Category Archives: being me

I don’t like the term “digital detox” per se but

I have to confess I took Twitter off my phone and my iPad.

The iPad was the first to fall but I questioned whether I could live without it on my phone. I’ve a lot of friends on Twitter, I’ve tended to get a lot of my news from there and lately, I seem to have found it causes me to feel angry a lot. I don’t think I’m alone here.

I also started reading books recently and on balance, I seem to feel a greater sense of achievement for reading a book, even if its on a kindle, than I do for reading 8000 tweets. For one, some tweet will turn up at least 30 times (cf, NYT piece on Tuam or the Irish Times piece on the Gate Theatre last Saturday – and no, I am not linking them). I don’t need to be told to read the same article that often.

I was kind of busy yesterday – it was Urban Sketching day in Luxembourg – so today is really the first day that I’ve had time but no twitter. I can’t be bothered retrieving the password so that I can sign into it on the browser and anyway, that’s not the point. What is the point is that I got a spectacular amount of things done around the house (I’m on my holidays) today up to and including 3 trips to the recycling centre, mostly paper it must be said as I had accumulated many magazines and newspapers. I got laundry done. I went out to lunch and browsed pinterest and tried to find out how much a pair of pointe shoes would cost me on the Repetto website.

In a way, I think Twitter has lost its way (well I would, and then you could also ask, did it ever really have a way). It’s hard for users to tune although at least you can be allowed to get tweets more or less in chronological order except the execrable decision to allow you to see when other people like other tweets, which is how I regularly get to see links to the same articles in the mass media ALL the time). They make a big deal of features people don’t want, like 280 character messages, which they then give to people like Julian Assange for who knows what reason. I don’t have 280 characters and I dislike the feeling of it being used as a class marker in Twitter like the blue tick mark is.

But the problem is, the noise to signal ratio has gotten more noisy and when it boils down to it, is my life going to be noticeably worse off if I get my news through the BBC website rather than retweeted five dozen times on Twitter? I’m not staying out of it completely but an interesting change in my life once I stopped being a developer is that I spent significantly less time at my home desktop writing code for no real reason. The net result is I will be spending less time on Twitter for the foreseeable future. I can occasionally be found on Facebook if you’re badly stuck to contact me.

St Nicolas is coming.

I arrived in Luxembourg at the start of December and got side tracked by the Christmas markets. This means I missed the Christmas section in Auchan where I do about half my grocery shopping. Also I was living in Bonnevoie at the time and did all my shopping in the Cactus over there. No recollection at all of whether they had much chocolate at all but then I was dealing with sleepless nights caused by endless drum and base from one of my then housemates.

As Halloween is gone, the supermarkets have decided The Time Has Come. I walked into Chocolate Wonderland today.

I have never seen ANYthing like it. I didn’t know Lindt had so many product lines. I cannot tell you how many different brands of marron glacées are to be acquired. There are selection boxes the like of which would put our paltry options to shame.

The only thing they really didn’t have was a tin of Roses.

Swedish Death Cleaning

I recently started cleaning out my twitter feed which means roughly that the signal to noise ratio has improved a little and the amount of Trump and Brexit has fallen somewhat. This makes me happier, and more likely to wash the ware

This also means that sometimes I see stuff that I might not have seen in the array of automated messages about weather, tides, news and you name it. Today, it was a reference to Swedish Death Cleaning. Initially I wondered was this anything like a Swedish equivalent of Rammstein getting involved in hoovering but apparently not. Per google, Swedish death cleaning is when you start clearing out your belongings before you die so your relatives don’t have to do it. It seems morbid. One of the very few people I know who live in Sweden says it does not exist.

I think myself there’s a PhD to be written about the need for native English speakers around the world to sign up for mystical foreign things like tidying (Kondo, Japan) and, well I still haven’t worked out where to put hygge (Denmark).

I sometimes wonder how much of it is linked to people not being very happy and also, wonder how happy applying the techniques described in these things will make people.

Whether it’s displacement, in other words.

I’m going to be honest and say I tend to need order in my life but I’ve suspect that comes less from reading Kondo (because I haven’t) and more from having spent nearly 15 years as a developer and still working in IT. It causes you to start thinking about things in discrete units which can be controlled.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at organisational videos, blogs and stuff over the last 3-4 years and I’ve concluded that the only motivation for that is that I didn’t feel in control of much but at least I could control that. (I thought).

I’m not sure looking at my life through the focus of considering what’ll be left for people to look for when I’m dead is all that healthy in that context. My focus lately has been on structuring a life that I enjoy rather than being regimentedly organised about everything and anything.

Addicted to a feeling

I’m attempting (with some difficulty it must be admitted) to get addicted to a couple of feelings. Just two. They are

  1. the feeling of relief that comes with having a tidy kitchen before you go to bed; and
  2. the feeling of sanctimoniousness that comes with going swimming.

My kitchen has been in chaos for two days. It’s quite impressive because I don’t have much in my kitchen at the moment. Well over 90% of what I own by way of household kitcheny goodness is in storage in Ireland and that was about 50% of what was left after I went donating and recycling before leaving Dublin. But I’ve had broken nights so things…accumulated.

