Sintra et al

I hardly know where to start with this post – no amount of images could cover the impressions, really, and it becomes clear that travelling vicariously is going to have its limits for some of you! How I admire the travel writers of old who must assume that their readers are unlikely to follow in their footsteps and to need to describe what they have seen in suitable phrasing…

We flew into Lisbon and very warm summer weather, picked up our rental car and headed to the coast for a few days, thanks to a wedding invitation – German friends have decided to tie the knot and as they are closely connected to Portugal, they decided festivities would take place there. Different!
On arrival, however, we were greeted by a very unrestrained and raging Atlantic crashing full force into the most westerly coast of Europe – and it had brought with it a thick, cool fog. That was unexpected.

The roar of the waves was amazing and deafening – I slowly realised why all the villages are built up on top of the surrounding countryside. I really hope the hotel staff don’t live there permanently! We were at the northern end of the Plaia Grande (big beach), which is no doubt well-visited in the summer months. At the end of September – a few brave surfers attempted to master the irregular storm of waves and a few intrepid sunbathers lounged by the pool but the water was also very cold. I believe it doesn’t actually get any warmer than our Brittany shore, even in summer. Well, that figures. Also, we were told that only 15 minutes drive away in Cascais, the climate is mediterranean: warm, mild, sunny!

When we awoke the following morning, the sea was still bellowing but the skies had cleared and we decided to explore. A cool wind was very welcome and kept the temperatures pleasant in the warm sun. We were staying in Colares, a parish of the municipality of Sintra, which in turn belongs to greater Lisbon. Sintra is a World Heritage Site – and no wonder. There is an array of places to see, scattered through the edge of a national park or forest, mainly of chestnut trees, it seemed, and each palace or villa or castle is as interesting as the next. It is a region that was fought over for centuries and where evidence of a Moorish past is still very much evident. This made quite a change for us, used to British and central European architecture and architectural detail that generally features a lot of Celtic influence in the designs and geometry, but here, the heritage is a very different one, which of course also reflects the difference in climate. Another impression is of the traditional Portuguese style – as the first European colonists, it becomes clear that it was their style which was imprinted on the Colonies, with low square villas covered in fancy decoration and often in shaded, lush gardens appropriate to the lifestyle in a hot place, with the ubiquitous verandas, indispensable attribute to this kind of building. The area is also a wine-growing one, so large depots hold the enormous wine barrels for storage, keeping it dark and cool for later distribution.

Even at the very end of September, Sintra is obviously a popular destination and the tiny town of streets divided only by pedestrian paths was well visited and bustling. It wasn’t easy to find a parking spot or to work out exactly where we were – we had passed several fascinating-looking palazzos and Italianate villas where there only seemed to be a handful of parking spots and time restrictions meant we had chosen two specific places to visit. (Should you ever go to Sintra, allow several days because there is really so much to see and take in, and you wouldn’t want to rush, now, would you?!)

We did come across a house with a different history – the place where Hans Christian Andersen stayed in a tiny village above the town…

Firstly, visible for miles around up on top of the hills, there is a Moorish castle (8th/9th century). That is, the remains of the Moorish presence and several hundred years’ worth of adaptation (from the Bronze Age onwards) and rebuilding, but it is essentially that which we imagine when the word “castle” comes up – look-out towers, crenellated walls snaking over the stretch of the highest part of the hill and flags flying to show who is boss. As it is spread over the hilltop, it has a larger area than you might find elsewhere and is quite a building feat. We climbed and climbed, up cobbled paths and stairways and steps, winding back and forth, through gatehouses and outer walls until we reached the main entrance. Mainly mediaeval, the castle was crumbling by the time Ferdinand II took it on – time and lack of attention since the 14th century as well as the huge earthquake of 1755 that destroyed much of the area had taken their toll – and by the 19th century there was a new sense of romanticism. This artistic, modern and liberal king was actually a German prince, aha! And so we understand the hows and whys of his sense of conservation and romance as he saved what was left, built a mediaval-looking tomb for any bones he found and generally made something of interest and which appealed to visitors… early tourism! The whole is very well presented and worth the steep climb through the woods, which we thoroughly enjoyed (despite aching calves the next day!).

