Saturday, April 24, 2010

Friday, March 19th-London City

Last day in London! I really enjoyed being in the city. Not just because the majority spoke English, which offers a feeling of ability to function.. I really enjoyed everything the city offered (even though I didn’t have time in any sense of the term)

Started the day at the Embankment, and walked down toward St. Pauls. It was a nice walk and a great day out. Paused at the bridge before walking across, turning to the left you could look up the stairs and see the towering church. Then turning to the other side, I walked across the millennium bridge to the British Tate Modern Museum. Before entering the Tate Modern, I walked around the replica of Shakespeare’s Globe!!! It is right on the water, and has a thatched roof!! Could only see the outside… had to pay to get in. Even though not the real/original structure, it was cool to see and imagine what it would have been like, drawing an audience to attend across London.

The Tate Modern was pretty cool, and I wandered through it for a while. I used to really like abstract art, I still do (just not as much). Though, the first few rooms left me more than a little disgruntled and annoyed by the art there. Perhaps I just started in the wrong section, jumping straight into abstraction and surrealism from the great classical renaissance and baroque I have been visually saturated with recently. There were a few rooms that I completely enjoyed! Including some of Picaso’s work and some other for real legit people’s work too!! So it wasn’t a complete waste in any way, just moments of serious irritation. I mean really, some ideas are important and however they chose to express that inner angst is valuable. In some cases it’s educational for me to look at and understand (with the help of the descriptive caption). But there are some works that I just hope it helped them feel better inside to create the pieces.

I left with the emotional turmoil that was often displayed in the pieces. Love and attraction to some of the art. And disdain and disregard to others. Rather abstract feelings eh? Haha

Set out walking back across the bridge, circled around the church (it cost to get inside. So I just appreciated the outside). Located the “Tube” entrance (which I now have practically mastered at using!!)..and set off to the National Gallery! I really enjoyed the National Gallery. I only got through a few rooms, but they had it set up starting in the middle ages and on up through with the painters. (including a da vinci!) I left to meet up with the girls after only walking through a few of the widespread rooms. While waiting, I ate lunch in the plaza in front of the gallery building. Kinda munching (standard of figs, hazelnuts, dates, sandwich(sharp cheese and “pickles”/chutney!), apple and kit kats!) while watching the people around me who were leaning on the fountains, or taking pictures next to the four lions at the base of the pinnacle statue in the center.

The rest of the girls (who came from watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace…which sounded pretty legit. But I had other places to check out! ) and I then went to Abbey Road. That was rad J Simply for seeing/standing where these awesome musicians were so famously photographed! Abbey road is a well used road, even without rush hour it’s a busy road, in fact, one could maybe use the word highway. It took crossing the street several times because of traffic or other people, but there was enough of us to take the pic with the right number of people. (I did not take off my shoes, though I would have if not for the conscientiousness of others).

Following this real life fame locations, we went (by my insisting) to nearby Baker Street. 221b Baker street to be exact visit the location of a fictional character. It was a normal street, with only one sign telling where we needed to go, but when I asked directions..they knew where to point me. Why would 221b have significance? It is WHERE SHERLOCK HOLMES RESIDES!!!! Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote this detective as residing at that address in London, so getting to visit the home (though imagined) was pretty great. I did not take the tour, I don’t need to see the arranged inside of a house that I know even better by my own readings. I also resisted buying a copy of the stories there, though the illustrations were nice, with fresh, thick pages bound between embellished covers.

After that the girls went out to dinner, and I went back to the National Gallery. I only I had an hour, and it was not nearly long enough!!! I felt like I sprinted past whole sections of art (which I may have). But I also stood in front of some paintings with my jaw slightly unhinged. There was one artist (of course, cannot remember the name. though in my defense…I have seen so many names and images/sculptors/ buildings it’s a good excuse) anyway he painted a lot of ocean scenes, with detailed ships and a lot of emphasis on light and the motion of the water. I really liked his work.

ALSO! Saw Van Gogh’s Sunflowers!!! (Like, that piece of art in grade school that the teacher talked about and we all tried to imitate. ) And, my very first Degas dancer J I asked, probably a little obliviously, if the works of art in here were all originals or copies. The museum lady said with a little smile that these were all original paintings. I bounced out of that gallery I was so jazzed at what I had just wandered though.

