Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Lac d'Annecy

This weekend we debated heading over to Annecy in nearby France, but the weather reports varied between sunny days and thunderstorms so we didn't end up making our mind to go until the last minute on Saturday.

Luckily for us this meant we found a last-minute booking in the Abbey de Talloires, which is in a town around the lake from Annecy that was recommended to me by a friend at work who had grown up there.

We were really lucky, since the hotel was fantastic and our room looked out over the lake. Really beautiful.

We didn't have huge plans for the weekend other than to relax - it was our First Date anniversary, and we'd been to Annecy before so we weren't as focussed on seeing everything as we normally are.

This didn't stop us from taking a nice drive around the lake, first up towards the Col de Forclaz which has a view over the lake (although the road all the way up was not yet open, presumably because we are still in 'Winter').

We also found a church where we had a picnic and which also had a great view over the lake.

Next we moved on to the Chateau de Menthon, which was also closed until May so we could only wander around the outside.

And we ended up in Annecy where we grabbed a Gelato before taking a tour around the lake on a boat. It was perfect weather for it!

Finally we grabbed some Galettes (savory crepes) for a light dinner before heading home.

We had a really nice relaxing weekend in Annecy - it was perfect weather and a very pleasant place to visit. We'd like to go back again, perhaps in May or June when the trees are all green and the weather even warmer. After all, it's only an hour from where we live in Nyon!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Spring is Sprung!

A couple of weekends ago we stayed home in Switzerland! This is seems to be an increasingly rare thing for us since we're really trying to make the most of our time over here right now.

It's not to say we didn't do anything with our time, and in fact we were keen to get outside and enjoy the Spring weather.

So we went to the Morges Tulip Festival, where they plant out the public gardens with Tulips and other flowers. We've been to this before, but right at the end of the period when all the flowers were looking quite wilted.

This time the flowers were in full bloom and looked amazing.

Then we went for a little walk around the country near our apartment.

The flowers were out in force here also, and we even found a little plot at the nearby farm where you could cut your own Tulips and leave your money in a box near the gate - only 1CHF per tulip!

We ended up in town, where there was a film festival going on and with the warm weather it was quite busy. It's really coming alive now that the Spring has arrived!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Sweden - Uppsala and Sigtuna

One of the last things we did while in Sweden was to catch the train up to Uppsala, which is a university town not far from Stockholm.

We spent some time wandering around the town visiting the cathedral and museum, but actually our main point of interest was Gamla Uppsala where there was a number of burial mounds that are up to 2000 years old.

We had fun wandering around the burial grounds and imagining the times of the vikings buried there. Gamla Uppsala was the spiritual and political center of what would become Sweden.

We also had some hot chocolate as it was actually quite cold that day. Fortunately there was a viking themed tea house in the grounds - and we bought a bottle of mead to drink later.

We'd rented a car for the day not only because Gamla Uppsala is a little outside of Uppsala itself, but also because we were keen to visit Sigtuna, which is meant to be the oldest town in Sweden.

We had a very pleasant (although quite slow) drive to Sigtuna which was very quiet by this time, being quite late on Saturday, although we did find the local cafe apparently built in the old post office, apparently also with little regard to building codes as the floor and roof sloped quite dramatically.

We spent more time wandering around the town, visiting ruined churches and spotting menhirs.

After this we returned the car to Uppsala and spent more time wandering around the town and having dinner. We also took some photos of the river flowing through the town since the water was really high - possibly as a consequence of all the melting snow in Springtime Sweden!

Our last day in Sweden was relaxing but a bit frustrating, as we'd planned to leave our bags in the central station to do some last minute wandering and shopping but in the end there was no lockers available for our bags. So we just caught the train to the airport and shopped and ate there instead, and we ended up returning to Switzerland with bags full of souvineers and gastronomic treats. We had a fantastic time in Sweden and I think we were genuinely surprised on a number of levels at how nice it was. We spent our flight home planning future Scandanavian holidays!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Sweden - Kiruna and Abisko

From Stockholm we headed way up north to Kiruna for a few days.

The attraction of Kiruna is that it is above the Arctic circle in Swedish Lapland, and we had a few things in mind that we wanted to do there.

Our first night in Kiruna we stayed in the Ice Hotel, which is a hotel carved out of blocks of ice and the overnight stay is on beds made from blocks of ice and reindeer hide.

There is various types of rooms, ranging from the Art Rooms with elaborately carved decoration, down to the Snow Room which basically just had a bed. Of course the only room we could afford was the Snow Room which was anyway probably a good choice since you only really sleep there and the rooms are otherwise open to the public.

We did a tour of the rooms when they were all open, and drank an obligatory vodka out of ice cups in the Absolut Ice Bar.

Aside from this we mucked around in our 'warm gear' (including giant moon-boots), which was mostly un-needed because of the fine weather but fun to wear regardless, and wandered around the village.

After a night with a glimpse of the Northern Lights and an unexpectedly warm sleep in our Snow Room we visited the Sami village and said hello to some Reindeer, and then had some Reindeer soup (we didn't feel at all conflicted about this).

In the evening we were booked for a Snowmobile Tour, which took us out along the forest paths and over frozen lakes to a wilderness hut where our friendly guide cooked us dinner while we attempted cross country skiing on the lake.

We had a disappointingly cloudy night, so no Northern Lights, but otherwise had a fantastic time. It took some deciding as to whether we should stay another night in the 'Swedish wilderness', but in the end opted to stick with our original plan.

After riding our snow-mobiles back into town we picked up a rental car and drove up north to Abisko national park which is reputedly the best place in Sweden to see the lights, thanks to the surrounding mountains which keep the air clear.

We stayed in a cabin and, that night, we wandered a little away from the lights of the village to wait for the lights to start.

What we saw was just amazing, there is really no way to adequately describe it and the pictures I took could not capture the display.

The lights filled the whole sky and shimmered and snaked their way from one horizon to another. They moved impossibly fast considering their scale, and lasted for much longer than I expected.

Long after we had gone back inside, the lights were still in the sky making a pattern like tiger's stripes.

After this we were completely satisfied by our stay, having seen more than we ever expected, but at the same time we wanted to stay longer in the North of Sweden, having had such a fantastic time there.

The next morning, however, we jumped back in the car and headed back to Kiruna for our booked flight back to Stockholm - running customarily late and only just making it in time as usual.