Day Trip to Blausee

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Our friends Claire and Brendan were here for a week and I’ve just recently received confirmation that they are back in the loving arms of their three beautiful, hilarious children. And while that makes me blissfully happy, I do sorta wish they were still here. They are one of my very favorite couples and their bright energy and non-stop laughs make them ideal guests. Claire and B, you are welcome any time.

We dodged a lot of rain while they were here but managed to get out for long walks around the old town, a trip up the Gurten for disc golf and trail walks, bocce in the Rosengarten, many a beer at our favorite local bar, and a couple of day trips, including one to Blausee. It was originally Claire’s suggestion, and Adam and I had never been so it was the perfect place for us all to explore.

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The mineral-rich lake is one hour from Bern, reached via train and bus. You can also drive there easily and park in the big lot in front of the entrance. I think we were all a little surprised to find a turn-style entrance into the lake and forest but it’s become a popular destination, meaning there’s a small CHF 8 entrance fee and opening/closing times you’ll want to be mindful of. Inside the forest you’ll find a restaurant, hotel, and spa, all of which are beautiful. Each summer they hold an open air cinema, which looks like a fun night in the woods.

There’s a local organic trout farm that feeds into the lake, though you can’t fish or swim in it. But you can go out on a glass-bottom boat and see through the crystal clear water nearly to the bottom of the lake.

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We packed a picnic lunch and enjoyed sandwiches by the lake before taking off on the connection of trails and pathways. All the walks are very easy and would be fun and suitable for little ones; it took us just over an hour to walk all the trails. We relaxed at the restaurant with some cold drinks and a beautiful view of the lake before catching the bus back to Bern.

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I loved this day! Blausee (which literally translates to “Blue Lake”) is a very easy day trip from Bern and was so relaxing and peaceful. We had perfect weather and great company, making it an afternoon to remember.

Sunday Snaps

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Yesterday was the perrrfect day. It was sunny and just warm enough to shed layers on a long afternoon walk with the rest of Bern. The city is fragrant and alive–this time of year is gorgeous.

We had a very slow weekend, which was lovely: biscuits and gravy for brunch on the balcony; movie night; friends over for chicken enchiladas (a good excuse to break out the salsa we’ve been saving since we brought it back from the US at Christmas!); long walks outside along the river. I love spring! But I think I love summer even more. Bring on the warmer temperatures and picnics in the rose garden!

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Today Adam and I are celebrating our meetiversary! Six years ago we met on a blind date at an Italian restaurant in Zurich. We walked along the lake and traded travel stories and I pretended not to be impressed by the very handsome, very tall man I was on a date with. We hugged goodbye with plans to see each other again soon and I blushed an embarrassing shade of red (that was not lost on Adam). I was toast. I knew right away that Adam was someone special, and I even commented to my sister shortly after that date that I was sure I would marry him.

Adam, it’s been the best six years. Looking forward to many, many more, my love.

Overnight in Zermatt

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IMG_1067While we were in the US for Christmas, Adam and I wanted to make sure we had fun things to look forward to in January. This month can be notorious for inspiring post-Christmas blues. When we got back to Switzerland we went out to dinner mid-week; we went to a movie; and we cooked fancy dinners at home. Speaking from experience, it’s important to have some activities to get excited about rather than just mope about missing family and friends.

I also knew we wanted to get to the mountains and see some sunshine. So, about a week and a half ago I booked a room with a view of the Matterhorn at the Hotel Couronne and loosely started planning an overnight in Zermatt. We went several years ago, but it was in November and I was looking forward to visiting the town in all its winder splendor. I didn’t tell Adam until the last minute because I love surprising people, and he didn’t find out where we were going until we were on the train.

IMG_4992Our hotel was right in the center of town, an easy ten-minute walk from the train station. In fact, getting to Zermatt from most big cities around Switzerland is really easy. It is a two-hour journey from Bern, with one change in Visp, and the trains were busy but not overly crowded. Once we arrived the town was bustling with skiers and tourists. The snow-capped chalets and cozy restaurants are exactly what you imagine when you think of Alpine lodging. We loved it.

We dropped off our stuff at the hotel and changed into our snow gear before heading out with a quick lunch. A lot of visitors choose to take the Gornergrat Bahn for a view of the Matterhorn, which is what we did last time. The train makes a couple stops—where you can choose to get off and hike the rest of the way up—and ends at a restaurant and viewing platform. There are sledding runs and trails at the top, as well, not to mention an incredible view of the most famous mountain in the world. It is rather expensive, though: a return ticket costs CHF 86 (50% off for residents with your half-fare card). Since we had already been up there I planned for us to take the funicular up to Sunnegga, a ride that costs a quarter of the price. The view from the landing is equally spectacular.

