writer, warrior, whack-a-doodle

What Price Beauty

What Price Beauty

November 20, 2010
Posted in: Totally Random | Reading Time: 6 minutes

Every day on our daily walks I'm reminded how lucky I am to be living in such a beautiful place.  But with beauty, there's always a price. Take our walk to St. Prex a few weeks ago.

St. Prex is a beautiful town.

Like many of the small villages in Switzerland, St. Prex is basically a three-lane town. Since it's right on the water, the views are spectacular. We ran into some scuba divers (huh?) and Loki, having never seen them before had a few words for them.

Loki keeps his eyes on the divers while I set up the shot. Check out the water. Notice the clarity of it. You can see straight down to the bottom for several feet. The lake is so clean.

Behind the pier are homes in St. Prex. But there are a few artists galleries and one restaurant--but here's the price: they're all usually closed.

The village is  quiet. You can hear a pin drop.

I love the chair in this gallery, which of course, is closed. Shocking.

The entrance to the town of St. Prex. This must be where all the bustling happens. When that bustling happens is anyone's guess.

Before we decided to leave, a woman and her Swiss doggie came by. Oh my dog, there's life in St. Prex!

Nothing bugs me more than the store hours here. It's not like I'm even a huge shopper. In fact, I hate shopping. But take the opportunity away and its now become an obsession. Shopping is something I have to schedule because of the lack of decent store hours. We think about shopping all the time in terms of how we live the rest of our lives. I find myself embracing the female stereotype. And that ticks me off.

I walk to Morges several times per week where there are beautiful small boutiques, perfect for toiling away time. I have not yet been in them. I'm usually with the dogs.  And while I could go in with them, I'm pretty sure I'm more unwelcome than my dogs. I'm usually dressed in active pants, a backpack, a baseball cap and muddy sneakers.  So I wait for the weekend to shop the pretty stores, when I'll have a car and I'm not such an eye-sore.

Unfortunately there are only about 7 precious hours in the entire 48-hour weekend that one can explore the unique boutiques or shopping.  And if you are at all active outdoors on the weekends, you're left with roughly a 4-hour window to drive somewhere and explore something.  It's as if Switzerland teases it's ex-pats with beautiful environs and shopping just to yank it away at the most convenient opportunity.

By the time Mr. Wild Dingo and I could get out the door on Saturday after his ride, it was 1:00 PM. A drive to Geneva with about 45 minutes stuck in traffic trying to park left us little time to do anything but buy a Swatch and a box of chocolates. By 6:00 PM, Geneva promptly rolled up the sidewalks.

That's when the steam started blowing out of my ears. The city is beautiful.The old town is lit up at night in the sidewalks with back lit cobblestones, the store windows all equally lit up, as if to mock me. "Ha-ha. You can't get me!"  How can an international city where politicians meet and like, um, make big decisions, not have anything open (except a few quiet restaurants) for some serious partying and socializing? At 6:00 PM, you could hear a pin drop in Geneva.

Old town Geneva. Side walk is cobble stones back lit with sayings in numerous languages. I'm guess they're saying "You snooze, you loose American!"

My stomach grumbled as we searched for a place to eat. There were a few, but none that looked immediately appetizing. I was dying to find even a street vendor selling sausage or crepes. Nothing. More curse words. We finally found a pork restaurant  that actually had very decent food. After dinner, we went home at the wee hour of 7:00 pm. Thank dog for the dogs to provide us some evening entertainment.

I can understand the Sunday shut-downs here. I can even understand the early store hours in small villages. But why would a major international city shut down all trade opportunities when there are so few other convenient opportunities for the working traveler passing through?

And for the love of Pete, why in the hell are there people who give away free hugs but there isn't a dog-gone freaking street vendor selling Croque Monsieurs?

No thanks, but I'll take a ham crepe if you have one.

Something tells me the hug really isn't all that "free." Ya, I'm thinking I'd be paying a hefty price for that hug and it wouldn't be in CHF.

It seems the price of living with beauty is making beautiful things unattainable. It's starting to make sense why things are so expensive here. It's not about lifestyle. It's about making bigger margins with working fewer hours.

When Mr. Wild Dingo went back to work on Monday, he asked a Swiss female co-worker the best places to shop.  Here is what she listed:

  • Drive to Lyon, 2.5 hours
  • Drive to Avignon, 3 hours
  • Train to Milan, 4 hours
  • TGV to Paris, 3.5 hours
  • Her personal favorite: take three empty bags to the US and shop for a week.

The Swiss think they're so smart. We'll show them. We'll spend our money somewhere else! And then we'll pay them a hefty 15% tax duty for NOT shopping in their stores that are only open during hours when we can't shop.

