Travel in the Kitchen: Return to Switzerland

Though autumn began with a tease of an Indian summer, it’s coming back around in full swing. Grey skies, cool winds and everything from a refreshing sprinkling to torrential rain have turned the sunny SoCal everyone loves into just another summer slipping away.

While many of my fellow Californians lament over the changing seasons and take cover from the rain, I’m brought back to the overcast memories of fall in Switzerland. The November rain of last year’s Lausanne has begun early here, and the drop in temperature makes me yearn for a return to the shores of Lac Léman and the cozy nights shared with friends.

Ahhh, to return would be so sweet...

After a summer packed with trips to Las Vegas – sunning at the hottest pool clubs and dancing in the coolest nightclubs – and weekends spent on Orange County beaches, I’m ready for sweater season and all that it entails. However, a busy summer has left me with an empty wallet and a head full of Swiss dreams.

Enter my kitchen. It looks older than the 70s house it sits in, and no matter how much I tried to make it a cozy place, it was thoroughly uninspiring. That is until I discovered two things: the new Cooking Channel on cable (with lots of U.S. and Canadian cooking shows plus a good mix of old classics and new edgy chefs) and the world of food blogs (new fave is the round-up site, tasteologie.notcot.org). My recent free time is split between rounding up recipes to try, actually trying them and reading even more about food in the meantime. (No seriously, my current reading consists of a food history book and two Michael Pollan novels.)

So what’s a food-obsessed girl to do when the dismal weather and frigid air (by typical Californian standards) leaves her dreaming of Ovalmatine in the Alps?

A warm night of Swiss fondue!

Exactement! If I can’t travel by air, then I must travel by palate. One of the first cool nights, I ushered in the season with a quiet fondue night for two. Leave it to the Swiss to figure out there’s nothing like the comfort of melted cheese and a bottle of wine to warm you up. The apples aren’t traditionally eaten in Swiss fondue, but it was my addition after trying it a couple of years back at The Melting Pot restaurant. It gives a nice sweet, tart kick to the cheese.

The fondue left me with a feeling of nostalgia, so when the weekend’s cloudy skies finally ripped open into sheets of rain and thunder yesterday, nothing felt more appropriate than a cup of espresso mixed with Caotina, a Swiss hot chocolate drink that is too rich for words.

 

Oh Caotina, you are too good to me.

For now the rain has stopped, but the skies remain somber. Who knows what else will inspire a return to Switzerland, whether it be to the actual streets of Lausanne or just Travel in the Kitchen.

 

Missing in Action

My notebook is upset with me. It gazes at me with excitement whenever I pick it up to jot down a note, a story idea, a reminder. I’ve filled it with pages of my whereabouts since July. It keeps within its water-stained covers a breadth of summer memories, thoughts and a voice ready to speak to whomever cares to listen — which explains its recent grudge against me.

I can’t blame it. Notes I’ve scribbled to share on Where is Ashley? have remained ignored. Within my notebook’s pages rests details of fateful thunderstorms, conflicted shuttle drivers, quiet beaches and correspondence with a well-known soccer player. Thus here are what to look forward to (given to the world as a way to keep me accountable):

  • A recap of a trip to Washington, D.C. Baltimore, MD
  • Notes on an airport shuttle driver
  • What a call from Puerto Rico had to do with soccer and Whole Foods
  • Sharing your city with company
  • One year anniversary: Lausanne
  • possible notes on Las Vegas
  • and hopefully a post about my upcoming trip to Toronto!

First! on the Laguna Surf

A couple of weeks ago, I got a chance to try my luck at surfing, thanks to Oakley and my gig at LAmag.com! Read more about it here. While I feel lucky to consider that “work,” it was a wonderful opportunity to get a taste of a neighboring coastal town that usually never warranted more than a drive-by along picturesque Pacific Coast Highway. As it turns out, Laguna Beach and the nearby Doheny State Beach in Dana Point were the perfect settings for a string of firsts.

