Down the rabbit hole

“Lost in June” could have been another title – not that my skills are lacking when it comes to finding my way, but two separate weeks away in one month do rather dominate proceedings and it’s taken me till mid-July to re-emerge, ready for the next trip!

We were so fortunate to have a couple of weeks of glorious summer weather in June, the really hot type, and luckier still that we were able to spend the worst of the heat on “Aquarius”, a 36′ Bavaria yacht, sailing on Lake Constance with varying crews – initially some dear friends who introduced us to other new friends (who also spent a day aboard) plus my brother-in-law (including his cigarbox guitar!), and subsequently another family who have become dear friends in the process! Although the Whit weekend was obviously popular with anyone wanting to escape the heat, it was understandable – you’re either sailing or chugging along  in the headwind or else taking a dip in what is still, essentially, an icy mountain lake. IMG_3097Most refreshing! Highlights: taking the boat out into the middle of the empty lake just to enjoy a glass of wine and the sunset and finding our way back in the dark because the harbour lights go off after 10 pm; taking the boat out into the middle of an almost empty morning lake to have breakast while bobbing around at anchor; “parking” in Constance harbour with direct access to the town centre and big exhibition on the 15th century Council of Constance; “parking” at the private jetty of a very nice inn; music on board! having enough wind to actually do some sailing, despite beautiful sunshine (the two often don’t go hand in hand); sailing by moonlight; being the only inhabited boat in Meersburg harbour after the big tourist boats have gone; even the stormy waters we had for an hour, at most, but which gave everyone a taste of what’s it’s like to sail the seas! Having said that, I don’t think there were any downsides on this trip – our friends, who had sailed with us twice last year, including the time it snowed (!) were just overjoyed to have great weather for a change. Our other friends’ daughters were naturally delighted to have a daily opportunity to swim and dive but also proud to be helmswomen and to learn how to tie knots – they very soon outdid us :)IMG_3110IMG_3120IMG_3122IMG_3156IMG_0260IMG_0266Following a short and rather hectic mixed interlude involving my brother-in-law’s birthday party, a stranded car and it’s subsequent retrieval, another summery lunch at the monastery of Ittingen, a business outing to Bad Ragaz sweetened by an outdoor lunch in the Bündner Herrschaft (the Jenins vineyards) as well as some quick laundry and repacking, I was back off to England on a very early morning flight to celebrate more birthdays, my mother’s but also my son-in-law’s – it’s all go in June in this family! Of course, it was only six weeks since our last brief visit for Granny’s birthday, but it seemed only fair that my mother should be feted, too. We did this with a trip out to Halfpenny Green Vineyards, which I must admit is the first time I have ever been to an English vineyard or drunk English wine – much acclaimed wine, too! It was hard to show proof of this because one vineyard does rather resemble another, but I tried… IMG_3175The food was very nice and well-presented, the shop had a fascinating array of gourmet goods, there is a simple café for those not wanting the whole restaurant experience and it was lovely to see lots of mums with small children let loose in the large garden with ice-creams and enjoying the opportunity for a gambol around the lawns between the vines. As there is a small crafts’ centre there, too, it’s practically a day out. Oh, and what about this?! IMG_3172I think the birthday girl would have fancied a ride on that :) IMG_3165 - Arbeitskopie 2But we had to get home to the birthday cake… IMG_3180The following day, it was time for a trip down memory lane. My Granny was born and brought up in Sheffield and it is nearly 20 years since she last visited her place of birth. I last went there as a young teenager, which is even longer ago, and of course it doesn’t hold memories for me as it does for her or my mother. Granny’s memory is excellent and we have heard many, many stories about her childhood and the close family bond with aunts and grandparents living very near and so on. Always a lover of plants and with very green fingers, she remembers planting three little tree seedlings in the back yard of her home as a young girl… IMG_3194so was delighted that there are still trees in the small space between the houses after 90 or more years! Of couse, she was also thrilled to pose victoriously in front of the house she was born in (the upper window!), still going strong as the eldest daughter of a large family, now sadly depleted. IMG_3191Of course, it was also very nice to see the last of the older generation still living in the area (and meet some of the younger!) and we were able to all have lunch together. Some of us still have not recovered from the size of the cakes on display! I kid you not, that carrot cake was 12″ high :O Everything here was enormous and we’d never seen anything quite like it! It seems there is a cake tradition in Sheffield – Granny has been a master cake-maker and decorator for over 80 years and now this…Sorry, a little distraction!IMG_3182I felt very lucky to be able to treat Granny to this day out, which she appears to have enjoyed very much and I’m glad to say it didn’t wear her out entirely! As my mother used to spend some of her holidays at her granny’s house, too, it was a nostalgic trip for her as well and what with the follow-up of watching the Tour de France around Yorkshire, I think it’s all thumbs-up for that region at the moment :).

