Switzerland (III)- Lausanne and the Flying Cow

Our friends from home, Steph, Steve and their children Travis and Rita, have been in Lausanne for the summer while Steve does some research with an entomology lab here. They are house sitting a colleagues’ house In a cute Swiss village in the hills above lac leman. Happily there was room for four more, and we had a great few days together. Amos and Travis hit it off and kept the basement fussball table warm. We caught some Olympics, ate magnifique cheese and croissants, caught up and heard about each other’s European adventures. And had a dessert with seven different kinds of chocolate. HEAVEN.


Breakfast also included chocolate. Can you spot it?

 On wed we headed for the mountains – all on public transit!- and after a bus/ metro/ train/ mountain train extravaganza, arrived in the tiny village of Les Avants.  


 From there we hiked up, up, up to Col du Jaman, passing Swiss chalets And cows. I kept looking for Heidi. At the top, we found a fromagerie, and feasted fresh gruyere, raw goat milk cheese and beef salami. It was beautiful but not particularly warm, so we are quickly and didn’t linger. Brrr!  

 We walked down another way, to the village of Caux, past twisted avalanche gates and vertigo-inducing drop offs to the valley below.  Slight detour around the cows.


 At the bottom, there was a helicopter that kept flying back and forth, picking up a load. In one of the more memorable moments of our trip, we finally realized what was dangling from its rope: a dead cow. It had died high up in the mountain, and an unceremonious trip by air was the only way down.   We have neither a great photo of the cow, nor the stunned expressions on everyone’s faces. It is probably better that way. 

 Unlike the cow, we got a dignified trip down, and hopped a ride on the cog railway down to Montreux and then home. 

The next morning we all went to the olympic museum (minus Steve, hard at work in the lab). Lausanne is the home of the IOC. The Scott Bourises are hard core Olympic fans and we soaked it all up. The display on Rio was especially interesting, clelebrating the music and beach culture and soccer life of the city. We’re feeling a bit disconnected from the Games right now – not much wifi or TV – so we loved the big screen TV in the lobby where we stood with visitors from around the world cheering on the swimmers. Definitely worth another visit! 


Can you name the athlete who wore this outfit?

 We gave our excellent hosts a big hug in the Olympic gift shop, and headed out towards the mountains. Thanks so much, Steph and family – see you in Victoria!

Sent from somewhere on the Rhine


Switzerland (II) – Black Forest and Bern

We have had a busy few days this week, including trips to the Black Forest, bern and Lausanne. I am about five days behind on the blog, but who is counting? 

On Monday, stîll on rheinfelden, we took a trip north from Ingrid and Peter’s to Lahr, the German town where I was born and lived again from ages 10-13. We hadn’t really planned on visiting, but in Europe “everything is close!” And we had a free morning, so why sleep in? We hopped on the autobahn and gunned the Citroen. A one hour trip turned into three because of a big traffic jam and our choice of a pokey back road alternative, but the sun was out, the hills bright green, with geraniums overflowing from the Schwarzwald farms. In the end, We didn’t end up hVing much time there – we had promised Naeva we would be back so that she could go shopping with the other girls in the afternoon- but managed a sunny visit to the geroldseck castle, the location of many bouris family weekend trips in the 80s. It looks way better than I remember, graffiti and weeds removed, no more eau de urine and broken glass adding ambience. The view was amazing since you can now go higher than before. My knees were like jello- can you tell?!




We also stopped by our old house in wittelbach, and hung out in the sun on the new “actif pfad” in the woods behind our house. The view was as special as I remember, and whole valley looks so prosperous. Except our house, which looks like it has been a rental for a looooong time! 

A few days earlier, on our drive to Rheinfelden, we realized that we had left the last of the insulin in the fridge in craponne. $&@!!!?. Too far to go back…Jeanne quickly couriered it to us in Switzerland but it was turned back at the border…forgot to mention to not label it as “medicine”… Merde. Ingrid set up an appointment with their Swiss family doctor on tues am so that we could get a prescription. In a stroke of brilliance, Ian decided to try getting some over the counter on Monday night, when we got back from the Black Forest. It worked. Same insulin as at home. Same packaging even. Same cost as Jeanne had spent on the ill-fated courier shipment (80 usd). But we are set, and very grateful to Swiss efficiency and practicality!!!

We left Rheinfelden in good time on tues morning, triple-checked for insulin, and stopped in bern for lunch. One of Ian’s classmates from Madison is Swiss and lives there now with her husband. Another classmate of theirs happened to be there visiting, too, so there was a lovely mini-UW reunion. Lots of beer and cheese, just like Wisconsin!  

 We took a walk around town. saw the bears feasting on marmots in their new, naturalised home on the Aar river (sad bear pit of my childhood no more). Looked down over winding streets and row houses and churches with a uniquely Swiss feel. Had gelato. And then it was time to go. Thanks for the visit Judith, Ray and Ryan! So good to see you all, especially in such a beautiful city. 


