May 22: Late post after a great night

Oops, I didn’t write yesterday because we went to visit friends Leonie and Bjorn, and their two kids Maya and Sebastian, and got home at midnight, way too tired to write.

I spent a few hours with Pastora in the late afternoon then caught the 5pm commuter-crazy-hour train from Bern to Brügg, near Biel. (Wow I do not miss that kind of commuting. In Sydney, in the last place I lived, it was a 20 minute walk or short bike ride to work!)

Leo picked me up from the station at 5.30pm and we drove to Leonie and Bjorn’s traditional Swiss house, which they’ve been renovating over the past few years. Six hours later we left – those hours just flew! I feel bad as they would have had to be up early this morning with the kids. Oops!

fitfor15in15

Maya and Bjorn preparing the garden room for dinner

fitfor15in15

Leonie and Maya

Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of Sebastian. At first he was shy, but after our discussion about whales and sharks, he was very entertaining. It was the first time Leo had met the family and the first time I’d met Bjorn and the kids.

Leonie is a friend of a friend in Melbourne, and she’s been living in Switzerland for nearly five years. We’ve enjoyed our weekly Tuesday lunchtime catch ups for about two months now. Thank you for a great night guys and we look forward to you coming over in summer!

Will write more, for today’s post, tonight.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

May 21: Running around without raising a sweat

Today was an on-the-go kind of day – I should have worn my running shoes!

My phone died this morning (Leo says from overuse – can’t argue) so I borrowed the neighbours’ car to go to a nearby shopping centre with a phone store, hoping they could fix it. No luck – it’s been sent away for a week, like a naughty kid suspended from school – but at least I have my old phone to use in the meantime.

This is one time I’m glad I haven’t been a minimalist and gotten rid of the old phone as soon as the new one arrived. The old one feels like a brick in comparison, and the photo quality will be pretty average, but I’m contactable, which feels more important than it should be. I’ll carry my compact camera around in case I see Betsy and friends again.

Amazing things, cars. I even managed to do a grocery shop AND go to the nursery for more plants and soil. I wasn’t going to put planter boxes on the upstairs balcony but hey, I needed geraniums. It wouldn’t be a Swiss house without geraniums. I was trying to avoid conforming, because it seems like it’s compulsory to have planter boxes overflowing with red geraniums in Switzerland … so I chose pink ones instead. Still a rebel.

Couldn’t plant them this afternoon because it was raining so much, but hopefully I’ll do it on Saturday … if the weather gets any better. It was five degrees Celsius this morning, and 10 degrees at 3pm. Come back spring, we miss you already.

I really, really, really have lost my exercising mojo. I feel worn out, and I look it too, but really, I’m not worn out, I’m just being lazy. Which is a shame because the fitfor15in15 six-month mark isn’t too far away and I want to look and feel my best. (I blame the mammoth book, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, that I’m still reading. What a sorry sack that whole story is at the moment – it’s leaching into every pore).

So, banishing the book and with the halfway mark as my motivation, I’m off to do 15 minutes of squats with hand weights, push ups, sit ups, lunges and all that kind of malarkey.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

fitfor15in15

Here’s Betsy’s hairy Scottish cousin, Beryl, who lives in the north of Switzerland

May 20: Tulip season is over – with a bull…dozer

My fitfor15in15 exercise today was to walk to the shops and back. I’m counting this as 40 minutes of exercise because I could have borrowed the neighbour’s car. Cheating?! No! The weather was pretty average again and also cold, so walking instead of driving was a torture of sorts. 🙂

What was even more torturous was seeing the tulip field. It’s gone! All gone! Bulldozed! And they’ve taken away the little shelter where you wrapped the flowers and paid the money into the honesty box. What the?

fitfor15in15

Walking to the tulip field. These clouds were ominous but cool. Corn growing in foreground

fitfor15in15

And there it was – the bad news

fitfor15in15

Blumen zum selber pflucken …

fitfor15in15

Is no more … totally flattened

But it’s not all doom and gloom, because …

fitfor15in15

A new flower field is across the road

No tulips, but soon there’ll be gladioli and … other flowers that I have no idea about. It’s a smaller space but hopefully it will yield as many colourful blooms, and make me as happy, as the original one. (A neighbour said it’s being rested after years of flowers, so the soil can rejuvenate. Next year it will probably be sprouting corn, sunflowers or wheat.)

But it’s the end of an era. Sob. I loved that field! Especially when the Alps were in clear view – you could take a photo of the flowers in the foreground with the mountains behind. This new field faces the other way. Oh well … that’s nature.

If you would like to see photos of the tulip field from this season, starting from the green shoots, click here, here (first blooms), here (at sunset), here (the best gallery), here (the pink and green one) and here (the vases at home). Sob. Now, they’re just memories … 😉

So you don’t feel sad too, here’s a happy cow.

fitfor15in15

I shall name thee Betsy. The buildings in the top right are where we live

Wishing you a wonderful day.

