Vicky 'n' Will's Travels

2 people. 1 motorhome. 5+ years. Exploring every country in the EU. ~~~~~~~ 🧔🙋‍♀️ 🚙🌍🛶🚲 ~~~~~~~ 👍https://www.facebook.com/vnwtravels/ 📽
  • Day1201

    Aigle picnic spot, Switzerland

    October 10 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    We are back in Switzerland! Today's home is a small roadside car park overlooking a picnic area close to the Grand Eau river.

    We know we keep going on about how stunning Switzerland's scenery is, but it keeps on impressing us. Today's drive over the Chablais Alps from Bioge to Abondance was just phenomenal. The route snaked back and fourth as we climbed and dipped with views of mountains that urged you to go out and buy Toblerone more effectively than any TV advert ever could.

    Reaching a good altitude, we entered a world of ski towns. Chocolate box wooden chalets, their balconies bedecked with fairy lights and garlands of fake greenery lay poised for a winter full of snow and visitors. Chopped firewood of various grades sat in neat stacks along the sides of dwellings and wagon wheels (from carts not the biscuit factory) adorned many a wall. Red geraniums spilled over baskets hanging outside what seemed like every home and a few even had veg patches.

    Winding our way back down to the valley floor, we emptied our waste water at a service point in Abondance then ended our journey at Aigle a little further on. The half dozen parking bays were full but the gate was open to the picnic area, part of which stored logs and gravel. We parked up in here, ate lunch, then moved to a designated spot when one became available.

    The location provided fresh spring water which flowed via a pipe into a trough like we'd seen in Austria. There was a fire grill, wooden picnic bench and marble round tables with seating. A black squirrel, the second we'd seen in as many days, hopped along the logs amongst a flurry of finches.

    As always in Switzerland there was easy access to walking trails. We took a slow wander up a steep wooded slope past a small artificial waterfall and ancient pine trees to a viewpoint with vistas over the vine covered valley. From a handy bench we watched pickers plucking bunches into white grapes into boxes. These were then tipped into cylindrical metal vats which a tractor transported to a pickup point on the road. We were surprised to see short trains travelling up and down the hillside via a switchback track. We always think of trains running in a straight line.

    That evening Will followed a Swiss recipe and made fondue, heating emmental and gruyère with other ingredients in our bain marie. We skewered cubes of bread and dipped them into the gooey mixture. Neither of us are very fond of this dish, but it came out well and was fun to eat in its home country. Perhaps a better wine would improve the flavour for next time.
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  • Day1200

    Bioge, Route des Grandes Alps, (France)

    October 9 in France ⋅ 🌧 11 °C

    We've been travelling for over three years, and visited some amazing places, but the beauty of the natural world never ceases to stun us. Sitting at Martha's table, the view outside her windows is mesmerising. The chalky grey Dranse river rages over rocks towards us, cutting a corridor through the patchwork colours of autumnal trees. The varied foliage covers intersecting fingers of the steep mountain valley, while outcrops of hard bare rock show through where the gradient is too vertiginous for large plants to grow. Heavy rains have fallen today and the sky is ashen. This and the occasional whisps of white mist that form and drift down the valley give the location a brooding atmosphere.

    Today has seen us cross the border several times. We began our journey in France, then passed over the Rhône into Switzerland and drove to Geneva at the southern tip of the lake with the same name (also called Lac Léman). Unlike our visit to Bern, we were surrounded by urban sprawl a long way from the centre. This city, Switzerland's second largest, had far more of a feel of a capital and reminded in places of London. There was a business about the place, pedestrians looked professional, purposeful and hurried. Cars were parked nose to tail down each side of the roads, but the layout was sensible and drivers very courteous so our stress levels didn't rocket. We'd been in two minds about visiting Geneva, but with the windscreen wipers working overtime, we doubted we'd enjoy cycling in as we'd planned, so simply drove through, stopping by the waterfront to peer past the yachts and watch the giant lake fountain shoot water over 400 feet into the air. Exclusive looking shops and dwellings reminded us of our time in Monaco and the French Riviera earlier this year. Speaking of France, we passed back over the border after not too long. It was getting to the stage where we really needed to think about which country we were currently in!

    Normally when we've set out to explore a nation we like to immerse ourselves entirely, but the temptation of the far lower French prices and the convenience of not having to retrace our steps won out. We spent several hours at a launderette in a shopping centre car park, stocking up on groceries at Carrefour and buying diesel, which was 20 cents per litre cheaper. We failed to get LPG because one fuel station's attendant clocked off at midday and the other had a height restriction preventing Martha from accessing the filling point. Oh well, three out of four ain't bad.