It’s all tidy now and I feel FANTASTIC. If I could bottle that feeling – but you know, I could get it every night if I only ensured that every night, instead of 5 out of 7 or 2 out of 7 on a really bad week, the ware was washed and the kitchen was basically ready for use the next morning.

It’s the same with the swimming. Mostly I attempt to have a swimming bag ready to go so I can decide to go at the drop of a hat. Currently that’s not the case here because after the last swim, which was basically fantastic, I discovered that the goggles were no longer keeping out water (bad goggles – they haven’t been used so often), and I need to replace a noseclip from the kitbag too.

I don’t want to wax on about how great swimming makes me feel because actually, I am swapping up to a 50m pool at the moment so there are moments of abject failure, and near drowning, usually around 45 minutes in, but in general, I feel better for having gone swimming than for not having gone swimming. There is no point in trying to bottle that feeling either; I can get it simply by going swimming.

So I’m trying to train my brain into getting addicted to those feelings so that I automatically clear the kitchen at some point before I go to bed, and that I have literally no way of talking my way out of picking up the kitbag and leaving the house. It is still better than most things that people get addicted to all the same.

 

Saturday mornings

I like those Saturday mornings where I wake early, and get up * reasonably * early and have a chance to ease into the day. I like doing it during the week as well but for some reason that’s not happening much lately.

Facebook has been begging me to install their mobile app on my phone for ages but I’m just not interested. I took twitter off my iPad and I’m getting close to pulling it off my phone although if I do that at least on the phone it will stay logged in on a browser. I get a lot of my news and quite a few interesting bits and pieces through Twitter – far more than I ever did through Facebook. But it is too easy to get hooked into reloading twitter all the time and that distracts me from being distracted by my own thoughts. Saturday morning’s get me back there sometimes.

I never feel all that great if I stay i bed late on a Saturday morning. Mostly I like to be up before 8 if possible, well before 9 at best. After that things start feeling not great. I feel behind, unrelaxed. Online social media often contributes to my still being in bed at 10am on a Saturday morning and it frustrates me.

I sometimes wonder how much of this is evidence that in fact, and in agreement with all appearances and a selection of calendars, I am getting old. Not so much the getting up early – because I mostly did that anyway – but the feeling that social media is not bringing so much to my life any more.

Saturday mornings bring the opportunity to relax a little, think about where I am in the world and what I want to do. They are always much better if I am not also trying to frantically catch up with things. There is pleasure – surprisingly enough – to be got from the sound of getting the washing machine done on time and listening to it going through its cycle early on a Saturday morning. It gives me a feeling of control. And relaxation because at least I don’t have to scrub the clothes thanks to technology.

I wonder sometimes – coloured a lot by what I read on line – how much time we devote to not being stressed, not being under pressure. Even our hobbies can add pressure by adding a time dimension to them – three of my local swimming pools close at 12 on a Sunday which puts you on a bit of a time table. The please on Saturday mornings for me is not being on that much of a timetable. Not needing to rush out the door.

I like Saturday mornings. Above and Beyond in the background. A leisurely breakfast and the knowledge that no bus I get on today will be the same as a sardine can fitted with a sauna.

I must buy all the things!!!!!

Someone posted a craft link to my Facebook feed the other day on how doing craft stuff and buying craft stuff were two separate hobbies. I totally understand this.

Yesterday, I bought some mechanical pencils. When I lived in Ireland, basically, if you wanted a mechanical pencil, it was a 0.5mm or a 0.7mm you got. And the choice in the cheap price range was a bit pathetic. This is why I tended to bulk buy mechanical pencils when I was out foreign. They had pretty pencils. They had good pencils like Uni Kuru Togas and Uni Shalakus. They were pretty, and they came in a nice range of colours and as 0.5s went, they tended to stay fairly pointy.

When I started drawing I realised that I needed something slightly finer again to deal with fur. I drew mice.

And evil looking kittens.

And I struggled to find anything finer, like that really nice 0.3 the guy on the Youtube video was using. I tore Dublin apart looking either for a clutch pencil that was nice and long (duh) or a 0.3. I eventually found a 0.35mm Faber Castell. For a long time, that was the only 0.3 pencil I had. I bought some class of a Japanese one in Delfonics in Paris once for a friend who liked particularly lethal stationery and spent months afterwards regretting not buying two.

We’re talking about 0.05mm here but the other problem with this is the lack of replacement leads.

Which brings us to yesterday. I discovered another stationery shop in Luxembourg a few weeks ago and yesterday, I got to go and Check It Out. It didn’t have Uni Kuru Togas (pity) but it did have a few Pentel Orenz in various sizes. I have coveted a Pentel Orenz for ages. I actually owned one (having picked it up in Delfonics in Paris a few weeks’ ago) but they had them in a lot of different sizes and colours. And they had other Pentels that I didn’t see too often. I’ve a bundle of Pentels in the mechanical pencil role but they are 0.5s and 0.7s.

