Monday, December 31

Another year gone....

It is hard to believe that we have been away from Australia for nearly three years! We still enjoy life in Geneva - the work is interesting, great opportunities for travel and the European lifestyle is rather pleasant. It's especially nice to now have family living here. After finishing her degree, Fiona moved here in December and immediately started work as a Pilates Instructor in the amazing Swiss town of Gstaad. Her workplace, The Palace Hotel, is something that must be seen to be believed!

Going back to uni part-time at the start of last year meant I had the perfect excuse to be neglectful of this web site. Hopefully some people are still visiting it from time to time!? To make your life easier, you can subscribe to receive the very occassional updates via email. Just enter your email address on the right there and click subscribe.

As has been tradition, here is a list of the cities we've stayed at least one night in during 2007. You will note it is shorter than in 2006 and 2005 (another bi-product of being a student). Still... we have managed to do quite a bit. Switzerland is really a terrific base for exploring Europe!

Rome, Italy
Budapest, Hungary
Vilnius, Lithuania
Kaunas, Lithuania
Šiauliai, Lithuania
Nida, Lithuania
Prague, Czech Republic
London, England
Vienna, Austria
Grenoble, France
Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Lindau, Germany
Schaffhausen and Rheinfelden, Switzerland
Zermatt and Interlaken, Switzerland
Halstead, England
Blarney, Ireland
Singapore, Singapore
Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane, Australia
Bangkok, Thailand
Champéry, Switzerland

New countries on that list are Lithuania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria and Thailand. We had six lots of visitors stay with us during 2007. Always a good way to boost the local tourism activities! Our year included a trip home to Australia in October/November to attend some family events: Claire & Dave's engagement party and Fiona's graduation performance. Being a quick visit meant there wasn't time to catch up with everyone, but hopefully that can be remedied when we are in Adelaide in November 2008 for Claire & Dave's wedding.

Wishing everyone a very happy new year!!

Cruising under the Charles Bridge, PragueHungarian Parliament
Belvedere Palace, ViennaTrakai Island Castle, Lithuania
Elephant ride in ThailandX-country skiing in Champery

Sunday, December 23

Merry Christmas!

We (Peter, Jess, Fiona and her friend Ianthe) are currently in Champéry, a small village in the Swiss Alps. It will be a white Christmas for us! It hasn't snowed since we arrived last Thursday, but there is still plenty of snow around. The weather has been quite mild, with temperatures around 4 degrees during the 3 hours of sunshine that bathe this valley.

The girls have tried their luck at skiing and snowboarding, along with the hoardes of other winter residents here. I have been cross-country skiing twice, but Peter is yet to venture into the world of winter sports. Perhaps some toboganning tomorrow.

Christmas Day is likely to be spent lazing around the chalet, which is very nice, with a beautiful view of the mountains. We have bought a turkey and all the usual trimmings, including some French champagne.

Merry Christmas everybody!!
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Saturday, October 13

Kieren & Nikki visit Geneva

Our long awaited visit from Kieren and Nikki finally occurred this August. With more leave up his sleeve than Nikki, Kieren arrived early to take advantage of Peter's new tour guiding skills and see as much of Switzerland as he could. They had fantastic weather for sightseeing in the mountains and much to our "delight", Kieren managed to squeeze in some canyoning near Interlaken, which he enjoyed. He took some terrific photos of the Jungfrau mountains on he and Peter's train journey to the highest railway station in Europe.
Hiking in the Jungfrau
Ice penguins

Nikki had a tiny two weeks in Europe, and with Barcelona and Paris to visit too, could only afford a few days in Geneva. She also got great summer weather and we had a lovely day trip to Annecy that weekend. On Mon/Tues, we couldn't let her escape without the obligatory chocolate tour and visit to the UN, so she got the highlights.
Nikki & Kieren at Annecy
Gardens at Gruyere

Monday, October 1

On this day last year

The not so picturesque Genoa
Originally uploaded by Jess & Peter

Ah, memories. The not so beautiful streets of Genoa. We were on route from Spain to Greece with Judy. What a fantastic holiday that was, in spite of the Genoan blip. On this day we had the stunning Greek sunsets ahead of us.

Grande Dixence

Grande Dixence
Originally uploaded by Jess & Peter

The water behind the wall.

Grande Dixence dam

Grande Dixence dam
Originally uploaded by Jess & Peter

Peter is at the foot of the Grande Dixence dam, the highest gravity fed damn in the world. Behind that wall is a whole lot of water.

We visited here on a weekend tour of the Valais organized by the Geneva Welcome Centre. The tour even included a walk through the tunnels inside the dam wall.

