New beginnings Part II: Living Large in Jouxtens-Mézery

October 28, 2012

Around Lausanne

It’s a snow day here in Switzerland, our first serious blast of winter, so it seemed like a good day to update the blog. Since this is rapidly turning into “Graham’s outdoor adventure blog,” I figured it was time to write about something else for a change. So now that we have finally unpacked and settled into our new house, I’m going to tell you about where we live and share a few photos of the house and surrounding community.

First of all, we live in a small community of about a thousand residents called Jouxtens-Mézery, which is on the northwestern edge of the city of Lausanne, which I described in a previous post. Our home search was mostly focused on neighbourhoods and communities in the north end of the city due to their proximity to the International School of Lausanne. Beginning last spring we spent hours on home rental web sites looking for prospects and Kathryn viewed dozens of homes and apartments after moving to Vevey in April. Given the trauma that we were about to subject our kids (and ourselves!) to, we felt that selecting the right home was important and we were prepared to splurge a little. Between ourselves and the kids, we had a number of housing criteria to satisfy (proximity to school, public transit, and extra-curricular activities; guest room; storage for sports equipment etc.) and a long wish-list too (view of the lake; larger bedrooms; exercise/rec room; yard; pool etc.). Together we toured more homes during my visit in May and submitted bids on 3 different houses, losing out on all three. We learned some bitter lessons about the cut-throat Swiss rental market in the process!

By the time of my final visit in mid-July we still hadn’t found a home and were starting to panic, as we had already made arrangements to move out of our Toronto home on August 3rd and had booked flights for the final move on August 12th. While we could count on staying in Kathryn’s temporary apartment in Vevey for months if necessary, we really wanted to find a permanent home and settle in as soon as possible after the kids and I arrived. Plus the twice daily commute from Vevey to the international school in Lausanne  would have been miserable! To make a long story short, Kathryn and I finally found a home that suited most of our needs (and wishes) during my visit in July and, while we initially had some misgivings about the home, we have since grown quite fond of it.

Jouxtens house – rear view

The house we finally chose is the end unit of a 2-story triplex built in the style of a modern Italian villa. The triplex was built on a large corner lot by an extended family about 10 years ago and consists of 2 family-sized end units and a small middle unit where the grandparents lived. There is a patio and large shared outdoor pool in the back. We’re not sure what happened to the original owners, but it was recently bought by an investor and we were the first to rent a unit. Another expat family from Turkey has since moved into the other end unit, but the middle unit remains unoccupied, which suits us just fine.

The new house suits all of our needs and more. The living spaces are large and filled with natural light. The bedrooms are spacious, and we have an extra one for guests. The kitchen and bathrooms are all up-dated and well-appointed. We have a large outdoor patio with a view of Lake Geneva and, on a clear day, Mt Blanc. Our daughter Emma loves the pool. Our teenaged son Lachlan got the basement bedroom he wanted. The basement has ample room for sports equipment, skis and bikes, and the rec room is big enough to double as an exercise room, complete with weights, rowing machine and SkiErg (my latest toy). In short, we have completely spoiled ourselves!

View down to Lausanne and Lake Geneva from our 2nd floor

OH, and have I mentioned that we have a nuclear bomb shelter?! Yup, that’s right. Swiss law seems to require that new homes come equipped with a concrete bomb shelter complete with blast door and ventilation system. I guess this is so that we can survive a nuclear blast, and after emerging from our shelter after a few weeks, we can carry on as usual in the post-apocalyptic world. In the meantime, it makes for a handy storage room and wine cellar!

Despite all its wonderful features, the house does have a few drawbacks and idiosyncrasies. First of all, virtually every interior surface is made of stucco, glass or porcelain tile, which makes for a somewhat cold ambience and a lot of echo in the rooms. Conversation reverberates for hours! I’m not sure if these are interior materials preferred by the Swiss in general, or just by Swiss landlords (owing to their durability). And whoever decided to lay down cream-coloured tile everywhere (which hides nothing!) didn’t have to do the sweeping and dusting! Who knew dust-bunnies grew and reproduced so fast! On the plus side though, no more being woken up in the night by squeaky hardwood floors.

Frolicking in the pool

We also have these high tech “smart” kitchen appliances from Miele that have computer chips and all, but that you need a PhD to figure out how to operate! And talk about tempermental! The worst is our “induction” stove-top, which refused to work with most of our pots and went on strike the first few days (we had to buy new induction-ready ones).  And all the appliances have these warning beeps and other noises that are constantly going off when you do something “wrong”, without necessarily telling you what the problem is. It’s like living with HAL the computer from the movie 2001. I have been known to just unplug the damn things! (don’t tell them I said that, they could be listening).

Also, if you ever come for a visit and are sitting outside, don’t look up and to the west, or you will notice the giant high-tension hydro wires running along the edge of our property. The Swiss seem to like to bury most residential hydro and phone lines under the street, which makes for a lovely streetscape. But the city’s main arterial hydro transmission lines are all above ground and our house happens to sit beside one. Now, the aesthetics don’t bother us too much, and so far no one in the house has complained of headaches or tinnitus (knock on wood), but still.

Anyway, all these minor complaints definitely come under the heading of “First World expat problems”. Once we had moved in, unpacked and filled the house with our things, it quickly began to feel like home and we have been pleasantly surprised by how much we have grown to like it here.

Finally, let me just tell you a little about the community of Jouxtens-Mézery. The community is located on the northwestern edge of Lausanne near the top of an escarpment overlooking the city. The centuries old village consists of a few dozen homes, a church, a school, and an administration office. The rest of the community is made up of a mixture of stately older homes on very large lots and pockets of newer homes built in a modern villa style. It is extremely quiet and feels very suburban here, and yet we are less than 15 minutes from downtown Lausanne by car. We are literally on the border between the city and the countryside. When you go our for a walk you are as likely to run into the local sheep and cow herds as you are the neighbours. It’s definitely different from living near Yonge and Eglinton!

One thing that has taken a little getting used to here is the fact that the community doesn’t offer curbside collection of garbage and recyclables. Instead, there are below ground drop-bins for garbage scattered around the neighbourhood (fortunately there is one near our house). Recyclables, on the other hand, have to be brought to a central depot near the main village and dumped into various bins by hand. They are only open for a couple of hours every other day, but they have bins for an impressive range of recyclables (including Nespresso capsules!), and the kids now argue over who gets to throw the glass bottles into the bin (it’s so much fun to smash things!).

The location has turned out to be fairly convenient for all of us as well. In addition to being 10 minutes drive from the school, we are within 10-15 minutes of the practice fields used by Emma’s soccer team and Lachlan’s football team. While Kathryn does have a half hour commute to Vevey each day, we are just 5 minutes from the highway, which helps. I have also really enjoyed cycling in the surrounding countryside, without having to fight my way through aggressive city traffic. Lastly, we are very close to all those places like grocery stores, gas stations and hardware stores that everyone needs to get to. The only thing missing is a couple of local shops and a cafe within walking distance, but you can’t have it all. Almost, but not quite.

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One Comment on “New beginnings Part II: Living Large in Jouxtens-Mézery”

  1. Patricia MacDonell Says:

    Lovely home and surroundings, Graham.

    Reply

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