Archive for September, 2010

Sept. 29; Goodbye Geneva, Hello Bend

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Before dawn's early light we were up and packing our luggage into the car.

Michel and Raymonde brought us to the airport and Yvette met us there to say our goodbyes. It has been an exhausting trip, but oh so fun!

Rod & Linda & Mavrik met us at the Redmond airport and Pat had dinner all ready for us! Hello Bend, and thanks to all our friends who made this a stress free vacation!

Sept. 28; Celebration

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Back ‘home’ in Geneva we enjoyed a quiet morning which we used to start packing for our return to the U.S. The fun and excitement started late morning with the arrival of the chefs and all their goods. Raymonde’s sisters, Yvette & Josianne, arrived with bags and boxes of food to begin preparing the gourmet meal to celebrate their little sister Raymonde’s birthday.

The table setting for 11, our hosts and 9 guests.

The Menu! Five courses not including the appetizers!

Translation:

  • Pumpkin Cream Soup and casserole of chanterelle mushrooms
  • Sea Bream on a bed of Spinach
  • Pork Tenderloin with morel sauce and a garnish of vegetables
  • Cheeses of the house
  • Exotic Delights
  • Birthday cake and wishes to welcome our American friends
  • Champagne
  • Coffee and ….. small nap
  • (The wine selection is left to the discretion of Michel)
  • Vandoeuvres, Sept. 29, 2010
  • Raymonde’s Birthday Sept. 26, (1940-2010)

Preparing the salmon tart appetizer.

The morels and chanterelles.

The 2 chefs, tasting and correcting seasoning for the mushroom sauces.

Guests Ginette and Gilbert at the appetizer table.

Raymonde, Josianne and her husband George toasting to health and happiness. Other guests included Michel's brother Paul and his wife Giselle and us of course.

After the Champagne toast it was back into the kitchen for the chefs to prepare the fish course.

1st course, the pumpkin soup and mushroom casserole.

2nd course, Sea Bream on a bed of spinach.

The wine decanters lent even more elegance to the occasion.

3rd course, pork tenderloin with a delicious morel sauce and an assortment of vegetables.

4th course, a selection of cheeses and nuts.

Besides the soft cheeses, hard cheeses and fruit were also served.

5th course, Dessert! The exotic delight of pineapple with vanilla or mango ice cream and a delicious tropical fruit sauce.

The cake to welcome us (the American friends) was decorated as the American flag with whipped cream and raspberries! The Birthday cake was covered with fresh strawberries!

Cake!

Yum!!!!

We can truly say, that was the best meal of the entire trip, and one of the best meals we’ve ever had! It looks like a lot of food here, but the consumption was spread over about 7 hours of conversation, convoluted translations and laughter! The attention to details, from the fresh ingredients, the seasonings, the presentation, even to the warming of the serving plates was impressive. We all finished the evening off with coffee and Kirsch -the homemade cherry or pear ‘Swiss moonshine’!

The Three Sisters!

A reminder that tomorrow is a travel day (and we get to see Mavrik soon). From Michel's extensive model car collection.

Sept. 27; Lucerne

Monday, September 27th, 2010

We left our B&B, a working farm in Rustenschwil, near the small town of Auw, and headed to Lucerne.

Decor around the barn at the B&B.

The famous Chapel Bridge over the Reuss river that drains Lake Lucerne.

The trusses of the covered bridge are decorated with painted panels dating from the 17th century and depicting scenes of Lucerne's history.

Exploring the streets of the old town, we found many elaborately decorated building facades.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (a writer, poet and philosopher, considered to be one of the most important thinkers in Western culture) "stayed here in 1779".

More modern facade decor, just in time for Halloween!

Another bridge over the Reuss river is the Mill bridge which features a series of medieval-style 17th Century plague paintings titled Dance of Death.

We finished our tour with lunch at the Stadtkeller Swiss Folklore Restaurant. While we ate our traditional fondue we enjoyed a show of traditional Swiss music, alpenhorn, yodeling, flag throwing and good hearted, audience-participating, fun!

Cheese Fondue!

Sept. 26; Appenzellerland

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Today Michel and Raymonde took us on a tour of the area they refer to as “Suisse primitive”. It is an area encompassing 2 part-cantons that still practice their political tradition of voting by raised hand at mandatory gatherings in the town square. Maybe the ‘primitive’ description is because they didn’t allow women to participate in the voting until 1991! The landscape is very green with rolling hills dotted with the typical immaculately kept farmers houses with attached barns decorated with flowers at every window. Again it was a gray, non-photo-friendly day, so for good pictures click HERE. We stopped in the town of Appenzell to admire the traditional architecture and have lunch.

A very traditional house in Appenzell.

A row house in the shopping lanes, lots of souvenirs, but also excellent traditional crafts.

