• Autumn days (10/30/2020)

    With large numbers of new Covid 19 cases, we have suspended our hikes. However, we are lucky to live in Solothurn where a 5 minute stroll takes us to the edge of town for leisurely walks along the Aare river. Autumn is a lovely season with the air clear and the trees in all shades of warm tone colours. A treat for the eyes and the soul.

    Les chiffres élevés de nouvelles contaminations au Covid nous ont amenés à suspendre la plupart de nos randonnées. Toutefois, nous avons la chance d’habiter à Soleure où il suffit de 5 minutes à pied pour se retrouver en bordure de ville. Nous faisons donc de superbes balades au bord de l’Aar.
    L’automne est une belle saison pour se promener: l’air est clair et la végétation se pare de couleurs aux tons chauds, ce qui fait du bien aux yeux et à l’âme.

  • Trans Swiss Trail, stage 1 (10/10/2020)

    The Trans-Swiss Trail nr 2 goes from Porrentruy, in the Jura, to Mendrisio in Ticino, passing through Neuchâtel, Berne and the Emmental. It shares some paths with the Via Gottardo, notably the valleys leading to and from the Gotthard.

    Porrentruy surprised us: instead of a big village, we discovered a small town of 6,600 inhabitants with a definitely French feel to it. The stage goes through many woods and ends at the pretty but very touristic small town of St-Ursanne on the Doubs river. Unfortunately, the whole day was overcast.

    Le Trans Swiss Trail N° 2 relie Porrentruy, dans le canton du Jura, à Mendrisio, au Tessin. Il passe par les villes de Neuchâtel et Berne et traverse l’Emmental. Il partage quelques étapes avec la Via Gottardo, notamment les vallées amenant et quittant le Gothard.

    Porrentruy nous a surpris, nous attendions un gros village et avons trouvé une petite ville de 6’600 habitants avec un petit air français. L’ étape nous fait passer par des bois et finit dans la jolie mais très touristique petite ville de St-Ursanne, sur le Doubs. Malheureusement, le ciel était couvert du début à la fin.

  • Across Baselland (10/9/2020)

    After one week of rain, we were promised a couple of sunny, mild days, so we hopped on a train to Liestal to walk stage 2 of the Via Gottardo.

    Liestal is the capital of the half canton of Basel Land (as opposed to Basel Stadt).
    The walk then took us along train lines and a viaduct before going up on the Jura hills. We collected walnuts along the way.

    A travers Bâle-Campagne

    Après une semaine de pluie, Météo Suisse nous annonçait deux journées douces et ensoleillées. Nous avons donc pris le train pour Liestal, début de la deuxième étape de la Via Gottardo et capitale du demi-canton de Bâle-Campagne.

    Le sentier court le long des rails, anciens viaducts pour nous faire monter sur un plateau ondulé du Jura. Nous avons fait une jolie récoltes de noix au long des petits chemins.

  • Strada alta (9/18/2020)

    The Via Gottardo path nr 7 follows the bottom of the Leventine valley, passing through villages and small towns but staying close to the train track and freeway. So, we switched again to the nr 2, Trans Swiss Trail, and headed for the old Strada Alta, which keeps us at about 300-400m above the traffic. The hum of it is more or less present depending on the geography and the tunnels.

    The path takes us through chestnut trees forests and little hamlets. We got to Osco and took the postal bus down to Faido as we had to get back to Solothurn.

    These two long trails are a work in progress and we will be hiking the stages over this coming year.

    Le sentier n° 7, Via Gottardo, reste dans le fond de la vallée de la Léventine, proche de l’autoroute et du rail, traversant de petites bourgades. Donc, nous avons à nouveau choisi le sentier n° 2, Trans Swiss Trail, qui suit l’ancienne Strada Alta. Nous sommes remontés depuis Airolo et avons suivi cette voie qui chemine à 300-400m au-dessus de la vallée. Le murmure du trafic est présent mais distant et disparaît en fonction de la géographie et des tunnels.

    Nous avons traversé des châtaigneraies et des hameaux. Après avoir passé la nuit à Osco, nous avons pris le petit bus postal, qui fait office de bus scolaire, au petit matin afin de prendre le train à Faido pour rentrer à Soleure.

    Ces deux longs sentiers sont un projet en cours et nous le continuerons ces prochains mois.

  • Centuries-old mule tracks and Via Tremola (9/17/2020)

    The Gotthard has been a major north-south passage since  the 13th century, after a bridge was first built at the Schöllenen gorge, making transit possible. The hike up from Hospental is easy and pleasant and follows some old mule tracks.

    On the way down, we picked blueberries while admiring the Via Tremola. This paved road was built between 1827 and 1832 and reconstructed in 1951; there are 24 hairpin curves over a distance of four kilometres and an elevation gain of 300 metres. The retaining walls are also quite beautiful. It is popular with motorcycles (but they go really slowly) and bicycles.

    Before reaching Airolo, the path walks us through hazelnuts trees.

    Sentiers muletiers centenaires et Via Tremola

    Le Gothard est un lieu de passage majeur entre le nord et le sud de l’Europe depuis le XIIIe siècle. La construction d’un pont aux gorges Schöllenen rendit enfin le transit possible. La montée depuis Hospental est aisée, plaisante et suit les sentiers muletiers.

    En redescendant de l’autre côté, nous avons cueilli des myrtilles tout en admirant la Via Tremola, route classée monument historique. Cette route pavée, construite entre 1827 et 1832, soutenue par de beaux murs de pierres fut reconstruite en 1951. Il y a 24 virages en épingle à cheveux sur une distance de 4 kilomètres avec un dénivelé de 300 mètres. Elle est populaire avec les motos, qui vont lentement, et les cyclistes.

    Avant l’arrivée à Airolo, le sentier nous fait passer entre des haies de noisetiers.

  • A day for trains- and history-buffs (9/16/2020)

    The original Gotthard train line opened in 1882 and was a feast of engineering and hard work. Wassen church on its promontory is visible under different angles, as the train makes several loops around it, coming in and out of tunnels, in order to gain and lose altitude over a short distance. In Göschenen, it enters the tunnel to emerge at Airolo in the Swiss Italian part. The contrast between the two villages, at a similar altitude, is strong, the latter being sunnier and warmer, a promise of the south.  Panoramic trains go further up, pass the Schöllenen Gorge, Andermatt and go all the way to Zermatt.

    This part of the trail is also known as the Suworow path, named after the Russian general who marched his men from Milan to Flüelen to chase the Napoleonic troops out of this area. They went further to Ilanz, after the French had taken all the boats on the lake. The enemies battled at the gorge, by the devil’s bridge and there is a monument to the fallen Russians nearby.

    We reached Andermatt early, visited their most lavish and ornate church and walked on a few kilometres to Hospental.

    Une journée pour les fans de trains et d’histoire

    Le premier tunnel du Gothard a été inauguré en 1882, un sommet d’ingénierie et de dur labeur. L’église de Wassen, sur son promontoire est visible sur 3 côtés  alors que le train dessine plusieurs cercles, tout en entrant et sortant de tunnels, pour pouvoir gagner et perdre de l’altitude rapidement sur une petite distance. A Göschenen, le train entre dans le tunnel pour émerger à Airolo, au Tessin. Le contraste entre les deux villages, quasiment à la même altitude est très marqué. Airolo est plus ensoleillé et plus chaud, la promesse du sud. Des trains panoramiques continuent la montée, passent les gorges Schöllenen, Andermatt et vont jusqu’à Zermatt.

    Cette partie du sentier est également connue sous le nom de sentier Souvorov, du nom du général russe dont l’armée a marché de Milan à Flüelen, sur le lac des Quatre-Cantons, pour chasser les troupes napoléoniennes de la région. Le sentier va jusqu’à Ilanz car les Français avaient emmené tous les bateaux. Les ennemis s’étaient confrontés dans les gorges, près du pont du diable et un monument à la mémoire des soldats russes tombés lors de cette bataille est érigé juste à côté.

    Nous sommes arrivés tôt à Andermatt et avons visité l’opulente église avant de finir notre journée quelques kilomètres plus loin  à Hospental.

  • The cradle of the Confederation (9/15/2020)

    Shortly after leaving Seelisberg, we reached a promontory with a scenery familiar to a lot of Swiss. It is this view that Geneva painter Charles Giron chose to adorn the parliament in 1902. The scene shows the Grütli field at the forefront and the Mythen mountains of Schwyz, thereby uniting two cantons who were arguing about which one was the cradle of the Confederation.

    The walk was pleasant and varied, we passed old small castles, farmers working the very steep fields the old way and picknicked by the lake at Bauen.

    Once we get to the end of the lake, the path follows the canal of the Reuss and it is as flat as the Netherlands, although we are surrounded by very high mountains. This is the path to the Gotthard, so the very busy freeway and the railway, as well as local roads, are nearby. After about 5 kilometres and short of the end of the stage at Erstfeld, we took a bus to Wassen and avoided a long walk the next day through this narrow, busy valley.

    Le berceau de la Confédération

    Peu après avoir quitté Seelisberg, nous avons atteint un promontoire avec une vue familière à beaucoup de Suisses. Le peintre genevois Charles Giron a en effet choisi ce lieu pour peindre le tableau qui orne le parlement fédéral. La scène montre la prairie du Grütli au premier plan et les montagnes Mythen surmontant Schwyz. Il réunit ainsi deux cantons qui se disputaient pour savoir lequel était le berceau de la Confédération.

    Nous avons passé des petits châteaux, avons vu des paysans travailler dans des terrains si pentus qu’ils coupent l’herbe à la faux et pique-niqué au bord du lac à Bauen: une belle randonnée variée.

    Une fois arrivés au bout du lac, le sentier suit la Reuss canalisée et le terrain est aussi plat qu’aux Pays-Bas, bien qu’entouré de hautes montagnes. Ceci est le chemin qui mène au Gothard, l’autoroute et le train ne sont donc jamais très loin. Après environ 5 kilomètres, juste avant la fin de l’étape du jour à Erstfeld, nous avons pris le bus pour Wassen. Nous avons ainsi évité une longue rando le lendemain dans cette vallée étroite, ombragée à la circulation ininterrompue.

  • Away for a few days (9/14/2020)

    Having taken care of all our administrative tasks and with our bed, dining table and shelves not to be delivered for another week, we checked the weather forecast which promised us a whole week of summer.
    So, we packed our bags and headed for central Switzerland, advancing our Via Gottardo project, starting our  walk in Beckenried.

    The nr 7 path actually proposes a boat trip from Lucerne to Flüelen but we felt like walking and followed the Trans Swiss Trail long-distance (Porrentruy to Mendrisio) nr 2, another path we intend to hike. As it was hot, it was quite hazy but this area is spectacular nonetheless. We stopped at Seelisberg, heading down to Switzerland’s smallest, unmanned youth hostel. We were the only guests.

    Ayant pris soin des tâches administratives et nos meubles n’étant livrés que la semaine prochaine, nous avons vu que la météo nous promettait une semaine estivale. Aussi, nous avons refait nos sacs et sommes partis pour Beckenried, en Suisse centrale, avançant dans le sentier de la Via Gottardo.

