Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas in Vevey

Yesterday was Christmas of course, and this is generally a big day in our household, even though it consists of only two people, since Linda is a Big Fan of Christmas (although I do admit to enjoying the benefits that come with this)

We had a large Christmas tree, carefully decorated, and food and presents enough to satisfy a much larger family than ours.

After the phonecalls and the first and second rounds of eating, we jumped on a train up to Les Pleiades, since if Winter were not going to deliver us with a White Christmas, then we would deliver ourselves to the white stuff.

We spent our time making an elaborate (for us beginners) snowman.

After taking plenty of photos for evidence, we noticed the clouds closing in and the sun going down, which would have left us shivering on the hill-top, so we ran for the train and went back home for round three of eating.

We still have a lot of left-over Christmas Turkey (we roasted a whole one) and other Christmas food to finish off before we start our drive into Italy tomorrow morning. We may end up taking some with us, although taking Swiss food into Italy would indeed be a strange thing to do.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Skiing at Les Diablerets

On Monday I was officially on annual leave while Linda was still unfortunately at work.

In order to prevent myself from distracting Linda, I bravely took myself out of the house for a day of skiing at Les Diablerets - poor me.

It hasn't snowed in a little while and the snow was quite hard-packed so I decided to focus on improving my turns.

Having bought carve skis last season, I decided it was time I got better at carve skiing (normally I make short, quick turns, whereas carve skiing requires a more dedicated approach to turning).

With carve skiing you aren't really pushing the snow to the side (which slows you down) so much as trying to cut a smooth line across the slope (which doesn't). Also, the skis I bought are quite long for carve skis (180cm), so they're built more for speed than pure carving. Consequentially I've been going a lot faster!

Lastly, in Australia the slopes are quite gentle in gradient, and short in length, so you tend to make the most of the terrain by doing jumps off rocks, etc. but in Switzerland the runs are steep and long so you focus more on getting up speed and making some big turns.

Then there's the accident insurance my work provides (a disincentive for caution), the fact that I'm not as fit as I used to be, and all this leads to an obvious conclusion: it might be time to buy a helmet...

Mont Pélerin

Last weekend we went for a short drive to Mont Pélerin just behind Vevey for a hike in the snow. The weather wasn't perfect and there hadn't been any snow for a few days so the conditions weren't ideal, but we did have a nice walk through the countryside with our raquettes on.

Probably the most fun part, however, was letting my GPS have its head and allowing it to guide us through some very obscure roads to the starting point of our walk. We ended up following some very narrow and winding country roads through snow covered woods - very nice!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Freiburg und Schwartzwald

On the weekend we hopped in the car and headed up to Freiburg to check out the Christmas markets there (Linda is a big fan of Christmas markets and where better to go than Germany to check them out).

From Vevey it is only 2.5h to Freiburg and despite a late start to our trip we still managed to see some of the town in the afternoon and check out the Christmas markets in Rathausplatz and Münsterplatz.

The markets themselves were really extensive, but although we did find some unique bits and pieces, and some interesting food, overall they were much like other markets we had already visited in Switzerland.

We wussed out on getting dinner in town (it was cold!), heading instead back to our excellent hotel (Hotel Sonne in Kirchzarten), which had a similarly excellent restaurant, eating some good German cuisine before calling it a night.

The next morning we decided to head East through the black forest (Schwartzwald) to Schiltach which is meant to be one of the most picturesque of the black forest towns. We drove through the forest, which was pretty much what you'd expect - dark fir trees covered in snow - although I don't think we went far enough off the beaten track to get a real feeling for the place.

We had some fun walking around the streets of Schiltach and taking photos of the ice that had formed around the fountains and ducking into a café to try some black forest cake (to eat in the black forest of course!) but settling for some apfelstrudel and a chocolate/cherry cake.

In the afternoon we returned to the area around Freiburg to catch the Schauinsland cable car into the forest - another scene of fir trees covered in snow. We watched the sun set, and finally found ourselves a slice of of black forest cake to eat, before heading back to our car and a speedy trip home in the car (I'm still waiting to see if any speeding tickets wind up in our mailbox).

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Les Portes du Soleil

The last few weeks have been really hectic at work, so when I took a look at my calendar and realised I could take a day off to recover I took advantage of it to head onto the ski slopes for the first time this season.

I thought about going back to Verbier or Les Diablerets, which are both quite close by, but settled on Champéry/Les Portes du Soleil, since it is only 45 minutes from where we live in Vevey, and well recommended by some friends at work.

In the morning as I was driving to the resort I ended up driving through thick fog and I felt like I was going to have a miserable day skiing in white-out conditions. Once I got a bit of altitude, though, I popped up through the cloud into a lovely clear day.

I drove through to Les Crosets, one of the gateway points for the resort, where I parked and hopped immediately onto an express lift right up the mountain.

The resort is amazingly huge, and actually traverses the Swiss/French border, so the first thing I did, of course, was to ski into France too see if it was any different (not really).

Being the first day of skiing of the season, I was pretty much exhausted by about 2pm and headed home before I injured myself. Once again I was blown away by the minimum of effort required to do something amazing in Switzerland.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Showshoeing in Les Diablerets

On the weekend we went snowshoeing again in Les Diablerets. Once again we had an amazing time in the snow, which was knee deep powder even down in the village and with Raquettes on our feet.