A toy store, decorated with paintings of childhood scenes.

A detail of the decorations.

We had lunch at the Marktplatz Restaurant, an excellent meal and atmosphere. It is more than a restaurant tho, the walls are decorated with carved wood panels depicting traditional scenes of Appenzellerland and they also display Scherenschnitte – the art of papercutting. The staff even serenaded Raymonde to celebrate her birthday!

A sample of the decorative wood carvings on the wall.

We continued on to the town of Stein and visited the Appenzeller cheese factory and sampled some of their products. Then visited the Appenzeller Volkskunde Museum, the Folklore Museum next door. They had demonstrations of some of the traditional work of the area. There was a cheesemaker and a woman working an embroidery loom dating from the 1850’s.

Detail of a decorated house wall from the 1500's discovered while renovating the house in the 1990's!

We finished our tour of the area at The Landgasthof Ochsen where the locals were relaxing to the sounds of the traditional Swiss band. Apparently it was a jam session because people would get up, pick up an instrument and join in, then put down the instrument for the next performer.

Sept. 25; Indoor Museums Day

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Today started rainy and was rainy all day. Our tour guides took us to indoor venues to experience more Swiss culture. Our first stop was the Glass Factory in Hergiswil on the way to Lucerne (Luzern in German). The museum was a fascinating tour, like a labyrinth of scenes illuminated to guide you through the 190 years of glassmaking at the factory. The exit from the museum is above the factory floor where you can watch the craftsmen blow, shape and form the glass.

A line of glass threads mark the path of the molten glass from the furnace to the work station.

Our next stop was The Transportation Museum in Lucerne. The Museum exhibits and interprets all forms of transportation throughout Switzerland; planes, trains, automobiles, but also, cable cars, all form of boats and even space travel!

A vast array of electric trains through history are on display.

An "interactive theater" of fullsize autos, bikes, and other road transport vehicles cover one huge wall. Visitors can select the vehicle they want to see, and the robotized system conveys the choice onto a turntable for closer inspection.

The exhibits of navigation include a collection of excellent ship models.

The Aviation hall included a model of the Wright brothers plane and the Spirit of St. Louis.

We finished the day at a restaurant close to our Bed & Breakfast near the little town of Auw.

Sept. 24; Brienz-Rothorn Train

Friday, September 24th, 2010

We spent the day taking the scenic train from Brienz up to the top of the mountain Rothorn-Kulm, taking in the views and riding and hiking back down.

The steam engine.

Passing the houses of Brienz.

A glimpse of Brienz Lake and the town through a gap in the rocks.

A cottage on the slopes above Planalp, the halfway point.

Above treeline, cowherd homes. The cows have been moved down to the valleys already.

Looking down towards Lake Brienz.

What a ride!

Panoramic view from the top, restaurant and hotel in the center.

No I won't take another step back for the picture!

The clouds started rolling in, time to head down.

We passed the train coming up the mountain.

A waterfall at Planalp, the tiny village at the halfway stop where the engine takes on water for the boiler.

We disembarked from the train at Planalp and looked for the restaurant. The Berghaus and Bergrestaurant is a hotel that has been catering to tourists since the late 1800’s. The food was excellent, the fire in the woodstove was warm and we had wonderful views down the slopes.

Pumpkin soup.

Cheese, meat and fruit plate.

After lunch we decided to hike down the rest of the way to Brienz and admire the fall colors.

The road followed the train tracks and soon a train was chugging out of the tunnel.

Some sections were steep trails.

We got down into Brienz as a light rain started to fall. I saw this sculpture in a doorway. Brienz is known for its woodworking artisans.

A delicious fish dinner was served at the B&B.

The dining room was decorated with horsey paraphernalia and these cow bells which decorate many of the houses in the area.

Sept. 23; Swiss Tour – Bern to Brienz

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Michel & Raymonde wanted to take us on a tour of ‘suisse typique’ or typical swiss landscape and culture. We headed out on the Autostrade towards the German language area of central Switzerland towards Bern, the capital of the country. The highways here have regularly spaced automatic radar stations and everyone knows where they are, so the traffic slows predictably and flows smoothly even though the European drivers are crazy!

An exhibit of decorated cows near the town of Gruyere.

The Rathaus (city hall) of Bern.

This is where Einstein lived in Bern from 1903 to 1905 and developed his Special Theory of Relativity.

Statuary, fountains and the famous clock decorate The Kramgasse ("Grocers Alley"), one of the principal streets in the Old City of Bern, the medieval city center of Bern.

A detail on the clock tower.

The parliament building in Bern, capital of Switzerland.

A vegetable and flower market was in progress in the streets.

Bern has an annual Onion Market on the 4th Monday in November that has become a crazy fun party where everything is onions!

We continued on to Thun at the west end of Thunersee (Lake Thun) and took a stroll to the local castle.

