TRAVEL JOURNAL

New England Tour – Salem, Portland and on to the Fall Foliage of the White Mountains

Past Itinerary Series

I had a roll of black & white film in my camera – it seemed appropriate for this haunted town.

Halloween is just around the corner, so how about a visit to the Salem Witch Museum? The quaint little seaport town known for the Salem witch trials is far too charming to imagine such awful acts and accusations took place there; but a visit to the Museum brought the historical experiences back to life. A multi-media sight and sound presentation explores the history of the trials with robotic human like characters acting out the events of the past.

Roger Conant

The drive around town allowed us to see, but not visit, the actual house of seven gables that Hawthorne’s famous novel was based on. Being early October, the light posts were festively decorated with bundles of cornstalks and wheat bound by autumnal colored ribbons. Beautiful purple, gold, umber, yellow and orange mums where positioned in clusters around many of the doorways of residences and median garden areas.

The thought of Hallows Eve night, with lights twinkling around all of the colorful fall harvest decorations while families of the town gather for festivals and walk house to house to trick or treat among the ghosts of this town’s past, made me smile at the excitement and wonder the children must feel.

On the road again we stopped in Portsmouth, New Hampshire where we lunched on New England clam chowder and oyster crackers before moving on further northeast to the coastal region of Maine. The exquisite rocky coastline was dotted with beautiful mansions and elaborate New England cottages perched at the edge of the majestic, very exposed and rustic shoreline. As the wave’s powerful thrust of foam crashed into the wall of rock, I felt both the grace of God’s creation and the fear of what turmoil those explosive waves could bring with a vengeful storm.

We passed the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport that extended to the end of the small peninsula of land heavily guarded. Near sundown, we stopped at the iconic Head Light Point lighthouse, that looked over the sometimes dangerous, but always illustrious ocean.

The following day the drive was long, but the benefit of not being behind the wheel is the freedom to soak in the all of the view from every angle. As we crossed the border from Maine into the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the true jewels of autumn were unveiled. Scattered along the highway and tucked among the mountain’s many hills and valleys like little pom-pms, the brilliant shades and textures of fall foliage were lined up in rows of trees for our enjoyment as far as the eye can see. For two full days I gazed in awe and wonder at the spectacular vibrant colors that with the sun’s help, sparkled like jewels in every direction. I wanted so much to capture the essence of this image and somehow detail in both words and photography the magnitude of its beauty. The drive to our resort hotel was long and allowed me a great deal of time to carefully examine and attempt to describe the multitude of shades of each color that nature had created for our pleasure.

As we maneuvered the single lane of the winding road that stretched toward the heights of the White Mountains, I was lost in the brilliant colors that hugged the landscape in every direction. I remember doing my best to focus on each and every color, attempting to identify each hue to that of another item that could be understood by someone who had not seen the foliage. The artist in me agonized over the challenge it would be to attempt to blend this multitude of shades with paint in so many ways, simply to attempt to record this kaleidoscope of colors on the canvas.

If you look really closely – you’ll see the people walking along the boulders to get a better idea of how large the boulders actually were.

I began with the shade of orange-tangerine, navel orange, blood orange, peach, rusty nail. I even found myself enlisting the names of colors I used in the Crayola boxes I had as a child, like burnt umber. I actually saw something that was burnt umber! There was one shade I simply couldn’t name. I shuffled images of various items through my mind in the same shade for nearly an hour before it finally came to me – cantaloupe- it was the color of a cantaloupe melon.

Many church steeples considered the most elegant icon of New England erected beyond the treetops in every direction. The photographer in me was deeply frustrated that I could not stop along the way to photograph all of the beautiful images along the way. Many of my photos were taken from inside the bus, through the window.

There were reds- fire engine red, little school house red, stop sign red, cranberry, maraschino and black cherry red, beet red, red hot lipstick red and then came the yellows, golden apple, banana peel, lemon, sweet corn, and harvest gold; some actually sparkled in the sunlight shining like gold. Then neatly strategically tucked in just the right places were the many shades of green, hung like a backdrop to accentuate the remarkable colors of nature representing the tranquil calm of the autumn season.

Then dotted along the way were the romantic covered bridges that gently arched over the babbling brooks, cluttered with large boulders and peppered with the elegant falling leaves from trees that framed a perfect picture. We stopped a few times along our long trek, once at one such covered bridge, and once at the spectacular Franconia Notch. I eagerly walked to the overpass where tourists were snapping photos of the gorgeous view, but the air was so cold and the wind so forceful that it took our breath away.

