Desalpe Festival

Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I realize that we live in Switzerland.   We love getting to experience a completely new way of life and new customs.   This past weekend was no exception, when we attended the Semsales Desalpe Festival.

What is a Desalpe you might ask?    In Switzerland, the cows happily live in the Alps in the summer, munching away on the greenest of grassy pastures.  However, the cold snowy temperatures that come in the winter are even too harsh for Swiss cattle.  So every Fall, the happy Swiss cows come down from their summer home in the high Alps to their lower grassy pastures and barns.

Most small villages celebrate their return home with a Desalpe Festival, literally translated, “from the Alps”.

We attended the festival in the town of Semsales, in the canton of Fribourg, near Gruyeres.   This festival is special because of its spacing.  Typically, all the herds are condensed in one parade.  However, in Semsales, each group gets the individual spotlight.    From 10:00 in the morning until 18:00 in the evening, a total of 14 families march through town proudly, welcoming their herd home for the winter.

We got quite an awakening to the procession when parking our car.   Literally, one of the herds came into us!

Well, hello there.

Walking into town, we got to see quite a few more processions.    The first few cows wear very tall ornamentation.  Sort of like Christmas trees on their heads:

Nope – not Christmas in October. Just the Desalpe festival!

Then comes the more subdued cows….smaller floral arrangements.

This lady has a classier look going on. But what she looses in floral prowess, she makes up in cowbell size. Holy cow.

Moo-ve over and get out of my way, lady.

Just an everyday walk on the highway

In addition to the cows, groups of musicians were also a special part of the Desalpe.   We enjoyed the cowbell group:

The cowbell band

Handling their bells. The muscles on these folks have to be strong!

We really enjoyed the Alphorn band

They also have delicious cheese and meat based foods.

This was a super big pot of cheesy potatoes

Local meat, cheeses, and breads for lunch. Plus some nice red wine from the nearby vineyards.

If you are attending a Desalpe, just make sure to wear old shoes or maybe even some wellies.  You are most certainly going to step in something nasty.

Hey lady, maybe you want to keep your baby out of the cow poo

I thought this was my best picture of the day until I realized what was happening.

For a more interesting visual, check out the video footage from our day at the Desalpe:

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Oktoberfest

We had a few friends from the States visiting Europe and they suggested a meet-up in Munich during the 16-day long Oktoberfest.   Sure, twist our arms!

While this was my first time to Munich & Oktoberfest, Gabe was no stranger to the event.   He attended the 201o Oktoberfest on it’s 200th anniversary.

As the biggest festival / fair in the world, with 6 million attendees, it was quite a site to behold. The first thing I noticed is the beer tents are not actually “tents” but beautifully designed wooden buildings.   I was expecting muddy shoes and being outside in the elements, but was pleasantly surprised!

Our group outside our “tent”.

I thought the tent was so beautiful.

Our friend from Geneva, Mr. Lederhosen, arranged for an amazing table inside the tent for us.  Apparently, you have to get tables a year in advance and still you need to be a VIP – either German with a lot of ins, or willing to fork over a lot of cash.   We met some Americans the last day whose concierge said he could get them seated for 5000 euro for their group of six.

Our awesome table location

Mr. Lederhosen hooked us up big time with his Munich connections.   We paid 20 euro each for our seats, and got a liter of beer and a half chicken, a Hendl, to boot!

A and I with our first liters

The best chicken in the world. Mmmm.

There is a special attire for Oktoberfest.  Men traditionally wear  Lederhosen, and the girls wear a German dress called a Dirndl.  Both can wear Bavarian hats called Tirolerhüte.

Typical storefront in Munich

Gabe with A & A in their German attire.

Our host, Mr. Lederhosen in his authentic lederhosen

7 million liters of beer are served annually at Oktoberfest.  We had our fair share.

Prost!

So did the rest of the tent.   I loved when the band played, “Ein Prosit”……

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit 
Der Gemütlichkeit 
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit 
Der Gemütlichkeit. 

A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times
A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times.

An enthusiastic crowd.

It was pretty impressive how much the beer girls could carry.

A typical delivery – 7-8 liters without a tray.

We tried to have a stein-holding competition as well as a beer girl competition.  It was pretty hard.

Who can hold it the longest?

A gave it a good try!

Certain vendors are very popular.  My favorite were the folks selling pretzels.

This pretzel stand means business.

Don’t worry about getting up out of your seat. Pretzels come by every 5 minutes.