From the top, there is a wonderful view down over the coastal landscape, the town of Sintra and all the way to the coast – with the sea in the far background! The palace with the tall white towers was where we were headed next…

We chose a different route down, one which descended below the Moorish castle (Castelo dos Mouros) and through a cleft between the rocks (a somewhat perilous path of steep steps and large rocks where young rock climbers practised both monkeylike climbing and abseiling…) and then into the shaded gardens of the Villa Sassetti which meander down through the valley to Sintra, following the fountain/stream that irrigates everything. All the info here:

We’d been all the way up there!

But now, we headed down through Sintra to the National Palace, also known as the Town Palace (Palacio Nacional de Sintra), the best preserved mediaeval royal residence in Portugal, again, with Moorish origins (not visible now). To my mind, the mainly 15th/16th century building offers a wildly exotic comparison to residences of the time in Britain – this was the time of Henrys V, VI, VII and VIII and Elizabeth I. For all the necessary basics, the contrast is extraordinary: both architectures are “the best” of their regions, being royal, and yet they are so not alike! Perhaps there are arguments which are better informed than I and maybe there are palaces that have more in common, but in my experience, there are so many differences – and it occurs to me that they can be seen in mediaeval paintings, too, though I had not previously considered that…
Anyway, to begin with, we did not enter into a large representative hall – a side door of the main entrance (again, perhaps different to the way it was at the time?) led up a sinuous stone spiral staircase to the guard halls and the first large, representative room, the Swan Hall, or Hall of Princes.

How unusual to our eyes the tiling everywhere?! Not something I’ve ever seen in an English stately home.
Step onto a loggia and feel the coolness of this central courtyard – and just look at those curious white towers which can be seen for miles around! What on earth could they represent?!

Walls of daisies – something for my Yarnsmithery friend! – lined the following rooms, followed by another stunning Chamber of State, with a ceiling decorated with magpies. “Por bem” (for honour) being the motto of Joao I (John I, 1385-1433)… “This relates to the story that the king John I was caught in the act of kissing a lady-in-waiting by his queen Philippa of Lancaster. To put a stop to all the gossip, he had the room decorated with as many magpies as there were women at the court.” Wonderful stuff!

Loggias, bedrooms, patios, gardens, staircases of stone (little wood here except for furniture and ceilings!)… a palace truly fit for royalty.

This last high-domed room has a real wow-effect – coming from a narrow corridor you enter and gasp. The walls are all blue-and-white tiled hunting scenes, the ceiling incredibly ornate and richly painted. In German, to be snooty is to be “high-nosed”; I wonder what it is in Portuguese?! The Royals definitely had their noses in the air and a crick in their necks, by the look of it!

Again, what a contrast to the tapestry hangings on the wood panelling commonly found in chilly English palaces!

The chapel seems to be one of the oldest parts of the residence. It seemed unusual to me to find the walls in pink, though I did like the dove theme! It seems that when they found a motif, they really stuck with it (a lot of birds, too!) and I also like the geometry of the repetitive design.

(In knitting, those inbetween borders could almost be Norwegian stars!)

What about a built-in fountain in your bedroom?! (In fact – running water in the 15/16th centuries? Eat your heart out, England and France…!!)

And now for those curious white towers… Built in the early 15th century – I remind you that we are talking 1400-1450, so around 600 years ago. This utterly blows my mind: they are kitchen chimneys!