    Le sentier n° 7 en fait propose de traverser le lac en bateau, de Lucerne à Flüelen mais nous avions envie de marcher et avons suivi le Trans Swiss Trail (Porrentruy à Mendrisio), que nous avons aussi l’intention de parcourir.

    La chaleur rendait la vue un peu brumeuse mais cette région est toujours spectaculaire. Nous avons fini la journée à Seelisberg et sommes descendus vers la plus petite auberge de jeunesse de Suisse où nous étions les seuls occupants.

  • Via Gottardo (9/9/2020)

    The newest of the long trails crossing Switzerland (nr 7) links Basel, at the border of France and Germany to Chiasso, at the Italian border and covers 320 km.

    We will walk the first few stages as day trips, each between 20 and 30km, since we can get back to Solothurn easily.

    For stage 1, we started at Basel train station and walked along the Rhine. The Roche tower, designed by local architects Herzog & de Meuron is the country’s tallest building. We crossed a park and kept walking through the port, Switzerland’s only direct access to the sea, about 600 kms away. Merchandise arrive from Rotterdam and the containers are then transferred directly onto trains.

    We entered Muttenz by crossing the large railway yard, suburbs and finally the original town which felt architecturally very close to Geneva villages such as Satigny or old Vernier.

    There were a few ruins of castles along the way, some forest walks and rolling hills with cherry trees until we reached Liestal, the end of the first stage.

    Le plus récent (n°7) des sentiers de grandes randonnées qui traversent la Suisse de bout en bout relie Bâle, aux frontières allemande et française, à Chiasso, à la frontière italienne et couvre 320 km.

    Nous marcherons les premières étapes, de 20 à 30 km au jour le jour tant qu’il nous est facile de rentrer à Soleure en fin de journée.

    La première étape débute à la gare de Bâle, nous amène au bord du Rhin, où nous passons la tour Roche conçue par le bureau d’architectes local Herzog & de Meuron; ce bâtiment est le plus haut de Suisse. Après un parc, nous traversons le port de Bâle, seul accès direct à la mer à environ 600 km de là. Les péniches arrivent de Rotterdam et les containers sont directement transférés sur le rail.

    Nous entrons à Muttenz par l’immense gare de triage et des quartiers anonymes pour arriver dans le village qui nous rappelle les villages vignerons du Mandement à Genève.

    Le reste de la journée passe par des forêts, ruines de châteaux et des prairies parsemées de cerisiers avant d’arriver à Liestal, fin de la journée.

  • A new base (8/31/2020)

    Covid-19 is changing everybody’s world for the foreseable future. For us, it means moving back to Switzerland to be closer to our family.

    We have found an apartment to rent – indefinitely, but for a minimum of one year – in the old town of Solothurn.

    We posted about this town in July, as we stopped here for a couple of days on our Jura trail. We looked in different parts of Switzerland but Solothurn presented a number of advantages.

    Here, we do not need a car as all the amenities are on the spot; it is reasonably-priced, easily accessible to/from Geneva by train and offers a very good quality of life. While the town has only 16,000 inhabitants, it is a city of culture, with museums, theatres, that also hosts the Swiss Cinema and Literary Days festivals and has a rich history. There is a lovely twice-weekly market where local farmers sell their products in the old town.

    We are looking forward to exploring the area further.

    Une nouvelle base

    Covid 19 change la donne pour tous; pour nous, cela signifie un retour en Suisse pour être plus proches de notre famille.

    Nous avons trouvé un appartement à louer, pour un minmum d’un an, dans la vieille ville de Soleure.

    Nous avions écrit un post sur cette ville en juillet lorsque nous nous y étions arrêtés lors de notre randonnée jurassienne. Nous avons examiné plusieurs options en Suisse et Soleure présentait un certain nombre d’avantages.

    Ici, nous n’avons pas besoin de voiture, tous les services et commerces étant sur place; le coût du logement y est raisonnable, Genève est très facilement accessible en train et la ville offre une excellente qualité de vie. Bien que Soleure ne compte que 16.000 habitants, c’est une ville de culture avec musées, théâtres et riche en histoire(s). Le Festival du Cinéma suisse et les Journées littéraires se déroulent également ici. Deux fois par semaine, le marché a lieu dans la vieille ville et les paysans locaux viennent y vendre leurs délicieux produits.

    Nous nous réjouissons d’explorer la région plus en profondeur.

  • A day trip in canton Vaud (8/16/2020)

    Our children offered us a day pass for all public transportation in the canton of Vaud, including many gondolas and chairlifts, to be used while we were housesitting in Lausanne.
    As we had walked along the Jura a month ago, we chose to head to the Alps. We visited Villars, Leysin and Les Diablerets and finished with a boat trip on the lake. A full day.

    Nos enfants nous ont offerts un pass d’une journée couvrant tous les transports publics et de nombreux télésièges à utiliser pendant notre housesit de deux semaines à Lausanne.

    Comme nous avions traversé le Jura vaudois un mois plus tôt, nous avons choisi de nous rendre dans les Alpes. Nous nous sommes rendus à Villars, Leysin et aux Diablerets et avons terminé cette journée bien remplie par un tour en bateau.

  • Summer housesits in Switzerland (8/8/2020)

    After Central Switzerland in late June, we were due to spend 10 days in early August at our hosts’ daughter along Lake Zurich.

    One of our walks in the area was to the Churfisten mountains, situated in the Toggenburg region of canton St Gallen.

    It was 33° in the valley, at about 850m so we treated ourselves to the chairlift to walk at altitudes of 1300-1600m. It was quite hazy and, while the seven summits had a good wow factor, they did not come up so well in photos.
    Not so far, towering over the region, is the Säntis, northeastern Switzerland highest summit, at about 2500m.

    After our Jura Crest Trail hike, we had spent a little over a week in the north of Switzerland, staying in small towns such as Baden, near the end of the trail, Schaffhausen and along Lake Constance.

    We had a housesit in Lausanne for a few days in late July and have come back to it, this time for two weeks.

    Après la Suisse centrale en juin, nous devions passer une dizaine de jours chez la fille de nos hôtes au bord du lac de Zurich.

    L’une de nos balades nous a amenés dans la région des Churfisten dans le Toggenburg. Comme le thermo. ètre indiquait des températures de 33° dans la vallée, à 850m tout de même, nous avons emprunté le télésiège pour marcher entre 1300 et 1600m. La chaleur rendait le paysage brumeux et ces 7 sommets ne sont pas aussi spectaculaires sur les photos qu’en vrai.

    Tout proche, le Säntis, la montagne la plus élevée de Suisse nord-orientale, dominait la région.

    Après le sentier des crêtes du Jura, nous avions passé un peu plus d’une semaine dans le nord de la Suisse, visitant les petites villes de Baden, Schaffhouse et passant du temps au bord du lac de Constance.

    Nous avions un housesit de 5 jours à Lausanne à fin juillet et y sommes de retour pour deux semaines.

  • The last days and some observations (7/18/2020)

    We took the gondola to get back up to Weissenstein and were on our way. There were a couple of passes well set up for barbecues and they were popular. The Jura is lower here and we see a lot less cattle and more cereal growing.

    We found a quiet spot for the night, proposed by a local farmer, the only flat piece of land we could find. We stocked up on food in Balsthal and kept on for another two days. With two more days to go, we gave up as we had run out of food and water; when we arrived at passes there were no cafés or hotels open. We had not seen any other hikers for 3 days.

    So, we took buses and trains and got to Baden in the evening. The next day John walked the last leg from there to Dielsdorf. So, he did finish, having skipped only one stage.

    Here are a few observations: while the hike begins near Zurich, all the people we met had started in Balsthal, Solothurn or Biel. We did meet two sets of hikers who had started at Dielsdorf but they walked the first seven stages as day trips only and travelled back home to Zurich every evening. It is probably advisable to do this hike from north to south.

    This is the third cross-country trail we walk in Switzerland and, while it stays at much lower attitudes, we find it offered a number of challenges. The lack of water is the main problem, as it meant walking with extra weight (although private houses would respond well to our needs, when possible). Stages tend to be longer than in the Alps, about 20-25 km.

    We were glad we had our tent as this is a fairly remote area where a mountain hotel or restaurant typically closes two days a week; in the German part, it is even worse, they open only on week-ends. In villages, it ought to be OK, but it might mean taking buses to and from the trail. This area, although at relatively low altitudes, has cold nights: we had our thermal underwear and used them every night.

    Les derniers jours et quelques observations

    Nous avons pris les remontées mécaniques pour retourner à Weissenstein pour continuer le sentier. Nous avons passé quelques cols populaires avec les pique-niqueurs, complets avec des coins grillades. Le Jura est de plus en plus bas dans cette région et l’on voit moins de bétail en estive et plus de céréales et arbres fruitiers.

    Un fermier local nous a recommandé un bout de terrain plat où poser notre tente et le lendemain, à Balsthal, nous avons acheté de la nourriture et continué notre rando deux jours. Il nous restait encore deux longues étapes mais nous n’avions plus ni nourriture ni eau; les cols où nous arrivions n’offraient aucune possibilité de ravitaillement. Nous n’avions plus croisé de randonneur depuis trois jours.

    Nous avons donc pris bus et trains en fin de journée pour Baden, ville-étape du dernier tronçon. Le lendemain, John finissait le sentier en quelques heures. Il n’a donc manqué que l’avant-dernière étape.

    Maintenant, voici quelques observations : bien que le sentier débute près de Zurich, toutes les personnes rencontrées étaiene parties soit de Balsthal, de Weissenstein ou de Bienne. Seuls deux couples avaient commencé à Dielsdorf mais avaient marché les sept premiers jours en rentrant tous les soirs chez eux à Zurich. Il vaut sans doute mieux suivre ce sentier dans le sens nord-sud.

    C’est la troisième fois que nous traversons la Suisse à pied (Via Alpina N°1 et sentier des cols alpins N°6) et, bien que ce sentier reste à des altitudes moyennes, il présente quelques défis. Le manque d’eau a été pour nous le plus rude car cela signifiait un surpoids. Nous avons heureusement pu quelques fois demander de l’eau à des habitants. Les étapes sont plus longues que dans les Alpes (de 20 à 25 km).

    Nous étions contents d’avoir notre tente car dans ces régions isolées les hôtels et restaurants ferment souvent un à deux jours par semaine; dans la partie alémanique, c’est encore plus difficile, ils n’ouvrent souvent que le week-end. Dans les villages il devrait être possible de trouver à se loger, mais cela signifie prendre un bus de et vers le sentier. Cette région, bien que relativement basse (800-1500m) connaît des nuits froides, nous avons utilisé nos sous-vêtements thermiques chaque nuit.

  • A break in Solothurn (7/13/2020)

    After 9 days hiking, we were ready for a short break and went down to the valley for a two-nights stay in the lovely town of Solothurn. It used to be our favourite spot to stop on our way from Geneva to St Gallen or Zurich.

    A fine baroque town, Solothurn blends beautifully French, German and Italian cultures or, as often described, “combining Italian Grandezza, French style, and Swiss ideas”. The city served as the seat of the French ambassador to Switzerland between 1530 and 1792.

    Situated on the Aare river and at the foot of  the Jura mountains, it offers many sporting activities, is charming, and cultivates a certain “art de vivre”.

