Archive for December, 2010

Rivers, Roads and Rails

If you’re looking for a great holiday gift for kids five and up, I highly recommend Rivers, Roads & Rails. It’s a bit like dominoes. Each of the 140 square tiles have one to three transportation connections on at least two sides. Players must connect one of their tiles with one on the board or they must pass. The winner is the person who first plays all of their tiles. At the end of the game, you end up with a huge map of a fictitious land.

Thus Perish the Enemies of the Republic

I’m one of those lucky travelers who usually makes it through airport security with no hassles. But leaving Geneva, the Swiss Frontier guards asked to search my bag. The guard put on gloves and removed a small box tucked into my laundry. He opened it and pulled out the contents, a small chocolate marmite (cauldron). He smiled, said something in French, and carefully placed it back in the box. It made the trip back to Berkeley unbroken and this evening, we celebrated L’escalade in the traditional manner…smashing our marmite and shouting “Thus perish the enemies of the Republic!” The choclate pot and marzipan vegetables were amazing! Little did I know that the shop where I purchased the marmite is one of Geneva’s most famous choclatiers, Du Rhone.


There are no Christmas markets in Geneva but there are chocolate shops. This week they are filled with chocolate cauldrons for the Fete de L’Escalade, an annual festival to celebrate the defeat of Charles Emmanuel I’s troops by the city’s defenders on December 12, 1602. According to legend,during the attack a woman dropped a pot of boiling soup on the head of an attacker, killing him. The chocolate marmites, which are filled with marzipan vegetables, are broken and eaten as part of the festivals activities. I bought one and we’ll have our own celebration at home!

Pac Man eating dots in Geneva

I’m in Switzerland for a couple days of business meetings. The city is lit for the holidays. In the town square, there is a huge Christmas tree with gorgeous, hand-blown glass balls. My favorite decoration is a string of lights that run along part of Lake Geneva. Every 100 yards or so is a Pac Man being chased by colorful Ghosts. It was the winning design from from a University art competition. I thought I spied a small Christmas market on the walk back from dinner tonight. I’ll try to make it there before catching my flight home tomorrow.