How amazing is that kitchen?! Tiled all over, large, roomy and NEXT DOOR to the main halls!! Compare that to a Tudor kitchen (and in fact, we should go back and compare it to the Lancastrian Henry V… pure mediaeval renaissance!), far from the state rooms, dark, dirty, dangerous… I find this kitchen completely mindboggling. This is the oven…


By now it was time to head off to the beach for a pre-wedding get-together – again, the sea was very loud and the wind fairly icy, but a good time was had by all. I was very glad of my blue Quill shawl!

And the wedding was beautiful, too. A fantastic wine cellar location, a very classy reception, excellent food and wine – I’m sure the couple will be very happy together!

A last drive out to Cabo da Roca – this is the westernmost point of continental Europe. As loyal fans of Brittany it has to be said that the Pointe du Raz also claims the same honour, and I really don’t know who to believe. In any case, it’s an impressive cliff with an attractive lighthouse… you decide!!

(and for comparison, the Pointe du Raz:

Wow, what a weekend! ;o

If you’re interested, here is more on Sintra: and and we stayed here where the food (fish!) was excellent!


Interim (alternative title: ‘Desperate to catch up’!)

I know I only just got back from my summer stint in Brittany, but I have more travels to report back on, as well as the promised book reviews – and (gulp) more knitting and yarn acquisition. I have no excuse, I am but a weak woman!

The visit of a dear friend from Canada – we hadn’t met for 11 years! – was a good excuse for daily jaunts around Switzerland, including yet another cable car ride, this time up to 2502 m above sea-level…

…as well as a beautiful day out in Lucerne and a drive over more mountains, visiting old haunts from when our children were small and an epic Robbie Williams concert. Among other things. I don’t think I stopped grinning all week! Thanks, E!!

Believe it or not, I am presently in England yet again and for the last time based at my granny’s house. A very bittersweet time as we pack up and sell; the house is now looking decidedly minimalistic and it’s a bit like camping – but interestingly, we have all we need! There must be a lesson in that.

While we’re here, we still take advantage of a day here and there to go out and do something and visits to friends and relatives further afield are an opportunity to see a bit of countryside.

We spent an afternoon of bright blue skies in Bath… followed by an unexpectedly beautiful return journey thanks to Apple maps satnav taking us around motorway congestion and through some tiny Cotswold country lanes I wouldn’t have dared to follow alone but with the September sunset throwing a wonderful light over the landscape. The route spat us out gently on the top of a hill south of Gloucester with a phenomenal view down over the Severn estuary as we descended to the M5 motorway on what seemed to be a pass road zigzagging back and forth. Breathtaking.

…then another afternoon on a fascinating visit to Stourbridge, which used to have an important glass industry. I had no idea. Glassware for the Titanic was made here! The Red Cone Glass Museum (possibly/probably changing its name soon?) is on the site of Stuart glassworks and shows the history of the industry over the 18th and 19th century. The complex includes a shop where beautiful pieces can be bought and a number of craft shops. We especially enjoyed the Red Cone Coffee House lunch of salads and a traditional ploughman’s – definitely to be recommended!

My favourites – the colours! And then entitled “fibre”…wool in glass?!

Autumn arrived yesterday, so I really want to get the summer wrapped up… which leads me to this summer’s books.

There were two of my favourite authors to catch up with: Alexander McCall-Smith and Donna Leon. Both are prolific and there are new stories each year, in the case of the former, a new story for each of his series, most years. This summer I enjoyed the latest in the Sunday Philosophy Club/Isobel Dalhousie story, A Distant View of Everything, which I think is the 11th in this gently meandering musing, as always with the light humour McCall-Smith does so well. Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti appears once again in the 26th volume of the popular series that plays in and around Venice – this time it’s a particularly hot summer that sees our hero out rowing on the lagoon…

Another author I’ve mentioned before is Ann Cleeves. I love her Shetland series (close to the wool lol) but her other protagonists are also good. A new Vera Stanhope story is out, The Seagull, which no doubt will also turn up as a televised episode at some point. Much as I like the actress Brenda Blethyn in the TV series, I have to say that the books give us a much fuller, richer appreciation of the character and her background that are completely lost in the visual medium. Once again, the new book goes into depth concerning Vera’s relationship with her father. I was less impressed with a short book in Peter May’s China series and therefore relieved that his final volume in the Enzo MacLeod tale was as intricate and fascinating as the previous 6. Will there be another Hebrides/Lewis episode, I wonder?!