    Back on the move we escaped to the mountains on the Route des Grandes Alpes. Road tunnels ploughed through rock but old meandering sections of tarmac still existed. It was onto one of these that we reversed. The noise of the rushing water easily penetrated the thin van walls, but surprisingly we both slept very well at this beautiful spot.
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  • Day1199

    Pougny; a stone's throw from Switzerland

    October 8 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Whilst no longer in Switzerland, we can still see it over the chalky turquoise waters of the fast flowing Rhône. Martha is parked at the side of a stoney, tree lined track with the river on one side and a shallow quarry lake on the other.

    After zipping down the Swiss shore of Lake Geneva and an awe inspiring visit to CERN in the south west corner of the country, we decided to travel north via the French side of the lake. Situations like this are where the advantages of the Schengen Zone really shine.

    Arriving in the late afternoon, we took it slowly over a surface that was more pothole than track, parking up with just a few fishers and another van hidden away amongst the trees. The Rhône was flowing far too fast for any excursion into her chill blue water, but Will found a path to the lake for a swim. The sun had been kind to us today so his dip wasn't a cold one. We spent a restful night digesting all we'd seen at CERN.
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  • Day1199

    CERN!

    October 8 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Today's post is a bit different to our usual descriptive accounts. Its focus is niche but we hope it is still accessible, informative and enjoyable to read.

    Vicky had managed to book two tickets for a guided tour of CERN. Although tours are free, obtaining these oversubscribed tickets is not easy, so we were excited when we recieved confirmation that our applications had been successful.

    CERN stands for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire or European Council for Nuclear Research. The idea for a pan european organisation to focus knowledge, skills and resources into the research of particle physics, was conceived in the late 1940s with the aim of providing a force for unity in post war Europe and stopping the brain drain to america.

    Today CERN is an international body focussed on discovering what the universe is made of, how it works and how it started, through experiments using particle acceleration facilities such as the Large Hadron Collider.

    Based near Geneva, its vast site crosses the French-Swiss border. It is made up of 23 member states, including the UK. There are many more associate member states and nations with cooperation agreements and observer status. In total, the community comprises over 12,200 scientists of 110 nationalities, from more than 600 institutes in more than 70 countries. In other words, it's a very big deal.

    Arriving early, we parked in the free car park, ate lunch and checked in at reception. Putting on our pre-printed visitor lanyards, we used the time before the tour to take a peak at the gift shop and some of the (free) exhibitions including a molecular journey through time, from milliseconds after the Big Bang to the present day. The atrium steadily filled with visitors speaking many different languages. We couldn't help checking to see whether anyone resembled the characters on The Big Bang Theory. We weren't disappointed (although no sign of Penny)! When upwards of 100 people had gathered, stewards began to direct school and college groups towards the cafeteria. 24 of us were soon ushered into a lecture room and introduced to our guide, a young woman from South Africa who'd been working on the ATLAS project for the last two years.

    After watching an introductory video, she led us through the Microcosm exhibition with detailed explanations of the different experiments and equipment at CERN; past present and future. We would normally have been able to visit the ATLAS experiment, but unfortunately this was shut down for routine maintenance. Will got a lot out of the talk, but much of the more technical content went over Vicky's head. However the displays were modern, interactive and engaging so she didn't get bored.

    CERN's key achievements incude the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle and the fabrication and study of antimatter via a machine called the Antiproton Decelerator. They created the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator; the Large Hadron Collider, which they are already in the process of developing into a High Luminosity Large Hadron Collider, the next stage in experimental particle physics. Oh, and the World Wide Web was invented here back in 1989!

    The final part of our tour took us over the French border to the building where CERN's very first particle accelerator, the Synchrocyclotron still resides. First brought online back in 1957, the machine functioned for a good 33 years before being decommissioned and eventually opened to tour groups in 2013. Designers had made understanding its function and purpose accessible through a very effective sound and light show, with images projected directly on to the huge contraption.

    With the tour over, we headed back to the gift shop to buy Will a T-shirt. We don't normally purchase souvenirs but CERN had given us so much and we hadn't had to pay a penny (or even a centime!) Our final destination was the Universe of Particles exhibition, housed within a huge wooden sphere, called The Globe of Science and Innovation. Armchairs and display cases with futuristic atom-like designs were arranged around a central cylinder, cut at an angled cross section a few feet high. Together with the curved walls it acted as a projection screen, showing a fun six minute animation on the beginning and development of the universe. Circular touchscreen panels allowed visitors to interact with various atomic discovery programs.

