Åland Islands, Finland

Let me take you on a little journey from Stockholm to the Åland Islands, which are an autonomous region of Finland…

Travelling to new countries (and blogging about them) certainly teaches you a few things, like there is hardly any tidal movement in the Baltic sea (which is why the thousands of islands are always visible); the water is not as salty as the ‘normal’ sea and, despite belonging to Finland, the islanders all speak Swedish (and most also speak English thankfully).

We caught a Viking Line ferry, called Grace, which was more like a cruise ship, from Stockholm to Turku, on the Finnish mainland.  It’s a sailing which is highly recommended, if you ever get the opportunity, as the boat weaves its way through the almost impossibly narrow channels between the many islands.   After an overnight stop and hiring a car, we then hopped on and off 2 more ferries to get to the group of interconnected islands called Brändö. (See map pic B11).

A particular highlight of our time there was a day on the island of Jurmo.  We arrived too early for the ferry, but an extremely friendly local, called Ari, offered to give us a lift in his small boat.  There was a harvest festival type celebration on that weekend and we were treated to a tour of the island on a tractor trailer.

Like yesterday, I’ve divided my photos into 3 distinct galleries. (Click on any image to get a larger view).

The ferry journey:

Brändö:

Jurmo island:

Mke’s Music Monday #24

1966 was a memorable year for many things, most notably for me, apart from my 12th birthday, was a certain World Cup final. ⚽  It was also the year that this song was released by the Elgins.  Wind forward 6 (or was it 5? 😉) years and whenever my older brother and I would go down to the local Bailey’s night club in Hull, this song was almost always playing as we walked in.   Whenever I hear it, I’m transported back to that circular dance floor and the coloured flashing lights!

It was only by chance that I found this video which begins with the white rose emblem of my beloved home county. 😁

 

La Luette to Euseigne via the Passarelle de la Combe

So, while her husband, Malcolm, was conquering the Matterhorn, Helen and I took the Postbus just a few stops down the valley to La Luette, to walk along the path which crosses the Passarelle de la Combe.  We then dropped down to the naturally heated waters near Combioula, before climbing back up passed the Pyramids to Euseigne.

Helen was thanking me for taking her along this walk, but I was thanking her in the end as I managed to take pictures of three new butterflies, which I’d never seen before – and therefore never posted on this site before. 😊

The first (pic 4) was of an albeit tatty looking Dryad (minois dryas).

The second (pic 16) is of a rather shy Tree Grayling (hipparchia statilinus), which decided to hide, as it’s name suggests, under a felled tree trunk.  It’s not widely seen across Switzerland, so I’ve included a distribution map (pic 16a) with an arrow indicating (very approximately) where we were.

The third (pic 17) was of a Lesser Purple Emperor (apatura ilia).  In French it’s called a ‘Petit Mars changeant’ and it certainly seems to take many forms, being blue/violet or red/orange or, as my luck would have it, dark brown/black!  This one flew up to the top of a bush, so I didn’t get a great picture of it.  So, for some better pictures of this colourful butterfly please click here.   Although more widespread across Switzerland, it’s classed as vulnerable on the Red List and is not that common in our area (pic 17a) .  So I was a very happy bunny once I’d identified them all from my book.  😁  Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the flowers, which I couldn’t find at all.  It seems every silver lining has a cloud…!

Footnote:  The link above and distribution maps were take from Michel and Vincent Baudraz’s excellent website:  https://www.lepido.ch/cartes-de-distribution
If you click on a particular group, the individual species are listed with distribution maps.  Further photographs of each are also available by clicking on the name of the butterfly).

Midsummer Festival, Evolène, Switzerland

Every year, on the 15th August, our village is host to one of the most traditional and colourful festivals.  Every other year, it is supplemented by the inclusion of the musicians and dancers from the Célébrations Interculturelles de la Montagne à Evolène (CIME), which takes place in the few days leading up to this and concludes with a final Gala evening performance.

The main event starts with a procession of vintage cars.  This is followed by people dressed in traditional costumes, demonstrating local dancing, music and crafts.  This year it was interspersed with performers from Russia, Armenia, Ecuador, Italy and Montenegro.