The pretzel was the size of my head. So was the beer for that matter.

Gabe liked the pickle guy.

Pickle guy

They also have Lebkuchen – gingerbread hearts for sale.   Gabe brought me back one of these in 2010 that said “I love you” in German.  He had a work trip in Europe afterwards so by the time it reached me, I needed to wet the cookie in the sink to soften it enough so we could bite into it.

Cookie stand

It was still a lovely thought and I really enjoyed getting to experience Oktoberfest myself!

Gratitude Friday: My First Vernissage

The photography group I belong to at the AIWC recently hosted a vernissage.   The word vernissage is common in French & Dutch, and references an opening night of an exhibition before it is open to the general public.  In this instance, it was a vernissage of our photography.

I wrote a small article about the event in the AIWC magazine, The Courier.  I thought I’d share an excerpt:

We are a group of women encompassing all ages and backgrounds.  Our photography expertise is just as diverse as our personal qualities, as we have professionals and beginners.  We have members who have been taking photos just a few months, yet some their entire lives.  We have large paparazzi cameras and we have small “point-and-shoots”.   However, we are all artists.  And we enjoy learning from each other.

Most of our work is done along themes.   Our leader, Wilna, says about themes, ”The theme is like a guide for your eye. It stretches your looking around and influence your focus.  It makes the photographer like a detective, who has his eyes always open for new discoveries.

Sport. Clocks. Bridges. Leaves. Trees. Roofs. Mountains. Textiles. Surfaces. Bottles. Time. Street life. Hands. Shadows. Eyes. Music.     These are yet a few of our themes that inspire our work.

It is quite interesting how a group can interpret these singular words.   Once a month, we come together for photo sharing and each member presents the work they have done along the theme.  Sometimes, photos can be almost identical, and other times, worlds apart.  It is beautiful that way, how we each interpret these themes differently, and thus, we learn and grow together in our perspective. 

In addition to our thematic projects, we have group photo shooting outings where we explore areas of Geneva together.  We also attend exhibitions and share articles and books to draw our inspiration.

This month, we’ll be launching a new exhibition at the club.   Each photographer will display their individual “Passion in Photography,” so you will be able to learn more about their style, motivations and interests through their personal exhibit.  We will host a vernissage, or opening night, on September 27 from 3:30 to 20:00.   We do hope to you can attend so that you can see our interpretations and our passion. 

Seventeen of the women in our photography group exhibited.   Here were a few photos of the set-up before the guests arrived.

Setting up for the vernissage. Photo courtesy of friend, CB.

Setting up for the vernissage. Photo courtesy of friend, CB.

Setting up for the vernissage. Photo courtesy of friend, CB.

The long hallway. Photo courtesy of CB.

For the exhibition, we were encouraged to select photos that represented our passion in photography.  For my wall, I chose to do landscape photography and my favorite thing to do with them: paint.   So, I accompanied each photograph with a painting of that same scene.    The camera lens is sometimes called the “third eye”.  For me, it was meant to show a “fourth eye”: the canvas, and the difference that medium can bring to an image.

Floating Village, Cambodia

White Turf, St. Moritz, Switzerland

Sun Salutation, Jussy, Switzerland

My display. Photo courtesy of C.

So, thus this week’s gratitude post.   This photo group has been very fun to be a part of.   I have learned a lot from the women in the group.  Mostly about patience.  While I tend to rush through things, the women in the group are from different cultures which tend not to be in such a hurry.   Being around them when doing photo-shooting has really inspired me to notice the small things.  Changing an angle or just waiting around for something different to happen can really change the emotion of a photograph.

Aside from that, I am grateful for the social aspect.   We have members from The Netherlands, U.K., U.S.A., South Africa, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Australia, and France.   How wonderful it is to see their perspectives and the subjects that they chose to shoot, and to learn alongside them.

I really do appreciate my time in Geneva for getting to do this. Also, a big thanks to my hubby for his support in my hobbies, especially with letting me use his Big Camera.

For more perspective on the vernissage and the AIWC photo group, you might also want to check out my friend C’s display and post here.

Bon weekend, everyone!!

 

The Blue Mosque

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is most commonly called “The Blue Mosque” because of the 20,000 handmade blue-colored tiles that decorate the interior of its dome.

It was built by Sultan Ahmed from 1609-1616 so is around 400 years old.    The mosque dominates the skyline of Sultanmet.  One of my books said that if Sultan Ahmed could see how many hotels advertise “Blue Mosque” views, then he would be pleased.  His intention was to build a structure more magnificent than Hagia Sophia.