My plane deposited me back in Switzerland just in time for my husband’s birthday (yes, another one, birthday, not husband!), more delicious meals out, a descent into some decidedly cool, wet weather and another family party – “grandchildren defeat auntie” might make a good headline (though having just attended a very very muddy Open Air Frauenfeld festival, camping for 3 days, our daughter might be glad this was all she had to contend with in preparation!).IMG_3211and to top it all off, that young man’s 6th birthday is this week, ending our spate of summer birthdays!! Phew.

There, that’s what happens when you fall down the rabbit hole… and the next instalment is likely to be from here: IMG_1781Same procedure as every year!! :)

Garden flowers

Really, I ought to say “glorious garden flowers” because of course this is the time of year when the gardens are all at their best and the paeonies and roses are, or have been, wonderful! IMG_3058IMG_3059The climber doesn’t have a scent, sadly, but the little bed of Austin roses more than makes up for it – there’s a Gertrude Jekyll, a couple of Fisherman’s Friends and the one I brought in, which I think (but I may be wrong!) is a Charles Austin and together with the last of the pink paeonies is wafting it’s delicious smell through my kitchen! IMG_3091 IMG_3092Such pretty crinkliness and so very feminine, while the scentless climber is robust and hardy and both solidly and passionately red – until the petals drop and the soft pink base is revealed :) IMG_3089To finish, some loose and blousy, starry white paeonies that are shop-bought but nevertheless, I’m happy to say, trail their sweet airy perfume around the living room…IMG_3090

Ascension upriver

Thursday was Ascension – a holiday all over Switzerland and the beginning of what are known as “hay holidays” around here, from the tradition of haymaking and keeping the kids home from school to help out – until after Whit, 10 days later. Of course, these days, it’s a good opportunity for an off-season trip somewhere far away, but for us, it meant a long weekend to carry out a plan we’d had for a while: taking a trip on our little vintage yacht around Lake Constance, wherever the wind took us for a few days… bodenseeFor those unfamiliar with the area, Lake Constance covers an area over three countries – Switzerland in the south, Germany to the north and Austria at the eastern corner. Down there at the southeast, at Altenrhein, is where the mighty river Rhine enters the lake, flowing through it (approximately along the Swiss-German border, in green), through the narrow channel at Konstanz and off down the Untersee towards the Neuhausen Falls at Schaffhausen… As our vessel is berthed at Romanshorn, along the southern shore of the lake, the larger part of the lake is our oyster, so to speak.

Ascension itself dawned bright and slightly breezy, so just right to get going after a light lunch, watching the breeze through the poplars on the lakeside. Although the sun shone brightly (as our red faces that evening reminded us!) and the water sparkled merrily, a light breeze was all it was, so after a couple of hours, we decided to make our way into the harbour at Arbon – one of the oldest settlements on the lake, which in Roman times was known as Arbor Felix. IMG_3062With spring weather having been somewhat unpredictable, not too many people were boating this holiday, and finding a berth just outside the harbourmaster’s office was no problem at all. We soon had everything neatly stowed away and set off to find ourselves a bed for the night – as it turned out, we didn’t have far to go, as the Rotes Kreuz just across the road was happy to offer us a nice, clean, simple room with a view out across the lake… IMG_3063Expecting a simple and possibly limited kitchen, we were quite surprised to find a menu with a huge choice and the quality of the food absolutely impeccable – my fish was fresh and expertly dissected for me by the staff (I’m not so keen on my meal looking at me…!). So a highly recommended awarded right there.