    We came away with a real sense of awe. As atheists, visiting CERN is as near as we are ever going to get to walking on hallowed ground! The mind boggling nature of the work. The theories, research, discoveries and inventions that have been formulated, enacted and created here. The immense collective intelligence of the organisation's community. The huge and exciting potential for future progress. One thing we particularly loved was how CERN is only as successful as it is because of its international cooperation. So many brilliant scientists from different cultures all over the world, speaking so many different languages, but working together towards the common goal of furthering the human race's knowledge and understanding of the world around us. It was a truly inspiring experience to visit such a place.
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  • Day1198

    Saint Prex, Lake Geneva

    October 7 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    We've made it to the best known and largest lake in Switzerland; Lake Geneva! Whilst our spot in the car park of the Vieux Moulin (Old Windmill) Sports Centre isn't the most scenic, incredible views await us from the pebble beach just a few hundred metres walk away. A series of small wooden jetties stretch out from the near shore, while snow capped peaks of the Alps rise up behind the far perimeter line.

    Upon arriving in the late afternoon, Will took the opportunity for a two minute dip in the cool blue water while Vicky set about filling and applying a chocolate glaze to her half finished vegan Sacher Torte. Sadly it looked more like a Sacher Mess when finished but the taste and texture were good. She'll just have to practice the recipe a few more times to perfect the presentation!

    The night was peaceful enough despite being in a built up area with the noise of planes and trains. In the morning Vicky went in search of a geocache close to one of the piers. Unable to find it she wandered through the beautiful olde worlde village of St Prex towards a second location. Vines and roses grew up the sides of time worn walls and a clock tower with archway underneath granted access to this well preserved little gem. Unable to find this next geocache, she returned to the van feeling a bit miffed.

    Before our afternoon at CERN we needed to pick up some groceries, so taking a scenic detour through the historic core of St Prex, we emerged into the new town and bought most of what we needed at a Denner supermarket, whose prices were far more within our budget than the mountainside Co-op we'd visited yesterday.

    Keen to get to CERN we drove south, our views of Lake Geneva complimented by hillside vinyards and fields of sunflowers, some of them still in bloom.
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  • Day1197

    Lac des Taillères and Creaux du Van

    October 6 in Switzerland ⋅ 🌧 9 °C

    Through Martha's rain spattered windscreen is a heart warming sight. The small mountain Lac des Taillères just a stone's throw away, surrounded by green pastures grazed by brown cows. Higher up, whisps of cloud drift lazily over the tips of trees, some of them turning orange and yellow as autumn begins to bite. In a small gravel car park, backed on to a pine forest, the sound of cowbells from the upper slopes still reaches our ears. The Swiss weather hasn't been great, but the sights, sounds and stillness we've so far experienced have more than made up for it.

    Before settling in to this idyllic overnighter, we navigated our way up narrow winding roads, with Vicky hopping out to herd inquisitive bullocks off our path, before finding a place in the car park close to Creaux du Van. This huge crescent shaped cliff opens up very suddenly, dropping 160 metres to the valley floor.

    The amphitheatre like glacial formation looked stunning in the photos we'd seen of it. We're sure we would have been stunned to see it in real life if the cloud hadn't conspired against us. As we trekked accross soggy fields white vapours enveloped us, reducing visibility to around 5m.

    Reaching the cliff edge, cloud began where the grass ended, hiding the view completely. Following a path along the top we came to a point where we were able to partially see a section of the craggy face, giving us some idea of the scale and angle of this natural phenomenon.

    Oh well, plans don't always work out, but we enjoyed the walk and as we trundled back down the mountain the clouds dissipated, revealing some beautiful scenery. We even spotted a fox relaxing in a meadow!

    Stopping on the mainstreet of a small town up in the hills, we popped into the Co-op, hoping to stock our cupboards. We got a bit of a shock when we looked at the prices, they were a LOT higher than at the large, valley floor Co-op we'd visited in northern Switzerland. We came away with the bare minimum and made plans to do a bigger shop when we were somewhere cheaper.

    After settling in beside Lac des Taillères, Will persuaded Vicky to paddle the canoe with him. The skies being overcast, Vicky donned her drysuit and we launched Little Green. We were glad of our waterproofs when the rain began to bucket down and enjoyed the time outside despite the inclement conditions.

