Tag Archive: Zurich

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 29 (Zurich, Stockholm, Gothenburg)

Sunset from the airplane between Stockholm and Gothenburg.

Sunset from the airplane between Stockholm and Gothenburg.

When I left Zurich this morning it was dark and pouring rain. Hearing my alarm go off at 6:30 was painful, but I was grateful that I had packed last night and I knew that if I dragged myself downstairs there would be one last breakfast buffet. Now I can admit how sick to death I am of salty scrambled eggs, undercooked bacon, croissants (no matter how delicious), muesli, and yogurt. Some days the food was better than others, but it was just the fact that it was the same food for more than 3 weeks straight that made it so tiresome. After breakfast it was into the cab and off to the airport. I feel that I am becoming a very good traveller now. By the time I reach security my belt is off, electronics are out, and I always have my liquids and gels in a plastic bag. I fell asleep on the plane before it even took off and have no recollection of take off. But I’m glad I slept then so that I could enjoy the rest of the day without being too tired.

I had a couple of hours to kill at the Stockholm airport, which I mostly spent checking emails and chatting online. I thought about shopping but decided against it because, well airports are pricey and what’s the point of buying souvenirs from a city you didn’t really visit?

Then it was off to Gothenburg. One thing you need to know about Gothenburg is that it doesn’t know how to spell its own name, and neither does anyone else. In various places it is Gothenburg, Gotenburg, or GÖTEBORG. So many options!  I took the bus from the airport to the main train/bus station in the city where I met Peter at the only Starbucks in town. He says its the best place to meet someone because if  they get lost its not like there’s one on every corner and everyone knows where it is.

Isn't it Christmasy!?

Isn’t it Christmasy!?

We ventured back to his apartment long enough to drop things off and then made our way to Liseberg. Liseberg is basically the Playland of Gothenburg, but in December it re-opens (with only some of the rides operational) and hosts a Christmas market, skating rink and ice show, and other Christmasy things like oodles of Christmas lights. Very very cool. We spent the evening walking through the shops, having some food, watching the world’s most ridiculous ice skating show which featured green rabbits in Santa suits dancing to a bad remix of “When you Wish Upon a Star.” It was kind of amazingly cheesy actually. Cheesy enough that I bought a green rabbit in a sant suit Christmas ornament. I had my first cup of grog, complete with raisins and almonds, tested many flavours of fudge, and attempted to win a 2kg toblerone.

Ferris Wheel!

Ferris Wheel!

We only went on two rides. First was the big ferris wheel type thing. Giant and blue you can see it for miles around the park and from up top of it you can see for miles around the park. It was really lovely. Of course, our mistake was accidentally buying too many coupons for the ferris wheel, so we went on a ride that was like of Peter Pan’s Flight, It’s a Small World, and Swedish Fairy Tales all fell in a blender. We rode in flying pirate ships through a world of Swedish interpretations of Fairy tales while small robotic dolls shouted things in Swedish. It was totally bizzarre, but also kind of perfect.

Tomorrow I continue the adventure, using my handy Gothenburg City Card – a pre-purchased tourist card that gets me free public transit and free admission to most museums, attractions, etc in town. Amazing.

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 28 (Zurich)

A day at the Zoo

A day at the Zoo

Zurich Zoo

Zurich Zoo

Today was the day I had been waiting for – finally a chance to go to the Zurich Zoo.

But first, Lexi and I made our way back to the Christmas market to do some final shopping. No matter how many times I walked through there I always found something new on each trip. Lexi bought me a beautiful pair of blue glass earrings from Italy and bought herself the matching necklace. It’s like we’re friends or something. I managed to get out (this time) without buying anything new. Cancel that. I totally bought a Christmas present for someone and it is so perfect and I can’t wait to give it to that person. I can’t say anything else in case they are reading this :)

And then we were off to the ZOO. Now, going to the zoo in winter can be a bit sad. The large outdoor enclosures are mostly too cold, so the animals are in their much smaller indoor enclosures. This was especially sad for the rhinoceros. We called him Albert and watched him contemplate getting up, but only when the birds flew too close to his head.  One of the cutest things we saw all day was the momma and baby hippo playing in their indoor pool. At one point the momma swam up to the little one and blew on his stomach – much like humans do – to make fart noises. We couldn’t help but laugh!

Do you see the monkey(s) in the background?

Do you see the monkey(s) in the background?