We quickly retreated into the cute country stores nearby where I couldn’t wait to purchase a cup of hot, steaming fresh apple cider. One sip and I knew this was both the flavor and aromatic essence of autumn that I had imagined when I dreamt of this charming area. I purchased little maple leaf shaped glass bottles of maple syrup to bring back to family.

In the distance as we traveled further toward the ski resort (used during the off season for tours), a snowstorm concentrated in one section of the mountains (an uncommon sight for a southerner). Just prior to sundown, we drove past the State House in the capital city of Vermont, Montpellier where the gold domed roof glowed in the final embers of sunlight.

Snow storm in the distance.

Just down the road we stopped at a nearby pizzeria where the small family that owned the restaurant dashed in every direction to collect orders and deliver them as quickly as possible. I don’t think they had ever experienced such a large crowd at one time. The air outside had grown quite cold and brisk and the cozy warmth of the ovens preparing our pizzas and calzones added a rosy glow to everyone’s cheeks. It reminded me of Friday nights after high school football games when we all gathered for the comforting warmth and foods of a local pizzeria.

Little did we know that the snowstorm we had seen in the distance earlier in the day had dumped several inches of snow back at our resort. Excitedly, we departed the bus knowing that this little glimpse of winter was an unexpected bonus for us. By morning the rooftops of all of the buildings and vehicles were dusted with a couple of inches of fresh snow. The warm sun would more than likely melt the remains of our brief encounter with winter, but it was a lovely touch just the same.

This tour would go on to the Shelburne Museum that offers a glimpse of American life in the 18th and 19th centuries; the Rock of Ages Granite Quarry that had an active 50 acre, 600 foot deep quarry at that time; the quaint backroads of Vermont lead us to Manchester to tour Hildene, the summer home of Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s eldest son, who was his only child that lived to full maturity; Stockbridge, Massachusetts – the charming town and home of Norman Rockwell. Rockwell’s museum displays an impressive collection of his nostalgic paintings and magazine covers. The rich colors of his paintings far surpass the images of the prints we have seen over the years and at the rear of the property is his iconix studio and famous easel. In the Berkshires area we visited The Clark Art Institute filled with an extensive collection of nineteenth century American and European paintings before heading to Cape Cod. We saw American Folk art, Grandma Moses’ school house and artwork and enjoyed traditional New England comfort food along the way. This tour was chalked full of an incredible array fo art, history and nature.

If you’ve always wanted to tour New England in the Fall you’ll definitely get a huge bang for your buck, there is so much to see and do. On a second tour a couple of years later, ventured through Concord where several well known authors resided and also has the sight of the Minute Man National Historical Park and the North Bridge. The sights and experiences are enumerable. It is best to start planning and reserving for your trip before the beginning of summer.

As the leaves upon the trees are fading and falling away with only the skeletal limbs of their trunks and branches remaining – grab a cup of steamy apple cider and make a toast to the nature’s more amazing and colorful annual spectacle – Fall.

TRAVEL JOURNAL

New England Tour… The Cape Cod – Kennedy Experience.

🍂🍁🍂Past Itinerary Series🍂🍁🍂

Earlier in the year, the Jacqueline Kennedy Clothing Exhibit was highlighted on one of the morning news programs. The exhibit was in New York and I wished I could have traveled there to see it. At the time it seemed like an impossible thought.

Our first scheduled stop on the second morning of our tour was the John F. Kennedy Library Museum. Just minutes before our arrival, the tour guide announced that our tour included admission to the museum, but as an added bonus if anyone was interested, the Jacqueline Kennedy Clothing Exhibit was on display at the museum for an additional charge. I couldn’t believe my luck. I of course bought a ticket straight away and only after seeing everything in the clothing exhibit did I venture over to the JFK Library Museum.

As I browsed through the exhibit, I remember thinking the dresses looked like they belonged to a larger woman than I had imagined; it was so exciting to see the beautiful iconic fashions worn during such a series of important events in our history. During most of the decade it represented, our family had a black and white television; so to see these garments in color was a bit shocking.

As a little girl I remember staring at black and white pictures of my mother dressed for her prom in the late 1950’s. Without asking her, I instead decided the color of her dress was red. Many years later at my grandmother’s house, she pulled a crumpled dress made of tulle, satin and sequins from a back closet that I immediately recognized as the dress in the photo. Much to my surprise it was emerald green. I was kind of disappointed. It just didn’t seem right – I had decided it should be red!

I found myself having the same experience as I browsed over the Kennedy garments. I’m sure back during that time the reporters described the color of her dresses, but I was just a little kid and didn’t care much at the time to listen, I’d rather imagine. Now as I discovered the truly bright yellows, blues, pinks and reds of her garments, I would gaze over at the black and white photos nearby with a newly informed eye (but it wasn’t the color I had envisioned.)

