Tag Archives: Museum

The Big Europe Trip: Zurich

5 Sep

The next week James was working out of the Google office in Zurich. I spent a couple of days exploring the city and another couple of days doing day trips – thanks Swiss Travel Pass!

This was the hotel we stayed at. It was a 2 minute walk to the office for James but a little bit away from Old Town.
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Old Town was the main tourist part of Zurich. This was a square where sometimes people would just sit and chill.
IMG_20190509_191749There were lots of lovely views of mountains and bridges. IMG_20190507_204049As pretty as it was, there wasn’t a ton of stuff to do in Zurich. I mainly walked around Old Town (sightseeing and souvenir shopping) and went to the different museums.

The Museum For Design had a really cool section for well-designed items. Prominently displayed is the Mondaine clock that’s at all the train stations.IMG_20190508_113029The Swiss National Museum had the most to see, and the best exhibits were the permanent ones about Swiss history and geography.

This one was really cool. I wish I’d written down exactly what it was, but it was to do with who held what political role in the different cantons of Switzerland. As you can see, it was incredibly intricate.MVIMG_20190508_141034 (1)Hey! Google’s bathroom sign made it into the national museum!MVIMG_20190508_135153The last museum I went to was the Kunsthaus, partially because it really looks like it would be the German word for cunt house (but it’s actually an art museum). I took some photos of my favourite pieces to show James.

A carrot reclining on a bed of clay. Why? I don’t know, it’s being sexy or something.
IMG_20190508_160926 Child sits on grumpy turtle: IMG_20190508_161558Cow caught eating cabbage:
IMG_20190508_161539I also bought a couple of souvenir Kunsthaus pencils because I’m immature.

I think if you’re visiting Switzerland for awhile (2-3 weeks) you could spare a day or two for Zurich, but there are more interesting places to visit. But that’s a pretty bummer way to end this post, so here is a list of things I really enjoyed about Zurich:

This video James sent me of a bin near Google blowing out bubbles:20190509_090338-ANIMATIONSkipping dessert at restaurants and going to a fancy chocolate shop to pick out beautiful little chocolates instead.MVIMG_20190506_194000Fondue!IMG_20190507_190141Also it goes without saying that the public transport was incredible. Since I had the Swiss Travel Pass I used it for normal transport around the city and also to travel to Basel and the Rhine Falls. That’ll be the last post in the Switzerland series – we still have five days in Paris to go!

Google Holiday Party 2018: Under the Big Top

13 Jan

Hello everyone! Wow it’s 2019 already – where does the time go? I’ve been meaning to blog but James and I both got sick late last year which sucked. =(

Anyway, the 2018 Google holiday party was circus themed and held at the De Young Museum. There was a weird entry process which involved showing ID and scanning individual QR codes. We thought the extra security was maybe because of the YouTube shooting.

There was a station with various fancy hot dogs:
IMG_20181201_194216(From recollection: regular, kim chi, chilli and reuben)

We got there right at the start and managed to knock out some activities that we knew would have long lines later. We did a tarot reading and also had caricatures drawn. You can tell from the progress picture that it’s not going to look anything like James haha.
MVIMG_20181201_201112The semi-outdoor area had fairy floss (two flavours! Pumpkin pie and I think either lychee or passionfruit), drinks, popcorn, a sushi stand and noodle stations. IMG_20181201_195857I went back for fairy floss like, 4 times.
IMG_20181201_200059That’s the Junya Watanabe top that I bought from Japan. People went nuts for it – I must have had 20 people come up to me and tell me they loved it. So that was nice. =)

This year they had a cool ball pit photo booth (with the camera overhead).
IMG_20181207_150737The museum opened the exhibit halls so we could just wander through without crowds.
IMG_20181201_211241We found my doppelganger in the Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibit.
IMG_20181201_214912The food was pretty nicely spread out this year, so there weren’t any obvious bottlenecks. However, the big scandal was there was no decent booze this year. Normally they have cute little cocktails but not this year – just beer/wine and mocktails. =/ One of James’ coworkers told him about a rumour he’d heard that there was a proper bar in the observation room, so we headed up there only to be disappointed.

However, we did find a lady who wrote poetry on demand (the same lady who was at Googleween). I picked out a nice piece of paper and she asked what I wanted my poem to be about – I asked her to write about my top. I explained how I’d bought it in Japan on a whim, and how people had been coming up to me all night to compliment it.

Guys. The poem was perfect. IMG_20181201_210828James even calls it my Bowser top, so you can imagine how delighted I was.

