Self-respecting motorcyclists

Which bike do you think a self-respecting motorcyclist would choose to go away for a weekend with his friends (to celebrate a milestone birthday for one of them)????

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Well actually they are all riding the same type of bike.  Imagine what mischief a group of grown men on little bikes like the one on the left will get up to………  They have been told to bring one of these bikes, a raincoat, and a pair of gloves.  Destination unknown.  Accommodation unknown.  State they will return in…… unknown.

Walk the village

On our last day in the south of Switzerland we went walking to the next village.  And this is what we saw….

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Llamas.  How cute are they?

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After we fed them we saw a sign that said “don’t feed us” 🙂 (it was only a couple of blades of grass!!).

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If you look closely you may see a squirrel in the branch just to the left of the centre of this photo.  It moved so fast I couldn’t capture it well but this little guy had much darker fur than the ones we saw in London.  Also incredibly cute.

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We came across a lake.  You have to pay to swim in here because it is a private lake and the owner has installed toilet facilities for the many swimmers who come here.

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Mountains, farmland, and a castle.  Just regular sights on a Sunday walk.

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Another castle in someone’s backyard.  Really.

Thanks Christian and Janine for a fantastic weekend.  We had a great time xx

A tunnel, a dam, and an Italian restaurant

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Christian and Janine took us for dinner to a restaurant in the most unexpected of places.  You would never find it if you didn’t have inside knowledge…  Just drive through this one-lane tunnel.

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And park your car.  Then walk across this dam (the dam is Swiss and the lake is Italian)…..

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That is the restaurant across the lake to the left of the Swiss flag.  In Italy.  It felt like a covert mission.

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A family-run Italian trattoria which is remote and has incredible views.  Where you just sit and eat for three or four or five hours.

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The grandson of the owner walked us through the kitchen to go outside and look at the viper they had found.   Mum, dad, the kids, the aunties and uncles were all working away in the kitchen.

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Where you scour the countryside for deer or mountain goats…. and watch the interesting characters that come to this gem of a place.

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Olives, antipasti (cured meat and cheese), bread, il primo (the first course which was pasta), il secondo (the second course which was slow cooked beef and vegetables) and il dolce (dessert).  Champagne, red wine, and to finish arancello (which is the orange version of limoncello and is delicious).  The food, the company and the location were excellent.

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Then, after many hours, we walked back to the dam to go home.

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And enjoyed the beautiful sight of the moonlight on the water, framed by the lovely Swiss and Italian mountains.  Not just another night out.  This is living.

Scharans and Viamala

Last week I seemed to be having some technical problems with uploading photos…. which may or may not be fixed 🙂

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Last weekend we were lucky to go to the south-east part of Switzerland (close to the Italian border) and stay with our cousins.  They have just bought a house in Scharans and it really is incredible.

DSC_0004-001This is their yard and there are views of the mountains all around.  The weather here is some of the mildest in Switzerland.

DSC_0024-001Christian and Janine have been to Australia so many times they should be honorary Aussies.  They have seen more of our country than most people I know.

We spent a day wandering around their part of the world.  Viamala is an impressive gorge.

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Again, it is really hard to take a photo that conveys the real feel of the place.  Nature is amazing.

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The colour of the water is apparently due to the cold temperature of it.

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We hiked through the nearby forest and came to this swing-bridge.  A few brave souls were swimming.  Not me….

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Incredible views in every direction.  This is Switzerland.

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Afterwards we went to see the church of Saint Martin in the village of Zillis.  It is visited by people from all over the world as it has the only surviving Romanesque painted ceiling and was created at the beginning of the 12th Century.

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The paintings are done on wooden boards which slide into a slotted framework in the ceiling.

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A lot of Swiss villages have a drinking fountain in the middle of the village.  It is perfectly safe to drink the water flowing from the spout and it is delicious.

What has changed in 8 months?

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8 months???  Really???

  1. I have food on my mind a lot.  You have to eat seasonally here.  We are so spoilt living in Brisbane because we pretty much have access to everything all year round and I don’t always think about what I am buying or eating.  Here it is different.  I am welcoming the summer food!  Tomatoes never tasted as good as they do right now.
  2. We are enjoying fresh vegetables and salad straight out of my in-law’s garden.
  3. The best mangoes in the world are absolutely Australian.  There is no contest.
  4. We have tried Arancello (the orange version of Limoncello).  So good.  I plan to try making my own.
  5. A new school year started this month.  I still can’t quite get my head around school starting in August.  Claudia is now going to a regular class for a couple of sessions a week and does woodwork, craft and sport with her Swiss classmates.  She has made some new friends and is enjoying these lessons.  Her integration class continues.  Some of her friends have moved on to regular school classes full-time and there are some new students.  We are in the thick of German grammar and homework has never felt so hard!!
  6. I have realised that the problem with Switzerland is that it is so clean that it makes everywhere else suddenly seem dirty.  I have spoken to other travellers about this and they fully agree.  This should be the last country on your European itinerary.
  7. I have noticed that I have become a little Swiss.  This may be fuelling my obsessive compulsive tendencies.  I am the best (non-Swiss) recycler ever 🙂
  8. No, my German has not improved beyond belief.
  9. We hardly ever watch tv.  It is so nice to sit outside in the afternoon or go for a walk while the weather is so good.
  10. I am dreaming of having a cellar in our house in Australia.  Most houses/apartments have one here.

A weekend in France

DSC_1003I took a quick flight last weekend to see Alison and Damien before they head to Australia for a month.  Such a beautiful day to fly….

DSC_0002-001We spent the weekend eating amazing local produce, drinking wine, and talking non-stop (as old school friends do….).

DSC_1005We wandered around their village (Blagnac).  I absolutely love the colour of the bricks and the architectural detail of framing the windows with them.

