GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Want a sub-two-hour calorie burner that’s fun, with nice views and libation options? I shook off my Sunday indecision late today following a Saturday night dinner with friends, finally asking my wife to prescribe an afternoon excursion.
I ended up taking my first real bicycle ride of 2013, heading across Pont Butin – filled with walkers taking in the fine weather – South to Chancy and re-crossing the Rhône on the quaint single lane bridge at the Pugny train station.
The climb from Pugny to Challex burned the haze from my mind without hurting too much.
The views from the top on a sunny day are not too shabby either; in warmer weather you can get a cold drink on the patio at the Auberge de la Treille while you take in the Rhône river snaking through the valley below.
The ride down to La Plaine is a blast, if short-lived – 3 km of switchbacks through front yards and close enough to the hillside dwellings to see what’s on for lunch.
GEX, FRANCE – Just back from a snowy work retreat at La Mainaz, below the Col de La Faucille pass in Gex.
The hotel, a homey chalet with rambling additions is a fine place to be holed up for a few days with good company.
The ample views of the Pays Gex below and the Alps beyond Lake Geneva were an appreciated counterpoint to the brain straining work at hand.
On two occasions – one early evening and one early morning outing – I headed straight up the mountain across from the hotel on a wooded trail towards the Col de La Faucille.
The depth of the standing snow in the Jura right now has turned the forest into a winter wonderland.
While co-workers were able to walk narrow hard packed snow trail in their boots, I strapped on snow shoes and went to explore the downy peaks and ravines around the Mont Jura ski station.
The massive snowfall this year, the views from the top and the proximity to Geneva (30-40 min.) make this a great afternoon getaway. Go for the snowshoeing, or the cross-country trails around La Vattay.
ST. CERGUE, SWITZERLAND – Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet snow at St. Cergue (or thereabouts). The fresh snow above St. Cergue this weekend made for fresh backcountry skiing around the Bois de Couvaloup.
On my second climb in as many weeks, I explored with a ski mate, the area between La St. Cergue and La Dôle, and found a great mix of moderate climbs up well marked forest cuts, Lake Geneva views and sparsely travelled powdery slopes rewarding us.
The way up to La Dôle this time was easier, less of a technical climb, with more downhill slopes compensating, and plenty of food and shelter options on the way (Café La Barriette, Chalet des apprentis, Nyon Ski Club cabin).
While our route was never far from a car accessible road, the ample snow cover and threat of a good “white out,” gave a pleasant feeling of isolation.
Standing in front of the Nyon Ski Club cabin, our last stop before heading down the piste at La Dôle, I thought, “perfect family outing material,” the spirit of adventure within my teen daughter’s pain/ennui threshold.
One of the members there, lunching with family recommended spending the night and taking advantage of the club’s open kitchen facilities to cook up a cold weather feast.
CHF15 per adult and CHF6 for kids; get your fondue on!
LA GIVRINE, SWITZERLAND – OK, there are no wheels in this post. In fact, it’s all about the joy of pushing two planks up the side of a mountain through the evergreens… and the exhilaration of sailing down through fresh snow fields and open piste.
Just back from the first ski outing of the year with my friend Jeremy; a two hour thirty minute ascent of the Poele Chaud peak adjacent to La Dôle (1,628m and 1,678m respectively).
From our perch at the weather station/hut at Poele Chaud we were able to take in the stunning vista of the Swiss Alps across the lake, appearing to rise from the foggy soup that is the Leman Basin.
Despite the balmy 5 and 6 degree weather we had been sweating through on the way up, the exposed face where fellow backcountry skiers and one snowboarder were dropping off, was verging on icy, and I appreciated the extra windshell I packed.
The trip down through the trees and carving heavy snow was a good trick after the workout climbing the backside of the peak.
We took it slow, popping out of the bindings and hoofing it where the trees were too close, the turns too tight and the drop too severe.
And half-an-hour later, we were headed down the piste with the chair-lift crowd, on our way home.
A good day by any measure.
NEW YORK CITY, USA – Just back from visiting family in New York where I found the city looking better than ever for bicycle enthusiasts.