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast amongst friendly staff, we decided to brave what had become a less than desirable day’s weather. Grey, drizzly, windy and somewhat grim, the few sailors on the surrounding boats seemed to have battened down the hatches to stay inside until some improvement in conditions, but we climbed into our rain gear and got on with it. A somewhat nervous sailor myself, I was slightly alarmed as we came out of the harbour to be met with (for me) unprecedented choppy waves, a strong wind, heavier rain and a good deal of the lake trying to get into the boat with us… IMG_3066That, in better weather, would look something like this (including the Säntis mountain just over past the left-hand edge of the pic)!! Ahem. IMG_3053Well, it was a situation where we just had to get on with it – my husband had sensibly decided to replace our large foresail with a smaller one and with that, we sat it out and eventually, although it remained grey, it first settled into a spot of dead calm and then, as if remembering what it was supposed to be doing, blew in a nice little wind just destined to carry us northeast to Lindau without getting any wetter – in fact, it was enough that we were totally blow-dried by the time we got there, and actually improved in the process (the weather, that is, probably not our appearance!). IMG_3054 IMG_3053Notice the colourful “urban knitting” on those benches in front of the tower!!

Doesn’t the boat look tiny between the other two?! She was well protected, though, and so covered that we felt able to leave her there for the night and find ourselves a place to stay – preferably with plenty of hot water! This turned out to be the Lindauerhof, right on the harbourside, where we were given a lovely double-aspect room with windows both out onto the old townhall and the Rapunzel tower… IMG_3079See Rapunzel’s plait hanging down from the window?!

We were so tired from our day’s battering by the elements that we had an early dinner followed by a cosy dessert and coffee and were fast asleep… very soon :o

The following morning dawned very sunny and despite all weather forecasts for an east wind that would have blown us straight back home again – nope, it was a west wind that necessitated rather more work. First of all, we had a wander around Lindau, which is such a pretty little old town on an island offshore (I wrote about it and some of its history a while back). So picturesque… this is the Hochzeitshäuschen (little house of weddings), just next to the hotel – IMG_3055With lots of lovely little shops to browse, we made a few purchases and then packed ourselves back to the boat, stowed our bags and readied ourselves for the trip back home to Romanshorn… IMG_3082 - Arbeitskopie 2Tacking back against the west/southwest wind took a while but we made good speed most of the way, got splashed a little by some lively waves that crept over the bow – and I had a deluge dropped in my lap after a police boat passed us (thanks!!) – but once again got plenty of sun and wind and after nearly 6 hours made it back to our home berth. I’m pretty proud of having steered all the way back no matter the wind, so seem to have gained confidence in our little yacht, which must be a good thing! Anyway, it was the first time we’ve taken her all the way around the top half of the lake (we tacked up to Friedrichshafen so basically covered all the area to the east of the dotted ferry line on the above map) so another time, perhaps we’ll head up to the north-west for a change… IMG_3067Home again, home again, jiggety-jig… 

There’s nothing like enjoying a snack on the lakeside in the evening sun after a day out – hello again Romanshorn! IMG_3086

A Year On

This time last year, I wrote about our quick visit to England for my Granny’s birthday.

Press “repeat”!!

Only this time, it was Granny’s 98th birthday we were celebrating, with Granny as fresh and perky as ever, really a remarkable woman! There’s not much else to say – we were lucky that the weekend of rain that was forecast didn’t materialise and we only had a couple of very short showers while in the car on a trip down to Oxfordshire for a family jaunt to take daughter and son-in-law back home after the big day. The birthday once again brought kindly visitors for tea and cake and a delicious meal out (a little closer to home this time!) – the kind where you sit chatting in the restaurant for 3 hours or more, like the French! – and the drive through the bright lush May greenery of the Cotswolds was much appreciated by our country-loving grandmother! And this year, the bluebells were out, too. We found a delightful village near my daughter’s home, quintessentially English and with lots of thatched cottages and pretty houses – and a thatched country pub, friendly and cosy, to have our Sunday lunch :). Our physicist son-in-law gave us a Grand Tour of his workplace that delighted my husband, in particular (he’s a frustrated astronaut!) but which was fascinating for the rest of us, too, as far as we understood the goings-on LOL.

All in all – another lovely visit! Happy Birthday, Granny!!



A week of almost non-stop rain meant I was soon finished with my next project… IMG_0252It’s May – and we have lily-of-the-valley (May bells in German!) – and though my paeonies are really ready to burst, I’m enjoying some shop-bought paeonies till they do… IMG_2957And now back to finishing the henley…!

Edit: Finished except for buttons :) IMG_2963

MayDay catch-up

When I came to transfer all my recent photos to my laptop, I found there were over 100 for me to go through! High time for me to play “catch-up” now that the month is (already) over!

