Zurich, Absinthe & Tina Turner

 

In 2004 I received an email from my friend Trong, who lived in London. We hadn’t seen each other in years, and he wanted to catch up. We emailed back and forth for a few days and he suggested that we should go on a holiday together. I thought it would be a wonderful idea. He suggested him coming to America, I said that wouldn’t be much of a vacation for me. I then suggested that we go to Switzerland, so we could go skiing and enjoy the winter. He loved the idea. We made all of our arrangements and confirmed that our flights would be arriving close to one another.

Trong and I met when I was in London the first time during my high school experience abroad. We had a mutual attraction towards one another, but I insisted we just stay friends. I was not searching for a boyfriend at this time. With that said, we did only book one room at the hotel, as we did want to catch up with each other.

Living in Austin at that time, there were no direct flights to Zürich, so I had to switch planes in Newark NJ (No, it’s worse than you think!). Finally, I was comfortably in my row of seats without anyone around me and I was able to lay down across all 5 seats and sleep well on the flight. I got up a few hours before landing and went over to a window to gaze down, you could see the beautiful snow covered countryside and my heart was in love.

Going through customs was a breeze and I made my way towards the baggage claim. Mobile phones back then were not very good for international service, so I had left mine behind. This made me somewhat nervous because I wasn’t sure how Trong and would be able to meet. Luckily enough, as I went to grab my bag Trong was there with his luggage waiting for me. His flight had arrived early and he had been waiting for about 20 minutes. We embraced warmly and headed towards the train station.

Neither one of us had been to Zürich on our own before, so this was something of an adventure for us both. It was nice to have someone with me, who also didn’t know what he was doing. We made it on the right train and were semi-confidant that we were going the right direction. On the train, we talked about our flights and caught up with our work situations, living, etc etc. It was so nice to catch up with an old friend.

We arrived in Zürich and it was beautiful. The ground was covered in ice and snow. Both Trong and I slipped multiple times making our way from the train station, across the bridges and finally to the hotel. We booked our suite at a specific Gay Hotel in the gay neighborhood. We wanted easy access to the bars, and since I could legally drink here, I planned on taking full advantage of it. The hotel was a boutique hotel and very cute. The staff was friendly enough, they gave us our keys and we walked up the four flights of stairs to our room. The room was not enormous, but was rather large. We had a few sets of windows that we both went to immediately and opened up. The decor of the room was a little  queer, very bright colors, not matching at all and very bad pictures of “art” in cheap frames on the walls. The wall paper in the bathroom was my favorite though, the rich blue color with the velvet texture was something I had never seen before.

Trong and I unpacked our luggage, discussed what we wanted to do and see over the next few days and settled in for a bit. Both of us had breakfast on the plane, so we weren’t yet hungry for lunch. We thought we could just walk around the city and explore a little. We started out, not knowing which way to go, we just went one direction and if it led nowhere we would turn back in a new direction. Our steps became for confident as we grew accustomed to the snow and ice on the ground. and after witnessing a number of people slipping and falling on the ice, we were aware of what areas to use caution.

We stopped in to a German restaurant for lunch, and both pigged out on sausages. We both felt like tourist, being surrounded by people all dressed in business suits and dresses. It was rather neat though hearing the different languages being used. The server was a happy chubby woman, and she was incredibly sweet to us. She knew right away we didn’t speak the language, so she brought out her heavy accented English, and we were truly grateful. She asked us about our vacation plans, and even provided a few tips and suggestions on what we should see. One suggestion was to take a boat out on Lake Zürich, she said that even though it is so much more beautiful in the spring with all of the flowers and green growing, that the winter does hold its own magnificence.  She also gave us the directions where we could find a bus tour to Mount Titlis to walk inside a glacier and go skiing if we were brave enough. That last one sounded like a challenge and I wanted to try at the very least.

After we left lunch we walked down the streets, peering in on a few shops and boutiques along the way. Finally we were back at the hotel. We spoke to the concierge about the things we wanted to do, and he was kind enough to send up a few pamphlets of information for us.  We had our plans set up now.

On the first day we took the boat out on to Lake Zürich, which was stunning. Although quite chilly out on the deck, the hot coco inside the cabin was a delicious treat. Being able to get a panoramic view of the city was remarkable. That evening we  walked around the city more, and found a loud tavern in which to have dinner. The dinner(and drinks) lasted for about four hours. We did not expect the Swiss to party this much.

The following day we made our way to the bus tour of Mount Titlis. The tour guide, a sweet woman named Rose told us what we could expect from this trip and we were looking forward to it. The tour group was rather small, it was Trong and myself, a group of three Asian stewardesses and two older couples. The three Asian stewardesses started talking to us on the bus, and we all merged our groups in to one.

We made our way up the mountain and finally had arrived.   First thing we all wanted to do was walk inside of the glacier, as none of us had ever done such a thing. It was so cold inside, but it was incredible. A long cave to go walking through, and incredibly well lit too, I might add. We had a passer by take a few photos of us. As we slid around on the floors of the glacier. After that we made our way to the ski lift, I had to try skiing at least once. So we made our way to the top, all decked out in rented gear. We were shown to the least experienced area, thank goodness. After falling down and twisting my ankles and body in to so many odd directions, I had decided that skiing was not for me. We all had plenty of laughs at each other and finally decided that snow tubing down the hill was the best option for us all.