I seem to be stuck in a sea of series… that would be my collector gene coming out! Having said that, I haven’t read any of the Kurt Wallander books by Henning Mankell, the well-known Swedish author (Wallander is “his”) detective. The style is not dissimilar to the Sjöwall/Wahlöo Inspector Beck crime books, also previously mentioned on my blog! I have seen most of the televised serialisations, though, some of which feature the actor Kenneth Branagh as Wallander. All this to highly recommend two quite different books by Mankell, The Italian Shoes and The Swedish Wellies (tentative title translated from the German, as apparently not yet available in English! I hope it soon will be.). The latter was Mankell’s last book and both are a poignant reflection on old age wrapped in a lonely old ex-doctor’s senior years. Despite this the two books are quite funny and show the appealingly wry and dry sense of humour I have come to appreciate in the few Swedish books I’ve read: examples being A man calles Ove (Backmann), which I listened to as an audiobook after having read it a couple of years ago, and The 100 year old man who climbed out of a window and disappeared (Jonasson). All well worth a read in my view!

And now for the wool.
Another Quill shawl by Jared Flood in the smaller size fell off my needles inbetween travelling – Plassard’s Rando sock wool has given me a sky-blue beauty I have yet to photograph properly, and the navy Lang Jawoll turned into some vanilla socks in a nice shaded navy. A quick pair of Supersimple Slippers are pretty and useful for my mother as the weather cools.

Which brings me to acquisitions. I do not need any wool. I have plenty of wool. And yet… sigh. Let’s get it over with:

Lovely West Yorkshire Spinners’ Blue-faced Leicester DK

The very special North Ronaldsay (the island sheep have a diet high in seaweed…!) and some Faroese wool in navy for a very warm hat!

This Swedish wool is nearly a cabled cushion already…

while this sock wool jumped into my basket at the supermarket!

How could I resist trying Wensleydale wool for some pretty mittens? Like the cranberries in Wensleydale cheese!

The new Drops Nord in “fog” colourway seems right for autumn! Alpaca-wool-polyamide mix

More Drops – self-explanatory, really 😮

Three gorgeous skeins from A Yarn Story in Bath – their own Walcot Yarns Opus, some Julie Asselin and some Fibre co., both very much luxury items that have no plan yet except to be beautiful…

That should keep me busy for a while!

(apologies for odd fonts and spacings – I’m working from an ipad today and seem not to have as much control over these as I do on a laptop!!)

Summer 2017 – don’t blink…

My oh my – I haven’t posted since June 5th… I have been here, there and everywhere in the last 2+ months, much as before, and there is more than enough fodder for the blog and I’m always seeing something or saying, ooh, blog…

In my last post, I mentioned we spent two weeks sailing a chartered yacht on Lake Constance. This is something we do for at least a long weekend most years and generally a week or even two, the lake being 65 km long and with plenty to explore – we’ve been doing it for 17 years, now, and there are still plenty of small harbours or bays we’ve not yet been to. We have some favourites to which we return regularly, and sometimes that depends on the weather or on the guests who join us for various legs of the trip – German guests like the Swiss shore, Swiss guests fancy seeing some of the German shore and for variety, there’s that little corner that is Austrian! We are used to country-hopping but some of our visitors do get a little confused, as it is quite a big concept and they are all very different cultures. On the other hand, we should be aware that all borders are just lines on a map even if the land is ruled by different governments… Suffice to say, our tri-border wanderings follow the wind and the weather and we had plenty of all of those on this occasion, from rain and stormy winds and impressively high waves (for a lake!) to sunshine, sunsets, swimming and sunbathing in the course of two weeks in June, that would be temperatures between approx. 10-30°C if anyone is wondering what the climate is like and whether we have snow all the year round in Switzerland (an idea that a lot of people have!).

