2018 travels

I seem to have neglected my travel posts in 2018… by which I mean I think I wrote about maybe two of our trips? We didn’t have a proper holiday (well, Jan did – 10 days travelling to Vienna, Sofia, Belgrade and Istanbul with his choir), but we did manage a few days out and weekends away. So before I entirely forget what we actually did this last year (almost forgot!), I thought I would write a round-up post of all our travels…

We started the year in Geneva, where we got very wet watching the New Year’s fireworks! We had arrived there on 29th December (I think) and left in the evening on 1st January. There was a festival of lights happening, which was nice, and we had a lovely walk around the lake, where we saw a woodpecker (which I didn’t manage to photograph), several robins and lots of different duck species, but overall I wasn’t that impressed with Geneva. It seemed dirty and despite not being particularly huge felt kind of like a large city, with lots of traffic going right through the centre. I much prefer Basel, as provincial as some may find it!

One Saturday in February we decided to head to Aarau, since it’s close by and we had never been. We discovered a cute little town where the undersides of the roof eaves are beautifully painted.

It was freezing and when it started to rain we were pleased to find an open café where we could have a hot drink and some Flammkuchen.

Later in February, we headed to Dijon for a weekend. The Sunday happened to be photo an hour day, so miraculously I actually posted about part of that trip! Dijon is quite a charming city but a lot of the old buildings could use some renovation. Best known for its mustard, the Dijon region is also the home of Kir – a French cocktail made with a measure of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped up with white wine (Kir Royal uses champagne) – and, being in Burgundy, Boeuf Bourguignon and Coq au Vin. Those two dishes are what Jan and I ate on the evening we spent there and both were delicious.

We didn’t actually go anywhere in March… or at least I didn’t – Jan left for his trip at the end of the month. But on Easter Monday, which fell on 2nd April in 2018, I took a tram to the nearby town of Aesch and walked up to some castle ruins above the town. It was a cloudy day, but I still had a great view of Basel from the top.

At the end of the month, when Jan was back, we decided to go up to St Chrischona. Once again, it happened to be a photo an hour day, so I actually have a post about our walk!

At the beginning of May, we drove down to just outside Munich for my cousin’s confirmation. On the way, we stopped for lunch in Bregenz, Austria and the day after the confirmation we went to Partnach Gorge near Garmisch-Patenkirchen with my uncle who lives near Munich plus my aunt and uncle who came over from England for the confirmation.

We also did the 24 stops walk in May, which is a sculpture path between Switzerland and Germany.

Basel 24 stops
One of the 24 Stops sculptures

On 26th May, Jan got a car and we drove to the Trümmelbachfälle – a group of ten glacier-fed mountains inside a mountain. On the way back we stopped in Spiez to see it in the light, since the last time we were there it had been night time.

At the very end of May, we flew to England for a few days because we had been invited to a wedding on 2nd June. On the last day of May, we went out for the day with my mum and brother, first taking a walk around the lake at Druridge Bay, before stopping in Warkworth for lunch and finally visiting the beach at Amble. I my have lived abroad for most of my adult life, but I will always have a special place in my heart for Northumberland’s breathtaking beauty.

Later in the month, we took a day trip to Wasserfallen, where we took a cable car up a mountain, walked around and saw some people returning from llama trekking. No photos from there because I appear not to have them on the computer! Then on the weekend of 30th June/1st July, we had a mini-break on Lake Lucerne. We stayed in Vitznau, directly on the lake, and the next day took the cable car from Vitznau up to the Wissifluh – part of Rigi – before driving down to Stans to head up the Stanserhorn. On both mountains, we saw lots of butterflies.

I was actually pregnant at that point but had no idea.
The following weekend, we spontaneously decided to drive to the French-speaking part of Switzerland, specifically to St Ursanne, then later headed on to Neuchâtel where we ate dinner.

August was my birthday month but didn’t involve any travel for me – although Jan had a rehearsal weekend with his choir. But in September my mum, her friend and my brother came to visit and on one of the days we went to Mount Rigi and Lucerne for the day with our visitors. We got cheap deal day tickets and took ordinary trains, cogwheel trains and a boat. It was a long day but really nice. (Those last two sentences are copied directly from the draft post of my September recap, which was all written and just waiting for me to add photos. I never ended up posting it because the day before it would have gone up was the day I lost the twins and the post included pregnancy talk).

We didn’t do much travelling in October, for obvious reasons, but eight days after I was released from hospital we went to France, first stopping in the fortified town of Neuf-Brisach and then visiting Riquewihr, which was absolutely gorgeous but also absolutely packed full of tourists. Although I was still slightly weak from lack of iron, it was a much needed day out.

in November we wanted to get away from it all and went to Yverdon les Bains for a weekend. We ate delicious food, walked a lot and toured the castle. Back in Basel, after a meeting at the town council with the person responsible for bereavement, we got a car and drove part-way up a mountain then walked the Geissflue circular route. It was a beautiful day and the autumn colours were stunning!