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IMG_1043There is a full service restaurant, with outdoor and indoor seating, access to ski lifts, access to hiking trails, a lake in the summer, and direct access to ski pistes in the winter. It’s beautiful and worth the trip up. (Here is some great information if you are interested in skiing, snowboarding, or any other winter sports.)

We decided to take the trail from Sunnegga to Tufteren, which is a flat walk that takes abut 30-40 minutes. You walk through a couple of ski pistes but they are easy to see and cross.

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IMG_5008Our pace was slow and we stopped several times to take pictures and enjoy the view. It was so invigorating to be up 7,500 feet in the crisp air and with the sun on our faces. We passed a few people with sleds who were on their way to sledding runs, but for the most part it was a quiet trail.

In Tufteren there’s a small collection of huts and a very basic restaurant that caters to skiers and walkers. It sits right on a piste so you can sip your drink and watch the skiers and snowboarders fly by. Or, if you’re lucky, you might catch a sweet family of deer coming to eat right by the outdoor terrace.

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IMG_1080After a couple of snow cones we started our walk back to Zermatt along the same trail. The sun sets behind the ridge early in January (around 4:15-ish) so we wanted to get back before we lost the sunlight and its warmth.

Zermatt is so cute seen from above. It’s amazing how it fills up the little valley, surrounded by massive mountains on three sides. Almost like a little peninsula.

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IMG_1051Once back in town we walked over to Brown Cow Pub for a little après-ski food and drink. It’s a festive bar with good food and plenty of beer. We rested back at the hotel before going to dinner at Whymper Stube. They serve hearty Alpine dishes, including raclette, fondue, steaks, and schnitzels. It was rather full all evening so I suggest making a reservation for one of the two seatings (at 6:30 and 8:30).

IMG_5018I’m glad we got our Matterhorn sighting in on Saturday because we woke up to cloudy skies and a light snow on Sunday. After a big breakfast in the winter garden of our hotel we caught the train back to Bern. It was a very quick trip, but worth it for the  fresh air, sunshine, and change of scenery. It’s hard to believe that places like this are in such easy reach for us. Two hours away? It’s nothing, especially when you consider we just had to plop on a train to get there. I’m already looking forward to another wintry weekend.

Zermatt, we love you!

Now Trending: Fall Snapshots

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IMG_0631The other day I walked down Aargauerstalden, the big hill that leads from our apartment down into town. I was meeting a friend for lunch at Le Carrousel and decided to take the long way there, passing some beautiful foliage on the way. Tis the season for beautiful snaps on our phones and cameras, right?

In fact, I couldn’t help but laugh after seeing this Instagram considering I had taken a similar image of myself. I immediately deleted the image, inwardly cringing at my predictability. But then I thought, who cares?! The ability to laugh at ourselves and our mimicry is part of our humanity, and I feel lucky to have a sense of humor about social media and its ubiquity. I won’t stop Instagram, and I certainly won’t stop taking pictures of brilliant leaves simply because everyone else is doing it. I will, however, strive for a unique voice and perspective, if only for my benefit.

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IMG_0676Foogy Bern town, we love you! Thank you for your photo ops and endless charm. I say it again and again, but I’m not sure I’ll ever live somewhere as beautiful as this.

Harvesting and Crushing Grapes in Montepulciano

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IMG_0011During our trip to Tuscany last month we rented an apartment within a farmhouse on the edge of the hill city Montepulciano. There were a few other people staying there over the course of the week, but it mostly felt secluded and private and we loved setting up camp there for several days.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon to find the entire extended family harvesting Sangiovese grapes and preparing them for sorting and pressing. It’s an exciting process, made all the more special since we were able to drink the wine the family produces. It was fun to see them all joking around with one another during the annual tradition. We didn’t necessarily help in any meaningful way, but we liked tagging along nonetheless.

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IMG_0032In fact, as you drive through the countryside in late September and early October you can see many family and friends completing the same laborious task. We had initially intended to go to Bordeaux and northern Spain for this trip but the harvest in France is much more secluded and they don’t encourage visitors. It was a treat to be welcomed in Italy during this special time of year.

Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon—among others—are all regional varieties here and each type of grape is usually picked at a different time. For instance, the family was picking Sangiovese grapes (found in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti, etc.) that day but would wait a week or two longer to pick Merlot grapes. They were looking for specific weather conditions, grape density, color, and other variables that are hard to pick up on for the untrained eye. It always amazes me what care and consideration go into making wine.

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IMG_0068As they were wrapping up the day’s harvest we got a little tour of their cellar and barrels. They only make enough wine to give to the family and their friends, which is such a wonderful gift. They work hard to maintain and care for their vineyard and it was really neat to see a very tiny part of the process.

Fresh Flowers at Home

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I couldn’t resist a massive bundle of dahlias this week at the grocery store. Aren’t they beautiful? The colors are so vibrant and the flowers themselves are so full and structural. I love them.

I buy fresh flowers a lot, almost every week, and they add such a soft touch to the apartment. Lately, I’ve been killing small indoor plants so it’s fresh cut flowers at the moment for us. Below are a few tips for keeping them bright and beautiful longer.

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  • After taking flowers out of the packaging, cut stems on a 45-degree angle, under water if possible. Your flowers will absorb more water and nutrients if freshly cut.
  • Chose a vessel and make sure it is clean! Bacteria is the enemy of all fresh flowers so make sure your container is clean and dry.
  • Add water and flower food if you like. There are a lot of theories about adding a penny, aspirin, bleach, mouthwash, and vinegar/sugar solutions. But I’ve found that water from the tap and flower food provided by the florist work the best. Change the water every two days for the longer lasting flowers.
    • Pro tip: If your blooms are still especially tight, add warm water to your container and gently release the blossoms. After an hour or so they should open up nicely.
  • Remove all leaves and erroneous stems below the water line. Keeping them on will cause the water to turn more quickly and create a moldy, damp odor.
  • Add flowers and arrange to your liking! I like to buy a big bouquet (this one had almost 20 flowers) and split it up amongst different vases and glasses.

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What are your tips for keeping flowers fresh and beautiful? Do you have a favorite type?

What are you up to this weekend? We’re going to Sierre tomorrow for a wine tasting event. We went to it five years ago and I’m excited to revisit the valley and try some tasty Swiss wines. We’ll be spending the night in the region and hiking on Sunday. Should be lovely!

For those of you in the US I hope you have a nice long weekend. Aren’t those the best? I have lots of good memories of going down to the lake this weekend, soaking in the last bits of summer. Best wishes for a warm weekend. Until Monday!

Happy Swiss National Holiday, Friday!

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IMG_3680Last Saturday Adam and I escaped the gloomy, chilly weather by heading to the balmy indoors of the Bern Botanical Garden. It’s open every day of the year and that coupled with no entrance fee makes it a perfect spot on a day wandering around the city. There are so many beautiful and exotic plants within the large greenhouses, but the outdoor premises are charming as well. There are lots of benches and secluded nooks; I imagine it would be a great place to go for a date.

What are you up to this weekend? Tomorrow is the Swiss National Holiday so there will be lots of fireworks and parties if the forecasted rain doesn’t chase us all indoors. In fact, they almost cancelled all the fireworks shows and stopped selling fireworks this year because of how hot and dry it’s been lately–they were worried about fires. But recent rain and lower temperatures suggest the show must go on! Sunday looks gorgeous so we’re planning on smoking pork ribs with a couple of new friends.

I hope you have a lovely weekend and enjoy these dog days of summer. Aren’t they glorious? Below are a few links that have caught my eye lately if you find yourself in a reading mood. Until Monday!

Speaking of reading, here are cool beach books for hot summer days. P.S. I’m reading this right now. Not at all a beach read but still very good!

A song for your weekend

How to email someone you don’t know so they’ll actually respond

This magazine cover. Whoa!

Good news J. Crew shoppers. Added this to the closet 🙈What’s one more when you already have a thousand?

Tips for overnight guests (I’m making a note to be better about stocking up on everyday basics)

Stuff business people say. Raise your hand if you’re guilty!

How “Switzerland ruined me for America” 10 ways to have a happier morning

There’s a blue moon tonight–we’ll be out looking for it

As someone who relies on bike lanes with regularity, I really appreciate this (amazingly strong) fellow

Could this story be any more mortifying?!

Lastly, tomorrow is National Girlfriends Day and I was recently sent this infographic (click to enlarge) from Oscar, a tech-based health insurance company, as a reminder to share with all my friends the importance of taking good care of your health. A healthy, active lifestyle is something I fully believe in and I hope you share some of these ideas with your girlfriends:

Oscar Women's CheckupsLRG