Desalpes!

Yesterday Evan and I went back to Charmey (where we had recently been hiking) to attend their Desalpes festival. Desalpes is when they move all the cows down from the mountains and take them to their winter pastures. We went with our friends from EPFL’s International Spouses Group but Chayne and Kate met us there as well. The people who move the cows get up very early that morning, wash and groom the cows, festoon them with flowers and then start herding them to their new homes.

There were ten different herds that were moved throughout the day – some we saw from the bus and others we saw first hand moving through the center of the town. There were about a million people there. There were also booths with local goods – food, artwork, cheese – and a group of men playing the Alp horns and cow bells. I’ve included videos below but be careful – they’re loud. Additional photos are here (including one of Evan using the least private urinal ever – you’re welcome).

Next week – the Black Forest!

Summer Hiking 2013

Although I haven’t been updating the blog as regularly as last summer we have still been doing a bit of hiking – some on our own and some with friends.

Lac de Bret (June 2013)

This was a hike that Evan and I took before our trip to Amsterdam. It wasn’t too far from where we live and ended with a trek through the terraced vineyards in Lavaux. The rest of the photos are here.

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Bloc Monstre (July 2013)

John Paul picked this hike – mostly because it is called Bloc Monstre, I think. We’ve been hiking a lot this summer with our friends Sarah and John Paul and it has been a lot of fun. We’re about the same speed so that’s nice. As you can see from the photos it was very sunny that day. It was a hot summer here in Switzerland – and very humid. More photos.

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Rochers-de-Naye (July 2013)

Rochers-de-Naye is another hike we did by ourselves. Again, it was a hot and humid day. Rochers-de-Naye is also known as Marmot Paradise where they have a bunch of penned up Marmots. I’m not entirely sure why but we skipped going up higher to see them. Photos, photos.

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Champex Lac (July 2013)
Our trip to Champex Lac was a retreat from the heat of the city. The lake was nice and cool and the short hike we took surprised us with a waterfall. Even better was the restaurant at the end and the very Swiss views. Photos.

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The Covatannaz Gorge (August 2013)

This Gorge was a fun hike – but steep. Up, up, up. We ended this hike at Ste. Croix (which is quite close to the French border) and were amused to see that there were signs for hiking paths to Spain with time frames of 96 days shown. We skipped these. Photos? Yes.

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Schonried (August 2013)

This was the only hike we took this summer with Chayne and Kate. It was in German part of the country and was a nice change from where we live (the French part). It was a beautiful day. And we saw a pig. More photos.

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Bettmeralp (September 2013)

The Bettmeralp (“the Better alp” says their signs) looks like a smaller version of the Matterhorn. It is also the gateway to the Aletsch Glacier. Or at least the “tongue” of the glacier. There were also some hilarious cows on the way. More cows, more photos.

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Charmey to Gruyere (September 2013)

This is the hike that we went on last weekend. I thought it was going to include a walk through a monastery but had apparently confused two different hikes. I did see some nuns, though, so that made up for it. Also, Evan refuses to walk across bridges with me. I’m not sure why. Photos.

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Coming up we have plenty to do to keep us busy. Next weekend is Museum Night where the museums stay open for free till 2am. The weekend after that is both the local wine harvest festival and the Desalpes (when the cows are brought down from the mountains for the winter). And then we have our long weekend in the Black Forest. We’re spending one day in Freiburg, one in Triberg and one in Stuttgart. In non-hiking and travel news, everything is going well. I’ve been keeping myself busy knitting, spending time with the International Spouses Group and forcing Evan to eat my culinary experiments. Evan’s work is going well and he attended a conference this summer in nearby Les Diablerets. Today is some sort of religious holiday so everything is closed. It is also cold and rainy (feels like home!) and summer is definitely on its way out. Fall is coming!

Spring Hike

Here is Switzerland we’re enjoying (or perhaps tolerating is a better word) the coldest, wettest Spring in 30 years. It has put something of a damper on our outdoor excursions. However, last Sunday (June 2nd) we went on our first real hike of the year. Evan found a website detailing some British expat’s hikes in the Jura Mountains and we used that as our inspiration to hike to Dent de Vaulion.

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We weren’t entirely sure of the weather but we made in to the top just before the clouds rolled in and were able to see all the views. With us were our friends Sarah and John Paul (Sarah I met through the Spouses Group and her husband, John Paul, is doing a math post-doc at the same University as Evan) who are from Georgia.

