Magrit and David Course are distant relatives of Liz’s who welcomed us to their home as if we were their own children. We were given our own room with our own bathroom and Lindt chocalate on our pillows. The house is a triple storey, so we essentially had a floor to ourselves.
Magrit had a very detailed itinery planned for our stay with them. It included trips to France and Italy, trips into various places in Switzerland and an evening of Opera. Needless to say we were very excited for stay with them.
Once we had unpacked our bags Liz and I were split up for the first time on the trip so far. Liz and Magrit went to visit a five story wedding gown retailer while David and I took a typical tourist walk around lake Luzern and the old town. Liz was suitably impressed with the wedding dresses and came back with a catalogue of ideas to bring back to SA. I returned from my trip with about 200 photos of lake and ready for a two hour nap. I remember liz trying to wake me up but with little success. Guess all the travelling had caught up with me.
Our next day with Magrit saw us boarding a train to Milano. The fashion capital or the world and also the home of the famous Duomo! So as I readied myself for an expensive day of shopping we set off into the streets of Milan.
The Duomo was fantastic! The entire building must be about 12 stories high and is made entirely out of marble. The interior of the cathederal has the most exquisite sculptures and stain glass design I have ever seen. I eventually had to sit down in the pews to attempt take in the detail that was there. Just as my brain was about explode Liz announces that she wants to walk on the roof. Thankfully there is a lift and 20mins later after buying tickets etc we found ourselves on top of the Duomo. Spectalar veiws of Milan, at least they would have been if it wasn’t for the 24 cranes erected around the city.
After a morning of walking it was now time for lunch. The returant chosen was our second roof resturant of our trip and overlooked the Duomo. Before we sat down my meal was pretty much decided for me. Daniel, my brother in law, insisted that I try the pizza when I was in Milan, a friend Adrian van Rensburgh had told me to have espresso and I am a fan of Tirimisu which is an Italian speciallity. So there you have it pizza, tirimisu and espresso. Liz followed Daniel’s instruction with a pizza and wrapped the meal up with an Italian chocalate desert.
Stomachs satisfied the real fun began with an afternoons shopping expedition.
We did not have enough money! Everything looked great and most of designers have not reached South Africa yet. Liz was in her element! I just wish we were spending someone else’s money, I would have bought alot more then!!
We slept most of the way back to Switzerland. We were competely exhausted so we decided to take Wednesday easy with a sleep in, a trip to Rhine Falls and home to dinner. Wednesday turned outo be exactly what we needed to get back on our feet. I was also very glad we saw the falls because it wasn’t in the initial itinery.
On Thursday David and Magrit took Liz and I on a train through the Alps into Italy. The train took us through the only pass open. The winter had been terribly cold before we arrived and avalanches had closed all of the passes except this one. The trains are installed with panaromic windows so the veiws are incredible. The only problem was that almost all the photo’s taken had a reflection from the window so I would take the opportunity or short trains stops to hop out the train and take a few ‘reflection free’ photos! This brings us to one of my biggest adventures of the trip. Liz has asked to write this section because let’s face it, I won’t describe the level of my stupidity correctly.
Liz tells the story
So as Mike said he had hopped on & off to take pic’s, these were always done in a hurry as the train doors close without warning & off you go. I’d been doing this with Mike, mainly to get a specific shot for my dad(which we got) so at our third to last stop Mike hops out to get a shot of this lake & I was watching him from my seat, Mike was casually taking his time, not even looking back to check the doors were still open & I was thinking “he can’t be THAT stupid” it turns out he can! From my seat I hear the doors close & Mike is still at the waters edge, so I get up to press the button to open the door & shout at Mike for being so doff, except the doors wouldn’t open. Margrit shouts & I shout,he doesnt hear, but he hears me tapping on the glass & turns around in time to watch the train leave him behind. He didnt know what to do so he runs along side the train for a bit & watches us choo choo away. I felt so sorry for him but at the same time was so annoyed at his stupidity! David speaks to the conductor to find out another train will be along in an hour, he could get onto that & meet up with us in Ticano 10mins before we catch our bus. I told them that Mike won’t wait an hour he’ll jump into action & try fix it his way instead of sitting doing nothing. Then I find out there are no more trains coming, but he can get on the next bus. Now there was no way of communicating with Mike-no cell phone or anything, all he had was the camera & wallet. So the conductor radios the station for someone to find Mike & tell him. Mike was in Italy & was meeting us back in Switzerland & I was sitting with his passport & ticket. We arrive in Ticano where Mike will eventually meet us. We sit down & order lunch, David then goes to find the busstop where Mike will arrive & the time. I decide to walk down the road to find a market, I couldn’t find it so I turned back & in the far distance behind me a hear “ELIZABETH” I turn around & there comes Mike walking down the road. I couldn’t believe it-all my annoyance had now gone & I was laughing at the fact that he had made his own plan & had gotten to us quicker than the bus & what were the odds that we were both on the same street. I was guessing Mike had hitched a ride,til I got to him & he was pouring with sweat. Then I found out he had run from the border…10kms. I still can’t stop laughing! What a dork, but it’s so funny!! Only Mike!!!
