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Switzerland

14 December

This is going to sound a bit strange....but ..last night we concluded that we have had enough of the good weather. We have enjoyed 13 weeks of almost perfect warm sunny weather and we have decided that what we need is ' perfect cold weather', that is snow-covered villages and clear blue skies! After all, we have packed for a European winter.... we want to USE some of our cold weather gear!!!

The alarm went off at 6.00am. Not an unusual hour for those of you who work for a living but for us it was about 2 hours earlier than our normal day commences.... and DARK!!!! The sun didn't rise for another two and a half hours.  Lausanne, Switzerland was our agreed target. It must be cold and it must have snow this time of the year...

Driving the 700kms from west to east across France would not usually be much of a challenge for drivers used to Australian roads, except for the fact most of the road between Bordeaux and the Swiss border is non-motorway and visits every town, village and city en route! Needless to say we pulled up short. After ten hours driving we only managed the six hundred kilometers to Lyons, 130kms short of the Alps. The good news is that on the way, things looked up. The weather was shocking. Wind, rain, temperatures close to freezing. Yes! The Europe we remember and love to hate!

As the Loire and Rhone rivers met, the sun broke through and the villages on the hillsides took on the beautiful late afternoon glow that only the fading winter sun can bring.... The temperature climbed as the sky cleared and as we drove into Lyons, the late afternoon low was 14C.

... What do we have to do?

15 - 16 December

'Cold at last, cold at last!'

Switzerland had to be a sure thing for a bit of pre-Christmas chill and a little snow. At first we were worried. Geneva was cool but not cold. No snow and not a lot to offer of real interest. After all, we've been there and done that....Switzerland has been unkindly described as the world's greatest theme park. You pay your motorway toll and from then on it's like one big shopping centre. Even the fields in the countryside seem to be mowed. This view is somewhat flippant. So the Swiss are obsessive about straight lines, matching 'things' and cleanliness! Things could be worse - .....

Last night (15 Dec) we camped at a motorway services that provided free power, water and toilet emptying services for campervans. - Heaven! Or it would be if it also provided hot showers!!!

Desperately seeking snow, we again altered our plans and headed for the Jura Mountains near Interlaken. We were rewarded with some great foul weather and snow on the way. But as we now know as our right, by the time we got to the lakes the sky was clear and the scenery was picture-postcard.

High above the town, Grindelwald, just below the north face of the Eiger, was in full sun. Despite the narrow and icy roads we  decided to drive rather than take the easy way - the train. Our reward was typical Swiss "photo opportunities" at every turn. And when we reached the top of the pass, the chair lift beckoned and despite the 'steep' price $AUS50 for two, we went to the first stop, some 500m above the town.

Europeans who visit our beaches must feel the same fascination with the sun, surf and sand as we do for the snow. It is so clean! So Swiss! One has to wonder what the dusty, dirty and dishevelled Romanian villages look like now under an all-forgiving blanket of snow?

Tonight we are in a camping ground just outside Interlarken. Right beside Lake Thun, with an uninterrupted view of the snow-capped mountains that frame the lake - and to think we are doing all this on full pay! Long live the welfare state.

17 December

After a few days in Switzerland the countryside seems better described as a huge golf course, rather than a theme park. Rolling hills green and mowed, major water hazards and a well-defined 'rough'. ‘Club houses’ on every corner of every fairway complete the picture.

 

Sometimes Switzerland looks like hundreds of scenes from biscuit box lids strung together. Design consultants must have to approve the planting of every tree and the construction of every fence!

The few people we have had contact with have been extremely pleasant. Not a bit like our memories of Swiss rudeness on our last trip. Prices are easily calculated and compared here as the Swiss Fr is usually at parity with the AUS$. We seem to pay no more for everything except fuel - how lucky we have been at home!!..

The language changes in Switzerland are dramatic as you cross Canton borders. French is spoken in the south-west, Italian in the south-east and German everywhere else. Street signs, radio stations and advertisements change along well defined lines. English is, of course, spoken everywhere!

Enough cold. We have returned to France, via free German motorways and are settled 2kms from central Strasbourg.

Sunday is usually a good day to 'snag' parking spots near the centre of most cities. Not today. Pre-Christmas shopping has flooded the streets with traffic and people. Our attempts at 'park and view' visits to Luzern and Basel turned into extended drive-throughs. The latter along 'pedestrian only' streets!

Tomorrow we are having an easy day in Strasbourg. Paris is only hours away and we have 4 days to get there to pick Lizzie up.  

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