Bad Weather Hiking – Switzerland

Posted on January 24, 2016. Filed under: Switzerland, Travel | Tags: , , , , , |

Our first hiking day.  The trip had been planned for months.  The mountain vDSC08750iews had been dreamed about.  That feeling of being so small next to those behemoths.  And that air.  Oh, the big breaths of mountain air in the sunshine.  I couldn’t wait.

Ha!  It had been a wonderful summer AND fall, they told us.  Weeks and weeks of perfect weather, they said.  And now.  This.  Pea soup fog and rain.  No views.  So sorry.

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In the guidebook, that scene above has a backdrop of jaw-dropping mountains.  Not for us today, though.  We have to settle for the charming old stone barn on the grassy slope.

Getting to the col or pass was disappointing too…

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We could barely see right in front of us.  It does bring focus to the sharp terrain at the top of this col, though, forget about looking out on any vast expanse.

 

 

So, we decided to makeDSC08773 the best of it.  It could be snowing and a lot colder we told ourselves.  This is the mountains.  It’s unpredictable and it can change really quickly.  Or not.   Maybe we need to change.  Plans.

We did 2 days of this before cutting our losses and zooming off to Zermatt by train and bus.  After arriving there the sun came out and we did day hikes in fabulous weather for the rest of the trip.  Sometimes you just have to be flexible!

 

 

 

 

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Is the Cablecar Cheating?

Posted on January 11, 2016. Filed under: Switzerland, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

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Uh, the answer to that would be, “NO!”  Let’s not forget we are on vacation!  Perhaps a 6-8 hour hike in the mountains (read:  either all up or all down) is enough exercise?

We found the cablecars (téléphérique in French and seilbahn in German) in Switzerland to be fast, efficient, and a lot of fun.  We used them from our base of Zermatt to get up into the mountains to begin our day hikes.  We also planned to use them on the Haute Route whenever we could, but nearly missed the one into Zinal. 

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This is because the trail passes a cable car that closes at 4:15 and we had just missed it.  (Maybe there was some crying and stomping of feet.)  But then we found out 45 minutes later that first cable car station was for an entirely different town!  We just made the 5:00 last car down the mountain after a very difficult, wet, cold hiking day.  Our eyes bulged out watching the trail below the cable car.  It took about 20 minutes to descend on the cable!  We estimated an additional 2-3 hours if we had had to walk that path.

We couldn’t believe it when we were suddenly done with the day and off to find our hotel.  Ah…that sweet feeling of completing the hiking day.  Body buzzing…thanks to God for the help!

 

 

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Stay Home if You Are an Ugly American

Posted on December 9, 2013. Filed under: Philosophy, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - Bill at Cinque Terre

Hiking in the Cinque Terre

As we travel around we find many fellow travelers who are friendly and enjoying their trips as much as we do.  We also occasionally come upon what we term the Ugly American who makes us ashamed to come from the same place.

I think you are an Ugly American traveler if:

1.   You expect to be able to have everything just as you like it at home.  (“We insist on American-style coffee, not this espresso-stuff they drink here.”)  If you even try unusual local food/drink you expect it to be unpalatable, or something that will make you sick.

2.  You get angry that there are other people trying to travel too.  You are surprised and irritated when you have to wait in line, share a table, or tolerate a crowd at an important attraction.

3.  You look at people’s customs, dress, and language with disdain.   You see nothing but inferiority everywhere you look.

4.  You expect everything to go perfectly smoothly.  When the inevitable disruption to your plans happens, you wallow in self-pity instead of finding a way to make lemonade out of lemons.

5.  You are frightful of local people, expecting them to rob you when they have the first chance.

6.  You are actually happy when you see McDonald’s, Starbucks, and the like in foreign countries.

When we run across Ugly Americans we try to slink away.  They want co-conspirators, though, so there have been times we’ve tried to show them the bright side.  Aren’t the differences in culture they are experiencing interesting?  Haven’t locals been friendly and helpful considering how many tourists traipse through their area every season?  Isn’t it amazing to see such wonderful, world-famous art/mountains/historical sites?

Trust me, there is no arguing Ugly Americans out of their mindset.  Next time I might just say, “You should stay home.”  That is the truth.  If you can’t enjoy the differences between your destination and your home, then you should stay there, at home.  If the food, drink, accommodation, weather, sights, people and transportation are irritating to you, why have you come at all?!  You are not enjoying it and your fellow travelers are ashamed of you.

Travel - Atop the Duomo

Atop the Duomo in Florence

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Chestnut seller in Florence

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Mountain Hiking – Big Small Contrasts

Posted on November 26, 2013. Filed under: Photography, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Travel - Swiss GrasshopperThis large green grasshopper greeted me along my way hiking in Switzerland.  I’m sure he was congratulating me on completing a very hard ascent and descent of the Fenêtre d’Arpette of the Tour du Mont Blanc.  I had to stop and admire his gorgeous green with black accenting.  He actually had big expressive eyes for a bug!

