Three Bisses walk from Mâche, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

After our 4 day, Saas valley trek, which finished with a steep descent into Saas Grund, Pete’s knees and body were just about shot. But it’s amazing what a few beers, a fabulous meal and a good night’s sleep can do. 😊 So, for Pete’s last day, we decided to do one of the many bisse walks in the Valais.

After a quick search of the Bisse website, I discovered a circular walk quite nearby, which I’ve never done before. It actually took in three bisses and started in the village of Mâche. Two of them were dry, but the third did have quite a bit of water running along the channel. Along the route also, we discovered several wooden carvings and a number of items which must have been left by some school children. Perhaps the most surprising was a beautiful glass pendant which (as this is Switzerland) I would imagine has been there and will remain there for some time. There are quite a few good cycling routes around that area too, so I may have to get on my bike and check to see if it’s still there in a few weeks time.

Footnote (for anyone new to this site and, as the Bisse website explains):
“Bisses are historic irrigation channels of the Valais. A bisse is an open ditch delivering priceless water from mountain streams – often by daring routes – to arid pastures and fields, vineyards and orchards. Many bisses are still in use today and so are carefully maintained. Numerous trails accompany these historic watercourses, inviting visitors to varied hikes on historic trails.”

Walk to the Aiguilles Rouges hut from Satarma, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

This is another of my favourite walks, which I normally do from Arolla but, for a change, I thought I’d do it in the opposite direction. Parking at La Gouille has become a bit of an issue, due to the number of visitors, so I decided to set off a little further down the road, from Satarma.

I was about three-quarters of the way to the hut, when I heard a rustling sound to my left. A parapentist was sorting out his gear and getting ready to fly. So I paused and decided to take a video. If anyone has not seen them taking off, it’s quite a tense moment, for the observer anyway. So I’ve added it at the end of this post. (Note that there was quite a lot of background wind noise, even though there was hardly any wind, so I’ve set it to play muted).

Walk from La Forclaz (VS) to the Col de Bréona and Col du Tsaté, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland (Part 1 of 2)

The forecast for yesterday promised clouds around in the morning, but clear skies by the afternoon. So I decided to do another walk which I’ve not done for a few years*, up to the Col de Bréona then over the ridge and down to the Col du Tsaté, before descending back to La Forclaz.
*I don’t recall posting any pictures of this walk before, so I think this could be a first! 😊

I took so many photos, of flowers, butterflies and the views, that I’ve decided to split this post into two. This first one covers the 1,200m (or nearly 4,000 ft) ascent to the Col de Bréona. The light was a little gloomy, (so my apologies for the darkness of some of these images) but, wherever I wander, there always seems to be something which pops up to surprise me.

The first was a dragonfly (see pic 10) which appeared right in front of me and, as far as I could see, nowhere near any water. (I’ve taken a stab at what it might be, but please feel free to correct my identification). The second was a huge puffball (pic 16) and the third a butterfly which I managed to get to open it’s wings by urging it onto my finger tip (pic 19).

As I approached the col, the clouds were coming and going and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find my way across the rocky (and quite precipitous) ridge. Tune in tomorrow to see how I got on. (But please don’t have sleepless nights!) 😊

Exhibition Walk from Farquèses to Lac d’Arbey

For the fifth year running, the Tourist Office has organised an exhibition of paintings along the path which runs from Farquèses to Lac d’Arbey. This year it showcases 26 pastel paintings of Swiss artist, John-Francis Lecoultre, who was born in Locle, Neuchatel in 1905. He was obviously inspired by the mountain scenery around Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), the Saas and Zermatt valleys and, of course, the Val d’Hérens. 😊👍👍

As you will see, huge copies of the paintings are hung between the trees at suitable intervals along the path. My apologies for not including all the French accents in the names of the paintings (or indeed some of my photos), but WordPress doesn’t seem to replicate them properly in the image gallery.

My apologies also for not naming the 8 butterflies, but I wanted to get this post published and I don’t have the time to look them all up. Also, I thought some of you might like a challenge! Hopefully it doesn’t detract from what is a beautiful walk (if only virtual for you). 😊

As an experiment*, I’ve set the first image as a featured image, to see if that arrives in the emails which are sent out. I’ve noticed that the emails have recently changed from including every picture (which I didn’t like as the emails were too long – sorry about that!) to having nothing in them at all, but the heading link to the post. OK, I could include a “Read more of this post” somewhere in the text, but hopefully this provides a more suitable alternative ‘teaser’. Please let me know what you think or prefer.