    Une pause à Soleure

    Après 9 jours de marche, nous étions mûrs pour une pause et sommes descendus dans la vallée pour deux nuits dans la charmante ville de Soleure. Nous nous y arrêtions souvent, en route pour St-Gall ou Zurich.

    C’est une belle ville baroque qui mélange harmonieusement les cultures française, germanique et italienne ou, comme souvent décrit “combinant la grandeur italienne, le style français et les idées suisses”. La ville a abrité le siège de l’ambassade de France auprès de la Suisse de 1530 à 1792.

    Située sur l’Aar et au pied du Jura, la ville offre de nombreuses activités sportives et de loisirs et cultive un certain art de vivre.

  • Jura N° 5 – Camping spots with views (7/10/2020)

    After a walk of about 5 hours, in the sun and heat, we found a good spot to camp, about 100 m below the Chasseral summit. We saw a nice sunset that projected warm tones on the mountain behind us. It turned out to be a windy and cold valley, as often happens in the Jura with its many micro-climates and big temperature differences from one valley to the next.

    The next day started with the climb to Chasseral where the 180° open view puts on display the Savoy Alps all the way to Voralberg. We were quite satisfied with the close-by Bernese Alps. The crest walk was pretty and we put up our tent at the end of the day in an open field high up above the town of Biel/Bienne.

    Camping avec vue

    Après une marche d’environ 5 heures sous le soleil et la chaleur, nous avons trouvé où camper à une centaine de mètres en-dessous du sommet du Chasseral. Le coucher du soleil projetait une lumière chaude sur la montagne. Cette vallée s’est avérée froide et venteuse, ce qui arrive fréquemment dans le Jura où les températures peuvent varier énormément d’une vallée à l’autre.

    Le jour suivant, depuis le Chasseral, il est possible par temps clair de voir des Alpes savoyardes au Voralberg; vu la saison, nous avons été satisfaits avec les Alpes bernoises. Le chemin de crête était joli et nous avons campé en fin de journée dans une clairière surplombant la ville de Bienne.

  • Jura N° 5 – On the crest (7/8/2020)

    Days 6 and 7 – We stopped for a delicious lunch at the mountain restaurant “La Combaz” ; they work directly with 7 local providers (butcher, baker, cheesemonger, etc.). In this area, it has mostly been the case, whether a restaurant or a farmer-owned café and the products are of a very high quality.

    As we got closer to Creux-du-Van, one of the attractions along the trail, a crescent-shaped cliff sometimes nicknamed “the Grand Canyon”, it changed and we were somewhat disappointed. Down in the valley, the tourist office in the tiny village of Noiraigue was extremely friendly and helpful though.

    From col de La Tourne, the trail takes us through meadows again and then it is a few hours right on the crest. On one side three lakes (Neuchâtel, Bienne and Morat/Murten) and the Alps (Mont-Blanc as well as Bernese Alps) and on the other, the watch-making, Unesco-listed towns of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle, and France. We passed a few skilifts, Tête de Ran, to arrive at the aptly-named pass of La Vue des Alpes. We spent the night at the friendly, pleasant and good-value hotel there.

    Sur la crête

    Jours 6 et 7 – Nous nous sommes arrêtés pour un délicieux repas au restaurant d’alpage de “La Combaz” qui travaille avec 7 fournisseurs locaux (boucher, fromager, primeurs, boulanger etc.). Dans cette région cela a souvent été le cas, qu’il s’agisse de buvette d’alpage ou de café-ferme et la qualité des produits est du plus haut niveau.

    En approchant du Creux-du-Van, une falaise en demi-cercle et attraction majeure du sentier, cela est un peu moins le cas et nous avons été un peu déçus. L’office du tourisme du Val de Travers dans le hameau de Noiraigue, dans la vallée est pourtant très aimable et disponible.

    Après le col de La Tourne, nous avons traversé des prairies puis nous sommes retrouvés sur la crête. D’un côté la région des Trois-Lacs (Neuchâtel, Bienne et Morat) et les Alpes, de l’autre les villes horlogères de La Chaux-de-Fonds et Le Locle, toutes deux inscrites au patrimoine mondial de l’humanité de l’Unesco et la France. Nous avons passé quelques petits téléskis, la Tête de Ran et sommes arrivés au bien nommé col de La Vue des Alpes. Nous y avons passé une excellente soirée à l’hôtel du même nom, sympathique et d’un bon rapport qualité-prix.

  • Jura N° 5 – Toblerones (7/6/2020)

    Before and during World War II, Switzerland erected defense lines with anti-tank concrete blocks. Each block weighs 9 tons and a total of 2700 of them were scattered close to the borders. Their shape led them to be called “Toblerones”.

    We have been passing many such structures since the beginning of this hike, a number of them are almost buried under vegetation; there are also bunkers. In order to see them, it is not necessary to travel to the Jura. There is a 10 km long “Toblerone line trail” near Nyon.

    Avant et pendant la 2e guerre mondiale la Suisse a érigé des lignes de défense anti-chars dans ses régions frontalières. Ces blocs de béton pèse 9 tonnes la pièce et il en existe 2700.  Leur forme leur a valu le surnom de “toblerones” .

    Depuis le début de notre randonnée nous avons vu beaucoup de ces structures. Certaines sont presque entièrement recouvertes de végétation. Il y a aussi des bunkers çà et là. Pour voir ces toblerones, pas besoin de se rendre dans le Jura : le “sentier des toblerones”  long d’une dizaine de kilomètres se trouve dans la région de Nyon.


  • Jura Crest Trail N° 5 – a couple of overcast days (7/4/2020)

    After the storm, most of the next two days were overcast. Still, from the top of Dent de Vaulion, with its 360° views, it was quite a sight.  A plunging view on Lac de Joux and Lac des Brenets, on one side, endless lower valleys of the French Jura, the Swiss Jura and our path ahead, a glimpse of Lake Geneva – but the Alps hidden in the clouds – there was plenty to see.

    Mont Tendre, the Swiss Jura’s highest summit at 1680m was in the mist.  Everywhere cows were grazing through hectares and hectares of rich meadows, most of them with their calves and there are plenty of warnings to stay clear.  All of them were beautiful and healthy-looking.

    The path took us down to the border town of Vallorbe for a good lunch in a café before heading back up to the hills through some pretty spots along the Orbe river.   We found an open camping spot above Ballaigues and just picked raspberries and wild strawberries in the bushes around for dessert. By the evening, the sun had come back.

    Chemin  des Crêtes du Jura N° 5 – deux journées couvertes

    Après la tempête, les deux jours suivants ont été nuageux. Pourtant, depuis la Dent-de-Vaulion et ses vues à 360°, c’est un plaisir de plonger le regard vers le lac de Joux et le lac des Brenets d’un côté, des nombreuses vallées du Jura français. Puis le Jura suisse et les prochaines étapes, le lac Léman et les Alpes cachées par les nuages, il y  a beaucoup à voir (ou à deviner, dans ce  cas-ci).

    Le Mont-Tendre, le plus haut sommet du Jura suisse, à 1680m était dans la brume. Partout des troupeaux de vaches en estive paissaient dans les grandes et riches prairies. Beaucoup sont allaitantes et les recommandations de prudence ne manquent pas. Elles sont toutes belles et éclatantes de santé, un vrai plaisir.

    Le sentier nous emmène ensuite dans la vallée vers la petite ville-frontière de Vallorbe où nous avons mangé un délicieux menu du jour. Nous avons marché paisiblement le long de l’Orbe avant de remonter dans les collines. Nous avons trouvé un joli coin où poser notre tente et nous sommes régalés des framboises et fraises des bois al ntour. Le soleil était revenu.

  • Jura Crest Trail N° 5, Day 1 (7/2/2020)

    The Jura Crest Trail is one of 7 national long distance paths that cross Switzerland. It usually starts in Dielsdorf, near Zurich and ends in Nyon, on Lake Geneva but, as we had to pick up our new tent and some other equipment in Geneva, we started from the south.

    Our friends Sanaé and Antoine joined us at St-Cergue with their dog for the first hour, walking through meadows. Then it was another four hours under ever-changing skies to Col du Marchairuz where we could at last refill our bottles.  About 25 minutes later, we found a quiet spot to put up our tent, which passed the test of a massive storm from about 8 pm with strong winds and heavy rain, without any trouble whatsoever. We slept through most of it, tired by the load and the thirsty long hike.

    Chemin des crêtes du Jura N° 5

    Le chemin des crêtes du Jura est l’un des 7 sentiers nationaux de longue durée qui traversent la Suisse.  Il est décrit depuis Dielsdorf, près de Zurich, jusqu’à Nyon, au bord du Léman. Comme nous devions récupérer notre nouvelle tente et un peu d’équipement à Genève, nous l’avons commencé par le sud.

    Nos amis Sanaé et Antoine nous ont rejoints avec leur chien à St-Cergue et nous ont accompagnés pendant un peu plus d’une heure à travers bois et champs.  Ensuite nous avons continué pendant environ 4 heures sous un ciel changeant jusqu’au col du Marchairuz où nous avons pu remplir nos bouteilles. Une vingtaine de minutes plus tard, nous montions notre tente qui a brillamment passé le test d’un gros orage à partir de 20h, avec vents violents et pluie diluvienne.  Nous avons dormi sans problème, épuisés par la charge et la longue marche assoiffés.

  • Above Lake Lucerne (6/27/2020)

    We started walking at Emmetten and although the trail is described as ‘panoramic’ most of it goes through woods with the best views at the start and at the end. This is because this track stays at lower altitudes of around 800-900 m.

    Once at Seelisberg, we overlooked the Rütli meadow, site of the oath of 1291 that marked the birth of Switzerland (its present-day borders only go back to 1815) and saw the Mythen mountains we’d climbed in September 2017.

    Au-dessus du lac des Quatre-cantons 

    Nous avons commencé notre marche à Emmetten et, bien que le sentier soit décrit comme panoramique, ce n’est qu’au début et à la fin que l’on bénéficie vraiment de vues superbes, le reste étant dans les bois. Ce sentier est à des altitudes assez basses de 800-900 m, plus haut la vue serait plus dégagée.

    A l’arrivée, à Seelisberg, lavue plonge sur la prairie du Grütli, considéré comme le lieu de naissance de la Suisse, et s’ouvre sur les Mythen, montagnes que nous avions gravies en septembre 2017.


  • Walking along lake shores (6/25/2020)

    A little over a year ago, we had started the walk from Küssnacht am Rigi to Lucerne, passing through meadows and forests but had to stop in Meggen. So, we thought we might pick it up from there and we walked along the lake through some pleasant neighbourhoods, quiet little pebble beaches and a surprisingly French-looking small castle. We learned it was indeed inspired by the Loire châteaux, although its own chapel is Gothic.

    Lucerne was quiet, filled mostly with hikers and day trippers. All the signs in Chinese seemed odd.

    A day later, a change of atmosphere with an easy walk along the south of Lake Zurich, from Rapperswil to Schmerikon. After the swimming area at the beginning, the shore is a protected area with reeds in the water.

    Even on flat grounds, at lake level, it is possible to have rewarding views.