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One of the things I love about hiking in the alps is the wonderful contrasts of enormity and the diminutive.  I am a slow hiker partly because I am overwhelmed by the environment and I cannot rush through it.  A hike here is not just a good workout in nice surroundings to me, but rather a chance to really step outside of normal life and lose myself in a place.

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A Cork Tree?

Posted on November 23, 2013. Filed under: Plants, Switzerland, Travel | Tags: , , , , |

Travel - Cork Tree 1 Travel - Cork Tree 2

One of the surprising and fabulous plantings of the Promenade Fleuri in Montreux, Switzerland along Lake Geneva.  I have never seen a cork tree before!  I was amazed by all the tropical plants growing here.  Maybe there is a micro-climate around the lake?

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Montreux, Switzerland

Posted on September 26, 2013. Filed under: Switzerland, Travel | Tags: , , |

Travel - Montreux 4Montreux, Switzerland is a sweet town on the northern shore of Lake Geneva.  We took a stroll along its promenade dotted with fabulous plantings, sculpture, and repurposed objects used in landscaping.

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It was a beautiful day and many people came out to enjoy the atmosphere.

Travel - Montreux 3 Unfortunately, I had just arrived in Europe, and it was really the last thing I wanted to do.  Usually when I get to Europe the first thing I do is take just a little nap.  This helps me to readjust my body clock.  Because I didn’t plan this trip, much was out of my control.  Lesson learned!

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Tour du Mont Blanc – Fenetre d’Arpette at Last!

Posted on September 20, 2013. Filed under: Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

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We went back this year to the Tour du Mont Blanc and hiked a piece of it we missed last year.  Bill had a sore knee and this variant of the route warned of joint-crushing boulder climbing so we took the easier, though no less scenic, Bovine Route.  This year, feeling better, we went up to the Fenetre from the pretty little town of Champex Lac and then back down to the town.

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Here is the view of where we were going.  The little dip in the skyline right above the road is the Fenetre.  Doesn’t look so far, huh?

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I think this was probably the hardest way to do this because the route on the other side looks less rocky from the pictures I’ve seen, but we had a great place to stay in Champex which made for a nice thing to look forward to after the hard hike.  We also had a car which made it more difficult to do through hiking this time.  As you can see this is a very rocky path, and this is after the harder part of nothing but boulders.  If it weren’t for my trekking poles I could never have done this!

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At the top, though, there is quite a payoff with an amazing view of the Trient glacier, and the world’s tallest dammed lake.  I was amazed that it wasn’t very windy.  Every other Col I had been to had been brutally windy, but it was calm and sunny this day.  Really, we had perfect weather, lucky for September.Travel - TMB Fenetre 5The gourmet meal at the lovely Hotel Alpina at the end of the day really hit the spot!

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Tour du Mont Blanc and Swiss Preparedness

Posted on September 16, 2013. Filed under: Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Swiss Woodpile

It was impressive to walk through a little bit of alpine Switzerland and witness the amazing preparedness of these people.  Can you believe this woodpile?  After this picture I went around the back to use it for cover and, surprise!  There is another pile exactly like this right behind this one!  I was impressed with many woodpiles like this one that we walked past.

Travel - TMB Swiss Chard      Travel - TMB Swiss Preparedness

In addition, the gardens were beautiful!  Look at that chard!  I wonder if it’s still called Swiss Chard when growing right here in Swiss soil?

Travel - TMB Swiss BouldersIt’s beautiful in September, but the people around here must know brutal winter is coming.  The mountains have thrown down boulders the size of houses so they know.  Many of these boulders are big enough to climb all by themselves.  We ran across a climber who told us he was starting with boulder-climbing to get ready for sheer rock wall climbing.

All-in-all I was pretty amazed by Switzerland and these hardy mountain dwellers!

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Tour du Mont Blanc – Mountains and Lakes

Posted on August 13, 2013. Filed under: France, Italy, Photography, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Mountain Beauty

I was surprised at how few lakes we did see on our hiking adventure of the Tour du Mont Blanc.  There seemed to be water everywhere with streams running with lots of water many times requiring us to hike right through them.  But lakes, there were not as many as you’d think.

This particular morning, though, the trail went right along this beauty.  The air was so still that the surface of the water made for the most perfect reflection of the crystalline clear ultramarine sky.  Wow.  Here we have mountains, snow, sky and water more perfect in the reflection so I moved the land line up to showcase it.

This is one time the word awesome is an actual good description!

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Tour du Mont Blanc Panorama Photography

Posted on August 3, 2013. Filed under: France, Italy, Photography, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB panorama

I loved my new Sony NEX-5N camera for its panorama capabilities on the TMB.  I had to learn to use it, though, as the camera was new for the trip and I hadn’t had a lot of time to experiment before we left.  To operate the feature, you choose it from a menu, then hold the shutter release down while panning to the right.

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Any angling, though, will shut off the feature right then and there and the camera reports an error to you.  I found that I was prone to angling as I panned because the mountains go up!  So I learned to plan the sweep of the camera, starting high enough to capture the peaks that come into view as the pan progresses.  Whew.

Travel - TMB panorama 2It was worth figuring out this feature because some of these photos have made spectacular prints to frame.

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