*Update: My experiment didn’t work, as no image appeared in the email. (Maybe I set the featured image incorrectly. I’ll have to check).

Swiss Trip to the South-East (Part 1)

For our first full day in the Engadin, we decided to walk from Maloja along the path which runs by the side of Lej da Segl or the Silsersee to the village of Sils Maria. Jude was keen to see what it looked like as Colletts Mountain Holidays have (or at least would have, had it not been for COVID-19) started running holidays there.

Quick aside here: I first met Jude while on a Colletts Mountain Holiday in the Italian Dolomites in 2004. Jude was the chalet host. The rest is history as they say… 💕😊

Anyway, even before we’d left our apartment, we’d noticed some people, running in pairs towards the lake. Only the day before, Jude had read about an event called the ötillö, which required a team of 2 people to run, swim, run, swim, run, swim, etc. for a total of 45km. (39km of this is running and 6km swimming across the 2 lakes in the Engadin). One of the rules is that the 2 competitors should never be more than 10 metres apart, so they are tied together with a piece of rope. (The madness of the human race never ceases to amaze me!) On the plus side, if there is a plus side, they are allowed to use paddles on their hands and floats between and on their legs. (In the second picture below you can see the 2 competitors had them on their shins, but not everyone had them). Of course, these had to be carried during the run sections. All I can say is, it’s not an event you’ll catch me doing!

We stopped at the rather quaint village of Isola on the way for a coffee, where there’s a huge cascading waterfall. Sils Maria itself was quite charming, with restricted motorised transport from what we could see. It’s clearly a great base to explore some of the excellent walking routes and attractions in that area. (But it’ll never beat the Val d’Hérens of course! 😉)

We returned to Maloja via a small ferry boat, which criss-crosses the lake to pick up passengers. Apparently it’s the highest operating ferry in Europe, at an altitude of 1,797m or 5,896ft. Swiss facts – Jude has them all! (It’s no wonder I married her! 😍)

Swiss Trip to the North (part 3)

For the second half of our holiday, we drove over to Schaffhausen, primarily to see the Rhine Falls – but more of them later…

On the way we stopped off at a small village called Kaiserstuhl, which sits on the Swiss side of the Rhine and border with Germany. So we took great delight in walking over the bridge into a different country. Indeed, although we had planned to stay wholly in Switzerland during our trip, we were encouraged by not being challenged at gunpoint on the border (in fact we saw nobody), so we decided to take the direct route to Schaffhausen from there. This involved going into or, rather, through Germany not once, but twice. (Such is the weird shape of the border in that area, that there is even a small German enclave completely inside Switzerland, called Büsingen am Hochrhein). Maybe it was because we crossed the borders at lunchtime, but we didn’t get stopped once.

Having checked in to our hotel, we again went for a wander around the town. I can certainly recommend a visit and I hope my pictures do justice to both of the locations we visited.

Interesting footnote: Although Switzerland was not directly involved in the 2nd World War, Schaffhausen and the building in the last photo in particular, was bombed on 1st April 1944. This was apparently due to a navigational error, caused by bad weather conditions. Wiki says that it was mistaken for Ludwigshafen am Rhein, as it sits on the north side of the Rhine. Four million dollars were paid in restitution and, the writing on the front indicates that, the building was rebuilt in 1945.

Swiss Trip to the North (part 1)

Back in April, Jude and I were due to go to Basel, to see an Edward Hopper exhibition. But this, of course, had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, museums, hotels and restaurants have now re-opened in Switzerland, so we decided to re-book our trip.

In addition, we hope to visit every canton in Switzerland and see some of the many delights the country has to offer. So we decided to include a couple of nights in Schaffhausen, to see the famous Rhine Falls, which are the largest in Europe. But more of them later…

After driving directly to Basel and checking in to our accommodation, we had just enough time to visit the Kunstmuseum, which also has an excellent collection of artwork on show.

As you will see from my selection of photos below, I often find the detail of some paintings more fascinating than the overall images themselves! For example, I was particularly amused by the 3 tiny people standing on the glacier in the painting of the Finsteraarhorn by Kaspar Wolf. (See pic no. 7). It looks like one of them might be waving. Kaspar obviously had a great sense of humour as the 3 people sitting on the rock in the next painting look incredibly relaxed for such a precarious position.

Some favourite books

Vivienne, at “Bug Woman – Adventures in London”, had a great idea with her post yesterday, which was to describe 3 of her favourite illustrated books. It inspired me to continue the theme by mentioning 3 of my own.

