Trip to Bettmeralp, Valais, Switzerland

A few years ago now, Jude and I had promised ourselves that one day we would go skiing in Bettmeralp, or rather the AletschArena, as the lift system also links in with the Riederalp and Fiescheralp ski areas.  So, with some free time last week and the weather set fair, we did just that.

After several weeks of sunshine, we were pleasantly surprised at the depth and quality of the snow and the huge width of some of the ski pistes.  We were also very taken by a very picturesque Victorian style building, which turned out to be called Villa Cassel. (See pic 6).

Further research revealed that it was built for the German-English banker, Sir Ernest Cassell, who used it as a summer residence until the First World War.  Cassell had an interesting life.  He was born in Cologne and, at the age of 17, arrived penniless in the UK. However, he went on to become one of the richest men in Britain and was a good friend of King Edward VII, Prime Minister H.H. Asquith and Winston Churchill.  He bred race horses and had a famous art collection.

The Villa itself could only be reached on foot or by mule.  But, when the inhabitants of the town said they were going to make a better road to his property, he answered: “If you do, I’m not coming here anymore.”

After the War, the Villa was used as a hotel, but was sold in 1970 and is now run as a nature conservation centre by Pro Natura, the oldest environmental organisation in Switzerland, who take care of about 700 nature reserves of various sizes throughout Switzerland.  I’m sure Ernest would have approved.

 

Snowman update II

In case you missed Snowman update I – please catch up here.

I should have mentioned that my brother and his 2 sons had dubbed the snowman “MJ”, due to the way he was leaning like Michael Jackson in Smooth Criminal.  (If you don’t know what I mean, you can watch it here).  But now I think we need to refer to him as Elton because, if he could talk, he’d be saying, or even singing, “I’m still standing“.

Yesterday morning he’d leaned over so far backwards his head way was a mere 8 to 10 inches off the snow behind and by late afternoon that had reduced to a mere 4 to 5 inches.  However a severe crack had opened up at the base, so I didn’t think he’d last the night…

Just in case you think he’s propped up in any way by a broom or something on the far side, here’s a picture taken from the front:

8th Jan am V

But it seems Elton is a fighter and this morning he was still there, with his head just resting gently on the snow… 😊  Surely the laws of physics will take over soon?

Walk from Euseigne to Sion, Valais, Switzerland

While the upper part of the Val d’Hérens is covered in snow, the lower part of the valley is completely clear.  So, with the sun shining brightly, I decided to take my camera for a walk down the path from Euseigne to Sion.  Although it’s a walk I’ve done and posted before, I was certain I’d find something new or unusual to photograph and I wasn’t disappointed.

The early morning frost made for some interesting images and one of the wooden bridges had been dislodged due to a landslide last year, making it unusable.  However, I have no idea why there was a sweeping brush propped up next to the small shrine.  (See pic 24).

Snowman update…

You may recall from my Fun in the Snow post last week, that my brother, with only a little help from his 2 sons, built a snowman in our garden.  That was on Friday, 27th December.  Picture 29, taken on new year’s day, showed that it had started to lean backwards.  (I presume this was due to the sun on its back rather than my brother’s snowman building skills).

Well, I’m happy to report, all you Raymond Briggs fans, that, almost a week later, the snowman is still alive and well, though now leaning over quite remarkably.  At least it will be able to enjoy looking at the stars without getting a crick in its neck. 😊

Snowman, 7th Jan

Fun in the snow

Firstly let me wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful new year.

My brother, Steve, has been visiting us this past week with his wife, Beverley, and their two sons, Gabriel and Sebastien.  Last Friday didn’t get off to a good start with snow falling all morning, but it did mean the boys could get to build a rather large (6ft/2m tall) snowman in the afternoon.  I say ‘boys’, but as you can see from the first few pictures, it was mainly Steve who built it, while Seb and Gabe did what brothers do – throw snowballs at each other.

From then on though it has been blue skies all the way and we’ve been out walking, cross-country skiing and downhill skiing.

With the sun shining brightly, as each day went by, the snowman started to tilt more and more.  Picture 29 below was taken on new year’s day (looking a bit how I felt!) and, even today, it’s still defying gravity by leaning at around 45 degrees.

Thyon Ridge Snowshoe Walk

I mentioned earlier in the week that the weather was set to improve and for the past 3 days we’ve had glorious sunshine.  The mountains are looking wonderful with their white tops against the blue skies so, in an attempt to capture as many as possible for you, today I went for a walk along the Thyon Ridge.   At least this time I remembered to take my showshoes. 😊

The Thyon ski resort isn’t fully open yet, but most of the pistes have been prepared.  There were also quite a lot of people ski touring up to Mont Carré (@2,468m or 8,097ft). 

 

Riverside walk in the snow

I think there’s something uniquely satisfying about the deep sounding ‘creak’ or crunch that you get when walking on fresh snow.  I’m not sure if it’s just the sound, or the knowledge that you are the first person to walk on that particular spot for a while, or the fact that you have some grip and are less likely to slip, or maybe it’s all three.  Anyway, our car had to visit the garage to have its winter tyres put on, so I went for a walk up and down the river (Borgne).  As you will see from the images below, it was a little misty, at least to start with, but I think that adds to the atmosphere.  To add to at least my interest, there were a lot of fresh animal tracks around, but no animals to be seen unfortunately.

We have a few days of sunshine forecast, so I hope to bring you some brighter pictures later this week.  😀

Mdina, Malta

My apologies for not publishing a ‘real’ post for a while but, like many bloggers it seems, I’ve been busy doing nothing in particular.

Anyway a few months ago now, my wife organised a trip to Iceland with her friend Kate, so I had a look for something to do while she was away.  Naturally I wanted to find some warmer weather and I looked at the AIMS marathon calendar for some inspiration.  To my delight I discovered that the Malta Challenge Marathon was on at the same time.  It consists of 3 races over 3 days, covering a 10 miler, a 5k then a Half marathon.   So I entered, arranged all my travel and set about getting fit.  My training was going really well (even running while I was away in Finland and Mykonos) and I’d managed to get up to 20k in a respectable 1h 50 mins, so I figured I was ready…  That is until my final training run, the Saturday before I left, and my left calf seized up yet again!  (Insert a suitable curse or emoji here).

Thankfully I had another reason to go… My father spent some time in Malta after the War, as a Signalman on a minesweeper and he had mentioned enjoying some time ashore down a street which he called “The Gut”, but is actually called Strait Street in English.   So when my wife and I went to Malta / Gozo a few years ago, we searched for a copy of a book by George Cini, called Strait Street.  We couldn’t find an English copy anywhere, so I got in touch with George and managed to get hold of a copy to give to my dad.   During my email exchanges with George, I mentioned my dad’s book and he suggested I present a copy of it, personally, to the Fondazzioni Wirt Artna (FWA), which is an organisation dedicated to preserving the history of the island.  And so that was also arranged…

So, like London buses, you don’t hear anything from me for a while and now a few posts of my, sometimes very wet, time in Malta & Gozo, beginning with the Mdina…

 

Winter has arrived…

While the UK is recovering from yet more wet weather, the upper parts of the Val d’Hérens have had their first serious snow of the year.  Yesterday about 20 – 25 cm (8-10″) fell in our valley and this morning it’s decidedly crunchy underfoot.

I’m sure I’ve posted similar images to these before, but perhaps not this early in the year.