Ironically, the following year I took my daughter to Washington D.C. and without knowing again, we discovered a gallery where the exhibit was currently on display and this second time I shared the experience with my daughter, who only knew of Jacqueline Kennedy from her history books, but still wanted and enjoyed the opportunity to see the exhibit.

Later as we made full circle ,the tour ended in Cape Cod. There we visited St. Frances Xavier Church in Hyannis where the Kennedy family attended mass. Information from the website: “St. Francis Xavier Church, located on South Street in Hyannis, was the church Rose and Joe Kennedy chose to attend after buying their home in Hyannis Port in the 1920s. St. Francis Xavier became the summer parish for most of the Kennedy family. It was also the site of several important family events, so much so, that the locals often call it the “Kennedy Church.”

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy regularly attended mass here, at the St. Francis Xavier Church. Cape Cod and the St. Francis Xavier Church were the Kennedy family’s catholic spiritual center. Until her death in 1995 Rose sat in the front row in the east wing of the church. When her first son, Joe Kennedy Jr., brother of JFK, died in WWII in 1944, the service was held here. The main altar of the church is now a memorial to Joseph Kennedy, Jr. President . John F. Kennedy attended Sunday Mass here with his family during the summer time. Church historians recall that the Kennedys would sit in the second row of pews while Secret Service Agents would bracket the president in the front and third rows. Senator Ted Kennedy’s youngest son Patrick was baptized here. It was here in 1986 that Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s daughter Maria married Arnold Schwarzenegger. The funeral mass for Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, was held here in 2009.”

This place, like so many others along our tour, deserved pause. Everyone was racing around taking pictures and looking around the ordinary, but historical church established originally as St. Patrick’s in 1874, now St. Frances Xavier Parish as of 1903. The pew where the Kennedy family sat for each service was labeled. They like so many of us, at some point chose a pew to sit in and every week returned to the same spot as if it had been assigned or claimed as theirs. I chose a pew to sit in and surveyed the church surroundings that the Kennedys had gazed upon during their attended services over the years; I sat in the faith they felt and prayed in the place they prayed.

With all of the successes and financial privileges that the Kennedy family possessed, they also suffered a lot of loss and heartache. This small humble church was their choice to celebrate some of the new and loss lives of their loved ones very much as we would. In some small way, the spirit of history was once again palpable.

As we reached the shoreline of Cape Cod Bay, images of the Kennedys sailing across these choppy waters in their yacht came to mind. In groups we set out to find a lunch spot and most of us ordered lobster rolls. While it may seem like an old cliché, it can’t be found where I’m from and who in their right mind would say no to lobster?

Afterwards we boarded a boat that steered out into the deep waters of the bay in search of whales. It was a sunny, but bitterly cold and windy day – so most of us took shelter in the cabin of the boat until we reached our destination. As we moved further from the shore. the view of the town and Pilgrim Monument could be better appreciated.

The National monument to the Forefathers, formerly known as the Pilgrim Monument, commemorates the Mayflower Pilgrims opened in 1910.

Fortunately for all of us, there were several whales out that day. The problem was trying to photograph them. They so quickly leaped from the water’s surface into the air and just as quickly dipped back beneath the choppy waters, making it difficult to snap a successful photo. Afraid there wouldn’t be an abundance of whale activity to capture a picture of, I spent most of my time trying to figure out the timing of their rise and fall so I could capture an image before their large tails vanished back down below the deep blue water. After taking several shots, I realized this was an opportunity to just watch and enjoy the playful flips of these beautiful, massive creations of nature and resigned to just enjoying the opportunity to be so close to these amazing mysterious creatures. I was relieved when my film was later developed, that I was successful in capturing some of those impressive moments.

That evening we enjoyed a delicious buttery traditional lobster dinner at a dark cozy restaurant, with nautical touches and a fireplace blazing to tame the chilly air. The room was filled with the scent of baked apples and the warming spices of Fall – the atmosphere spilling over with New England style, traditions and romantic charm. While this isn’t the end of my itinerary memories of this trip, it was the last evening of my long awaited New England Fall tour. On to the leaves…..🍂🍁🍂

Note: The Jacqueline Kennedy Clothing Exhibit appears to be on permanent display at the JFK Library Museum. https://www.jfklibrary.org/visit-museum/exhibits/museum-artifacts/first-lady-jacqueline-kennedy-clothing

TRAVEL JOURNAL

Falling for Fall – Nine Day tour of New England:

**** My Past Itinerary Series****

Boston, Massachusetts

The temperatures in the South continue to blaze at record heat levels. Longing for my favorite time of year to arrive (Fall), I decided to visit a past itinerary that recalls the beauty of the season.

