The “Swiss Riviera”

Yes, Switzerland has mountains.  And cows.  And chocolate.  But it also has something else, that is lesser-known:  a little bit of Italy!  Switzerland is composed of 26 cantons (like provinces or states), most of which are German-speaking (swiss german, that is), some of which are French-speaking, but only ONE of which is solely Italian-speaking.  That is the canton of Ticino (or Tessin, in French).  I have had the fortune of visiting this beautiful canton twice, and I would jump at the chance to go again.  It is a wonderful combination of Italy and Switzerland – mountains, delicious food, warm weather, palm trees (!), and just all-round gorgeous.  As my descriptions clearly fall short, I will let the photos speak for themselves:

A sidewalk terrace in Locarno, Switzerland.

Polenta, being cooked outside in a big copper pot.  I had mine with Gorgonzola cheese – mmm!
 Flora from one of the Islands of Brissago near Ascona, Switzerland.  Take the local ferry to get there!  Here is a particularly interesting flower I saw:
The view of Lago Maggiore and the Alps (from Locarno) – does it get any better?
 Waiting for the ferry (to go to Ascona)…
I ate that delicious polenta with this superb view – no wonder it was so good!
 A little local culture – there was a Rolls Royce club meeting while we were there.
Another shot of lovely Ascona, Switzerland.
 You need to take a short funicular ride above Locarno to see this monastery – well worth it!
On the way to the Val Verzasca for a hike, we stopped at this huge dam, and yes, it was used in the James Bond film Golden-Eye! (Apparently – haven’t seen it…)  If you are a thrill-seeker, you can bungee jump off the dam…
This is a photo from our hike down the valley of Verzasca – this was a fantastic hike.  We took a bus up the valley and then hiked back down.
The aqua colour of the River Verzasca – it’s as chilly as it looks!

As you can see there is a lot to be seen in Ticino, Switzerland.  Go explore!

You must (fon)due this hike!

This is a hike I have had the privilege of doing twice, and it is not far from Neuchâtel, Switzerland, where I live.  In this hike, you essentially hike up and down what is called the “Creux du Van”.  The Creux du Van is a huge rock formation (apparently called a rock “cirque”:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creux_du_Van) that you spend a tough 30-45 minutes hiking straight up, followed by a leisurely hike down (1-2 hours).  Here is a link describing the hike:  http://activityworkshop.net/hiking/switzerland/creuxduvan.html . It is describing a slightly longer hike (don’t be thrown off – it doesn’t take 7 hours as it is listed!!!)

Despite the difficult hike up (known for its 13 switchbacks – believe me, you count them as you go) the view you are rewarded with (if there’s no fog) is stunning!  Not only that, but you are also greeted by the sound of swiss cow bells, because there are a few farms up top.  After the hike you can stop at Ferme Robert for a classic Swiss dish – cheese fondue!  Not a bad way to finish it all off, I can assure you.  Eat your fondue one of the typical ways, with a nice cup of hot tea.  Ferme Robert even has a little natural history museum upstairs, if you’re not already sold by their cheesy specialty!  (http://www.ferme-robert.ch/)
Here are a few photos I took on my first hike (the weather was so foggy the second time, I didn’t bother taking any):
Happy Monday!

northkate

Living in Switzerland…not too shabby!

Hello readers of Wistfully Wandering!
I am one of two guest-bloggers filling in while our blogging traveller Wistfully Wandering is off…travelling, of course!  She has left big shoes to fill, but I will do my best to give you some travelling tidbits while she is away.
I am also a Canadian, but I currently live in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. I have been here two years, and am excited at the prospect of staying a little longer – I am about to move to Geneva!  More about that later.
Switzerland has been very kind to me, and I have been stunned by its beauty.  For today’s post, however, I will focus on Neuchâtel’s beauty. Neuchâtel is a small city (population about 40,000, also the capital of the canton of Neuchâtel) situated on Lac Neuchâtel – great for swimming in the summer, by the way!  It is nestled into the Jura mountain range (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jura_Mountains), with the mountains on one side and the lake on the other.  Though it can be a challenge for a cyclist like me (“nestled” into mountains makes for some mean hills!) it is incredibly picturesque.  Here are some photos I’ve taken while living here the past two years.

The above photo shows a typical Neuchâtel view, with the alps in the background.  In the foreground is the “red cathedral”.

The above shot was taken at dawn, from my window.

That shot was also from my window, but after a snowfall in winter!  They don’t get much snow here, though…

The above shot is of the Hotel Beau Rivage – a beautiful high-end hotel right on the lake.  With a café to die for!

Neuchâtel is a beautiful village, with many restaurants and cafés, and lots of life.  One of my favourite things to do is go to the market.  The main market is on Saturdays, but there are also markets on Tuesday and Thursday.  Not bad for a town of 40,000 people!

A friend had told me that one has to do a sampling of the market tomatoes, so I had no choice but to oblige!  There was such a variety, which is why I bought the assortment above.  The plant is purple basil, and the little tub is of local goat cheese packed in olive oil and herbs – I couldn’t resist!  The other jar is of local yoghurt, another local product I heartily enjoy.  The swiss know their dairy products!

I drizzled that salad with some quality olive oil and my new favourite balsamic vinegar, an aged vinegar that is thicker and slightly sweet.  Four “star” rating (some vinegars seem to have this…).