Well, for a start, those spring pictures of the garden? With plenty of sunshine and probably just enough rain in April, this year, everything has grown rapidly and a week ago was already looking like this IMG_2879Those paeonies will burst into bloom any day, now, so I’ll be keeping my eye on the gardens at the nearby Carthusian monastery, where there is a wonderful paeony collection, as well as a beautiful rose garden. The masses of columbines we have everywhere will be colouring up any moment, too. In other places we have clouds of perennial forget-me-nots (brunnera) and lilacs that I couldn’t resist bringing in… IMG_2866It was the old Carthusian monastery we visited on Good Friday – Easter was a pretty washed-out affair in this country, but Friday was dry enough for a walk in the woods and a coffee break at the restaurant there. They’d set the lunch tables for their Easter guests very prettily, with the serviettes folded in bunny-ears :) IMG_2863IMG_2862And such simple, pretty flowers on every table, too! The atmosphere in this place is extremely soothing, which is probably why it’s used as a seminar hotel, but you can also buy products made on-site, where those at the edge of society get a chance to be productive, too – organic cheeses, meats, jams, bread, teas…

Just outside the walls of the monastery are vineyards and if you go up here IMG_2854you will find this pretty little chapel, whose simple interior is painted in soothing dark colours with subtle gold decoration that catches the light. IMG_2861If you then turn around, you can look back down on the monastery (it’s no longer active – most were dissolved around 1848 here) – IMG_2859

There is also a view right out over the Thur valley to the mountains, but that will have to wait for a day with better weather conditions!

A lot less pretty but infinitely useful in a climate that CAN get very cold in winter (though it didn’t this year!) is our new gas heating system, replaced after 25 years – so for posterity, a pic of that, too (we use the utility room to store shoes and sports equipment, hence the shelving – as the new system takes up more room than the old one, another round of decluttering has had to happen to fit everything back on the shelves!)… IMG_2852What with the rain setting in, we were glad it would stay warm, and it also meant that activity returned indoors, where spending time with my grandchildren usually means a certain amount of time doing jigsaw puzzles, which they are surprisingly good at! M is only 2 1/2 but already confidently does these 15 piece puzzles, usually 4 or 5, one after the other, so requiring a good concentration span, while her brother easily manages 100 pieces and won’t be 6 till the summer! IMG_2872Though I have to say that, given the chance and decent weather, both are quick to be on their bikes, up in the treehouse or on the trampoline!

We had two jaunts with a useful purpose this month, to represent our respective mothers at meetings, and we would certainly be foolish to refuse the opportunity of a weekend in Lugano in the spring. A very bright sunny day meant we enjoyed the park of the hotel where the meeting took place and subsequently the parks along the lake shore, where the azaleas were particularly abundant and jazzy and the sparkling water with the mountains around made for a really spectacular vista and there was a very pleasant breeze to counteract the quick heat – IMG_2889That’s the San Salvatore seen from the Villa Castagnola IMG_2899IMG_2900IMG_2901and camellias!

Later that same night, an enormous thunderstorm came up, so that the following morning (with another one in the course of the morning), our view went from this IMG_0341to this… with a good 15°C drop in temperature…IMG_2938We were fortunate to be invited for lunch up at the top of the Verzasca valley, which is at 900 metres above sea level and very quiet, and just as lovely in the rain – on the way up the winding mountain road to get to it, we passed this unusual waterfall (and there are many gushing down in to the Verzasca river!): IMG_2945In the middle of the picture, it is no illusion – the water passes under a slab of stone and then reemerges a couple of metres further down! This area is well known for the bridge at Lavertezzo, though this is an older photo, as well as the geology – KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAand the slate and stone houses KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAwhich fortunately, don’t lose their charm in the rain!!

The month was also productive on the knitting front – here a little cardigan, Wee Wildflower, by Alana Dakos and using Madeline Tosh Sock in Lotus. I love the scalloped cast-on edging and despite the small needles, it knit up quickly and easily and is a perfect fit! IMG_2790IMG_2793and whereas this was just the beginning IMG_2799this has grown IMG_2801and grown and is about to have the sleeves sewn in for a finished Thermal henley by Laura Chau from Knitty (a free pattern!) in a waffle stitch – the yarn is, once again, Madeline Tosh Sock, this time in colourway Mala, a wonderful mêlée of moss green, sky blue and tinges of pink and lilac… I think it’s very springlike!

Next will be a little red sweater for my granddaughter, who adores Belle and Boo… Postkarte-Es-schneit-Belle-Boo-And that, my friends, rounds up April 2014 – who can believe it’s May already?! :o