Since everything is voted on here by cantons,  it's not likely they're going to adopt late store opening hours anytime soon. It's no secret the country is slow to adopt anything. After all, women did not get the right to vote at their local level in the commune Appenzell until 1991. No, that is not a typo. The canton finally fell under federal pressure to give women the right to vote in that canton. So you may wonder when did women have federal right to vote? That would be 1971, three years after they burned their bras in the U.S.

Ha! Now that the real shoppers have a little voting power, it should take no time at all for laws to change for later store hours.

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17 comments on “What Price Beauty”

  1. Oh, man! I'd be so frustrated and climbing the walls! I say, pack the dogs in the car and go do some real shopping. Maybe even spend the night in a hotel and spend more money somewhere else to really get to enjoy it!

  2. You know those empty towns are really sound stage left-overs from European bicycle races; no one lives there - they just open the 'town' for a few minutes of television coverage for us Americans who think cycling through Europe would be cool, and then they shut the 'town' back down again until the next bike race comes through the area! 🙂

    Maybe the Swiss work on the weekends and shop during the week? Or maybe they have a non-voting under-class that does their shopping for them? They send their dogs to the stores with baskets and notes tied around their necks?

    -Dr. Liz (Fiona and Abby's Mom, who is finding the life of an ex-pat hilarious - from the point of view of an ex-ex-pat!)

  3. Well, think of all the money you're saving by not eating and running around naked!!! More toys for the dogs! 🙂

  4. I'm smiling because before I exported myself to the US I grew up in England which had the same shopping hours, it seemed perfectly normal. Having everything open all the time was very odd! My favorite story is going out for lunch one day and all the lunch places were closed for lunch! Anyway when I visited the UK earlier this year I found that it had become more like the US, stores were open 7 days a week, and most were open until quite late. You will get used to it.

  5. That certainly does sound frustrating. How odd to have everybody lock up and go home early and to drive so far just to go shopping. On the other hand, it is kind of pretty and full of hot swissie dogs too.


    P.S. Loki, you just chill about going cracker. I went cracker at one of our neighbors who I caught wandering around his front yard with a leaf blower this morning. Momma says I was so agitated after that that she ended my walkie. Boo hoo.

  6. If you all need a dog sitter while you shop, I think Morgan and I can clear our schedules. I head over to my dads to get the canoe. How long does it take to paddle across the pond?

    Matt and Morgan ( and the Greyhounds of course.)

  7. Most suspicious! Why are all the "free hugs" signs in English? Don't they speak German or French or Italian in CH? Stationary savvy pick-pockets targeting tourists? [Say that really fast 6 times.] Mr. & Mrs. Wild Dingo are lucky they have you two, so they get free hugs [and licks] all the time.

    Maybe there's a Potemkin Village thing going on in CH? If the villages are always empty, does anyone actually live there? If there aren't many actual Suisse people, perhaps they see no need for actual shopping? Perhaps the Suisse are just most comfortable living in the past and see no need to leave the comfort and security of the 19th century? [Except for their banking system & pharmaceutical industry that seem very 21st century, but they prefer to keep that secret.]

    On the plus side, you seem to get to wander almost everywhere, often off-leash, breathing what appears to be pollution-free air and drinking pollution-free water. Not a bad perk. AND you get sides of beef delivered to your door. Try arranging that in an American city.

    Jed & Abby

  8. I remember exactly this problem on my visits to Europe. I can only imagine how frustrating it is when you live there and NEED to shop.

    I, myself, would love the quiet little villages - but that's just me. I don't like "bustling"...

    I don't get the "Free Hugs" but your comment makes me think it's more than hugs?

    Last thing, I used to wear Danskos before I figured out how much they hurt my back. So, I'm planning to give away the four pairs that I just found stored in a box on an optimistic day when I actually thought that my back might get better some day. Any takers over there? Juno? Imagine, four pairs that were all your very own! And, you don't even need to go shopping to get them!

  9. What's the problem? We hate it when mom & dad go shopping for hours and hours and leave us alone. You Suisse bipeds have most of the day, all night, and practically all weekend to tend to your furkids' every need & want. Sounds like doggie heaven to us!

    jack & moo

  10. Is there a "season" there when shops stay open later? Are you just experiencing post-tourist season? I live in L.A. so the lifestyle you're describing sounds glorious, but I fear it may be a case of "you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone."

  11. It sure is gorgeous. I'm fascinated by that clean water. I wish our lakes were like that lol.

    I don't know what I would do if there wasn't a twenty four hour Walmart. I may not have to go often, but at times there are emergency visits to Walmart in the middle of the night. I hope you adjust to it soon. 🙂

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