Isn’t every day Beer Day in Munich?

I have fallen down on the job, dear readers. There was an important event here in Munich yesterday, and I failed to attend it. From what I hear it was magical. OK, it was free beer. Helles, dunkles, and weißbier, free-flowing and plentiful from the beer fountain, at least for a couple hours in the late morning. Apparently this Tag des Bieres (Beer Day) happens every April 23rd, in celebration of the Reinheitsgebote from 1516 (German beer purity laws, apparently the most important laws ever passed in the history of this country). I have marked my calendar for next year.

I did, however, get a chance to celebrate Beer Day by ordering from Park Cafe’s special Beer Day Menu of beer cocktails. I had a weißbier mojito. It wasn’t as bad of an idea as Em‘s Goaß (kirschwasser, beer, and cola) or the terrifyingly-blue Isarwasser (blue curacao, apple juice, and weißbier) that was being consumed at the next table. But you probably won’t see me splashing weißbier into my mojito again any time soon, on Beer Day or any other day.

Munich beach

Not only does Munich have surfing, but there’s also a beach here. Well, not so much a beach as an outdoor bar with some dirty sand and a couple beach chairs, but hey, what do you expect? The nearest sea is a couple countries away.

We went to check out the Strand Bar last night. Located in the middle of the Corneliusbrücke spanning the Isar River (near the Deutsches Museum), the bar serves up a very limited selection of drinks, including mojitos (very good) and Weissweinschorle in a bottle (absolutely undrinkable). The atmosphere and location were enjoyable, and we would have loved to stay longer if it wasn’t for these menacing clouds in the distance (see photo below). We grabbed our mojitos and made a run for it, getting to the next bar just as the deluge started. Good times.

Bozeman, Montana: me likey

Still in Montana, having a fabulous time. We spent a day in Bozeman, which I found to be an absolutely charming little town. Not to outdo the NYT guy, but we covered quite a lot of ground during our short visit:

  • Lunch at Pickle Barrel, a famous Montana chain of sandwich shops. I kind of liked the lack of options offered – only one kind of bread, no design-your-own million options, just “do you want everything on that or not?” My cheese and veggie sandwich was delightful.

  • Wandering Main Street, browsing some stores and art galleries, and admiring the octopus-like Christmas decorations. While tempted by the delightful assortment of guns and hunting supplies on offer, we managed to resist making any purchases.
  • Coffee at The Leaf and Bean. Comfy little espresso bar with an extensive tea selection, fresh juices, and cute gifts.
  • The Museum of the Rockies, a short, snowy car ride from Main Street. Dinosaurs, bats, Native Americans, and Ansel Adams photographs. Lots of fun.
  • Drinks at Montana Ale Works, a great bar, restaurant, and pool hall on Main Street. Loved the extensive beer menu. And since it was happy hour, pints of yummy local ales were $2.50. Which is about, what, a euro these days?
  • Dinner and more drinks at Plonk. My friend Peter (who lives in Bozeman) described this place as the hippest spot in Montana, and I believe he could be right. My fresh basil ginger martini-like thing (I forget the name of the drink) was awesome. The food was fabulous, too.

Doing Dublin

We spent a little time in Dublin at the beginning and end of our trip to Ireland, split up that way so we could take advantage of the direct flights between Dublin and Zurich on Aer Lingus. It was one of my first experiences with European discount airlines (since most don’t fly out of Zurich), and overall I have to say they seemed to have their act together. Everything costs extra: from checked luggage, to advance seat assignments, to beverages and snacks on board the plane. But I found myself not really minding all that, especially since the plane was new and clean and more or less on time. Direct flights make me happy.

Shortly after we arrived we met up with Beth for dinner in the Temple Bar area of Dublin. Temple Bar is the main touristy nightlife district, and was hopping even on a Monday evening. It was great to meet Beth in person, and a fabulous start to our trip. After dinner, I wandered off to find a pint of Guinness, since, well, that’s what you’re supposed to do on your first trip to Ireland, right?

