Sion, Valais, Switzerland

Following on from my post yesterday… When I reached Sion, I had just missed the 14:10 bus back to Evolène (by about 20 minutes). This meant I had a good hour and a half to wait before the next one. So what was a person to do with all the bars and cafés closed? Answer: Take a wander around the town and, in particular, walk up to the Valere Basilica and Chateau de Tourbillon, which were also closed, but both give fabulous views of each other as well as up and down the Rhone valley.

You do see some weird and wonderful things though while wandering around. I forgot to mention yesterday that I saw a man not just taking his dog for a walk but his cat as well! (It looked like a Siamese to me, but I could be wrong and it wasn’t even on a lead). And then as I descended from taking picture 7 below, I saw a man walking backwards up a small slope, lifting his feet quite deliberately as he did so. I hadn’t realised until I looked closely at picture 8 that I’d caught him ‘in action’. As we say in Yorkshire (and Lancashire), “There’s nowt so queer as folk!”

Bisses de Mont d’Orge and Lentine Walk, Valais, Switzerland

In an attempt to get away from snow-covered paths (if not sub-zero temperatures), yesterday Jude dropped me off down in Sion to do another pair of the very many bisse* walks which snake around the sides of the Rhone valley. This walk is route 212 on the Swissmobile app, though I did it in reverse, starting at the Pont de la Morge and heading up towards the village of Drône. Since I planned to catch the bus back home, I extended the walk to descend into Sion, which also took me along a very short section of the (previously posted) Bisse de Clavau.

As you will see from the gallery below, the route gives excellent views both up and down the Rhone valley as it meanders through the vineyards. I was pleasantly surprised how many birds there were flitting around. Although they are not great photos, (my camera doesn’t do zoom very well), I did manage to capture a couple of Rock Buntings and a pair of European Nuthatches (though I’ve only included a picture of one of them). Both pictures, 14 and 16, are heavily cropped, so a little blurred.

In addition, you know when you get that feeling that you are being watched? Well, I just happened to turn my head to the side during my descent from Drône and there in the field was a Roe deer. I edged forward to get a clearer view and clicked the camera straight away and I was glad I did, as it turned and ran off almost immediately. (The picture, 28, below is also cropped, otherwise you might not have seen it!)

Last but not least, I should highlight the rather rickety looking monorail, in pics 32 and 33. These are used to collect the grapes in the autumn. As you will see, some of the terracing is very steep and this saves them lugging huge quantities of grapes back to the lanes which run through the vineyards. It looks quite a precarious piece of kit and I’m not sure I’d want to be perched on that seat as it goes up and down!

*Regular readers will of course remember that ‘bisses’ are irrigation channels, built to bring water to the fields – in this case the many vineyards which blanket the south facing slopes.

Evolène, Val d’Hérens, Valais, Switzerland

The 15th August is normally the date when the Mid-summer Festival takes place in our village. But this year, for obvious reasons, it was cancelled. So we were not treated to the helicopter rescue of the dummy which had fallen (or was he pushed?) off the rockface, nor the stream of vintage cars. And the usual procession, of the villagers demonstrating the traditional arts and crafts, will have to wait until next year.

So, I decided to have a wander through the village and take some photos to show you what our village looks like during the summer. Normally the main street would be packed from one end to the other but, this year, there were just the usual weekend and holiday visitors. It was also nice to see the locals dressed in their traditional costumes, simply relaxing and enjoying some time with their families.

If you would like to see an example of what we all missed, here’s a post of the Mid-summer Festival from 2016.

Note that the last two images, courtesy of Wiki, position Evolène on the map of Switzerland and the canton of Valais and give some facts and figures about the Commune – just in case you wondered… 😊

Birds of a feather…

No sooner had we arrived at our friend Arthur’s place on the Camino de Santiago, near Triacastella, (N. Spain), he announced that he had a blackbird’s nest in the bush clambering over his terrace and that there were two wrens building a nest in the palm tree only 2 to 3 yards away from his kitchen window.   Not only that but we spotted a family of young blackcaps ‘playing’ in the elderflower bushes to the left of the terrace.  So this is their story…

Let me first ‘set the scene’ with a (very poor) panoramic picture below of Arthur’s terrace – the palm tree is on the extreme far right, the (dark) green ‘blackbird’ bush is also to the right and the elderflowers to the left. (The glass of wine was mine! 😊)

0 Terrace

The Blackbirds were clearly well advanced as they all fledged and disappeared within a few days of us arriving.  But I did manage to capture the one picture below of at least 3 beaks (at the centre of the image).