That evening as we were coming back down in to the city. We all exchanged e-mail addresses with each other. The stewardesses were all leaving tomorrow morning, so that was the last we would see them. That night Trong and I wanted to go to a gay bar and meet some more locals. So we made our way back to the hotel for a nice hot bath and to get ready to go out again.

We stepped in to the bar that was just a block away from the hotel and met Tony and Patricia. They loved talking to tourist, and especially enjoyed using their English language skills with us. They bought us a few rounds, we bought them a few rounds and before I knew it, we had drunk about 20 drinks a piece. I gently grabbed Trong’s arm and told him that I needed a breather before we continue to drink like fishes. I stepped outside in to the cold night air and looked at the fountain in the center of the square. It wasn’t running, but it was still very pretty.  I walked around the small square and gazed in the window of the chocolate shop craving everything that was inside. I heard the bar door open again and turned around to see Trong with Patricia and Tony all walking my way. They said that they had to take us to try Absinthe, and there was a bar just a block away that did it right.

I had not heard much about Absinthe until this point, but they assured me I would love it.  The Sugar cube, the fire, the neon green color…I had no idea what I was in for. The bartender smiled at me and told me that it was something I would never forget…or remember. He gave me a kiss on the cheek right before I lifted the glass. I drank the drink and I was out.

Awaking the next morning in my bed at the hotel room, I was A) relieved that I knew where I was and B) happy to see that it was Trong beside me in bed and not anyone else. I got up and made a cup of tea, my head was throbbing, so I first drank a large glass of water. Trong slowly got up and I begged him to tell me what happened after the Absinthe last night. He looked at me and said that he had no idea either. He too blacked out after he drank the shot. We both checked our wallets to make sure we weren’t missing anything, and I was even lucky enough to still have my disposable camera. I told him that once I got the pictures developed, I would let him know if anything else had happened to us that night. There was a photo of me in a sling, but I have a smile on my face so it couldn’t have been that bad.

Later that night we wanted to try the gay club that was right next door to our hotel. We both promised to stop the other if we were having too much to drink, although neither of us were planning on drinking anything more than a soda at the club. The music was really good and we started dancing. The crowd was a fun mixture, of guys in their 20’s and 30’s, mixed in were a few woman as well. After dancing for an hour or two, Trong and I headed over to the bar to get something to drink and to lean up against something for a minute. As we were shouting back and forth to each other (The music was incredibly loud), an older dignified gentleman approached us. He introduced himself to u as the owner of the club and said that he was impressed with our dancing and our energy. I think it was my Spice Girls moves that really grabbed his eye. He asked if we would like to go to the VIP room for a drink.  We both were cautious but very curious, so we followed him to the back of the bar, towards the restrooms, there was a long dark corridor that surrounded the back of the bar, this was where all the cruising happened. Although I have heard of this before, I have never seen it. Austin Texas didn’t have cruising corridors in their bars. As we walked in the dark, Trong grabbed my hand, and me being all macho, squeezed it back to assure him it was going to be ok. Just as the last bit of light disappeared from our sights, a door opened into a red room.

There actually was a VIP room hidden behind the cruising section of the club…how queer. As our eyes started to adjust to the red tint of the light, we could tell if it was actual red lights in this room or if the wall color was red. Either way, everything had a red hue to us. As this guy walked us in to the  room we could see about 10 other people in the room, all sitting in different sections of sofas and chairs, having drinks and making quiet conversation. Something that could not happen at all in the club. We walked over to the bar, and he poured us two glasses of champagne, and put the bottle back on ice. Trong and I looked back and forth at each other. We had watched him the whole time, and made sure nothing was put in our drinks, and finally we felt better when he poured himself a glass from the same bottle and toasted us. He then walked around the bar and over to a section of sofas in the far end of the room. He motioned for us to follow, and we did. A couple were just getting up from talking to an older woman or drag queen. The three of us approached this woman and as we got close the owner introduced us. “Kevin, Trong, I would like you two to meet, Tina Turner.” My mouth fell to the floor. There is no way, this couldn’t possibly be, no way in a million years would…”Tina, I would like you to meet Kevin and Trong. Kevin is American, like yourself and Trong is British.” We shook hands, and she invited us to sit with her. We actually got to sit down and talk with Tina Turner.  This was incredible. She was so kind and soft. a wonderful smile and a charming laugh. She asked how we were enjoying ourselves here, and she told us that she loved Zürich so much, that is why she moved there. It was an incredible evening. As it was approaching 2am, the bar was starting to close down, and Tine Said she had to leave. We thanked her for talking with us, and watched as she exited the room through the now lit up cruising runway. We soon followed behind her, but not too quickly as we didn’t want her to think we were following her.

Back in the hotel room, I was on cloud nine. Trong needed a reminder of who Tina Turner was (Bless his heart). He finally remembered and was very happy about whom he had just had a conversation with. I couldn’t believe that we were leaving tomorrow. After such an extraordinary trip, I didn’t want it to end. We both snuggled up in bed, very tired from all the dancing and simply passed out. We woke up early the next morning and made our way across the ice back to the train station.

We held hands on the train ride back, not as a romantic gesture, but as a friendly one. At the airport we hugged each other for one last time saying that we should do this much more often, and finally parted ways. What an amazing holiday.

 

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