Have a good weekend everyone,

northkate

Ontario – Please Come See!

I am currently on a road trip to experience the wild in the US and Canada and can’t wait to share my experience.

BUT

While I am away – please view these Tourism Ontario videos. There is much to see where I come from, although I am out experiencing a few different places in the world.

Fare thee well

A great blogger friend of mine once told me not to apologize for leaving, so I will just say – farewell, and see you soon!

I shall post when I have internet access again this summer.

But do not fret, my sister and my friend will be here to keep you company once in a while as well.

See you all in August!! Happy travels!

Photos of the Day – The White Wolf Waits for Wistfully Wandering to Wind Up There

Ohhh too much… but the title is staying.

As I bounce off my seat itching to get on the road to Yellowstone, I was reminiscing about some of the great wildlife encounters I experienced there last summer.

Here are some of my favs:

First wildlife sighting in Teton – Elk on alert!

Grizzy 399 and 2 of her 3 cubs she had last year. Down to none apparently now 😦 although the rumour is they still survive – 1 with the grizzly 610, and 2 are lost, but well.

Awww Sedgehog (I don’t come up with these names 🙂 in Sedge Bay, Yellowstone

The white wolf…hence the cringe worthy title of the post.

Mr/s. Marmot in Sheepeaters, Yellowstone

The lone bison walks the line

I could keep going and going, but I will stop at my favorites in Yellowstone and Grand Teton. I also saw a large variety of wildlife in the Canadian Rockies, including big horned sheep, mountain goats, a cougar (such a rare and amazing sight!), elk with huge racks, and a ton of foxes, coyotes and a brief glimpse of black wolves.

CAN’T WAIT!

Great article for me to read

Ok – I’m basically packed and ready to head out on a summer long road trip from east to west across the US and Canada.

Too excited!!!!

AND I came across this article from Lonely Planet last night, which I felt suited my situation right now (except that I have a car):

How to take a broke-ass road trip

  • Stuart Schuffman

There’s a saying that goes, ‘The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco’. It’s credited to Mark Twain, but that’s a lie; nobody really knows who said it. I wish I had.

You know what else I wish I had? A friggin’ car! Don’t get me wrong, San Francisco is one of the true loves of my life, but I could really use some summer sunshine. So what I’m gonna do is sit here and fantasize about taking a road trip and in the meantime give you some pointers on how to do it on the cheap.

1. You don’t actually need a car

(I know I just complained about not having a car, but I’m actually tied to my desk right now, so just look at my car reference before as a metaphor for ‘the freedom to not be at my damn desk’.) Wanna go on a road trip but your only vehicle is your ChevroLEGS? All you gotta do is ride share! That’s right, go to erideshare.com or craigslist.org and find a ride to wherever you’re going.  And if you wanna hit up multiple locations on your trip, just set up rideshares to and from all the different spots on your itinerary.  Then your only costs are sharing gas costs with the other riders.

2. Cheap rental cars

If you don’t have wheels but aren’t too keen on riding with random strangers, you can always rent a car. Start by comparing prices from a few websites like hotwire.comexpedia.com and travelocity.com (to name a few) then find the cheapest rates. Here’s the real tip though: If you have a major credit card and you make a car rental reservation with it, the credit card company covers your rental insurance! Amazing right? I just saved you like $15 a day! Just make sure you check with your credit card company to see what they cover.

3. Car sharing

Still on the car-less theme, if you use Zipcar or one of the countless smaller local versions of car sharing, you can take a vehicle for multiple days at a time. This often amounts to somewhere around $60, but that money also covers gas and insurance. There’s typically a 3 days limit though, so it would have to be a shorter road trip. Peer-to-peer car sharing is starting to take off in some cities, so check out services like getaround.com for local deals on cars that are probably more interesting than the typical Ford Focus rental.

4. Pack your food

Don’t wanna spend too much loot on food while traveling? Pack your grub and take it with you. Pick foods with a decent shelf-life and bring a cooler. Not only will this save you money, it will probably allow you to eat healthier too. Unless all you pack is Lunchables of course. Then you might as well just eat at McDonalds.

5. Camping, hostels and couch surfing

You read Lonely Planet, so you know the drill, but just in case you don’t, I’ll break it down for you. Save money by not staying in hotels. Is the weather warm? Then sleep outside. Don’t like critters crawling in your sleeping bag? Then stay at a hostel. Can’t afford that? Then check out couchsurfing.com and find a nice soul who will let your weird ass sleep on their couch. Just kidding, you’re not that weird…probably.

6. Do free activities

If you wanna save money on a road trip, don’t go to Disneyland, or any other theme park for that matter. Pick things to do that don’t cost money like going to the beach or hiking. If you’re one of those people who just needs a destination, go to a national park. There’s so much beauty out there to be seen.

7. Free food at happy hours

If your road trip is leading you to a city and not the wilderness, do a little research beforehand.  Every American city has bars that give out free food at happy hour, you just need to know where to find them.  Go to yelp.com or chowhound.com and search for terms like ‘free food happy hour’ and see what you find.

8. Free and cheap websites

Same goes for cheap entertainment in the city you’re heading to.  Let’s say you’re going to Chicago, Google something like ‘free and cheap Chicago’ and do a little research.  You’re guaranteed to find websites that cover all the cool free and cheap happenings in that city. And if you’re going to San Francisco or New York you can just check out BrokeAssStuart.com.