As for the accommodation, imagine a swimming caravan and you’d be about right – we usually have either two or three cabins plus the option of people sleeping in the “living” area, so up to 6-8 beds and there is both a kitchen (galley) and a bathroom (head) as well as the outdoor space in fine weather and a heating system for cold weather – and there’s nothing like putting the small oven on and baking bread when the weather is poor. These are generally 32-37’ yachts intended as holiday rentals and are well-equipped with everything we need and you can bring as much or as little as you like!

On the other hand, we also had several day outings on our own little vintage yacht, as it’s been a pretty hot early summer this year. ‘Solitaire’ is a 21’ day sailer (she was originally a small racing yacht) who can only take 2-3 people at the most (or two and the dog!) and has no cabin at all but who is an ideal escape when the air gets hot and sticky and you can escape most insects and find a breeze out on the water – bliss! We appreciate her vintage details, as she is now over 50 years old but still whizzes along when the fancy takes her.

June birthdays brought barbecues and lovely restaurant meals – check out Schloss Brandis in Maienfeld, small town of “Heidi” fame!

I have found a small knitting group that meets here: It’s a lovely park and the café terrace is the perfect place to meet up. On a rainy day it’s just as nice inside – and they have homemade cakes! 🙂

We have had two more opportunities so far this year to visit Lucerne and stay overnight, always a treat. On the first occasion, the brand new leisure boat, Diamant, was off on her maiden trip with a good deal of press coverage. From our hotel restaurant we had a wonderful view of her setting off on Lake Lucerne on a beautiful summery evening with the water glistening under her bows. She had a great send-off! Meanwhile, she is a regular sight on the lake and you can take a boat ride or even a sunset trip with dinner… something not to be missed either on Diamant or one of the other boats or steamers that ply the waters both during the day and in the evenings, most days. On our second stay, the hot weather meant an evening stroll along the promenade under the plane trees was a must, stopping to paddle in the cool, clean water and to walk barefoot on the fresh grass. Our favourite hotel features the novelty of a tiny funicular railway down the steep slope to the lakeshore, which takes all of a minute… We’d already had a delicious afternoon ice-cream on the riverside in view of the chapel bridge since it was unusually quiet in the cafés that day, usually overrun with tourists, and we gave the dog a chance to have a swim there, too, since the swans were all off on the other side of the river… yes, Lucerne is always an option and a pleasure!

Not that everything is playtime in my life, of course – my glasses broke just before I was due to fly to England in July and miraculously, although they couldn’t be repaired and the optician had been doubtful of success, my new ones arrived well in time before I had to travel. There’s Swiss efficiency for you. As I am severely short-sighted and can’t see much of anything without them, I was very relieved not to have to live in some rather scratched sunglasses for several weeks – phew. My trip to England wasn’t a holiday, either. We have to clear my grandmother’s house for sale, which was never going to be an easy task. She had been wonderfully considerate in getting rid of a lot of things she knew we didn’t want. She was also very organised and had put everything away neatly – until she had a phase of “sorting” towards the end of her life, where she promptly muddled it all up! Also, what she considered worth keeping is not necessarily what the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th generations want to keep, so there has been a lot of sorting. However, some of her furniture and pretty and/or sentimental (to us) belongings will make the journey to Brittany (some ultimately to Switzerland) in the near future, so we had a pretty busy time. To our minds, the photos and correspondence she kept make up the bulk of the “treasure” – it is our family’s history, and in many cases, our own. Precious.