Went down to the Westminster Embankment for the boat/ferry ride that we got with the bus tickets yesterday. (no one else in the group wanted to) so I hopped on the boat, just as the sun had let the sky fade into a pastel grey. I just sort of zipped my jacket up, pulled the hood over my head and ignored the chill to stay on the top, open part of the boat. It went up the river, past Big Ben and the Abby…beneath the London eye wheel…beneath the bridges that I had walked past this morning and ending at the Tower of London. (I got off the boat, tripped over the edge of the dock…landed on said dock, but nearly took out one of the crew members. *sighs* I will never get a hot Englishman at this rate)

Meandered around the Tower(s)..reading all the posted signs around it about the castle. How it used to be The Entrance to the City. And all the bustling activity that was once such a major part of its core existence and defense.

It was dark by the time I walked across the Tower Bridge…which was awesome because the lights fabricated the towers from the darkness. Scooted down the stairs on the south bank and walked along the river back towards the bus stop. It was a lovely walk! An hour and half, a light drizzle (true London experience) And along different parts of the walk, lights were strung up in the trees. Some just white lights. Though there was one section of big bulbs up in the cluster of trees that were tinged a blue light. It was awesome. (even though I was by myself suffering a mega romantic moment with no one to kiss. It was still awesome) Because you could look up through the trees and they looked like the stars were dangling lower in the sky, or like fireflies had been caught on strings.

I did deviate from the river walk to go on the main street/avoid construction. I got to see the area that used to be the docks (which is disappointingly tall buildings). Took a few turns and ended up in the closed down market area, with the smells of rotting fruit behind closed door stands. Then I turned into another narrow ally, with the buildings leaning together above, and the street lamps leaving pools of light on the slick cobblestone. (to avoid being alone, I sort of chased down a woman ahead of me and vaguely looked like my head was on a spring I was looking around so much). Back by the river,all was peaceful by the water, busy with foot traffic, but quiet and still with just the buildings on the other side stretching wavering reflections in the water.

That walk was one of my favorite in London J In the evening with the many buildings and edges softened in the lighted backgrounds. And always the sound of the river!

Hop skip and a jump back on the bus to sleep until Cambridge. Cheers mates.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

thursday march 18th London City

The song that came to mind was the one that Phil walks around always humming, tic tok… “wake up in the morning…I grab my jacket I’m out the door I’m gonna hit this city!”

Breakfast… toast and jam and tea. And lunch/dinner sandwiches packed. And I brought along my mix of dates, figs and hazelnuts (that I bought in Switzerland). Served as lunch, dinner and snacks supplements.

Hopped off the bus to meet up with Abbie, Sarah, Monica, and Mel! We decided to do the “original bus tour” It was a pretty good choice, because we had an (English speaking) tour person on each bus that you could hop on and off.

First stop, BUCKINGHAM PALACE!!!!!!!! We did not see the changing of the guards that day. Non the less it was still awesome to walk past the gate with the guards dressed in uniform standing on the inside. The middle monument area had some stairs, and fountains around it. With that extra got the best view of the plaza area, the palace, and the gardens to the side. Oh there were so many lovely gardens all throughout and around London. I wanted to run through them, make picnic lunches with friends and spread out a blanket. (also, new intention for life: when I have a house and a family, I shall also need a park where I can walk my baby in a carriage. I have seen so many doing so in the parks, and I think it’s lovely J )

Next! WESTMINSTER!!!!! And Parliament..with “Big Ben”! Which is correctly called the Great Clock of Westminster. We were told the names of some of the statues enclircling the courtyard outside the great church. (Martin Luther, Winston Churchill. And Lincoln was even there across the street too) Oh! Also passed a statue of King know, the good king whose country Robin Hood preserved until his return.

No one else was interested in going into Westminster…and I didn’t make it back. Plus, it was 15 euros! I doubted the inside of the church with the little plaques over the graves of some (serious) greats was worth it..this time.. Besides, I was there! (just outside the walls, instead of inside). We got an unexpected tour of the courthouse. (With pleasant security people!) there were three different main rooms for varying levels of trials. It was really interesting.