May 19: Feeling flat … and new nutrition guidelines

It’s amazing how the weather affects my moods. It’s raining, grey and the sky feels like it’s only a few feet off the ground. Do you feel weird when the weather’s less than appealing? Especially when it comes hot on the heels of a lovely day?

Of course, it could also have something to do with the book I’m currently reading, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I’m halfway through the story of Theo and it’s quite depressing – a life going, or possibly already gone, off the rails. Maybe I should listen to more of Cary Elwes’ audio book As You Wish, which is his behind the scenes account of the movie, The Princess Bride. I love that film – maybe I should watch it to lift my spirits!

I feel like I’m here, but not here. Know what I mean? I’ll snap out of it when the sun shines again, I’m sure.

My friend Sandra sent me this very funny article yesterday about living in a foreign country and trying to speak the language. Sandra has German, Swiss German, English and Spanish under her belt, so she’s on fire. I’m making limited progress with German and have really no idea what’s being talked about 40% of the time when I hear Swiss German, so I can totally relate to the problems in this story. I had a good laugh … and then gave a hefty sigh, because unfortunately it’s so damn true!

We finished season one of Luther last night, the BBC series starring Idris Elba. I’ve been told seasons two and three are better, thank goodness! That whole storyline with Alice was laughable.

Do you remember growing up seeing posters of the food pyramid (that put fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy and grains etc into a graphic) about how much we should eat? If not, have a search on the internet because there are a hundred versions. Actually, no don’t bother with the old one because the new one is more important. Here is Nutrition Australia’s new healthy eating food pyramid. What do you think about the new weightings for foods? Less grains (used to be the bottom layer) and more veggies seems smart, and there’s no section for treats anymore – is that achievable? Maybe only for the dedicated! It’s printed out and stuck on the fridge, as a friendly reminder.

The more research I do, the more I keep seeing/reading that diet is more important than exercise and maybe, just maybe, it’s slowly sinking in. There was definite success on the 5:2 Diet, about 2kgs in four weeks, but I hate counting calories. What a drag! I have to stop eating chips or chocolate biscuits as an after-dinner snack … and don’t get me started on the Berliners! I had just one on the Swiss Camino, on the horrid third day, walking on busy roads. (I suppose one benefit/problem of walking on a busy road is the shops!)

So tonight we’re having couscous with vegetables for dinner and I’ll make a vanilla chia seed pudding for breakfast. The fitfor15in15 exercise today will be 15 minutes of bedtime yoga – my butt injury isn’t fixed, so I’m taking it easy after yesterday’s 4km run.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

May 18: Monday Runday – 4km

I didn’t think I’d be able to do Monday Runday today, because of that pain in my right butt cheek, which has been … well … A RIGHT PAIN IN THE ARSE!

But after reading in the hammock and finishing off the rest of the lawnmowing in the furthest part of the front lawn, I was itching to do more. Because I was covered in grass clippings and grotty already, I thought, c’mon, why not go for a run and test out the injury?

Worried the 5km would be too far, I did the 4km loop and surprisingly, it went ok. It wasn’t a record-breaking time, at 28 minutes, but that included some jumping of muddy puddles on the trail path through the forest and stopping for three photos. I didn’t have to walk at any stage because of pain, so I’m happy! Six hours later the bum/thigh is still happy too.

fitfor15in15

A last glimpse of the fields before heading into the woods

fitfor15in15

A cool trail path, literally and figuratively

fitfor15in15

Nice to see hay bales near home after so many on the recent Swiss Camino

It was about 24 degrees today. Lovely! Still haven’t taken photos of the new garden plants. Maybe I’m not that inspired by them? I’ve gone for a different planterbox filling  – no geraniums this year! How very un-Swiss! Maybe that’s why I’m not feeling the love?

Wishing you a wonderful day.

May 17: Mentally fit with a book

A very relaxing day with absolutely no exercise whatsoever. Well, I finished putting the new plants into the garden this morning (and promptly forgot to take photos) so that could be classified as exercise. Now there’s some colour behind the hedge, in the garden, on the outdoor table and a window box next to the front door.

The hammock had its first workout; I started Donna Tartt’s new book, The Goldfinch, and lay under the umbrella for a while before the cool breeze sent me back inside. There’s nothing like a swing in a hammock for relaxation I reckon, preferably under palm trees with a blue ocean and white sand close by, but hey, the forests of Wohlen bei Bern and that sensational fresh-cut grass come a close second.