Then it was off to the monkey house. Now for some reason the Zurich soo has this fancy chairs and lamps in the monkey house. i won’t pretend to understand it, but it was kind of fun. We spent a long time watching the monkeys. There was one bigger one that had a perch that he liked to just sit on and watch us. I think he found us to be the entertainment instead of the other way around. There was a spidermonkey that kept swinging around. There were giant gorillas and baby orangoutangs. We probably would have stayed longer with the various monkeys, but it was time to find the penguins. The first penguins we found we not the King Penguins, but rather a smaller variety that was kept indoors. I was starting to get nervous that we weren’t going to find the King Penguins before the parade started, but Lexi used her little big of German to ask someone where we should go and soon enough we were part of a large crowd gathered around an outdoor penguin enclosure. And then they opened the fence, and out came approximately 16 King Penguins – two of which were still young enough that they were covered in their brown feathers.

I'm just a little happy to be among the penguins.

I’m just a little happy to be among the penguins.

We followed the penguin parade for about half an hour, crowding out small children to take photos of ourselves with the penguins. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration  but we were really excited and wanted to get up close to the penguins. The reality is we could have reached out and touched them we were so close, but we figured the zoo keepers would look down on that and decided against it.  Seriously, the penguin parade was pretty much the highlight of my day and was completely worth the price of admission.

After that we visited the zebras, elephants, lions, more monkeys, goats, racoons, antelope, llamas, and random peacocks that just walked around the zoo wherever they wanted. We discovered that the zoo is building a huge new elephant area where the zoo keepers will only interact with them from outside the area. I think that’s probably smart. It was at this point that we looked out and realized that fir the first time since arriving in Zurich we could see the mountains. It was absolutely stunning.

And then it was into the Masola Rainforest – a giant botanical garden that happened to have giant tortoises, monkeys, and birds running around in it. Very fun. Also very warm and required the removal of winter jackets.

On our way out of the zoo we tried to buy penguin Christmas ornaments, but there were none to be found. I’d say the zoo really should get on that – it would be a great piece of merchandising! But we went back to the Christmas market and I found a beautiful blown glass ball with a penguin inside it. So for this leg of the trip both of my ornaments are blown glass balls from the same place.

After taking a nap back at the hotel, I made my way over to the Zurich Opernhaus for DIE ENTFÜHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL. I didn’t really care what was showing though, mostly I wanted to see that building. It was one of the most beautiful spaces i have ever been inside. While I thought that the production was kind of so-so (though don’t ask me why since I do not yet have the opera vocabulary to explain why), I was delighted by the building. My seat was up in the highest (THIRD) balcony, but from there the view of the painted ceiling and grand chandelier was fantastic.

After the show it was back to the hotel to pack and say goodbyes. It was very hard to say goodbye to the new friends I’ve made here, but I already have plans to see some of them in the new year.

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 26 (Zurich)

Outside the Swiss National History Museum

Outside the Swiss National History Museum

Now that the show is open, I had a bit of time to explore again today. I went back to the main Christmas market and picked up yet another item that hasn’t left my mind in the week since I saw it.  And then I made my way to the Swiss National History Museum. Unfortunately, It wasn’t very good. The number one reason it wasn’t very good was that its collection is really lacking. It had more photos of items than actual items. The second reason is that I couldn’t enjoy it as there weren’t English descriptions of what each item was. The third problem was that the museum is housed in a BEAUTIFUL building, but the design of the museum does not allow the use of the existing architecture. Fake walls block grand staircases, vaulted ceilings are hidden by fake ones. It was very disappointing.

Frau Munster through the window of the Art Museum

Frau Munster through the window of the Art Museum

From there I made my way over to the free art museum near the opera house. Again there were no English descriptions, but it was art and didn’t really need them. Some of the pieces were really odd, but it was fun to look at them.

I did a little bit more shopping and then made my way back to the hotel for a nap before the show. It was a really great nap.

Lexi singing her heart out tonight.

Lexi singing her heart out tonight.Switzerland

The show tonight was really great. The audience still loves it and it sounds amazing. I was standing backstage talking to Valentina, a Mezzo from Italy, about how lucky we are during tonight’s performance. Not only do I get to do what I love, but I also get to listen to amazing music every night and travel the world and get paid to do all of it. So so so lucky – even when I miss my own bed. Which I do.

Tomorrow we have our last two shows and then Sunday is an adventuring day and Monday I head to Sweden. It’s all wrapping up here and I am going to miss these people so much.


Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 24 (Zurich)


I work backstage

I work backstage

Today was another long day in the stadium. Twelve hours with lots of climbing up and down stairs. Maybe I’ll lose some weight with all the walking. Or at least keep from gaining the weight I should be gaining from all the chocolate, cheesecake, and wine I’ve been consuming.