    Balades le long des lacs

    Il y a un peu plus d’un an nous avions commencé le sentier qui mène de Küssnacht am Rigi à Lucerne en passant à travers bois et forêts mais nous étions arrêtés à Meggen. Nous avons donc décidés d’y retourner et reprendre le chemin le long du lac, traversant des quartiers paisibles avec de belles maisons, fermes et chalets, des petites plages tranquilles et un surprenant château de style français. Nous avons appris qu’il éttait inspiré des châteaux de la Loire, mais sa chapelle est de style gothique.

    La ville de Lucerne était agréable à visiter, les seuls touristes étant quelques randonneurs et visiteurs locaux. Les signes en idéogrammes étaient d’autant plus étranges…

    Un jour plus tard, changement de décor avec le lac de Zurich et une balade facile de Rapperswil à Schmerikon. Après le lido du début, la rive est une région naturelle protégée avec des roseaux.

    Même dans les zones plates d’un accès universel, il est possible de profiter de belles vues.

  • Orchids, lillies and a friendly encounter (6/23/2020)

    On September 2, 1806, a gigantic mass of rock broke from the slopes of the western ridge of the Rossberg and slid into the valley. Today the Goldau landslide area is a cantonal plant reserve.

    Plants that would normally not have a chance of developing in the wooded landscape were able to thrive in this extensive area. Botany buffs come here primarily to find rare orchid plants, such as the yellow Lady’s Slippers.

    We heard that early summer is a good time to see orchids but we were too late for the Lady’s slippers which come out at the end of May and a touch early for other types of orchids, although they were still beautiful as were the lillies.

    As we hiked down, we were invited by a couple of locals to join them for a beer, which they keep fresh in the hut one of them is responsible for. The hike up is about half an hour and they have “a lovely backyard, some exercise and a fresh beer, isn’t life beautiful? “. We ended up chatting (auf deutsch, bitte) for an hour and learned a lot about the local entertaining customs.

    Orchidées, lis et une agréable rencontre

    Le 2 septembre 1806, d’énormes rochers dévalèrent les pentes du versant ouest de la montagne de Rossberg. Aujourd’hui, la région de Goldau est une réserve naturelle cantonale.

    Ce gigantesque éboulement a permis l’apparition de plantes qui ne poussaient pas dans les paysages forestiers. Les fans de botanique se rendent surtout ici pour observer des espèces d’orchidées rares telles que le sabot-de-Vénus jaune.

    Le début de l’été est supposé être le plus propice à l’observation de ces fleurs mais nous sommes arrivés trop tard pour les sabot-de-Vénus, sorties en mai et un peu trop tôt pour d’autres types d’orchidées pas tout-à-fait ouvertes. Elles étaient tout de même très jolies tout comme les lis.

    En redescendant, dans une clairière, surmontant le lac de Zoug, nous avons été gentiment invités à prendre une bière par deux hommes du coin. Ils gardent des canettes au frais dans la cabane dont l’un d’eux est responsable et y montent en une trentaine de minutes. “De l’exercice, une belle terrasse et une bière à la fraîche : elle est pas belle la vie ?”; nous avons passé une heure très agréable en leur compagnie à bavarder (auf deutsch, bitte), rire et en apprendre plus sur les étonnantes et amusantes coutumes locales.

  • Borders are open (6/22/2020)

    As borders reopened on 15 June, we got ready to get back to Switzerland for some housesits and a change of scenery.The train, very sparsely filled, brought us pleasantly back to Switzerland for our fourth stay with two lovely cats (Lookalike, the third, having sadly passed away one month ago). We are staying near Zug and are gently getting back into some walks after three months of lockdown.

    Lake Lucerne area is very spectacular even without going to great heights.

    Frontières ouvertes

    Avec les frontières ouvertes dès le 15 juin, nous avons pu revenir en Suisse pour des housesits et un changement de paysage.Le train, avec très peu de passagers, nous a ramenés en Suisse de manière plaisante. C’est notre 4e séjour avec deux chats adorables (Lookalike, le 3e, étant malheureusement décédé le mois dernier) dans la région de Zoug. Ceci nous permet de faire de belles balades et nous remettre en mouvement après trois mois de confinement.La région du lac des Quatre-cantons est spectaculaire même sans aller sur les sommets alentour.

  • Deconfinement (5/28/2020)

  • Images of confinement (4/23/2020)

  • Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest (3/6/2020)

    We had to be in Budapest in early March and took advantage of our few days there to visit the Museum of Fine arts.

    A gorgeous exhibition, “Japonisme”, was on display to celebrate the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Hungary. The exhibit highlighted the influence of Japanese woodcuts on the west and, more specifically, on artists in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

    The museum was built in the beginning of the 20th century and had different exhibition halls, Renaissance, Michelangelo, Romanesque.

    The latter has been closed off to visitors for over 70 years in spite of being the most ornate part of the interior of the museum. That hall was severely damaged during World War II and served as a storage and warehouse, only partially visible to some museum staff.

    The Romanesque Hall was finally restored between 2015 and 2018, with many artisans and artists working to bring it back to its former glory.

    Nous devions aller à Budapest au début du mois de mars et en avons profité pour visiter le musée des beaux-arts

    Une belle exposition, “Japonisme”, avait été mise sur pied pour célébrer les 150 ans de relations diplomatiques entre le Japon et la Hongrie. Cette exposition illustrait l’influence de la gravure sur bois japonaise sur l’Occident et, plus spécifiquement, les artistes de la monarchie austro-hongroise.

    Le musée a été construit au début du 20e siècle et comprend différentes salles, Renaissance, Michel-Ange, Romane.

    Cette dernière, bien que la plus ornée du musée, a été fermée au public pendant 70 ans. Cette salle avait été fortement endommagée lors de la deuxième guerre mondiale et avait servi de lieu de stockage, visible partiellement seulement pour le personnel du musée.

    La salle romane a finalement restaurée entre 2015 et 2018 et un grand nombre d’artistes et artisans l’ont ramenée à sa gloire passée.

  • Animal Fashion Week, Paris (3/1/2020)

    Details of hide, hair and feathers, all under the supervision of the Karl Lagerfeld of the poultry

    Détails des robes et plumes sous l’oeil avisé du Karl Lagerfeld de la basse-cour

  • Salon de l’agriculture, Paris (2/29/2020)

    We went back to the agricultural fair in Paris, which has been taking place every year for 150 years, under different names, and showcases the best of French agriculture.

    We particularly enjoy seeing the animals in their variety and at their most beautiful. The cows alone show a large number of breeds, varying in sizes (350-1680 kgs) as well as in appearance. Some breeds only have about 100 left while there are 200,000+ of another.

    The horses presented also vary greatly in sizes; many of them had been shaven so as not to feel too warm.

    Rabbits, ducks, chickens are also on display while another hall specialises in cats and dogs but there were not many this year.

    There is also a food hall promoting the many specialties of France. Unfortunately there are many resellers, so one has to be careful in choosing small producers in order to get better quality products.

    Nous sommes retournés au salon de l’agriculture de Paris qui a lieu tous les ans depuis 150 ans, sous des noms différents. Le meilleur des produits agricoles de France y est présenté.

    Nous aimons particulièrement voir les animaux dans leur diversité et leur mise en valeur. Le bétail seul montre une grande variété de races, allant de 350 à 1680kgs et des nombres de 100 à 200’000 dans tout le pays.

    Les chevaux, mules et ânes varient aussi énormément en taille, la plupart avaient été rasés afin de ne pas être indisposés par la chaleur des halles.

    Il y a aussi beaucoup de races de lapins, de volaille et une halle pour chiens et chats, bien que peu exposés cette année.

    A part les dégustations de fromage, près du bétail, un bâtiment entier est dédié aux spécialités et produits régionaux. Malheureusement, il y a beaucoup de revendeurs et il faut faire preuve de beaucoup de vigilance pour dénicher les producteurs et trouver les meilleurs produits.

  • Hoek uitwaaien (2/17/2020)

    The second storm of the week seemed to have eased this morning and the sky was blue, so we took the metro to Hoek van Holland.

    Although the line ends at the harbour and not at the beach, the trip is much faster now. The last two kilometres of track will take two years to complete.

    The walk on the beach was fun, with the wind still blowing strongly, sand flying and dogs playing.

    A good dose of “uitwaaien”, a Dutch word for going out in windy weather, particularly into nature or a park, as a means of refreshing oneself and clearing one’s mind.

    La deuxième tempête de la semaine semblait s’être calmée ce matin et le ciel était bleu, nous avons donc pris le métro pour Hoek van Holland.

    Bien que la ligne s’arrête au port et pas à la plage, le trajet est maintenant beaucoup plus rapide. Les deux derniers kilomètres seront achevés dans deux ans.

    La balade sur la plage fut plaisante avec le vent qui soufflait encore fortement, le sable qui s’envolait et les chiens qui jouaient et couraient.

    Une bonne dose de “uitwaaien”, un mot néerlandais pour le rafraîchissement mental que l’on ressent en se promenant sous le vent, en particulier dans la nature.

  • Floating farm and sustainability (1/24/2020)

    The idea is that floating farms, close to or within cities, will help reduce transportation costs and pollution as well as ensuring a supply of fresh food when a catastrophe (such as hurricane Sandy in NYC) hits. A number of cities in China and India have expressed interest in this concept, as well as Singapore and New York.

    Rotterdam is testing such a farm in one of its harbours. 34 cows live on the higher level of a floating building, while milk, yoghurts and butter are produced underneath. Solar panels provide the electricity needs of the farm.

    This floating farm has been written about in many articles, referring to a sustainable and environment-friendly way of farming. A recent one talked about a “circular economy” with the manure going to city gardens and parks and the fodder coming from them.

    Yet, when we visited it, we were disappointed. The cows never leave their platform (no summer months in the grassy countryside). We were told they are a sturdy Dutch breed, comfortable in temperatures of -15 to +15°c. Last summer they suffered from the heat, with temperatures between 35 and 39° which lasted several days. The farm cannot receive the organic label, as this entails the cows spending at least 180 days in open fields and eating organic food.


    We feel that animal well-being has to be an integral part of the sustainability debate. Although this farm’s communications highlight its environment-friendly credentials, we feel it is an overstatement.

    While we can see the important potential of floating farms for growing vegetables, we think it is not appropriate for animals.

    Ferme flottante et durabilité

    L’idée est que les fermes flottantes, proches ou dans les villes, aideront à diminuer les coûts de transport et la pollution tout en assurant une offre de nourriture fraîche en cas de catstrophe, telle celle de l’ouragan Sandy à New York. Un certain nombre de villes chinoises et indiennes ont exprimé un intérêt pour ce concept, tout comme Singapour et New York.

    Rotterdam teste une de ces fermes dans l’un des bras de son port. 34 vaches vivent à l’étage supérieur d’un bâtiment flottant. Le lait, le beurre et le yogourt sont fabriqués à l’étage inférieur. Des panneaux solaires couvrent les besoins en électricité de la ferme.

    Beaucoup d’articles ont été écrits au sujet de cette ferme en la citant comme un exemple d’agriculture durable et respectueuse de l’environnement. L’un d’eux, récent, parlait d’ “économie circulaire” puisque le fumier fertilise les parcs et jardins de la ville et que la nourriture des bêtes provient de l’herbe coupée de ces mêmes parcs.

