Combat de Reines – Hérens Arena

Although I’ve posted photos of this event before, they were not taken in the relatively new Hérens Arena which, I have to say, is perfect for watching this magnificent spectacle.  The Val d’Hérens cows naturally ‘fight’ by either psyching the opposition out, so that they walk away, or by locking horns and pushing each other until one gives way.  This can take anywhere from a few seconds to 20 minutes, but the top 7 in each category are awarded a fabulous cowbell.   (I should add that apart from the occasional bloody nose, the cows are very, VERY rarely harmed during this competition).

The categories are defined either by the age of the cows or by their weight – with Category III being from 529 to 623 Kg, Category II from 624 to 684 Kg and the Category I from 686 to 815 Kg (which is about 108 to 128 stones or 3/4’s of a US ton).

It’s still a bit of a mystery to me how they whittle down the 16 or so starters (in each Category ‘final’) to the eventual winners, as it all seems a bit haphazard to start with.  But it’s a very social occasion and, today, it was very nice to see some local farmers walking away with many of the prizes.  Congratulations to Antoine, Jean-Paul, Johann and Marius.  🙂




Double Whammy

Yesterday morning, we took a quick trip up to Arolla, to have a stroll along the valley and to see the impressive Mont Collon and its glacier.  After a delicious cheese fondue lunch, we then drove down the Rhone valley to Aigle, to watch the Prologue of the Tour de Romandie cycle race.

I’ve often said that it’s hard to take a bad photograph in Switzerland, but yesterday I proved that it is indeed possible – several times.  The cyclists go so fast, you cannot capture them exactly as you’d like.  Luckily Jen and Adam had much more success, so many of the photos below are theirs.  The race sponsors are extremely generous with their free promotional items and, apart from the many pens, hats and bags that we were all given, Alastair was overjoyed with the four cowbells that he received.  🔔🔔🔔🔔  I’m sure the cyclists appreciated the extra support. 🙂

(You may have noticed that I’ve written this post instead of Alastair, as he was starting to get more Likes than me…!)

Having a Splashing Time…

Honestly, grown-ups, you never know what they are going to do next…  While I tootled along quietly in my buggy, my dad, mum and Mike were riding around like schoolkids on a mountain bike!   After we’d stopped for a picnic by the river, (Auntie Judith’s home-made sausage rolls are just soooo delicious), we carried on to Les Haudères.  Here was the highlight of the day for me, as I was allowed to play in a water trough.  🙂  ‘Angels’ love water and I couldn’t get enough of it, even though the water was absolutely freezing.

On the way home, my dad and Mike pretended to be cows in the Arena.   You’d think they’d know better at their age.

All the best from the Val d’Hérens,

Ferpècle Adventure

Hi, my name’s Alastair and my mum (Jenn), dad (Adam) and nanna (Karen), have brought me on holiday to Switzerland.  The train, plane and car ride from Hull to Evolène was fun enough, but today was sensational.   Great Uncle Mike (and he is a great uncle to have) took us all to the Ferpècle valley to see the glaciers.  I settled back and enjoyed the ride in my ‘hippocampe’ before we all stopped for a picnic.   I played with a few stones on the ground while the grown-ups played their own game of stone stacking.  (I can’t see the fun in that myself, but they seemed to enjoy it).  We also saw quite a few skiers coming down from the Ferpècle glacier (see pics 3 and 4).

Many people say that children with Angelman’s syndrome can’t do exciting stuff, but I like to prove them all wrong. 🙂

Walk to Béplan

Béplan is (normally) a small lake or pond on the way up to the Col du Torrent but, after the overnight, sub-zero temperatures, I was expecting it to be frozen.  However, what I wasn’t expecting was for it to be still covered in snow!  Even though that slope faces south, the sunshine has obviously not worked its magic at 2,500 metres / 8,300 feet yet.  (This is one of the reasons it’s better to go walking in the Alps from late June or even mid-July until, maybe, the end of October – especially if you want to go to the top of some mountains! 🙂 )

It was a glorious day though and I was pleased to get a reasonable picture of one of the two Chamoix I spotted on the way up to Villa.  We’re also seeing a lot more birds arriving and making the most of our tree and feeder.

Frosty morning

I’m not a morning person by any means, but today I got up ‘early’ to take the car to the garage to get the winter tyres changed.  This was a bit ironic really, given that it snowed yesterday and it was minus 6 degrees C (21 F) this morning.  Thankfully, the temperatures are due to rise again over the next few weeks.

While the mechanic did his stuff, I went for a walk around Les Haudères (and wished I’d taken my gloves).

21 Today…

Yes, it is my birthday today. (I thought I’d mention that as a not so gentle reminder to all my friends and family who have FORGOTTEN!  But many thanks to all of you who did).   It is however my third 21st birthday – but I think being 21 again sounds much better than the real number.  🙂

So, to stretch my legs, (which have almost recovered after my efforts on Sunday), I went for a stroll by the riverside.  I shall of course be celebrating later (any moment now in fact) with a large bottle of La Rousse beer made by the Mont Blanc Brasserie in Chamonix. (See last pic).  Cheers everyone – have a nice Easter.  🙂

Zurich Marathon, etc.