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Per the other blog, the hike should have taken us an hour and forty minutes but we made it in an hour and thirty-eight minutes. It was still pretty muddy and slippery in spots but we had a good time and I’m sure we’ll go on many more hikes as the weather continues to improve. And, of course, we saw some cows.

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We don’t have any outdoor activities planned this weekend but are having some friends over for game night on Saturday. My Mom very kindly sent us Clue and Monopoly so it will be a good time. Also, we’ve finalized our plans for a trip to Amsterdam for the last week in June/first week in July. We’re both really looking forward to it. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of photos to share when we get back. If you want to see the rest of the photos from the hike, they are here.

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Spring in Lausanne

Hello! Long time no post and I’ve no good excuse. Spring has been slow in coming to Lausanne. We had a cold, rainy, sometimes snowy, end to Winter and the cold and rain haven’t quite left us yet. It has been warm and sunny the last few days but I’m afraid it is nothing but a tease as rain is in the forecast for all of next week. However, we’ve been well – happy and healthy – so it is difficult to complain.

Evan’s parents – Dean and Claudia – were here for ten days in March and we dragged them all over our part of Switzerland. We visited Zermatt (The town at the base of the Matterhorn. Unfortunately the Matterhorn was completely obstructed by the cloudy weather.), Lucerne (Where the snow kept us from a trip on the lake and a ride up Mt. Rigi.), Grindelwald (Where we rode a train up to “The Top of Europe” and were rewarded with excellent view of the mountains.), Gruyeres and the Cailler chocolate factory, Geneva, and Chateau Chillon. It was a bit of whirlwind trip with many train rides but we all had a good time and Evan and I were very happy to have them here. We also tried our hand at two Swiss dishes – Raclette and fondue. Both turned out very well, if I do say so myself. I’ve linked each place-name to our photos from the trip.

Since then we’ve stayed pretty close to home. I think we were both a bit burned out on train rides. However, last weekend we met up with Chayne and Kate again to visit the nearby town of Sion. Sion boasts not one but two castles – Tourbillon and Valere. The weather was warm and sunny and we enjoyed walking around both the old town and each of the castles. More photos of that trip can be seen here.

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We don’t have any other big trips planned yet but are looking forward to Lausanne’s Carnaval which will take place the first weekend in May. We’re also beginning to think about where we’d like to travel this summer (possibly Amsterdam) and fall (Italy?). We’ll see – there are certainly many, many places to choose from!

Tacos!

On the 12th of January Evan and I met up with Chayne and Kate in Bern, the capital of Switzerland. Our plan was to go to the Zentrum Paul Klee – a museum dedicated to the work of Paul Klee, a Swiss artist. It is a very cool building a short bus ride from the train station with different areas – exhibits, space for kids, auditorium, etc. The exhibition we saw was The Angels of Klee. I liked it. Unfortunately there wasn’t much more on exhibition – I think because it was still early in the New Year and other exhibits hadn’t opened yet.

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So, we moved on to the city of Bern itself. First we visited the bear cages which Bern is known for but there were no bears. Hibernating, I suppose.

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We also walked through the old town where we saw many fountains and this:

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I was excited because we had seen the same clock on an episode of Rick Steves. Fancy. Chayne told me that the clock was also important for inspiring Einstein. Double fancy. However, by far the most exciting part of our trip – the part Evan is still talking about – is the tacos we bought from a food cart at the weekend market.

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Evan declared this to be the first real food he had eaten in eight months. I’m not going to lie to you – they were delicious. I didn’t take too many photos on this trip but you can see the rest here, if you are so inclined.

Last weekend we stayed around Lausanne. It was too cold to go anywhere although Evan did go skiing on Sunday. I believe he is planning a post about that soon but he didn’t take his camera so no videos. That reminds me – the last two videos in the last post were taken with my phone from the train on our way back from Austria. I didn’t realize that the phone was recording the video as well as the audiobook I was listening to – in case you were wondering about the narration over the scenery. Completely unintentional.

In other, more exciting news, Evan’s parents are coming to visit! They’ll be here in mid-March and we are really looking forward to having them here!