Saturday, August 11

Claire and Dave

Claire and Dave in Geneva During July, we had the pleasure of a visit from my lovely sister Claire and boyfriend (now fiancée!) Dave. Here are the gorgeous couple pictured at the UN Beach Club on their last evening in Geneva.

Dave, a passionate follower of the Tour de France (and not a bad cyclist himself) was here to fulfil his childhood dream of seeing the race live. This was his first visit to Europe and he certainly made the most of it. After achieving goal 1 (seeing the Tour) he attacked goal 2: cycling up the Dave and his support team prepare for the Alpe d'Huez climbAlpe d'Huez, famous mountain stage of Tours gone by. This is no small mountain. It has 21 switchbacks, is 13.8 kilometres long and is very, very steep (see the pic). Chasing Lance Armstrong's best time of 37mins 36 secs, he finished in an impressive 1hr 15 mins ish, all without stopping.

With a keen appreciation of cycling himself, Peter wasn't quite up to tackling the Alpe d'Huez, but he did (proudly) manage to cycle up to the Col del la Columbière (800 metre climb) with Dave a couple of days before. They had to stop a few times on that trip.

Peter after riding up the Col de la Colombière (800m!)Although it was Dave's dream, Peter was pretty happy with his experience as a live spectator of the Tour. They had some fantastic clear weather in the mountains and the atmostsphere must have been great.

While the men were out with the Tour, Claire and I enjoyed spending time together back in Geneva, a bit of shopping, a bit of lunch - lovely. It was great to see her over here again and I'm so pleased she got to see Geneva in all its summer glory. A bit of a different scene to when she visited last time during a wintery November.

Claire and Dave also visited Prague, Paris (where they got engaged!!) and Hong Kong on the way home. A very busy 2.5 weeks!

Monday, August 6

Five days in Vienna

I recently went to Vienna for work, accompanied by Peter, our first visit there. I didn't get to see a whole lot of it, having to work and all, but we had a quick squiz at the major sites on Saturday, before heading home.

Peter on the other hand had a bit more time to look around. He even went over the border to check out Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, only 60kms away.

Work aside, the highlights of the visit for me was catching up with a colleague over dinner, seeing the Rathaus on Friday night, and the Belvedere Palace.

Here are a few pics - more on

Belvedere Palace, Vienna
Belvedere Palace, Vienna

Bratislava, Slovakia
Bratislava, Slovakia

Our Vienna home for five days
The apartment we rented in Vienna

Sunday, August 5

Weekend in Prague

Ah.... Prague in June. What a wonderful weekend - beautiful buildings, bridges, beer, Mozart, and the local speciality: duck. Two days simply wasn't long enough.

View of Prague from down river See a slideshow of the pics.

Thursday, July 19

Visit from Andy

Finally time to catch up with some long overdue blog posts! In early May we had a lovely visit from Andy, Peter's godmother. At 88, she seems to have more energy than many of our younger visitors!

Andy in Versoix ForestAndy and Peter had a lovely time touring the local sites, such as the good old chocolate factory and Gruyère castle.

The next weekend, after Andy and I went shopping at the Ferney market, her friend Pat arrived. The next day the two of them took off for a Lyceum club conference and tours of nearby France.

Andy and Pat lunching at Chez GardnerA week later they popped back in for one night to see us on their way to their mediterranean cruise.

We were so glad to have this visit from Andy and were in awe of her lifestyle. We just hope our lives are this full at 88!

Wednesday, May 30

A week touring Lithuania

It's nearly a month since we got back from this trip and I am finally updating the blog with the details! Our friends Bob and Zydre, who have now, sadly for us, left Geneva to go back to live in Australia, invited us to join them on their holiday in Lithuania. Zydre is Lithuanian/ Australian, so we leaped at the chance to see a new country with a native who can speak the language.

Lithuania is one of the three Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia). It is located on the Baltic Sea (funnily enough), sharing borders with Latvia, Belarus, Poland, and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. It declared independence from the Soviet Union in March 1990 (recognized in 1991) and is now part of the European Union. The population is about 3.5 million people (half that of Switzerland) and it has a surface area slightly smaller that Tasmania, which means you can see a lot in a week!

Vilnius Cathedral SquareNow you have the vital statistics, let me tell you that Lithuania is a lovely country. It has a keen sense of identity and culture, made all the more real for us by our fantastic guide Zydre. The country is fairly flat, and not gorgeous, but the people are friendly, the food is good (albeit a bit stodgy at times) and there are some beautiful cities and places by the sea. We had a great time and saw many things. Here's a summary of our trip, complete with photos:

Peter and I arrived in the capital, Vilnius, on the Saturday afternoon. We found our way to our hotel in the city, only getting lost briefly, and did a bit of sightseeing. Here's Peter in the main city square with the clock tower and cathedral in the background.

