Archive | August, 2011

A Goodbye

How do you say Goodbye to a place that has been your home for two years. A place that has taught you many things – that has seen you rise professionally, has seen you mature and become independent. That has helped you to discover youself and develop new hobbies.

Well you can’t, really.

Instead, I’ll give it a see you soon, and will think of all the things that have made my life here beautiful.

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Waking up with the sun shining on my bed. Walking to the office in the morning. In flip flops. Pain au chocolat and croissants from my favorite bakery. The owners of the little portuguese grocery shop, that greet me every morning. Fighting for fresh fruits every monday and thursday at work. My boss (a lot). The smell of mate in the morning. The view of the Alps from the kitchen window. Being able to complain about some moron (and even being encouraged to do so). Learning a new latin american expression every week. My work colleagues. Our common love for delicious food. Convincing them to ditch the gym and go and have a gourmet burguer at Holy Cow instead (it’s in the same direction anyways). Home-made Chilean empanadas. The so-called business walks. Engineering our way through the city to take as little hills as humanly possible possible. Having lunch in the park. Lazy afternoons.

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Beautiful buildings and their romantic balconies. My safe, clean and quiet neighborhood. The fresh cut grass in the park. The careful and respectful drivers. The good faith of swiss people. Finding clothes and shoes in my size, even at the end of sales. Globus – and it’s Gourmet Supermarket. Saturdays street market. The cheese. The lebanese take away, which often gifted me with an extra dish or glass of wine, for free. The good taste of tap water. Making use of my french (now that I was finally picking up on the language!).

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My apartment. The view from my bed. From my balcony. Sunbathing on my deckchair. My sun addiced neighbor (whenever I’m tanning, he’s too!) The Alps. The Lake. Sunsets from Vidy. Sailboats. The way in which the afternoon sun teints the Alps pink. My friends. BBQs at the lake until late at night. Drinking outside a bar on the pavement. Always meeting people I know in my usual pub. Always having a friend who’s up for a drink. Or a festival. Or a late night dinner. Eating too much raclette (and drinking even more wine). Cocktails at St Pierre’s (specially their custom made Bloody Mary), while playing board games on a rainy afternoon. Strawberry Vodka shots at Punk. The incredibly good looking swiss-french boys (who usually to sit or walk next to an incredible stylish and beautiful swiss-french girl). Walking everywhere, without worrying about safety.

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Being so close to nature. The swiss railway. The demi-tarif, that got me moving around Switzerland always for half the price! The 10 minutes ride away to the vineyards in Lavaux. The 45 min ride to the nearest ski station. The snow (who would have said so!). People’s love for adventure. The crazy swiss who snowboard and ski down Lausanne’s steepest slopes. The way in which the city’s efficiency is not at all affected by the weather conditions. The charming little villages. How beautiful and peaceful the the streets look when they’re covered in snow.

…. I could go on forever, but will stop it here because writing this makes my eyes wet.

I’m leaving on Wednesday. Until then, I’m making ny best to visit, once more, my favorite places in the city, at my favorite meals and, specially, meet the friends I’ve met along my stay. Next time, I’ll be writing from London!

Photo Essay: Hiking in Aletsch, Switzerland (Part II)

This is a continuation of my day hiking from Belalp to Riederalp, in the Bernese Alps. Don’t miss the first part of the 14 kms hike!

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At the time I placed my feet on the suspension bridge, adrenaline sarted to rush through my veins. I was walking on a gridded floor, and 80 meters beneath, the Massa river carried freezing meltwater coming straight from the glaciers.

As I approached the center of the bridge, I took a moment to admire the landscape. Impressive mountains on both sides, a furious river rushing below, and Europe’s largest glacier appearing in the back of the narrow valley.

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My view to the left.

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My view to the right.

After we had crossed the suspension bridge and climbed up a sandy path, we reached a small lake, the Gruensee (in english, Green lake).

It was surprising to read that, only 80 years ago, this area was still covered under the Aletsch glacier.

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What a difference has global warming made.

It’s scary to think that, in only one year (from 2005 to 2006), the Aletsch glacier lost 100 meters. According to scientists, the glaciers are retreating at an average rate of 3% per year – based on this rate, it is highly probable that our grand children won’t get to see Europe’s glaciers. Bloodcurdling, right?

When we entered the forest, we were greatful for the shadows its old trees were creating. Hiking at 2,000 meers altitude hadn’t been as refreshing as we had initially thought!

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The Aletschwald (in english, Aletsch Forest) stretches on the northern slope of the Hohfluh and Moosfluh mountains, beween 1,600 and 2,200 meters altitude and collects some of the oldest trees of Switzerland. Tests have shown that the swiss stone pines located in the forest are at least 600 to 700 years old!

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But it wasn’t only the flora that rewarded us for the (challenging) walk up to Riederfurka. Besides for enchanted trees and a variety of mushrooms, we were lucky to pass close to a pair of curious alpine ibex.

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After 3 hours of continuously walking uphill, we finally reached civilization – a pretty little hotel in Riederfurka, with breathtaking views over the forest, the glaciers and the path on which, one by one, exhaused but satisfied hikers emerged from the forest. A perfect place to rest ones feet, drink cold water and do some serious hikers watching.

