Friday, 29 August 2008

Walking through the Lavaux

Last weekend we also had some friends of Linda visiting us from Sweden, Veronica and Johan, and we decided to take them for a walk in the Lavaux wine area above Vevey (it's always motivating having visitors and showing off Switzerland).

It started out a bit grey and rainy but it soon cleared up and we happily strolled through the vines snapping photos and wondering why there wasn't more cafés around.

We walked all the way to Cully where we expected to be able to catch a ferry home but found ourselves in a bit of a ferry drought and eventually gave up and caught a train home.

We took heaps of photos - Linda borrowed my camera and took all the good ones. You can find them all here.

Vevey Festival des Artistes de Rue

Last weekend was the 16th Festival des Artistes de Rue, or the street theatre festival of Vevey. By good luck (or bad depending on your perspective) this is centred around Place Scanavin where were live so we had prime seats from our window.

We watched a few acts both from our windows and from the streets. Some were very good, including some Australian acts which made us proud, although we felt a little guilty watching from our window because it meant we couldn't give the artists money at the end of their acts.

There was also plenty of food on offer in our square so it was handy to duck out for a plate of food, a gaufre (waffle), or a sweet crêpe. It was great fun having it in our square, although as you'd expect it was also nice when it left again - restoring the peace and quiet.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Mont Pèlerin

It's been a really hectic couple of weeks, with friends of Linda coming to visit and buying a car, so I'm a little behind on my blog posts and will try to catch up (with somewhat brief posts) before we fly out to Sardinia this weekend.

A couple of weekends ago we caught the Vevey Funi (Funicular) to Mont Pèlerin above Vevey.

We were going to visit the Plein Ciel Tower located nearby, but the walk there turned out to be further than expected and on the way we got distracted by a lovely bit of forest that we went into to explore.

Finding ourselves heading downhill and reluctant to return, we continued walking down the road towards the lake.

In the end we walked all the way back to Vevey, through the vines of the Lavaux and some of the towns on the way.

The next day our calves and knees were aching from the long downhill walk but we really enjoyed ourselves and we'll try to do it again soon, maybe in Autumn when all the leaves are turning to orange and red.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Nous avons acheté une voiture!

Well we can add another key to our keyrings after today, having found and bought a fantastic little car!

Linda found an ad online from a couple moving back to Japan for work, and they were desperate to sell it with only days remaining before they were to fly out. We feel like this will be a great investment, replacing the money we would have spent on trains and car rental and enabling us to travel easily into the countries around Switzerland.

We are both very excited about our little car and feel like it will make our experience in Switzerland quite different - the trains here are great but there's nothing quite like just hopping in the car!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Zurich Street Parade - The Day After

On Sunday I woke up and headed immediately into Zurich hoping to catch it unprepared, expecting to find the town a mess after the previous night's partying. I couldn't believe it when I stepped off my bus onto the streets only to find them glistening wet and spotlessly clean after what was obviously a concerted night of cleaning.

There were still little teams of cleaning trucks scurrying about spraying and scrubbing, but it was pretty rare to find a stray beer bottle lying around. You have to hand it to the Swiss, they sure can clean!

Sundays in Switzerland are the day when everything shuts. There was a few Cafés open and, inevitably, McDonalds, but mostly the centre of town was very quiet. Since the weather was clear and sunny, I decided it would be a good idea to spend some time cruising around the lake, and bought a ticket for a 4h ferry trip.

It was a really nice way to spend the morning, spotting all the little towns around the lake and the mountains beyond, but I have to say I prefer 'our' Lake Geneva, since the mountains are closer and more spectacular, and the lake feels less densely populated.

After the cruise I was really hot, after spending the whole time out on the deck and reapplying suncream, so I found a patch of nice cool grass in the shade and lay down for a while. There was a magician busking near by; an obnoxious American endlessly saying he'd brought his act all the way from Manhattan, but no-one seemed interested - not surprising given the perfect weather and surrounds. Eventually he gave up and left without collecting a cent.

I spent some more time wandering around the city, but being so quiet, and that I didn't want to do too much in case I came back some day with Linda, I eventually got tired of walking around and checked the times for a train back to Vevey.

When did get back to Vevey I was really proud of myself that I'd spent the weekend alone at a street festival and not lost anything - I had split my wallet in two and kept my keys buttoned up all weekend. However, I then took myself down for a swim by the lake to wash off the suncream and cool down after a long day in the sun, only to flick my keys into the lake when I picked up my towel.