Verbier, December 9th, 2012

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It snowed consistently in Lausanne during the first two weeks of December. To me, this suggested that it was time to head up to a local mountain for some skiing. After a bit of cajoling, I convinced Katie to accompany me on the train to Verbier via Martigny. We had done this trip before over the summer, so this meant that main difficulties of the trip would be limited to figuring out how to lug all of my ski gear with us in the cramped 2nd class cabins, as we had already mastered the “navigation” component.

So, we packed lunches the night before and arose at the ungodly hour of 5:05 am to complete darkness. We carried gear down the “hill of death” to the Ours metro station and rode the subway down to the main train station, where we waited outside in the cold amidst panhandlers, late-late-night clubbers on their way home on the commuter trains, and (eventually) a smattering of skiers and snowboarders showing up on the same platform. The train left at 7:20 am, as advertised, and we were on our way to Le Chable, total trip time 1 hour 37 minutes. The transfer in Martigny to the private rail line involved some jostling for seats with a large number of ski-dudes and dudettes in their late teens and early 20′s. Fortunately my beard was somewhat intimidating : ), and we were able to get decent seats.

We soon arrived in snowcovered Le Chable, where we proceeded to wait in line for around 30 minutes to buy lift tickets – a full day pass for me that was included in the online Snow ‘N Rail package that I had purchased the day before, and a 15 chf round trip pass for Katie to ride the valley gondola up to the village of Verbier proper, perched at around 4500 feet above sea level, or about 1800 feet above the train station. Katie’s big right toe nearly froze while waiting in line, but recovered once we arrived to the heated seating area / lounge at the top of the gondola.

With Katie comfortably knitting / reading and drinking hot chocolate in the “lounge,” I headed up the Medran lift to the upper mountain, quickly realizing that I had very little concept of the layout of the mountain. I rode a series of gondolas and lifts to the top of the area that was open for the day (still quite early in the season), and then headed off to the edges of some runs to find some untracked snow. I ran into a British guy on my second lift ride who guided me to a quality run, after which I unexpectedly was accosted by a colleague from work, her husband, and a few people that I had met at an EFPL happy hour or two.

The five of us spent the rest of the day cruising around the resort together, exchanging ski technique pointers and information about the layout of the mountain. The sun came out for awhile, and then we headed back to Verbier to have our sack lunches and chat with Katie. After lunch we headed back out but there were many general casualties of motivation, some of which had to do with tired legs not yet used to ski season, and the frigid temperatures that set in as the sun gradually disappeared behind high flung, diffuse clouds that presaged an oncoming storm.

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At around 4:30 pm (or 16:30, as you are required to call it in Europe), we headed back to the village once more and split up for the day. Katie and I rode the gondola / cable car back to the valley and waited for the train in Le Chable, which was late, possibly due to an avalanche or snow of somesort obstructing the tracks further up Valais near Brig. On the way home we were treated to a veritable procession of acquaintances at each train platform and 2nd class rail car that we briefly inhabited. These included our sublettor / landlord of one month from the summer with his new wife, several guys from the nanobiophotonics lab at EFPL that I had met at a few SV happy hours, and perhaps others … Eventually we arrived back in Lausanne to a dinner of tortellini and a 3 hour skype conversation.

Until next time,

Evan

Mountains, mountains, mountains

I hope that everyone had a good Thanksgiving. Ours was pretty quiet although we did get to see/speak with both our families on Skype which is always nice. There has been snow in the forecast for the past couple of weeks without any snow falling. But today I’ve seen tiny snowflakes mixed in with some snow and Evan saw some cars with snow on them during his commute to work. We’ll see what happens.

I’m a bit behind in posting about two of our recent trips. I’m a lazy blogger. But let’s get started. On November 18 Evan and I took the train to nearby Gruyeres – where they make Gruyere cheese. Gruyere is often mentioned as a good place to visit because they have a medieval city, a castle, a chocolate factory and plenty of cheese. We started by walking up from the train station to the medieval city and then walked to the castle.

The castle was quite large and while we walked around it, we didn’t take the tour.

There was also a church and the bells happened to go off right when we were standing under them. I took a video so you could hear them.


We also saw some deer in the Deer Park and some sculptures by HR Giger – the Swiss artist who worked on the film Aliens. After lunch Evan wanted to take the path to the village of Moleson – a small ski area. We started up the path but eventually found it blocked by some logging.

Eventually we found a bus to take us up to Moleson and it was freezing cold. There wasn’t too much to see but we walked around until the bus came back.

The rest of the photos from that day are here.