At the end of November, while Jan was in the US, my mum and sister visited and we took a brief trip to Freiburg im Breisgau to see the Christmas market.

December was an incredibly busy month between Jan’s choir concerts and Christmas, but we did manage one day trip… on Boxing Day we drove to Murten – a small medieval town near Fribourg. It was cloudy and cold but we still had a walk around the town and along part of the wall before heading into a pub for some food.

And that concludes 2018’s travels. Despite all the ups and downs of the year, we actually managed to fit quite a lot in. There was only one month without any travel at all! We spent New Year at home this time, but I am hoping to kick off this year’s travels with a trip out to somewhere tomorrow. And beyond that? We have no plans as yet, but I am hoping for a proper holiday in 2019. Stay tuned!

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A Photo an Hour: 17 February 2018

Saturday was February’s photo an hour date. I didn’t take part on Twitter because I was in France for most of the day and didn’t want to buy a data package, but I did take photos ready for uploading to a blog post. I had actually forgotten about it until Jan said “don’t forget to take a photo every hour”… at 20 past 11! By then I had missed just over two hours worth of photos! So I decided to wait 10 minutes and make it a photos at half past day, rather than on the hour. As a result, getting up and breakfast are missing and my “day” starts shortly after checking out of the hotel.

11:30 a.m. Just left our hotel in Dijon. The red phonebox (with no phone in it) is a meeting point for tour buses.

12:30 p.m. Rainy Dijon. We had just bought tickets from the Tourist Information office to climb the tower you see in this photo.

1:30 p.m. After a tea/coffee break, we’re back out walking in the rain.

2:30 p.m. Our tower tickets were for 2 p.m. At this stage we were at the bottom of the tower waiting for the guide to open the door and let us out.

3:30 p.m. At the museum of Fine Arts, formerly the Ducal Palace.

4:30 p.m. Another museum! This time The Museum of Burgundian Life.

5:30 p.m. All museumed out, we headed to a nearby bar.

6:30 p.m. Still at the bar. There were lots of these drawings on the wall.

7:30 p.m. After collecting the suitcase from the hotel, we picked up some food for the train journey home.

8:30 p.m. On the train reading Anna Karenina.

9:30 p.m. Back in Basel and on the train home – Dijon is only just under 1.5 hours away!

10:30 p.m. So happy to be all snuggly in my PJs!

That was the last photo I took – I did read for a little afterwards, but I was snuggled up with the lights out long before it would have been time to take the next photo.

As always, Photo an Hour was hosted by Louisa and Jane.
What did you get up to on Saturday?

35 before 35: Champagne in Champagne

Champagne

WordPress congratulated me on my anniversary this morning… apparently this blog has existed for a whole nine years today! So even though I didn’t intend to blog, I didn’t feel like I could let such a momentous occasion pass without a post. And what better way to celebrate than with champagne (albeit champagne that has already been drunk).

Whit Monday is a public holiday in Germany and Switzerland (or at least the parts that are relevant to us), which meant a long weekend. We didn’t want to let it go to waste, so with the Champagne region a mere four and a half hours’ drive from here, I decided it was time to check something else off my 35 before 35 list.

We were staying in Reims, but after arriving there on Saturday evening we decided to spend some time exploring other place and save Reims itself for the next day. First of all, we drove to a village called Avizes, where there’s a champagne company that one of Jan’s colleagues recommended (the one in the photo at the top of this post). Unfortunately they had already closed for the weekend so we couldn’t book a tour. We stopped in a little park just outside the village where even the landscaping featured champagne!

The next stop was Epernay… home of the (apparently) world-famous “Champagne street”. All the big names have headquarters there.

As you can see, it had started to rain by this point, so we were glad to head off and find some food (and actual champagne to drink!). We each chose the evening three course meal. Jan was driving, so he drank some delicious apricot juice, but I chose the version of the meal that came with three types of champagne. Sadly I don’t remember what they were, except that the first one did come from where it says on the glass. How’s that for a wine list though!

After breakfast the next day, we headed into Reims for a look around. I’m going to tell you about that in a separate post though, since there was no champagne drinking involved and this post is for the 35 before 35 item 😉 Instead let’s skip ahead to that afternoon, when we had a G. H. Mumm cellar tour booked.

We saw some of the barrels they originally used, each with the name of the village the grapes came from, learned about the villages where Mumm grow their grapes, saw all the different sizes of champagne bottle that exist (Mumm only has about 4 of them available!) and visited the museum.