Big Ben! Was more than I expected!! With the delicate gold colored embelishments! Though all I could think about was Peter Pan, Wendy and the boys alighting on the clock hands of the big clock. I also gave a shout out to the clock for a couple friends!

Hopping back on, and finally succeeded in getting a seat on the open, top. We drove over one of the many bridges to the opposite bank… Which used to be the docks.

Across tower bridge to drive around “the Tower of London” ..which is misleading because there are actually four towers on this old fortress. It was all such a blur, and I spent every moment clinging to railing and craning my head (without a window finally) to see everything. We left the bus at Piccadilly Circus.

Piccadilly is not actually a circus, and the streets to not have entertainment on them besides what the crowds bring. Which was actually pretty exciting!! Just the hustle and bustle of people in the city and the activity the crowds bring. We walked back to Harrods, just to walk through. The front display windows were sort of trippy with the colors and the manikins dress and the “set” design. But a couple brought to mind Alice in Wonderland. Though only one had the mad hatter in it…

Inside were floors and entier levels devoted to things like perfume, clothes (expensive clothes) and a notorious toy department. It was crazy, but really spiffy and nice. ( Though If the place sold out and donated all profits..we could probably solve world hunger/find a cure of cancer or AIDS.)

Next we walked to a corner restaurant, up a narrow, carpeted stairwell to the upper part of the restaurant for food. Since I had packed food, I just had a light ale (English style) with some help from the bartender/server in picking! It was nice and relaxing.

Off to the metro then to Victoria Coach station to safely board the bus. Slept like a champ for most of the ride back. Picked up by Francois in Cambridge, and once “home” curled up in that big, soft, warm bed (yes I have said this already. The novelty will doubtfully ever fade.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Wednesday March 17th


Woke up at a early 6:15am so I could have breakfast and get to the bus stop by 7am. Susie woke up as well, to make me a black tea (drastic switch from the expresso/lattes I have been having) but warm and welcomed!! Cereal… and she gave me a sandwhich, apple and a couple kitkat bars for lunch! J I know I am fully capable of making my own sandwich…but it was just really nice to be taken care of like that. Maybe I’m not as grown up as I hope. Maybe it’s something that happens when your in a foreign country for two months..maybe it’s a traveling alone feeling… who knows? Whatever the reason, I appreciated it a lot.

Oh! And Francois drove me to the bus stop that early as well! Forgot to get in on the opposite side of the car though.. had to be intentional in remembering that…

Two and a half hours later! Disembarked at the Embankment stop, so I could walk across the bridge to get a look at the city and get my bearings. (So I was told) It really did help, francois was kind and they were both full of tips and suggestions. Then approached the daunting subway/”Tube” system. (In London, it is The Tube…not the metro). One of the workers handed me another map, and once inside, another worker pointed me in the right direction. (thank you!!!) when I say point, I mean..point without gesturing and with full sentences! English language. Comfort level just spiked!

Well, after some wandering, a great deal of map scrutinizing, and a few directions… I was in the middle of a stare down with a map…determined that if I didn’t blink first it would be forced to surrender the information I was seeking.. when I kind lady asked if I needed help! (and I understood what she wasy saying!) She dragged me on a bus (the oyster metro pass lent to me worked on there. Oyster=magic for transportation) and told me when to get off and which road I would be on, which sides the museums would be located on (she even had me repeat! 2 right, 1 left)

Strolling down the road, the first one I came to was the Museum of Science. I had every intention of entering and exiting without out lingering too much.. Well. This place is like the Carnagie in Pittsburgh on steroids. There’s different levels, and different wings to each level, and different rooms and mamma mia! Kids everywhere!! Short, medium, screaming, running, carried, crying, families, school uniforms. Phewf! It was cool though, because then when I was eagerly leaning towards an exhibit, I was usually surrounded by a small pack, just as eagerly (if not more so) looking as well. There was the history and progress of machinery, with an old steam engine..explained and with a mini model. (including a special new technology, F1…Fast Forward. I don’t really know how (tho I eagerly read most of the captions), but it can be used for everything from knee replacements, car racing. I really started missing Pappy. Perhaps that why I investigated nearly each level and lingered a bit too long. I knew he would have enjoyed it. I could imagine him pointing out interesting things to me and staying behind to figure out the diagrams.