Tourists are allowed to go in, as long as it is not a worship time.  We visited Sunday between their worship services, which occur five times daily.

They have scarfs and skirts to borrow if you aren’t dressed in accordance to the requirements for the mosque which require modest attire and no shoes.  I’d dressed in a longer dress that covered my knees and had cap sleeves, based on my typical preparation for Italy.  I also brought a scarf for a head wrap, hearing from friends that they are required.   However, both Gabe and I had to borrow Velcro “skirts” to make sure our legs were covered.

The tile/dome was quite beautiful.  However, I think Hagia Sophia was more impressive to me based on the fact it was built 1000 years before.   The fact it was the first dome of its kind still wows me.

It happened to be the last night of Ramadan when we were in Istanbul.  We thought Istanbul was busy before, but as night fell on Saturday indicating the end of the 30 day period of daytime fasting, the city came alive.   Since 99% of the Turkish population is Muslim, literally everyone was out and about.

The light sign on Blue Mosque reads, “Say Goodbye to Ramadan”

Slow Up. Wait a minute…

We recently participated in the Geneva Slow Up.   I had read about this bike event last summer.  I noticed it again when flipping through a pdf of the Fête de Genève brochure.   Gabe and I decided that we should do it since we’d been delinquent about riding the bikes we had shipped all the way from the US.   However, we woke up to rainy skies and they were continuing to drizzle at the start time of 10:00.    At 11:00, they cleared and Gabe mentioned that maybe it wasn’t a “hard start” that it was continual.

I was skeptical, but we rode down to Quai de Gustav Ador anyhow.   And, we were pleasantly surprised.  More belated bikers.  And lots going on.  You can start when you like, as long as you finish by 16:00.    You can be on bike, trike, roller blades, or unicycles.  Or even on foot.  The only rule was you had to go in the same direction.

First impression of Slow Up. Cool. (For our non-Swiss readers, rivella is a Swiss soda).

We did our first few km and were impressed by how well executed this event was.    First of all, cars are banned from the roads completely.   Guards blocked every road that interfered with the 33km course.  A heck of a lot of roads.  We counted easily 100.     This made it so enjoyable for me.  I am not the best rider and since bikes ride with traffic in Geneva, it is intimidating for me to bike around town.

The first ascent gave us a nice view of Geneva near Cologny. As a side note, this little field was where part of Frankenstein was written!

There were “garages” in case you had a bike mishap.    This was also a bonus, to know you wouldn’t be stuck 16 km away from Geneva, without aid.

Migros Sport “garage” helping bikers

And there were plenty of refreshment stands offering cereal, energy bars, apples and Rivella.

Camp in Choulex

As we started, we exclaimed how awesome it was.   It was my assumption that I had missed the last eleven events and I was mad at myself because of what a great time it was.   However, we found a brochure later in the day that showed that these take place in different places all over Switzerland.  You can see the future ones here.  So, it just comes to Geneva once a year.

We also found a map to find out where the heck we were going.

Our route

Our route continued through vineyards and cornfields.   It was so peaceful.   We stopped in Gy, where they had a really cool Slow Up Village.  Most people were drinking wine and beer.  They might have been in better shape than us.  We opted for water.  And a sausage.

Not sure if this is the best meal for biking 33km, but it was the only option.

We then crossed into France.  Spectators gave us a bottle of Evian, a local French product, as we cruised along.   This is the closest I think I’ll ever get to being a rider in the Tour de France.   For one, it was my first time riding a bike in France.  Second, we got swag.   And, I told Gabe, we sort of did a little tour around France….

Great way to spend a Sunday

After 33km, we were looped back into Geneva and we crossed the finish line.

Thanks, Slow Up!

We aren’t experienced bike riders so couldn’t even make it up the hill to our house after riding 3 hours.    However, we were happy and content with our little Sunday activity!

 


A Perfect Swiss Day

Hooray!   Isabella and Ferdinand have been here!    They had a wedding to attend in England and we were lucky that they came to Geneva to visit us beforehand.

Ferdinand had to work at the beginning, organizing a golf event.  Once work was done, on the weekend, the four of us set off on a Swiss adventure.

Our first stop was the Lavaux wine region.  Isabella can’t drink currently (she is expecting), but we wanted to show them this UNESCO gem nonetheless.  So, we took the Chexbres exit off of the A1 and descended down the village towns into Rivaz.   They were breathtaken with the gorgeous terraced vineyards as we are every time we visit.

