Swiss Exchange Trip Week 3 - Geneva and a Swiss Christmas

I never considered myself a traveller. I always wanted to go places and see things, but it's not something that would define me. However now that I'm overseas I'm starting to realize how addictive it is to be immersed in a different culture, and fall in love with language, food, and traditions, maybe I am becoming a traveller.
There are many positive things I can learn from the swiss culture, I'm thinking of healthy eating habits in particular. I thought that I would come here, eat bread and cheese, and put on weight, but the lifestyle here is so much healthier than in New Zealand. I almost never see anybody overweight. I've found everybody is much better about not snacking so much in between meals. In New Zealand we tend to eat all the time, constant snacking, often just out of boredom. But here you go from meal to meal, maybe with a few crackers in between, and its perfectly fine. Fast food is much more expensive here as well. At lunch time it's cheaper for me to pick up a salad from the supermarket than a burger from McDonald's. It pretty much forces you to eat healthier, and I am not complaining.
The positive lifestyle habits that I'm picking up from Switzerland make me excited to travel the rest of the world and see what else I'm missing out on.
This week was the last week of school for the year. As a little reward myself and a few other girls went on a girlie shopping trip in Geneva. Geneva was insane, very vibrant and busy. This was partially due to the fact that we went two days before Christmas, but I can tell Geneva is an energetic city. The streets and stores were packed with shoppers and street performers. While that's not everyone's cup of tea, I loved it.
Shopping in the vibrant city centre with the clear, blue lake on one side and pretty bakeries on the other was beautiful. The lake was much less polluted than I imagined it to be, it was a very striking blue colour. Actually the whole time we were there I desperately wanted to jump in, despite the chilly temperature.
And the shopping was so good. The stores are massive, and so much better than those in New Zealand. I have a new favourite store, Mango, which unfortunately is not available in NZ, but is in Australia. Everybody is so stylish here, at first I found the big oversized coats and statement pants a bit grungy and not up my alley, but the longer I'm here the more I like them. I will definitely return to Geneva for some more shopping after new years.

This week was our last week of school for the year, and basically one big lead up to Christmas. It felt so strange though, at home I would finish school at least three weeks before Christmas, so I couldn't help but feel that there were still a couple of weeks until the big day. We did all the christmas-y things: decorated the house, wrapped presents, and made Christmas cookies.
It's been very strange, in many ways it looked more like Christmas here; the towns were more decorated, and it's winter here, but I'm away from all my family, so it also felt much less like Christmas.

Everything is done differently for Christmas here. We opened presents on Christmas Eve after a big dinner of Fondue Chinoise - Chinese Hotpot - a very popular choice for Christmas Dinner. We opened stockings on Christmas day, and then said goodbye to all the family. But back home we would go to the beach on Christmas Eve, and maybe drive around to look at light displays, and open our presents early on Christmas day before breakfast. Dinner would be a big roast dinner. 
So this year was different, but very cool. I was away from my family, but got to experience a completely different kind of Christmas in another country, 
I hope everybody had a very merry Christmas this year.

