Altitudes and contrasts

March 19, 2014

Over the past weeks it seems like I did  nothing much but come and go between the mountains (4429ft) and the plains (1480ft) and yet I can assure you a lot happened in-between ! The seasonal flu’ hit several family members I looked after; Spring cleaning fever hit me too, as well as clearing out. I also took time to visit with friends here and there. During these constant trips up and down the valley, I became interested in  comparing the changes of Season according to the different altitudes.

The tall and almost bare larch trees in the Alps; snow melted in places but no green buds yet.arbres-mâts

A forest of slender masts in the town of Morat, at the edge of a lake. The boats are stlll protected from the cold and the frost that can cause so much damage in Winter. Soon they will sail on the lake though.

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Under an unusual mountain fog, the slate roofs of the chalets are still covered with a thick layer of snow.

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whereas the old red tiled roofs of the ancient houses shine under the sun near  Morat.

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Snow flowers over 4000ft

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and  Spring first pink blossoms at the lakeside.  So welcome !

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Someone you know, my Nino, is almost taking off a steep slope in the mountains, a simple joy he never gets tired of,

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and a thirsty dog (20°C on that particular day) taking a bath and drinking water at the edge of the lake, after playing with his master on the grass.

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Typical Winter activity…

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and early Spring relaxing moments at the lake.

DSC00268Such are my landscapes at the moment. Winter is not yet over (far from it) and Spring is starting to shine down in the valley. I even saw apricot trees in bloom, a rare sight at the end of March. I wish you happy moments, joyful colors and a warmer sunshine in a blue sky.

En route for Spring !

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Porto Ribeiro

July 28, 2013

On the second day of our visit to Porto, we walked down from the top of the hill through a maze of steep paved streets leading to the  Ribeiro district.

7.30 am in Ribeiro, one of the oldest and liveliest parts of Porto. The Douro river flows slowly in the misty morning. The city looks still sleepy and the air is pleasantly  cool.  It will get very hot later on as we will visit this lovely area that is sometimes called  the true soul of Porto.

Porto, Ribeiro, boats

Tall, narrow houses line the side of the river. The day had brightened up and the wave of heat around midday was almost palpable. A hazy kind of light. Not really the best time for taking pictures but we were hungry and the smell of fried food, roasted sardines, lead us to a restaurant along the quay.

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A long and wide promenade  runs along the river. There were few tourists at this time of the year but I can imagine how crowded  this  would look right now. I took this picture  from  a bridge we are going to cross later on. Houses, shops, market stalls and restaurants blend in colorfully. A luminous sight indeed.Ribeiro, jetée

A closer view of the terraces along the Douro river. I had promised myself to take a “food” picture of the dish I ordered : “sardinas asadas”, the absolute must when you visit Portugal. Roasted sardines. When the waiter brought a large plate  where four delicious looking sardines lay side by side on a bed of salads, I forgot all about my promise 😦 The inviting scent,  the cool white fruity and fragrant  wine, the first bite into the sardines’ delicate flesh… and  when I thought about the picture, my plate was empty ! But I can assure you it tasted very good.Ribeiro, terrasses

A few boats were anchored  as we walked towards the bridge crossing the river. This old boat  is one of those Rabelos – ancient barges with a flat bottom –  the type that used to transport barrels of the famous Port  from the Douro Valley to Porto.Ribeiro, barcos rabelos

Dom Luis I Bridge, constructed in 1886 on the lines of Gustave Eiffel’s Dona Maria Pia railroad bridge. Each level has two-way traffic and two sidewalks.  It was fascinating and challenging to walk across the bridge with cars and buses racing by all around. On the other bank of the Douro river lies Vila Nova de Gaia, the  well-known place of wine and wine lodges. Some  of them are open for visitors and wine tasting.Porto, Dom Luis Bridge

The large cool cellars  in the wine lodge we visited  were a real reward after the  walk in the blazing sun. My husband and  I sat happily on one of those long black benches where a large group of Japanese tourists joined us later on. Behind dark glass doors, a lot of wooden barrels were neatly piled up. The golden lights in the ceiling gave the room and the barrels an air of an Ali Baba’s cave. We tasted a glass of two different vintage Port. Exquisite ! Do you believe me if I tell you that after the long walk since early morning, the hot sun and the wine my legs felt kind of tired ?Sandeman's

Never mind. The following day was going to be a relaxing one : a one day cruise on the Douro river, along  vineyards, forests, small villages. We joined about 60 other people on a boat such as the one of the right, the smaller one.Ribeiro, barcadouroAre you ready to follow me for an enjoyable journey ? Then don’t forget your sunglasses, a hat and your favourite sun cream: the day is hot on the deck !

This blog has been rather silent over the past weeks… I travelled to Andalusia, the most Southern part of Spain, a province whose shores border both the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. This is also an area of hills and fields covered with olive trees and all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Andalusia’s mountains (sierras) are familiar to a Swiss visitor ; thick forests of pines, high peaks,  pastures, winding roads and snow covered mountains. olive trees plantations

Andalusia is also a province of ancient and magnificent cities where Hispanic and Muslim cultures blend in beautifully. I visited three large cities : Granada, Cordoba and Cadix and many other smaller towns or “pueblos blancos”; their architecture and setting were just as  amazing and enchanting: Baeza, Jaen, Ubeda, Vejer de la Frontera, Arcos.

On a sunny and windy Sunday morning I was in Cadix, walking on a promenade  along the Atlantic ocean, in luxuriant and almost tropical gardens.fountain Cadix, colour

Cadix, promenadeIt was a Sunday of celebration, a First Communion Day. Many families were walking in the gardens, all dressed up, chatting happily and enjoying this special day,  all generations together.

Cadix, First CommunionFurther along the walkway, I reached the harbour and the beach. There, in the midst of boats facing the ocean people were having a happy lunch or sun bathing, away from the crowd and the busy streets of the city. A real holiday mood !

Cadix, lunch at the seaside

Cadix, harbourThe merchant city of Cadix or la Habanita (little Havana) is one whose history is present at the corner of every street, a city where I loved spending my Sunday. I sat for a while in the parks looking for shade or at the harbour.  Coming from the mountains, sea has always fascinated me. I could sit on a beach or in a harbour, looking to the sea and imagine the ancient ships which left the Andalusian shores centuries ago and sailed toward the New World. My visit ended with a delicious “café solo con pastel” (coffee and pastries) on the terrace of the Parador (hotel) facing the ocean. A slow and relaxing day I love to remember.