place at the corner table by the window. MB looked around to see if any staff members were from 2nd or 3rd world countries, and upon whom one could possibly place the entire blame for the salt cellar fiasco. None were evident. All staff members were from the sole member country of the 1st world – Switzerland.
Deciding to investigate further, MB then grabbed the single orrifice ‘salt cellar’. He shook it slowly and gently over his food, lest he add to the salt mountain already covering his scrambled eggs and schnitzel. But lo & behold, only the most welcome pepper appeared from the ‘salt cellar’ spout. Swiss wonders will never cease, thought MB sarcastically to himself, as he grabbed a nearby snow shovel to remove the offending salt from his plate. On finishing, some extra coffee was called for, to wash the slight salty residue from the mouth of MB. To teach the Swiss a lesson, MB decided to say nothing of what had happened, and to just allow the entire country to remain and wallow in salt/pepper/cellar ignorance. “And how was your breakfast Monsieur?” asked one of the Swiss staff as MB departed. “Perfect” replied MB.
In the days that followed MB saw much impressive Swiss know-how and Swiss technology at work. He visited the museum of Patek Philippe, the Nr 1 watch maker in the world & saw watches and clocks of incredible precision from olden days right up to current times. He was extremely impressed by a Swiss drinks vending machine he encountered. In 2nd and 3rd world countries all vending machines have a screw mechanism that turns to spit out the selected drink bottle. It drops with a bang onto a tray at the bottom and explodes on opening. The 1st world Swiss variety features a mechanical arm that appears from nowhere, grabs the selected drink and places it gently in a side compartment of the machine, which then opens automatically, allowing MB to remove the perfect undamaged bottle of drink through the perfectly sized opening.
MB traveled on Swiss trains. They arrive and depart as if set to some atomic clock. There is no shaking from side to side as trains do in other countries, as they glide silently along perfectly aligned tracks. MB used the free wifi in many public places and it always worked perfectly. No passwords required. Just click and away you go. Just for fun MB asked staff members on a few occasions if the internet speed was ok, upon entering a cafe or other such place. The Swiss staff looked quizzically at MB, wondering from which planet he had just arrived. Did he not know that he was in Switzerland and such questions do not need asking. “But they politely responded, after initial hesitancy, “mais oui Monsieur, c’est tres bon et magnifique”.
So all in all MB can confirm that Switzerland lives up to it’s reputation. It’s extremely neat and tidy. The scenery is stunning. The wealth is bulging from the doors of the overstuffed banks, pursuant to much confiscation of deposits from 2nd and 3rd world crooks, who have discovered to their cost the true purpose of Swiss banking laws.
But it is neither the high-tech, nor the neatness nor the perfection nor the wealth that MB will most remember. He will first and foremost think of the salt and the pepper – and laugh forevermore in secret at the Swiss. Hahaha…………….!