Wednesday, August 31, 2016

National Parks galore…

Salmon Arm to Canmore, Canada

We had breakfast at the hotel in Salmon Arm for its facility, although when we realized what the costs were going to be… and given the lack of depth to the breakfast as pretty as it was – we could have perhaps chosen better as we were facing a 400 km. drive.

my yogurt parfait at the Café Tasse of the Prestige Hotel in Salmon Arm
 Finally another rainy day (we had so few that they were noteworthy!) – not necessarily a bad thing whilst on the road. 
typical weather on the road that day
A lunch stop at yet again the chain Boston Pizza where, par for the course, there were more billing errors. We did so many because they had food to suit all three of us, were quick, were reasonable and above all – in my book – had free wi-fi, but every single one made some kind of error. Their staff has serious financial challenges!

On our way to Canmore and our hotel for three nights, we passed rivers, waterfalls, glaciers and more beautiful scenery than even I could take photos of. A couple of stops – one to get the National Park Pass – one to check out a tunnel built in a circle underneath the mountains to compensate for the sharp rise in elevation: of course there were Swiss consultants.

typical mountains in the area through which we drove

along several rivers

water falls were common

as were glaciers although we would see many more

Map of the Kicking Horse River with the spiral tunnel in the upper right.
 Arrived at our lovely accommodations in Canmore: a three-bedroom suite located not far from the freeway exit and on the outskirts of Canmore so quiet. Life here was good.

Residence Complex across from ours: The Stoneridge Mountain Lodge

Our kitchen and living room

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bubbly just because, or…

The world is finally catching up with me.

My sister just sent me an article that appeared in the September edition of the Sunset magazine, one with which I whole-heartedly agree, but also the principals of which I have long applied, i.e. crack open that bottle of sparkling wine or champagne for no reason or any reason whatsoever!

My former housemate and I were masters at the art: had a bad day? Let’s cheer ourselves up, bubbly and smoked salmon; Good day? Let’s celebrate, bubbly and foie gras; “need” to watch a movie or DVD series? What better to accompany it than bubbly and popcorn.

As to the colleague of the person who wrote the article who used to celebrate with sparkling wine Tuesdays since they were “the hardest day of the week to get through”, yesterday was Tuesday and how did you guess, I had some bubbly: also opted for hummus and veggies followed by the leftover avocado turned into guacamole.
Let it be said - the bubbly was only a 2dl split! And I only had about 8 chips.
Life is for the living and that’s always worth celebrating!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Back to Canada

The trip is mainly just memories, but I never finished the blogs – rather ended when we disembarked in Vancouver from our Cruise.  However, from there we went on to enjoy another few wonderful days in the Eastern part of Canada and finally having some down time here in the mountains I thought that I would finish what I started almost two months ago.

So, back to Canada. After disembarking the ship we needed to get to the airport to pick up our rental car – long wait so that when we finally arrived two things were urgent: coffee and restrooms. After changing rental companies and trying to stuff all our luggage into a car where the rear was too tight, one of the agents took pity on us and all of a sudden we were driving away in a brand new Nissan. In the exchange of information we discovered that his parents have a flat in – of all places – Grindelwald!

It was noon by the time we were leaving town, but we eventually found a restaurant with wi-fi and I was able to post blogs and pick up e-mails. We actually even got most of the meal for free as they had left some cheese in K’s salad and she is allergic!

Then we were on the road, headed East with no idea of the night’s stopping place. We chose to take the spur to Lake Okanogan and enjoyed gorgeous lakes, rivers and farms along the way. After duly consulting the GPS and K’s phone we ended up in the Prestige Hotel on Lake Shuswap in Salmon Arm. A gorgeous sunset and a fine night.

Lake district - probably the Coquihalla lake

One of the beautiful strings of lakes known as the Okanagan

Canadian geese - in Canada!

Sunset from the Prestige Hotel in Salmon Arm, Shuswap Lake

Monday, August 22, 2016

Welcome to Scotland, oops

I mean La Fontaine

Some ten days ago I was back up in my mountain flat after a very busy two-week period and had fully intended to do nothing more than hike, eat and sleep.
Fate had it otherwise as it was the La Fontaine Festival. A very lively and interacting neighborhood, this isn't even a whole village yet they manage to put together a wonderful and inclusive festival.