    Pourtant, lors d’une récente visite, nous avons été déçus. Les vaches ne quittent pas la plateforme : pas de vacances d’été dans les prés verdoyants pour elles. On nous a dit qu’elles étaient issues d’une race néerlandaise solide, capable de supporter des températures de – 15 à + 15°c. Elles ont souffert de la chaleur l’été dernier quand des températures de 35 à 39°c ont duré près d’une semaine. La ferme ne bénéficie pas d’un label bio car, pour l’obtenir, les vaches doivent pouvoir paître au moins 180 jours et être nourries de produits bio.

    Nous pensons que le bien-être des animaux doit être une partie intégrale du débat sur la durabilité. Bien que les communications de cette ferme insistent sur son impact environnemental positif, nous pensons qu’il s’agit là d’une exagération.

    Nous comprenons le potentiel important des fermes flottantes pour y faire pousser des légumes mais nous trouvons qu’il est inapproprié pour des animaux.

  • Visiting friends in Germany (12/18/2019)

    We have just spent almost two weeks visiting friends in the north and west of Hamburg before moving on to the south of Germany, staying near Augsburg.
    Germany is lovely at any time of the year but Christmas is a fun period to be there.

    In Augsburg, we saw the Engelesspiel: the angels appear at the windows of the city hall, one by one. Adult angels “play” music and move as automats so it is sometimes hard to know they are human.

    Thank you for your warm welcomes, Ute and Christian, Claudie and Hartwig and Ina and Jo, we had great times with you all.
    We are now in Geneva for three weeks.


    Nous venons de passer presque deux semaines à rendre visite à des amis à Hambourg avant de nous rendre près d’Augsbourg dans le sud. L’Allemagne est une destination agréable toute l’année mais la période de l’Avent l’est particulièrement avec ses illuminations et marchés de Noël.

    A Augsbourg, nous avons assisté à l’ “Engelelesspiel” où les anges apparaissent tour à tour aux fenêtres de l’hôtel de ville. Des anges adultes “jouent” divers instruments et se déplacent mécaniquement, ce qui amène une certaine confusion car ils semblent alors être des automates.

    Merci Ute et Christian, Claudie et Hartwig, Ina et Jo de nous avoir accueillis si chaleureusement. Nous avons passé d’excellents moments en votre compagnie.

    Nous sommes maintenant à Genève pour trois semaines.

  • Lübeck (12/10/2019)

    We took advantage of a clear day to go on a day-trip to Lübeck and visit this old Hanseatic League city, which is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

    We strolled through its lovely medieval streets and its Christmas market and tasted the specialty of the town, marzipan. Writers Heinrich and Thomas Mann and Willy Brandt, former mayor of West Berlin and chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany were natives of Lübeck. Günter Grass lived a few kilometres out of town and kept an office/secretariat in the old town which can be visited.

    Nous avons profité d’une journée ensoleillée pour visiter la ville hanséatique de Lübeck, inscrite au patrimoine mondial de l’humanité.

    Nous avons déambulé dans ses ruelles médiévales, visité son marché de Noël et goûté la spécialité de la ville, le massepain.
    Les écrivains Heinrich et Thomas Mann ainsi que l’ancien maire de Berlin-Ouest et chancelier de la République fédérale d’Allemagne Willy Brandt étaient natifs de Lübeck. Günter Grass a vécu à quelques kilomètres de la ville mais y avait son bureau qui peut être visité.

  • Alter Elbtunnel, Hamburg (12/8/2019)

    We are visiting friends in Hamburg and walked across the old Elbe tunnel. Opened in 1911 to provide a direct route for dock workers over to the southern banks of the Elbe river, it is still in use. A larger car tunnel was built in the 1970s to accommodate the heavier traffic.
    There are two tunnels and one is currently undergoing some renovation work. Four large lifts at each end take pedestrians and cyclists to a depth of 24m. Until June 2019, cars were allowed in, although the width of the road is only 1m92. The tunnel walls are decorated with glazed terra cotta ornaments displaying items related to the Elbe river.

    Nous rendons visite à des amis à Hambourg et avons traversé le vieux tunnel de l’Elbe. Ouvert en 1911 afin de faciliter la traversée des dockers sur la rive sud du fleuve, il est encore utilisé de nos jours. Un plus grand tunnel fut construit dans les années 70 pour absorber le fort trafic routier.

    Il existe deux tubes et l’un d’eux est actuellement en rénovation. Les piétons et cyclistes atteignent ce tunnel à une profondeur de 24m par quatre gros ascenseurs de chaque côté du fleuve. Les voitures y avaient encore accès jusqu’en juin 2019, bien que la largeur de la chaussée ne soit que de 1m92. Les murs sont décorés de sculptures qui ont pour thème principal la faune aquatique et divers mammifères.

  • Dakpark, Rotterdam (11/25/2019)

    Rotterdam has some nice parks but the most unusual one is probably Dakpark (the park on the roof). Situated in the western part of the city, it was created over the car parks and shops that run along the street for one kilometre.

    The park can be accessed at either end through gentle slopes and on its sides by stairs, on the neighbourhood side and a lift, on the shops side. There are some open areas for playful activities, water fountains, a restaurant, herb gardens, kids playground and picnic tables. Rabbits roam around the park freely: a real surprise (especially for an Australian) in an urban, if green, environment.


    Rotterdam a quelques beaux parcs mais le plus étonnant est sans doute Dakpark (le parc sur les toits). Situé à l’ouest de la ville, il a été créé en-dessus du parking et des magasins qui couvrent une distance d’un kilomètre le long d’une artère.

    On peut y accéder par des pentes douces au début et à la fin de la rue ainsi que par des escaliers, côté quartier et un ascenseur, côté magasins. Il y a de grands espaces ouverts pour des activités ludiques, des fontaines, un restaurant, jardins d’herbes aromatiques, terrain de jeux pour les enfants et des tables de pique-nique. Des lapins s’y baladent en liberté ce qui est quelque peu surprenant (particulièrement pour un Australien) dans un environnement urbain.

  • A sunny birthday (11/11/2019)

    A beautiful autumn day in Rotterdam for the birthday boy, cycling through Het Park in the early morning, Christmas market at the Norwegian seamen’s church and a couple of other outings. The sunset was also quite spectacular.

    Une fort belle journée d’automne pour l’anniversaire de John. Balade matinale à vélo dans Het Park, visite du marché de Noël de l’église des marins norvégiens et autres sorties. Le coucher de soleil a été encore une fois spectaculaire

  • Sicily – markets (10/4/2019)

    Markets are a pleasant daily (in Palermo and Catania; once or twice a week in smaller towns) occurrence with seasonal vegetables and fresh fish.

    We both prefer Catania to Palermo and we enjoyed strolling around the town.20191004_093556.jpg

    Les marchés sont un plaisir quotidien à Palerme et Catane (bi-/hebdomadaire dans les autres villes) avec un large choix de fruits et légumes saisonniers et poissons frais.

    Nous préférons Catane à Palerme et avons déambulé dans la ville.

  • Sicily – churches (10/3/2019)

    Sicily has, unsurprisingly, many churches and some particularly stand out, such as the Arab-Norman churches in Palermo and the cathedral of Cefalù, with their Byzantine interiors.

    Sans surprise, la Sicile possède de nombreuses églises mais celles de Palerme et la cathédrale de Cefalù, de style arabo-normand et aux décors intérieurs byzantins sont particulièrement remarquables.

  • Valle dei templi (9/29/2019)

    Despite its name, the valley of the temples actually sits on a crest between Agrigento and the sea. Built in the 5th century B.C. and listed on the Unesco World Patrimony, its Greek temples are among the best preserved of the Antiquity, although several were burnt or destroyed by the Carthaginians in 406 B.C.

    This area also host a number of Girgentana goats, with corkscrew-like horns that can reach 70cm in males. This ancient breed, believed to have been brought by the Arabs in the 9th century, had almost completely disappeared when the Slow Food movement started a campaign to preserve them. There are about 500 of them now, down from 30,000 in the 1950s.

    En dépit de son nom, la vallée des temples se situe sur une crête entre Agrigente et la mer. Construits au 5e siècle avant J.C et sur la liste du patrimoine mondial de l'humanité de l’Unesco, ses temples grecs sont parmi les mieux préservés de l’Antiquité. Ceci, bien que plusieurs d’entre eux aient été brûlés et détruits par les Carthaginois en 406 avant J.C.

    Le parc abrite également quelques chèvres Girgentana, avec leurs cornes en forme de tire-bouchons pouvant atteindre jusqu’à 70cm chez les mâles. Cette race ancienne, que l’on croit introduite par les Arabes au 9e siècle, avait presque complètement disparue quand le mouvement Slow Food a lancé une campagne pour sa préservation. Il y en a maintenant à peu près 500, alors qu’il y en avait encore 30.000 dans les années cinquante.

  • La Sicile baroque (9/24/2019)

    We met in Catania and drove down to Sicily’s south east, known for its baroque towns. Noto, Ragusa, Modica, Caltagirone and Piazza Amerina (for its wonderful Villa Casale) were among the visits. The hills, between 400 and 700m, were surprisingly cool and we even had some fog.


    This was followed by a couple of nights in pretty Siracusa, returning the car and a train ride inland to get to Palermo.

    Nous nous sommes retrouvés à Catane et avons loué une voiture pour nous rendre dans le sud-est de la Sicile. Les visites ont inclus les villes baroques de Noto, Ragusa, Modica, Caltagirone et Piazza Amerina, avec sa superbe villa Casald. Nous avons été surpris par la fraîcheur des villes à 400-700m d’altitude et avons même eu du brouillard.

    Ensuite, nous avons passé deux nuits dans la jolie ville de Syracuse, rendu la voiture et pris le train, par l’intérieur, pour Palerme.

  • Sicily: My Etna experience (9/17/2019)

    14 September 2019

    In Sicily we had planned to do some hiking. Waiting for Jenny I went to hike Mt Etna.

    As we neared the mountain, we were told the rim has been closed for 4 days.

    Avoiding the crowds I hiked along an old mule track, up to a ridge.

    The views over the lava fields and to the summit were good.


  • GTA – Mountains of Piemonte (9/16/2019)

    This post is for Jenny, who found I had not posted enough photos of mountains.

  • GTA: The end (9/16/2019)

    31 August 2019

    On the hike to Colla Mosse I decided to stop. I got a lift to Sanremo.

    After a few days I went to Ventimiglia and walked a couple of kilometres back up the trail. Then I walked into Ventimiglia and to the sea.

    I finished my hike, my way.

    My phone had stopped working, so sadly I have no photos of my arrival.

    It was a great hike, and I met many good people.


  • Gouda cheese market (8/30/2019)

    Gouda cheese market was first started in 1395.  The cheese wheels are delivered by horse and cart, then stacked on the ground by the farmers, before being sold in a traditional manner. This market is held every Thursday morning from April until the end of August in between Gouda’s city hall and the weighing house, which is also a cheese museum.


    The farmers and traders, in white coats, clap hands to confirm each sale, a very theatrical spectacle.


    Nowadays, some 60% of Dutch cheese is produced in the region surrounding the city of Gouda. It is known as “Cheese valley” (although there is not one hill on the horizon 😉).