I spent a bit of time freaking out, since the keys had fallen in deep water with a rocky bottom - I thought they would slide between some rocks and be lost forever - plus the sunlight was fading so I couldn't see anything once I put my head underwater. Fortunately one of the locals offered me a facemask and after a bit of searching I tracked down my keys. I would have been completely stuffed if I hadn't found them, with Linda out of town, no phone and only 20CHF of cash on me. I thanked the kind person who leant me their goggles and quickly went home before anything more could happen.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Zurich Street Parade

I had never been to Zurich before, and the weekend of the 17th Zurich Street Parade gave me a good excuse to jump on a train and head up there to check it out. I caught the 8am train from Vevey and arrived in Zurich 2.5h later.

When I emerged from the train I could already hear dance music echoing around the station and lots of people wandering around in clothes entirely unsuitable for the place and time of day. There was a stage set up at the entrance of the station and people were dancing and drinking already. It was at this point I decided I should have a beer because I figured it could be hard to get through a day that starts like this.

After finding my bearings, I headed down Bahnhofstrasse, the main street of Zurich, towards the lake where most of the day's events would be taking place. I followed the crowds of conspicuously dressed people around the lake to the start of the parade and stayed to people-watch for a while. I have to say it didn't exactly match with Zurich's reputation as a boring banking city.

Eventually the parade started, with something like 27 floats crawling their way around the lake blaring out techno music. It took hours for them to pass by and it inevitably became a bit monotonous. Feeling my age a little, I put some earplugs in to stop the booming music from giving me a headache.

It was amazing what a mix of people there were at the parade, from young to old; and generally the most ill-advised people were wearing the most outrageous outfits.

After the parade there was a number of stages set up, and many stalls selling beers, sausages and meat-on-a-stick (I don't know what these are called in German). It was an incredible crowd of people, apparently more then 800,000, and by the end of the evening the ground was a carpet of squashed beer cans and broken glass.

Even so, everyone seemed mostly well behaved and I was surprised not to see more unconscious bodies strewn about the place by the time I left (admittedly quite early, at 10pm) to find my way to my hostel for the night. I was sure Zurich would be waking up with quite a hangover.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Riding around Lac Léman

On Sunday I went for a bike ride around Lac Léman with some friends we had met through the englishforum website (Richard, Renata and Paul). We didn't go all the way around the lake, but we did manage around 65 of the 170km circumference (It's a big lake!).

We started in Vevey, travelling around the lake in a clockwise direction through Montreux, Villeneuve, crossing into France at Saint Gingolph, and continuing on towards Evian-les-Bains.

Along the way we stopped after Montreux, just near the Chateau de Chillon, and again just before Evian for a long and delicious lunch (we were in France after all).

On the ferry trip from Evian to Lausanne we decided it was such a nice day we should continue our ride, instead of taking the train, all the way to Vevey (via Lutry, where we had ice-cream) to return our free bikes. After the long day of riding we took a refreshing dip in the lake at Vevey and had some similarly refreshing beers and an early dinner.

In fact if it weren't for all the eating and drinking, you could have said it was a very healthy day out! Still, we all had a lot of fun and I have resolved to more of this sort of thing while the weather allows.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Swiss National Day

The 1st of August is National Day here in Switzerland. I had read up on what events would occur, but it sounded like it would be a low-key affair celebrated within the individual communes and ultimately it would just be a quiet day off work.

However, when we wandered around Vevey on Friday we found all sorts of stalls set up, and we started the day with a Raclette (molten cheese poured over boiled potatoes and cocktail onions) washed down with a glass of Rosé. I followed this up with a sausage and a beer, resulting in my feeling like it was time to go on a diet.

In the evening we headed out with one of our disposable BBQ's to have dinner in the park before the fireworks that were planned. We had bought our own fireworks - a real novelty coming from Australia where such things are tightly regulated.

While we were eating dinner people were setting off fireworks all around us, and we set off some of ours to join in. It was really fun setting off our small selection of fireworks.

Eventually it got properly dark and the 'real' fireworks display got under way. From where we were sitting we could see all the way from Vevey-est to Nyon, with all the towns in between, so we had an amazing view of all the fireworks along the lake. We were really amazed by the show that was put on, as we had thought it would be low key, but I think its safe to say that in Switzerland you can see where your taxes go!

The photos and video we took really couldn't capture the scene and atmosphere, but we had a really amazing time with a delicious dinner, spectacular fireworks, and the real feeling of community we experienced in Vevey.