Tuesday, 4pm – within an hour of arriving, I was biking down town from my sister’s apartment in lower Harlem to collect my niece and nephew from school.
New signage and marked bicycle lanes in Manhattan have helped to transform cycle commuting in Manhattan from the domain of kamikaze bike messengers to the realm of 9-5ers and…parents picking up their kids from school.
I have spent little time in the city in recent years, but to my eye, of the many recent urban renewal projects, this one is transforming life in the city. I was stunned by the number of workaday cyclists plying the streets from Harlem to Mid town.
The showcase piece is the now famous West Side hike and bike trail paralleling the Henry Hudson Parkway from the George Washington Bridge, all the way down town to Battery Park.
While this is a gem of urban planning with amazing vistas of Lady Liberty and Jersey shore (albeit not the Jersey shore), it does get somewhat crowded on the weekends, however, there are several other marked routes up and down the island serving daily drivers.
For a truly New York experience, grab a bike at one of the many shops detailed on the city’s “greenway” hike and bike map, and head into Central Park on Sunday for a few laps.
We stopped at the magnificent Larry’s Freewheeling at the top of the Park and picked up a tandem; well worth the $15 an hour to hear my niece screaming with glee.
The traffic runs counter clockwise, and they do ticket for red light infractions, so slow down and enjoy the ride.
Click on photos to enlarge
SAN SATURNIN LES APT, FRANCE – ALBISOLA, ITALY – MOLLENS, SWITZERLAND – As summer rolls to an end I am still savouring the warm memories of a summer vacation of two-wheeled bliss spent between the Luberon region of Provence, the Ligurian Coast in Italy, and the Valais.
Luberon is a protected region of painted ochre and lavender scenery, dotted with picture book medieval villages. Seen from the saddle of a bike, the scenery rolls by like a slow motion slide show.
I rolled into the town of Rousillon, renowned for its burnt orange cliffs, just as the sun was putting the final touches on the town’s church tower.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – How’s this for a quick getaway; hop a bus to Veyrier, grab the first gondola up the mountain and catch a flight on Saleve airlines.
The Etrembières based paragliding school joined the Saleve Mountain Bureau, the Saleve Tramway, Horizon Restaurant, the Maison du Saleve cultural centre, Illico Travel, Segwaygeneve, the Geneva South Port Convention Centre and the Annemasse les Voirons Tourism Office on Thursday afternoon for a mountain top exhibition of their respective services.
So I went for a solo parasail… Not quite, but I did get the lowdown on what it takes to get your parawings – about two weeks of flying instruction and 1,200 CHF.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – With my car out of commission last weekend and the need for a good outdoor fix, I grabbed my backpack, snow shoes and a pocket full of change and ran down to Gare Cornavin to catch the number eight bus to Veyrier.
LA PÉTROULE, SWITZERLAND – This year I am preoccupied, maybe obsessed with dreams of snow.
This is the first year since I have lived in Switzerland that I have gotten more than a week’s consecutive use from my down parka, and I have realized, I really like a good winter. And, I am liking it even more having rediscovered back-country skiing.
At less than one hour from Geneva and with a nice combination of gentle pistes backing up to open space, La Dôle-St. Cergue is a great morning/afternoon ski fix.
Arriving at 11 AM on Saturday to an all but empty parking area, I happily noted a few seasoned back-country fans packing up their equipment after an early outing.
KAPPELBODEN, SWITZERLAND – Sunday morning I woke up with a stiff back, looking at cloud covered evergreens through my frosty breath in serious “Heidi country” as my wife says.
What to do when life is looking a bit too ordinary in Geneva? Grab that book you haven’t cracked, pack the motorcycle and head to the mountains.
Haunted or maybe inspired by the notion of how lost I could get in 24 hours, I followed the Gold Coast to the autoroute towards Fribourg, then hung a right at Bulle and headed for the peaks.
My first thought was “damn! I don’t have GPS,” followed quickly after by the realization that most of the road miles and nearly all of the real adventures in my life, were logged charting road and topo maps – yes remember those flimsy contraptions with squiggly lines detailing goat paths?
In fact, they work well when getting lost.
I had forgotten how unwieldy 30 pounds can be on your back with the wind tugging at you.