    The following day we decided to brave the rain once again, this time on a stroll along the shore, visiting a fabulous log picnic cabin we'd spotted from the canoe. Will foraged some of the many puffballs growing here, looking forward to mushrooms on toast the following morning. Hiking up a steep woodland path, we looped back and emerged amongst pastureland, where Vicky got to pet one of the beautiful brown cows, a huge bell hanging from a wide leather strap around ber neck and clanking when Vicky tickled her behind the ears.

    Back in the van and far from the nearest patisserie, Vicky indulged in a spot of baking, trying out a recipe for a vegan Sacher Torte she'd found on the 'Vegan on Board' website. We'd planned to stay two nights here but as the cake was cooling, we received notice we'd been allocated two places on a guided tour of CERN in less than 24hours. As the world centre for research into particle physics, the origin of the universe and home of the Large Hadron Collider, Vicky was excited and Will was ecstatic about the prospect of visiting. We quickly stowed the cake as securely as we could, dropped into the nearby van service area and hot footed it towards Geneva.
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  • Day1196

    Columbier, Lac de Neuchâtel

    October 5 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Switzerland doesn't have much designated motorhome parking compared to countries like France and Germany, but it does seem to have plenty of woodland car parks that we can stay in. This particular one is on the shore of Lac de Neuchâtel, the largest lake residing entirely in Switzerland. (Lakes Geneva and Constance are bigger, but share their shores with France, Germany and Austria). Neuchâtel is definitely a whopper, at up to 8.2km wide and 38.3km long.

    After the previous day's mountain hikes and city tour Vicky needed a rest day, but Will took full advantage of our proximity to water. Swiss fishing laws are complicated. Licences are prohibitively expensive and require you to pass an exam to obtain them, but you are allowed to shore fish for free on the big lakes, of which Neuchâtel is one. Will cast his line until the rain inevitably began to fall, at which point he changed into his wetsuit and went snorkelling. There wasn't any sign of fish, but through the clear waters he spotted copious freshwater mussels. Beginning to get cold (the water was 16°C), he abandoned his wetsuit and rounded his aquatic adventures off with a bracing swim!

    The eagle eyed among you may have noticed this body of water is a 'Lac' not a 'See'. We've flowed smoothly from a German speaking area of Switzerland to one whose native tongue is French!
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  • Day1195

    Gurbrü woodland

    October 4 in Switzerland ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

    We are relieved to have arrived at this woodland car park near Gurbrü after a long afternoon exploring Switzerland's capital.

    We'd already travelled over 60km and done a service stop before arriving in Bern that morning. (There'll be a seperate post covering our city adventures). After 5 hours exploring we drove a short way to motorhome parking at a leisure centre, only to find it wanted to charge 40Sfr (£33) for a sloped patch of tarmac with no facilities. Moving on swiftly we travelled a further 25km as the light began to fade, arriving at this peaceful wooded setting.

    Turning the engine off, we raised the blinds and drew the curtains, heating up some leftovers for tea and treating ourselves to a drink. We'd had an exciting city tour, but now was time to relax.

    Before departing Vicky put on full waterproofs and stretched her legs in a morning drizzle. A 3.1km 'Vitaparcours' route had recently been created. The course led between the trees and alongside feilds, with over a dozen Green Gym fitness stations, like balance beams, sit-up benches and gymnastic rings, off to the side.
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  • Day1195

    A day in Bern, the Swiss Capital

    October 4 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Before travelling to Switzerland neither of us would have been able to name its Capital; Bern. Having researched this diminutive city, located in the Mittelland region, we decided it was most definitely worth a visit.

    With the provision of a metered car park (belonging to the Paul Klee museum) just 2km from Bern's central square, we chose a day visit instead of staying overnight at a less central location. Charges came in at 2Sfr (£1.60) an hour, or 7Sfr for the day.

    Bern is a small city, the roads are well designed and despite being a Friday, were quiet, so the drive in was as stress free as any we've experienced.

    Modern, efficient and frequent electric buses had a direct line into the centre, but we thought we'd gain more of a feeling for the area on foot. What immediately struck us was the calm, uncongested and unhurried atmosphere; not what you'd expect in the suburbs of a capital. Well designed and maintained low rise apartments mingled with elegant townhouses and surprisingly, an orchard with a small flock of sheep! Compact gardens and balconies grew colourful flowers, ornamental grasses and shrubs, while ancient Beeches and Horse Chestnuts thrived in larger plots of wild ground. We were definitely liking what we'd seen so far!