As a young girl, having grown up mostly on the west coast, I developed a fascination for the season that formed the Fall foliage of New England from images seen on television, in movies and the pages of magazines. In fact, to this date the Fall issues of food and decor magazines still remain my favorite of the year. Over the years I vowed to someday witness the spectacular display of nature. Having relocated from the west coast, to the deep south, I was still deprived of this glorious natural process that like clock work, recurs year after year.

When the opportunity finally presented itself with time and funds, I decided I would travel alone. I was determined not to allow the lack of a travel companion detour me from the experience I had longed to have for so many years. A tour, I decided, would provide safety and companionship when needed. It was quite therapeutic and in many ways, a private spiritual retreat in that there’s nothing like the quiet beauty of nature to calm and soothe the soul.

My tour was scheduled for the first week of October, which is , when Mother Nature agrees, the peak time for the changing foliage in New England. I flew to Boston less than a month after the 9/11 Twin Tower terrorist attack, my tour scheduled since June. While some worried that it wasn’t a safe time, I argued that I wasn’t going to live in fear AND that security had been escalated to a level never seen before. Our tour guide advised us along the way that many had cancelled with the various tour groups, and the traffic of tourist for the season was much lower (to our advantage).

Following breakfast at the hotel, our group boarded the tour bus that carefully navigated the streets of Boston, as the tour guide pointed out some of the many historical aspects of the city. “Boston was founded in 1630, making it one of the oldest cities in the U.S. The key role it played in the American Revolution is highlighted on the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile walking route of historic sites that tells the story of the nation’s founding,” she told us as we paused at a traffic light and she pointed to the medallion in the road.  We, however were confined to our tour bus. A walk along the trail would have to happen on a self-guided tour of the city.

Once we crossed through the city, it was obvious we nearing the Boston harbor where we stopped to visit the USS Constitution Museum that showcases Boston’s maritime history and the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat. We were allowed to walk around on our own and enjoy the display of historical items.

Afterwards we were transported by bus just a couple of miles away and to the pier where the Odyssey Dinner Cruise ships were docked. We excitedly boarded a small ship for a scheduled luncheon cruise around the Boston harbor. The cruise and culinary experience were both elegant and relaxing. It was a perfect way to start the first day, allowing everyone some time to just relax and unwind from the many methods used to travel to Boston the previous day. The Boston skyline was impressive and the water reflected an elegant emerald green as the sun warmed the slightly chilled breeze that was crisp, fresh and exhilarating. As the ship cruised back to the dock, whatever slumbered state we may have experienced beforehand had been lifted and we were ready to see more of the city.

Seeing the city from this perspective was an unexpected treat. One could better appreciate the beautiful architecture from this vantage point that would be impossible from the streets of Boston. While the city is filled with the ghosts of history that formed our country, from here we only see it’s modern expansion and progress.

Pictures were taken with an old school 35 mm camera back then-
our current HD versions would make this image so much clearer.

https://www.odysseycruises.com/boston/cruises/lunch-cruises

Back on the tour bus, our next stop delivered us before the statue of Paul Revere riding upon his horse in the foreground of the Old North Church. I remember thinking, all of that stuff in our history books in school is pretty cool in person. It’s funny how dull history seemed in school, but here is -tangible proof in full technicolor right before eyes. I couldn’t help but wish I had done more than simply memorize what I needed to know to pass a test. There is a feeling of past lives and history in every direction, that’s palpable.

In fact all of the New England States have this atmosphere of history I felt very connected to and proud of. So much happened along this group of States, so many risked their lives to come here for the promise of a better life and so many were lost in the process. As we walked the cobblestoned streets, the tour guide lead us to the actual home of Paul Revere where he resided with his very large family. He actually lived right here in this building! I felt a sense of excitement as if I were visiting the past of my ancestors.

As we turned the corner, and walked up the hill, a small cemetery came into view, cluttered with Quaker styled tombstones dated as far back as the 1600’s with engraved scull and cross bones or a skull with wings. It conjured images of men and women dressed in their Pilgrim fashions of long dark robes of fabric and wide belts adorned with large square pewter buckles.

As our afternoon of circling Boston came to an end, the bus delivered us to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Marketplace where cobblestoned walks were scattered with both merchant carts containing an assortment of crafts from throughout New England with modern stores in the buildings the framed the Marketplace. As we exited the bus, the sun was setting and there was an elevated chill in the air. Lively music echoed throughout the square played by a violinist with an amplifier as we browsed along the square for a comfortable eatery. We gathered at a replica of Cheers and had a cheerful relaxing dinner as we recalled the events of the day and learned more about each other. Back at the hotel , we prepared for our morning departure from Boston to Salem.