Since we only had one full day for sightseeing in Dublin (and since we hadn’t bothered to figure out what we wanted to see ahead of time), we opted for the hop on – hop off tourist bus. This is the kind of thing we usually avoid, but it turned out to serve our purposes quite well. The drivers provided cheerful, kitschy live commentary (and how can you not love those accents?). We “hopped off” to visit Dublinia, an interactive exhibit about life in medieval Dublin, where we learned fun facts such as that Vikings never actually wore horned helmets (although that didn’t stop them from being sold by the boatload in the gift shop).

After a greasy pub lunch accompanied by some delicious ale, we hopped back on the bus until it reached the Guinness Storehouse, a gigantic, multi-media exhibit dedicated to the glory of Arthur Guinness and the black liquid he brewed. Although we’ve established that I’m not a fan of the drink, the exhibit was extremely well done, and a fun way to pass a couple rainy hours. We cashed in our tokens for free pints at the Gravity bar and enjoyed the panoramic view (and a rainbow) before heading back to the bus to see some more Dublin sites from the top deck. A yummy Thai dinner was followed by a couple pints of tasty microbrew at The Porter House.

Dublin wasn’t as… what’s the word I’m looking for? It wasn’t as cute as I expected it to be. Perhaps too much time living in a pristine city like Zurich led me to notice Dublin’s rough edges more than I normally would have. But I did enjoy it, and it had a good city vibe. Plus, Ireland had several other towns that more than made up for Dublin’s lack of cuteness.

A snack with a view

Back in Zurich, more guests to entertain. This time we opted for a trip up the Zürichberg, the mountain which borders Zurich on the east (take tram 6 from the main station). Although less celebrated than the Uetliberg to the west, the Zürichberg can be entertaining, too. The zoo is up there, as are several hiking trails, not to mention some gigantic houses with incredible views of the city and the lake.

A short uphill walk from the tram stop and you’re at the Hotel Zürichberg, a swank place with a snooty restaurant and stylish bar. Both the bar and the restaurant have terraces that boast the lovely lake view. On a clear day you can see all the way to the snow-capped Alps.

We snagged front-row seats on the bar’s terrace and ordered from the extensive ice cream menu. I went with the pear sorbet in williamine, a strong, clear, pear-flavored liquor similar to kirsch. Given how liberal they were with the williamine, the price was actually pretty reasonable, too. Or maybe I’ve just lived in Zurich too long and have lost all perspective on reasonable pricing. At any rate, it was a lovely way to spend an hour on a pleasant Saturday afternoon.

Times Square from above and below

The steaming cup o’ soup is gone, but otherwise Times Square looks pretty much the same as it did the last time I was here.

One of those cheesy touristy things I love to do in New York is have a drink at The View, a revolving bar and restaurant on the 48th floor of the Marriott Marquis at Times Square (not to be confused with the Rosie O’Donnell talk show of the same name). The view at The View is fabulous day or night, and even the elevator ride up and down is fun.

Sure the drinks are pricey, but not outrageous by New York standards. A beer costs around $6-7 (plus tip). Sip it slowly to ensure you get to make the full circle – a revolution takes one hour. Early evening seems to be the best time to go, and I’ve luckily never had to wait to be seated. There’s a cover charge for the lounge after 9PM. I’ve never been tempted to try the food at the lounge or the restaurant… there are just too many other delicious places to eat in NYC.

Seefeld doesn’t suck

I’m getting a little better about going out and enjoying this “beautiful” weather we’re having. If I just pretend it’s summer I can usually stand to leave the house without bitching and moaning to everyone I see about how much I love snow and WHERE DID WINTER GO? I have to admit it is fun to be out and about in Zurich on a sunny, clear day.

The other day I spent the afternoon wandering around Seefeld, a neighborhood along the lake which contains a mix of beautiful buildings, interesting shops, and hip bars and restaurants (well, hip for Zurich, anyway). I started with a little walk in the park by the lake, near Zürichhorn (a horn-shaped piece of land which juts out into the lake), soaking up the beautiful surroundings that I take for granted much too often.

I met a friend for lunch at Ginger, a relatively new sushi bar which is non-smoking. Most Zurich restaurants are so smoky you can’t taste your food, so the non-smoking thing is very big (although disappointingly rare). As if that weren’t enough to make me love the place, it has one of those mini conveyor belts running around the bar that the little plates of sushi travel on. Who came up with this method of sushi presentation? And why does it delight me so? Moving sushi – does life get any better?