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It took us 20 minutes to arrive to Riederalp, from were we took the cable car to Moerel – the closest train station. However, we couldn’t leave the swiss mountains without one last whim:

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A Valisian platter with local dried meat and cheese!

Practical Information

Route: From Belalp to Riederfurka (around the Aletsch Glacier in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland)
Elevation gain uphill: 475m
Elevation gain downhill: 479m
Length: 14 km
Duration: 4 – 4.5 hrs (including admiration stops!)
Difficulty: Moderate
Wikiloc: Aletsch Glacier. Note that this loc goes past Riederfurka further to Bettmeralp.

Photo Essay: Hiking in Aletsch, Switzerland (Part I)

I havenn’t finished yet blogging about my week in Formentera, and usually hate doing these kind of jumps; but given that this is my very last week in Switzerland, I’ve decided to dedicate each of my posts to this beautiful country, and resume on vacation posts once I’m settled in London. I hope you don’t mind – I guess it’s my way of saying Goodbye…

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The weather forecast promised a sunny weekend with temperatures reaching over 30C and so we decided to escape into the Bernese Alps, in the swiss canton of Valais. Having our doubts about the cooling effect that 1,500 meters difference in altitude could produce, we thought it would be best to reach towards the source of all freshness – a glacier.

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Switzerland has more than 1,800 glaciers, starting at just a few meters up to 23 kms length. The Grosser Aletschgletscher (in english: Great Aletsch Glacier) is the longest glacier in Europe and made it to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2001. It covers more than 120 square kilometers of the Bernese Alps, which is considered to be the largest glaciated area in western Eurasia.

Some people would choose to jump into the lake – we chose to hike around the Great Aletsch Glacier.

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Our hike started at the Belalp Hotel, which is a 20 minute walk from the cable car station and rests right on the edge of the Aleschbord. From there, we hiked down a steep path down to Aletschji. During most of the 2.5 hours down, we had a breathtaking view over the glacier. Frankly, I could get tired of looking at it. At some point, I started to feel anxious, following an internal debate on whether I should or should not keep on taking pictures every 2 minutes and risk missing the last train to return home that day. I couldn’t resist myself, and decided that this risk was worth taking.

We came across some of Valais’ Blackneck goats. Their forequarters are black and their hindquarters white, and have long wavy hair. Aren’t they extremely cute?

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Every time we could, we drank and cooled our skin with glacier water – it taste so pure and refreshing!

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After descending 500 meters, we reached a 124 meters long suspension bridge that runs across a 80 meter deep ravine. Underneath, the Massa river flowed, charged with freezing water coming straight from the glaciers…

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As the title suggests, I’ve divided this post into two parts – one for each side of the Massa River. Want to know what’s next? Read Part II of the Aletsch Glacier hike

Mojitos and Sunset (Formentera)

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Remember the list of things I planned on doing during my week of Vacation? I’m proud to say I went through almost all of it. Almost. The one thing I did miss was renting out a bike – on my defense, it was around 35C during the day, and roads hardly ever were lit at night. I still believe that riding a bike is part of the real island experience, but certainly not in july and august.

We swam in turquoise water, visited a different beach almost every day and even rode a zodiac along the island’s coastline. However, no matter where we had spent the day, we always did our best to be back to our beach at latest 8:30pm.

Why?

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Not more than 30 meters from our apartment in Dunas Playa, was Pirata Bus – a cozy beach bar with good music, delicious mojitos and a unique view of the sunset. This bar has been in Platja Mitjorn for over 30 years, welcoming tourists and locals of all ages. Parents sipped their mojitos, while their children run around and play with the sand. A group of people played petanque. Groups of friends got together to plan the next day’s trip…

…and at 9:15pm, it felt as if time stopped. Everyone glazed towards the hills, counting the seconds for the sun to hide. In the background, tunes of Andrea Boccelli’s Por ti Volare. Each time the sun set behind the land, people clapped and cheered to the beauty of the evening.

After my first night on Formentera, I already knew this was going to be my favorite place on the island.

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Photo Essay: The Secrets of Dalt Vila, Eivissa (Ibiza)

Before reuniting with my girlfriends in Formentera, I had planned on staying a day in Ibiza.

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Ibiza is one of The World’s top party destinations with many of it’s night clubs featuring each year’s top ten DJs almost every night of the week. For those who seek for extravagant and wild nights of pure hedonism, Ibiza is, without doubt, the right place to be.

Me, I’m not a clubber. Maybe a bar hopper, instead. What was I going to do there?

Categorizing Ibiza only as an electro paradise is a big mistake – it has so much more to offer: peaceful hikes in the green, beautiful beaches, colorful hippy markets, fresh sea food and lots of history.

Eivissa*’s Dalt Vila (in english, Upper Town) is the heart of the island’s history. Right next to all the city happenings, is the entrance to its historical center – so different, it could be a city on its own. The Dalt Vila stands on top of a hill facing the sea. Fortifications were built in the XVI Century to protect the island. Behind the city walls, there is peace and silence. A labyrinth of stone streets, white buildings with decorative doors and windows – an intersting combination of arabic, spanish and italian architecture – and breath-taking views of shiny turquoise water. I think I could live here.

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Dalt Vila was added as a World Heritage Site in 1999.

*Although the capital of Ibiza is widely called Ibiza Town, the correct name is Eivissa.