After the grand weekend in Paris, I took a detour of just a few days in Lausanne, Switzerland, before returning to the States. The trip on the TGV was wonderful as always. There is just something so civilized about traveling by train: plenty of space, Wi-fi, more-than-decent meals, and the gorgeous French countryside streaming by at more than 300 kph (200 mph)! Oh how I miss this option when I am in the US.
Upon my arrival I was met at the station by my IMD classmate and host, Mathieu. We wasted very little time before heading up the mountain for something canonically Swiss: fondue! As I have blogged before, Le Chalet Suisse offers not only an authentic “chalet” experience and delicious fondue, but incomparable views of Lac Leman as well.
We arrived around sunset and were treated to gorgeous views, a crescent moon over the lake, and a magical twilight in the land of fairy tales before dinner. The magic only intensified as several other IMD classmates joined us for fondue. It has been nearly seven years since I met them all and nearly six since we finished the program, but meeting them again makes it seem like it was only yesterday!
As I have blogged before, I have eliminated grains and starches from my diet, which has had a positive effect on my body composition. One doesn’t exactly go into a fondue dinner for his health, but I at least intended to stick to my nutritional guns. My willpower wore down quickly, though, and it rapidly devolved into a cheat meal. This began with the bread I dipped into the fondue pot, continued with the potato I took along with Mathieu’s raclette, and then really hit a new high when I helped Allessandra finish her rösti. It’s too bad no one had any spätzle as I would have devoured it since I was already breaking my rules! It was a very Swiss and very perfect way to start my brief trip.
Monday morning I had breakfast with another classmate – one who is trying to launch a startup, incidentally. We had a nice breakfast in Ouchy right along the lake. Unfortunately most of the menu items had grains in them and I was trying to return to my strict diet, so guess what I had for breakfast: more cheese – because a huge fondue dinner the night before wasn’t enough! Well, there are worse places in the world in which to find yourself eating a metric ton of cheese!
I spent the day at IMD, which was a refreshing homecoming. In the morning I met with many of the MBA staff. I must have looked famished (Not!), because they took pity on me and invited me to lunch at the famous IMD restaurant. It was just as good as I remembered and offered plenty of excellent vegetables and fish so that I could dilute my cheese consumption a little.
After working from the IMD cafe all afternoon, I went back up the mountain and did some trail running. The previous several days of perfect weather were finally at an end and the mountain slopes were shrouded in a misty fog. This made for another fairy tale experience: picking my way first through the Parc de l’Hermitage and then the Bois de Sauvabelin – truly magical!
My hosts and I joined another IMD classmate for dinner at a local Italian restaurant. It turns out that on Monday nights they only have pizza available so it became another [delicious] cheat meal for me! Much as my breakfast classmate was launching a new venture, so was this other classmate at dinner. I’m beginning to notice a trend! I suppose alumni of the IMD MBA class of 2008 are nearing their seven year itch at their corporate jobs and starting to explore more entrepreneurial opportunities. It was quite rewarding to learn that my classmate had actually followed my online entrepreneurship lectures and found them very beneficial – glad to help!
Tuesday I began the day with a run along the lake. The fog over the lake and Chateau d’Ouchy recalled visions of the mists of Avalon. In order to make it back to my apartment, shower, and then return to Ouchy for meetings at IMD in time, I took the metro up and back. On the way up I received lots of stares as someone who was clearly out of place. Dressed in Under Armour and wearing Vibrams Fivefingers shoes, I was looking very un-Swiss!
However, on my way back down to IMD I received even more stares – this time because of my Google Glass, which is even less common in Europe than it is the US. Being so blatantly stared at was a really interesting sociological experience. Even as extroverted as I am, even as much as I enjoy the spotlight, I felt uncomfortable by the unapologetic gawking on the metro. I can only imagine how uncomfortable women feel when they are gawked at in public or, worse, catcalled and harassed.
Clearly this wasn’t as much of an epiphanous experience as, for example, Dustin Hoffman’s character experienced in Tootsie, but it still opened my eyes somewhat to how people in the minority feel when they are clearly out of place within the majority. As a white American male, I am more often in the majority in the US, so I will try to be more sensitive to those who are not.
Tuesday I got a little work done at IMD but spent most of my time catching up with former professors. I even went to dinner with one (Fondue again – the diet was on full pause by this point!), who was on the verge of taking on a new challenge as dean of another business school. He has been a professor, a mentor, and a friend to me, so it is thrilling to see him leave a very comfortable situation at IMD for a new adventure.
Wednesday I followed the path I still know all too well from my time in Lausanne: down to the train station, the train to Geneva Airport, and then the flight back to the US. Wednesday happened to be seven years to the day that I received my call from IMD’s fabulous alumni director notifying me of my admission – how poetic!
It was a very short trip, but it was wonderful to see so many friends and familiar places. It was a productive trip as well – in more ways than one! Shortly after my departure, my hosts gave birth to their first child (Congratulations!!!!). No need to thank me; I just seem to have that effect when I am a houseguest.
Now I’m back in the US and working hard to complete Smart OES’s funding round – big news to report about on that front soon!