Fortified with poetry but also deflated from lack of booze, we took the elevator back down, where I collected yet another compliment and we bumped into the colleague who had told us the drink rumour and James had to inform him the bar was a lie. (We checked in with a bunch of our friends who work in different parts of Google and only one of them had cocktails at his party, so maybe this is a new trend).

We took another photo at one of the photo booths, doing quick changes in between shots to try and display the food options.
IMG_20181207_150809James held the hot dog too close to the lens in the second photo, which I am still somewhat bitter about.

I like seeing James’ coworkers, eating and taking fun photos, but have to admit that Google parties are way less fun without cocktails. Am I spoiled? I’m probably a little bit spoiled. (Narrator: She was a lot spoiled).

Getting our E3 Visas Renewed in Mexico City!

21 Aug

Whew! James and I just came back from six days in Mexico City.
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It was an unplanned “holiday” because we needed to go to get our visas renewed (much like an H1B, James’ E3 visa is tied to his employer). Most people go to Canada but apparently this time of year is really busy – Vancouver had no available appointments and Calgary had an 84 day wait, so Google suggested that we go to Mexico City which had a mere 14 day wait.

I was pretty freaked out – all I knew was that parts of Mexico are extremely unsafe – I’ve read news stories of entire buses getting killed by drug cartels, people getting kidnapped, and friends have told me about how their parents were driven around in armoured cars with bodyguards. But after doing some research I found that Mexico City is one of the safest parts of Mexico and it’s no more dangerous than any large North American city. And (aside from the stress of not speaking the language!) we had a really great time!

The first awesome part was finding out that the seats I’d selected were actually bulkhead seats. Normally airlines make you pay for these seats and now I can see why. Soooo much room!
IMG_4300I could straighten my legs and still not touch the seat in front of me! It didn’t make any real difference in comfort to me but James was pleased which made me pleased. =)

Monday

Straight to work! We had to go to the Applicant Services Center in the morning to make sure all our documents were in order – Mexico City is the only place that makes you go through this step. You can’t do it on the same day as your visa interview so we had to arrive a day earlier to get everything taken care of. There was a huge crowd of people outside the building waiting for their appointment times. It was a pretty stressful experience because all the announcements were in Spanish and we had no idea what was going on (this would be a common theme throughout our visa process).

We were put in a special queue because James’ documents were missing his middle name so we first had to get in line to fix that before getting in the proper queue. We were told that we’d need to bring a photo to our visa appointment (something we didn’t know beforehand!) so we had to get emergency ones taken around the corner. Even at local rip-off prices (250 pesos/$19 USD) they were still well worth it for the convenience.

Afterwards we dropped everything back at our AirBNB place, grabbed some street tacos (amazing and only 12 pesos each) and headed to the Zocalo and the Metropolitan Cathedral.
2014-08-15 09.50.40Unfortunately for us most of the square was taken up with a huge installation teaching people how to ride bikes so we didn’t get to see Zocalo in all its glory. The cathedral was beautiful, but since neither of us are religious we just kind of wandered around feeling vaguely out of place while we looked at the architecture.

Also, the metro system in Mexico City is fantastic. The trains come very frequently (the one time we had to wait 5 minutes for a train we were like wtf?!) and it costs 5 pesos (40c!) to travel with unlimited transfers. Rush hour was the most squished I’ve been in my life, but overall it was a super cheap and convenient way to travel around the city.

On the walk home from the metro station we stopped by a cafe where James ordered some mescal.
IMG_4309(James: when we move to California we should buy some mescal and oranges)

We also got to try maguey worms!

IMG_4316They were really expensive (I think over 400 pesos/$31 USD) but eh, you don’t get to try worms very often! Also I may or may not have realised how expensive the worms were before I ordered them.

James didn’t like them but I did. They were kind of like meaty french fries (and apparently they have heaps of protein!)

Tuesday

This was the day of our visa interview. It was also raining really heavily in the morning so we got soaked walking 30 minutes to the consulate. In hindsight I should have picked an AirBNB place that was closer to the embassy instead of in a cool neighborhood (I’m normally better about that but in this case I was seduced by the photos).

As far as I could tell we were the only E3 applicants. James thought it might work in our favour because maybe there would be a dedicated E3 agent but no such luck. The main stress came from not knowing what was going on and getting in the wrong line (individual employees spoke excellent English, but all the general announcements were in Spanish) but once we got on track the actual visa interview was very straightforward – we were easily approved and told to return on Thursday to retrieve our passports.