Kicking myself for staying so long I hustled next door to the Natural History Museum. History of the earth, layers of rock (fossils!)…natural disasters like volcanoes and earthquakes. Layed out so that the mass amounts of kids everywhere could understand it. But still interesting so that I could shamelessly look at everything as well.

Highlight: The floor with all the different sorts of rocks. By rocks I mean the sparkly kind too! Of this and such a mineral in a crystal, and that sort of composition making this pretty color. There were rainbows of colors in all types of crystals.( Including Kryptonite! )

Also, a human anatomy section. *bright eyes* and I KNEW WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT! Nervous, reproductive, muscular, skeletal. I got giddy that I could recognize the systems, remember names, follow charts. (look at the brain with the CNS down the spine still attached) Though I didn’t remember nearly everything, I did remember just enough to bounce away feeling like I knew a very small piece of something worthwhile.

Just when I thought I was done, I walked through these halls with bird species, and then fossils. Now, when I say fossils, I mean dino style it seemed. Crocodile sort of creatures that took up half the wall and whose bones loomed over my head. Holy tamoli. There was a Darwin area too..though I only sort of breezed through. Natural selection. Bird beaks.

Still one more museums that was recommended that I decided to hit with the hour I had remaining…Victoria and Albert Museum! Good thing I didn’t start there…but wish I could have stayed longer. There were artifacts from different countries. Sculptures, clothing, art. European, Middle Eastern, Oriental. I might have glanced through half. Maybe.

Hurried off to Victoria Coach station (beginning to love the metro system). Arrived in enough time to catch a bus to Oxford earlier then intended..but had to stand in line for a nix that plan. Sadly, by the time I caught the next bus(3:00 or 15:00)…then got stuck in heavy traffic in two cities…I didn’t make it there until after 5. Oh well, plans rarely work out like they look on paper.

I practically lept off that bus I was so excited! I had printed off a map… but it was missing several key things. So I bought one of oxford at the info center and strode down the road. It was a shame that I would only get a few hours there, because it seemed like a really interesting and lovely place!! Then, off to my left there was the Eagle and Child J Along with a hanging wooden sign. I asked someone to take a picture of me in front of it. (could not convince myself to feel embarrassed by the waiter who walked out to see me grinning in front of the camera) I intended on just going in and getting something to drink and sitting in the corner. But realized I should probably get something on my stomach. So I ordered Fish and Chips with a “Green”-ness (Happy St. Patricks Day!) I didn’t even put on the cool, confident, single lady sitting to the side façade. I was SO JAZZED just to be there! So, to describe…

The front of the Eagle and Child is right on a mainstreet. Stepping inside, through a low doorway..there are a couple rooms of tables and chairs on the left and the right. Following the main passage down a few yards, the bar and where you order is on your right. Glance at menu and order there then get a good drink served on tap. Carrying drink, find a place to sit down! There are a couple rooms that go almost straight back. Some with tables, some with stools along the side where there’s a table top fixed to the wall. Some of these rooms also had more. I thought about quietly sitting in one of these corners. However. I was interested in The Rabbit Room. It is the first open room one comes to from the door, past the bar where one orders. There is a large fireplace on the farside as well. It is also WHERE THE INKLINGS MET!!!!!!!!! These men formed a literary group that met every Tuesday there at the Eagle and Child, and called themselves the Inklings. The basic idea of the group was to promote literature, fantasy and reading/writing. To think that in this shadowy room Tolkien could have read a chapter idea or song he had jotted down. Or C.S. Lewis may have presented a chapter in progress from Narnia. I sat in the corner closest to the next room directly next to the fireplace. The waiter handed me my delicious (hot!) food with a wink (me: still too glazed over and excited to bother registering the move and flirting back ) So I sat in the corner, scrawling away in my notebook, chowing down and imagining all sorts of fanciful conversations and characters. I did stand on tip toe to examine the framed papers above the fireplace. One was a letter of thanks or something written to the pub for letting them use the place. Another had all their signatures! I was very excited at how illegible their handwriting was.. simply because mine is as well. I suppose it is a sign of potential for brilliant things ;) A lot of the men were of high position in society (deans, professors etc) and therefore: I shall never again feel childlike in my imaginative little jottings!

