Friday, August 31, 2012

Gimmelwald and Lucerne

We left Lausanne on Sunday morning to take the train to Gimmelwald. Marianne accompanied us for the first section and we had a nice coffee together overlooking the lake in Montreux. We then stumbled upon a Gruyere folk festival which we got to watch for a few minutes before catching the next train, but it was really neat. There were a group of traditionally dressed mountain horn players that we got to see play a song! The train we took was a "Golden Pass Panoramic Train" all the way to Interlakken, just near Gimmelwald. This meant that the windows were extra big and the views were great!

We had a wonderful time in Gimmelwald, which is a tiny little mountain village with a spectacular view of the Junfrau, Eiger, Monche and Schilthorn mountain peaks. We spent three full days hiking up and down the mountains and each view was more amazing than the next. We stayed in a hostel there where we were fortunate enough to meet some really cool people and even spent a day hiking with some of them.
The first day we did an 8 hour hike about half of the way up the Shilthorn, and then back down to the base of the valley. We had our lunch under a waterfall part way up the mountain. And stopped for a drink at a little house where they made their own syrups from mountain flowers and herbs as well as their own apple juice which was pretty neat. We went from about 1360m in Gimmelwald up to 2100m at the highest elevation and then back down again.

The next day we took a cable car up to the top of the Schilthorn where there was a pretty good view for a very long distance in all directions. We even got to watch a paraglider take off from the top. And we did a 5 hour hike down the mountain from there to Mürren which was just above our village. We would have gone the whole way, but it started to rain quite heavily at the end, so we took the cable car. The climb down was rather precarious at points - at least I thought so, but Jerome helped me at the steep parts and we went very slow and so everything was fine. This day we started the hike at 2970m of elevation and climbed down to 1640m.

The third day we went for a very long hike - 11 hours!! with some friends we met at the hostel the night before. And we had the best views yet. We went down to the bottom of the valley first and then up the other side, to a peak where we were rewarded for our 1000m of climbing with a 360 degree view of really close mountains, waterfalls, little mountain villages and the valley. It was breathtaking! Luckily for us we had really great weather with very clear views. Although only a few hours after we got to the peak the clouds rolled in and it started to rain. Fortunately for us, we were hiking back down the other side of the mountain in the forested area at that point so we didn´t get too wet. We got to the paved path at the bottom of the valley just as the light was starting to fade, so we got out our flashlights and headlamps and made the way into town that way. It was a really long but rewarding day! This day we had a low elevation of 910m and a highest point of just over 2100m.

Yesterday we reluctantly left Gimmelwald and took the train to Lucerne stopping by the Trümmelbach falls. It was rainy most of the day so we had really lucked out for our hiking days. We rested in the afternoon in Lucerne as our legs were a bit sore and then walked all around the old town last night and most of today despite it continuing to rain. We walked the covered bridges, spent time watching the swans, and seen the gorgeous lion statue. We also discovered a neat little microbrewery where we will be heading for dinner! We´ve really enjoyed our time throughout Switzerland, but are looking forward to our next stop in Munich tomorrow.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Paris and Lausanne

We spent a lovely four more days in Paris since we posted last. We visited Saint-Chapelle with amazing stained glass windows, the medieval museum Cluny, the Pantheon where Victor Hugo, Louis Braille and the Curies are buried, the jardins de Luxembourg, Notre Dame, Versailles, Monmatre and the Moulin Rouge. Despite it sounding like a lot, we actually took things a bit easy, sleeping in a little in the mornings and just enjoying walking all around the city. The only downside was that it was incredibly hot in Paris while we were there. It was 37 one day! We ate some pastries and enjoyed some very good french food and wine. We also had dinner one night with one of Jerome`s old teamates who showed us around a bit and who we had a very nice evening with. We stayed in a neat little apartment only a block from Notre Dame, so it was right in the center of things and very easy to get around.

On Thursday we took the train to Lausanne where we were met by Jerome`s cousin Sabine who is gratiously letting us stay with her and her boyfriend Red, and showing us all of the sights. In the evening we met Jerome`s other cousin Laurent and his father`s cousins Alain and Marianne. We were treated to the most amazing dinner - all made by Sabine! There were cheese croquettes with fig mustard, lotus chips, lasagna chips, tomato volouté with basil foam, tomato confit with cumin chicken, and avocado and salmon with lime ice in a small glass. Then there was lamb with carrots and snow peas, and for dessert rose gel with lichee foam, coconut mousse with pinapple compote and panna cotta with watermelon. It was a wonderful evening to meet and catch up and have great food while practising our french.

Friday we took a trip with Sabine to Bern to see the city and to have traditional Rosti which is a potato dish. Then on to  Bulle and then Broc to visit the swiss Cailler chocolate factory. It was really interesting and fun, and we got to try all the types of chocolates. Marianne and Alain picked us up at the chocolate factory and took us on a lovely drive up the pre-alps to a cute little restaurant in the hills near Gruyere. There we had a wonderful and very traditional swiss fondue. It was delicious!!! And for dessert we had meringues with famous double cream from Gruyere. Afterwards we took a little walk through the hills, to enjoy the view, and listen to the cows grazing in the fields with their bells ringing. It was lovely.

Today we got to see the sights of Lausanne with Sabine and Red, and then headed to some famous caves where we had a nice afternoon taking lots of neat pictures of stalagtites and stalagmites! Tomorrow we are off to Gimmelwald which is an extremely small alp town where we will relax for a few days.