Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Just got back from the airport…

Michelle and the boys have just flown out, and I’m here for another six weeks to finish work, hand over the apartment and tie up any loose ends.

I’m sure Michelle will blog about her trip, and I’ve got a couple of posts lined up (Geneva Auto Salon, and more) so there will still be plenty more to read about here.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying our sunny balcony – something we’ve not really been able to do until recently.

Swiss trains – so mobile!

I have wondered many times whether the Swiss are technologically challenged, considering the amount of paperwork and phone calls and letters and trips to government agencies I have had to do (nothing seems to be done online… or by email).  But the Swiss Railway definitely do not have any technology shortcomings.   I love what SBB are doing…  Now you can buy a ticket for the train using your mobile phone!   And when the train conductor comes around to check your ticket, you show them the code given to you on your mobile phone and the conductor has a bar code scanner / reader to check it.  How cool!  How easy.

I am not looking forward to going back to Auckland trains where they run half an hour late, break down, catch fire, the conductor never has change for a $20 and no machines to buy tickets in advance.  Ah well.

To Lenzburg by bike

Daniel and I were itching to do a bit of exercise as the cold winter days have kept us inside more than we like.  Daniel suggested we do a bike ride – along one of the hundreds of awesome bike trails through this country.  We didn’t do anything too grand but thought an easy ride out to Schloss Lenzburg would be fun.  It is just under 15 kilometres one way so nothing too energetic.

So we wrapped us and the kids up warmly for it was a mere 3°C (quite warm compared to the -3°C we had been having!).  The castles in Switzerland are closed over the winter period but still able to go and have a wander around it.  My parents got married at this beautiful castle which is much more attractive in summer time.  But the boys love exploring and we had never seen Lenzburg altstadt either.

It was interesting to see all the castle-like stuff – drawbridges, canons, spyholes.  And tonnes of sea-shells can be found in the rock that the castle is built on – how did that get there?!

Noah and Toby loved climbing the hill up to the castle.. no, wait, they hated it…  but they loved going back down.  Actually Noah was determined to sledge down and didn’t understand why we couldn’t (I had to give it a go to show him the importance of the presence of snow and a sledge in the act of sledging!).

Anyway, feeling pretty tired now.  Might go to bed!

Zermatt in Winter

On our way home from Bettmeralp we did a we detour via Zermatt to see how our friend, the Matterhorn, was holding out in the cold winter.  We had seen the Matterhorn each day from the distance on Bettmeralp.  Miriam’s parents had been to Zermatt and had loved it so Miriam was keen to check it out too.

It wasn’t too different to summer time except all the skiiers and snow and it was pretty chilly!  The tourist shops were lacking all the cool summer t-shirts I remember too.  The ride up in the train is pretty slow but worth it for the views.  The frozen waterfalls were incredible!  We had to take a winter time picture to compare with the summer time photos when we were there with Missie and Simon in July.

Here are two photos, taken one in winter and one in summer from the same bridge in Zermatt – so you can compare for yourself!

Snowboarding

So we recently spent a week in Bettmeralp (Google Maps shows it in summer, which is not cool. Zoom out to get an idea of where is is. The resort also has it’s own website.), as you may know, and I tried my hand at a bit of snowboarding.

There’s limited photographic evidence due to a) me going by myself most of the time, and b) I don’t have a nice long telephoto to stick on the front of my Canon.

We arrived on the Saturday and I went across the road to the ski school and booked a 1-hour private lesson for the next morning. My colleague Alain lent me his board and boots, which was totally awesome, and thanks to some decent sports shop sales, I was kitted out.

I met Patrick, my instructor, at the learner’s slope the next morning and got cracking. Had a wee muck around at the bottom, and I quickly got back the feel from the day-and-half I did on Ruapehu about 18 months ago.
We hopped on the T-bar and made it to the top. I had been told that the T-bar was the worst part of snowboarding (only a chair-lift and a platter (platters suck) on Happy Valley at Whakapapa), but if you know what you’re doing and relax, it’s sweet as. The next hour went fast, as I learned the toe-side and heel-side positions for traversing, and the turns. Took a few tumbles, but got the hang of it fairly quickly.

After my lesson I did a few more runs by myself without bailing and had pretty much mastered the learning slope.

I managed to get back on the slopes a few times throughout the remainder of the week and found that as I gained confidence I started to crash more, but that was cool; it’s all part of the fun! I got in a full day’s boarding on the Friday, and managed to get down most of the blue slopes on the mountain and thoroughly enjoyed it.

And here’s the sole item of evidence for your verification:

I’m really keen to get back on the board, so I’ve been looking at some rail and snow deals (Jessica writes about these) and there are some massive resorts around; St Moritz has over 350km of pisten with 56 lifts. Crazy! So I’ll have to disappear for a couple of long weekends sometime soon :)

Walk from Bettmeralp-Moosfluh-Riederfurka-Riederalp

This has to be one of the most amazing walks I have done.  I have skied this track a few years ago and this time Daniel, my friend Miriam and I decided to walk it with the kids and sledge in tow.  The views are spectacular – with endless snowcapped mountains and the Matterhorn in the distance.