Walking away with an accomplished and excited feeling bubbling inside of me…I set off back down the road. It was evening, and just getting dark. I was beginning to wonder what I would do for the little over an hour that I had until I had to catch the bus. I was intending on walking around a bit, but I didn’t want to wander far and get turned around, nor did I have any clue where wandering would be interesting. Oh. And the whole safety bit too (seeeee friends, I DO use my common sense. No need for concern!)

Standing outside a passageway with the iron decorated arch of the Black Friars (they are a big deal here it seems. A whole metro stop named after them). I was just walking away when this short lady came bustling up towards the door. Her shopping bags were swinging, and her curls were bouncing, and out of breath from running. She called out that I can come inside if I like! Mass is just starting! I declined... I am not catholic, nor was I all the keen on spending my time in yet another church while finally here in Oxford. (Along with the fact that I had a bus to catch She insisted, it is only a half an hour long. Anyone is welcome! (yikes, I should think with my face less or something) was it her persistence and enthusiasm that encouraged me? Was it the lack of any other direction for the evening? Was it the st. patty’s day celebrators that I had just passed on the street?? Whatever the reason, I decided why not!

And attended my very first Catholic mass!

Crossing herself when we walked in (I just sort of bowed my head) then kneeling before turning into the row of seats ( I did a little bend at the knee) and sitting all but 3 rows from the front, right in the center! *arrows and signs over head all screaming, “out of place!”

The church itself was plain, but lovely. With a very high ceiling that arched overhead. In the front on a step up, the priests and…black robed brothers (monks? Friars? Terminology!) sat on the pews along the sides.

I followed along like a pro. I knew next to none of the words, but my lips were moving with words in pretty good sync. Plus my friend next to me would point out where we were at. The sermon was actually really good..on st. Patrick getting rid of all the snakes. The priest/guy in the different robe leading had a good sense of humor and presented it in a way that was applicable to life. ( I liked him a little more when he mentioned how even the church and leaders are not free of “snakes”, because of all the issues back home in the states. Because he didn’t just ignore it and act like the church is all perfect)

The liturgy was sung in monotone… or, well I don’t know what style but with only a half step or step up or down a few times in the straight line. Our voices melded together and floated to the ceiling before echoing about the open spaces. It was lovely.

Panicked a little bit when we went to go take communion. But when I told her I wasn’t catholic she taught me the defensive pose of having my arms crossed over my chest (left over right??) for when I approach the alter so I could receive the priest’s blessing. It was pretty awesome.

(Sometimes I get unexplainably angry or frustrated at such church rituals and protocals. But the whole time I spent in that church, for the first time completely surrounded by such things..I was void of any anger or inner annoyance. I was able to appreciate those things and let them be a comfort that I could exist inside.) The whole time we prayed and such, I kept my hands clasp or on the seat in front of me and just simply thanked God for having me be where I was, and asking Him to help me understand and learn or whatever I am supposed to from being there that evening.

Stayed a little longer for the singing afterwards. Call and response following the same notes that rarely changed. It really was beautiful to be there.

Afterwards I got to talk to the lady who had led me inside. She told me she had thought I was catholic, for I had seemed really pious.We talked some, where we were from what we were doing (she was dressed in all white for the area of the church of which she is studying) She also told me at first she thought I was French ! (because of my “visage”…direct quote) We walked towards the bus stop, talking back and forth. Her rapid chatter was kind and very friendly, I really enjoyed listening to her.

I know I just spent a lot of time with a strung out description that is leaving you skimming over the “main points”. But forgive. It just seems significant, at least at the time. Maybe it’s a side effect from traveling alone…

Stopped at the Eurobar…just to walk through. It was on the corner, right by the bus stop. Apparently it was the inspiration for Tolkien’s design of the Prancing Pony. Not how I pictured it..but when I paused to take a good look, imagining the beloved characters from within the dimensions Tolkien wrote them.

Caught the last bus out of Oxford to Cambridge (three hour bus ride part three)….And was picked up at the bus stop by francois again J I am so blessed by wonderfully nice people.