It’s Mike here! Time to hear my side of the story!
I was getting very frustrated that every photo we took had a lovely reflection and had worked out that everytime the train stopped there was a short opportunity to get a few ‘reflection free’ photos. So in the small town of Poschiavo the train stopped right next to a beautiful lake. Seeing this as a chance to get some lake side photos I hopped off he back of the train to take a few snapshots. I did not hear anyone call that the train was leaving (on previous stops we were warned before the train left) until I heard Liz tapping on the window. I turned around just in time to see the train making it’s way down hill – WITHOUT ME!!
The only thing I could think of doing was to run after the train which made me feel a bit like a dog chasing a car tyre. What was I going to do if I actually caught the train? Jump on the back, swing myself up onto the roof, find the nearest open window and slide in to safety? So I decided to stop running and to find a different solution.
I turned around to find that every person who was staring at me chase down a train had suddenly dissappeared. There were no shops that I could see and even the station looked empty. So like Forest Gump ‘I ran’. I figured that at least heading down hill alongside the train line meant that I was heading in the right direction and that I would be easy to find after I keel over from dehydration or have an allergic reaction to running.
I ran approximatly 5km in my jeans, thinking to myself about happy I was that I made the fashion mistake of wearing running takkies with my jeans. Coincidently the blisters on the feet had also just finished healing. I arrived in an even smaller town called Brusio (I think) and was starting to get fed up with running down the steepest hill known to man, so I decided to find a taxi or a bus that could take me the rest of the way.
My first attempt was shocking. I walked into an almost empty resturant to find that nobody spoke english. Not even my broken Afrikaans could help as I was being stared at by an old Italian women who was desperately trying to help! Eventually she led me outside and pointed downhill and held up her hand indicating 5mins to the bus stop, or so I thought! I ran downhill towards the ficticious bus stop and passed and group of people, one of which seemed to call out to me so I turned to find out what she wanted and twisted my ankle. All this to find out that she didn’t want anything. I think she wanted to see me twist may ankle.
Limping towards my bus-stop-shaped mirage I passed a guy just about to leave in a car. I looked at him with sad ‘lost tourist eyes’ (it may be a good time to tell you that I am running down this hill in the Swiss Alps carrying an SLR camera with a freaking huge lens attached in my one hand) and he obliged to give me a lift. This is the moment that he realises that my Italian is as good as my Uzbeckestani as I stare blankly at him chatting away and ocassionaly mutter the only Italian I know, ‘Gracia.’ I had also just finished the only piece of exercise I had done in the last week at 7000m above sea level, so I was wheezing like crazy. This prompted the very kind Italian to finish his ciggerette in record time to avoid the seemingly inevitable asthma attack.
2km later I got dropped off at the itallian border when I realised I did not have my passport on me. I was lucky to find an English speaking Italian who listened to my story patiently and let me through the border. He also gave me the good news that the next town, Tirano, was the last stop for the train and that it was a 25 minute walk from the border. I knew that I had a bus to catch in less than 30mins or else I would be left in the bottom part of Switzerland with no way home. So my only choice was to continue running. Eventually I arrived in the town and got directions to the train station, on the way there I saw Liz walking down the same road.
It’s a good time to mention that most of the way down I was praying that God would turn this potentially ‘ruin your day’ moment into a better ending. Seems that He did just that by making sure I never caught the bus down. Two days later though – my quads are still not talking to me.
South of France
After all that excitement Liz an I were taken into France on Friday to visit a few French towns. This turned out to be a lovely day, both relaxing and interesting. First stop Riquewihr which is a small picturesque town surrounded by French vineyards. What stood out as the most unique aspect of the town was the use of flowers almost everywhere. The entire town exploded with colour.
Colmar was the next town we visited which is quite a bit bigger than Riquewihr. The plan was to do some shopping but every store in the town was closed. France was celebrating the end of World War 2 with a public holiday. The good news was that the parking was free.
We had lunch in Colmar, which ended up being the specialty dish of the area, ‘Tarte Flambè.’ The tarte is basically a small pizza without a tomato base. The pastry is also fairly time like a foccacia. After lunch we set off explore the town a bit more and then headed our way back to Zurich.
It’s the weekend!!
Saturday morning came and we marched off to the Zurich Market. I found a second hand msic stand with tons of jazz music so I was left there while Liz went to see what she could find. A few hours later we found a some new friends (Aude and Thomas) and had lunch on the side of the river. We almost spent the entire afternoon there but we needed to get back to the house to get ready for the Opera.
The opera was very good. A modern interpretation of ‘The Magic Flute’ by Mozart which was entirely spoken and sung in german. This made it a bit difficult to follow but we had read up on the story line before so we were not completely lost.
Sunday we relaxed! Thank goodness! I took a day away from the camera, we touched base with family, went on a relaxing walk in the Swiss countryside and packed our bags for Paris.