I need to finish the Cary Elwes audio book too, I’ve been neglecting it a bit because his voice is just so jolly posh you can only handle so much of it for so long! If you’d like to see short reviews of the books I’ve read this year, click here. Unfortunately, I’m well behind on my goal of 52 books in 2015. Can it be salvaged? The Goldfinch is going to take me a while to get through – at 864 pages, I won’t be ripping through it in a few hours, like the past few books – so maybe I’ll have to choose some shorter ones to get back on track … is that cheating?!

We also started watching a new Netflix series, Luther, tonight. It’s about a London detective with many problems and some questionable techniques trying to do his job. I’ve been a fan of the main actor, Idris Elba, since he was in The Wire but so far the recurring storyline of series one has me shaking my head in disbelief. I only hope it gets better!

Still having small problems with my right butt cheek muscle, but it’s slowly feeling better and I hope I’m up for Monday Runday tomorrow!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

fitfor15in15

Someone’s clever “rockwall” garden on the walk into Einsiedeln. It was high and long!

May 16: Gardening all day!

Rene, our neighbour and owner of the whole property, called us this morning and asked if we could help him clean the ride-on lawnmower today. No problem!

From midday, we prepared the mower to be in tip-top working condition. We both got a bit sunburnt! Oops. Here’s Leo cleaning out all the caked-on grass.

fitfor15in15

Scraping off the hard grass

I cleaned another part and Rene sharpened the blades and then we put it all back together again. After nearly two hours it was ready to go, and Rene was ready for bed!

fitfor15in15

Rene decided to have a little pause here

The grass was still a bit too wet to mow after yesterday’s all-day rainfest, so Leo and I put up the umbrella at our house and rebuilt the hammock holder. We also made a quick trip to the local shop for some new plants and soil.

fitfor15in15

The terrace looking all summery with the soon to be planted flowers on the table

When we came home, I jumped straight on the mower and did just the back of the house and half of the front. Rene wants to see if the grass in the furthest part of the front lawn can thicken up a bit if we cut it less. So the grass looks a bit half and half. We had lots of problems with the wet grass clogging up the mower again. Afterwards, I decided to weed around the little house Liliane calls the pergola, where they have dinner parties and so on. It’s like a small shack with two tables and an indoor fireplace. Lovely in winter and great for barbecues in summer. Didn’t take a photo of that, I’m afraid.

fitfor15in15

Looking good

fitfor15in15

Can you see the line where I stopped mowing?

Leo made dinner then we sat outside with Liliane and Rene admiring our handiwork and watching all the birds. We finished the night with the James Bond movie Thunderball. I’m feeling exhausted! Right butt cheek muscle is feeling better today, so that’s another win!

Looking forward to planting all the new flowers tomorrow.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

fitfor15in15

My little garden will get a spruce up tomorrow

May 15: Injured at home in the dry

I think it rained once today – all day! Thank goodness we were home, warm and dry. It was also five degrees Celsius – a wee bit cooler than the previous four days! Oh the joy of lying on the couch, looking out the window, thinking what could have been! Horrible! Just horrible!

In general, I haven’t had to walk much in bad weather. The worst experience was in the Black Forest in 2013, when I plodded along for a day in non-stop rain. Stupidly, before I set off, I wondered how wet could I possibly get in seven hours? After one, the only dry part of me was my chest.

Water had soaked up my sleeves past my elbows (using walking sticks meant the water had the chance to run up and down my arms), it pooled around my toes when walking downhill and my rain jacket puckered in such a way under my backpack’s waistband that water poured straight towards my crotch. My walking pants weren’t waterproof and hung so low with the weight of the water that after only a few hours I was treading on the cuffs.

That was the day I saw one other walker. We nodded as we passed each other going in opposite directions and after about 20 metres, unprompted, we both turned around to look at each other and burst out laughing. I know we were both thinking, “Phew! I’m not the only idiot out in this weather!” Despite the dire conditions, the spontaneity of that moment is a happy memory.

That was also the day I vowed to always carry an umbrella in the future, to keep the rain off my face. My clothes dried pretty quickly and it took five changes of stuffed newspaper in my shoes for them to dry overnight.

My current right butt cheek injury still has me baffled. I don’t know how I did it, but I could feel a twinge on day two. On day three, after sitting in the buttercup field, it was really hurting. Everything was generally fine yesterday, except for the final hour into Einsiedeln, and I thought it was going to be ok. Plenty of heat-generating cream later, I’m still hobbling and really hope it will be fixed for Monday Runday!

Needless to say no major exercise for me today. I did some push-ups and sit ups but took it really easy and caught up on lots of reading. That’s good mental fitness!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

May 14: Swiss Camino Day 5

Well, the final day has come and gone, and my right butt cheek is pretty happy it’s ended, but the rest of me wishes we were walking for longer.

Today we did a shorter stretch of 16km from Rapperswil to Einsiedeln, to finish the first third of the Swiss Camino, but because there was a fair bit of uphill it took us about six hours (with stops). See here if you want a detailed description of our whole journey, written by people from the Camino.