TRAVEL JOURNAL

The Spontaneous Traveler – Bonus Edition

The beautiful town of Eguisheim, France

The reaction to my “Spontaneous Traveler” posts was very encouraging! Two weeks after returning to “reality”, my co-traveling companion suggested we get together for dinner. She wanted to share the pictures she took with her digital camera (all of mine were taken with my iphone 6 plus) and share some delicious raclette truffle cheese and two other hard cheeses one a little salty and one with wildflowers, she brought home from her extended week in Switzerland with her husband. Here are the images she captured of some of the moments I mentioned previously, but didn’t have photos to share. Consider this is a bonus round….

Here I am, all suited up for my Swiss Alps adventure.

There were cow bells everywhere, but none matched this amazing collection displayed on the side of a homestead.

Left: My two-sister friends who shared and encouraged me through this wonderful experience. Right: Our lovable guide, friend and adventurer that welcomed us and chose the places we visited on this amazing holiday!

Images from our hiking afternoon from Mürren to Grimmelwald.

The Swiss boldly love two things that were everywhere, their flag and gnomes.

If you look closely at the sign above the awning (below) you’ll see the first of the honestly stores we visited. This is the hotel and pub as well, where just around the corner by the large tree, opens to the outdoor deck and pub where we enjoyed a drink, a bowl of soup and the view.

I

In my prior post, I referenced the parasailing, but didn’t have pictures. Above in the fair right quarter, you can see the tiny images of parasails (that look like birds) soaring high above the mountains and below some of their progression downward.

I’ve created a new category called Travel Journal where I hope to share future adventures with my readers and followers. Remember to follow along!

TRAVEL JOURNAL

The Spontaneous Traveler-Auf Wiedersehen

My Final Day- Switzerland 🇨🇭

Saturday to Wednesday- 5 Amazing Days

Anyone that says you have to spend at least two weeks or more in Europe to fully benefit from what it has to offer, in this very unique case, I have to disagree. I’m aware that this opportunity to stay with a friend who had searched and pre-visited some of the areas that she brought us to is rare, and that is why I consider it such an enormous blessing.

While some may be cautious about the sites that are for international house sitting, in this particular case my friend had the most amazing experiences with the friendliest homeowners in both Oxford, England and Nimburg, Germany. If you are retired for example, and you have the freedom to go to Europe or other places in the world for a month – this is a thrifty way to defray some of the (hotel) cost of travel and live like a local, rather than the absorbing cost of a hotel. We spent two nights in a hotel Mürren, but the rest of our nights were spent in the little cottage in Germany chosen by our friend for its close proximity to France and Switzerland.

As we descended from Mürren, we surveyed the beauty around us for the last time and walked across a small bridge to get a closer look at a nearby waterfall. I decided to climb down the boulders of the nearby creek to touch the cold rushing clear alpine water.

Overhead multiple parasailers soared from over the edge of the cliffs swaying from side to side, circling in the air until they finally glided down into an open grassy area near the gondola station. Finally it was time to get into the car and depart.

For my final day, our friend suggested visiting a castle or a Swiss chocolate factory, but knowing I had to prepare for my morning flight and the drive that we had ahead of us to return to the home in Germany, I asked if we could stop at the beautiful lake we saw on the drive toward Murren and just have a relaxing lunch.

As we said auf wiedersehen to the Swiss Alps, we were also about to say goodbye to one of our traveling companions who boarded a train in Interlaken, for Zurich where she would meet her husband for another week’s stay in Switzerland.

Lake Brienz is a lake just north of the Alps, in the canton of Berne in Switzerland. It has a length of about 14 kilometres, a width of 2.8 kilometres (8.5 miles) and a maximum depth of 260 metres. Its area is 29.8 square kilometres (18.5 miles), and the surface is 564 metres above the sea-level. (according to Wikipedia). It’s unique turquoise water is formed my the glacier mineral run off.

In search of a good spot to have lunch, now a party of two, we found our way to Iseltwald where with the help of some other travelers, we were gifted enough Swiss francs to feed the parking meter and then walked down the hill toward the lake (where my friend realized was the same place she and her husband had stopped a year ago on their honeymoon.) The tallest building in the distance is the Strandhotel, where we found a great table on the water to unwind and enjoy the view. We watched paddle boats sail across both ends of the large lake as we browsed the restaurant menu and a couple of beautiful swans elegantly gliding across its turquoise surface.

