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Hockey Night in Zurich – VIP Style

Stay on your feet!

 It’s not every day I go to a hockey game. It’s not any day I go to a hockey game. But when in Zürich, do as the local fans do. EVZ, the hockey team from a town called Zug are playing the ZSC Lions, the home team here in Zürich. The Lions are winning 3 to 1, and I’m in a VIP box with a bunch of journalists, all of whom know way more about hockey than I do.

Life in the fast box

I have no complaints about hanging out in a VIP box though. We’re here compliments of Florian Zimmermann, the former marketing director of EVZ, now the Managing Director of Number8 LTD, a sports event media agency. After the game he’s arranged for the head coach, Doug Shedden, of EVZ to stop by – the coach was a former player in the NHL (just in case you don’t know offhand the history of every single player to ever have graced the ice).

I’m sure you’re dying to know some differences between hockey in Canada and Switzerland so here’s a few exciting facts.

1) The Rinks: NHL rinks are 200 feet long and 85 feet wide.  Swiss rinks are bigger. 210 long and 98 wide.

2) The Teams: Switzerland has 12 teams and USA/Canada has 30

3) Fighting: NHL players are penalized 5 minutes for fighting. Players here in Switzerland receive a match penalty and are ejected from the game. Although, just in case you think Swiss players never fight – such a peaceful country – two players have already been ejected. It happened in the first period. We missed the excitement though, as we were spending too much time eating fondu at the Restaurant Swiss Chuchi.

4) Money: NHL players get paid waaaay more.

That's one big rink!

Oh, oh. The game is finished and we were rooting for EVZ from Zug – which, I hear, is a bit of a tax haven. They lost 4 to 1. And just when I thought that I was the only hockey ignoramus, Jennifer, the PR rep on our trip, told me that she doesn’t know what’s going on, she just cheers when everyone else does. While it’s advice I think I’ll take to heart, I had to explain that we are not cheering for the Zurich team, we’re cheering for Zug.  Oh, wait. Here’s the EVS coach, gotta go …. but I won’t cheer.

Florian Zimmermann and Doug Shedden

Zimmermann and Shedden - Good Sports

 Coach Shedden just talked about how much he loves working here in Switzerland. He says that sportsmanship is what it’s all about in Europe. “Play hard but don’t fight.” Words to live by.

Writing on the Road – Switzerland

Sleepy and Dull? I don't think so!

This is what my Rick Steves guidebook says about Geneva. “Skip the big, dull city of Geneva: instead, sleep in fun, breezy Lausanne.” Well! I loved Geneva, even if I was there less than 24 hours. I loved the view from my window at Hotel le Richemond that overlooks Lake Geneva, though it seemed particularly poignant since the Empress Sisi, the Hapsburg Lady Di of yore, who I am fascinated by (and, as an aside, used to spend up to 3 hours a day having her long hair combed and festooned with stars) was assassinated as she climbed aboard a boat here. A plaque marks the spot. Except I couldn’t find it. But still …

My biggest regret is that the Museum of the Reformation was closed because it was a Monday. Is that weird? Not that it’s closed on Monday, but because that was my number one pick for a tourist site to visit. I suppose I could have gone to the Museum of the Red Cross, but I wanted to learn about Calvinism. I think I liked the challenge of trying to make the reformation a fun and breezy travel article.

This isn't a bad view either!

Then on to Montreux.  I didn’t know Montreux existed until Swiss Tourism sent me here, and now I can’t figure out why I don’t live here. It is stunning, with the hills behind, Lake Geneva in front and a holiday turn of the century atmosphere. I stayed at the Montreux Palace which is one of those hotels that you just can’t believe still exists. The difference is that now conferences are held in the ballrooms and the old Belle Époque roller skating rink is a convention centre.

Montreux and nearby Vevey are spa central and I did my best to see as many as possible. The American woman who showed me around the famous La Prairie clinic said she ended up living here when she came to Switzerland for a holiday and went to a hockey game one night, saw a good-looking man there and thought, I’m going to marry him. And she did. Now that is positive thinking. Hey, wait a minute. I’m going to a hockey game in Zürich. Oh, oh.

I just arrived in Lausanne, and we’ll see if Rick Steves is right after all. It better be fun and breezy or he’ll have steered me wrong. Whether it could possibly be as fun and breezy as the Reformation, though, remains to be seen.

Six Reasons I Love Press Trips: The Debate on Free Travel Continues

Free trips! Free trips! It’s still a hot topic (see post below). I just came across a post on Gadling.com by Tom Johansmeyer called Free press travel: necessary … and certainly not evil, a well-thought out – if slightly exhaustive – piece in support of free travel. I like the sounds of this guy, he cares about getting his story and will break off from the group if he has to. That’s the hardest part about a press trip, being herded around like sheep, because I’ve never been good in a pack, or, um, I mean a flock.

Shell Dog

High end swag?

I agree 100% that the best press trips are the ones with the loosest agendas, and where the public relations people are there to help us get our articles rather than to make sure we Do! Not! Deviate! from the itinerary.

Herd or Flock?

Everyone Stay Together!

Wait, I take it back. That’s not the hardest part of a press trip. The hardest thing is that we never get enough sleep. Why? Why? When did 8 hours of sack time become a forbidden luxury?