Sent from somewhere on the Rhine

Switzerland Part 1

The frequency of blog posts is decreasing; a direct correlation with the increase in visits to friends this week. It is late at night now in Lausanne (actually 1 am) and Ian is snoring beside me. We’ve been  here visiting Victoria friends Steph, Steve and their kids in Lausanne for the last two days and wish we could stay another week.  The hikes! The cheese! The chocolate! The mountains! More on our adventures in Lausanne coming in Part 2.

NOt exactly sure where we are going tomorrow – CHamonix?- but we need to be in the French Pyrenees for Sunday so will load up the Citroen and see where the weather takes us.

We last saw our friends Peter and Ingrid in Madison ten years ago, as we each packed up our two-year old girls to move away (us back to Victoria, them to SF). They are now near Basel, Switzerland and we had a wonderful reunion for five days with them and Sylvie (now 11), and got to know Jonas (3), cousin Tyler from NYC and friend Emma (13) from California. We picked up right where we left off and enjoyed great meals, conversations and four spectacular days at a Moutain lodge near Klosters. We hiked everyday- rain and sun-, fell asleep to cowbells in the pastures, and slept like babies under the down duvets.

Sylvie and Naeva and another friend visiting from the US were a happy threesome, filling Naeva’s tank with girl time and some exciting adventures, including a six hour hike on their own to and from a glacier lake, with no adults along. That is a story for another post, hopefully by Naeva.

Here a few photos.

Waiting for the van to take us 14 km up the valley from Klosters

 Our Berghaus

You can see it way way down in the valley

Ian enjoying two of his favourite things: beer and mountains

Shots from our 8.5 hour hike to the Jorisee


Dinner with the gang in the lodge…so good….

The animals of the mountains 


Cousins in the Alps!

Adrienne, Matt, Maika and Oscar decided to spend part of their summer holidays in France this year. Unfortunately our itinerary was already a bit jam-packed for the next few weeks, but we did get out Monsieur Google to see if there was anywhere that our paths could cross. After some serious map consultation, we decided that lunch on August 3rd could work, in a small village near Geneva, as we were enroute to Basel.

We tried to keep it a surprise for the kids but failed miserably. Amos was so excited on the way there that he nearly exploded. Ian found us a lovely restaurant to have a long French lunch, while the boys played swords on the lawn, and Naeva and Maika designed new outfits on the IPad. Magnifique.  So glad it worked out. 


Craponne sur Arzon

We spent a wonderful few days at the Petit (now Humphries) family house. Madeleine is Naeva’s close school friend from Victoria and we were invited by Jeanne to stay with them in their summer home. It was super for Naeva and to see her friend after 5 (long she would say) months away. There were lots of kids and cousins around so Amos and a great time playing too. A welcome change for the kids and us after so much focused family time.

But the time was wonderful mostly because of our super hosts – Marie-Ellene, Keith and Jeanne. We had many wonderful long dinners and lunches with lovely French food, always a sumptuous cheese course and nicely aged wine from their wine cellar  – this was a traditional French family home after all. We sampled a great variety of red, roses and white supplied by our hosts but also from friends and family who had stalked it over the years. 

Craponne is in the Haute Loire at almost a 1000m and surrounding by lovely rolling French countryside and castles and churches everywhere. Craponne was a perfect sized small town. Small enough that Jeanne and her family seemed to know everyone (she seemed related to much of the town) but big enough for a campsite, swimming pool, two or three bakeries and great Main Street with cafes and everything you need. We visited the Chapel of Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe in Le Puy, perched on top of a volcanic cone. Apparently the region is often called the region of volcanoes because of the of features in the region. One of our outings was a short hike to a super lookout over the region and a huge lava flow that dried in blocks. 

Just rushing out to the Suisse Alps. More on that later. But here is a photo montage of Craponne.



Best and Worst of Croatia

Please take a look at Kristina’s Hvala Croatia post as well. On our drive from Lyon to Craponne sur Arzon we collated our best and worst of Croatia. I (Ian) was superbly impressed by Croatia. Wasn’t quite exactly as I expected. There is a lot more visible history than I imagined – Roman, Venetian, Austrian, Italian – with both Cities and towns that are very medieval and oozing with history. The coast is super rocky, which means generally rocky beaches (which was expected) but what I hadn’t expected was the fields and hills covered in rock walls and rock piles, painstakingly hand picked over the centuries to allow trees and other plants to grow. In this landscape they produced the staples of Croatia – wine, cheese and olive oil. Didn’t know that either. Apparently the Croatian wine industry was wiped out in the early 20th century by a blight but it is now more established again. The other big impression is how well known and busy Croatia is. Coming from Canada I thought maybe we were going to the quieter part of Europe. Maybe it was the quieter part of Europe but the beaches are full, roads busy and cities and towns jammed. But as someone said last night at dinner. Well this is Europe. We really enjoyed it despite the crowds and did get away from tourist track now and again.