Obviously the tour ended with a glass of champagne!

And that’s item 34 crossed off my list: Drink Champagne in Champagne.

 

Huningue and the Rheinuferweg

One grey day at the end of May, Jan and I were bored. I suggested that we could take a tram to the border and walk across the Three Countries Bridge to see what’s in Huningue. The answer is not much! But it’s a cute little town.I actually ended up going there again with my mum and brother so they could say they’d been in three countries in one day (and also get a glass of wine for cheaper than in Switzerland…)

There’s a white water rafting/kayaking place in Huningue and there turned out to be a competition going on that day with participants from all over France, so that’s what those photos are all about.

We ended up walking back to Basel along the Rheinuferweg – Rhine waterfront path – which connects St. Johanns Park in Basel with Huningue in France. At the moment the part on the French side is only open on weekends while they finish renovating the area that used to be a sewage treatment plant, but as of 2017 it’s supposed to be open during the week as well. Part of the path is the Dreyland Dichterweg, or Three Countires Poet Path, which involves various boards containing poems by poets from the region – in French, German and Swiss German. The total length of the path is only 550m and part of it goes alongside the industrial area, but it’s still quite nice to walk along by the river. I hardly took any photos, but here are the ones I did take:

The first bridge you see up there is the Dreirosenbrücke, literally Three Roses Bridge, but don’t be fooled by the pretty name… there’s nothing pretty about that area! The white bridge on photo two is the Three Countries Bridge with Huningue (France) on the left and Weil am Rhein (Germany) on the right. The final photo is the evidence that we actually walked across the border 😉

If you’re in Basel and want to walk along the path there are two options take a tram (8) or bus (36) to Kleinhüningeranlage and, from there, walk across the bridge into Weil am Rhein (or take the 8 all the way into Weil am Rhein if you prefer), cross the Dreiländerbrücke into Hunigue and turn left to walk along the Rhine. Keep walking until you reach Basel. Alternatively, take a tram (8, 11) to Johanniterbrücke and start walking along the river towards the Dreirosenbrücke. Go under that bridge and just carry on walking until you reach the Dreiländerbrücke. From there, you can cross the bridge back to Germany and take a tram back to Basel. Not a bad little afternoon out!

Colmar Christmas market(s)

This has been a weekend of Christmas markets! Although, actually, it was far too warm to be standing around drinking mulled wine. No wonder I’m not ready for Christmas… the weather’s telling me it’s still no later than September!

Our first Christmas market of the weekend was Colmar, which is only about 45-50 minutes away from Basel by train. Perfect for a day trip. There are, in fact, five markets in Colmar! Although one of those is just the normal indoor market with a few Christmassy stalls in addition to the normal ones that are there anyway, so it doesn’t really count as a Christmas market for me. One disappointing thing was a distinct lack of interesting food items – it took us ages to find anything we were even vaguely interested in. But Colmar is a beautiful town, and it looks even more magical all dressed up in its Christmas decorations. We were mostly there during the day, so I hardly got any photos with the lights switched on, but there are a few near the end. This will mainly be a post of images since there isn’t much to say beyond “We looked at stalls, drank mulled and managed to buy a few Christmas presents”. Also, the drinks came in horrible plastic glasses so I didn’t even get my usual souvenir cup!

The first thing we saw on arriving in Colmar was this, outside the train station:

Yay, signs of Christmas already! Also, note the blue sky… most of the afternoon was slightly cloudy, but it was more like late September than the last weekend in November!

On our walk into town, we found a children’s roller coaster and, beside it, this:

DSCN4425

It’s a “carousel bar” and it was actually rotating! There are no words.

Finally, we reached the first part of the actual Christmas market and grabbed our first mulled wine, or “hot wine” as the French say.

DSCN4429

Wine in hand, we wandered on through the streets in search of the other markets, admiring the pretty buildings decked out in all their finery along the way.

Various bits of the market also had random animals. They were in all different parts of town and didn’t seem to be meant for petting, so I’m not sure what the point was…

Some more photos of the town and markets. I love all the brightly coloured buildings!

We finally decided on something to eat… some kind of bread thing with cheese on top and… Escargot! Yes, we decided to be brave and try eating snails! After all, nothing could be worse than the oyster omelet in Taiwan…

It turned out the snails didn’t taste of anything much… they were a bit rubbery and that was it. We also ordered a second, “normal” slice of bread in “Alsace” style, with onions, bacon bits and Munster cheese. That one basically tasted like burnt cheese on toast. Oh well, at least they weren’t expensive. I can’t say I particularly “liked” snails, but at least they didn’t make me gag and almost throw up (looking at you, oyster slime!).

