Friday, May 25, 2007


The problem of being in a city for a long weekend or a short week, depending on how you look at it, is that you cannot see and do everything the city in question has to offer. Or at least I can't. I prefer to do a few sites and take in as much as possible rather than suffer from a 'culture collapse' where everything becomes hazy. So on this trip the Sagrada Familia was not on the list, but will be on the next trip. Instead we visited the Cathedral of Barcelona. When on holiday I love visiting churches and cathedrals - apart from their beauty they afford a tranquil moment in what can be an exhausting time. They are cool, calm and often have more treasures to see than a museum.

The Cathedral of Ste. Eulalia is no exception. The stalls are wonderful, the organ majestic (shame it wasn't being played when we visited), and you can also take a rather dubious lift up to the top of the Cathedral to get some stunning views of the city. I wasn't too keen to go up as I am not the most courageous person in the world where heights are concerned, the lift didn't seem too secure, but in fact once up at the top there are no knee-buckling views down to the street below! So definitely worth going up for the views.
The cloisters have some strange inmates! Thirteen white geese who live there permanently and of course pose for the cameras! Each goose represents a year of the life of Ste. Eulalia who was martyred by the Romans for her religious beliefs. Why geese and how long ago they were introduced, I know not. There is also a charming little fountain with a statue of St. George slaying the Dragon but not easy to photograph in the afternoon light.

Difficult to leave such places that appease the mind and the soul but after lighting a candle in memory of loved ones, it was back to the buzz of Barcelona.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I enjoy going round an unknown city on an open-top bus. It helps me get my bearings (sadly lacking), gives you an idea of the size of a city and takes you past many of the sites worth visiting. As we only had three and a half days in Barcelona, and l'Homme was there on business, there is no way we could have visited all the sites. We decided to go and take a trip out to the Park Guell so my wish was granted to take a bus - the weather was lovely and taking the Metro didn't sound too much fun! After the hectic pace of the city centre, the Park Guell is wonderful.

Designed by Antoni Gaudi, it was originally intended to be a housing development, but due to lack of funds, the project never saw the light of day. It was eventually bought by the city of Barcelona and is now a municipal park. Everyone who visits Barcelona knows the dragon at the entrance and the souvenir shops are full of copies - it was vandalised in the early part of the year, but is now fully restored.

The stroll to the top is worth it for the wonderful view looking down over the city. The day we were there it was rather hazy, but we could still make out all the major sites. The view of the Sagrada Familia is unfortunately ruined as there is an enormous and very ugly development of flats/offices blocking it. How this was allowed beats me.

The main terrace of course is internationally reknowned, snaking its way round the viewpoint. What I didn't know was the shape of the seats was determined by Gaudi by getting the workmen to sit in the wet clay with their trousers down! After a welcome beer and a half an hour of people watching, we were off to catch the bus to continue round the city. The second half of the trip is slightly less interesting, unless you are a football fan and want to visit the FC Barcelona, but we decided we liked the FC Barcelona as they support UNICEF instead of having enormous logos of 'phone companies on their shirts...

Towards the end of the tour as we neared the sea, it did start to get a bit chilly - the thermometres in the streets were saying anything between 25 and 27 degrees - they were definitely wrong. I was frozen! We could have gone downstairs but the whole thing becomes pointless. So if you take the bus trip, take a sweater with you if the wind is coming off the sea.

Drop-off on the plaça Catalunya, back to the hotel to leave camera, grab a sweater and off again in search of a good restaurant, followed by a good bar to end off the evening! By the second day I was being to get into the swing of going to bed at an hour when I am normally getting up!