We spent the rest of the day visiting the Museum of Anthropology, which is this beautiful modern building in the middle of an enormous park (over twice the size of Central Park in NYC).
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The bottom floor seemed to focus on ancient ruins and the top floor more on the different Mexican cultures. We explored the whole museum but if you only have a short period of time I’d recommend focusing on the Aztec section. There’s some really impressive stuff there, like the Aztec sun stone (originally buried in the Zocalo), and a huge collection of stone figures.

Wednesday

On Wednesday we went on a private tour to see Teotihuacan, which was an ancient (100BC!) city in Mexico. We left quite early and got there at 7:30am, just before everything opened. The first half hour it was pretty much just us (and the workers) there, and it was pretty cool seeing the citadel and the Avenue of the Dead completely empty.

We saw these stone heads at the citadel:
IMG_4377Which they’d had a restored portion of (or replica?) at the Museum of Anthropology.

IMG_4350It was strange trying to imagine everything with colour. There were some well-preserved murals so we could get a sense of how everything must have looked.

Here we are in front of the Pyramid of the Sun (seriously, try to picture it in colour – bizarre!)

2014-08-13 09.51.30Other people were starting to trickle in by now. Given its size I thought the pyramid would be more challenging to climb (maybe if you do all the levels at once? We kept getting distracted) but the views were absolutely spectacular.

2014-08-13 09.37.38In the background you can see the Avenue of the Dead leading to the Pyramid of the Moon. We also climbed the Pyramid of the Moon (though you weren’t allowed past the first tier) and the view was also gorgeous.
IMG_4429Here I am carefully descending the steps. You get a much better sense of how enormous the pyramid is by seeing how teeny tiny everyone looks against it.

2014-08-13 10.25.50Afterwards we looked at some palace ruins, well-preserved murals, and a museum. We also had lunch in a cave.
IMG_4461It was super overpriced, but how often do you get to eat inside a cave?!

Thursday

In the morning we spent some time looking atDream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park at the Museo Mural Diego Rivera. It’s so stunning in person and I regret that we didn’t see his other murals at the National Palace. It was 12 pesos each for entry and there was a guy in the room (James and I are divided on whether he was a museum employee or just a Diego Rivera enthusiast) who explained parts of the mural to us.

Then it was time to pick up our visas from the US consulate. We had to get there at 3pm where everyone waited outside in a confused huddle until they started calling out names. Our names were never called (!) but the guard let us through anyway cos we had a piece of paper telling us to be there. We were taken to a special waiting area which freaked us out because everyone else got to go inside. We watched everyone else leave with their passports and visas until one of the employees told us that they couldn’t find our passports (!!!). Eventually they did find them and from there on everything went smoothly although we were by far the last to leave. =(

Friday

In the morning we went to Templo Mayor, which is this Aztec temple that some workers randomly discovered underneath Mexico City. There were 7 pyramids built over one another, and you can walk around the ruins and see the various layers.
2014-08-15 10.35.32The museum afterwards had various relics that were retrieved from the site as well as a model of the 7 layer pyramid that we were previously walking through:
IMG_4491The disk of the dismembered Coyolxauhqui is probably the crown jewel of the collection (I think the one on the level below is Tlaloc, who was everywhereat Teotihuacan, Templo Mayor, everywhere):

IMG_4498And this is their reproduction of how it looked originally:
2014-08-15 10.16.19I kind of love how gruesome a lot of their art is and how huge a theme death is. Case in point:
IMG_4489After the museum we picked up my pottery and went to a market to buy some Otomi bark artwork (I love death themed art but not on my walls. I bought cut-outs of friendly little seed spirits).

Then in the evening it was time for Lucha Libre! We went with a tour group – we could have done it cheaper on our own but I think going with a group was more fun. Our guide was awesome and explained the rules to us and taught us Spanish phrases to yell out.

2014-08-15 21.52.01He was friends with a couple of the wrestlers and we got photos taken with them which was cool.

Afterwards we picked up a lucha libre t-shirt for James (110 pesos or $8.50 USD). The t-shirts had really cool designs and I kind of regret that we didn’t buy more, but we were running out of cash towards the end and didn’t want to go to another ATM. Then we took the metro home, had 1am tacos, packed, and got an hour’s sleep before taking an Uber to the airport.

We arrived back in Seattle around 4pm with fresh US visas. =) Overall I’d recommend getting your visas in Mexico (especially if you speak Spanish!) It was scary for us because we didn’t know the language, but everything went well and we got to explore an amazing city that we never would have visited otherwise.
2014-08-11 15.19.36(Drinking a mescal cocktail and feeling very cosmopolitan in trendy Condesa)

Adios Mexico! I know how to say that at least.

Also lo siento, no habla espanol.