    Bern's UNESCO listed Old Town, built between the 12th and 15th centuries, occupies a tongue of land within a sharp meander of the Aare River. Even on this drizzly grey day the view of the terracotta tiled houses rising up from the turquoise blue water made our hearts melt. Protruding above the skyline were the Gothic spire of Bern Münster and the green and gold domes of the parliament buildings, each sporting the square Swiss flag.

    Crossing the arched stone Nydegg Bridge we passed the Bärenpark, home to Finn, Björk and Ursina, three brown bears. Bern has a long history with bears, some even say this is where the city's name originated. These creatures have long been kept in cramped pits, the last one closing in 2009 following the death of its remaining occupant. Whilst this new Bear Park is 6000 square metres with trees and a river fed pool, we weren't convinced with the ethics of keeping bears captive in this city centre confine while tourists leant over the bars of their enclosure trying to attract their attention for photo opportunities.

    Once over the bridge we were caught up in the quaintness of cobbled streets, flanked by porticoed walkways, off which lay a smörgåsboard of boutiques. Many outlets contained skilled crafters making and mending leather goods, watches and shoes. Others sold fabrics, fashion, souvenirs, Swiss Army knives and antique curios. Bern again defied our preconceptions, having the feel more of a high end market town than a major administrative centre.

    So enthralled were we that the need to find food was forgotten, until Vicky turned from Jekyll into Hyde. There were a range of options; fondue, kebab and some really expensive looking restaurants, but mindful of our limited budget we opted to find sustenance at Bread à Porter bakery, who heated up a tasty mozzarella and tomato baguette and a small leek quiche for us.

    Now it was time to see the sights! So compact is the Old Town that we ended up criss crossing the same latticed streets more than once, but first we headed to a viewpoint on Kirchenfeldbrücke, where looking back revealed even better sights of parliament on the left and the cathedral spire on the right. We timed our arrival at the Zytglogge just right. A few tourists were beginning to gather in the fenced off 'tourist photo' areas at the junction under the medieval Clock Tower, while a traffic warden made sure buses didn't have to dodge those focussed on their selfie sticks. At 12:56pm a chime rang out and the miniature carousel of figures embedded into this arched old western gate revolved a quarter turn. For the next four minutes we listened and watched as further notes were struck and the guilded characters came to life; the cockerel flapping its wings and the bell player striking their instrument. The artistry of these and the astronomical clock was impressive, but the hourly event a bit of an anti-climax.

    Next port of call, less than 500m away was the Bundesplatz outside Parliament. The grey skies and dull light didn't show this square, nor the fine sandstone building off to their best, but they were impressive nonetheless and the 26 water jets layed into the paving (one to represent each Swiss canton) added a modern element of fun. Our hope had been to enter and watch the house sitting from a gallery, but arrangements seemed to have changed from when our guidebook was written because we were informed by security that we'd need to book online.

    Nevermind, we'd saved the best for last! The tallest church spire in Switzerland rises 100m and belongs to Bern Münster. For 5Sfr you can scale the tightly spiralled stone staircase at one corner of the bell tower, peaking through tall, narrow, arched openings as you climb to see the terraced rooftops dropping away beneath you. At 46m we emerged onto a walkway leading around the outside of the rectangular structure, before taking another 90 steps to the second, smaller, octagonal gallery platform at 64m. From here we took in Bern's position, cupped amongst lush green hills, with far off views of the snow capped Bernese Alps. We spent a long time enjoying this new found perspective, Vicky was particularly taken with the different hues of hexagonal tiles capping identically shaped dormer windows and surrounding cutesy roof top gardens. Although many were hidden by the arcades lining each cobbled thoroughfare, we still marvelled at how few people we could see. Perhaps Swiss prices make foreign tourists (like us) think twice about visiting, but whatever the reason, Bern's uncrowded, unhurried nature is part of this very likeable city's charm.

    N.B. Special thanks to our friends Cath and Paul. We counted out 10Sfr worth of their centimes to pay for entry to the Münster spire - definitely the highlight of our day!
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  • Day1193

    Schwengimatt, Thal Regional Nature Park

    October 2 in Switzerland ⋅ 🌧 11 °C

    To watch the 3 minute video accompanying this post click here: https://youtu.be/YojxwhcOlb8

    Martha is currently parked 1053m above sea level. There is a howling wind and we lost visibility hours ago as rain and cloud closed in. It is only our second night in Switzerland, but from what little we've seen, we like it a lot!