My friend chose a rösti formed into cups and filled with a creamy mushroom sauce and I chose the lake fish (also in a mushroom sauce). A while after ordering I noticed a young man with an apron, scooping something out of a tank that we passed on the way to our table. As we stretched to try to figure out what he was doing, we saw a fish flopping around in the hand net he was scooping into the tank. “He’s getting your fish from the tank!” my friend said. “Fresh lake fish!”. But I think we may have been dooped. According to what I’ve read the lake is poor in nutrients, and consequently fishing is not very important. Nevertheless, in 2001 10,000 kg fish were caught (according to Wikipedia).

Starting with the home we were staying in (Germany), to the cottages in the village of Mürren -full use of any land a small homestead has, is usually filled with a beautiful, colorful garden, with a mixture of flowers, herbs and vegetables. We saw gardens planted on sloping hillsides, flowers tucked into a variety of interesting containers, cracks and crevices; but of all the versions we saw this little garden was most beautiful and healthy I had seen. It is jam packed with hot house tomatoes in the back, a variety of beautiful lettuces, herbs, flowers, beans and other vegetables.

We saw so many beautiful vibrant colored flowers on this trip, but this variegated fuchsia and pink zinnia was so unique I wished we had seeds to bring home.

What a beautiful image to have in my memory for a long time to come. While I have much more of Europe and these countries to see in the future, I can mark a big fat check on my bucket list due to this wonderful, spontaneous, last minute vacation!

TRAVEL JOURNAL

The Spontaneous Traveler -Switzerland 🇨🇭 continued…

What Can Happen in Less Than a Week

Day 1 & 2 Mürren

The first of two gondolas that transported us to Mürren.

As the gondola ascended we took in the overhead view of the valley below, the small shadow of the gondola on the rocky cliffs offering a scale by which to measure how grand and large the walls of rock and forests all around us truly were. The cable car slightly swayed as it passed over connectors, but then smoothly eased into its port, where everyone exited and boarded a second car to Mürren, a traditional Walser mountain village in the Bernese Highlands of Switzerland, at an elevation of 1,638 metres (5,374 ft) above sea level that cannot be reached by public road, but it can also be reached by train.

An image of the gondola from our hotel window.

Words escape me- as we exited the cable car station the view was literally breathtaking. Your instinct is to take pictures, but the beauty is so vast that any attempt to capture its essence is futile.

When I was about 7 years old, my family lived in Tacoma, Washington and every day for a year I could see Mt. Rainer in the distance. It was especially beautiful when its peak was dusted with snow. Later when I was about 10 years old, we lived in Northern California. I remember taking a family trip where we drove through the mountains to Lake Tahoe. It was the first time I remember seeing snow. As I survey the horizon filled with snowcapped peaks, memories of those trips flooded back. I’ve always loved the sight of beautiful mountains.

With the exception of one or two small trucks with supplies, small snow plows, and trucks parked away in the fire station garage, this town is void of cars – which is interesting, because a hotel was being built at the far end of town where cement was being prepped and lifted by a small crane. We were often puzzled about how they got things like this done up so high, assuming equipment must be brought up by the train. One day during breakfast we witnessed a helicopter carrying a pallet of something higher up. Just as Venice, Italy has to manage life by waterways, these mountain regions have their own unique challenges for receiving supplies.

We strolled down the main road with our eyes darting in all directions, from the cute cozy Swiss Alpine architecture, to the historical landmarks in search of Hotel Regina where we would stay for two nights as the grandeur of the mountainous landscape towered above and all around us like unimaginable huge giants. While our friend who visited this place just a year ago squealed over and over again with how gorgeous it all was, I wanted to simply take it all in silently and thanked God over and over beneath my breath at this masterpiece He created and for this out of body experience I was feeling for this unexpected, unplanned remarkable vacation with two such loving and enthusiastic friends.

Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. There are spectacular views from Mürren across to the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. It is nice to wander through Mürren at any time of day or night and take in the stunning picturesque landscape of nature.

After checking into the hotel, free of the weight of our back packs, we returned to the street that wound through the town and browsed over the menus restaurants posted in glass cases outside their doors and stopped into an occasional shop. In search of the traditional Swiss fondue for dinner, we decided to dine at Restaurant Stägerstübli. Here we met our friendly server Ruedi whose parents are the owners.

We relaxed over a lovely dinner comprised of cheese fondue with bread and boiled potatoes for dipping(notice the edelweiss on the sterno can); we enjoyed the German salad so much at the castle that we ordered one to share; I was in the mood for fish and ordered a delicate poached salmon that came with buttered boiled potatoes and spinach, and one of my friends ordered a plate with sausage (I think) and a large rösti (hash brown) pancake. Potatoes seem to be served with everything in this region.