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The village is fairly quiet at the moment because August is typically the month when the French go on holiday.  Some of the local businesses just shut their doors for the summer.  This happens in Switzerland too.  One day there is just a sign on the door:  “closed for holidays.

DSC_1008I love wandering around new places and just getting a feel for the life of the people that live there.

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We went into Toulouse one day to try out a new restaurant and look around the town.

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Toulouse is famous for its pink bricks.  There is a really great pedestrian shopping area that seems to go for kilometres.

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Lots of people were out enjoying the glorious weather.  This is the town square and it was pretty crowded.

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I’m sure we took a photo of us but I can’t find it.  This is Alison and Damien taking photos of ‘Flat Angus’ (a school project for a friend).  Flat Angus is a well travelled boy…..

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I had a great weekend.  It was nice to get away and just potter around…. and eat…. and drink wine.  And talk non-stop with someone who gets my jokes!!

Taminaschluct

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Last week Claudia, Anita and I went for a midweek hike to Taminaschluct (which is a gorge).  It is a 4km hike into the gorge and well worth the effort.  It was incredible.

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On one side of the path was rock as high as the eye could see and on the other fast flowing water.  This is important information for later…..

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At the end of the hike you come to this beautiful building which was historically a wellness hotel.  It is now a museum but you can still see the old baths inside – people came here from far and wide to bathe in the pure water from the gorge to cure whatever ailment they had.  It is the most incredible location.  Words can’t even describe it.

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We were loaded up with picnic supplies.  Most of the other hikers had a wurst (sausage) that they cooked over an open fire in the forest and were amused when I pulled out plates, cutlery, frittata and salad.  I like to eat.  What can I say?

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The gorge is really amazing.  You can feel the steam coming up from the thermal water below.

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It really is beautiful to be surrounded by all that rock with small glimpses of the sky and the trees visible far above.

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Photos don’t really convey it well enough.

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On the way back we decided to go on this horse and carriage.

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You will never believe who they let drive it!!  On the left is the rock.  On the right is a big drop down into the rapidly flowing water.  We only went off the road once and our junior driver held on to those reins for dear life while the owner pulled the horses back into line.  I may have feared for my life just for a second….

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Claudie did an excellent job and we made it safely to the village.

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And then the owner drove us all the way to where our car was parked.  Another first experience for us!

The Scottish Highlands

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On our last day in Fort William we had planned to go hiking at Ben Nevis (also known as Mighty Ben) which is the highest mountain in the British Isles (but pretty tame by Swiss standards….).  Unfortunately it was rain, rain and more rain so we were forced to go to a whisky distillery.  The Ben Nevis distillery.

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I have to admit I wasn’t overly enthusiastic but it turned out to be quite interesting.  Whisky is distilled beer.  Who knew?  Also a number of famous movies had scenes filmed in the sheds at this distillery (eg. Braveheart).  At the end we sampled the whisky but I will still take mine with a mixer thankyouverymuch.

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The drive south to Glasgow through the Highlands was one of my favourites.  Kilometre after kilometre of gorgeousness.

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Some of these photos were taken with an ipad hanging precariously out a window…

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Scotland reminds me of the feeling you get when you visit Tasmania.  You can drive in the most amazing landscape and really enjoy it because the roads are relatively quiet.  It is peaceful and laid-back and perfect for reconnecting with nature.

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The lochs…..

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Endless fields of heather….

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So much undisturbed countryside.

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Loved this place.

Fort William and more Harry Potter :)

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The drive from Inverness south to Fort William was picturesque.  This is a large dam where we stopped to take in the view of the mountains at Loch Laggan.

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The real highlight however was a train trip we took from Fort William to Mallaig (on the western coast of Scotland).  You may recognise the train from Harry Potter.  It travels over the Glenfinnan viaduct which is very famous from the movies.

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There were a lot of excited Harry Potter fans on the train.  It is said to be one of the most beautiful train trips in the world.  I would recommend taking the afternoon train because when the sun was starting to set over the Lochs I would absolutely agree with this statement.

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Mallaig is a fishing port and the best thing to do there is get yourself to a restaurant and sample the local fare.  Urs had hot-smoked salmon and I had prawns and both were delicious.

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This sign made me smile….

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The view of the Lochs with their glassy water and the image of the mountains reflected in them was beautiful beyond words.  There is such a peacefulness here.

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The famous Glenfinnan viaduct.  Everyone was trying to get the perfect photo.  All the Harry Potter fans anyway 🙂

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The colours were amazing.

We definitely saw Nessie

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After Edinburgh we headed north to Inverness, home of the famed Loch Ness monster.  We definitely saw Nessie.

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This is Loch Ness.  It is the largest body of water in Britain and is twice as deep as the London Eye is high (yes, we aim to provide interesting facts on this blog :)).

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We went to the local visitor centre and heard all the facts about the many sightings of Nessie and the theories about the photos that have been ‘taken’ of her.  But we decided to check it out for ourselves….

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And there she was in plain sight in the middle of this photo.  If you don’t believe that is the Loch Ness monster you will be stunned and amazed when you see the next one…

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Submerged, but definitely a couple of periscopic eyeballs visible for all to see.  (Disclaimer:  this photo may or may not have been doctored).

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With ‘find the Loch Ness monster’ ticked off our to-do list, we followed this odd windy little road just to see where it went.

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And ended up here.  This pink castle was right on the shore of one of the Lochs and turned out to be a restaurant/function centre.  So we popped in for lunch.  We were not able to eat in the restaurant as they had a private lunch underway but instead were ushered to the drawing room (so posh) for a delightful light lunch.  The food was excellent and it was a bit like having a bit part in Downton Abbey!