Bisse de Savièse – Torrent Neuf, Valais, Switzerland

I promised USAthroughoureyes that I would try to find a new dimension to my walks and so today we have something unusual – a flat(ish) walk in Switzerland.  I have mentioned and posted pictures of ‘Bisses’ before.  They are irrigation channels and there are quite a number dotted about the canton of Valais.  But I think this one must be the most famous, due to the precipitous nature of the path, or at least the original path.  Today, four suspension bridges help the inquisitive walker along the route, but you can still see how the bisse and path were originally built.

All of the images below were taken with my mobile phone (as I went off without my camera) and I just managed to catch the ‘thing’ in the last picture (which was a first sighting for me), before my battery ran out.  I spotted it while looking to take a photo of some butterflies, but it makes a change… 😊  I also saw what may have been 3 Jersey Tiger moths (another first) but, by then, I had no battery left… 😌

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!

 

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.

Evolène

I received such positive feedback on the village photographs in my last post, (thank you Jet and M.Oniker), that I decided to take a few more pictures for you to enjoy.  But first, a little background…

Evolène is a village at around 1,380m (4,525ft) in the Val d’Hérens, which itself is in the southern part of the Valais canton of Switzerland.  The population of the whole commune (which includes the neighbouring villages of Les Haudères, Villa, La Sage, La Forclaz and Arolla) is only about 1,700.  Despite this relatively low number, we have 8 bar/restaurants in our village alone.  These survive due to the number of visitors that we get both during the winter, for skiing, and the summer for walking, cycling or mountaineering.  I read that 55% of the available light (i.e from when it appears from, or disappears, behind the mountains), is sunshine.  And with little wind and a fairly dry atmosphere, not to mention some beautiful scenery, you can see why it’s quite popular.

At the moment we have the annual Carnival, which this year runs from 6th January to 5th March, (this explains why some of the pictures still show what appear to be Christmas decorations) and in the summer from 10th to 15th August there will be the biannual, CIME mountain folklore festival.  More posts to come on these no doubt… 😄

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.

 

Circular Walk via La Sage, La Forclaz, Sépey and Les Haudères

Grass plays a very important part in the lifecycle of the mountains.  It’s around this time of year that the farmers take their second cut to feed the animals during the long cold winter.  And, of course, where there is grass, you will often find an abundance of tiny creatures, which leap out of your way as you walk along the paths.  Below are just some of the grasshoppers and crickets that I managed to capture.  (They are devilishly quick at jumping out of the way when you approach with a camera).

I’m often asked what’s the difference between a cricket and a grasshopper and the answer is that, in general, crickets have very long antennae, whereas the grasshopper’s are quite short.  The same sort of distinction can be made between moths and butterflies where, again in general, the latter have a sort of bulb at the end of their antennae, while moths don’t and theirs can be more feathery or saw-edged.

Transhumance

As you may know, I like to educate as well as entertain, so…

Transhumance – what is it?  It’s a word that I’d certainly never come across in all my long years until my very learned friend, Pete, told me about it.  Dictionary.com defines it as:

“the seasonal migration of livestock, and the people who tend them, between lowlands and adjacent mountains.”

Although a noun, it’s derived from the French verb transhumer – to shift ground, which itself is modelled on the Spanish, trashumar.

This activity takes place in our local villages twice a year, but I’ve never got involved until yesterday, when I accepted an open invitation from Marius of the Ferme de Clos Lombard to accompany his cows up to the meadows near Lac d’Arbey.

The cows spend most of the winter down in the valley inside their sheds, only coming out if and when the weather allows.  So you can imagine their joy at spending the summer on the open fields high on the alpage (that’s the verdant area of open land between the valley and the high, rocky mountain peaks).

After setting off through the village and briefly along the road to Lannaz, the procession of cows and people took to the path up to the far side of Lac d’Arbey.  About half way, there was a short pause for the cows, and some of the people I might add, to catch their breath. (I know how they feel after a winter of inactivity!)  Two or three (cows that is) made bids for early freedom, but they were soon brought back into line by the helpful followers.  And then finally, after a few more short breaks, we all arrived at the lake where not only the cows took to wading in…