Wooden carvings in a park near the highwayWe caught up with B & Z on Sunday morning, picked up the hire car, and hit the road. Here you can see Zydre and I checking out some wooden carved poles in a park alongside the motorway.

You may be able to tell from our stance that it was */&%*!!! freezing. This was the only downside of the trip. Temperatures were around 10 degrees with a wind chill factor of about -10! We weren't well prepared for this after experiencing 20 degree days in Geneva immediately before.
Ferry crossing at Klaipeda
Next stop was the Curonian Spit, a 98 kilometre sand dune, half being Lithuania and the other half Russia (Kaliningrad). Here we are crossing the lagoon on the ferry.

View to RussiaThis is the view to Russia from the top of the dunes above Nida, the town we called home for the next two nights.

Peter contemplates a swim

Braving gale force winds, we put our fingers in the Baltic Sea. The beach was nice and the seas choppy. Reminded me a bit of Middleton.

Back on the mainland we briefly visited Klaipeda, Lithuania's third largest city and only seaport. Klaipeda, LithuaniaIt used to be part of the German empire (then called Memel), which is evident from the style of some of the older buildings.

Across in the North Eastern part of the country, we visited the incredible Hill of Crosses. Placing crosses in the ground began as a show of faith and resistance to occupation. Hill of CrossesIn Soviet times, the Russians would remove the crosses, but they would 'mysteriously' reappear every morning. Now there are about 50,000 crosses and crucifixes there. Really an amazing sight to see.

In Kaunas, the second biggest city in Lithuania, we stayed in an apartment in the suburbs. Entrance to our apartment in KaunasIt was really nicely renovated, and a great spot, but as you can see from the photo of Peter at the entrance, it was typical a "Soviet-style" apartment block. We were glad for an authentic experience.

We visited the open air museum to learn about country life and see tradition Lithuanian housing. From the inside of an actual Jurta (hut made of tundra), originally built in Siberia, Telling us about the 1941 deportations to Siberiathis lady told us of the 1941 deportation of about 35,000 Lithuanians to Siberia, the northern coast of Russia. They lived in camps doing hard labour in freezing temperatures. This lady survived the ordeal.

Last stop before returning to Vilnius, was the resort town of Trakai. Here there is a beautifully restored castle.Trakai Island Castle

So that's it! If you want to see all the photos, and there's only 176 of them, check out the set on Flickr.

Saturday, April 21

Easter in the Swiss Alps

Our third Easter in Europe was spent in a place we have grown to love: our friends' chalet in Gryon. We enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and the great company of B & Z who will soon, sadly for us, be heading back home.

Aletsch glacierOne of the highlights of our weekend was our drive up the Valais to see the Aletsch Glacier - the longest glacier in Europe. It was a stunning sight. There was still plenty of snow, and skiers, but with the sun beating down, it won't be there for long. In the sun, the melting snow has an amazing velvet sheen.

We did an hour long walk alongside the glacier. The view across the Valais was fantastic with the Matterhorn clearly visible. Peter and I plan to return in the summer when the snow will be replaced with pasture and the glacier should really stand out.

Peter and the MatterhornSee all the photos we took of the glacier on Flickr.

Saturday, March 24

Budapest - Paris of the East

Hungarian ParliamentFinally, time to write a post about our recent trip to Budapest! It was our first visit to this beautiful city, and to Hungary. On the Friday evening flight out of Geneva we had the pleasure to sit next to a friendly Budapest local named Pal who gave us his list of must-sees. Budapest was also Shane's (Kieren's friend who visited us recently) home for eight months last year, and during his stay with us in February we heard great things about the place.

Jess on Heroes' SquareOur hotel was right on Heroes' Square, an important monument at the end of Andrassy Avenue, the Hungarian equivalent of Paris's Champs-Elysées. The M1 Millennium Underground, which leads from the city centre to Heroes' Square is a beautiful restoration of the oldest underground on the European continent (1896).

The highlights of Saturday were the Hungarian National Museum, the Legenda boat tour of the River Danube and Margaret Island, and a visit to the Hungarian House of Wines. After a morning of wandering through the Pest city streets, the boat tour was a welcome rest. Budapest is actually a merging of two cities: Buda on one side of the river and Pest on the other. The boat tour did a good job of explaining the history and coming together of the two. It was also a big hit with me because I won the raffle - a DVD and bottle of Hungarian wine!

Peter tasting wine in the Hungarian House ofAfter the tour we walked up across the famous Chain Bridge and across to the Buda Castle district. It was getting late so we went for a short walk around the castle and then sought out the warm cellars of the House of Wines. For about $25 we got a wine glass to keep and could try up to 50 different Hungarian wines (we got through about 15 before we'd had enough!). They were OK but not great - we guessed that's why we hadn't heard much about great Hungarian wines!