We walked from Bettmeralp to Riederalp and then took the gondala up to Moosfluh.  Then we walked along the ridge from Moosfluh to Riederfurka. We followed the mighty Aletsch glacier which the photos do no justice to show its vastness!  We stopped for a beer and pommes frites at the outdoor cafe in Riederfurka and soaked in some of the sun.  There was a random ‘castle’ to admire, kind of looks somewhat out of place but beautiful none-the-less.  Then we continued down the sometimes steep and icy path to Riederalp stopping only for some sledging and photos on the way!  Daniel and I no longer laugh at the Swiss going everywhere with their two ‘sticks’ or hiking poles.  It would have been quite handy to have some when walking over some icy bits in the track.  Although, I am not sure if these ‘sticks’ are really needed in central Zurich (yes, I have seen them in action on Bahnhofstrasse!)

Toby spent the first part of the 3+ hour walk being pulled along on the sledge but then found that walking by himself through snow (up to his waist!) and breaking all the icicles on the way was much more fun.  Noah spent most of his time riding on my back in the wonderful ergo but enjoying sliding down the hills on the sledge.

A week in Bettmeralp

We spent last week in Bettmeralp.  It was incredible.  We had seven days of perfect weather and although the slopes were a bit low on snow and getting icy in places, it didn’t stop us from getting busy sledging, snowboarding and skiing and many other things (that all seem to begin with the letter ‘s’).

It took us just under 3 hours to get from Aarau to Bettmeralp by train (Bettmeralp is in the Swiss Alps – in Canton Wallis).  We had organised tageskarte so it was cheap and easy.  We packed light and managed to get our large suitcase, backpack and two kids on and off 4 train changes and then up the gondala to the nearly 2000m high Bettmeralp.

We booked an apartment through myswitzerland.com – which works out way way cheaper than a hotel and there are like 900 apartments and 7 hotels on Bettmeralp so it seemed hiring an apartment was the better and more popular option.  We found our apartment was on the main stretch – slap bang in the middle of the village and absolutely perfect.  With views of the mountains from our window it was a dream.  It was quiet too, in spite of being in the middle of ‘town’, I guess people get pretty exhausted from skiing and breathing in the mountain air that they are in knocked out in bed by 10pm (yip – we were!).  Plus we were there before the busy ski holidays – ‘sport ferien’ so there weren’t many people.

Here are a few photos to get you started – more Willis adventures in Bettmeralp and photos to follow soon!

Bremgarten Weihnachtsmarkt

The next Christmas market that was on my list was Bremgarten.  Actually, I wanted to go to Bremgarten once anyway and show Daniel that gorgeous little town.  It is so beautiful and only a half hour drive from Aarau.  The cobbled streets and traditional houses from the 1200′s along with a beautiful church make for an incredible setting, especially for a Christmas market.  It is on the river Reuss and has a cute old wooden bridge too.

We went to the markets in the pouring rain and freezing cold and were surprised to see that the weather didn’t put people off – it was busy! It did clear though, in time for Samichlaus and the camel (!) riding.  We ate lots of Öpfelchüechli (check out more about these on Jessica’s blog) and drank lots of Gluhwein (also on Jessica’s blog – thanks for doing all the hard work for me, Jessica!).  If I search deep within and be really truthful I would have to admit that my motive for going to these markets is all about my stomach  – Öpfelchüechli and Glühwein.  And the atmosphere and the beautiful villages and scenery of course.

The boy enjoy them too, with all the carousels and chocolate covered bananas, magenbrot and lollipops!  The night photos are taken from the official Bremgarten Christmas market website.

Swiss Zero Star Hotel

How about that?!  Who said the Swiss only offer expensive 5-star accommodation?  Here is an article about a couple of arty dudes who have come up with a brilliant concept.  Well, i think so anyway.  A Swiss hotel, zero stars, built in an underground nuclear bomb shelter.  The temperature is 5 degrees and no luxuries whatsoever.  But they do give you some ear plugs next to the chocolate on your pillow to help with the ventilation noise!  At least you would be safe in the case of a nuclear blast.  And at least it would be easy to deal with complaining guests!  “Sorry, Sir, this is a zero star hotel, we have no rules to follow and no expectations to meet so go away!”

It costs only 10 – 30 CHF a night!  Still I am not sure I would like to stay or work there after only being in 5 star hotels business!  I am a bit of spoilt snob when it comes to hotels.

Check out the website (which might be a bit of a zero star website according to my web designer husband) and a video about it.

To market, to market

It has been a week of markets.  On Monday, I went with 3 girlfriends, 5 kids and 4 pushchairs to the Basel Herbstmesse (Autumn Fair).  It was the 538th annual Herbstmesse – just to give you an idea of how long it has been running!   And it is spread out over 7 different parts of the city for 2 weeks.  It is HUGE and awesome.

We had lots of fun travelling on the train to Basel (try and get four pushchairs on and off one carriage and then onto a narrow old tram!).  At the fair were hundreds of stands, all beautifully presented (perhaps thousands in total).  You could get everything from Anis biscuits to dried apple to candles, mugs and many beautiful handmade items.  And lots of Swiss delicacies – including magenbrot, raclette, chocolate covered bananas, apples, Opfel Chuechli and other stuff I can’t remember.

We spent our time in Petersplatz which is beautifully set amongst trees, and had a traditional carousel in the middle (which the kids all had a ride on, of course!). Unfortunately, I didn’t take my camera so missed out on some wonderful photos but here are a couple from ones taken in previous years.

Today was the Rüeblimarkt in Aarau – will post about that one tomorrow.