Later in the afternoon I met a couple more friends to try out a new wine bar, D-Vino, which has popped up in Seefeld (next to Yooji’s, yet another moving-sushi restaurant – can you believe there are two?). We learned from one of the bartenders that this was a sort of trial prototype wine bar, brought to you by Denner, a low-end supermarket chain which sells lots of wine (it balances out the Swiss retail universe, since another supermarket chain, Migros, refuses to sell wine at all). At least the same people who design Denner stores didn’t design this wine bar, since the interior was actually quite nice. And more than half of the bar was non-smoking. So at least I’ve found a good place to go drown my sorrows about the lack of winter.

A little Tuesday afternoon entertainment

Now that I’ve finally figured out how to post videos, I feel obliged to keep my promise and share a clip of the greatest entertainer of all time (or at least the greatest entertainer in all of Zermatt on a particular Saturday night in May).

Marco sings Crocodile Rock, or something like it on Vimeo

Can you believe I actually had to DRAG my friend Alison into the bar to see this guy perform? (By the way, she’s the one singing ‘la la la’ the loudest on the tape.)

From Badi to Wurst

(Alternate title: more hot, sweaty summer in Zurich, with guests)

The visitor parade is almost over, and none too soon. Don’t get me wrong – I have adored the chance to spend time with each and every one of the dear friends who have come to see us this summer, but I am the worst warm-weather tour guide ever. When the temperatures soar, all I want to do is hide from the sun. Not easy to do when you’re out walking around the city all day.

Kesha compared me to some creature on a sci-fi show that can’t go in the light and just slinks along from shadow to shadow; this basically sums up how I move around in the summer, if I have to move around at all.

Even so, we’ve managed to have a little bit of fun here and there. Boat rides across Lake Zurich are cool and breezy, as long as you are on a big boat and not one of those small, stuffy glass-topped things. The Kunsthaus café is cool and relaxing, even if the top floors of the museum could use some air-conditioning. And if you go to dinner late enough, and sit outside, you might just be able to enjoy a nice meal without having the seat stick to the back of your legs.

Even better than riding a boat across the lake is actually swimming in the lake. While Badi abound on Zurich’s lake and rivers (which charge around CHF 6 admission and provide useful facilities like changing rooms), my new favorite spot to swim is in the park at Zürichhorn, which can be reached by boat, bus, or tram. The grassy areas are packed full of sunbathers in the afternoon, but there’s always room in the water.

The restaurants that have been the biggest hits with our guests (who were almost all disappointed to learn that summer is not exactly fondue season) are listed below. All offer outdoor seating and menus in English (although the daily specials are only listed in German. I am getting good at translating food, even though I still don’t have a clue what most of the meats are).

Zeughauskeller is awfully proud of its extensive Wurst menu (see picture), but also offers a couple options for us vegetarians, as well as plenty of meats of the non-encased variety.

Linde Oberstrass offers big salads and Fladenbrot (sort of like a thin-crust pizza, but swissified), which make good summer foods, along with pastas and a bunch of typical Swiss meat-and-potatoes dishes.

Crazy Cow has traditional Swiss food that tends to be on the heavy side, so save this one for a really cool evening, or better yet, the winter.

Hiltl combines two of my favorite things: a huge variety of delicious vegetarian food, and air-conditioning that you can actually feel. The special summer ginger shandy I had there was pretty yummy, too.

—–

To all our summertime visitors: please do come back to see us in winter. You will find me a changed person. I love winter, and winter in Switzerland is hard to beat. Snow-covered Alps, Christmas markets, skiing, Glühwein, sledding, fondue, raclette… I will be so freakin’ enthusiastic you won’t even recognize me.

Why do all the teams I like suck at penalty shots?

So we watched the last Swiss World Cup game at El Lokal along with a couple hundred other hopeful Swiss fans. Despite Ali’s and my enthusiastic American-style face painting, things did not go well for Schwiiz. They lost to Ukraine in penalty kicks. We were all sad, especially because it meant there would not be another riot in Zurich.

I guess it’s back to rooting for Italy for me.

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