This was also a visit to scatter Granny’s ashes, both in her hometown of Sheffield and the place she called home for 80 years, with my Grandad, and we felt we’d done the right thing. We had very fine weather, and for the Yorkshire part, a beautiful view over the hills from the cemetery that would have pleased her, we thought.
Visiting friends, neighbours and family is always the nicest part of “going to Granny’s” and we will miss having that base, though we hope not to lose touch with anyone – we are also very curious about what the new owners of the house will do to modernise it, as it’s something of a 1938 time-warp! There’s a ready-made excuse to return to visit the neighbours…

No sooner had I returned from England to Switzerland, dealt with my laundry and rescued my housekeeping and pets than I packed up again to go to Brittany. Here, I enjoyed endless sunsets – they are so different every single day, weather that is so much more pleasant and mild than Switzerland’s heatwave (I don’t “do” heat!) even if it sometimes cool and even rainy, catching up on a tall pile of books that had been neglected and knitting to my heart’s content. The pets are pretty happy, too!

Well, to catch up on the knitting – firstly, Brooklyn Tweed’s Quill hap shawl, which came sailing in June, then to England and now to Brittany before it was finished. A beautiful Shetland-style shawl, I chose colours that are very reminiscent of Granny (though they were nearly all leftovers from my stash!) and am delighted with the result, after using a makeshift construction to stretch and block the shawl in the Breton sunshine! The fawn is Drops Flora (alpaca/wool blend), as is the cream and the lightest green. The heathered aqua is Drops Alpaca and the deeper green is Drops Baby Alpaca-Silk, all on 3.75mm needles.

What better project for the seaside than a summery top in silk and seacell?! This is PurlSoho’s Drawstring Top in Siidegarte’s silk-seacell blend, colourway Mischple (dialect for ‘medlar’). The resulting fabric, on quite large needles at 4mm, is soft, smooth and drapey and very comfortable to wear. It does dip quite far down the sides, requiring some kind of undergarment/camisole/boobtube underneath but I’m very pleased with it.

Next up to be finished was Audrey in Unst, a pattern by Gudrun Johnston, well-known Shetland designer and the wool is one I absolutely love and have used before – West Yorkshire Spinner’s Blue-faced Leicester, this time in a pinky-coral colour (I previously made the now well-loved Traveler cardigan in a light blue, blueberry, I think). A pretty cardigan, quite short and designed to be worn with a skirt or over a dress or tunic and with ¾ sleeves, it’s a very attractive shape with a neat Shetland lace design across the front yoke. This cardigan was also completed on 3.75mm needles – only partly because I recently bought some in-between sizes of circular needle, KnitPro Zing, which I am really enjoying using. Next best reasonably priced thing to the shockingly expensive Signature needles, good and sharp and nice flexible cables. I also got a HiyaHiya circular in a small dimension (2.75mm) which is equally pleasant to use.

I had quite a lot of wool left over from my Quill hap and decided in the heat of the moment to make up a small cardigan for my youngest grandchild – I used 3.5mm needles and invented a top-down heart-yoke cardigan. Not being a knit designer, I soon realised I had gone awry but continued anyway and the resulting garment looks ok – I hope it still looks ok when it’s on a living child!!

There was more leftover yarn hanging about and I couldn’t resist more owls – I have made the Owls and Owlet jumpers several times, now, and it’s a lovely and appealing pattern by Kate Davies, one of her first, I believe, and really popular. It was enough for, again, a small toddler-sized Owlet jumper for said granddaughter, who is doing well here! This is the 18mth size knit on 4.5mm needles in Malabrigo – worsted, I think – in English Rose.

And that, my friends, was most of what I did this summer – the books will have to be a separate post :o!!