As you can see from the photos below (the best ones of which were taken by my wife Jude, as marked), everyone had a fabulous time.   And if you ever wondered where this utopia is that I live, but couldn’t be bothered to look it up, I’ve added a map at the end. 😊

 

Sunday afternoon in Evolène, Switzerland

This weekend and until the 15th August, sees the biennial CIME (Célébrations Interculturelles de la Montagne à Evolène) festival, which features dancers and singers from different mountain areas around the world.  We haven’t bought tickets to see any of the evening shows, but there are impromptu events happening in and around the villages of the Val d’Hérens.

So, with nothing better to do and the sun shining, I wandered down to the village, taking some photos as I went, and stumbled across a procession of the Russian, Italian and Ecuadorian participants.  I presumed this was a sort of preamble or practice for the main ‘mid-summer’ procession on the 15th.  I hope to bring you some pictures of that later next week, but in the meantime, here are a few images from today.

 

Guinness Irish Festival, Sion

Psst… Can you keep a secret?  If anyone asks, you haven’t seen these pictures – OK?

Jude and I went to the Irish Festival in Sion last night, featuring 3 bands, with the Chieftains as the main act.  The cloakrooms were outside of the entrance gate, so after the first act and a few pints of the black stuff, I toddled off for a comfort break.  But when I returned, I’d taken my point and shoot camera out of my pocket and the security guard wouldn’t let me in – pointing to a sign saying “No cameras”.   (It was in Jude’s bag when we first arrived and a different security guard must have missed it).  With almost everyone else inside taking pictures or videos with their phones, this seemed a bit ridiculous, but you don’t argue with a 6ft+ security guard!  (Well, I don’t anyway).

So I obviously didn’t take these pictures of the Damien Mullane Band and I certainly couldn’t possibly have taken any of the Chieftains.  Though I can tell you they were as good as ever, ably assisted by a local Swiss drumming band and 2 superb Canadian dancers on some of their songs.

Mike’s Music Monday #17

This week contains Swiss National Day*, so I’ve decided to include a song by a Swiss group, called Double, though in reality it’s mainly a guy called Kurt Maloo.  I really like it for a number of reasons, like the haunting melody, the simple piano riff, the clarinet and, when the question was asked “Who sang The Captain of her Heart?” in a pub quiz in York quite a few years ago now, I actually remembered the answer.  I still have no idea how I got that.

*The 1st August is also Yorkshire Day.  Ey up, didn’t tha knows?  But I figured this song might go down a bit better than a rendition of Ilkley Moor Bah T’at (especially be me!)  Oh, go on then, yev twisted me arm – see darn below…  👍👍 It’s grand as ‘owt!

 

Walk from Arolla to Evolène, via the Cabane de la Tsa

Now here’s a weird coincidence… I like to check that the names of my photographs are as accurate as possible.  Call me pedantic if you like, or even a perfectionist, but it really frustrates me when I cannot find the exact species of plant or butterfly.  So my photos are littered with the words ‘possibly’, ‘maybe’ and ‘I think’.   Today I was searching the web for an image of a “Tansy leaved rocket” to check the name of the yellow flower below (which, if correct, is quite rare), but what should I come across but my own image from this same walk 2 years ago!  However, it looks nothing like this one, so one of them is wrong, maybe even both are wrong.  🤔  Ah well, they are both beautiful plants and it was a nice walk.

I also ‘think’ that the butterfly in picture 19 bears all the hallmarks of a Euphydryas intermedia, or Asian Fritillary, which again, if true, is quite rare and in Switzerland, it only appears in a few southern valleys.  But then, of course, it could be something completely different!