    Le marché aux fromages de Gouda existe depuis l’an 1395. Les meules de fromage sont amenées par des charrettes tirées par des chevaux et empilées sur le sol par les fermiers. Ceci se passe sur la place du marché entre le vieil hôtel-de-ville et la maison où étaient pesées les denrées et qui est aussi un musée du fromage.

    Les fermiers et les commerçants, en blouse blanche, confirment leur accord sur chaque vente par un ballet de tapes de main, un spectacle très théâtral.

    De nos jours, environ 60% de la production de fromages néerlandais se concentre dans la région de Gouda, dans ce qui est surnommé “la vallée du fromage” bien que pas la plus petite colline ne soit visible à l’horizon 😉).

  • GTA – Accordeon (8/25/2019)

    25 August 2019

    In my early years in Geneva I saw a film, “La Trace”, which I enjoyed.

    It tells the adventures of a man who travels from France to Italy, before they were countries, selling ribbons and buttons and sewing materials.

    Somewhere in the plain in Italy he meets a German selling accordeons, and buys one.

    The accordeon becomes a character in the film.

    Today I stopped at Rifugio Morelli for a coffee. There on the table stood a beautiful, small accordeon.

    Paolo Giraudo told me he is a carver and started making accordeons. He has made about 40.

    The one I admired is not for sale; he made it for his daughter from old chestnut wood he recovered from furniture.

    Today I had my Italian accordeon moment.

  • GTA – Onsen in Italy (8/22/2019)

    21 August 2019

    After a pleasant 6 hour hike I arrived in Strepeis.

    Just down the road is a closed thermal centre, Bagni de Vinadio.

    On the other side of the road are a few improvised thermal pools by a stream.

    Soaking in the hot water released my tight muscles.

    Then a quick rince in the cold stream.


  • GTA – Two firsts (8/21/2019)

    20 August 2019

    I love hearing the marmots calling out to each in the alps. I always try to spot them.

    Today was the first day I was close enough to photograph one.

    Two mountain-bikers I had dinner with last night were kind enough to wait for me to show me a surprise.


    I have never seen one before.


  • GTA – Strange stones (8/20/2019)

    15 August 2019

    It was a beautiful alpine hike over a couple of passes, starting at the beginning of the river Po.

    I came to a field of stones pointing to the sky. At first I thought it was natural, and some were.

    Hundreds were man-made.

    Next was a small brown cliff-face that people had inserted grey stones into.

    All a mystery to me.

    The day ended with fireworks in the village where I stayed


  • GTA – Rocciamelone, Brocken Spectre (8/14/2019)

    Hands up anyone who has heard of a Brocken Spectre. Nor had I.

    An English-speaking man asked if I had seen my Brocken Spectre? See yourself in a rainbow that circles you. The conditions are right, and rare.

    I could not understand what he was saying.

    So he took me to the top of the cliff, the sun low behind us, clouds rising from the valley.

    There was my shadow on the cloud with a rainbow around it.


  • GTA – Rocciamelone, looking down on the world (8/13/2019)

    Ten minutes into my hike, it started raining and the clouds were dark and low. I went and did something else.

    Two days later, 8 August, I was back to hike the 1,700 m ascent in clear weather.

    The climb to Rifugio Tazzetti was straight forward; I had lunch.

    From there it was a climb up a crest with views to Rocciamelone.

    Above the crest it started to get hard. There was climbing, and I was having trouble finding the path.

    After a while I stopped counting the grave stones and concentrated on climbing.

    Two younger men caught up with me and we started hiking together. It became easier, being with other hikers.

    Next we came to the glacier. It is wider than I had been told. My friends had crampons; I did not.

    There is no marked path, but we found our way. Getting off it was tricky.

    The final ascent is up an exposed crest, buffetted by strong winds.

    It was an exciting hike, but there were moments I was scared.

    It was worth it.

    One of the young men said to me: “Respect. That was a hard hike.”

    I was touched.


  • GTA – Walking in the Clouds (8/12/2019)

    Day 27: 5 August 2019

    Leaving Balme was a long climb in mostly clear weather. Over the Colle Costa Fiorita, 2,465 m, the cloud rolled in.

    Sometimes, when hiking, a song goes through your mind in repeat. “Walking in the rain”, Grace Jones cover, became walking in the clouds.

    The landscape became eery, fading in and out of view.

    Someone had recommended staying at the Albergo Rocciamelone in Usseglio.

    It has an old-world charm and home made gelato. So I had coffee and gelato as I considered my options.

    Staying was tempting, but they were full.

    Reading my guide book I learnt I can hike Rocciamelone, the mountain: 3,538 m.

    So I headed to Refugio Vulpot for the night. Here they explained my options to get there.

  • GTA – Piamprato to Talosio (8/6/2019)

    Day 22: 31 July 2019

    A long bus ride took us to Ronco. All the hikers and backpacks filled the small bus.

    The bus dropped me in front of the post office. My tent and some other kit are now in the post, lightening my backpack a lot.

    White cows with black tails watched me pass.

    I went through a pass and asked two men the way. They pointed lazily. When I came to a cliff, one came after me and told to come back, then showed me the correct path.

    At Colle Crest, the day’s highest point at 2,040 m, the sign was decked with drying clothes of two people sleeping beside it.

    At Talosio the Posto Tappa is again an old school.


  • GTA – Fondo to Piamprato (8/5/2019)

    Day 21: 30 July 2019

    The air was clear today.

    Walking up a gentle valley beside a pretty stream. The pools were hard to resist for a swim, but I was worried I would lose my momentum.

    At a small family farm I asked if I could buy cheese. One of the young sons disappeared into a cellar in the rocks and came back with a small round of cheese; “it is a bit young”. Both sons were shy. I bought half of the cheese. It made a good lunch.

    It was a steep climb to Bocchetta delle Oche, 2,417 m.

    On the way I met the men clearing the path. It is good to be able to thank those who make this possible and exchange a few words.


  • GTA – Rifugio Chiaromonte to Fondo (8/4/2019)

    Day 20: 29 July 2019

    The air was clearer in the morning giving good views over the busy plain.

    Hiking down was straight forward, leading through Succinto, a village which announces when it got electricity and a road.

    Fondo is deep at the end of the valley, with a beautiful bridge built in the middle ages.

    The next stage is described as long and difficult, so I stay here.


  • GTA – Trovinasse to Rifugio Chiaromonte (8/3/2019)

    Day 19: 28 July 2019

    Much of the walk down was on old mule trails. So much work to build, and now mostly used by hikers.

    Closer to the valley bottom are terrassed vinyards. The feet of the vines are planted back against the wall, trained up 2 m and spread on trellaces to get maximum sun.

    In the valley all the private gardens were rich with fruit and vegetables.

    Quincinetto is tiny with only one bar open. Gelato and coffee were welcome.

    Then began the steep climb to La Capanne. The track emerged at a hair-pin bend. Cars coming, I stuck my thumb out and got a ride all the way up.

    Sunday, there was a big fiesta, organised the last Sunday of every July.

    Happy to have been given a ride, still I wanted to hike more. So I started the next stage.

    I arrived later than I expected at a closed refuge, so decided to camp there.


  • GTA – Rest day (8/2/2019)

    Day 18: 27 July 2019

    Good food, forecast bad weather, it was easy to stay a day here.

    The weather forecast was accurate; we had a violent hail-storm. It was good to be sheltered.

    Yesterday’s decisions were good.


  • GTA – Decisions, decisions (7/28/2019)

    Day 17: 26 July 2019

    “Celui qui regarde trop la méteo, reste au bistrot.”, is a French saying among sailors that roughly translates as: if you watch the weather forecast closely you will not get out and play.

    Those of you who have sailed with me might remember some exhilarating moments.

    For two days the talk amongst hikers has been about the forecast violent storms for Saturday and Sunday. Where to stay?

    Some decided to stay at Oropa. Arriving there, I decided to keep on for the next stage; there were a few options to stop on the way.

    The gondola up to the start of the hike disappeared into clouds. Did this make sense?

    As I walked the air switched between cold cloud and warm sun.

    I arrived at Rifugio Coda at about 15:00. Staying was possible, but if it meant spending two nights, it would have been long. It was already lost in clouds.

    The next stretch was really tough: climbing along the crest and an ever receding hilltop. To the left a cold wind blew clouds upwards, to the right it was warm and dry.

    “Bushwhacked” is a great Australian word which conveys somewhat more than being lost.

    Off the crest I was bushwhacked. I wasted an hour looking for the trail. Now I was going to arrive late without knowing if there was a bed and whether I could get food.

    The agriturismo welcomed me and prepared food even though I arrived at about 21:00. It has been one of the best meals I have had so far.


  • GTA – Refugio Rivetto to Santuario San Giovanni (7/27/2019)

    Day 16: 25 July 2019

    Last night we had the spectacle of local trail runners climbing 1,100 m in 45 minutes, drinking beer and wine, having dinner, then running back down using headlamps. They laughed on the way down.

    My descent took two hours.

    Rosazza is surprisingly big with grandiose buildings.

    It was a pleasant stroll through forests to Santuario San Giovanni.


  • GTA – Surprises (7/27/2019)

    Day 15: 24 July 2019

    Hiking is experiencing nature.

    And surprising encounters.

    Many trails are old trading routes, often for smugglers.

    Three horses, two men and a few dogs came round a bend. I had time to get out of their way.

    A photo of eight bottoms did not seem interesting.


  • GTA – Rima to Sant’ Antonio di Val Vogna (7/26/2019)

    Day 14: 23 July 2019

    Just before Alagna is Pedemont, with many beautiful barns that remind me of Valais.

    Alagna Valsesia looks like a ski resort. One shop was open selling ripe fruit. I bought apricots, prunes and a small dark purple prune I have never seen. Then I sat and ate them all.

    To finish this stage was walking along a road. I was offered a lift all the way.

    The refuge here is attractive, so I decided to end early and stay the night.


  • GTA – Alpe Baranco to Rima (7/26/2019)

    Day 13: 22 July 2019

    A climb to Colle d’Egua before a long descent to Carcoforo.

    Carcoforo appears as a dense network of stone roofs. Once in the town it is pretty, with some Walser buildings.

    Lunch was cold meats and cheese.

    The next stage is described as long and challenging. Rather than spend the afternoon in Carcoforo, I decided to start the next stage. Two water points along the way offered potential places to stop and camp.

    There was nowhere to camp. The second water point was at a goat farm with a guard dog. He merely growled as I passed, but made it clear stopping was not welcome.

    As I was making good time I continued to Rima.

    Rima is pretty and prosperous. It is higher than many villages which gives it a good view.


  • GTA – Campello Monti to Alpe Baranca (7/25/2019)

    Day 12, Sunday 21 July 2019

    Everyone speaks about a great restaurant at Rimella, and I was looking forward to trying the antipasti.

    Yet Sunday lunch, was a family gathering likely?

    All they would serve me was pasta. Oh well, keep moving.

    I hiked through deserted villages and villages that are renewing themselves.

    Alpe Baranca is reputed for a warm welcome and good food. After compleyeing two days hiking in one, I arrived just in time to enjoy both.


