Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Remember the glacier from earlier? Well here it is up close and personal. This is Diavolezza mountain and one of the ski areas in the upper Engadin.

As we rode in the cable car to the top (roughly 10,000ft), we got a birds eye view of what's left of a portion of the glacier and it's protective summer blanket.

As the glacier forms the base for the ski season, it is a precious commodity. Renata remembers when this strip was fully connected to the main mountain and therefore skiing occured well into the summer. I found myself feeling sad for this dying giant of nature.

You can see the start of the ice just to the right.

What can I say about my English speaking star of a tour guide, other than a bloody great big "danka".

And here's yet another way to ascend another extraordinary area of the mountains. This cable car pulls you straight up (and down) to a magnificent brilliant and beautiful vista. There is of course a stunning restaurant at the top and hiking trails that lead quickly off into the wilderness.

Ta-daaaa! As this was my last day it was a perfect destination as I could look down the Engadin Valley and see lakes of St.Moritz, Champfer and Silverplana that had been my playground all week.

A light snack for one! We specifically rode to the small village of Spinas, strictly for the juvenile amusement of the name.

Told you!

And while we're on that topic, while the Swiss are not known for their sense of humor, this sign for the Ladies......

....and the Gents, really made me chuckle.

Then just like that I was back in the old smoke and making my way back from one home to another. If I could have extended my stay in both countries I would have, but responsibility called and thank god I live in a place I love, with a job I dig and have a community that loves and supports me. Otherwise I'd might have had to pack up and move to Switzerland!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


The traditional architecture in buildings that I saw all had proportionally small windows. I asked Renata about this and she explained that one way to preserve heat in the winter was to build structures with very think walls and small windows. The downside being the interiors were dark, which is why the bays are splayed out in order to reflect the maximum about of light into the room. It also explains why most of the structures are cream/white to cast back as much illumination as possible.

Of course most of the buildings have been modernized for todays living standards, but I couldn't get enough of the beautiful windows all lovingly tended for by their occupants.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


As we ate ice cream and wandered through the charming and scenic village of Pontresina I spotted someones picture perfect washing hanging out to dry. "Remind me to snap that on the way back" I said, as we went for a wander around the beautiful Grand Hotel Kronenhof.

Awkward would accurately describe how I felt as I tried to surreptitiously snap some poor old ladies underwear. Not so Oly - as he walked boldly on to the lawn, "hey check this out-it's an art exhibit"!

Sitting at nearly 6,000 ft hydration is a must and pretty water fountains are everywhere.

This is Zernez, another stunning village in the Engadin. Renata was a mine of information explaining traditions, ecology, architecture, language and having lived, skied, snowboarded, telemarked, climbed, biked, hiked and bobsledded there she knows this place like the back of her hand.

The staggering thing about many of these buildings is that you go inside a restaurant or cafe and they are ultra modern. Slick, minimal and highly functional using local slate and stone alongside their contemporary furnishings and fixtures. It was incredibly appealing to my senses.

BOOM! As was this....and it only got better as when I rode up here I ran into a wedding at the tiny local village church.

I didn't know when I arrived that whis would turn into a mountain bike holiday. But with so much terrain on the doorstep and a fabby bike in the cellar, I rode four out of six days and could not get enough of the pristine scenery.

In all my tootling I did not see one piece of litter. That's quite extraordinary given the numbers that use all the pathways and trails, which are well signposted and activity is encouraged with (for example) free chopped firewood provided at the BBQ's. Use of the landscape is both nurtured and respected and I marveled at the simplicity of this healthy model that quite simply works. You have to applaud the Swiss, they know what they're doing and it bloody well works....the trick being as a guest in their country you simple match their high standard. Total genius.

Tea time again at yet another marvelous middle of nowhere lakeside chalet.

Nit-wit alert.

By this time I didn't have to ask "Oly, will you take my picture?" instead we'd just jump off the bikes. I'd pose and he'd snap-brilliant!

Friday, September 16, 2011


Making myself right at home (as you do) I borrowed Renata's kit, bike and husband as my personal tour guide. "Let's go for a tootle" I said to Oly, cautioning "nothing too radical" and as we left their house riding on the flat around the lake I couldn't have been happier.

"Just take it easy" he said, as we started to climb with a solid slow cadence and headed away from the watery mirror and into the mountains.

It's one thing to passively see the Alps, it's another to get stuck in and play on them. I'd like to say I'd stopped to admire the view, but the incline finally pulled me off the bike.

All the effort was worth it however, because with every twist and turn I was presented with a visual Swiss fantasy that properly blew my mind.

See what I mean?

Water break perfection.... wait, this is.

And if water's not your thing, how about a cheeky nip of Grappa at the half way point in your ride, let me tell you I'd earned it and was tempted.

Instead we opted for the most amazing cup of tea, hazelnut cake that made us "omg" out loud and a view that was picture postcard perfect. Like a mirage in the desert, this little chalet seemed to me to be in the middle of nowhere and in my wildest dreams I could not have come up with a more idyllic pit stop.

Tea and cake eye view.

What a day and I didn't even show you the cows with their fringes and bells who kept us company along the way *sighs contentedly*.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Good grief, where to begin?

From the UK I headed to Zurich and then took the scenic 3. 3/4 hr train journey up to the Engadin Valley. In a little village called Champfer just past St.Moritz live my friends Oly and Renata and having done zero research, I had no expectations as to what I'd find. But as they are top peeps and live in a place where nature dominates, I knew I couldn't go far wrong.

I kid you not this was the view from the train.

Stunning picture postcard stuff.

On my first full day I awoke to a beautiful blue sky in the majestic Swiss Alps and it was quickly decided we should go stand up paddling at Silverplana. Having attached (I thought) my GoPro camera to my paddle, it was a perfect morning to catch the wonder of it all. Yet 10 minutes in, I looked down to find the GoPro gone...lost somewhere in the lake. I should have been pouty, but we were the only people out on perfectly glassy water which reflected the view and doubled the awe and joy I felt. As we reached the end of the lake a south wind picked up giving us a perfect push for a downwinder back to the surf club.

Time for a spot of lunch.

In front of a bloody glacier, holy ice cap batman!

And at the end of an incredibly wonderful day, the only thing to do is enjoy the local Engadiner beer, prost!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


The primary reason for my visit this year was to help with the last push of unpacking from my Mum's recent move. Her new flat is beautiful and I was totally impressed by the 95% of work that had already been completed. The limited space of this lovely new home required aggressive culling on her part. It's not easy chucking away memories, so much so that as Mum said 'no' I said 'yes' and have ended up with five boxes to be shipped back to Maui!

All I can say is "thank God there's not room for any more stuff", because Mum does love her Amazon account. Customers who viewed this item may also like....the rule is "one in - one out"!

Of course home visit's are all about family and so here's my brother Red being polite and sitting on the tree chair his girlfriend bought him, which I think he preferred putting up - than sitting in.

Meanwhile, me and Red's girlfriend Liz relaxed and enjoyed our coffee from the comfy swing whilst laughing at my brother sitting awkwardly in said tree chair.

And finally, to make sure I really did leave Red dropped me at Manchester airport.....but not before charging a bevi to my room, cheeky git :-)