We had our first audience tonight and they seemed to quite enjoy the show. And tomorrow is opening, so I’ve got my party dress ready to go!

Speaking of cheesecake, the wonderful men of the wardrobe department brought Lexi and I a piece (with two forks) this afternoon. It was from Bubbles and is supposed to be the best cheesecake in Zurich. It was definitely some of the best cheesecake I have ever had and we intend to go find the cafe that makes it to get more . Just thinking about that cheesecake is making me drool. It was the perfect finishing touch to our dressing room picnic. The picnic was cheese, more cheese, meat, more meat, bread, pickles, cookies, juice, and gummy peaches. Yum.

Now I have a confession, which may be shocking for those of you who know me well. I have fallen in love with a puppy. Gatsby is adorable. Tonight after dress rehearsal Lexi, Simone and I spent an hour playing with Gatsby. We became a puppy playground on the bed and were all greeted with many kisses and excited bounces. Gatsby is behaving as therapy for the end of the crazy days.

Now Playing: Lights Used to Shine by Sheree Plett & Jeremy Eisenhaur

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 22 (Zurich)

Valentina and I on the way into the city

Today was a day full of adventuring. After breakfast, Lexi, Marco, Valentina and I made our way into downtown Zurich. We stopped at the Christmas market so that I could buy the Christmas ornament I fell in love with the first night I was in the city but hadn’t bought yet. It is a beautiful hand blown glass ball with a glass angel inside it. It is my new favourite. When I first saw it, I photographed the sign on the hut so I could research the artists before I bought it. His studio is further north east outside the main city, but I am so glad he is at the Christmas market because it is so pretty!

Then we made our way through the Neiderdorf district, visiting various shops along the way including a five floor music store that sold CDs, instruments, sheet music, accessories, etc. Lexi and I split the cost of a German-language Christmas CD that we will both burn to our computers. It will be a good souvenir!

Sitting in the window in the stairwell up the GrossMunster tower.

We found ourselves at GrossMunster and decided to go in and take a look. Inside we discovered a small doorway which led up 187 steps to a viewing platform overlooking the city. Just watch the video above to see it because it is incredible. Well worth the 4 Francs we paid to go up!

From there we crossed the bridge to FrauMunster where there are gorgeous stained glass windows created by artist Marc Chagall. Sadly we were not allowed to take photos inside the church, but this was the kind of stained glass where the longer you looked at it the more you saw because there were little things in corners or sort of hidden. I want to go back again to see if I see new things another time.

This led to more shopping, which led to tired feet, which let to Honold – a tea shop/chocolate shop/delicious shop. We had pasteries, chocolates, and really really good hot chocolate. The best thing about European hot chocolate is that instead of coming sweetened it comes with a sugar packet. I did not put any in and it was amazing. I can highly recommend unsweetened hot chocolate. Also it is easy to drink way more of it because it is not sickeningly sweet.

After the adventure, I had to head over to the Hallenstadion to get a tour of the space, see where the dressing rooms were, and do a little bit of prep for tomorrow’s piano dress rehearsal. It was great to get into the stadium and start to figure out where things are going to be. It’s going to be a very interesting day tomorrow.

Ragnar and Lexi at dinner.

When I returned to the hotel there was a group in the lobby ready to go for dinner. We went to a Swiss restaurant just up the street from the hotel where the prices were reasonable and the portions quite large. It ended up being 10 of us – a mixture of departments: one singer, the pianist, me, the stage director, and most of the costume department.  The food was great, and as we were settling up the bill the waiter came over and brought us free shots of vodka.  It was a fun ending to a day full of laughter and adventures.

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 20 (Zurich)

First view of the stadium, all set up for “floorball”

Today was a bit of a stressful day at rehearsal. It was our first “work through” of the show, but part way through there was a medical emergency that required an ambulance. Everyone is okay at this point, but it was scary and a little overwhelming.

Tonight we got our first glimpse inside the stadium. It was smaller than I thought. But when i was thinking about that reaction later tonight I realize that it must be because a speed-skating oval (the only stadium I have experience with) is so big. We went over to the stadium to meet the lighting programer, and ended up watching the Swiss lose the world floorball semi finals 4-3 in overtime to Finland. It was quite dramatic.

