Sunday, September 24

A week in Washington

North Carolina StreetWell, for me it was a week in Washington, for Peter and Judy, it was five days, plus a visit to New York. The three of us met at Dulles airport, having all taken different planes from Geneva and Adelaide. It is great to see Judy again after 18 months! She will be with us for nine weeks.

Washington is a beautiful city - leafy and green, nice buildings, and not too big. I was there for work - a meeting on statistical dissemination and communication. Having spent several months helping to organize this meeting, I was looking forward to finally meeting everyone, and also to delivering a paper on the business applications of blogs.

Jess & Judy at Capitol HillWe stayed in a residential area in the south east, about 15 minutes walk from 'the Hill'. It was close to the Eastern Market, and we enjoyed browsing around the stalls and shops. The weather was nice - mid twenties and fairly humid.

The meeting went very well, and my presentation was well received. It was a busy week and I was exhausted by Friday.

While I was working, Peter and Judy were off in New York, enjoying the sights and going to see 'The Color Purple' on Broadway. They had a great time.

Jess, Peter and Judy at the gameOne of the highlights of our visit to the US was going to the baseball on the last night we were there. A lovely local, Laurie, took us to see her beloved Washington Nationals play the Milwaukee Brewers. The Nationals lost, but it was exciting to be there and soak in the atmosphere. On the last day we enjoyed a visit to the fairly new National Museum of the Native American.

Today I am off to Spain for another meeting, then two whole weeks of holidays (first long holiday in 18 months - I know we have plenty, but they are usually short). We are going to see a bit of Spain, Italy, spend a week in Greece, see more of Italy, then drive home through Switzerland.

See all the photos of Washington on Flickr (taken with our new beautiful Lumix TZ1 camera).

Monday, September 4

Cycling and spas in the Swiss mountains

Swiss National Route 1Leukerbad, in the Swiss canton of Valais, was our destination last weekend. Two hours drive from Geneva, and one hour from the section of Rhone River bike path we had yet to complete, it was an ideal spot to go camping. That is, except for the fact it was situated at 1,400 metres altitude and was a very chilly 10 degrees overnight. Leukerbad is a beautiful town, surrounded by an amphitheatre of rocky mountains, and famous for its thermal springs.

Arriving late on Friday night, we struggled to get our tent up before it got dark, and then Peter nearly burnt the whole thing down whilst lighting our camp stove (good one!!). Jess keeping warm on a chilly Leukerbad eveningAfter those tense moments, we settled in, cooked risotto, which we had with a nice bottle of red wine, then managed to get a few hours sleep in the cold mountain surroundings. Saturday morning, it was back down to the valley, destination Oberwald, the end of our "Rhone River: source to the sea project". This is a good spot to call the 'end', as beyond Oberwald it gets really, really hilly. You can take the train from there, under the Furka pass, and it will be this that we take next year, when we continue our ride, this time along the River Rhine.

Cycling along Route 1The countryside was magnificent as we rode the 45 km from Oberwald to Brig (where we'd got to last year). That part of the Valais is very different to the sections we had visited before. Being close to the Rhone glacier, the river is a creek compared to further along, and the valley is narrow and quiet. We had a few hills to climb (and descend), but the views and the quiet roads more than made up for the effort. We have now completed the 950km path along the Rhone, from the mountains in Switzerland, to the south coast of France.

The pièce de résistance of the weekend was the thermal baths we went to on Sunday morning. Burgerbad thermal baths, LeukerbadFiguring that 9am on Sunday is a good time to beat the crowds, we headed down to 'Burgerbad', the biggest and best spa centre in town. It was unbelievable. They have 10 different pools and spas, heated between 25 and 43 degrees (and a couple very cold ones for plunging into after the hot ones!). We spent three hours there, going from pool to pool, trying all the different treatments, massage jets, boiling sauna hut, etc. Imagine sitting in a pool of spring water, heated to 35 degrees, overlooking the rugged mountains. Magic!

See all the pictures on