Walk from La Forclaz to the Mayens de Bréona

It was more in hope than expectation that I drove the few miles to La Forclaz yesterday.  The sun has been out for the past week and, although the snow has completely gone now from our garden (at 1,400m / 4,600ft), I wasn’t sure if even the south facing slopes at 1,700m to 2,100m (5,600ft to 6,900ft) would be clear.  As it turned out, after a short stretch of snow leaving La Forclaz, the footpaths were as good as clear up to the Mayens de Bréona.  However, the descent tracks, which were mainly through the woods, were still covered in about 30cm, or a foot, of the white stuff.

 

Sion to Sierre bike ride

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I might have to get out my bike if I was going to get any exercise and, today, I did just that.  My road bike may need a little tlc before it’s roadworthy, so I opted for my mountain bike, even though I would be cycling on flat, smooth tarmac (at least for most of the way) alongside the river Rhone.

When I was planning the route, I noticed that there was a small lake, a monastery and a ruined chateau near Sierre, so that became my target – about 16 km (10 miles) away from where I started, after unloading my bike from the car in Sion.  Along the way I took a few short detours to capture some of the other small lakes nearby, as well as a few pictures of the Sierre golf course.   I hope you enjoy the ride… 🙂

Les Flantses Walk, Evolène, Val d’Hérens

While I was away in Krakow it snowed, as indeed it did the day I came back, so our little valley was completely white once more.   As ever though, it seems, the sun has been out since and doing its best to clear it all away again, particularly on the south facing slopes and this has led to the emergence of the first Spring flowers…  (My little Swiss Alpine Flora book has been gathering dust for 6 months, so it was good to get it out again. 🙂)

I decided to get some fresh air yesterday and took a short (maybe 3km / 2 miles) walk behind our chalet along the still partially covered paths and tracks in the area called Les Flantses, which lead up to the small hamlet of Volovron.  As you can see below, you don’t have to walk very far to get a good view of the valley and surrounding mountains.

 

Krakow – Art Galleries

As I mentioned yesterday, I was looking to visit some Art Galleries while in Krakow.  However, there are many ‘Museums’ in the city and it wasn’t clear which would have what I was looking for.  So I popped into the Tourist Information Centre, where a young lady swiftly put 5 crosses on one of her free maps. (The map was upside down so I was very impressed with her knowledge of the city – especially when I subsequently discovered that each one was precisely marked!)

My plan was to visit 2, maybe 3, so I set off for the furthest away, which was the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow (or MOCAK for short).  There I discovered a particular exhibition of sculptures by Krzysztof M. Bednarski entitled Karl Marx vs Moby Dick.  (Now there’s a match you don’t see every day).  I’ve shown only a few of his items below, but what that man cannot do with heads of Marx and metal shapes representing a whale is not worth knowing about.

Note that I’ve split this post into the different galleries that I visited, so don’t forget to page further down…  🙂

Next up was the National Museum.  Here there were a number of different themes, including some Henry Moore sculptures, various arts and crafts and an extensive collection of works by the prolific Stanislaw Wyspianski.

I still had some time to spare so I wandered along to the Jozef Czapski Pavilion.  Here I was a little disappointed.  There are one or two paintings on display, but the building is a sort of annexe to the Emeryk Hutten-Czapski Museum.  It houses an important collection of Polish coins and medals, which is OK if you like that sort of thing…

Just around the corner was, perhaps my favourite of them all, the EUROPEUM or Centre for European Culture.  This was to be the last I visited.  (The 5th is above the Cloth Market or Sukiennice in the Main Square in case you ever decide to visit).  And, I think it’s perhaps fitting, given the reason I went to Krakow, that the last image is of the inside of a Tavern!  🍻 Cheers!

 

 

Krakow – Stag weekend

I’ve just returned from a fabulous extended weekend in Krakow, Poland.  I was invited by my future son-in-law, Karl, to participate in his Stag weekend together with his dad, his 3 younger brothers and 3 of his best friends.  We arrived on Friday night and after a few beers, (of course), found a nice restaurant and a few more beers in a local bar.

The following morning, it was down to a nearby Park for the 5k (3 mile) Parkrun which started at 9am. I wasn’t going to run (due to my dodgy calf), but decided to give it a go.  It lasted about 4.5k before I had to nurse it along to the finish to be 125th out of the 201 runners and 3rd of the 6 of our group who ran.  🙂  I mention this ‘result’ because the next event was Go-Karting, where I was soundly beaten into last place!  It seems Karl and his brothers played the Super-Mario Karting game a lot when they were younger and Karl always chose to be Yoshi.  So Karl was suitably dressed up for the occasion – as he was for the trip to the Games pub in the Old Town for the après-Kart celebrations.