Photograph courtesy of Gary Copeland

With nothing but the sound of crashing waves before us and the soft earth below us, a bout of early morning yoga lifted my spirits and prepared me for a day in the water. Numerous sun salutations (how else would the sun come out?), warriors I, II and III, and balancing poses galore gave me energy and confidence for the day ahead. Having done yoga on my own for the past couple years, it was so refreshing and encouraging to be in a class again. I even did my first yoga head stand!

Photograph courtesy of Jason Merritt/Wireimage

Keep reading…

eBook Review for LostGirlsWorld.com!

Bienvenue mes amis! While I haven’t had the luck of traveling outside the country, “Where is Ashley?” has become a veritable question for the past few months. Even with full-time university classes that kept me anchored until May, I’ve been lucky to host many friends from back east and Europe, meaning I was not only taking them around my own city but going on road trips to show off the beauty of Southern California. Now with school out of session, I’ve flown back and forth from my parents’ place multiple times already this month with at least another in planning before the end of July. Top that off with a trip to D.C. in three weeks, and you have one jet-set, happy Ashley.

You can imagine with travel on the brain, I was more than excited to write a book review for the ladies at LostGirlsWorld.com, a web site run by three friends who left their jobs and lives in NYC to travel the world together (ahhh, what a dream). The book of choice is The Art of Solo Travel: A Girl’s Guide by Stephanie Lee, and as much as I love jetting around my own country, it gave me daydreams of mornings in the Philippines and evenings in Argentina.

Take a look at my review below and check out the original article on LostGirlsWorld.com!

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eBook Review: The Art of Solo Travel: A Girl’s Guide

by Stephanie Lee

Indie Travel Media, $12.95

3.5 stars

Photo courtesy of Indie Travel Media

Keep reading…

HOP SUISSE!

Salut à tous! And a great félicitations to Switzerland! (Fact of the day: “Hop Suisse/Hop Schweiz” is how the Swiss cheer on their athletes.)

In what is probably the greatest recent upset in World Cup history (no doubt of this year), little ol’ Switzerland beat Spain 1-0 in the very first round (group? what?)! Surprising indeed, given that everyone anticipated Spain – the reigning European champions and second best football team in the word according to FIFA – to finally take home the trophy.

Switzerland beat the big favorite Spain with only one goal for a slim win. (Photo courtesy of 24heures.ch)

Ah those Swiss, always the unassuming exceptionalists. Alas, blame the time difference, the comforting allure of my bed or just plain morning-sloth tendencies, but I didn’t catch the game only to learn via the excited facebook status updates of my friends in Lausanne that I severely missed out. Good thing the New York Times gave a pretty thorough recap. We’ll have to see if they can continue the spark in the next round. Updates to follow as the competition ensues.

Travel ALERT!: Get outta Long Beach with JetBlue!

Hey travel friends! I’ll keep this short because 1) this deal might be selling out as we speak! and 2) I’m at work. oops.

The Goods: You getting your butt out of SoCal up to an impromptu vacation in NorCal for $9 one-way!

According to Travelzoo, JetBlue is offering unpublished flights from Long Beach, Calif. to San Fran or Oakland for $9 each way. The only drawbacks: You gotta move it quick! The crazy-low fare is only valid for Tuesdays and Wednesday through May 19, and Travelzoo claims that final price with taxes could be as low as $40.

So seriously. Why are you still reading this?? Book your flight before these flights sell out! (And then send me some pictures from your trip!)

One Reason I Love: Flying

It’s the window seat. No. More specifically, the views from your window seat.

View minutes before arriving at Oakland Airport for the first time.

The views afforded to patrons in the window seat as the plane rises from the earth are a much-welcomed different angle of a place you’ve already seen so much of. Even better are the aerial sights of a place you’ve never been. The oblong window of your plane is a peephole offering a perspective of your destination unknown anywhere else, save for the few moments before the plane’s wheels hit the tarmac. Keep reading…