Thursday, June 30, 2016

Mon voyage. Jour numéro six. Zermatt.

Kimmie hooked me up with a 42 franc train ticket to anywhere in Switzerland so I decided to go to Zermatt so I can see the iconic Matterhorn.  It isn't listed on the board, which of course makes one a little nervous, but they do stop in Visp (just before Brig) before transferring trains to Zermatt.  Visp is a German speaking Swiss town so just before arrival the announcements switched from French first to German first.  It is a little thing that one notices when they have nothing else to notice.

As the train went around the other side of Lac Léman I caught a glimpse of Château de Chillon.  Built around 1000AD, used as a prison in the 16th century, and easily accessible, it is one of the most visited castles in Switzerland.

Almost four hours later I arrived in Zermatt.  Zermatt is a German speaking town as well, so I got to enjoy German baked goods, and practice my German.  I speak German like a speak French, I shake my head vigorously with a worried look on my face forgetting that I speak any language.  It usually does the trick.
I actually went to the bakery twice in one day, for lunch and for dinner.  
The pretzel here was the best pretzel I have ever had in my life.  A thin, hard crust, soft on the inside, hot from the oven...

Zermatt sits at the base of the Matterhorn.   

It has a population of 5,800.

There are several cemeteries around town which memorialize those who have attempted to summit Matterhorn, or nearby peaks.  Many of the gravestones describe how they died, who they were with, and the peak they were on.  Although the gender and age varies many (starting in 1865 after the first ascent) are males in their twenties.  There is an average of 12 deaths per year.

I do wonder if climbers/mountaineers go to the cemetery before or after a planned summit.

Zermatt is cool but I was anxious to take the Gornergrat Bahn to the top so after an hour I took the train which climbs 1,500 meters in thirty minutes (for 90 francs round trip... pricey, especially considering that a flight to Europe is the same as 13 train rides on the Gornergrat Bahn).

Gorner glacier (Gornergletscher in German) is spectacular.  Although it has lost more than 2,500 meters in distance over the past 150 years, it is still massive- 12 km long by 1 km wide.

Who would have guessed that in the alps ibex, marmots, crows and aluminum cans are friends.

A perfect place for a cappuccino. 

I waited patiently for the Matterhorn (directly behind me) to show its face but the coward never did.

I decided to walk from the top to the next train station below.  It was nice to hike a little since most of day was spent in sitting in trains (9 hours in total, but the sun doesn't set until 10pm so there are more hours in day).

Back in town I walked straight onto a movie set!
I am kidding but it did feel that way.

You have heard of Swiss cheese but never Swiss hams.  
These musicians were characters, every time someone stopped to take a picture they stopped to pose.

Right before my train departed they started playing right in the middle of town. Maybe the alphorn will be my next instrument, it is even more of a conversation starter than a banjo.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mon voyage. Jour numéro cinq. Lyon et Genève.

My morning started like the other mornings, with breakfast supplied by my hosts- bread, coffee, yogurt with fruit and granola, and fresh squeezed juice.  Today there was a special treat, brioche with praline (which is specific to the region of Lyon).  Sylvie was here this morning and when I asked for a mug she asked my why I needed it.  I said for the coffee.  She said that is what the bowl is for, and then asked me inquisitively what I had been doing with the bowl, which I never used.  Every morning I just went into the kitchen and got a mug.  

Apparently coffee in a bowl is "very French" and I still do need help identifying what is "very French."  A bowl is for breakfast but for other times of the day a mug is used.  

I was told the name of the delicious jam I had been eating, confiture de cynorrhodon, wild rose hip jam.  It is incredible; sweet and syrupy.  

Before my train left this morning I went to Voisin.  Although it looks haute couture it is a Lyonaisse chocolate shop, established in 1837.  I had to go to this shop for chocolate because although it is sold at the train station it is much sweeter there (and I wanted the good stuff).

Paroisse Catholique Saint Joseph des Brotteaux is right in front of Sylvie and Jean Lucs apartment.

After the two hour train, Kimmie met me at the station and we walked to one of the few beaches in Geneva, Paquis, for a picnic.  

Kimmie's friend, Bec, whom I will be staying with, met us during her lunch break.
The Jet d'Eau, behind us, is one of the city's most famous landmarks.  500 liters of water per second are propelled 140 meters into the air.  When it was originally installed in 1886 had a maximum height of 30 meters but over the years it has been improved.  Even though we were on the other side of the lake you could feel the spray from the Jet d'Eau.  

Paquis is a great place for people watching.  
I may not know what is "very French" but I think I can tell who the regulars are... 

Lac Léman (which some inappropriately call Lake Geneva) is 580 x 70 square km with a maximum depth of 310 m.  Just like Geneva it is surrounded by the French border.  The water is crystal clear, and cold (18 °C).  The main water source for Lac Léman is the Rhône (which goes through the center of Lyon).

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mon voyage. Jour numéro quatre. Lyon.

UEFA is l'Union européenne des associations de football ('euro' afterwards seems a little redundant but who am I to judge). 

The flower tree was created for an art festival in 2003 by Korean pop artist Choi Jeong Hwa but has been a permanent sculpture near Bellecour since 2007.

It is interesting what would, or in this case wouldn't be, acceptable advertising in the United States.  

Lyon is the second largest city in France but the sightseeing areas are fairly close.  Even though I have been doing some backtracking there are plenty different sights to see.
I spent more time in Presqu'ile.  This area was recommended by my hosts because it is where the old lyonnaises live.  The railings on the terraces, with their extra detail, are evidence of old Lyon.

St. Jean Cathedral in Vieux Lyon took almost 200 years to construct.

Inside is an astronomical clock built in 1383 that can accurately account for holidays for three more years.

The longest traboule in Lyon was closed the other day but I decided to return.  Traboules such as these prevented the Nazis from completely occupying Lyon as they allowed the Resistance fighters a way to sneak around virtually unnoticed.

I knew I would be back.  
Today I got mandarin and stracciatella.  
It was epic.

Cimetière de Loyasse was established in 1807, and is designated for the wealthier Lyon residents, which is why it is full of doctors, painters, and adventurers.  

The remains of the Roman aqueduct in Lyon is the largest outside of Rome; this fragment is part of an aqueduct that spans 75 km.

At the request of my hosts I spend a little time in Brotteaux.  I was told this neighborhood is "very French" and that if I sit here for lunch I will see.  Although I missed lunch I figured sitting for a drink was just as good.  I cannot even tell you how many people went by with baguettes under their arms.

I was invited to dinner at my hosts' house, Sylvie and Jean Luc.  They are just too nice.  We had a delicious, multi-veggie-dish meal, including cut melon for dessert.  Sitting on the terrace for dinner felt "very French," and no one even had to tell me.