The end of our Summer 2016 Trip

The past month took us from Spain, to Portugal, to the Netherlands, to Norway and finally to France. We tasted tapas in the bars of Madrid, sipped ginjinha at a little bar in Lisbon and enjoyed all the amazing wines of Spain, Portugal and France. We watched a flamenco dance in Seville and listened to Fado singers in Lisbon. We cruised the Norwegian fjords with some of our closest family, amid the rainbows  and more waterfalls than we could count. We toured the vineyards of Burgundy, climbing down into 14th century wine cellars to taste wine from the barrel. We cruised in a catamaran past the grottoes of the Algarve in Southern Portugal. I am amazed to recount all the things we have seen, tasted, heard and done in the past month. Safe to say, my heart (and stomach) have been so happy and full 🙂

Of course it has been nice to be off of work for a whole month, which as I said is a huge benefit of working in Switzerland (and naturally a pro when we think about extending for another year). We are very lucky to be able to travel to so many places within such a relatively short distance of our home in Lausanne. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and so has our month. It was time to return to Switzerland to settle back in to return to work and a routine. But before we completely signed back on, we needed to get ourselves up to the mountains for a nice hike for a sort of capstone to our month long adventure…

Andrew and I drove to the town of Fionnay and after parking our car began hiking straight up the valley. We never really stopped gaining elevation until we reached our destination at La Cabane FXB Panossière, which sits on a mountainside with a direct view of Grand Combin and the Corbassiére glacier. It was a challenging hike but so great to feel the burn on the trail and get rewarded with this astounding view.

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Our destination location and the cabane!

For those not familiar, a cabane is a refuge up in the mountains and sort of an Alpine version of a remote hotel. To varying degrees of refinement, for a price, they will provide a hiker a place to sleep, eat and shower while on a long trek. Staying in a cabane saves you from having to carry a tent and cooking supplies for all your meals. For a day hiker like us, they can be a place to grab lunch or a beer up in the mountains after a hike. For others, cabanes are a home base for mountaineering excursions onto the surrounding peaks. This is the more typical version of overnighting up in the mountains as tent camping is not as common here as it is in the U.S. Call it a form of glamping, perhaps! Either way, we had not been sure what amenities would be available upon our arrival so we brought our own lunch, but the beers we got were welcome and they provided picnic tables and a spot sheltered from the wind to bask in the sun and gaze upon Grand Combin.

Starting out our hike, with a beautiful waterfall on the other side of the valley. Of course after being in Norway we’re a little unphased but this is still a beautiful one!
Getting up higher on the trail. This is a steep mountain, so not many cows but this gal and her calf made it up. She kept her protective eyes on us the entire time.
On the trail. It’s hard to tell unless you know what you’re looking for, but our destination hut is smack dab in the center up on the ridge shown in this photo in front of the snowy Grand Combin.
This photo shows a couple things. One, you can see the sheep down below us who were walking along on their own trail, clanging their bells as they moved along. Secondly, this shows the “bisses” which paralleled a good portion of our trail. Because the climate in this region of Valais can be dry, they use these irrigation canals. Some have been around for centuries. This one is clearly very new, but others along our trail were entirely made  of carefully placed stones!
In front of Grand Combin (big snow covered peak in the back) and the Corbassière Glacier. Grand Combin is one of the highest peaks in the Alps, and one of the highest peaks we typically can see in our region when we go hiking and skiing. It is 4,314 meters (or 14,154 feet) high! The glacier is about 9 km in length and reaches a thickness of 220 meters in some places. 
It’s still springtime in these Alps! Loved the wildflowers along the way 🙂

So, it’s back to our regular Swiss life. We both have work to do, but there is plenty to look forward to with visitors this Fall and a few short trips we have planned as well. Never a dull moment 🙂

Caves Ouvertes Vaudois & A Spring Hike

We had a three day weekend due to a public holiday on Monday. The second in two weeks, which is entirely welcome! Friday we went to drinks after work in the city of Neuchâtel for a co-worker’s going away. Saturday we did some errands then met up with our friend Kevin for drinks and dinner.

Sunday was the Caves Ouvertes Vaudois, which is the open wine cellar day in the entire canton of Vaud (our state/province in Switzerland). We targeted Lavaux, and walked from Cully to Rivaz. The deal is similar to the Chardonne caves ouvertes we visited last Fall (see post) but was for a much bigger area. We paid CHF 20 for our wine passport which included a glass, a map, and allowed us to wander from cellar to cellar to taste the local wines.

 

 

In the village of Espesses, this was one of the open cellars. 

It was a beautiful spring day and there were tons of people out. Eventually we bought a bottle of wine we liked and sat on the wall of a vineyard drinking wine, eating cheese and bread and taking in the view.

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Village of Rivaz

 

Monday we strapped on our hiking boots for the first time since last Fall! We went to the town of Les Plans-sur-Bex. It was a crisp, Spring day and absolutely beautiful!

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This lovely field of flowers greeted us as we set out on our first hike of the year.

 

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A great view of Grand Muveran (3,051m) on the left.
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About halfway up we made it to our first lookout at a meadow named Le Cheval Blanc or the “The White Horse”. There was no white horse to be found, but plenty of white capped mountains!

 

We had lunch at this spot on the top of Tete à Bosset. What a great way to spend the afternoon. The clouds rolled in a bit thicker, but it cooled us down after a strenuous hike up.
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Spring flowers were just starting to bloom. There were so many crocuses blanketing the ground, we eventually gave up trying to not step on them!