I live in a picture postcard…

I am back.
But before launching into a summer 2017 recap I will be stubbornly un-chronological and tell you how I spent the weekend…

We were lucky enough to be invited to a concert on the Pilatus mountain top. Yes, on top of the mountain. In fact, on top of the building on top of the mountain top. Digest that! “Pilatus – On the Rocks”

At 2132 metres above sea-level (6994 ft, apparently!). A local band, a Swedish band and a local singer, a 4-course meal in the Queen Victoria dining hall of the 1890 hotel Pilatus Kulm and then an overnight stay – wow. Add perfect weather and a starry night (we could even see the Milky Way, a rarity these days). Now add the highlight of an ibex appearing over the mountain ridge above the stage to enquire what on earth was going on instead of his usual quiet evening… magic!

This isn’t the exact one because we only got a pic of its backside ;o but this is just what it looked like!

Just getting there is an adventure. You can go up the mountain on either side; from Alpnachstad there is the world’s steepest funicular railway and then from Kriens, there are cable cars. We arrived from Kriens, travelled in a tiny 4-seater cable car up the mountain, through one mid-stop building and across a wooded valley up to the next station. Then we switched to the large hypermodern panaroma cablecar for the last, very very steep ascent up the cliff… phew, our hearts were in our tummies, I think!!

In the valley it was a sweltering hot 30°C+ but up on the viewing platform (which still isn’t quite the tip of the mountain peak!), though cooler, I still didn’t feel the need for a cardigan over my summer dress, it was very pleasant with a breeze. From up there you can look down that steep cliff to Kriens and over all of Lake Lucerne but also to Lakes Zug and Sempach, and if you turn around, you see the funicular railway and the less steep scree slope and the Alpine panorama. A bit like this –

This was the view out of our hotel window!! The “not-so-steep” side. Ahem!

What a special event in a super special location – even after 44 years in Switzerland, I had never been up the Pilatus before and thoroughly enjoyed it. A lot of people had come up on foot; I asked a local acquaintance how long it takes from Kriens – 4.5-5 hours, he said. The following morning, I got chatting to a couple on their way back down the mountain in the cablecar at about 11 am – they said they had walked up that morning in 3 hours and 25 minutes…! I think I’ll stick with the public transport.

Our friends, Relish Guitars, had a great stand in front of the stage and it was thrilling to see the bands all using various of the guitar models in their sets! A lot of locals had turned up to see Dada Ante Portas who come from Kriens, while others were excited to see their favourite Swedes, Mando Diao, and Henrik Belden had a good audience, too. We didn’t actually see his part of the concert, as he played during our main course! But the music was piped into the dining hall. Quite a lot of people braved the mountain paths on the two small peaks either side of the viewing platform and stage and watched the concert from above with the incredible backdrop down over both sides of the Pilatus mountain, quite breathtaking I should imagine. We do not have heads for heights so stuck within the safety of the “official” platform!

I was completely fascinated by the hotel, which was built in 1890, presumably replacing an earlier building, since Queen Victoria herself spent a few days up there in 1868 😮 !! Of course in those days it was all mules and litters to get up the mountains but intrepid as all British tourists were, she did it. In fact, the British invented tourism in Switzerland, so the Swiss actually have quite a lot to thank the British for… I recently acquired a wonderful little Penguin book published in 1945 that delves into the very first British tourist visits here in the 18th century, and can also recommend How the English made the Alps by Jim Ring as a more modern alternative into the history of tourism.

We had a simple but delightful room in the hotel, and kept in mind that every single drop of water and everything else has to be brought up to those 2132 metres altitude – daunting. The hotel was renovated in 2010 but retains many of the original details and the same façade, very retro. One of the smaller dining rooms features this beautiful ceiling painted with acanthus leaves and woodland animals, so pretty. And what British tourist would survive without a fireplace!! Fireplaces are not usual in Switzerland, the Swiss more commonly used very efficient tiled ovens, often connected to their kitchen ranges, so this must be a concession to another culture.