I think there will be a lot more posts on our Raquetting adventures in the future!

A proper swiss winter

Through the whole of last winter it snowed for about 5 seconds in where we live in Vevey and then it melted immediately, which was a bit disappointing. Already this year we've had quite a lot of snow falling in Vevey and pretty much everywhere else in Switzerland!

The other night it was really coming down in our square where the Village Finlandais is set up, so of course I took some photos.

In Australia I would really resent cold weather since it just seems to limit what you can do, but in Switzerland it means snow; which really transforms the landscape making everything look quite spectacular and also creates a whole range of new activities to explore. Consequentially, I'm really excited about having what I consider to be a proper Swiss winter ahead of us!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Les Mosses

After our wonderful time the weekend before in Les Diablerets, we promptly went out and bought ourselves our own raquettes, since we figured we'd be doing a lot more snow-shoeing in future.

To try them out, we took ourselves up to Les Mosses, which is about an hour from Vevey by car (having now fitted our snow tires), and picked the most scenic of the raquette trails to explore.

We had a great time walking through the pine forest with snow on the branches, and past frozen streams up onto a plateau above the village before stopping for a picnic in the snow of tea and cold pizza we'd picked up in the markets in Vevey.

We got a bit lost at this point, following some more ambitious raquetters than us still further up the mountain, but got ourselves back on track to explore around the plateau some more before heading back down through the forest towards the village.

It was just as well we headed back when we did, as it started to get dark and really quite cold by the time we were back to our car.

We had a great time for almost no cost (in fact, we actually made some money due to a free tank of petrol thanks to a non-functioning petrol bowser at the petrol station) and it's really great to think we can just throw the raquettes in the car and drive somewhere and have a great day in the snow!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

A wintery weekend

It has started snowing quite a lot recently so this weekend we had a great time exploring winter delights of Switzerland.

On Saturday we caught the train up the hill behind Vevey to Les Pléaides, where we have been a few times now, at different times of the year. It was really good to get up there after a fresh dump of snow and we were making our own tracks through the snow and exploring the hilltop without really encountering a large number of people.

Fortunately the restaurant was still open so we were able to grab a hot chocolate to warm up before getting back on the train back to Vevey.

The next morning we woke up to find our square had been blanketed in snow. They have been setting up a Finlandais village in the square in preparation for the Vevey Christmas, so it looked quite cool to have snow on the rooftops all around us.

We then caught the train (having not yet taken the time to put snow tires on our car) into Les Diablerets, a nearby ski resort.

The train ride from Aigle into Les Diablerets is really amazing, through all the pine trees with fresh snow on the branches. It made everything feel very Christmassy!

The ski lifts at Diablerets have not yet opened, but we hired some raquettes (snow shoes) and walked out of the village into the surrounding country-side.

We had so much fun in the fresh snow that we're now considering buying our own sets of Raquettes - a great way to get out into the Swiss countryside which is so beautiful in Winter.

Monday, 17 November 2008


On Saturday we jumped in the car and drove over to Neuchâtel, which is meant to be one of the most French towns of la Suisse romande in terms of language, food, and attitudes, and is also the watch-making capital of Switzerland.

Switzerland being a small country, it only took us about an hour of driving to get from Vevey to Neuchâtel, and although I always considered Neuchâtel to be North West of us (being so close to France) in fact it is almost exactly to the North and even a tiny bit to the East. Anyway, that is enough about the oddly shaped country we live in!

We started at the top of the old town, near the 12th century Collégiale church and Château, after which the town gets its name.

We wandered around the cobbled streets, hopping into shops and downing hot chocolates to keep us warm. The old town is very attractive, and the Art and History museum was surprisingly interesting, housing some famous 18th Century Automotons (the Writer, the Illustrator and the Musician) as well as some interesting artwork by local artists.

We stayed in Neuchâtel until sunset when the temperature suddenly dropped, driving home via Yverdon where we took a walk around the old town and had another warming cup of hot chocolate. I think more than anything this trip reminded us just how small the country is, especially when you have a car, and how easy it is to get out and see more of the place with minimal fuss.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Autumn in Switzerland

We've been having deliberately quiet weekends recently; recovering from a few busy weeks of travelling, Linda starting a new job, my own job getting quite hectic, a historic presidential election, and the whole global financial meltdown thing.

This is not to say we haven't been doing anything, rather that we've been keeping things a bit closer to home - and there's certainly nothing uninteresting about where we live, especially as we dive deeper into Autumn!

The weather has certainly been getting colder, and the days dramatically shorter, but we have still had some amazing days with clear, sunny weather. We've been taking advantage of these days to get out and have a BBQ picnic by the lake or play a bit of casual sport, like ping-pong (I'm a new convert) or kicking a soccer ball around.

I'm also a convert to the disposable charcoal BBQs, which are surprisingly effective, and we've made ourselves some delicious picnic lunches with fresh food bought from the markets.

Autumn seems like a bit of an in-between season over here; no longer hot and not yet cold enough for the proper winter activities to kick in, but we're still having fun and looking forward to the snow and Christmas markets only a month away now!