But I digress. What are the best things about press trips?

1) The destinations, of course. Spain! Italy! The Yukon! How great is that?

2) Seeing things I would never see otherwise. While I always think I know best when it comes to finding what I need for an article, often an itinerary forces me to do something that sound boring … and then it’s the coolest thing ever. Like touring a ginseng store. Now I love ginseng.

3) Getting to know some of the PR people and the other journalists. After two days together, it’s gone way beyond cocktail party talk and we’re dishing deep. So fun. Except, of course, for the people you don’t like. Or even worse, the people who don’t like you. Not, um, that that’s happened. Nope. No sirree.

4) Breaking out of my self-made box. For some reason, I’m scared of almost everything, except travelling and heights, and often when I’m on a press trip there will be something I don’t want to do, and then I do it and feel like Rocky. I have snorkelled (What? So I’m scared of the sea), gone dog-sledding, gone skiing for the first time in 10 years, ridden an elephant, eaten chicken anus … oh, no wait, that wasn’t a press trip, that was in a bar in Korea with friends. Anyway you get the idea.

5) Itineraries that include facials. What can I say? I love them.

6) The free part. Free trips! Free trips! How could I see the world and write about it otherwise?

New Zealand – Hook Up Number One

Really, it’s just a lucky thing I have an insider knowledge about the New Zealand Matchmaking Flight because how else would you know that the Bachelor show’s Jason and Molly just got engaged!!! In New Zealand!! This is huge news!!! Except that I already thought they were engaged. But still, you know, BIG NEWS!!!

Road Trips and Word Counts

The problem with writing a road trip piece is that you have to leave most of it out. Word counts (the size of an article) are getting smaller because attention spans are shrinking, advertising is down, space is limited, blah blah blah. But every now and then you can’t resist doing an article with a bigger scope, especially when it’s Arizona and there’s a whole lot to see.

If I'm alone how did I take this picture?

If I'm alone how did I take this picture?

For my latest  article on Arizona, here’s a few things that didn’t make it in:

Morning Hike at the Grand Canyon

Heading along the Rim Trail in the early morning, it was cloudy, the wind was moaning and really, it was a bit eerie. I didn’t see anyone until I got to a lookout, where two teenage girls were staring down at the canyon.

“They should be an escalator here,” one said.

“That would be cool,” said the other.

“Or a roller coaster.”

Yah! Or maybe totally cover it in plastic and call it an amusement park! Really, instead of a roller coaster or an escalator, the most fun way to go down, in my opinion, is by donkey. I was told you needed to book months in advance, but when I was there there had been a cancellation and I could have done it, except I had to get to Sedona by a certain time. I could have cried, I wanted to do that trip so badly.

Groovy Groovy Flagstaff

This high-altitude city (elevation 7000 feet) is cooler than Scottsdale, surrounded by ponderosa pine and reminds me of a edgy southern Seattle. What’s really important, however, is that an amateur astronomer discovered Pluto from Flagstaff’s Lowell Observatory, one of the oldest observatories in the U.S. in 1930.


Where's Pluto?

Where's Pluto?

Don’t get me started on Pluto, a fine upstanding planet until ignobly reduced to dwarf planet status in 2006. So what if it has a wonky elliptical orbit, is mostly made up of rock and ice, and, some say, is nothing more than a celestial snowball? Moody mysterious Pluto will always be a planet to me.

Scottsdale and the Little Gold Dress

Scottsdale is warm, upscale and scenic, with lots of chic hotels and spas. Touring it by Segway is fun, but in the end, I did not get the gold dress. Someone else beat me to it.

Where are the shops?

Where are the shops?

If You Go into the Woods Today …


Walk on the Wild Side

Walk on the Wild Side

This morning I went for a long walk around Waskesui Lake in Prince Albert National Park up in northern Saskatchewan. It was windy and cool and moody and beautiful and this is when I realized that solo travellers, especially women, are short changed in the tranquil hiking department. First off, I was paranoid about bears. If there had been two of us then I wouldn’t have been scared as two are twice the size of one. Alone I felt like a walking appetizer.

Strolling down the beach was fine but when I started hiking on a secluded trail I freaked myself out. At every bend I thought I’d turn to find a bear looking for lunch. To warn all bears to scamoosh I started whistling and clapping my hands while walking (yah, that’ll scare him) and really hoped I wouldn’t run into anyone while  doing my solo entertainment act.

Then I started thinking about other predators, namely human, and of all the women who have been killed on trails, like Chandra Levy who disappeared while jogging in a park in Washington DC in 2001 and Mary Pinchot Meyers, the mistress of John F Kennedy, who was shot twice in the head while walking in 1964. This sucks. What are we supposed to do, give up enjoying nature all together unless a bodyguard is involved?

Any bears around here?

Any bears around here?

I’m not sure of the answer. In this case, I backtracked and stuck to the beach. Obviously a deer was thinking the same thing because I followed its tracks all the way back. But I can’t stop living my life and I refuse to give up solo hiking altogether. In Toronto I love walking through the ravines that slice through the city like rough green grooves, but I’ll compromise. I’ll walk on weekends or when other people are getting off work and walking their dogs. In the evening I’ll stick to city streets. Oh, wait. Is that dangerous, too? At least I won’t run into a bear.