On the way home, we stopped off at the Glasi Hergiswil, which has just celebrated its 200th birthday. This is a glass factory that follows a glassmaking tradition dating back a very long time, much longer than 200 years, to the first settlers on the lake shores. Not so long ago, things weren’t going very well, but then in the 1980s, a well-known glass designer, Roberto Niederer, began producing a style of glassware that has become very typical of the Glasi and very popular in Swiss households. Meanwhile, there is a museum that includes a lot of glass technology and the whole village shoreline has glass sculptures and games sponsored by the Glasi. This spring, they built a 20 metre high glass tower with periscope facilities for looking out onto the mountains – fascinating.

Check out for the typical chunky modern glass they make here!

And now to get back to a) what I did this summer… and b) real life, which is still far from normal. Sigh!

Knitting and Sailing

So. The spring yarn – Malabrigo Mechita “Lluvas” – a really gorgeous colourway very reminiscent of purple irises with the shot of pale greeny-yellow through it became the Linus shawl(free on Ravelry)! The simplest of squishy garter stitch asymmetrical triangles seemed just right for this and the result is the perfect spring neck-wrap when it can still be breezy and rainy. Love!

Finished while sailing our little vintage boat one blissful and sunny May day…

I didn’t manage a May post but June isn’t too old,yet, so here’s the next of those seasonal yarns, the summery and intense colourway “anniversario”, brightest pinks mixed with a hot rainbow spectrum. Loose mesh shawl “Reyna” (see Ravelry) was a great choice for a light summer triangle good for a cool evening or a not-so-hot day out sailing:

It’s our annual charter on Lake Constance which started out hot but has inserted an upset reduction in temperature, a slight blip 😮 Just to show you can knit anywhere! And by the weekend it’s due to be baking hot.
The shawl needs blocking (perhaps stretched out on deck when the rain stops?) to spread the mesh and take the roll out of the edges but I’m very pleased how it turned out and the colours really pop. I had enough yardage to add an extra section each of garter and mesh so reckon it’s about 5′ wide once blocked, which makes me even happier!

What April showers?

Well. Didn’t March and April simply whizz by?!
As I mentioned in February, losing my granny meant some time spent in England, mainly to celebrate her very long life and her legacy of close friends and family. It was wonderful to see so many dear people who had loved her much as we had. Her tiny terraced house warmly welcomed a large party of 10 (8 sleeping there) family members and there was vibrant life and bustle of all ages: she would have loved it! We remain four generations who get on well together and so we began as we meant to carry on and after returning home again, a slightly altered composition of 8 of us – plus dog – then spent two weeks together in Brittany… I can confirm that much fun was had by all.

Not to mention that we have been pursued by plenty of fine spring weather throughout and our seaside holiday suffered no more than a combined 15 minutes of rain on two brief occasions, April or no. Children, adults and dog played on the beach, around the property and in the small house, everyone was always busy with something, even if it was just sitting in the sun, and relationships were cemented between the oldest and youngest members of the family as well as new adult relationships between sisters.

The camellias were still out…

…as was the wisteria!

So ssssh… here’s a secret: northern Brittany in April and September is not to be sneered at! It’s just as nice the rest of the year, but more likelihood of rain in winter and tourists in summer – as you can see, we didn’t have to share the beach with many people! The children wore warm clothes and hats on their top halves and skipped around just as happily in the waves as if they were in swimwear, in fact, the sea temperature is much the same the year round thanks to the Gulf Stream that passes by. Kite-flying was another hit – rarely a shortage of wind! Another thing is that dogs are allowed on the beach outside the high season (June-August), so assuming you are a responsible dog owner who scoops the poop, it’s no holds barred in digging for Australia…

Even the odd overcast day offered some rock climbing

while sunsets are breathtaking at any time of year!

The baby grew as we watched and progressed to her rightful position in the high chair 😉 She seemed to be telling us “finally!”

We also got to mess around in a boat and enjoy the view from the “other” side!

Plus everyone helped with jobs, in this case repotting and then demolishing the old rotted planter (a satisfying task for the 8 year old!):

Of course, while we were gone, spring sprung at home in Switzerland, too –

BUT… it is April, after all…