When we walked the middle section of the Swiss Camino in 2012 we started in Einsiedeln, so it was a logical end point for this trip. We can now say we’ve walked across two-thirds of Switzerland.

Leaving Rapperswil, you walk through the city, past the marina and onto a wooden footbridge which crosses the Lake of Zürich. What a great way to start the final day, listening to all the birds nesting on the lake, which is a nature reserve. Once across, we walked along a train line for a while, and then headed up, up, up to St Meinrad, where we stopped for a quick sugary drink and then started, for me, the highlight of the trip.

This section, between St Meinrad and Einsiedeln, is the postcard vision we have in our head of what Switzerland looks like – snow capped mountains, lakes, fields, cows, little wooden houses and glorious greenery. I kept taking photos of the same section of landscape, hoping to properly capture its beauty, but, alas, no picture can portray just how awe inspiring it is. You’ll have to come see for yourself!

Another highlight was being charged by a little cow. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of that, but I would have loved a video of him bouncing in front of me, being all threatening, and me running away flailing my walking sticks in the air.

When we arrived in Einsiedeln, home of a very huge monastery, we were shocked by how many people were there, but it is a religious public holiday in Switzerland today, so maybe we shouldn’t have been too surprised! Because of this we didn’t go into the church, as we’d seen it on our previous trip.

We stopped for a much-needed late lunch and then caught the train to Bern and then the bus to Wohlen. It took just over two and a half hours to get home. While walking that 10 minute path from the bus, we felt the first spits of rain, and as I type this, at 10.30pm, it’s raining heavily. Our decision to compress the five-day walk into four days was a good one, because the weather has quickly turned from amazing to miserable.

Signing off for now. The photos once again will tell a better story than me. I think I might start a new section on this blog about walking, with the various hikes we’ve done, but need to work out if the time it takes to set it all up is worth it. Would you like to see more photos of other walks around the UK and Europe?

We haven’t slept well the previous two nights, so hopefully being in our own bed will put everything right again, including that strained butt cheek??

Wishing you a wonderful day.

May 13: Swiss Camino Day 4

Today was tougher than I care to admit, and it was the shortest of the three days we’ve walked so far. Why so tough? Because so much if it – I’m thinking about three quarters of it – was on asphalt. That stuff is a killer, especially when you can see green grass so close by. Walking on a street/sidewalk/footpath is so much tougher on the feet than a natural path and we’re both suffering because of it.

I had my phone interview at 8am which I think was ok (please be good!) and then we left the Hörnli at about 8.45am. Lots of downhill to start the day and then into Steg … and then a very long straight footpath next to a busy road for about an hour. Ugh! Reprieve came in a short grassy path but then it was back onto a narrow road which serviced some smaller villages.

We chatted with another walker in a lovely field of wildflowers and she cracked us up. The first thing she said was the Canton of Zürich, being Protestant, had terrible signs for the Jakobsweg, or Swiss Camino, which is a Catholic pilgrimage. We laughed at first but then we had to agree with her. Not only was this 24km stretch between Hörnli and Rapperswil tough (yes that is the real name of this lovely village on Lake Zürich – I always joke about it being full of rappers), but the signs were pretty non-existent. The woman we spoke with in the field had been on a very long detour thanks to bad signposting, which involved going a long way down only to have to come a long way back up again. She was livid!

Later we spoke with an old woman who ran a little cafe for walkers/pilgrims and she said a few years ago, the canton had ordered all the Jakobsweg signs to be taken down, and because they live on the path, her husband had bought a few of them at the markets and put them up again! They were very helpful, so hats off to him for his foresight!

We struggled slowly into town just after 4pm and I’d lost my sense of humor by the time we found an overpriced hotel. I had a pain shooting from my right butt cheek down my thigh and Leo was also struggling. Why do we do this? Oh that’s right, it’s fun!

We did see amazing snow-covered Alps (the photos don’t really show them so well) and an incredible storm rolling in which thankfully bypassed us, but we were both very happy for the day to hurry up and end.

Even though it’s a lovely city, Rapperswil goes on the ‘must-see next time’ list for when we have more energy. We had a quick drink on the waterfront and then pizza near the hotel, where Leo cracked me up. I took a photo of him at the table and he was surprised that the man who refuses to wear sunscreen could be so sunburnt!

It was warm again today, and our decision to make the five day trip into a four day trip seems to be a good one, because bad weather is forecast for Friday, which would have been our last day of walking. Thankfully, tomorrow is our last day and we’ll be home and comfy on the couch when the bad weather kicks in.

Hope you enjoy the photos. No surprises that I didn’t take many photos of walking along the roads and on the footpaths etc. Hardly inspiring stuff!

I’ll post descriptions when I’m home.

Wishing you a wonderful day.