1 Blackbird beaks

The Wrens were having a hard time of it.  Their first nest had been destroyed (I forget how now), but they were busy building their second towards the bottom of the dead brown leaves hanging down from the palm tree.  Unfortunately a storm blew up and hail (yes, hail – in June!) knocked it to the ground.  Undeterred, they carried on building another nest further up the tree.  One can only admire the determination and industry of these tiny little birds!

Last, but not least, the Blackcaps entertained us all week with their presence.  Rather than fly away when we approached the corner of the terrace, they simply hopped behind a leaf or onto the next branch.  This allowed me to get a few good pictures, including a very interesting series (see pics numbered 9 to 14) where the male parent returned with a berry and offered it to 2 of the 3 chicks, but then gulped it down itself.  It was as if the parent was saying, “Take a good look, this is what you should be out there looking for, now get going…!”)  Alternatively, or as well, the ‘teenage’ young, were looking suitably grumpy and saying “Not berries for dinner again!”).

 

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… 🙂

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. 😊

 

Ovronnaz and Saillon Walks

Yesterday I took Jude’s mum, Angela, out for a drive to Ovronnaz, to catch the chairlift up to Jorasse.  From there it’s a relatively easy walk, with magnificent views all around, to the Lui d’Aout mountain hut.  (My mate Pete and I stayed there during our Tour de Muverans, so it brought back happy memories for me.  Read more about our adventure on this guest post I did for The Marmot Post). 🙂

After a picnic lunch, (see pic 7), we drove back via Saillon, where we walked the Farinet Trail up through the vineyards, following a series of 21 stained glass sculptures.  On our way, we were lucky to spot the last few vines being harvested.  A sure sign that the long hot summer in the Rhone valley must be over. 😦

Cap Corse, Corsica

Corsica is a big rocky island in the Mediterranean – the 4th largest after Sicily, Sardina and Cyprus.  It’s a haven for anyone who likes walking or beaches or, like us, both. 😊

We spent our first 3 nights in a tiny village just west of Bastia, called Patrimonio, which must have more domaines or wineries per square mile/km than any other place on earth.  So not a bad place for wine lovers either!  😋

For our first full day on the island, we took a drive around the Cape, which sticks out like a pointed finger to the north and went for a walk along the Sentier des Douaniers from Macinaggio.  We were advised that it ‘only’ took 2.5 hours to drive around the Cape, but I can assure you that, with all the speed bumps in the villages along the east coast and the death defying drops from the winding road along the west (not to mention the odd slow driver or bus), it takes much longer.  Though that worked out to our advantage as we stopped to watch the sun go down.  A perfect end to a perfect day…

Sicily (Part 1)

There’s only so much snow that a person can take and, after 3 months of looking at the white stuff, my wife, Judith, was in need of a break.  In previous years, we’ve driven over the Simplon Pass to the Italian Lakes, but the forecast for that area wasn’t great, so the decision was made to fly further south, to Sicily.

If nothing else, the internet is a fantastic resource for finding accommodation and we booked ourselves into the delightfully peaceful Terra dei Limone agriturismo, near Noto, in the south east corner of Sicily.

As regular readers will know, Judith has a passion for the sea and lighthouses, so it was no surprise that on Day 1 we drove down the coast road to Cappo delle Correnti, which is at the very southern tip of the island and where the Mediterranean sea literally crashes into the Ionian sea. (See pic 21).  On the way we stopped off at the beautiful fishing village of Marzamemi, which was all but deserted when we were there that day.   But it was clearly a favourite destination for the Sicilians too as, when we returned on the Sunday afternoon, it was packed with people parading in their finest designer clothes, as only Italians can do.

After all the snow and icy weather we’ve had, it was great to have the sun on our backs and see green fields and wild flowers everywhere.  Sicily is noted for its agriculture and wine making and we saw ample evidence of that in the fields as well as in the restaurants of Noto during the evenings.  🙂

 

Mornington and Portarlington

The Mornington peninsular and Portarlington sit on opposite sides of Port Phillip Bay, south east and south west of Melbourne respectively.   During our day trip to the former, we stopped at three different places to taste 8 sorts of cheese (made from either sheep, goat or cow’s milk), 4 types of cider and more varieties of wine than I can remember! 😉

It was Aaron’s birthday while I was there and his father, Rod, came down for a few days to help him celebrate and share in the fun.

The following day we drove out to the annual Mussel festival at Portarlington.  The weather wasn’t great, so we don’t have many pictures, but I can confirm that the local craft beers are very good and that it’s a fabulous day out.  This was where I lost my camera, so the below images are, again, courtesy of Joanne.