Amesmames xx

Swiss Exchange Trip Week 2 - Basel and Saint-Cergue

I'm two weeks into the trip - in other words quarter of the way through - wondering where the time has gone! I LOVE it here! Over the past week there have been so many moments where I stop in awe at how amazing this country is, and how lucky it is for someone to live here. I don't think I could ever get used the moment when the clouds clear for just a few minutes and everywhere you look are stunning, snowcapped mountains.
I've settled down both at home and at school, and feel completely comfortable in the cutesy town. The school is very different to mine at home. The days here are much longer, but often have massive breaks for lunch. The longer lunch breaks are great, it means my friends and I can buy some nice bread and cheese and explore Nyon for an hour or two most days. 
Nyon has some super cool ancient ruins (as seen above), a castle, and other little heritage buildings which I find so amazing. We don't have very much history in New Zealand, so coming here and visiting castles and ruins that are literally hundreds of years old is so insane to me. Just imagine all the people who stood in the exact same spot looking at the exact same lake, mountains, and buildings over the past thousands of years.
I've also very much enjoyed the shopping here. There are lots of stores - like H&M, Zara, Zebra - that we don't have in Christchurch, or have only just gotten, so they are still very exciting for me. Everything is in walking distance from school, so it is super easy to pop out at lunch time and have a spree.
I knew it was going to be cold here, but I still packed lighter jackets like my leather jacket, which I can now see was unnecessary as it's too cold to wear a leather jacket by itself, and too annoying to layer under coats. I'm considering sending a box of things back home now so that I have more room in my suitcases on the way back to NZ!
During the week I get to explore Nyon, but the weekend is when it gets really exciting. This weekend we drove to Basel for the night and visited the extraordinary Christmas market in the evening, and the rest of the city the next morning.
Basel is located in the north of Switzerland, right on the French and German borders. The most widely spoken language in Basel is swiss-german, although it is hugely multicultural, I heard all sorts of languages while there. The public transport in Basel - Trams, busses, and biking - is much better than public transport in NZ, and makes it very easy to navigate the busy city.
Basel was beautiful, and completely different to Nyon. It has much more of a gothic style, which kind of freaked me out at the start. Despite the gothic building style, though, the houses were all very colourful and bright. The city itself was very vibrant, and lively.
 The highlight of the trip was the insane christmas market. The stalls went on forever. You finish one block of christmas decorations and sweet treats and think you've finally reached the end only to discover a whole unexplored street of stalls. It was very busy, and very beautiful. Every stall was a decorated, wooden hut covered in christmas lights. I could have happily stayed there for hours.

The next morning we once again visited the centre city, this time in daylight which has a completely different vibe. We munched on pretzels and roasted chestnuts and pottered through the pretty little streets and huge gothic church, the Basel Minster.

I loved this pretty street, on the way to the Basel Minster.

The trip was busy and went very quickly. One day in the future I would love to come back to Basel, and spend a longer time to visit all the historic buildings and museums. 
The next day me and a friend took a train up to Saint-Cergue for the afternoon. Saint-Cergue was breathtaking. There was so much snow! In some places we were literally wading through thigh-high snow! I've never really experienced powdery snow before. Christchurch snow is very wet/icy. I thought it was so impressive. We ended up lying down in some field watching the thick flakes float down on top of us (Which did get us wet, but we had already waded through the thigh high snow, so....). It was so peaceful, if I wasn't slowly freezing to death I would have stayed there till dark.

real life icicle!

I feel crazily happy at this point in time, I feel that every good thing that could happen for me on this trip so far has happened, and I am incredibly grateful to have this opportunity!
Check out my instagram to keep up to date with my mini adventures throughout the week, and more day to day stuff. Only four days till christmas now!

Amesmames xx

Swiss Exchange Trip Week 1 - Long Flights, Christmas Markets, and Castles

I've been working towards my exchange trip to Switzerland for 2 years. It' always been a big goal of mine, but never actually felt real. Even now as I sit on my bed listening to the Swiss rain wash away the Swiss snow writing this post it still doesn't feel real.
It was just over a week ago that I began the very long journey from New Zealand to Switzerland. There was a group of about 20 of us going, all very anxious and excited. I was mainly anxious, because I had no idea what to expect, and I came to the realization that I will be away from my family for two months, in a foreign country, speaking a foreign language, over christmas time. 
I cried packing my bags, I cried weighing my bags, I cried while I hugged family and friends, and I cried as I walked through security. I was so nervous, and by that point in time I'd had so many mental break downs I was over it. I didn't want to go. I forced myself to leave everyone because I knew if I didn't go I would regret it for a very long time.
I hopped on the plane, the first plane of many, and pretended to be excited. We flew from Christchurch to Sydney, Sydney to Dubai, and Dubai to Geneva. All in all it was about 25 hours in the air. I'd never done a long haul flight before, so I was very excited. I found the flights pretty enjoyable, sleep was uncomfortable, but I managed to get 8 hours so I felt really good.

