A Travellerspoint blog



It was a tough 12 hour journey from the Vendeé to Morges [our Marc & Jocelyne refuge], partly due to rain and darkness. We had planned to stop over in a lay-by to sleep for the night, but decided at 4pm to push on, as the lure of sleeping in a warm bed was strong. We arrived in Morges just after 10pm and we slept like logs for 10 hours! This is the sunrise over the Mont Blanc that we woke up to!
Mr Stubby developed a wheel vibration at 65mph on the way, so Marc made an appointment for a wheel alignment check with his mechanic. The mechanic pointed out that the front tyres had worn erratically, so we ended up fitting two new winter tyres, which should help in the snow - even though it burned a hole in the purse!
Views from the apartment over to Lausanne in the distance,
and over Lac Leman to the Alps
Francois and Marion and Anne Christine came for supper and Jocelyne fed us exceedingly well as usual: starters, 2 helpings of main, 2 of dessert, followed by chocolates, bricelets and coffee! Our waistlines are ever expanding, which was not helped by a similar experience the next day when Christian came for lunch!
Christian enjoying his "Ostrich egg" dessert; Pèches avec crème vanille

Christian enjoying his "Ostrich egg" dessert; Pèches avec crème vanille

We walked down to the shops for some specific last minute Swiss items
and came across these black berries along the way [no idea what they might be]
On the Friday evening Jocelyne took us into Lausanne to the Christmas market at Place St Francois. The lights were gorgeous and the vibe was good as everyone stood around drinking vin chaud. Sandi found a delicious cornet of Spanish churros.
Jocelyne and Sandi with the Cathedral lit up in red, which you can just see in the background

Jocelyne and Sandi with the Cathedral lit up in red, which you can just see in the background

Sandi about to milk that Swiss cow!

Sandi about to milk that Swiss cow!

Marc reckoned that we would not be able to cross the Brenner Pass from Austria into Italy with the van without winter tyres all round, so recommended that we go via the Simplon Tunnel. One has to drive the vehicle onto a train which takes you through the tunnel, but the height restrictions looked as if we were not going to fit! Anyway David measured the van again and reckoned that we would actually fit without having to let the tyres down. If we didn't fit, then our choices were to negotiate the high passes of Brenner or Grand St Bernard or drive around the coast via France [a very long detour!] We wanted to catch the 10:30 train as the next one after that was only at 13:30, which would mean that we would get to Merano in the dark.

We set off rather anxiously in the dark at 07:30 on Saturday morning for the two hours to Brig. There was snow on the ground at Brig, but fortunately the roads had been cleared. We bought our ticket and drove on to the train with our mirrors folded back. At last we could relax!
While sitting in the van on our way through the tunnel for 20 minutes we made sandwiches for our breakfast, and we out the other end before we even finished chewing. The remaining 5 hours of the trip down, from the Alps via Milano and up the valley to Merano was easy, as it was mostly on autoroutes, with umpteen tolls to pay along the way [not as expensive as the French ones though!].
Buongiorno Italia!

Buongiorno Italia!

Posted by davidsandi 22:46 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)


On Thursday David connected up the battery and we took off on a day trip to Gruyere, on our own. Beautiful scenery all the way and an interesting cheese-making demo and exhibition at the Gruyere cheese factory.
The automated cheese-turning machine turns and salts thousands of cheeses daily

The automated cheese-turning machine turns and salts thousands of cheeses daily

Separating the whey

Separating the whey

Sandi was fascinated by this automated self-cleaning toilet seat at the cheese factory

Sandi was fascinated by this automated self-cleaning toilet seat at the cheese factory

The loo flushes within seconds of getting off it, the seat spins around, getting spritzed and wiped along the way, and all it doesn't do is wipe one's nether bits!!
Off course we had to have an obligatory Gruyere cheese fondue in the fromagerie restaurant before heading up to the village of Gruyere itself – in the freezing cold wind and 3degC temperature.
After that we took the long route home, via Chateau d’Oeux and the Col de Mosses Pass, climbing high into the mountains, with frost on the grass verges of the road, and snow capping the mountain peaks.
Several family members were aghast at our prospects of driving the van up snow-covered or icy passes without winter tyres or at least snow chains. So our project on Friday was to acquire some chains; either to rent or buy second-hand. These proved not to be viable options so we bought some new ones at Jumbo superstore for only €35. David decided he needed to try them on, as this was a totally new gadget for him, and to struggle under freezing conditions with frost-bitten fingers on a high mountain pass in a blizzard, was not a pleasant thought. One is supposed to slip them behind the wheel without jacking the car up, but because the rear wheels are twinned, they would not slip between the wheels, so David had to jack the van up, and presto! no matter how he and Marc wriggled and pulled they would not fit. He eventually decided they were too small and had to exchange them for bigger ones which fit easily. So now equipped with snow chains, and the compulsory luminous jacket, tow-rope, warning triangles and fire extinguisher we are ready to tackle any mountain pass!