Next stop…..Gruyères.

Ramparts of Gruyères

Walking around the château

Lovely little village

We skipped the cheese tour (we knew we were having raclette for dinner), but all did order Gruyère-cheese based dishes for lunch.

After Gruyères, we drove to Broc, home of Cailler chocolate factory.

Smelling the cocoa beans.

Branche candy bar machine

Ta da! The tasting room!

I just go straight to the good stuff at the end now. I am trained.

Discussing the merits of milk & white chocolate

Weeeeee!

 

 

After playing on the playground a bit, we headed back to Geneva.  We had a big night in store.

The Schwingen & Switzerland crew was hosting a raclette party before the big Fête de Genève fireworks.   Ferdinand and Isabella had raclette their last time in Switzerland, in Zurich, but they were impressed by S’s monstrous spread.

The spread at the S’s

Raclette in action

 

For dessert, S had “Creme de Gruyère” and “Creme Brulée” Movenpick ice cream.  She surprised her dad and me with a candle in each carton for a birthday surprise.  It was the loveliest ‘cake’ I have ever had.  If you have an opportunity, I urge you to try Movenpick ice cream.  Full of Swiss whole cream, its the real deal.

We left their house and were immersed in the madness that is Fête de Genève.  We say it is the absolute busiest, craziest time of year in Geneva.

We luckily found a spot for 12 of us, near the rides, and watched the magnificent hour long fireworks:

The beginning of the fireworks

 

Love this type!

Jet d’eau, in harmony with the show

What a perfect Swiss day!

 

 

Related Links:

The Swiss Watch Blog:   Cheese Wars

The Swiss Watch Blog:   It’s Raining – I guess we have to go to the chocolate factory

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Famous Swiss Foods – Cheese

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Famous Swiss Foods – Chocolate

The Swiss Watch Blog: The land of chocolate and cheese

The Swiss Watch Blog: Thanks for a Joyeux Anniversaire, everyone

The Swiss Watch Blog:   The fête commences

 

 

 

Gratitude Friday: My first glimpse of the lavender

Once Bruno found out we were into wine, he recommended we stop by Valdition as they were having a Fête de Rosé.    Valdition is located in the Alpilles area, near Orgon and St. Rémy.   They specialize in both wine and olive production.

When we parked, we found the jackpot…wine and lavender in the same place!    I had been on a hunt for lavender and we found it.   Thus, this week’s gratitude post.

Gardens at Valdition

I had planned the trip pretty much entirely to see the lavender in season.  In Provence, the high season for the beautiful crop is the end of June/July.   It is typically harvested in July/August.  I had read that seeing it was truly remarkable and a must-do once in your life.    Thus, we had planned our trip to Provence in mid-July, at the peak.

Gabe preferred the old car sighting to the lavender sighting.  I am also grateful he is a patient husband.

There are over 39 varieties of lavender.   It grows in North Africa, the Mediterranean and India.  However, Provence accounts for 80% of the worlds lavender needs.

What would the world’s lavender needs be?

One of my favorite uses is for essential oils.  It is renown for its healing and medicinal properties.   In fact, I applied lavender essential oil at least three times a day when healing from foot surgery.    Also, it can be used for calming / relaxing, such as if you have sleep difficulty like me.   Or even for headaches when applied at the pulse point.

Beyond oil, it can be used to make soap, perfume, cosmetics and potpourris.

Sometimes it can be infused in dishes or used in tea!

The rows of lavender at Valdition

Lavender is farmed in rows in Provence.   I found it fun to run through them.

Hanging out in the fields

Up close

 

The smells are amazing!

Did you know that lavender bunches can repel bugs?   So next time you are having a gathering outside, try the nice smell of lavender.

It must not repel snails.  They were having as much fun as me out there.

After our lavender photo shooting, we did partake in the Fête de Rosé.   We bought three bottles of white wine and a bottle of rosé to enjoy back in Geneva.  I considered it our commission for using their fields for our photography.

Valdition
Route d’Eygalières
13660 Orgon – France
http://www.valdition.com/en/le-domaine/

We were grateful we found a field in this area as lavender production isn’t as common in the Les Alpilles.     I also feel lucky as I found out later that vipers like to live in the shade of the lavender.   Glad I didn’t get bitten.

Bon weekend, everyone!