Flopped into that wonderful, warm, big double bed at the end of the day.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday, March 15th-last day in Switzerland

Morning was as God intended. Peaceful. Slow. Easy going. I woke up early, even just to re-locate to the sunny living room downstairs. Milk! (fresh! Rather delicious. Extremely healthy) for my cereal. And jam on the (also fresh) bread. Some goats cheese on the bread as well! An expresso with foamed milk (I’m learning how to do that!).
Monica, her oldest and very awesome daughter, took me into Zurich for the day. It was just a 45 minute drive, bought a bus pass, and headed into the center  I didn’t really notice any difference at first in the architecture or anything. But after walking around a bit, I began to see the little details. The outer façade of most of the churches were really similar. [I kind of launched into details on each of the churches I visited real quick in my journal…] The highlights: Fraumunster church had stained glass by Marc Chagall. I knew this guy was the real deal, but I did not realize how impressive it was! The day was slightly overcast, but when you walked into the chapel with the 5, tall, windows..the colors (green, blue, red, yellow) lept to life from the walls. Each window depicted something different –the old testament, prophets, new testament. In a colorful blend of pieces of vivid color.
The bridge over the river…walking across you could look down one direction and see the town, bridges, and copper green church steeples. Turning your head and looking the other way for the river to open into the lake with the mountains on the opposite shore.
Also, the St. Peter’s there with an a clock face of 8.7 meters in diameter…the largest in Europe!
The insides of all the churches were very similar, with their high ceilings and plain interiors. But each was different too, in subtle ways. Some short and squat, others narrow and lean. Some with small, deep windows, others had tall and shallow ones.

For lunch, I had a pretzel sandwich!!! It was a brie like type French cheese on it, and was delicious! Also got a (still hot) pretzel with sunflower seeds sprinkled on it!!! And when I say sprinkled I mean covered!

After we returned home, after a short time to chill and grab a snack, I decided to go for a run before dinner! Ended up going the entire way to the lake again and bought some chocolate-s pastries for dessert my last dinner there to thank them. The whole run there it rained on and off, and then the whole way back it rained as well (more on than off, and there was some snowy pieces in the rain as well) And that hill that I had followed the whoooooole way down…I had to run…and by this I mean walk as well.. All. The way. Back up! Which wouldn’t be a problem…if all of one’s appendages wernt soaked and slightly chilled. (also since I havnt really run many hills at all while in rome…it’s really kinda flat besides the 7 big ones) It was really lovely in the rain though, the earth smelled like it was welcoming spring. And the sound of the rain on the leaves was like home, soft and soothing.
As I was huffing and puffing up the last “bit” of the hill, I suddenly emerged from the shadows of the trees into a field where the sun was low in the sky on the right…sending out brilliant rays across the earth before leaving it. The light turned the trees to gold and the damp air was filled with the inescapable pale yellow that streamed from the orb. To my left, the dark, heavy, rain clouds scurried away. I glanced up, and saw a rainbow almost directly over my head!! It ended in the field to my left..right in the center of it! Then it arched into the air, over the trees and disappeared amidst them. Each and every color was vibrant and clear. I wanted to run into the center of the field, and stand inside the base of the colored arch. But as I kept walking…I realized the fables of fools gold were true. Not in the sense that any pots or leprechauns appeared (though that would be appreciated… ) but that the very nature of the rainbow is the reflection of light off of moisture in the air and back to your eye. So when you move, or the angle of the light and moisture changes….so does its location. (though I’m sure that’s not a real science reason…it was the one I came up with in that moment)
I don’t care how old I am supposed to be. The first thoughts that went fluttering around my head were all of a prince astride horse (or unicorn..whichever) galloping to come get me. Or any form of true love. I thought of Neverland, and wondered what it would be like to go down the curve of the rainbow like a slide. Maybe it was lack of oxygen but my imagination went skipping and dancing about and I practically bounced back to the house. It ended up taking me a couple hours total, with all the uphill striding. So worth it 
Dinner was of course good! Part of dessert was ripe kiwi from the cellar, pureed and then drenching a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And the chocolate esses were perfect, cunchy on the outside, and still soft chocolate on the inside!!! Practically warm. Twas perfect. (and they even stayed in relatively good condition despite the long jog back) I was really sad though, that it would be my last evening in Switzerland. It was so relaxing and healing being there. Getting to take it easy and be curled up next to the wood stove. It was almost like being at the lake house at Canadohta…
However, after the rest and love and care...I was ready for the next adventure!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sunday, march 14 -Swiss Mountains!