Flying into Geneva was very pretty, we flew over snow-capped mountains, and it was 0 degrees outside. It actually reminded me a lot of Queenstown. I had somewhat calmed down over the course of our flights, but when we landed the nerves returned worse than ever. I kept thinking over and over again "I'm going to be here for two months!"
Of course everybody here is lovely, and now that I've settled in I am very happy to be here. I'm staying in a small village just out of Nyon. It's so pretty here, the buildings are much nicer than those in New Zealand. I was surprised by the pretty houses in particular, I had naively thought that all houses were the same.  The best thing about Switzerland so far is that everywhere is decorated for Christmas and it is so cozy!

On Friday my host mother, friend, and I visited a Christmas market at the Chateau de Morges. All my christmas dreams came true at this market, we don't have anything like it in New Zealand. We nibbled on roasted chestnuts and sipped Christmas tea while walking through the wooden huts.

I spotted these adorable christmas cookies, and so nearly bought one even though I don't eat sugar.
We haven't had snow in Christchurch in 5 or 6 years, so when I looked out my window to find snow saturday morning I almost cried.
Even though I absolutely loved the snow (which is sadly already melting) it was actually a bad thing because it meant we couldn't take a ferry to France, like we had originally planned. Instead we drove to The Chateau de Chillon. The drive from Nyon to Veytaux has an amazing view of the Lake Geneva and the French Alps. Although I think the castle itself has the best view.
The castle has a lot of history, you can see graffiti done by Lord Byron and the very post that Francois de Bonivard was chained to for 6 years. 

Every room had a different ceiling pattern which I really appreciated. My favourite ceiling was in the Chapel, it's very light and pretty.

I got all dressed up for the occasion, finally getting to whip out my winter sweaters and makeup.
Castles and markets aside, this week was really about settling in both at home and at school. I feel very at home here because everybody is lovely, but this week has been difficult for me. Getting over jetlag, starting a new school, and speaking a different language was hard. I had to really concentrate on staying positive sometimes. In the difficult times I had to choose to be happy. However, the worst is now behind me, and I'm very excited to be able to enjoy this beautiful country for two whole months!

Amesmames xx

Ethique Advent Calendar

It's November, which for me means its pretty much Christmas time. I've already started listening to my Christmas playlist and planning a Christmas party for before I leave. One thing I've never really gotten into is advent calendars. When I was a child I never had chocolate advent calendars, and I certainly didn't care for any other kind. However now as I get a bit older I can see that advent calendars are great for testing a variety of different products for a much cheaper price. 
The other day when I got home from school my mum surprised me with the Ethique advent calendar! I had never heard of Ethique before, but I'm very interested in the brand now. Ethique is one of the first brands to develop an entirely solid product range. They sell a variety of skincare, hair, pet, and home products, all in bar form and can boast their prevention of 150,000 plastic bottles being manufactured and disposed of world wide. The products are all natural, sustainable, and have raving reviews, so I am very excited to give some a try.

The advent calendar has 12 sections with 12 mini beauty bars. All, apart from one, are cute little love heart shapes. They smell AMAZING! The scents are lime, ginger, lavender, peppermint, orange and vanilla. So far my favourite scent is ginger, but they are all lovely. This advent calendar prevents 3 bottles from being manufactured.

Products you can expect:

Day 1 - Saving Face, Serum
Day 2 - Foot Pumice
Day 3 - Foot Balm
Day 4 - Lavender Deoderant
Day 5 - Lime and Ginger Bodywash
Day 6 - Bliss Bar (cleanser)
Day 7 - Lime and Coconut Butter Block
Day 8 - Gingersnap Face Scrub (my fave)
Day 9 - The Guardian Conditioner
Day 10 - Damage Control Shampoo
Day 11 - Sweet Orange and Vanilla creme (body wash)
Day 12 - Lime and Ginger Bodywash

I love what Ethique stands for, and have very high expectations for the products. I hope that I find some new favourites because I would love to replace my current products with more sustainable products.