  • GTA – 2 days (7/25/2019)

    Days 10 and 11: 19 to 20 July 2019

    The descent from Alpe della Colma included walks on terraces built for chestnut trees.

    After lunch in Molini, I had a steep climb to the unmanned Rifugio Alpe del Lago. Michel arrived late so we chatted over breakfast.

    It was foggy most of the day. Bivacco Alpe Pian Lago was better situated than where I had stayed: water and a stunning view, although all I saw was fog.

    Campello Monti is surprisingly pretty. This is my first “Posto tappa”, an old school converted to dormitories for hikers.


  • GTA: Special request (7/24/2019)

    Andi asked me to publish this photo.

    We had passed a fun night at Rifugio Alpe della Colma.

    Olindo has taught music, so when someone picked up a guitar, he joined in with his guitar and harmonica. All the hikers sang.

  • GTA – Refugio Colma (7/24/2019)

    Day 9: 18 July 2019

    The food is good and Patricia and Olindo welcoming.

    Today I stay here.

    A short walk to a hill top to admire Monta Rosa, but she hides under cloud.

    We were 10 for dinner. One person plays guitar, so we had a singalong. Olindo is a music teacher so he kept adding instruments. His harmonica playing on Dylan was superb.


  • GTA – Bivacco Marigonda to Refugio Colma (7/24/2019)

    Day 8: 17 July 2019

    Luxury: there was some coffee in the bivouac. So Lucas and I chatted and shared a light breakfast. Which made for a late start.

    I arrived at the end-point, Refugio Cheggio, too early to stay. Reading the guide book, the next refuge was described as having good food.

    So I stuck out my thumb and got a lift down the valley road to the foot of the 1,000 m climb.

    I arrived just in time for dinner and received a warm welcome.

    The setting is great.


  • GTA – Gondo to Bivacco Marigonda (7/23/2019)

    Day 7, 16 July 2019

    My stay at the Hospice was pleasant and restful, but I was already restless to be back on the trail.

    The postal bus took me to Gondo. There another bus was waiting to go to Zwischbergen. So I took that and saved myself 2.5 hours that I anticipated being dull.

    From Zwischbergen the hiking was through forest, not yet alpine terrain. Once I reached Tschawiner See it was more alpine.

    If John skinny-dips in an alpine lake and he does not take a selfie, did he make a splash?

    It was cold; I must be out of practise.

    At Rifugio Gattascosa a simple lunch of cheese and cold meats was good.

    Yet it was too early to stop, though the next stage is “easy” and 5 hours. So I decided to keep on; there are other places to stop.

    Philippe had mentioned a great bivouac. When I reached it I could not believe my eyes. It has all comforts, including a fire stove.

    I made a fire which took the edge off the chill. Lucas and I chatted to the small hours, meaning 10 pm.

    The moon tonight is full, beautiful and low over the alps.


  • GTA Hospice du Simplon (7/17/2019)

    Day 6

    This is a planned rest day at the Hospice de Simplon.

    I awoke to find it had snowed.


  • GTA – Encounters (7/16/2019)

    Day 5

    Today I walked alone yet had some interesting encounters.

    The terrain was more agricultural.

    Philippe took one look at me and recognised a like-minded hiker: light shoes and pack, equipped to be independent.

    He had not got the memo and was walking south to north; most of us are going the other way.

    His aim is performance and he has walked in 30 days what my book suggests takes 60 days.

    We exchanged information about good bivouacs and restaurants, then got onto hard-core equipment issues. He even put up his super-light tent, one I have considered many times. Am I going to buy it …..

    I do not know how long we talked, but it was fun.

    On the other side of the pass I came to a road. Although it looked like nobody drove it, I decided to follow it and hitch-hike.

    Angela gave me lift. We chatted between French and Italian. When we arrived at Varzo, I appreciated the ride all the more because it was a long way.

    I went to Varzo only to get cash. Leaving was a challenge: no bus, no train, and no easy walk. Nobody offered me a lift either.

    I walked along the road until it joined the main road. Suddenly I was in a bad place. This road was very narrow with barriers on both sides, lots of fast two-way traffic, and a tunnel ahead; walking it was not an option. Going backwards was not easy either.

    A speeding small blue car pulled out of the stream and braked hard in front of me.

    “I saw you were in a bad place and decided to give you a lift”, she said. We chatted easily and she drove me all the way to the Hospice de Simplon.

    Where I ended up having a glass of wine and sharing stories with a senior Swiss politician (whom I had not recognised).

    A good day for meeting people.


  • GTA – Alpe Devero to Alpe Veglia (7/16/2019)

    Day 4

    Leaving Alpe Devero I passed through a group of stone buildings and up a forest path. I came upon a flock of sheep with some goats mixed in. I watched the shepard lead his sheep to a spur; he whistled and they all followed.

    The path goes through a wide bassin that is soggy due to the late snow.

    The first pass, Scatta d’ Orogna, had the tamest goats I have met: I turned for a photo but had to swing around and pull away a goat that wanted to eat my backpack.

    After the descent, walking along the side of a lake in snow, I came to a critical point; I was with a couple of other hikers.

    The original pass around the cliff face had been damaged by an avalanche in spring. A detour had been built, which meant a long climb down then back up over snow. Six Italians went along the original path and assured us it was safe enough.

    We decided to follow them.

    Parts of the path are not even; shards of rock bigger than me are scattered across it.

    At the second pass, Passo Di Valtendra, we were hit by the wind. We retreated below the pass to take off our backpacks. A couple of minutes at the top for photos were enough.

    Then I put on my wind jacket, gloves and beanie for the walk down the snow on the other side.

    Beyond the snow it warmed up as I descended through a forest.

    Alpe Veglia was the end-point, with a friendly refuge.


  • GTA – Rifugio Margaroli to Alpe Devero (7/15/2019)

    Day 3

    The refuge Margaroli, where I stayed, was very friendly. The food was good and I met a few people hiking the same route.

    The path starts along a lake where many spring flowers are in bloom. I never tire of their beauty.

    Maybe the long flat stretch allowed me to warm up, but the climb was easier, and I felt I hit my stride.

    At the “Scatta Minoia” pass I met a group sheltering in a big hut, “Bivacco Ettore”. I have not seen many shelters at the top of a pass. Painted bright red and white it must be easy to see in fog.

    We all started the long descent together but quickly spread. Snow still covers a lot of the pass.

    The trail goes the length of lake Devero before reaching Crampionlo. The village has been renovated, renewing the stone_roofed buildings.

    Alpe Devero is the end of today’s walk. It is larger and more spread out, with many beautiful stone buildings.


  • GTA – Alpe Nefelgiu to Rifugio Margaroli (7/12/2019)

    Day 2

    The hut was dark, so I slept in and had a late start.

    The day started with sunshine, but became overcast.

    Hiking up the pass was hard, so I was glad I had stopped the previous day.

    With the snow, the descent was a challenge.

    Arriving at the refuge it was good to have a simple lunch.


  • Grande Traversata Delle Alpi, GTA (7/11/2019)

    Day 1

    I had a late start from Cruina.

    Leaving Geneva at 35° I was surprised by how much snow there is on the passes. Finding your way is harder, and slower.

    We had hiked the Griespass a few years ago and were surprised by the aeolian. Now there are 4.

    Just beyond the pass is a tiny chapel / shelter. In the early 50’s 9 scouts went hiking in perfect weather; 6 came back.

    As adults, those 6 built the chapel in memory of their friends. Now it is well maintained.

    I had expected to make it to the next refuge, but was behind schedule. Alpe Nefelgiù was a welcome sight. A stone hut with an elevated wooden platform to sleep on, shelter from the weather; luxury can take on different meanings.

    I slept well.

  • A family wedding (7/9/2019)

    We came back from Romania early July and went to the Haute-Marne department in northeastern France for Pauline and Fabrice’s wedding. Pauline is our niece.

    A property, farm house and main building, had been rented and we could stay on the spot or in nearby bed and breakfasts. Fabrice is Belgian and friends and family had travelled from Belgium and Switzerland.

    The wedding festivities started on Thursday with a cantus, the Belgian tradition of singing (many naughty) songs while drinking beer. The Belgian delegation came with a trailer of beer. On Friday evening, it was a raclette evening. The Swiss team had brought the cheeses, wines and grills.

    On Saturday afternoon, the ceremony took place in the park of the domain, under the shade of old trees. It was a simple, moving and happy event. The rest of the afternoon was spent eating, chatting and playing games, followed by dinner in the barn.

    Sunday morning saw all remaining guest having a brunch before driving back home.


    Mariage dans la famille

    Nous sommes rentrés de Roumanie au début du mois de juillet pour nous rendre en Haute-Marne, dans le nord-est de la France pour le mariage de Pauline et Fabrice. Pauline est notre nièce.

    Une propriété, maison de maître et ferme, avait été louée pour l’occasion et l’on pouvait dormir sur place ou dans l’une des chambres d’hôtes de la région. Fabrice est Belge et les familles et de nombreux amis avaient fait le voyage de Suisse et de Belgique.

    Les festivités ont commencé le jeudi avec le cantus, tradition belge de chants (un certain nombre coquins) en buvant de la bière. Ils étaient venus avec une remorque de bière. Le vendredi soir, place à une soirée raclette. La délégation suisse avait amené les fromages, les vins et les grills.

    Le samedi après-midi la cérémonie a eu lieu dans le parc à l’ombre de vieux arbres. Ce fut simple, émouvant et joyeux.  Le reste de l’après-midi se passa en restauration, bavardages et jeux divers, suivi d’un souper dans la grange.

    Les invités qui le souhaitaient pouvaient se réunir pour un brunch le dimanche matin avant de repartir à la maison.

  • Sighişoara and Sibiu (7/4/2019)

    Peter and Sue were leaving for Australia on July 2 from Bucharest. So we had a few days available to visit Transylvania after our stay in Cluj-Napoca.

    We travelled by train through green rolling hills and first stopped in the small town of Sighişoara. This village is the birthplace of Vlad III the Impaler, the inspiration for the character of Dracula. Its walled city is a World Heritage Site.

    German influence is very present in these parts of Romania, architecturally as well as in German (and Hungarian) inscriptions on schools or on tombs. The station, like the city, has two sides with its dilapidated pylons on the platform and its brand new façade. Our Romanian trip ended in Sibiu (Hermannstadt) as we had to fly back to attend a wedding.

    Peter et Sue repartait pour l’Australie le 2 juillet depuis Bucarest. Nous avions donc quelques jours de visites à disposition après notre séjour à Cluj-Napoca.

    Nous avons voyagé en train à travers des paysages de collines verdoyantes et nous sommes d’abord arrêtés dans la petite ville de Sighişoara.

    Ce bourg est le lieu de naissance de Vlad III l’Empaleur, inspiration du personnage de Dracula. Sa ville fortifiée est inscrite au patrimoine mondial de l’humanité. L’influence germanique est très présente tant dans l’architecture que dans les inscriptions en allemand sur les murs des écoles (avec le hongrois) ou sur les tombes. La gare, comme la ville a son côté pile et face avec ses pylônes délabrés sur le quai et sa façade flambant neuve.

    Nous avons terminé notre court séjour en Roumanie à Sibiu car nous devions rentrer pour un mariage.