MOUNTAINS!!!!!!A HHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Ursula was kind beyond reason and drove me an hour away to a place where we could take a cable car about halfway up. One could take another car the rest of the way up and a) ski back down or b) hike/snow show around some packed trails on the top.

She called the mountains Alpstien, since they wernt part of the Alps, but like, just a little away from them,.. An Alp-let!. The mountain I hiked on was in Toggenburg!!! I didn’t hike along more then a few thousand meters up, but my ears still popped on the ride up! We hiked together for the first half, the trails were packed snow, and went parallel to the top, so nothing too too steep. Through pine trees, winding along the side of the mountain. The trail was called, something roughly translated to “Trail of sound” with little noise maker stations. Like, pipes to blow in that increased chromatically, a bunch of cow bells (or goat bells!) dangling that you could run through, and send them all ringing and clanging. For the “kids” this was therapeutic amounts of fun!

We paused at a ski lodge where we bought fries ( I didn’t think I wanted any, until I tasted one! Daaaaang!) I had an apple cider drink…like slightly alcoholic (being fermented) but hardly any. Apparently it’s a common thing around there, because of the copious amounts of apples they have! And rather tasty too!

For the next bit, we decided to meet up after I took the longer loop. Setting out, I confidently went up a hill, following the packed snow trail. There were some pine trees above the trail, and above those the mountain tops disappeared in the low, grey clouds. There was lots of snow everywhere!!! And the sun even made an appearance amidst the clouds. I followed the walker trail, all packed and wide. When all of a sudden, it got very narrow, and a lot less packed. So about every other step I sunk into the snow like, up to my knees. I figured I’d just keep following this and it would open back up into the main trail, or meet up with it soon enough.

Winding through some dips and rises, with snow consistently up to the knees (snow shoes look amazing! Anyone who says otherwise is missing important life experience. I am missing OUT. Mental note for next time!) decided to follow a “bunny trail” or snow shoe trail up a little hill. In the name of adventure!!! 20 plus minutes later, finally hauled up that hill…snow up to thighs…turned around after the final scramble (no significant distance..but non the less…) Turned around, and saw on the other side of the valley, the mountains mirroring the ones I was walking along. It was rather awesome. I finally found that main trail. For walkers! (that’s me! With frosted femurs) And I popped out on this little plateau sort of area, open without any trees! The mountain tops seemed closer, the clouds close enough to practically run up and take a scoop from. The mountains across the deep valley (with the teeny houses clustered at the bottom) were filling my panoramic view. Snow covered and with steep sides of rock. And the sun came out, to make all the snow that stretched out on that flat space around me turned into a glittering, sparkling blanket. I made a snow angel J in the alpstien! Yee J

Following the packed, wide WALKING trail, I made great time. Wandering and weaving along the side of the mountain. I couldn’t get enough of the cool, fresh air. Or the trees. And the snow! I practically succeeded in thinking like a man. By this I mean thinking of absolutely nothing except the moment! I was thinking of songs like “winter wonderland”, and humming to myself. And yes, I busted out a dance move on those trails! Bounded through the paths, realizing there really are no signs that I understand, but I figured out my way back pretty smoothly. It was sad to come off the mountains…but I have absolutely every intent to come back to snow shoe or ski on these mountains. ( And when I say ski….i really mean “snow plow style” the whole way down. Because those hills were extremely steep)

On the drive back, we had crackers and delicious chocolate. Melt in your mouth style! Ended the day, a little pink nosed, and rather tired. We had Fondue with a very strong, flavorful cheese!! First just bread dipped in.. and then we tried (canned) pineapple dipped in it…and it was surprisingly tasty! The sweet made the cheese less extreme. Don’t ask me, I just tried it and liked it.

Spent the rest of the evening curled up with a book sitting next to the wood stove, in a rocking chair, sipping (handmade) sweet Elderberry juice with my water. There is really no other way I would have wanted to spend my day. It was like both restful and adventurous.