Another, happier coincidence, was when I was walking by the pond at La Gouille…  On my previous ‘Exhibition walk’, I had to step aside on a narrow part of the path for a crocodile, or should that be a snake, of maybe 40 children and a few grown ups.  After several “Bonjours”, (people are always polite and friendly in the mountains), I threw in a “Hello”, just to see what the reaction might be and one young chap replied “Hello, my name’s Charlie!”, then another said “We’re from Belgium!”   Anyway, further along the path I spotted 2 wooden discs or tags, which had obviously been dropped by someone in the group.  I decided to take them to the local Tourist Office in the hope/expectation that they might know where this merry band were staying and get in touch with them.  Anyway, who should be at La Gouille but 40 odd children…  After a brief chat with one of the leaders, they were indeed the same group.  He was so grateful for the news of the find, that he announced this to the assembled masses and yours truly was greeted to a big round of applause! (I have no idea what he said to them of course, but my actions were clearly appreciated). 😊

(Long Distance) Running update (Part 4)

I’m impressed by all runners, but especially by those who can motivate others to go out running.  This was the case yesterday when I read RunColbyRun’s post about simply getting out there, whatever the weather, humidity or however you feel – we all make excuses don’t we?  So it was with that in mind that I got of my butt (as she would say) and ran 6k (3.7 miles) today.  Thanks Colby, I just have to keep it going now!

Since I have no pictures of me running today, this also gives me an opportunity to catch up on part 4 of my Long Distance running series…  (I also thought you might be amused by the pics below from 1999 and 2000).

After reaching my goal of a sub-3 in 1994, I didn’t run another marathon until 1999, (then aged 45), when I ran what was being termed the ‘inaugural’ Edinburgh Marathon, which went from the old Scottish capital of Dunfermline to the current, Edinburgh.  It was a linear route, so runners had to catch a bus, at some ungodly hour, like 6am, to get to the start.  I recall sitting next to a chap (aged over 60, which seemed old to me at the time) who was about to run his 200th marathon or something. (He’d only started running 10 or 12 years earlier so I’ve no idea where he must have found them all to run).   Anyway I told him I was aiming for a sub-3 and I could see he didn’t rate my chances.  He planned an ‘easy’ 3h 40m…

The race itself was memorable for starting next to and then running nearby 2 ladies who were chatting non-stop within ear-shot for at least 10 or 12 miles.  It was then I realised that they were running well within themselves and setting a good pace, so I tagged along… At about the 18 mile mark I struck up a conversation and both were aiming for sub-3.   We ran along together until about the 22 mile mark, when we reached a drinks station and one headed off in front and the other lagged behind.  So I was torn between chasing the one in front or waiting for the one behind.  In the event, I did neither and did my own thing, expecting the 2nd to catch up.   I finished in 2h 58m 40s, about 3 minutes behind the first of my companions and the 2nd came in just after me, also under 3 hours.  So the moral of this tale is, run well within yourself (you should be able to talk) for at least the first half of a marathon and possibly even up to 18 or 19 miles, as that’s when the race really starts.

A year later, I set off with my good mate, Pete, to run the Prague marathon.  Before the race, we did the usual tourist thing and, I have to say that Prague is one of the most beautiful cities that I’ve ever visited, even if the marathon (in 2000 at least) was an out and back course along a dual carriageway!   The weekend was also memorable for a visit to a Hall of Mirrors (you have to see it to understand), where Pete and I were in stitches, with tears in our eyes, just looking at our reflections.  🤣🤣  Little things…

As for the race, at the turnaround point I saw Pete on his way back, not that far ahead but, as he’s a better runner than me, I didn’t really expect to catch him.  Towards the finish, I knew I had another sub-3 in the bag, despite a guy ushering us along to run faster to get to the finish line.  And sure enough, Pete was there waiting to greet me as I finished in exactly the same time as Edinburgh, 2h 58m 40s.  Consistent or what?  (This remains my best ever age-related time performance).  Pete tells me that he came 151st in 2h 55m 12s and I was 206th.  We were fit in those days!  (Though Pete is still running around 21 minutes for a 5k Park Run!)

Pete and me, Prague Marathon May 2000

 

Sarah and Karl’s Wedding

I promised you a few weeks ago that I would post some pictures of my daughter’s wedding.  Well, the official photos are now available (courtesy of Fox Moon Photography) and so it gives me great pleasure to replicate some of them here.

To say that it was a very special day would be the biggest understatement of understatements.  The sun shone brightly and everyone had a fabulous time – especially the bride and groom, who were smiling throughout day.