Friday evening Loise and Laurent invited us to a movie and pizza in Lausanne. The pizza and the beer [brewed on site] were good, and not too expensive, but the same didn't apply to the movie. [A movie ticket costs SFr18 which = R126!] This little excursion added to the deepening dent in our poor old budget!

On Saturday uncle Christian invited us all to dine with him at his regular restaurant, where he lunches 3x a week with several other well-to-do retirees. As we were enjoying our desserts, cousin Jean-Marc arrived on his Harley Davidson from Geneva, to chat.
Daniel and Liz drove us out to Berne on Sunday. We had wonderful panoramic views of the old city from the Rose Garden,
before descending to one of the bridges over the Aare river to join the crowd looking at the new bear cubs from Russia, which are in a newly created garden next to the river. We wandered up the main street admiring several fountains, the sheltered colonnades, and waited for the town clock to strike three. The figurines have performed their routines daily for hundreds of years!
We were then treated to a yummy traditional lunch of bratwurst, potato rösti and apple strűdel.
We stopped in front of the Bundeshaus, the seat of the Swiss Federal Parliament
before wandering around the old part of town.
The doctors trying to emulate the entwined serpents of a fine caduseus, spotted on a nearby wall.
The Munster St Vincent is a Gothic church dating back to 1421.
IMG_0744.jpgThe famous Tympanum ceiling in the foyer

The famous Tympanum ceiling in the foyer

Mermaid being throttled by the gargoyle!

Mermaid being throttled by the gargoyle!

IMG_0753.jpgThese interesting fellas belonged to the Guild of roof artisans

These interesting fellas belonged to the Guild of roof artisans

On our return, Daniel's kids joined us and we all had supper together.
Phillippe, Sandi, Daniel and Alexandra

Phillippe, Sandi, Daniel and Alexandra

David and Stephanie

David and Stephanie

Liz and David

Liz and David

Phillippe, Stephanie and Alexandra

Phillippe, Stephanie and Alexandra

The family, especially Marc and Jocelyne, have been incredibly loving and kind during our 10-day stay, and we feel enormously blessed by their nurturing.

Posted by davidsandi 10:16 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)



We arrived in Morges, Switzerland, to stay with family, Marc and Jocelyne Wanner [David's uncle and aunt], at about 7pm – after a long trip on the Autoroute from Paris. We programmed Molly [our GPS] to avoid the toll roads, but after a detour through Fontaineblue she steered us back onto the autoroute and we ended up with another €35 toll GRRR!!!!!!
We stopped in an aire for lunch of baguette, wine [Sandi only, not driver Dave], and pomegranate.
Sandi's passion for pomegranate remains rampant.
The countryside was fairly flat, with occasional chateaus.
Armed with some "pad kos" we crossed the Jura range of mountains, which was displaying all the autumnal colours and flurries of falling leaves. Wonderful Jocelyne had a great supper waiting for us and we flopped into bed early-ish, to sleep the sleep of the road-weary travellers.

The Swiss weather was pretty warm for the first few days and David was quite happy in slops and shorts. On Thursday we basically loitered indoors for the morning, to catch our breath, then popped in to visit tante Henriette for tea, and back home for yet another scrummy dinner.
A clear view of Mont Blanc from the balcony