  • Happy birthday (6/28/2019)

    As some of our family had to attend a wedding in Romania, we decided we would spend Jenny’s birthday there so we could turn it into a family event. We all met in Budapest and travelled by a really hot train to Cluj-Napoca, in Romania

    It was fun spending the day together and finishing with a dinner full of conversations and laughters.

    Une partie de la famille devant se rendre en Roumanie pour un mariage, nous avons décidé de nous y retrouver pour fêter l’anniversaire de Jenny en famille. Nos retrouvailles ont eu lieu à Budapest et nous avons pris un train étouffant pour Cluj-Napoca, en Roumanie.

    Nous avons passé une belle journée ensemble et terminé par un dîner rempli de conversations et de rires.

  • A few days in Serbia (6/25/2019)

    We had a few spare days before going on to Romania, so we took the train to go to Serbia, while Peter and Sue stayed in Budapest.

    There is only one train per day to Serbia at the moment because a new, faster line is being built which will put Belgrade only 3.5 hours away from Budapest. As it is, it took us 7 hours (including about 45 minutes at the border, leaving Schengen, changing trains, all done in a relaxed manner) to reach Novi Sad.


    Novi Sad, situated on the Danube, is Serbia’s second city, the capital of Vojvodina and a university town. Its city centre is very pleasant, with crowded terraces from late afternoon well into the night, and a very good daily market full of delicious, ripe, fruit and vegetables from the region, rich in agricultural products. Novi Sad will be one of Europe’s City of Culture in 2021.

    The first photograph represents the last king of Serbia, Peter.

    We saw these posters of high school graduates all over town and were told it is a local tradition, that they stay in place for 3-4 months and that students are not told of the location of their photographs. So, they go on a sort of treasure hunt…


    We then took a 1 1/4 hour bus ride to Belgrade, a much larger city with a very different feel. We strolled through some parks, the fortress, walked through different parts of town. A new neighbourhood is being built along the Danube, with skyscrapers. In fact, there are an amazing number of projects underway, from hospitals to apartment buildings.  The old central train station no longer sees  trains but the buffet is open and tickets can still be bought there.


    Quelques jours en Serbie

    Nous avions quelques jours à disposition avant de partir en Roumanie et avons pris le train pour nous rendre en Serbie tandis que Peter et Sue restaient à Budapest.

    Il n’y a qu’un seul train par jour pour la Serbie en ce moment car une nouvelle ligne est en construction qui mettra Belgrade à 3.5 heures de Budapest. Actuellement, nous avons pris 7 heures pour arriver à Novi Sad, dont environ 45 minutes à la frontière avec changement de train, contrôles pour quitter l’espace Schengen, le tout se passant facilement.

    Novi Sad, située sur le Danube, est la deuxième ville du pays, capitale de la Voïvodine et un centre universitaire. La vieille ville est très plaisante avec ses terrasses bondées du milieu de l’après-midi jusque tard dans la nuit. Son marché quotidien regorge de magnifiques frruits et légumes mûrs de la région qui est riche en produits agricoles. Novi Sad sera l’une des “Capitale européenne de la Culture” en 2021.

    La première photographie est un portrait du dernier roi, Pierre de Serbie.

    Nous avons vu ces posters des étudiants ayant passé leur bac/matu dans toute la ville. On nous a dit qu’il s’agit d’une tradition locale, qu’ils restent en place de 3 à 4 mois et que les étudiants ne savent pas où se trouvera leur photo. A eux de partir à la chasse au trésor…

    Nous nous sommes ensuite rendus en 1.15 de bus à Belgrade, une ville plus grande et à l’atmosphère différente. Nous nous sommes baladés dans ses parcs, la forteresse et différents quartiers. Les bords du Danube sont en chantier et plusieurs gratte-ciels sont en construction. En fait, un nombre incroyable de grands projets sont prévus, des hôpitaux aux logements. La vieille gare centrale ne voit plus de trains mais le buffet reste ouvert et on peut y acheter des billets.

  • Memento Park, Budapest (6/19/2019)

    When Communism collapsed in Hungary in 1989, the city of Budapest was left with many public works of art that celebrated the Communist era.

    The city government decided to save the statues rather than destroy them and the idea for the Memento Park was born.

    On June 29th, 1993, the second anniversary of the withdrawal of the last Soviet soldier from Hungary, Memento Park was opened, in the outskirts of Budapest.

    This park, full of statues and plaques commemorating the heroes of Communism, is almost a graveyard of sorts for that period of Hungarian history.



    The boots belonged to a massive statue of Stalin that was torn down during the October 1956 Uprising, after which only the boots remained. The stand is a replica of where the party apparatchiks reviewed military parades.

    John standing next to this figure gives an idea of the larger-than-life aspect of propaganda art. The original of this statue was damaged in the October 1956 Uprising only to be replaced two years later with this copy.



    Built in 1956, the year of the uprising, this monument to the Hungarian-Soviet “friendship” is retrospectively ironic.


    Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Memento Park is in the hut where a grainy black-and-white film is shown. It was a training film for the secret police which showed them how to spy on citizens. Many tricks used in spy movies were based on reality.

    A la chute du communisme, en 1989, la ville de Budapest s’est retrouvée avec de nombreux ouvrages célébrant cette idéologie.

    La ville a choisi de conserver ces statues plutôt que de les détruire et l’idée du Memento Park est née.

    Le 29 juin 1993, deux ans jour pour jour après le départ du dernier soldat soviétique du territoire hongrois, ce musée à ciel ouvert a ouvert ses portes au sud de Buda.

    Le parc abrite une quarantaine de statues et plaques commémorant les héros de l’ère communiste et semble presque être un cimetière dédié à cette période de l’histoire hongroise.

    Ces bottes appartenaient à une statue massive de Staline, abattue lors de la révolution d’octobre 1956 mais dont les bottes restèrent en place. La plateforme sur laquelle se trouve cette statue est une copie de l’estrade d’où les apparatchiks regardaient les parades militaires.

    John est photographié à côté de ces statues pour montrer leur gigantisme. L’original avait été endommagé lors de la révolution de 1956 mais avait été remplacé deux ans plus tard.

    Construit en 1956, l’année de la révolution, ce monument à l’amitié soviéto-hongroise est rétrospectivement ironique.

    L’aspect le plus dérangeant de Memento Park se trouve peut-être dans le pavillon de bois où un film noir et blanc est montré. Il était utilisé par la police secrète pour enseigner les méthodes de recrutement et d’espionnage des citoyens.

  • A new president for Slovakia (6/16/2019)

    Zuzana Čaputová was elected to the presidency of Slovakia last March but her swearing-in ceremony did not take place until 15 June 2019, the day after we arrived in Bratislava.

    Ms Čaputová is the youngest and first female president of this country. She comes in as a pro-European, anti-corruption and socially progressive politician. Before entering politics fairly recently, she fought against a toxic landfill, declared illegal by the Supreme Court of  Slovakia in 2013, in her hometown for more than a decade.  She won the Goldman “green Nobel prize” for environmental activists in 2016 for that long battle.


    Une nouvelle présidente pour la Slovaquie

    Zuzana Čaputová a été élue à la présidence de la Slovaquie en mars mais son investiture n’a eu lieu que le 15 juin 2019, le lendemain de notre arrivée à Bratislava.

    Madame Čaputová est la plus jeune et première femme présidente de ce pays. Elle est une politicienne pro-européenne, anti-corruption and progressive socialement. Avant d’entrer en politique relativement récemment, elle s’est battue pendant plus d’une décennie contre une décharge toxique, déclarée illégale par la Cour Suprême slovaque en 2013, dans sa ville natale. Ce long combat lui a valu le prix Goldman, le “Nobel vert” pour les activistes environnementaux, en 2016.

  • Schiedam library (6/12/2019)

    De Korenbeurs (Wheat Exchange) in Schiedam is a beautiful classicist building, designed by the Italian-Dutch architect Jan Guidici in 1792.

    It has now become the home of the public library, making this listed building freely accessible to all citizens and visitors. But this library is special : it offers a wonderful indoor garden where people can read, relax, work or have a drink or snacks, the glass roof giving plenty of natural light.

    With its rectangular courtyard and surrounding gallery, De Korenbeurs resembled a cloister. Since most cloisters have gardens, this led to the idea of an indoor garden. The trees are large, four to six metres high.


    Cicero once said: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need”.


    Bibliothèque de Schiedam

    De Korenbeurs (la bourse au blé) à Schiedam est un bel édifice de style classique dessiné par l’architecte italo-néerlandais Jan Guidici en 1792.

    Devenu la bibliothèque municipale, ce bâtiment classé est désormais accessible à tous, habitants comme visiteurs. Mais cette bibliothèque est spéciale : elle offre un superbe jardin d’intérieur où l’on peut lire, se relaxer, travailler ou prendre une collation sous la verrière qui inonde le lieu de lumière naturelle.

    Avec sa cour rectangulaire entourée d’une galerie, De Korenbeurs ressemblait à un cloître. Comme la plupart des cloîtres ont un jardin, l’idée a germé d’en créer un dans la cour. Les arbres sont d’une belle taille: de 4 à 6 m de hauteur.

    Cicéron a un jour dit: “Si vous possédez une bibliothèque et un jardin, vous avez tout ce qu’il vous faut.”

  • Getting high (5/31/2019)

    Our third day on the GR5, starting where we left off at Brielle, was dominated by blue and green colours. A good chunk of the path leading to Rockanje passes through a natural reserve, other parts take us  high on the dyke where, at about 5m above sea level, we feel on top the world. Our walks have taken us from -7m to 15m “altitude”, the latter when we were in the middle of bridges.

    The return trip from Rockanje lasts a little over one hour and it will take longer the further we go. We will stop our day trips here, but will pick up the trail some time again, with our tent, to complete the 142km of the Dutch part of this GR.

    Notre troisième journée sur le GR5, commencée là où nous l’avions terminée, à Brielle , fut dominée par les couleurs bleue et verte. Une bonne partie du sentier nous amenant à Rockanje passe en effet par une réserve naturelle tandis que le chemin suit une digue d’où, à environ 5m au-dessus du niveau de la mer, nous dominons la région. Ces marches nous ont vu aller de -7m à 15m d’altitude, ceci lorsque nous nous trouvions au milieu d’un pont.

    Le retour depuis Rockanje prend un peu plus d’une heure et le voyage va durer plus longtemps avec l’éloignement. Nous cessons donc nos balades à la journée ici mais reprendrons ce sentier dans le futur, avec notre tente pour compléter les 142km de la partie néerlandaise de ce GR.

  • Maasluis to Brielle (5/29/2019)

    We took the bus to get back to the pretty little town of Maasluis to go on our second walk of the GR5.  Although it was a shorter day, it offered some variety in scenery.

    At Maasluis, we crossed one arm of the Maas to reach the island of Rozenburg, which is pretty much in the centre of the huge area that is the port of Rotterdam.

    We passed suburbs with lush gardens and came out of a wood to the view of big ships heading up Calandcanal to the port. Along this canal, over a distance of about 2km, slabs of concrete have been installed as windbreakers, giving a 25m high protection to the ships.

    Having crossed that canal on foot, we were back in greenery within twenty minutes and sa