Sunday, May 31, 2015

Showcasing Switzerland

My uncle and aunt visited us from Newcastle and they chose a perfect weekend to see the sights of Switzerland. We drove to Martigny and caught the Mont Blanc Express up to Les Marecottes.  The train uses a clever blend of tracks, third rail power and cogs to get up the steep mountainside - a delight for my railway engineer uncle!

A spot of map reading on the train up

The quaint station of Les Marecottes

We walked down a little trail to the village of Salvan, also in the Trient Valley, where we stopped for a spot of lunch at Cafe des Alpes.

A tranquil Alpine trail

Salvan, nestled in the Alps

The town square

Some more map reading!
On our drive home we stopped at the Cailler chocolate factory for a bit of chocolate tasting and photo taking :)

Me with my Unkie and Ankie

On Sunday we made the most of the lovely weather to show off our beautiful part of Switzerland. We went on a village tour then headed to the Arboretum for a picnic lunch.

At the end of Aubonne, overlooking Lake Geneva and the French Alps

Picnic in the park

Summer greens in the Arboretum

It was so lovely to spend some time with Kevin and Val and to show them around our new home.

Le Tour du Pays de Vaud

This year was the 47th Tour de Vaud, a cycling race through the countryside of our canton, Vaud. The race passed through our village in an exciting 40-second blur and we were there to cheer on the cyclists.

The race profile for the first stage. They passed through Aubonne at 80,6km.

The arrival of the leaders

The rest of the peloton passing through

A team car

Turn left at the top of the hill

Monday, May 25, 2015

Caves Ouvertes 2015

Last weekend the canton of Vaud celebrated its Caves Ouvertes, a wonderful festival of the opening of more than 300 wine cellars along the lake. We decided to wander over to the neighbouring village of Fechy to visit the ten wineries there. We bought our "wine passport" - a Vins Vaudois wine glass and pouch for 15 francs - and then enjoyed unlimited tastings at the various cellars. There were free shuttle buses across the whole canton and within Fechy there was a charming little shuttle train to ferry the merry-makers up and down the hill.

Map of the Caves Ouvertes along Lake Geneva

Fechy (lower and upper)

Winding our way down through the rolling vineyards

The shuttle train!

The cellar at Domaine du Martheray

Happy wine tasters :)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Alpine Running Routes Tour

This weekeend was a long weekend in Vaud and we went on a trip around the lake to Daniel's running haunts in the Alps. We drove to Martigny, the capital of the French-speaking district of the same name in the canton of Valais. The town lies on the east edge of the Rhône Valley at the foot of the Swiss Alps and is the junction of roads between Italy, France and Switzerland. Daniel begins many of his long runs into the Alps from the Château de la Bâtiaz on the outskirts of Martigny.

We wound our way up the valley to Champex-Lac, a village at the foot of Mont Blanc massif, a mountain range in the Graian Alps. Here we strolled around the beautiful lake nestled in the woods.

After plunging back down the valley we then snaked our way up a neighbouring valley to Col de la Forclaz, a mountain pass connecting Martigny and Finhaut. The pass was originally a track used by smugglers from Martigny into France, but is now an important link to tourist areas around Mont Blanc.

The town of Trient with its iconic pink cathedral

Our adventures took us back down the valley and we smuggled ourselves into France for lunch. I finally got to see the famous town of Chamonix and it lived up to all its expectations. Chamonix is the mountain sports capital of Europe, famous for its ski slopes in winter and amazing trails and alpine ascents in summer. It hosted the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924 and is dominated by the highest peak in Europe, Mont Blanc. It is home to the start and finish line of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. My favourite part was undoubtedly the spectacular glacier rising above the town. It was a perfect spot for lunch.

I'm sure we'll back in this part of the world before too long as it is rich in trails to explore and adventures to be had.

Swiss Cheese and Swiss Chocolate

My good friend from high school came to Switzerland for the weekend and we indulged in a grand tour of some excellent Swiss cheese and chocolate. Our first stop was in the small village of Pringy in the canton of Fribourg.

A view over the Saane valley
Here we visited La Maison du Gruyère, a cheese dairy which produces the famous gruyère cheese. The audio tour explains the long tradition of cheese-making as it has been handed down over many generations of alpine cheesemakers and visitors can actually watch the cheese-making process from a viewing gallery.

The dairy where the cheese is made

The cellar where the cheeses mature for five months to a year

After the tour we headed up the hill to the medieval town of Gruyère for a spot of lunch. Of course, fondue was on the menu and we found a wonderful terrace overlooking the Saane Valley to enjoy our cheese and wine.

Gruyère takes its name from 'grue' meaning crane

Quaint restaurant-lined cobbled street

Another beautiful alpine village

Laura and me :)


Words to live by!

After filling up on cheesy goodness we drove down the road to the neighbouring village of Broc to visit the famous Maison Cailler, a chocolate factory. The tour here was excellent and well worth a couple of hours. It includes a brief history of chocolate and the Cailler family, a detailed and interesting explanation of all aspects of how chocolate is produced today, and the obvious highlight of the chocolate tasting! It is unlimited and almost too much... Almost! There is a great gift shop at the end where you can stock up on the entire range of Cailler products.

Maison Cailler

Chocolate tasting

More chocolate tasting

A wall of chocolate bars to welcome you to the shop
It was a spectacular gastronomical day out, but this tour is not for the faint-hearted. We indulged in so much cheese and chocolate and that kind of indulgence takes some time to recover from :)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Spring in Switzerland

Spring has sprung in and around our village and it is beautiful! Have a look at some snapshots of our spring flowers.

On the way to the Arboretum

In our courtyard

The apple orchards by school

A typical junction in our village