Finally, it started getting dark and I could see all the pretty lights!

I wasn’t sure what time the last train home was, but I knew when we were in Mulhouse the last one left at 9ish, and Colmar is before that, so we decided to take a train home at 7 p.m. to be safe. The markets close at 8 anyway so we couldn’t really have stayed much longer…

So, in conclusion, the Colmar Christmas markets are worth a visit and there are some lovely home-made items in the special crafts bit, bit I would recommend popping into a restaurant to eat (or bringing your own food!). The town itself is fairytale like at any time of year, and even more so when it’s all sparkly and Christmassy.

The Christmas markets in Colmar are on until 31st December 2015. During the week, they close at 7 p.m. and on weekends (Fri/Sat/Sun) at 8 p.m.

I’m linking this up to Monday Escapes with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey. Click the button for more travel tales to brighten up your Monday.

Packing my Suitcase

Paris on my mind

Inspired by this post the lovely Katyboo, today I wanted to write something positive about Paris to counteract the awful images we’ve been seeing all weekend. A sort of projecting of light into the darkness, if you will. Luckily, it turns out that, although I blogged about where we ate, the Welcome to Night Vale live show we saw and an amazing bar, I never actually got round to sharing the other photos from our stay.

Much like this autumn has been, the end of October/beginning of November was unseasonably warm in 2014, and we were able to enjoy lunch outside and a stroll around some of the sights of Paris. We didn’t have much time, but that didn’t matter. It was a lovely two days spent with my boyfriend and a good friend. Paris will never be my favourite place (sorry, but no big city will ever take that honour – I’m more of a small, quaint places kind of girl), but I have good memories from the times I’ve been there. And that’s something no terrorist will ever be able to take away from me.

Here are a few photos from last year’s Paris trip:

My thoughts are with the people of Paris, and also of all those other countries that are experiencing acts of terrorism and war every single day, but rarely receive as much news coverage as Friday’s attacks did.

I’m linking up with Monday Escapes again this week. I think we could all use an escape from sadness and hate right now.

Packing my Suitcase

A walk to Mariastein Abbey and Landskron castle ruins

It’s time for another entry in my series of “persuade everyone that Switzerland is worth visiting” posts 😉

Before I came to Switzerland, I joined a meetup group for Basel. We’ve been to a couple of the meet ups, but have yet to really “click” with anyone in a manner that would lead to further meetings outside of the group. However, last time we were there, one of the other members suggested Mariastein Abbey as a good place for an afternoon out. When we decided to get out of the flat for a bit yesterday evening, we remembered this advice and decided to check out, so we hopped on a number 10 tram and headed off to Flüh from where we walked the roughly half an hour to Mariastein (there’s also a bus if you don’t feel like the exercise). First, some photos from the walk up. Jan told me not to take the one of the garden full of gnomes, but how could I not?

Apparently, the Mariastein Abbey is the second most important pilgrimage site in Switzerland. People come from far and wide to worship there. Obviously we couldn’t go into the actual abbey since it’s full of monks, but the basilica is open to the public and the inside is gorgeous! There were so many little details that I just couldn’t stop taking photos! Apologies in advance for picture overload…

We decided to take a different route down, which took us into France. When we realised that the ruins of Landeskron castle – which we had seen a sign for on the way up – wouldn’t take us much out of our way, we decided to go there. The castle stands on the border between France and Switzerland and is owned by both countries. From the top, you can see Germany, France and Switzerland but don’t ask me which is where! The only thing I can reliably recognise is Basel (thanks to the Roche tower). The light was really too bright at the castle, so it was pretty much a case of keep changing settings, pointing, clicking and hoping for the best. I’m afraid I did rather a lot of clicking. What can I say… I love castle ruins! Again, I apologise for the number of photos. And believe me, this isn’t even all of them. I reluctantly narrowed them down for this post 😉

On the way back down from the top of the castle, I spotted some bees enjoying the flowers. Obviously I had to photograph them too!

We then walked back down to Flüh via the woods, took a tram home and enjoyed a well deserved dinner!

There’s not a huge amount to do at either Mariastein or Landskron, but it was perfect for our requirements – a chance to stretch our legs and something interesting to look at along the way. The walk was fairly easy and I’d say most people could probably do it. There are a few restaurants next to the abbey where you could stop for something to eat or drink, or you could stop for refreshments in Flüh – it only took us about 15 minutes to get back down from Landskron.

And once again, I can’t believe such beauty is pretty much on my doorstep (although Flüh is in canton Solothurn, so slightly less on my doorstep than other places).

I’m linking this post up to Monday Escapes with My Travel Monkey and Packing My Suitcase. To see where everyone else’s travels are taken them this week and add your link, click the button below.

My Travel Monkey