    We began this morning at an altitude of just over 750m and crawled along a narrow, winding road, dropping 400m down to the flat valley floodplain and a good quality dual carriageway. (The forested mountain route was stunning, but buying a vignette for the motorways was definitely the right decision).

    10km later we pulled into a small rest area. Here there were litter bins, a drinking water tap and public toilets that we were able to empty our chemical free cassette into. Finding van facilities such as these is always a worry when visiting a new country, so it was comfort to have been able to access them.

    The next stop was in a town. Our friends Cath and Paul had helpfully provided us with some Swiss coins to get us started, but we needed an ATM to stock up on francs. The first we tried was a 'Postomat'. It didn't want to cooperate (perhaps it was only for Post Office account holders?) but another machine at a nearby bank happily provided us with notes.

    Confident we could pay for goods at the town's Co-op we trawled the aisles to get a feel for the place. The populous of each country has its own predilections when it comes to food; we find this is best represented in the way supermarkets stock their shelves. Unsurprisingly sauerkraut, raclette and fondue gruyere cheese featured prominently, but there was also a big selection of different flavoured mayonnaises in squeezy tubes such as you find tomato pureé in. To our relief the cost of food wasn't as high as feared.

    Another point of interest (for us at least) was that all prices were multiples of 5. It seems the Swiss don't have currency of less value than 5 subunits. The coins are called different things in each of the country's four languages, so are marked only with their worth. (Centimes in French, rappen in German, centesimo in Italian and rap in Romansh).

    Listening to the cashier and other customers as we queued to pay, was our first experience of Swiss-German. Through our knowledge of German we were able to understand a little, but couldn't begin to speak it.

    Our overnight parkup, on the edge of Thal Regional Nature Park required yet another slow and cautious drive up a mountain road with passing places. Maintenance work was taking place in the forest and at one point Vicky needed to hop out and clear a tree branch blocking our path. We were glad of the new tyres fitted during Martha's recent service!

    Cresting a peak an amazing view and our destination was revealed. Verdent forested slopes formed a huge valley with grazing pastures and isolated hamlets providing some sense of scale. We were awestruck. As if this wasn't enough, Maps.Me revealed a myriad of trails, so after lunch we set out for a short walk. Close by was a park with stone firepit, grill and tongs, giant seesaws and swings which amused Will for more than 5 minutes (just).

    Stones set into the forest floor marked the way and provided grip. Cloud enveloping the slender trunks to our right, lent a mystical feel to the air. The first viewpoint we reached had been obscured over time by growth, but the second, a bench on a small fenced platform, was magnificent. A town, patchwork fields and road network spread out on the flood plain hundreds of metres below, while hills with the occasional castle or grey stone cliff, rose up to the clouds. We were so high up it almost seemed we were looking at a miniature model world.

    Soon after settling back into Martha a vicious rain began to lash the hillside, ably abetted by strong winds. The heating was working double time to keep us warm and we were shocked to see a runner, then a cyclist braving the conditions and powering up the slopes. Respect to them!

    The temperature fell to under 3°C overnight, but happily the wind and rain abated. At sunrise Vicky walked to a different viewpoint. Both the steep climb and the vista took her breath away. A craggy outcrop provided the perfect natural promontory above a huge valley full of white cloud. With an amber sun just peaking through silhouetted pines to the left, it was almost 180° before you reached a nearby mountain peak to the right, the light of golden hour enhancing the warm hues of autumn leaves. Above the cloud rose the distant band of Alps and their foothills, while at its near edge, patches of pastureland and a village could be seen. Looking closely, Vicky made out a herd of cattle following the line of a fence. Through the still morning air the sound of their bells reached her, mingled with those of the village church.

    After sharing this outstanding panorama with Will via video chat, she peeled herself away, only to stop soon afterwards, having spotted something large moving between the trees. It was an Alpine Ibex, just 20m away! She could hardly believe it when another appeared and they allowed her to raise her camera and film them. Although very aware of her presence, they stayed around for five minutes or more before disappearing into the shade.

    Later we retraced the route together and picniced on the viewpoint bench. We felt so very fortunate to have been able to travel to this incredible place.

    Rounding the day's activities off, Vicky went in hunt of a nearby Geocache, eventually finding the little box stowed away at the base of a Beech tree. Snug within the van we relished the stillness, quiet and beautiful views, which were capped off in style by a stunning cloud formation at sunset.
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