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Well, how I actually managed to get to Barcelona defeats me! The day I leave God decides that the skies will open, sleet will fall and the temperature will drop dramatically. So instead of an hour and a half to get to Geneva airport, it takes me over two hours and obviously the whole world had decided to park their cars in the airport car parks that day. I must have got the last space on the roof of the car park that is almost over the border in France and got totally soaked getting from there to the terminal. However...
The last time I visited Barcelona was over twenty years ago and my memories were not good...cold, miserable and dark - but it was probably during the winter and perhaps I didn't want to be there. So on landing, what a pleasant surprise to see the sun and feel the heat, especially after my really cold start to the day.
We checked into a super hotel called the Pulitzer which is just off la plaça Catalunya and if you have a few quid to spare is worth it. Modern, bright and great staff - pleasant, efficient and most welcoming. So having dumped the cases we galloped off in search of food and a well-needed drink. Walking down las Ramblas I was quite convinced I would get my bag stolen in a flash as I do tend to amble a bit and not pay attention to things like people following me or coming too close - I used to be street wise when I lived in Toulouse, but after a couple of years in Switzerland I have forgotten the rules. But obviously l'Homme was looking tall and menacing and my bag stayed with me!
It's great being in a city with someone who knows their way around - although even he got lost a couple of times, and particularly useful for me who tends not to pay attention and doesn't have a built-in SatNav system. The restaurant we had chosen had a queue snaking out of the door and we waited what seemed hours for food, but my glass seemed to be filled constantly as we stood in the street and chatted with other diners to be - our impromptu street party was as fun as the food was good when we eventually sat down. We had chatted to a young English guy who lived in Barcelona and was something in property, another chap who designed cars with a company in Spain, an American wholesaler who exported foodstuffs from Spain and probably others, but the mind started to blurr a little after too much wine and no food and a twenty hour day! There was no choice in the restaurant, you sit watching your food being cooked in front of you and wait to see what turns up. Good stuff!
Goodness knows how many different languages I heard that evening walking through the streets of Barcelona - dozens I would think. It is truly a cosmopolitan city, very alive and buzzing and over the following days we were to meet some great people who live and work in the city. But that is for another blog!
We eventually got back to the hotel at some terrible hour, having avoided the municipal workers with enormous fire hoses cleaning the streets and I still had my bag!

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Apologies for not having posted anything for ages - you must be getting heartily sick of the same old photos of the demolished chalet! I was lead astray into becoming a guinea pig for the new Daily Telegraph blog site, so for the last couple of weeks, along with about a dozen others, blogging has turned from being difficult to nightmarish! My eyes can no longer take it and my fingers are down to the knuckles.
Still it was fun and I learnt a couple of things that weren't too technical! The site was launched during the week and got off with a resounding BANG! and far exceeded everyone's expectations, I think. Blogs were appearing so fast that they disappeared if you blinked.
Anyway, as I can't plug my blog on the Telegraph, I shall plug my Telegraph blog here! If you go to my.Telegraph on the Daily Telegraph site, I am registered as More Swiss Choc - I haven't put in the links as I am too tired to do all the work! I have also set up a blog for Angus (A Swiss Scot) which actually I enjoy writing more than my own! It is only for testing purposes but perhaps the dog side of my split personality might get the upper hand!
So am off to Barcelona for a couple of days to recover from cabin fever and I hope I shall come home with loads of pictures and stories for blogging, and with my handbag!

Thanks to my favourite son for the two photos!

Friday, May 04, 2007


The chalet opposite my house is being pulled down to make way for a posh development of very, very, very expensive flats. Actually, 'pulled down' isn't the right word, it is being dismantled to be re-erected somewhere else. From the road one could just see the entrance as the garden boardering the road was full of enormous fir trees. The view from the chalet is on the other side of the house, overlooking Verbier, and the ski resort on the other side of the mountain, Bruson.

It's a shame that the individual chalets are disappearing, making way for large and luxurious flats that are occupied for a couple of weeks in the year but I suppose this is the problem of ski resorts that are in high demand for four or five months of the year and then die quietly during the remaining months. Verbier of course is a well-known resort and the skiing is excellent - 40% of foreign investors here are English, and one supposes that a high percentage of those are the hated City Bonus benificiaries. However...

I love Verbier once the season ends as everything is shut and no one is around apart from the locals who come out of hiding! The negative side is that as soon as the season is at an end, the building work starts again in ernest. No lorries, cranes, Manitous and dynamite during the winter as there is too much traffic already in the village, it isn't good publicity, and I suppose there are the technical problems with the snow, the cold etc. reacting with concrete ... the work stops again during July and August during the Festival, so in fact if you decide to come here in the winter or the summer, you would never know any building work went on at all. Last summer high up on the mountainside looking down over Verbier, I counted 33 cranes!

Anway back to the chalet over the road. Here are a series of photos that I took, starting on Monday...







Just a week to dismantle a chalet and cut down trees that were probably 40 years old...