Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Ligurian Coast

The canton of Geneva recently had their Geneva Fast holiday on Thursday, so we took the 'bridge' to make it a four day weekend. We took advantage of this to travel down to the Ligurian coast for some sun, sea, and Italian food. We've been to the Ligurian coast before, having visited the Cinque Terre, but we'd heard that the area around Portofino was also really nice and we decided this would make it a good place to visit.
We stayed in Santa Margherita Ligure, the first night in a noisy hotel with uncomfortable beds (the price you pay for last-minute organisation), before transferring to a somewhat nicer hotel for the last two nights. As we arrived quite late on Thursday we only really had time for some (delicious) dinner in the town before heading to bed.
The next day we headed out to Portofino, which is a famous and exclusive town that has played host to many celebrities over the years. We had a very nice time wandering around the shops and getting bites of food  to eat (the focaccia is quite famous), and we also hiked up to the castle that overlooks the town.
The view over the pretty port town from the castle was fantastic (note the giant yachts).
After several hours in Portofino we headed to Rapallo for dinner (I think the Rapallo tourism board must have been paying this fisherman to be there just for photos). Rapallo turns out also to be a very nice little town and, after picking an Osteria at random, we had another delicious seafood dinner.
On Saturday went down to Vernazza, one of the towns in the Cinque Terre. Originally we were going to catch the ferry but it left town quite early and in the end we decided driving would be a more flexible option. However the drive was really quite a lot longer than expected and the road through the hills above Vernazza were quite difficult to negotiate.
Anyway Vernazza was as nice as we had remembered from our last visit, and we had a nice swim in the sea, some delicious geleto, and yet another great seafood dinner before walking to our car and driving back to Santa Margherita.
On our last day we had a quick walk around Santa Margherita before driving over to Comogli, which also took quite a lot longer than expected (especially since the parking was near to impossible!).
From Comogli we took the ferry to San Fruttuoso, where there is a old Monastery located on a very picturesque beach and (being Italy) some little restaurants. At the restaurant we chose, we sat right on the beach and ate a delicous lunch. I had a strange (in concept) Pesto Lasagne which was actually really delicious.
We swam in the water at San Fruttuoso but somehow we got stung by a jelly fish! Linda got stung far worse then me, and it certainly encouraged us to leave the water sooner than we would have liked.
Finally we raced back into Comogli and back to our car (picking up supplies along the way!) for the trip back into Switzerland.

The drive back took a lot longer than the drive in since the Mont Blanc tunnel was backed up for miles. We also had a small drama after the tunnel, finding ourselves in a mountain storm with windscreen wipers that seemed effective only in smearing the water across the windscreen. We sheltered in a service station where we found some new wipers (and a hot chocolate to revitalise us) before getting home quite late on Sunday. Despite all this, it was amazing to be able to drive into Italy for such an amazing weekend!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Hiking to Lac Blanc Refuge

A couple of weekends ago we finally got ourselves oranised (ie: Linda organised us) to hike into a Refuge in the mountains near Chamonix.
We'd been wanting to do something like this for a really long time and, with the hiking season drawing to a close, we decided it was time to get on with it!
The Refuge is situated by a lake across the valley from the Mont Blanc range of mountains and the walk in was really amazing even though it was quite cloudy for much of the walk (and it was consequently quite cold).

We followed the path into the national park, seeing some Chamois and plenty of small lakes and ponds along the way, and occassionally the clouds would lift giving us a view across the valley.
Once we finally reached the refuge, we familiarised ourselves with the way these these work (not having stayed in a refuge before) and took ourselves out for a walk out by the lake, returning in time for dinner. We had a feast for dinner; soup with slabs of cheese dropped in it, beef bourguinoin and pasta for mains, and something else delicious for desert.
However we pretty rapidly lost track of what was happening then. Everyone around us bolted off for showers and bed, and we discovered that the hot water was soon to disappear as were the lights for the night. So Linda and I did our best to get our selves off to bed but were hampered by our locker jamming up on us. I stood there in the dark using my phone screen as a torch trying to figure out how to unjam our locker for some time before one of the caretakers appeared and was able to help us.
Our sleep wasn't brilliant either, with refuge sleeping being very much a dormatory style affair filled with snoring adults and sleep-talking children (and anyway we were pretty wound up after our locker lock-out).
So it wasn't much of a surprise that we woke up for dawn and so we went out to watch the sun rise over the alps. This was amazing, with clear skies and some whispy clouds in the valley below us.
After the sun was up and we'd had our breakfast, we hiked up the mountain towards Lac de la Perserverance. This wasn't actually our plan, as we though we were just going to do a walk around Lac Blanc itself but evidently we got on the wrong track at some point and ended up somewhere completely different.
Not that this was really a bad thing, as it turned out to have been a very interesting destination - a lake high in the mountains that was still largely frozen over even at the end of summer.
After this we back-tracked to the Refuge for a final hot chocolate before deciding to head straight back down the mountain because the weather was starting to close in (and a storm with snow was forecast!).
We had a very nice walk down the mountain, passing many people going in the opposite direction who were apparently taking part in some kind of mountain walking event in Chamonix that weekend. We stopped by a small lake that was fed by a spring, and we drank from the spring (an occasion for which we had specifically brought camping cups) and snoozed in the sun by the bubbling stream.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Around Nyon

Over the last several weeks we've managed to do a few things around Nyon - which happens less often than you may think given that we live here, but we spend so many of our weekends travelling we don't often get a chance to really explore our home town! [most of these photos are by Linda]
On the 1st of August we had Swiss National Day which is usually quite a relaxed day where you hang around and swim in the lake and watch fireworks at night. This year was unfortunately rainy and also unfortunately on a Sunday which meant we didn't get the benefit of a day off work!
This was not really a big problem, as it just meant it was even more relaxed than usual, and the weather managed to clear up in time for the fireworks in the evening. Even the fireworks were a close call this year since it's been so "hot and dry" (by Swiss standards) that there was a ban on fireworks except for in specific controlled areas near the lake.
We still managed to have fun despite these rigid controls over our fireworks (we bought up big this year!). The main event of the fireworks in Nyon was a band of drummers on a trailer that was towed around the town - followed closely by people with buckets in case the fun became too extreme but, as usual, Linda and I had the most fun setting off our own fireworks
At the end of the night there was a big bonfire on the lake.
Not long after this Richard and Renata came to visit with their son Oliver.
We weren't lucky with the weather then either (it seems to have been a pretty miserable summer, weather wise) but still managed to get out and see bits of Nyon, Lausanne, and Divonne in France.

Then recently we discovered the local pool at Nyon, which we only found the weekend it was due to close for winter despite a late burst of really quite nice Autumn weather (Swiss pools seem very strict on their swimming season). It was great to be swimming in a nice big clean pool overlooking the lake and with Mont Blanc in the distance.

Last but not least, we went back to Divonne this weekend to shop for fresh seafood, ham, bread and other delicious bits and pieces for the weekend, which seems to have lasted us into the rest of the week - it's great being able to drive 15 minutes into France to go to the markets!