Dinner at Stägerstübli https://www.staegerstuebli.ch/en Our server Ruedi recommended we try a traditional Swiss dessert called Marroni -Zyt mit Ditzler that looks like vermicelli pasta, but is a frozen hazelnut and cherry puree that comes in a tube and is pressed through a vermicelli gadget that forms the strings for the dessert. The dessert can be ordered with or without vanilla ice cream. We chose to add the ice cream and it needed it. The texture of dessert was odd and for one of my group off putting, but the ice cream helped. Oddly the two dark cherries surprised us when we bit in to find the pits still there. https://www.ditzler.ch/marroni-produkte/

Meals are long and leisurely in Europe and by the time we had finished ours we were ready to retire for the night in hopes of a good night’s sleep with plans in the morning for some hiking on one of many trails that wove through the beautiful alpine mountains.

The beautiful clear water.

There’s something quite magical about waking up in Mürren. The word “awesome” has become a very overused expression assigned to very mundane things, but this place truly deserves the word “awesome”. As we pushed the curtains aside the snow caped Eiger greeted us with what looked like a fresh layer of snow that appeared to reach further down the mountainside than the day of our arrival.

One by one we gathered for breakfast with the beauty of the Alps visible from every window in the room. Each morning the hotel provided a large table with various items to select for breakfast, such as bread, yogurts, fruit, cheese and sliced meats, muesli, oats, and pre-boiled eggs (that are always colored) or there was a pot that allowed guests to boil their own eggs. There was a fabulous coffee machine that made hot chocolate, a latte, a cappuccino, espresso, cafe au lait or hot water for tea.

From the window to the right I did my best to zoom in with my iphone camera to capture an image of the next level (by cable car) that many of the tourist were headed, where the Skyline rotating restaurant and James Bond experience can be had. ‘The interactive exhibition transports you to the world of James Bond: Get an intriguing glimpse behind the scenes of the movie shoot of «On Her Majesty‘s Secret Service» starring George Lazenby as Secret Agent 007.’ We did not go to the site, but can only imagine it as a fun experience for a serious Bond fan.

After breakfast one of our group wanted to go to a higher elevation to hike a longer trail, while the other two of us chose a shorter path that lead down the mountain from our current location. We enjoyed a lovely walk at a comfortable pace and along the way saw homesteads along the path, mountain goats, creeks and small waterfalls that we stopped to take pictures of now and then. The trail from Mürren to Grimmelwald is estimated to take 45 minutes, but we stopped a few times and sat on benches to just enjoy the view, so ours took about a little more than an hour.

Near the end of the trail is the Pension Grimmelwald that offers a cozy little pub with an outdoor patio that overlooks the valley below, but it’s hard to get away from the view in this area. It’s above, below and all around you. The pub did’t have a menu, but offered a soup du jour of vegetable leek puree soup available for purchase that hit the spot to nourish and warm us on the brisk cool day. We met two couples that were from the U.S. that also stopped to have a beer and soup before we got up to stroll through the small town where my friend bought some homemade sausage and cheese from an “Honest” store. There were a few along the path that offered items for purchase on the honor system. You simply paid the price marked on the item, into a designated box and took your items (in this case from a refrigerator).

After our stroll through the little town of Grimmelwald we walked the short distance to take the gondola back up to Mürren. A crowd of tourists shifted from the first gondola to the 2nd, and on the sidelines were 3 little girls about 6 years old, one with a bike. They wore reflective sashes around their necks and pushed theirselves on to the gondola with us. Our server Ruedi from the evening prior was also waiting with a friend to board the gondola. We asked him about the children (concerned) and he said they take the gondola to school and back home. In the winter they ride their snow sleds down the mountain. They’re taught to take care of themselves at a very young age.

We returned to the hotel to freshen up and then stepped back out into town to browse through the shops, each searching for a couple of items to bring home when our friend who took a different path rejoined us. For our final evening we were in search of raclette a special Swiss melting cheese served in a different way than fondue.

Wikipedia: Raclette/rəˈklɛt/ is a semi-hard cheese that is usually fashioned into a wheel of about 6 kg (13 lb). The Alpine cow milk based dairy product is most commonly used for melting, but is also consumed as a slice. Raclette is a Swiss dish, also very popular in Savoie (France), based on heating the cheese and scraping off (from French: racler) the melted part.