Thun Castle.

The Lord & Lady of the castle!

Continuing on past Interlaken (the town between the lakes) along Brienzersee (Lake Brienz) and past the town of Brienz (with a short stop there) we found our Bed & Breakfast near Brienzwiler, BnB Bifing. It is a working riding stable with eclectic accomodations and a restaurant overlooking the indoor and outdoor arenas.

A panorama of the rural landscape around the B&B. You can almost hear the cowbells clanging in the distance!

The restaurant served delicious food.

Sept. 22; Jet d’Eau & Mt. Saleve

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Today we did more sightseeing around Geneva and from different perspectives. Michel got us out early and took us down to the banks of Lake Geneva.

Swans, ducks and pigeons.

The famous iconic image of Geneva -the Jet d’Eau– starts up exactly at 10 am and we were there for the official start, a young visitor was recruited to push the button.

We were getting a little wet from the spray!

The Niton rocks, dating from the last ice age, protrude from the lake and are the reference point for all surveying in Switzerland.

In the afternoon we took a ride into France and up onto Mt. Saleve, a prominent point overlooking Geneva.

Panorama from Mt. Saleve.

Looking down on Geneva from the top of Mt. Saleve. You can see the Jet d'Eau in the center.

Robert  & I took the ‘Telepherique’ or cable car down to the base of the mountain, while Michel & Raymonde drove down. They made it down before us! They then took us on a driving tour around the canton of Geneva.

Looking back at Mt. Saleve from our tour of the canton.

A gnome on Raymonde's patio.

Another delicious meal, pork chops, potatoes, wax beans with mustard vinaigrette and homemade bread!

Sept. 21; Verona to Geneva via Milano

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

A travel day today. We took a morning walk to the Piazza Bra’ after our breakfast.

Morning light in Piazza Bra'.

We caught the train, a Eurostar City, to Milan. The countryside zooming by merits a good look sometime, it's the foothills of the Dolomite mountains.

The facade of the enormous Milan train station. We had some time so we enjoyed watching the hustle and bustle of the big city in front of the station.

Detail of the fountain on the far right of the station entrance.

Detail of fresco or tile work over an archway in the main hall of the station.

Our train to Geneva, not a bullet train, but fast!

Trees whizzing by, but you can make out the island in this southern part of Lake Maggiore.

Ten years ago we traveled around Switzerland for a week. We stayed in Locarno, a town on the north end of Lake Maggiore which is in Switzerland, and visited Isole di Brissago, an island with a fantastic botanical garden and villa.

The last stop in Italy, Domodossola. (I just like the way that sounds rolling off the tongue!)

The cultivated hills of southern Switzerland.

A glimpse of the Alps.

Back at 'home' in Raymonde's rose garden!

Sept. 20; To Verona

Monday, September 20th, 2010

With our Eurail Pass running out of travel days we decided to start heading back to Geneva. A look at the map and a train timetable helped us to choose Verona as our next stop. We arrived in the early afternoon and started up the main street heading from the train station towards what looked like town center. Not having done any research about this town we started looking for lodging on this street, Corso Porta Nuova.

This is the Porta Nuova, the 'new door', which was constructed between 1533 and 1546. Austrians modified it in 1854, giving it a new facade.

We found the B & B Albergo Trento on the main street and it turned out to be the nicest and least expensive of several places we found nearby, so we got a room.

We stowed our stuff and headed out to explore. Just up the street is the 'old door', a gate through the ancient city wall.

Inside the gate is a plaque with a quote from Wm. Shakespeare. Well, 'Romeo & Juliet' is set in Verona, guess I learn something new everyday!

Inside the gate the street opens into the huge Piazza Bra' with the Roman Arena circa AD 30 at the center.

Meandering around streets off the Piazza we saw this cute marketing gimmick for a bakery.

We stumbled upon the Porta Borsari, another gate in the city walls, dating from the Roman times.

Via Borsari led to the Piazza Erbe, another large plaza encircled by interesting architecture and filled with vendors. This is the Madonna Verona Fountain with the Domus Mercatorum (circa 1301) in the background.

At the opposite end of the plaza is the Lamberti Tower.

If anyone can tell me the significance of the whalebone hanging from the arch under the Lamberti Tower I would appreciate it!

Detail of the frescoes painted on the upper story of a building on the plaza.

A bridge over the Fiume Adige (Adige river).

As the sun went down we found Via Mazzini, the main high end shopping district. The wall to wall marble street feels as if we are at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, but this is the real thing, open to the sky!

What's with the tourist traffic jam?

Oh, -'Casa Giulietta'- the supposed balcony of Juliet's house from 'Romeo & Juliet'.

Ancient Roman ruins excavated under the streets, a bit of the sidewalk is visible in the upper right.