So to our list and then some photos.

Favourite beach:

I: Vela Luka beach, Supetar. Nice variety of beach, good snorkelling, pretty quiet.

K: Me, too. Vela Luka, the sandy beach in Supetar. Crystal blue water, always a perfect temperature. 

N: The second beach near our place in Senj. It was warm, tucked away and not too busy.

A: Lovracina, a sandy beach where you didn’t need to worry about sea urchins

Favourite meal:

I: Fish platter at the local bistro (Vinotoka) in Supetar

K: Three-way tie: For atmosphere, the lamb peka at the restaurant on the hill in Dol. For deliciousness, the grilled lamb and octopus salad at Vinoteka. For something special, landlady’s treats in Senj: homemade fruit liqueurs, soups, sheep cheese scones.

N: A tie between lamb leg on the grill at Vinotoka, and lamb chops on the grill in Trogir

A: Homemade pasta with lamb sauce (ragu) at Konoba Nada in Vrbnik

Favourite drink:
I: Plavac Barrique, red wine

K: Plavic Mali Kastel Gosponik in Dol

N: Croatian hot chocolate in Supetar – basically a drinkable chocolate pudding

A: Orangina

Least favourite thing about Croatia:

I: Being too hot to sleep sometimes.

K: Crazy rash and some kind of allergic reaction to Croatian mosquito bites.

N: Zlatni Rat (famous beach in Bol). The scenery (see blog post on Zlatni Rat), and it was really overrated. Because really, it was just a beach.

A: The two hikes in Velebit National Park. And the Dolcevita hike on Brac. Too hot.

Favourite place (other than a beach):

I: Premuzic Trail in Velebit National Park. Great views. Crazy terrain. Interesting rocks. Beautiful, well-made trail.

K: Hiking the Premuzic Trail in Velebit National Park. And wandering the tiny alleys in Vrbnic on Krk Island.

N:Trogir, in general.

A: Pletvice Lakes. And the Konzum Super (the supermarket), because you can buy Lego there.

And some photos of recent adventures: Lukovo beach again, Zavratnica (near Jablanac), Rijeka and Trogir plus a few from the last stormy day in Supetar.






Hvala, Croatia!

Didn’t have a chance to post before we left Croatia, so am writing from the Haute-Loire in France where we arrived last night after a direct flight from Split to Lyon and a 2 hour drive through the Auvergne. We are visiting Naeva’s good friend from home, Madeleine, and her family from Victoria who are here visiting les grandparents at the family home for the summer. Their house has many guests at it – we will be 17 for supper tonight! – so Ian, Amos and I are at the campground down the road. We had a spectacular 4 hour thunder and lightning show last night, an impressive welcome back to the tent after a month away. So happy that it is new and 100% watertight. It was something else. 

Here we are wandering the streets of Craponne this morning.

Croissants for breakfast 

 BEfore we left home, we joked that our last month on the road would be our couch surfing month, the month where we were out of money and gleefully took advantage of every person who had ever said “if you’re ever in Europe, you should come visit”…Well, here we are! As of today, we have officially started on the last chapter, the last month of our six month trip. We, Naeva especially, are excited to spend much of the next four weeks with friends, three stops which will feature 12 year old girls! We’ve had a wonderful month in Croatia as a family of four, lots of time together, and it is time to re-open ourselves to the world and other people a bit. Needless to say, I’m a bit sad about it, too. So grateful for the last month together, without having to share Ian, Naeva or Amos with anyone else. Will we ever have this much time together, just the four of us again? 

I think everybody really enjoyed the time in Croatia. What at a lucky situation that we didn’t know until too late that we needed a long-stay visa to stay in the Eurozone for more than three months – and that we had to find somewhere else to go outside it for a month. The carpet is well-rolled out for tourists, who seem to come from every country in Europe. We loved playing the licence plate game in parking lots and on the roads- Belarus, Latvia, Macedonia, Turkey, Finland..

There were some odd bits. Despite a devastating Croatian war only twenty years ago, you would be hard-pressed to find any public mention of it. There are hardly no monuments or memorials to it that we could find, except in a small village near where the war started. This, despite passing through villages were the houses and churches still have holes from the shelling, and houses visibly in ruins. Detailed interpretive signs that tell of history all the way back to the 600s skip over any recent events from only 20 years ago. Maybe it’s too raw, too soon? Or maybe putting on a brave face for the tourism industry, that seems to be the mainstay of the economy.  In any case, we loved it all, and will be back again to bob in the Crystal blue water.  Magnificent. 

 Amos enjoying the in-flight service on Croatian Airlines: olives, goat cheese, crostini and great wine (ok, he had apple juice)!