The poster announcing the event

This only takes place every two years so I really couldn’t miss it and as it turned out the theme was Scotland I fit in even better as part of my own genealogy involved – on my dad’s side- Scottish ancestors.

The bagpipes played (or did whatever it is that bag pipes do – sometimes I think that whining, moaning, groaning or wailing would be better descriptions) and there were even Highland dances in the afternoon that I didn’t attend having been simply too tired to go back.
A very good group of bagpipe players
Not sure if you will be able to hear this, but a snippet.

Even the animals got into the spirit
 Although there was a Scottish stew on the menu, I must admit that my Swiss side won out and I opted for raclette.

He wears a different wig and costume every two years

 It is a very colorful event, attended by the whole area and I did get to talk to many of my acquaintances this way without having to go individually to their chalets – all in all a great way to spend part of the day!
Just one of the seating areas - there were easily a couple hundred people
Date on one of the buildings
 Never mind that they even managed to have a Loch Ness monster in the "lake".

Loch Ness "Monster"


Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Past: They say that one can’t or shouldn’t go back…

First of all, who are these famous “they”? And why would we bother to believe anything they say?  Sometimes a return to the past can be not only wonderful but salutary.

But before I get into the more philosophical aspects of that title, there are the more mundane. Although 99% of the time I am ever so grateful for the freeway bypass of the city of Thonon in France, there is that 1%. This time on my way to the mountains I decided that I really did need to see the beautifully flowered roundabouts and lakefront that were on my path for so many years. Having no appointments, nor timing to be respected, I decided to not take the bypass but to wander. The floral displays were every bit as lovely as I remembered, but I had forgotten the fountains – a deviation well worth the extra minutes.

The roundabout upon entering Thonon

Fountains on the lake front of Thonon

Part of the roundabout leaving Thonon

middle band in Evian

Flower pot in front of City Hall in Evian

That in turn reminds me of many favorite roads, some of which I may never have the pleasure of driving again, but that are there in my memory should I need them.

And so it is with the past: perhaps we can’t return to that exact minute, the exact circumstances, the good, bad, indifferent or wonderful, but we can’t simply ignore that they ever existed either nor that they are part and parcel of what we have become.

I treasure a childhood friendship more today than I did then; I wouldn’t give up those from over 40 years ago, nor those from 30 years ago, nor those more recent. Each new friendship adds a layer to my life – building upon those solid foundations laid by others.

Going down an old path doesn’t mean trying to repeat that past, it simply means seeing something distant again – seeing it in a different way, perhaps indifferently, but just as likely the experience can be even better than the first time.

One road in particular illustrates my thoughts: Highway 1 in California.
I surely first experienced this with my parents as I know we did visit relatives who spent their summers at Hearst Castle, but my memories are vague and I probably found it tiresome at the time.  The next time I drove this would have been with my husband and older son – at least a short bit of it – there too what remains thirty years later – is the sensation I had of wanting to simply let the car float off into the clouds at one of the many turns winding along the Pacific Ocean.  Then there was the time I drove it alone, traveling in between my two sisters – a beautiful road, but simply one joining my family members. More recent visits hold stronger memories:
-       driving it with my now deceased little sister;
-       the trip when we returned from Northern California together with my older son and stopped at many favorite places along the way
-       the trip with a girlfriend from Switzerland where I got lost, but we ended up discovering what became one of my favorite hotels along the route.
-       the trip up with my sister and sister-in-law after the death of the other sister (truly a pilgrimage that trip)
-       the trip with my younger son and his then girlfriend before one of my nephew’s wedding

I have many favorite places from the past to which I would gladly return, but each year I add new ones so who knows how many I will be able to repeat; how many will remain in the past and how many will become a new experience each time.

It is the same with people: we change, they change, but true friends simply add better layers and experiences – the past is with us always, may we incorporate it into our lives in the best manner possible. May the future be enriched by our past, all the while enjoying the present to the fullest.