I arrived in Zurich around 1pm, courtesy of free return travel from anywhere in Switzerland, which was included in the marathon entry fee.  (Nice touch. 🙂  Pity my birthday wasn’t 4 days earlier otherwise I’d have had free entry too!)  Although I’d been to Zurich briefly before, just passing through, the first thing that struck me was how big the station was – with at least 36 platforms, spread over 3 different levels.  Goodness knows where all those trains must be going to and from, but then the city does lie in the middle of Western Europe.  The second thing was the number of people, all going about their Saturday shopping – and there are lots of shops in Zurich.

I was very impressed with the tram system, which was easy to understand, with route numbers colour coded, and the trams seeemed very frequent.  One of these took me to the Saalsporthalle to register.  No queues, meant that I was in and out in a jiffy and that gave me most the afternoon to wander back via the marathon starting area and along the lake.

As you can see, the weather was glorious and 20 degree C (70 F) plus temperatures did not bode well for the following day…  (I’ve never been able to run in the heat).

My plan (hope), to give me a sub-4 hour finishing time, was to run each kilometre in 5m 30s, thereby ‘banking’ 10 secs per k, for when I slowed later in the race.  If I could get to 27k at that pace, I could then run the rest at 6 min per k and all would be well.

I set off at around 5m 20s for the first k, but missed the 2 and 3 k marker posts, so I was a little bit surprised to go through 4k in 20m 40s, which is 5m 10s per k and therefore waaaay too fast.  I felt ok, but I knew I had to ease back.  I thought I had, but I was still averaging 5m 20s up to the 10k mark.   I was feeling really good up to the 14k (1/3rd of marathon) marker post and noted that I was under 1h 15m…  I had thoughts, more delusions really, that if I could get properly fit, then maybe I could do 3h 45m…

By now, the route had done a 10k circuit of the city (in the shade) and it was now heading south, along the lakeside, (in the blazing sunshine) to the 25k turning point.

I’ll spare you the details but, for one reason or another, I’d started in a coral in front of the 3h 45m pacers, so I was expecting them to come past me at any time.  And sure enough they did, with their hoard of followers just before a feeding station, which caused a great amount of chaos.  By this time, around 16k, I’d noted that the number of people passing me was increasing.  To begin with this didn’t worry me, as there was also a “Team run” relay race going on in parallel, but as the trend continued, it became a bit of a concern.  I noted that I went through half way (21.1k) in around 1h 53m, so I was still on schedule, but by now my pace had really slowed – to around 6m per km (which wasn’t in the script).

Reaching the 25k marker became a goal in itself and when the 4h pacers went by me at around 26k, the wheels really came off…  My strategy turned to one of survival, with each km marker post or feed station, becoming a goal in itself.   I must have stopped and walked (other than at the feed stations) about 4 times on the way back, purely to re-coup and re-gather my senses.  I had no injuries as such – ok, my hip wasn’t perfect, but I just couldn’t get my legs going…  Seemingly endless bottles of water were either drunk or thrown over me, but there was just no way to cool down.

Eventually the city centre came back into sight and I knew that there was only about 6k to go.  The tall buildings provided some welcome shade and I finished quite well – running the last 3k without stopping at all.  My motivation was to make sure it wasn’t my worst ever marathon (at 4h 23m) and at least I achieved that aim, finishing in 4h 11m 30s (officially).  For some reason, my watch said 4h 13m, but I’ll take the official time. 🙂

Before the race, I’d been in touch with a blogging buddy, Mrs Twinkle who, like me, lives in Switzerland, though in the northern part, near Zurich.  As a fellow runner, who’d run the race a few years ago, she said she’d come along and support.  So I have to thank her not only for taking my picture, but also for making and giving me the fantastic sign (see below).  We met up for a drink afterwards, to swap life and blogging stories!

As a final postscript to my “Tales of the Scales”:  My weight did go up slightly last week to 73.6kg, but this morning it was down to 72.3kg, which is a loss of 5.4 kg from where I was several weeks ago.  So my ‘diet’ is now officially over 🙂 and it’s time to celebrate. 🍺🍺🍺


Lake Como, Italy

I would normally publish multiple posts on this topic but, with time being limited (due to my marathon on Sunday), today you have 4 days rolled into one… 🙂

Around this time of year, my wife, Judith, and I are in the very nice habit of taking a few days holiday by the side of Lake Como.  It’s about a 4 hour drive over the Simplon Pass and this year, we stayed in Argegno.  The contrast between the Pass and the lakeside couldn’t have been greater…

We’d never been up to the northern end of the lake, so we took a boat ride to the Abbey at Piona.  The top end of the lake is obviously not as popular as the middle, because after Varenna, we had the boat to ourselves.

For our second full day we took the bus to Como town and the caught the boat back.  Clearly the Italians are not as keen on time as the Swiss, as the clocks (pictured) all showed different times.  (All three photos were taken within about 30 minutes of each other and none of them were right !)

We drove home via Mount Sighignola, which sits on the border between Italy and Switzerland.   The view of Lugano and the lake that bears its name were simply stunning.   We stopped for lunch in Bissone which, apart from being the birthplace of the architect Franceso Borromini, we discovered is on the InlovewithSwitzerland Grand Tour.