After visiting the stadium I headed downtown to meet up with my friends Kaari & Erin who I visited in London and went to Amsterdam with. They are in town just for the weekend, so we decided to meet up and go for fondue. The first place we went to had an hour wait, so we went to a place that their hotel recommended, and when we finally found the random door with a very small sign, we found one table left in the restaurant. It was a table for two, but they were happy to pull up a third chair for us.

Fondue dinner with Kaari & Erin.

We ordered the fixed menu: salads, cheese fondue, and our choice of desserts.  It was fantastic. Real swiss fondue: CHECK.

The only problem was that I forgot my camera at the rehearsal venue, so I could only take photos on my iPhone. It’s less than ideal, but it does the trick most of the time.

On the plus side, I think I picked out moms Christmas present tonight but I still have to go back and buy it.

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 19 (Zurich)

Today was another day of snow and rehearsals that was completed by wine with friends in the hotel room. Here are some photos from the last couple of days.

The spread at one of our late night “post mortem’s”


Our wine cooling system.


Lexi and I out in the snow on a break from rehearsal.


Simone and Lexi letting the Gatsby pup lick out the wine glass.


Cue out playing in the snow.

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 17 (Zurich)

I don’t have much to say about today. There was more snow, but it melted. There were over 100 people in the warehouse tonight for rehearsal as we added the chorus for the first time. And then after rehearsal we drank wine and played with the puppy. It was a good day, but I’m exhausted and we still have to do it all again tomorrow.

from the official Viva Verdi program.


The snack table at our post-rehearsal hang out.


Gatsby, the alcoholic puppy.

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 16 (Zurich)

The rehearsal warehouse.

Today was the first of our long days, spending 12 or more hours away from the hotel between rehearsal and commute times. It feels as long as it is, and by the time we board the bus to head home I am exhausted and cannot believe how much energy the actors all have.

I did, however, manage to get out of the warehouse for a 20 minute walk around Huttweilen during our lunch break. It’s not enough time to fully explore the town, but it was great to get some fresh air and see some of the area we are working in. The best view so far was from a small graveyard at the top of the hill. I even got a photo of our rehearsal warehouse showing off the the big Viva Verdi posters out front and trying to give a sense of how big the rehearsal space is.

Our rehearsals are now in at least four languages daily: English, Spanish, Italian, and German. Just when I think I figure out what is going on or being said, the language changes again. It amazes me how many languages the people around me hold in their heads and it is inspiring me to learn more of other languages. Speaking only English is definitely a hindrance in this world.

I’m sorry I don’t have more to say, but there is only so much to report when you sleep, bus to rehearsal, rehearse, bus home, and go back to bed.

Exploring small town Switzerland: houses, a woodpile, a church, a graveyard, one of many fountains, and a great view.

Lois’ Grand Adventure – Day 15 (Zurich)

The clear day view from the rehearsal venue parking lot

I woke up this morning to brilliant sunshine and clear skies. What an amazing start to our first day with maestro, the pianist, and the soloists!

Rehearsal went really smoothly – we ended up finishing early and doing more than we were originally scheduled to do. I’m still getting used to the opera version of rehearsing: sing through a couple of times with Maestro giving notes, go over blocking with the director, put it all together once, see you at dress rehearsal. That seems like an exaggeration, but it is exactly what is happening with some numbers and some performers. I was nervous about today, mostly because I didn’t know what to expect. I had been talking to a friend in the morning and mentioned this and they laughed a little. Then mid-day I sent my friend an email that said, “I’m not nervous anymore. I’m too busy being awesome.” Which maybe is an exaggeration, but it’s how I felt. Today was the day that I sat in the room and couldn’t help but wonder how this is my life. I am half-way around the world, doing what I love to do, in ac company of great people, and getting paid for all of it. Amazing. Let’s just hope that sense of wonder and gratitude holds as the days get longer and the work gets harder.

Maestro giving his speech at the reception

Tonight after rehearsal was our special “meet and greet” which was really a get-to-know-everyone reception. There were speeches. There was wine. There were many introductions. Lotfi Mansouri gave a great speech about how his goal is to show that opera is “cooler than Lady Gaga” and that he’ll be happy if some audience members who are not regular opera goes leave saying, “you know, that was actually okay. Maybe I’ll go see some opera sometime.”  We also were given a tour of the costume room, and got to see one of the costume pieces on a performer, which is a treat because the costumes for this show are GORGEOUS.

They also gave us each a Viva Verdi t-shirt at the reception. I’m not sure I really have room in my suitcase (while staying under the weight limit), but I’ll put it to use here in Zurich for sure. And hey, it’s another black shirt for my remaining months on the road requiring blacks.

modeling the new T-shirt