So I’m off for a hike in some of my favorite mountains.

La Creusaz

Old photo of Dents de Morcles - May 2016

Looking towards the Mont Blanc from La Creusaz

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A pot of tea

A gray day, light rain – all foreseen: a good excuse to make a pot of tea and, in the doing so, to reflect upon why this is such a comforting activity.

I am a coffee drinker as any of my family or friends know, but occasionally I “do” tea.
This has come from partaking in a “cuppa” with so many friends. To the point that just getting out a teapot brings fond memories of conversations and sharing.

If at home tea is usually something I drink if I awake too early and it then precedes breakfast coffee, in the mountains I have tea often as a welcome change from water -
making a pot almost as soon as I have finished with my coffee and breakfast.

Just this past week I had lunch with two very close friends, both of whom I have known for over 40 years. The one gave each of the other two of us the lovely small flowering balls of Jasmine tea – we were celebrating our common birthday. The container and tea had stayed in my car and was a wonderful reminder this morning of friendship and time shared with these two particular women.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Oops she did it again…

Now I know that you all immediately thought of Britney Spears who was, and is, famous for that particular line, but no, it is simply myself not wanting to admit that “I” yet again managed to leave something behind. So I am choosing to use the more “royal” she to describe myself.

Over the years of renting my mountain flat and having computers, telephones and cameras – or any other instrument that needs to be charged up occasionally I have managed to basically forget in one place or the other a charger that was desperately needed in order for me to continue the life to which I have become accustomed.  You will perhaps not yet have forgotten last weekend’s trials with technology.

I did it again: that sinking feeling as I crossed the border back into Switzerland, having just driven an hour, that I didn’t bring my computer charger…
Now, we know that thanks to having left it behind in the mountains, I did have the one for my mini MacAir (which this time I took as well so that I could enter my landlord’s wifi code), but having to use only it would mean no work on photos and that is one of this week’s major goals. Unfortunately as with many other items, Apple changes its plugs with about every model so I couldn’t just use that one for the current MacbookPro. Sigh.

I checked my luggage at a stop – and sure enough – nothing. At least I caught it before I by-passed the store where I was sure to find a new one. A few francs lighter I now have a double of the battery charger. 
The good news? I don’t buy expensive shoes, nor clothes that often and tend to be rather good at not spending too much money, except when it comes to replacing and or acquiring doubles of anything to do with anything that needs to be plugged in!

I hate to think of it, but it could happen that at some point I might end up with doubles in one place and nothing in the other? Oh help, let’s not even go there. For the coming week (this is one of the few longer periods that I had available to be in the mountains of course) I have everything that I need. Long may this state of affairs last! And hey, it's not as bad as the time that I had left my passport in the mountains when I was flying to the USA two days later - that one did mean a round-trip and a lot of stress.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Take a parent to work…

The more interesting side of the usual “take your kid to work”.

Recently I have had the privilege of visiting both son’s workplaces – a rare privilege
indeed and one that came about mainly because in both cases they were available for lunch. The first experience was at the younger son’s workplace – a nursery school near the banks of the River Arve. Fascinating and totally brought me back some 50 years ago when I worked with the same age group over the summer: mats on the floor, bulletin boards with names, photos, drawings; a playground; the wash-up area and even all the supply rooms, the laundry and the kitchen. I met some of his colleagues and the cook even had me leaving with the day’s dessert – a delicious pound cake.

The second time was to my older son’s current spot at UNICEF where again I was able to see his work “spot” (he is on loan to UNICEF as are most of his colleagues) so there are no set offices, but rather they float around according to needs. He is lucky enough to have a stand up desk at the moment, which is very good for his back.  Here too I met some of the colleagues – a very interesting and friendly lot.  Lunch was much more picturesque as the cafeteria is on the top floor and overlooks the Botanical gardens with a view to the Lake of Geneva (Lac Léman actually).

I can highly recommend being a parent taken to the work place!

The view out of his current work station - JTB

Terrace outside the cafeteria - view of Lac Leman

View from the terrace of the cafeteria

Love the equal opportunity sign!