After a nice breakfast and a quiet walk around the Old Town on the Sunday morning, it was down to the Bull Pub to watch the Liverpool v Burnley Premier League match.  The guys had to leave by 6pm to catch their flight back to the UK, but I stayed on for two more days and I’ll post some more pics of that tomorrow…

 

Mont d’Orge, Sion, Switzerland

Sion, (pronounced Cee-on, as in Sea-on, by the way), is the capital of the Swiss canton of the Valais, which is in the south west, french speaking, part of the country.  It has around 30,000 inhabitants and a football team in the Swiss Super League.  Due to its position in the fertile Rhone valley, it has a rich and wonderful history going back to Prehistoric times.  It’s perhaps best known now for its two 13th century hilltop fortifications – the Basilique de Valère and Chateau de Tourbillon.

However there is a 3rd hill close by, called Mont d’Orge, which also has a ruined castle or chateau on top.  It can easily be reached from the railway/bus station and, for added interest, there is a small lake to the north, which teems with wildlife in the summer.  (See information sheet, pic 21, for a list, in French, of some of the creatures found thereabouts).

I’d read about this walk some years ago in a Rother walking guide, but had never done it, until yesterday.  Sadly the skies were a little dull for good photography, but I’ve done my best.

Those clever Swiss people have made best use of the geography by setting out a fitness trail up and around it’s sides.  (See pics 4, 15, 16 & 17 below).  I also stumbled across a yellow flower which my research suggests, (please let me know if I’m wrong), is either a Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem or an Early Star-of-Bethlehem.  If it’s the latter, then this is a very rare flower in the UK (where it’s also known as the Radnor Lily) as it only grows at Stanner Rocks in Radnorshire, Central Wales.  They believe that there are only 1,000 plants, of which only 1% flower each year.  However, it is quite widespread across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Last, but not least, I spotted a signpost with a plaque (pic 29) which shows that I was on one of the Swiss links to the famous Way of St James or Camino de Santiago de Compostela.   That makes it a little over 1,900 km to my good friend Arthur’s house. 😊

 

Forêt de Finges, Valais, Switzerland

After several days of sanding down and painting our shutters, Jude and I decided to have a day off and go for a walk down in the Rhone valley.  Sunday is pretty much a rest day in Switzerland anyway, as you are not allowed to make any undue noise (like mowing the lawn, drilling or hammering).  This is one of several ‘rules’ in Switzerland, which I may well blog about one day.

Anyway, the Forêt de Finges is a nature reserve of national importance which lies between the River Rhone and the main road from Sierre to Leuk.  It effectively marks the ‘border’ between the French and German speaking parts of Switzerland.  Our route would take us around a few small ponds which, to our surprise, were almost completely frozen.

We’d taken our binoculars in the hope of spotting a few interesting birds but, unfortunately, we didn’t see too many – just a few Coal Tits, Crested Tits, 2 Buzzards and something that looked a bit yellow!  On the plus side, we did spot a butterfly which came to rest on a bank above us.  After clambering up very carefully, I did manage to catch a reasonable photo – see pic 15.

 

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly

I mentioned in my previous post that the weather here in the Val d’Hérens has been rather sunny of late.  Well, despite the air temperature only hovering between 0 and 11 degrees C (32 and 52 F) and there still being 80-90% snow cover in our valley, we’ve actually seen 3 or 4 butterflies flitting about.

I was interested to find out which type they were, so I went in search of a photograph and sure enough, only a few yards up our road, I spotted a Small Tortoiseshell.  It had its wings closed and was well camouflaged so, given the distance I was away and the light shining on the back of my point and shoot camera, I was amazed to capture it in the centre of the picture.  The image below is exactly as it was taken (though reduced in pixel size to make it easier for you to load).

This is not the first time I’ve witnessed these brave and hardy little things out in the snow – as this picture from March 2017 shows.

 

Walk from Euseigne to Sion, Switzerland

We’re having some pretty incredible weather here in the Val d’Hérens at the moment.  Since we returned from the UK last week, it’s been blue skies all the way and at least one forecast suggests it will continue for another 10 days, at least… (see pic 1).  😅  Early morning temperatures are still pretty cold mind you, with the ground frozen and as soon as the sun drops behind the mountains (currently around 3pm in Evolène) the warmth disappears instantly.

So I have little or no excuse for not going out for a walk, except that all the paths in the upper valley are still covered in snow and that’s turning into a squelchy wet mush under the sun, before freezing again overnight.  Undeterred I decided to drive down the valley to the village of Euseigne, where most of the snow has now disappeared and walk right down the valley to Sion, before catching the Postbus back to Euseigne.

The total distance of the walk was around 15k or just over 9 miles.  I had a few minutes to spare before the bus arrived, so I decided to run, well jog, another 1k around a 400 metre track which was laid out around a football pitch.  (See last pic).

Great Haywood Junction, nr Stafford, England

Last week Judith and I were back in the UK visiting our respective families.  While in the Midlands, we had a few hours to spare, so we decided to take a walk along the canal near Great Haywood Junction.   Though I should really say canals, as that’s where the Trent and Mersey canal meets the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal.  It’s like a T junction – see first pic showing a map of the area.

As you will see, it was a pretty grey day, but there’s always something interesting to photograph – not least, in this instance, Shugborough Hall and the fascinating design of Essex Bridge.  Twice I had to step to one side into one of the V shapes ‘laybys’ – once for a jogger and the second time for 3 ladies on horseback.  It was clearly a popular route. 🙂