travel

Switzerland – remaining adventures

I was attending my conference July 4th through the 6th, but skipped out on the last day of the conference (July 7th) to go see CERN (the location of the large hadron collider). Debi, Toren, and Rosemary, meanwhile, had a number of adventures. They took the chocolate train through various parts of Switzerland, visiting the Gruyere cheese factory, the Gruyere castle, and the Maison Cailler chocolate factory.

Here’s a video Debi shot of the chocolate extruding and packaging process at Maison Cailler:

Amazingly, they took a picture in front of the Giger Museum, but didn’t know what it was and didn’t go in (I’ve got to go back just for that).

Toren in front of the Giger Museum.
Toren in front of the Giger Museum.

They also took a boat ride from Montreux to Lausanne one day while I was at my conference:

I did sneak in a visit to the Chillon Castle before my conference started one day:

Debi, Rosemary, and Toren at Chillon Castle.
Debi, Rosemary, and Toren at Chillon Castle.

I didn’t get to see the whole castle as I had to make it to my conference in time for the first session that day, but I got to see some of the castle. Again, I’ll have to go back.

The one day I did skip of the conference was so we could go to CERN. Getting tickets was a bit of a nightmare as they have to be reserved in advance, go on sale at 8:00 am Swiss time, and are usually gone in a matter of minutes. Debi and I spent a few days getting up just before 2:00 am so we could get the tickets and eventually got 4 for the last day of my conference.

You obviously don’t get to go down into the actual collider, which is about 90 meters below ground, but they do give you a tour of a control center and showed us some old colliders, like this one where Toren was pushing the self-destruct button:

Toren pushing the "self-destruct" button on an old collider. It was a red button with no label, so I told him it was the self-destruct button and he immediately proceeded to push it.
Toren pushing the “self-destruct” button on an old collider. It was a red button with no label, so I told him it was the self-destruct button and he immediately proceeded to push it.

The tour starts at the welcome center, where they have a nice museum, and then works its way around the campus. We went into a control center, watched a video about particle accelerators, and then got to go into where the original collider is at CERN (from the 1950s; very cool presentation there). There is another museum across the street from the main welcome center, as well as numerous monuments. Here’s a photo in front of one of those monuments:

Rosemary, Toren, and Debi by a monument at CERN.
Rosemary, Toren, and Debi by a monument at CERN.

We also found a little time to stop by the Reformation Wall in Geneva, which is a monument to the Protestant Reformation. We didn’t stay long as we had to get to CERN on time and this happened to be kind of on the way. Here’s a photosphere of the Wall:

I also had Toren pose as though he was each of the individuals remembered by the monument. Here’s one of those photos:

Toren posing as figures in the Reformation Wall.
Toren posing as figures in the Reformation Wall.

While Toren played at the park near the Reformation Wall and Rosemary watched him, Debi and I jogged up to a nearby church where Martin Luther used to preach, where she got a picture of me trying to gain entry:

No one answered. I guess no one is home?!? ;)
No one answered. I guess no one is home?!? ;)

Before heading back for our last night in Switzerland, we stopped for a brief walk around downtown Geneva and got to see the Jet d’Eau and try out some more Swiss chocolate.

Toren and Rosemary at the Jet d'Eau in Geneva.
Toren and Rosemary at the Jet d’Eau in Geneva.

We then caught a train back to Lausanne to pack up for our flight home the next day.

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Switzerland – Matterhorn and Zermatt

Our trip to Iceland occurred because I was presenting some research at a conference in Lausanne, Switzerland. We spent a week in Iceland before heading to Switzerland. We flew into Geneva then took a train to Lausanne, where we stayed in a nice apartment (AirBnB) with an amazing view of Lake Geneva.

The view from our AirBnB in Lausanne.
The view from our AirBnB in Lausanne.

I really only got to spend two days doing touristy stuff in Switzerland – the day before the conference and the last day of the conference (which I skipped to go to CERN, ’cause it’s CERN). The day before the conference, we decided to head into the Swiss Alps to see the Matterhorn.