Proof that your's truly was actually there.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Magic or Misery?

Oh the trials when it comes to our tech lives.

Last week after no one could hear me when they called me on my cell phone, I took the plunge and got a “smart” phone.

Now the phone itself may be smart, but it’s current owner and user seems to be anything but. I couldn’t have the store turn it on as for the first time in my life I had purchased my day bus pass with the old one and didn’t want to risk a fine. As it turns out, in terms of time and nerves, that might have been the lesser risk!

That evening I called the local provider and turned it on, then had to wade through dozens of instructions and pages of possibilities in German before I could actually change the language to one that I use daily. So far, so good. Also changed the PIN so that I could have a fighting chance of remembering it.

The next day – Thurs. – was able in the morning to open it without any problems with the new PIN. Then I made the mistake of leaving. By mid-afternoon I had managed to block the SIM card and of course hadn’t taken the PUK with me so was essentially without a phone.
Never mind – Friday was able to send both sons an e-mail saying that I was out-of-range and I didn’t worry about the rest of the world.

I never did find any more wifi either so actually did end up being totally off the grid, so to speak, from Fri. morning until I returned Sun. evening. Perhaps not a choice, but once I accepted the facts I didn’t worry about it any more – just enjoyed and hoped that there would be no emergencies.

Then of course Sunday night did manage to unlock the phone, only to discover that I had left the battery charger in the mountain flat. Ah ha, but luck was on my side as still the same brand of telephone and the old charger actually worked. One hurdle down.  Second hurdle appeared right behind it though when my “new” computer wouldn’t turn on. Argh…

Monday thus became a day dedicated to getting all these techie things up and running again. First however, I had to learn why I wasn’t able to answer my phone. Son two – whom I was helping with his sublet – finally discovered that all sounds had been blocked. OK I now had a supposedly working telephone, but when I tried to answer a call by pushing on the green telephone nothing happened. Several very frustrating calls later we discovered that I had to swipe the green telephone, not push, tap or otherwise jiggle it. Progress being made.

After a delicious lunch at Little India – an Indian restaurant in the Pâquis area of Geneva that I can highly recommend – I headed to the Mac store to figure out my computer problems. Waiting time approx. 1 hour and a half, so headed to the phone shop to figure out why, oh why, I was getting a beeping every 10 minutes or so and why I couldn’t get my working e-mail entered.  Had just managed that wait and got some answers when my number was called at the Mac store.  That two turned out to be very minor – and fortunately my current working Mac is in good shape (o.k. so I left the battery charger for the mini Mac also in the mountains …).

Hurdle number three: buy another battery for my favorite camera as I kept running it dry (also figured out the why of that – was sometimes pushing the video button instead of the take-one-picture button – yikes where was my mind?).  In that store the salesman had a lot of trouble trying to locate in the computer a replacement, then couldn’t order it either so I was slightly relieved that I am not the only one having tech problems.

By the end of the day though – all was again well in my connected world – my computer opened on the first try this morning; my cell phone collects all my e-mails, doesn’t beep too often and I can even remember how to answer it; and I have a back-up (and charged) battery for my favorite camera.

Now just don’t let the electricity go down and deprive me of these marvels!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Salad Days…

Now I have heard about dog days and apprehend their arrival every year, especially here where I have no air conditioning. Dog days are when the temperature goes up a degree or two overnight instead of down and make for miserable sleep to say the least.

But salad days? I would presume that those are the days when I eat salad – that happens often in the summer - as the thought of anything hot or heavy can be repugnant. I love salads so have many “salad days”.

Today, however from one of my favorite sources I learned that there is another reason to like this term: it is a noun meaning
1. A period of youthful innocence and inexperience.
2. A period of great success: heyday.

The earliest documented use of the term is from Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” (1616). Cleopatra, now in love with Antony, explains her previous admiration for Julius Caesar with these words:
“My salad days,
When I was green in judgment, cold in blood,
To say as I said then.”

(source: A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg)

I love the fact that although the first definition may have passed (yes I am no longer twenty, nor thirty…) there is possibly still room for the second.