A clear view of Mont Blanc from the balcony

Jocelyne and Marc feed and wine us so well we’re going to be many kilos heavier by the time we leave! At this point we had best explain that lunches and dinners are not events that just fill the tummy. They are social and gourmet events, usually interspersed with consultations with the French and English dictionary, as we all play at wordsmithing!! Often there is a starter, like grapefruit, or special cured meats, followed by a cooked meal of fish, meat or chicken with several veg, and often salad too – plus wine twice a day. Then there is dessert – 4 choices of ice cream or home-made chocolate and/or raspberry mousse [so far] and biscuits, then fresh fruit, peanuts, then coffee and Swiss chocolates!! Sandi manages to pace herself, but David simply cannot say “No” [surprise, surprise]! We’ve worked out that we spend 4-4 ½ hours at table each day [breakfast 1hr+, lunch 1 ½ hrs, dinner 1 ½ -2 hours]!! We find we are exhausted at night, because of all the fine French we try to absorb, as well as the heat. The flat is very warm +- 25 deg C [so we keep popping onto the balcony for a welcome breather, where the temp is at least 15 deg colder], and keep our bedroom window open all day and night to cool the room.

We were invited to dinner at Liz and Daniel [David's cousin] on Friday evening. Liz is from New Zealand, and the whole family – papa Daniel, and 3 gorgeous kids; Alexandra [in matric], Stephanie and Philippe [both studying Economics at Uni] - can speak English, so chatting was not a strain. Trying to understand the nuances, and contribute to French conversation, when there are more than 2 people chatting, can be quite taxing! After a delicious meal, Liz produced a regional speciality for dessert, just to finished us off. tarte au resin.

On Saturday we strolled along the lake, Lac Leman, under clear skies and sunshine, enjoying the last of the dahlias planted in profusion along the promenade. Of course Sandi took a zillion shots with the new camera.
We came across a tree full of these strange fruits.
We even found some highly fragrant musk roses, which instantly brought back visual and olfactory memories of the glorious Bulgarian Rosa damascena.
The hedges full of bright berries were another favourite.
Then another dinner at the flat that night, with Francois [Marc & Jocelyne’s younger son]and Marion, his partner. They were invited for Sunday night, but surprised us all by arriving 24 hours too early!
On Sunday – brunch with the Wagnieres – Loise, Laurent and baby Ellia, and the parents, cousin Eric and Corinne. A divine coffee-shop experience in the village of Echallons [Maison de Ble et de Pain], where everything is locally produced and one can watch the bakers doing their thing while eating scrumptious yoghurt, viande seche, cheeses, patisserie, breads, jams and bottomless cups of coffee, tea and/or hot chocolate, with tarte au crème to finish.
After that we took a trip up Mt Pelerin to a special viewpoint to see a panoramic view of the region, walking up through a forest to a lift station, which takes one up to the top of a tower overlooking sheer beauty.
Vineyards along the lake
Then a short visit to Loise and Laurent’s home in a lovely rural village called Apples, before heading back to Morges for more food!
Loise and Laurent's beautiful daughter, Ellia

Loise and Laurent's beautiful daughter, Ellia

By Monday the weather suddenly changed and the daily temperatures dropped by 10 deg. We took a rainy and misty trip up into the Jura mountains for a cheese fondue of note at the Maison Dent de Vaullions, before a quick visit to Marc and Jocelyne’s dear little chalet next to the Lac du Joux.
We even spotted an original bricelet machine hanging from the rafters!
We took off on our own the next day, which was clear and sunny, but frosty, with the help of a Mobilite public transport ticket, to visit Lausanne and Ouchy.
We took a quick walk down to the Morges market in icy cold weather and bought some sunflowers and walnuts for M&J.
We were amazed to see a sign board outside a shop, advertising some hearing aid or other, with our dear friend, the lovely Dalene Morriss’, picture on it! Wow, her model shots have appeared all over the world!
We walked back for another family lunch, this time with uncle Christian and his cousin Christiane.
David accompanied M & J for the afternoon, while Sandi stayed in the apartment to complete some Council work which had a deadline, while Christiane was given a lift back to her 4 storey home in central Lausanne. She has an elevator in the house to take her to the top floor of the house where she lives. There are 3 apartments on the other floors, which she rents out to tenants. The afternoon proceeded with a visit to tante Marie, in a nearby old-age home,
followed by a 5pm painting exhibition where Marion had some paintings for sale. The snacks were very colourful, including this pain surprise which is a hollowed-out loaf, made into sandwiches, which are then stacked back inside.
On our return the amazing Jocelyne effortlessly whipped up yet another great meal, in time for a 7.30pm dinner-date with Anne-Christine [Marie’s spinster daughter].

Posted by davidsandi 10:15 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

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