Amesmames xx

Queenstown - Winter Wonderland

Just when I thought I had said goodbye to winter, and was fully ready for summer, our trip to Queenstown almost made me change my mind! My Dad, Patrick, our exchange student, and I took a trip to Otago/Southland to show Patrick some more of our beautiful country. No one planned for it to be this amazing though! As soon as we hopped off the plane it started snowing, which was a huge surprise for all of us. We knew it was going to be cold weather, but none of us expected snow.

I was by far the most excited about the snow. We haven't had snow in about 6 years back in Christchurch. So even though I had seen some snow on the ground in places I hadn't seen it actually snow for 6 years. Driving into Queenstown from the airport was stunning. I felt like I was in a Christmas movie!

Everywhere you looked were insane views.

We arrived in Queenstown in the late afternoon on Saturday. To make the most of what little daylight hours we had we drove around Lake Wakatipu to experiece the view from different angles. 
You cans see from the clothes I'm wearing that I was not prepared for snow! I, being the overly prepared person that I am, had packed for every situation possible, but I only brought enough really cold stuff for one day.

I just couldn't believe how beautiful it was, it so felt like a Christmas movie!

Dinner that night was from Fergburger. For those of you who don't know Fergburger, it is a world famous burger joint only found in Queenstown, and is a must do if you are ever in the area. The burgers were the biggest, most delicious burgers I've ever tasted.
We spent the rest of the evening watching the rugby at a bar across from where we stayed.

We got up really early (like 6am early) hoping to see an amazing sunrise. However there was low cloud, so all we got was a drizzly walk along the water front. 

It was a refreshing way to wake up, though. I wasn't surprised to find out that Queenstown looks beautiful in the early hours of the day too. It was much quieter, and very peaceful.

We drove up to Arrowtown for breakfast since we were planning to do the Shotover jet and bungee jump later that morning. It didn't take long for the snow to start falling again, in big, fluffy flakes. We walked around a little bit, but it was absolutely freezing so we headed back to Shotover river to wait for our jet boat ride.

The snow was falling really heavily when we got there, and we were informed that our boat ride was delayed. The boys decided to go bungee jumping early. I am no good with heights, so I stayed cozy and warm sitting by the fire in a cafe, doing some study for exams.

When the guys got back we finally got to do our jet boat ride, which was so fun, but so cold. I really enjoyed it after being shut up in that cafe for so long. After that we drove to Te Anau, which is about a 2 hour drive. I didn't take any pictures, but we drove right by the Remarkables mountain range. There are few times in life where I have really felt small, but this was one of them. It's hard to think your problems are the biggest deal in the world when you can't even see the tops of the mountains next to you!

We were planning to drive to Milford Sound the next day, but the road was closed due to the heavy snow, so we were forced to rethink our plan. We decided top drive as far along the road as we could, because there are so many viewing points along that road. One of our first stops was at mirror lakes.

We also stopped and walked to a waterfall by Lake Marion. I think it's important to point out that I took just as many photos of my Dad as he did of me!

In some places the snow was up to my knees, which made for some very intense snowball fights.

On one of our many stops we were joined by a friendly Kea. I was extremely happy about this as it meant Patrick got to see one before he headed back home. I named him Arthur.

It seemed like every place we stopped was more beautiful than the last. What started as last minute plans ended up being the most beautiful and fun day of our whole trip.

By the end of the day, my shoes were soaked, and I was exhausted. We drove back to Queenstown where we bought some cookie time milkshakes (This was a cheat day for me). I chose the Malteser shake and it was way to sweet for me. I loved it but there was no way I was finishing that whole thing by myself, I only got through half of it.

The next day was our last day in Queenstown. On our agenda was the Gondola, the Luge, and a cruise of Lake Wakatipu. The view at the top of the gondola once again was stunning.

By this point in the trip I was exhasuted, I was definitely ready to come home.

We had so much fun in Queenstown. Despite the weather not being what we expected, and even forcing us to change our plans, we had a great time. I was so sad to leave the beautiful views. The trip was kind of like a final goodbye to winter for me. It's mainly been lovely and warm in Christchurch since we got back, and I am so ready for summer!

Amesmames xx

West Coast Holiday + Five Things

Last weekend we made very last minute plans to visit my grandparents on the west coast. The last time I went there was over two years ...

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