Also served with boiled potatoes and bread, we quickly ate the delicious gooy goodness (after our day of hiking the hunger pains were grand), along with some of the same items we had the previous night, now at Edelweiss Hotel Restaurant and toasted to our final night in the Swiss Alps. I think it’s safe to say… we all had a good night’s sleep after our day of hiking.

TRAVEL JOURNAL

The Spontaneous Traveler- Switzerland 🇨🇭

What Can Happen in Less Than a Week…

Day 3 – On the Road to Switzerland

While in Eguisheim I purchased a hand full of fresh mirabelles (a fruit I would be having for the first time) and figs. Most mornings at home, I make a yogurt bowl for breakfast with a combination of blueberries, strawberries, bananas or peaches with a sprinkle of cinnamon and granola. My European version included some homemade berry preserves, mirabelles, figs, muesli and mint from the garden. The mirabelles as described below, look like a cherry with a similar pit in its center, but tastes like a sweet plum, very good!

Mirabelle plum, also known as mirabelle prune or cherry plum (Prunus domestica subsp. syriaca), is a cultivar group of plum trees of the genus Prunus. It is believed that the plum was cultivated from a wild fruit grown in Anatolia.

Crossing the border of Germany into Switzerland.

The drive to Switzerland took a couple of hours and for a Monday morning the traffic was a little heavier than we experienced from the prior weekend. Just across the border, commuters feverishly rushed to work and appointments. For the first time the landscape was filled with modern, unique architecture of office buildings and shopping malls like any usual city.

Eventually we broke away from the rush of the city and sped by large fields of green with a hint of mountains that stretched across the horizon before us. In no time, the car began to automatically shift up and down with our ears occasionally gently popping, as we ascended along the mountain’s curves and valleys on a winding road. Suddenly all around us, rocky, bold, massive and majestic mountain walls surrounded us, with snow filled peaks tucked high above us.

As a young teenager I grew up in a valley in California where we were surrounded by mountains with nearby snow capped peaks, and as these alpine mounds closed around us it brought back a feeling of home from those days when mountains were part of my daily landscape. Having lived so many years in the flat landscape of Louisiana, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked out into the horizon and wished I could see those beautiful mountains in the distance.

Suddenly the winding, climbing road came to a stop, and a small line of cars sat idle. As we stretched to see around the line of cars trying to determine what was happening up ahead to cause the standstill, we heard the chiming cow bells of a small group of cattle being lead down a side road into a small pasture just a few feet away. I posted a brief video on instagram of their lovely chiming bells. By the time I had gotten out of the car to try to take pictures, the small herd was already in their field and the traffic was back in motion.

As we approached the small town of Lauterbrunnen, just a few miles from the end of the road where a gondola (or cable car) would transport us to Mürren, we decided to stop in the beautiful picturesque valley, to stretch our legs and take in the fresh mountain air. As we walked through town in search of a lunch spot, we paused at an ATM to get some Swiss Francs – the currency of Switzerland, but we later learned as we paid for lunch that this area of Switzerland is happy to accept our Euros dollar for dollar – making a few cents on each transaction since the Euro was .91 to the Swiss Franc .99 to the U.S. $1.

The Swiss Franc is colorful and cheerful. On the day of this post the conversion to the U.S. Dollar was .99 – so basically dollar for dollar the same.

We lunched at small cafe’ on individual pizzas on their front outdoor deck to soak in the warm sun and beautiful views of nature all around us. Multiple waterfalls, luscious green pastures, tall jetting alpine trees, mountain goats grazing and snow peaks jutting into the clouds… my mind was just swirling in awe and amazement.

I’d like to pause for a moment to say that not having traveled to Europe in over a decade, (with that one destination being a professionally guided tour of various parts of Italy) I was concerned about traveling through countries where French and German were the main languages without a formal tour guide. The people of Germany, France and Switzerland were helpful, friendly and “most” spoke English. On the train from and to the Frankfurt Airport, the most remarkable people crossed my path and appeared from nearly out of nowhere to offer me support and information that helped me along the journey.

As described in many traveling articles, French servers at restaurants weren’t very attentive or friendly, and the same was true of the server at our luncheon at the castle restaurant in Germany. In fact we found ourselves calling for them to simply order and later pay for the bill. Switzerland was an entirely different experience. Servers were personable, answered questions enthusiastically and offered informative narratives about the things we were eating, seeing or experiencing that differed in the Swiss culture.

Just when we thought nature could not be any more beautiful or surprising we turned the corner and were face to face with the magnificent snow peaked Swiss Alps. With the car parked, we each grabbed our back packed items and walked toward the first gondola that would lift us to a second gondola to Mürren.