Now, fast forward to last weekend when we took a trip to check out yet another ski area. We took a train to Les Diablerets and then a bus to Col-du-Pillon which is basically a ski lift to the ski area Glacier 3000.

We weren’t there to ski but to hike. After some confusion about where the trailhead was we started on our way to a village called Isenau.

Part way up we passed a lake that I can’t remember the name of.

And then we made it to Isenau which wasn’t so much a village but a few ski lifts. Do you see a pattern here?

There many more photos of mountains here. I didn’t take too many pictures on the way down because we took a different route that was very steep and I thought I might die.

Well, it has started to snow a bit here now so maybe I’ll be saved from having to walk up any mountains this weekend. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

A rainy day

Last weekend, on the 4th of November, Evan and I went for a walk through the nearby Lavaux Vineyards. It was something that we’ve meant to do for a while and just hadn’t gotten around to doing yet. It may have been better to do it earlier in the year as it rained a lot but being the stalwart Oregonians that we are, we persevered.

We started out by taking the local commuter train to a small and very pretty town called St. Saphorin.

From there we found the walkway that leads through the vineyards and through many small towns including Dézaley, Epesses, and Cully back to Lutry where we caught the bus back to Lausanne.


As you can see in the photos, the vineyards were built on the steep hills along Lake Geneva. The hills make an ideal place for the vineyards because it allows the vines to receive more sunlight – both from the sun itself and reflected off of the lake. Also it makes for an interesting walk.

Our walk took place after the harvest so there weren’t many grapes left. According to a sign Evan saw along the walkway most types of wine grapes are grown in Lavaux except for Merlot grapes. The irrigations systems set up for watering the vines were pretty impressive.

The walk was supposed to take three hours but I think we made it in a little under that. The last hour or so wasn’t as much in the vineyards as along roads but it was still a fun way to spend a few hours, if a little damp.






If you would like to see the rest of the photos, click here. This past weekend we didn’t do much – mostly just stuck around the apartment. We did venture downtown on Saturday to buy me a new pair of waterproof hiking shoes (lesson learned, Lavaux) and managed to get poured on during a rainstorm. I’ve noticed that a lot of Christmas decorations and lights going up around town and I’ll try to take some pictures of them soon (they haven’t actually been turned on yet). Also, ’tis the season of nine million Christmas markets. I’m sure we’ll visit a few.

It’s no Frankenstorm but…

The weather here in Switzerland has been very interesting lately. It all began with the Foehn wind. Per wikipedia, “a föhn wind or foehn wind is a type of dry down-slope wind that occurs in the lee (downwind side) of a mountain range.” People often complain that the Foehn causes headaches and/or trouble sleeping. We didn’t really notice anything and, only in hindsight, did I wonder about its effects. There was one day when I thought I had caught a cold Evan had but then it went away the next day. We decided to blame it on the Foehn. There are some people who consider Lausanne too far south to truly feel the Foehn but who knows.

Then the weekend before last, on the 21st, Evan and I met Chayne and Kate in a town called Affoltern am Albis. There we visited a show dairy where they make Emmenthal cheese – this is what most in the US know as traditional Swiss Cheese.

I don’t know how well you can see in those photos but the holes in the cheese are full of little tiny mold spores and little crystals. It was also very drippy. Dripping what, I’m not sure. The taste of the cheese was very strong – not like what you buy in the store (even here). After we toured the factory and ate lunch we took a walking path from the dairy to a nearby town where we planned to catch the train back towards home.



It was a beautiful day – very sunny and warm. Chayne got licked by a cow. The cow in the second photo is still probably recovering from our meeting. I accidentally snuck up on it when it was eating some grass near the fence. I didn’t know cows could jump or move so quickly. It may have thought the same about me. There are more pictures of the cheese factory, cows and rolling green Swiss hills here.

This weekend was very different. Evan had told me that it might snow but I’m not sure I believed him. However, there was snow mixed in with the rain on Saturday morning when I woke up. It continued for most of the day but had switched to just snow by the evening. It stuck to the buildings and plants but not to the streets or sidewalks. On Sunday afternoon we took the subway up to the last stop and took a walking path to a small wooded area.




It was cold! It isn’t typical for a snow storm to happen so early in the season. We’re at about 1,500 feet – the same as Portland’s West Hills, I think. The snow is pretty much all gone today. There’s still a few patches but it’s melting fast. More snow photos here.