Gornergrat, Zermatt, Switzerland

It’s hard to believe that I’ve now been blogging for over 4 years and this is the first time I’ve posted pictures, well, close up pictures, of one of the world’s most iconic mountains – the Matterhorn.  My excuse, if I needed one, is that Jude and I have been to Zermatt so many times before, with almost every one of our friends and family who came to stay when we first moved over to Switzerland.

Anyway, my sister, Karen, has been visiting this week with her partner, Paul, and they were keen to go there.  So, we drove around to Tasch, parked up and took the shuttle train to (the car free) Zermatt.  Now although the Matterhorn looks impressive from almost any angle, it’s far best viewed from the Gornergrat at 3,100m (or 10,170ft).  But do not worry if you are averse to hiking, as there is a train which will whisk you up to the top.  😊

To give you some idea of the scale of what you are looking at, I’ve posted a picture (no. 4) of the ultra modern, ‘space age’ looking, Monte Rosa Hut, which is 5 storeys high and sleeps 120 people.  Picture 5 zooms out a little (and you can, I hope, spot the hut in the centre of the lower part of the image) and then picture 6 shows the full extent of Monte Rose (also called the Dufourspitze and is Switzerland’s highest mountain at 4,634m or 15,200ft), with the hut towards the lower right.

Llanymynech Limeworks Heritage Area Walk

As previously mentioned, my wife and I are in the UK at the moment and on Monday we went to visit Judith’s parents, Angela and Lawrence.  After a delicious lunch, Angela took us on another wonderful walk, this time around the Limeworks Heritage Area at Llanymynech.   (I’ve never understood how to pronounce these Welsh names, but I understand the first y is as you might expect, like an ‘ee’ sound, but the second y is more like a u, as in bun.  It’s no wonder I’m confused!)

Anyway the village straddles the border between England and Wales and the old Limeworks does the same, such that there is an English Quarry and a Welsh Quarry.  As you might expect, the two were fiercely competitive, until a tunnel was made which connected the two and they decided to merge.  However, the Limeworks eventually became uneconomic and closed in 1914.

The Offa’s Dyke long distance path also runs alongside.

 

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. 😊

 

Zurich

With a certain festive period approaching, Jude and I took ourselves off to Zurich for a few days to find some ‘different’ presents.   I’d been there before to run the marathon, but I hadn’t really had time to explore the city and I have to say that we were both very impressed with how organised and quiet it was.  It was more like a large village than a big city.  It was also nice to see the wooden Christmas market stalls and the streets decorated with more lights than you could ever count.

 

Windermere cruise, English Lake District

A visit to the Lake District wouldn’t be complete (for Jude anyway) without a trip on a boat.  And since the forecast for the day was a sort of cloudy grey, we opted to catch a ‘steamer’* from the aptly named village of Lakeside to Bowness-on-Windermere.

*Our outward journey would be on the MV (Merchant Vessel) Tern, which was built in 1891, but I’ve since learnt that it’s not driven by steam at all but is motor powered.

After a little retail therapy and a nice lunch, we returned on the MV Teal, which was built in 1936.  (See pic 8).

The boats link up with the Lakeside and Haverthwaite railway, which is only 3.2 miles/5k long but, during the season, (broadly April through to the end of October) mostly runs steam trains to take people back and forth, as you will see from the last few pictures.

A perhaps little known, but useful piece of information here, (for keen UK quizzers or maybe those who holiday in exotic locations by the sea) is that all British owned ships must fly a flag with the Union (Jack) flag in the top left corner.  The remainder of the flag is either red, indicating a merchant vessel (as with the Tern and Teal); white, together with a St George’s Cross, for the Royal Navy, or blue for other ships, which have a special warrant from the Admiralty.

For more information on Windermere Lake Cruises, check out this Visit Cumbria website.

Canal Walk to Llangollen

Jude and I have just returned from a 17 day trip back to the UK, which was partly for a holiday in the English Lake District (more to come on that in the following days) and partly to see Jude’s family.  Our first port of call was to Jude’s parents in their lovely new home in Oswestry.  While there, we took the opportunity to drive across the Welsh border to walk a short section of the Llangollen canal with Angela, Jude’s mum.  As you can see from our pictures below, it was a beautiful Autumn day.

Hallwilersee Half Marathon and Swiss Trains

One way to run an Autumn marathon is to run two Half marathons. 🤔  When I discovered that there were two in quick succession, I didn’t think I’d be able to run either, let alone both.  So I’m very pleased to post another report, this time on the Hallwilerseelauf.  (In case you missed it here is my Greifensee Half report from a few weeks ago).

