Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: clouds

Rigi, out of this world

In mid-January, I took my final long, solo backpacking trip. The main motivation was to see Rhine Falls in Switzerland since I missed it due to bad planning in 2012. I contemplated asking for company, but after much thought, I decided to set out all by myself. I needed to get away from people for a week and spend some final moments in Europe with memories that belong only to myself. I needed to roam indulgently through endless beauties without restricting myself with anything. I needed to know that I could be lost and not afraid.

(Of course, that final line came from the lyrics of “Trip the Light” from the Where the Hell is Matt video, 2012 version.)

So I went. In the midst of packing my luggage for Canada, selling everything that I was leaving behind, and finishing off administrative procedures in France, I stopped doing everything and flew to Basel, where the week-long travel began. This trip has been in planning for about 3 months, and even though it was meant to be more or less spontaneous, I needed to know roughly where I was going as I would be visiting 3 countries and 6+ cities in 7 days. I knew Rhine Falls had to be one of the destinations, and since I was in Switzerland again, why not spend some more time in this gorgeous country? I also missed Lucerne during my two previous visits, so that was added to the itinerary. I would later go on to add Schaffhausen, Bern, Vienna, Hallstatt, and Bratislava to the route, and thus began my final elaborate solo journey.

That feeling of taking flight without a burden in my mind and without a worry in the world – it was exactly what I had been missing as the aircraft took me from Bordeaux to Basel. Switzerland again – it had been my favourite European country to visit, until not much later when it would be replaced by Iceland. Yet, I could never get tired of visiting Switzerland. The greenest grass, the bluest skies, the whitest snow, and the clearest waters are found here, and perfection is too perfect that it became eerie. Eerily attractive.

Basel was in fact just a transfer point (I had already visited Basel with chef) to my first destination, Lucerne. Then it turned out that Lucerne itself wasn’t even the first destination. Before I headed out, as I was planning my trip, I saw my friend’s photos of a place in the Swiss Alps called Mount Titlis…not so far from Lucerne. I was instantly taken over by the gorgeousness of it all – I HAD TO GO. Looking into half-day trips from Lucerne led me to a choice between Mount Titlis, Mount Pilatus, and Mount Rigi, all of which were easily reachable from Lucerne. After taking into consideration various factors including time required, cost, modes of transportation, and reviews, my choice was clear. Instead of following my initial urge for Mount Titlis, I decided to go for the “Queen of the Mountains” – Mount Rigi.

The trip between Lucerne and Mount Rigi involved 3 modes of transportation – on the way there, I’d take the boat from Lucerne, cross Lake Lucerne to Vitznau, and then take a cogwheel train from Vitznau to the top of Rigi. On the way down, I’d take the same cogwheel train down only halfway to Rigi Kaltbad, and from there I’d take a gondola/cable car down to the town of Weggis, where a boat would take me back to Lucerne. I was surprised that in mid-January, the number of tourists was anything but few. Seems like Rigi does have its reputation for a reason. On the morning of departure, Lucerne was hit with the thickest fog I’ve ever seen. The entire city was a smokey gray – you could not see any further than 10 metres in front of you. As the boat left the docks of Lucerne, I felt that we were venturing into a space warp as visibility around the boat was literally zero. The winds were chilly on Lake Lucerne, and most passengers were smart enough to hide in the warmth of the interior of the boat. Few brave ones, including me, sat outside. It would probably have been a good idea if we were able to see something, but clearly (or not so clearly…) that was out of the question. I soon came to regret the idea and like the wise passengers, went back inside before the winds froze me.

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Powered by nature

I fell in love with Secret Garden’s song Powered by Nature as soon as I heard it (lyrics here). It makes me remember the times nature has touched my heart and once again reminded me of the greatness of God’s creations. “I’m powered by mountains, they make me feel so small, so I can seize the wonder and the greatness of it all…I know I’m a part of God’s great universe!” Often throughout my travels, I like to pause and just let the serenity of nature surround me. Then I am thankful that God granted me this big big world to explore, to experience, to enjoy.

No lavenders in Provence nor tulips in Keukenhof this year, but what a blessing it was to see the sunflower fields last week, row on row, stretching without end towards the blue sky, beyond the vast horizon. To be in touch with nature in its purest form, to listen to the voice of the truest beauty speaking through the wind – such marvel and awe. This was in the midst of a trip to the Royan zoo, two hours away from Bordeaux. If anything was worth the trouble of going all the way, this was it. (By the way, I almost fainted from this indescribable beauty…it was way beyond anything words can hope to convey.)

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It’s all about Saint-André

Some time ago, I made a note to myself to write a post entirely dedicated to Saint-André cathedral, right in the centre of Bordeaux. I think the last time I mentioned it was more than a year ago. Now, it’s time to get down to business.

I pass by Saint-André every day when I take the tram to work, as it is centrally located in Place Pey Berland, beside the city hall at Hôtel de Ville station, which is also the interchange between tram lines A and B. Even so, every time I walk by it, I feel that sense of grandiosity surround me as the giant cathedral looms overhead. Day by day, I am still amazed by its magnificent architecture, falling in love with it inside out.

Over the two years since I’ve arrived in Bordeaux, I’ve taken a lot of random photos of Saint-André from different angles, some of which I will share with you here. Of course these are taken at various times, explaining the drastic different shades of the sky 😉

First up, we have the southern façade of Saint-André, taken in late January 2012. Tram line B passes right in front of it and I live right up ahead, near Palais de Justice. After visiting so many cities and seeing so many cathedrals in Europe, Saint-André remains my favourite one, though it may not be the largest or most impressive. Notable mentions go to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption in Clermont-Ferrand, France, the Dom in Cologne, Germany, and the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, Belgium.

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If this is the beginning of spring

Two more weeks until daylight saving time begins. Two more weeks until our second annual training school. Two more weeks until I head back to France. Hooray!

I know I mentioned that there hasn’t been much sunshine in Louvain-la-Neuve lately, but when when there is sun, this is quite a relaxing place to be at. Ever since the trip to Ghent, I’ve stayed in Louvain-la-Neuve every weekend – gasp! Weekend afternoon walks became my activity of choice here, especially pleasant during the two weekends when it was warm and sunny out! Spring was definitely coming, right?

Wrong. Weather here fluctuates like the lottery. When I thought the sunny weather meant that it was the beginning of spring, Mother Nature burst my bubble by sending snow last week. Splendid. For two or three days I felt like we were back in that period of time at the beginning of February when Europe was invaded by a sudden cold attack. I almost had to get my scarf and gloves out again. Not amusing.

I am glad, however, that I did take advantage of those warm days and left the house to enjoy the rarity. My favourite place in Louvain-la-Neuve is definitely the lake. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with the lake for a nice, relaxing afternoon.

On this day, my original destination was actually not the lake. I began by wandering through some residential areas of LLN, stumbling upon some new, unvisited places, before somehow ending back at the lake, as always. Really, how far could you go?

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