With a well stocked bookshelf (or three), my dilemma was which ones to choose. So my selection criteria was their relevance to this site which, when I’m not covering holidays, tends to concentrate on Swiss mountain walks and their associated views, with a few butterflies and flowers thrown in for good measure.

With this in mind, my first choice was a big book by any standards, aptly entitled Majestics. It measures 44 x 32cm (17.3″ x 12.6″) and when you open it up you can see why it needs to be. A finalist in the Banff International Mountain Book Festival (Canada), it contains some simply amazing panoramic photos of Switzerland by professional photographer, Samuel Bitton. They are the sort of images I aspire to.

I have mentioned this second book before, but it’s constantly in use during the summer as I do my level best to identify the butterflies I’ve photographed. It’s in French and is a “Guide d’identification des papillons de jour de Suisse”, written by Vincent and Michel Baudraz. The first ‘half’ is a step-by-step guide to help you identify the butterfly. This is ok until it asks you what the underside looks like and you only have a picture of the upperside – which explains why I cannot always be sure of my naming! The second part has all the butterflies listed by family together with detailed pointers to their unique features.

Throughout the book their are beautiful and incredibly accurate coloured drawings of each. Anyone who has ever tried to identify the subtle differences between two very similar butterflies will appreciate how precise they are. Not only that but the book is ably supported by this website, which shows the distribution (albeit only in Switzerland) and has a selection of photos which can often confirm the identification.

My third choice is Our Alpine Flora by E. Landolt and K. M. Urbanska, which is published by the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC). My copy is in English, but very often it seems like another language, as the detailed descriptions mention “actinomorphic” or “pedicellate” flowers, “fruit a silique opening by 2 valves” or “lanceolate, shortly petiolate” leaves. My over-simplistic technique is to thumb through the (rather too small) photos at the back until I find one that looks like mine. I know it’s a bit hit and miss, but I’d never identify anything without it. 😊

“First Up” by Arthur Manton-Lowe

Firstly, please accept my humblest apologies for all the emails that this site has been generating for the past 24 hours.  I’ve been trying to resolve an issue where the picture gallery doesn’t appear in the emails which are sent out.  My testing proved inconclusive (with different results for two almost identical posts), so I left it with the WordPress Happiness Engineer to resolve and he did some more, also inconclusive, testing.  He advised switching to the latest WP Editor, which I may well do, the next time I get a chance!

In addition, by following myself, I’ve seen how the gallery images have been listed, one beneath the other, which isn’t ideal.  So I may also switch to using the Read more (of this post)… link to encourage people to view the gallery with the black background of my template.

But, to more interesting things…  Life en Suisse, during the Corona virus…

Today my wife, Jude, and I took a trip down to one of the DIY stores to pick up a painting which we’d left for framing.   In Switzerland, the lockdown is not as severe as in some countries and, after they called yesterday to say it was ready, Jude agreed a time to pick it up.  So we drove down and joined a queue of about 8 cars waiting patiently in a line in the car park.   One by one, as each car reached the front of the queue, the occupants were checked in (as having an appointment) and the driver (or passenger) got out and walked to the ‘office’ (which was carefully segregating customer from staff) to pay and to be given instructions where to collect the item.

As I was waiting, I saw our painting being brought out on a trolley and it was left at collection point A.  (Thankfully it wasn’t raining, indeed the skies are perfectly blue this week).  Jude soon arrived back and we drove around to said collection point, loaded up and drove home.  After unwrapping the picture, we were delighted with the result.  So I thought I’d share it with you… 😊  (Well, I hope it’s below, but if not, please click on the title of this post).

It’s painted by our good friend Arthur Manton-Lowe.  He told me that the location of the building is about 2 kilometres from his home in Vienne, France and the title is “First Up”, since first up lights the fire…  The inscription on the side reads: “Never let the fire in your heart go out.  Romans 12 v 11-13”

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Chateau D’Oex Balloon Festival

Like most of you, I’m pretty much confined to barracks for the duration of this Coronavirus outbreak.  So I thought I’d dig into my archives to find you some interesting items to cheer you all up (and to give me something to do of course! 😊)

For the first in this series, I’ve gone back to January 2006 and 2008, when I visited the Chateau D’Oex Balloon Festival.  As you will see below, the balloons on display are many and varied, with some incredible designs.  The colours are so vibrant, especially in what was bright sunshine, I just had to take a lot of photographs.

Stay safe and healthy.  And a big THANK YOU to all those who are working tirelessly to keep the rest of us alive and well.