From Lausanne, it was a couple of hours on trains to get to Zermatt, which is the small town at the base of the Matterhorn. No cars are allowed in Zermatt, which is kind of nice. We walked from the train station through the town, snapping photos along the way:

The Matterhorn from Zermatt
The Matterhorn from Zermatt
Toren with the Matterhorn as backdrop in Zermatt.
Toren with the Matterhorn as backdrop in Zermatt.

We walked to one of the ski resorts (Zermatt ZBAG) and then bought tickets to the very top, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is a peak that has been tunneled into. Inside, they have built a restaurant, some rooms for museums and watching videos, and an entrance into the glacier that covers the mountain. Here are a few photos from inside the glacier:

Toren and Debi by an ice sculpture inside the glacier.
Toren and Debi by an ice sculpture inside the glacier.
Debi and Toren (with Rosemary in the background) inside the glacier.
Debi and Toren (with Rosemary in the background) inside the glacier.

There is also a viewing spot on the top of the peak where you can actually look down on the Matterhorn. Here’s the view from there:

The Matterhorn from Matterhorn Glacier Paradise viewing platform.
The Matterhorn from Matterhorn Glacier Paradise viewing platform.

And a photo of us on the viewing platform:

The three of us on the viewing platform on top of Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
The three of us on the viewing platform on top of Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (Italy in the background).

We then got to walk out onto the glacier where we snapped a few photos:

 

Rosemary, Toren, and Debi on the glacier with the Matterhorn in the background.
Rosemary, Toren, and Debi on the glacier with the Matterhorn in the background.

On the way back down, we stopped to take a few more photos along the way.

 

Debi in front of the Matterhorn.
Debi in front of the Matterhorn.
Toren, Rosemary, and Debi in front of the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
Toren, Rosemary, and Debi in front of the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
The three of us in front of the Matterhorn.
The three of us in front of the Matterhorn.

We got a later start than we hoped and ended up not having a lot of time on the mountain, otherwise, we would have done some hiking. Even so, it was a great initial exposure to the Swiss Alps.

After we took the lift back to Zermatt, we walked through the town looking for a place for dinner. Along the way, we were treated to this fun encounter with a bunch of goats.

We eventually found a fondue place. Toren, Rosemary, and I had cheese fondue (dipped bread and potatoes), while Debi went off in search of a chicken sandwich.

 

Toren and Rosemary enjoying Swiss fondue in Zermatt.
Toren and Rosemary enjoying Swiss fondue in Zermatt.

 

We found a creperie along the main walkway in Zermatt as well and decided we had to have crepes for dessert:

The train ride itself was quite scenic and took us through the southwestern portion of Switzerland. We ended up getting home quite late, but it was well worth the trip.

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Iceland – final post – drone footage

I took my drone to Iceland with us. I knew that there were lots of places where I could fly the drone and it seemed like the ideal opportunity to take advantage of the drone to get shots we couldn’t otherwise get. Here’s my Iceland drone compilation:

Debi, Toren, and Ryan at Þingvellir National Park
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Iceland – Day 7 – The Golden Circle: Gulffoss, Geysir, Strokkur, and Þingvellir National Park

We saved some of the most visited sites for our last day in Iceland. Lots of buses take tourists to visit three sights in a single day: Gullfoss, Geysir, and Þingvellir National Park. This is often referred to as The Golden Circle as you can include Seljalandfoss and actually make it into a circle. Since we had already visited Seljalandfoss, we headed straight to Gullfoss.

Gullfoss is a very powerful waterfall with two levels.

To get a good view of how tall the lower falls are, you need to hike up a bit so you can see down into the trench it has carved.

Toren, Debi, and Ryan at Gulfoss
Toren, Debi, and Ryan at Gulfoss

Just down the road from Gulfoss are two geysers, Geysir and Strokkur. Geysir was the first geyser to be documented by modern Europeans and is the source of the English word “geyser.” Geysir no longer regularly erupts, but Strokkur does every few minutes.