Andrassy AvenueSunday was a beautiful day and we started out by wandering down Andrassy Avenue, stopping off at the very interesting House of Terrors, former headquarters of the Arrow Cross Party (Hungarian Nazis), then the Communist-led Political Police and State Security Police. The house has been restored and the exhibition is a horrifying and engaging description of two very sad eras of occupation in Hungarian history.
House of Terror, Budapest
The rest of Sunday was spent wandering around the Castle district and soaking in some sun and Hungarian culture. The public transport system is brilliant and the Budapest Card made it easy to get around.

Budapest is a beautiful city and too big to see in a weekend - maybe we will have to return one day. See more photos on Flickr.

Monday, March 19

Brief visit to Rome

Jess in front of the ColloseumWe went to Rome earlier this month as I had a meeting to attend on the Monday and Tuesday. The weekend was spent partly finishing my uni assignment and doing a spot of sightseeing. We'd visited Rome with Simon in January last year, so we'd seen most of the major sights. Sunday was a beaufitul day, nearly 20 degrees, so we soaked up the good weather just wandering through the Roman fora and sitting in a cafe in the Piazza Trastevere. Bellissimo!

Here's a link to a few more photos.

Saturday, February 24

Carnival time in Geneva

Geneva Carnival Colour came to the streets of a wintry Geneva today with the annual carnival.

Taking a stroll through the old town with Shane, a friend of Kieren's who has been staying with us this week, we stumbled across the carnival parade.

It was a rainy day, so the bright costumes, music and dancing were a welcome sight!

I took a short video of the salsa group.
Jess and Shane in the rain

Sunday, February 18

Some winter colour in Geneva

Winter colour

February in Geneva

Pregny in snowIt's been a quiet time since we arrived back in Geneva from our fantastic visit to Australia. Taking the train across Switzerland from Zurich airport back in mid-January, we had been expecting to see everything covered in snow, but nothing of the sort. There has been hardly any this season.

However...we did have one big snowfall in Geneva a couple of weeks ago. A nice thing for Fiona to see during her winter visit! She was so excited that she went outside in her pj's and rolled around in it. I imagine our neighbours think that Australians are a strange lot!

Jess and Fi racingFiona and Peter went skiing a couple of times, but I am yet to hit the pistes. Last weekend we did a bit of sledding in the nearby mountains.

We haven't been up to much else these last few weeks. Spending time with Fiona, catching up with friends, and a couple of short trips to Leukerbad and Basel.

Work has been hectic and I am coming to terms with being an online student (I'm doing a Masters of Science in Advanced IT and Business Management). Fiona crashesI have found a great deal of effort is required to participate in 'class' (online discussions) and I am learning a lot. My first exam is in a couple of weeks.

You should see a bit more posted here during March. We have a trip to Rome for work and a weekend visit to Budapest coming up.

Fiona and Peter in Annecy
Fiona and Peter in Annecy one Sunday

Wednesday, January 3

Year 2006 in Cities

Following on from last year's list, here are the cities/towns we spent one or more nights in during 2006:

Paris, France
Rome, Italy
Ronda, Spain
La Linea de la Conception, Spain
El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain
Seville, Spain
Tavira, Portugal
Malaga, Spain
Grenoble, France
Entrecasteaux, France
Amsterdam, Netherlands
La Ciotat, France
Wiesloch, Germany
Barcelona, Spain
Arles, France
Washington D.C., USA
New York, USA
Madrid, Spain
Avila, Spain
Lleida, Spain
Genoa, Italy
Milan, Italy
Hydra, Greece
Athens, Greece
Lugano, Switzerland
Zermatt, Switzerland
Berlin, Germany
Melbourne, Australia
Adelaide, Australia
Brisbane, Australia

That's 30 compared to 19 during 2005! Peter is getting very good at finding cheap deals for travel, and driving holidays around Spain have certainly boosted the numbers. There are a few towns in France missing from the list where we stayed during our bike ride down the Rhone, and where Peter and Judy stayed during their drive down to Spain.

I'm going back to study at uni part-time this year, so with weekends to be devoted to studying, I am sure 2007's list of cities will be a lot shorter!

Monday, January 1

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all! We saw the new year in at good old Victor Harbor, with a nice dinner, some live music, then fireworks. A bit different to last year in Paris - a great deal warmer for one!

Our visit to Oz has been a whirlwind of catching up with people, mostly over lunch and dinner. Our waistlines are paying the price, but we are having an excellent time!

We have one week left before returning to chilly Geneva. Hard to believe as I look outside to a beautiful Australian summer's day. It has been a great visit - so nice to be with our family at Christmas, and to spend time with them and friends.