So bring on my salad days, both physically and metaphorically!

The mozzarella "salad" creation from Café des Marronniers

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Barefoot in the park

Having had a very social life the past couple of weeks – and looking forward to even more events, I had decided that I would take the day “off” Wednesday the 3rd and simply buy a day pass for the public transportation system and wander Geneva.

There were a few ideas in the back of my head, one of which was to visit the flea market at Plainpalais, but as it turned out it was a good thing that I hadn’t had any as I didn’t even make that.

Leaving home I headed for town then deviated to run an errand near the Old Town. That in turn had me exploring things that I had never seen: some architectural, the rear of the Russian Orthodox church, an “installation” – even led to the discovery of a Henry Moore sculpture that I am sure 99% of Geneva’s inhabitants don’t even know is there.

Architecture in Geneva is so varied

Architecture in Geneva is so varied

Architecture in Geneva is so varied
François Lefort, Admiral and General under Peter the Great
How did his statue get up on the bluff behind the Russian Orthodox church ?

The Russian Orthodox church under scafholding

One of the seven golden cupolas down for repairs

An "Installation", of 7 TV screens - nothing currently playing though

The Henry Moore sculpture

John Calvin's school had been recently renovated: still an operating high school

Entrance to the State's Courthouse - on the right was the old prison

The fountain at the Bourg du Four - a gathering place for many

Entrance to the Courthouse

It was close to noon when I arrived at the Bourg du Four – the ancient center of Old Town -there where bread was baked, where the market took place back in medieval times and where the inhabitants gathered to talk. I remembered that the Lutheran Church had noon concerts so wandered down to see what the day’s offering was: oh yeah Bach, Beethoven among others played by the FOG trio (although it is simply the letters of their names, they re-arranged them on purpose to spell FOG as – as the moderator said – they are often not quite clear as to where they are going) and only a half-hour to wait. 

The Lutheran Church - built to look simply like a Manor House in order to not detract from the cathedral, it was the first "foreign" church to be allowed in Geneva after the Reformation

What better place to do so than at the coffee shop that replaced Mortimor’s (for the year that I worked with the first pastor before he returned to the USA, he would often suggest that we go get coffee and take a break as we worked flat out for five hours the days that I was there). How the inside has changed, but the pastry and water were fine.  Enjoyed the concert then headed off to have lunch somewhere other than the usual places.

Building still the same

Inside entirely different!

The FOG trio: Christine Guignard, Olivier Fleury & Virginie Olsson

This meant walking down the hill to a bus stop – the one where I was planning on catching one to another of my recently discovered places. I had determined to take either the 25 (Botanical Gardens) or 9 (Délices) whichever showed up first, but when two had gone by without either being them, I changed the plan to simply the third bus – fate had it being one that went to the neighborhood where my older son had lived for several years – and a park that he had just recently shown me.  Starving and knew there was no restaurant so grabbed a sandwich and a bottle of water at the local Coop then went and laid out my newly purchased “Swiss” blanket in a small park tucked away from the city.  I did discover that perhaps my bones are no longer made for laying on the hard ground, but took off shoes and socks and stuck it out long enough to admire the sun and wind in the trees above me and eat my sandwich.

Then it was across the foot bridge that parallels the train tracks overlooking one of the most interesting natural sights in Geneva: the junction where the Rhone River coming out of the lake meets the Arve River coming down from the French Alps. The Arve on the right is glacial water and very gray and murky: the Rhone has gone through the lake and is pristine clear – such a difference.

Le Rhône et l'Arve

Had my afternoon coffee in the Bois de la Batie – another area of town known for its animal park and wonderful biking and hiking paths – and much enjoyed the sign in the restroom.

"Toilets: limited to 5 minutes, Reading tolerated"!
Then it was find the bus heading home in time to arrive for the last preparations of a wonderful Syrian evening. We ate well and way too much. I am blessed to have such friends: the conversation around the table was lively, the food greatly appreciated. Indeed a most wonderful birthday celebration. According to information that I received, I share my birthday with 20 million others in this world – but I sure felt special and only one that day.