We walked around the geysers for a bit and watched several eruptions, then jumped back in the car and headed to our final destination for the day, Þingvellir National Park. Þingvellir is cool for a lot of reasons. First, it was the original seat of Iceland’s Parliament and an important meeting place for the various tribes of Iceland for a long time. Second, it is the location where two continental plates are separating by about 2 centimeters per year, and you can literally see the result as the area is being pulled apart. There is a large canyon you can walk down that is the result of tectonic plates moving. You can see the canyon in this photosphere:

Here’s another photosphere from the Parliament rock, where the laws used to be read:

We spent a couple of hours here walking around the lake, streams, the church, and the canyon.

Ryan, Debi, and Rosemary at Þingvellir National Park
Ryan, Debi, and Rosemary at Þingvellir National Park

Here’s a short clip of a waterfall that drops right into the canyon:

And a photo of us in front of the waterfall:

Debi, Toren, and Ryan at Þingvellir National Park
Debi, Toren, and Ryan at Þingvellir National Park

We actually had big plans for this evening – it was time to try Icelandic cuisine. We made a reservation for a nice restaurant in Reykjavik, Þrír frakkar, where they serve traditional Icelandic fare. We ordered three appetizers and two entrees to split between the four of us. First up, fermented shark:

fermented shark
fermented shark

Everyone but Debi was able to get their piece of frozen, fermented shark down. Debi gagged on hers. Imagine the most fishy tasting fish you’ve ever had, then leave it to spoil for, let’s say, a week. Then freeze it. That’s what fermented shark tastes like. Not a winner.

Next up was, sadly, puffin breast:

puffin
puffin

We asked on our whale and puffin viewing trip if puffins were endangered and they said no, so I didn’t feel bad ordering this. It’s basically thin strips of puffin breast, perhaps lightly cooked, served with a mustard sauce. It tasted kind of like chicken, but more oily and stringy. Everyone tried it, but I ended up eating most of it.

We also ordered fish stew as an appetizer, which wasn’t particularly exotic, and most everyone liked it. For the entrees, it was a lamb steak (split between Debi and Rosemary) and a horse steak (split between Toren and me). The steaks were all good; horse tastes a lot like cow.

Dinner was crazy-expensive, but we got to sample the local cuisine.

After dinner, we headed back to our B&B to pack up and get ready for our early flight the next day. We did stop briefly at the park near our B&B to let Toren run around a bit, but otherwise that pretty much wraps up our trip to Iceland. Though, see my next post where I highlight one other thing we did while we were there…

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Iceland – Day 6 – Deildartunguhver, Hraunfossar, and Barnafossar

Our goal on day 6 was to make it from Akureyri back to Reykjavik, while doing a little sightseeing along the way. I found three things that looked cool in Western Iceland (that we could do on the way), but we only managed to visit two of them. One location I wanted to visit, Grábrók, we couldn’t find. Google maps sent us off on a really sketchy, dirt road that we should never have taken. It was a single lane road with big pot holes, cliff edges, rocks, and all the fun stuff that would be great in a large SUV, but not so much in a small, close to the road, wagon.

With that side adventure out of the way, our first stop was Deildartunguhver, which is another spot with volcanic activity. This location was pretty cool as it had lots of boiling water and sulphur vents, but was also a location where the country had tapped into the geothermal energy and was using it to heat water.

After Deildartunguhver, we headed to Hraunfossar and Barnafossar, which is another set of two waterfalls. The first set of waterfalls, Hraunfossar, kind of drizzle out of the side of a cliff, which you can see in the background of this photo.

Ryan, Toren, and Debi in front of Hraunfossar
Ryan, Toren, and Debi in front of Hraunfossar

The second set of waterfalls, Barnafossar, which are about 100 meters up the river, have carved through rock and formed an arch, as seen in this video:

Both were quite beautiful.

From Hraunfossar and Barnafossar, we opted to take the new Hvalfjörður Tunnel, which drops under a channel by going under the seabed (541 feet below sea level).  This cuts about 45 minutes off the time to get to Reykjavik and costs about $10.00. It’s deep enough that your ears pop as you drive underneath the sea. Pretty cool to say we have now driven under the ocean!

We had two nights scheduled in a bed and breakfast in Seltjarnarnes, which is the tail end of the peninsula where Reykjavik lies. That wrapped up day 6.