You may recall that Sarah, Karl and I just failed, by only 13 seconds, to dip under the 2 hour mark.  So after a little bit more ‘speed’ training since, I had (perhaps too) high hopes of running 1 hour 55 mins, or in any event under 2 hours.  The course had a downhill start, which was nice, but inevitably you are drawn into going off too quickly.  With the sun shining brightly (again) and the temperature around 23 degrees, I once more suffered in the middle to late stages, but I “dug in” (as you have to in these races) to finish in 1h 57m 27s.   OK, it wasn’t 1h 55m, but one of the things driving me on towards the finish was the thought that the sum of the two races just had to be under 4 hours… 😀

As before, I didn’t carry my camera or a phone, so I have no photos of the race itself, but here is a link to my own personal video of the race courtesy of the organisers/sponsors.  I’m the guy in the red vest and black cycling type shorts and long socks by the way. 👨  Depending upon your internet speed, you may have to wait a few seconds for the video to come up and it’s best viewed, of course, by maximising the screen (via the top right hand corner of the video window). Enjoy!

Once again, I had free travel to and from the event, but it involved catching a bus and 5 different trains to get there and 6 different trains to get back to Sion (where Jude would pick me up).  With connection times between trains of as low as 3 minutes, perhaps only in Switzerland would you even dream of getting there and back in a day.  But that’s exactly what I did.  It didn’t matter that there were weekend engineering works along one section of the route, the schedule had been adjusted and all 11 trains were exactly on time.  (See my outward and return timetables below).  Words cannot describe my admiration for the Swiss train (and Postbus) network. ⏱👍👍

 

Vevey and Tour of Haut Lac Léman

One of the things that both Judith and I miss about living in the mountains is Lac Léman or Lake Geneva.  Our old apartment used to look out over the eastern end of the lake and so for old time’s sake, yesterday, we took the Postbus down to Sion and then the train to Vevey.

After a short walk along the lakeside and a fabulous lunch at Le Rubis restaurant, now run by our good friends Cathy and Lauren, we hopped on one of the fantastic paddle steamer boats which operate all along the lake.   There are 10 boats in total and all look slightly different.  (See pic 3).  As the circular tour of the upper end of the lake unfolds, you can see how the Alps begin to form, as the rolling hills turn into mountains.  (See pic 27).  Most of the individual peaks you see below, both Judith and I have climbed over the years.  It was probably where I cut my teeth and developed an endearing love of the Alps.

If you ever get the opportunity to visit this part of the world, or indeed any of the lakes in Switzerland, I can highly recommend one of these boat trips as a fabulous way to see the country.

Melbourne, Australia (1 of many)

As mentioned in my post on Jan 1st, I’ve been away for the past 3 weeks, visiting my daughter Joanne, in Melbourne, Australia.  For the first 2 weeks, I stayed in a wonderful Airbnb, called BigOldFamilyHome in the Northcote area. My sincerest thanks go to Sandra and Andrew for being perfect hosts.  For my 3rd ‘week’, I took off to the Alpine National Park to do some walking, but more of that later…

In this first, introductory post, I thought I’d show you a few pictures, mainly of the Docklands area, which is being redeveloped.  Though I was advised that maybe upto 2/3rds of the apartments currently remain empty.

One of the many pluses of visiting or living in Melbourne is that tram travel in the very centre of the city is free.  The area is more or less bordered by the old style City Circle line trams – see pics 2 & 3.

Caldon Canal Walk from Cheddleton

Following on from my post yesterday…  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that our accommodation in Cheddleton was within 50 yards of one pub (The Black Lion) and 150 yards from another (The Red Lion) and also very near to a working, narrow boat canal.  (This was after we’d booked it, I might add).

Blue skies were forecast for last Wednesday, so I opted out of some retail therapy and decided to go for a 5 mile walk along the tow path (and 5 miles back again).   Now, I’ve often thought of canals as quite boring places – being flat and, well, all very similar.  But I couldn’t have been more wrong…  Amongst the many interesting things that I saw, apart from some perfect autumn scenery, were a field full of (about 150) Canada Geese, probably refuelling before heading further south for the winter and a Kingfisher, which I was extremely pleased to photograph, albeit from 20 yards away, (see pic 13).

Not only that but I met a lovely couple, called Sue and Derek, who told me that they had sold their house to buy a boat, so that they could spend the rest of their days cruising the canal network.  That’s what I call adopting a more relaxing way of life!