You know, when you start drawing they keep telling you to, you know keep trying stuff till you find what you like. I have a lot of pencils both wood case and mechanical and clutch. I’m finding that I like different pencils for different things.

Anyway, my little eyes lit up, and I bought 2x 0.2s and 2x 0.3s. I was strong on the 0.7 and 0.5 front, even to the extent of not buying a 0.5 Pentel Graphgear which I sort of thought I didn’t have but rationalised it on the grounds that I had about 4 Kuru Togas and 5 Shalakus, all 0.5. And that wasn’t including all the other 0.7s (hello Faber Castell and Caran d’Ache). There’s a moratorium on a number of stationery items at the moment although it’s possible if they were selling Kuru Togas in anything other than a 0.5 I’d have capitulated.

Today then, I needed to find homes for these new pencils, the joy of my life, which which I would be drawing fur till the cows came home, metaphorically. I have seen no cows since I left Ireland. As part of that job I also did a census of boxes of mechanical pencil leads. I took the opportunity to tidy out the pencil section of my tool box (this means I didn’t deal with the fineliners) as well. From this experience I learned that I have a lot of 0.3mm mechanical pencils. Now, the one that was in my handbag pencil case has been causing trouble but because it was one of 3 Staedler Mars I’m not entirely sure whether it’s the same one that came out of my handbag pencil case (it’s a small case to impose discipline), these new ones which I got yesterday and the infamous Faber Castell 0.35 which I bought a few years ago from the only shop in Dublin which did, at the time, sell something that fine.

As a result of this exercise – I deliberately did not take any photographs, I have discovered that

  • the reason my tool box wouldn’t close was because it had LOADs of pencils in it. It’s still pushing it tightness wise but it looks less uck than it did this morning
  • I have enough pencil lead to open my own shop but surprisingly enough, the lead I am least well supplied in is 0.7 of any graphite grade. I have more 0.3, and 0.2 than I have of 0.7. I think this is linked to panic buying. IF you know every shop will have some variety of 0.7 then you don’t panic about it. Given that historically I’ve found it impossible to get either 0.3 and smaller pencils and associated lead, I clearly binge bought it any time I saw it.
  • My desk is nice when it’s tidy.
  • I also have a lot of international ink cartridges, colour blue (they were in the same drawer as the pencil lead supplies). I have no idea what to do with them; I have plenty of fountain pens, this is true, and many of them even take international cartridges (I have loads of Lamys too). But I really have no idea how I accumulated so many blue cartridges because I do not buy them. I’m pretty certain I did not ship them from Ireland. And while you tend to get a cartridge or two when you buy a cheap fountain pen (like 10E worth of neon colour plastic things), I still seem to have an order of magnitude more blue cartridges than can be reasonably explained by the number of dirt cheap plastic school kid fountain pens I have acquired in the last year.
  • If I had any guts I’d do something about the fineliner supply in my tool box but to be honest, I think one of the key issues there is the inability to differentiate between the “live” fineliner and the “spare fineliner because the wretched things go dry at the most inopportune times”.

Anyway, courtesy of this morning’s work, my pencil lead selection is currently tidy, and there is a moratorium on buying any pencil lead at all. Whatever I have, I need to work through and this includes the random colour lead I seem to have acquired as well. No more. Although, no wait, I am allowed get graphite when I run out of that. But we’re talking about an event sometime in the long term here.

I’m getting good at actively not buying any more cheap plastic fountain pens (I dread finding out about the colours of next year’s special edition Lamys). This at least is not adding to the orgy of blue ink in one of my stationery drawers.

I need to spend more time drawing. I did a dragon for Inktober the other day but I seem to lack the time to actually do anything major, any painting lately. I also started designing this year’s Christmas card – I’d apologise but the Christmas card designs tend to need to be done several times. I don’t have any of my large format watercolour paper with me so it gutted me this morning to do this, but I bought some. I have about 150 sheets of the stuff in Ireland. That aside, I think one of the key reasons I don’t draw much is that my desk suffers from Flat Surface Law Syndrome, the one that says No Flat Surface Remains Uncluttered for more than 5 seconds.

For weeks I’ve considered that a good solution to the lack of desk space would be buying more desk space but really, I think what I need are more shelves. It frustrates me that I can’t keep my home desk tidy when my work desk looks immaculate. I think it’s because my electricity bill does not travel to my work place. Things wind up on my desk though because there is no home for them.

There was a time I used to buy books and CDs. They did, in all fairness, take up more space.

Multilingualism Day at the European Parliament – 30 September, 2017

Yesterday was international Translators and Interpreters Day and lined up with that, the European Parliament ran a Multilingualism Day at the Parliament buildings in Brussels. In particular, I think, it was targeted at would be interpreters and translators and featured some specialist talks; some briefing talks in the debating chamber, and some games and try it out stuff. The interpreting service had temporary interpreting booths set up with a bunch of recorded speeches for anyone to try.

Because of issues between Luxembourg and Brussels, I wound up arriving later than I would liked so I missed a bit of a talk about life long education for interpreters, and also because I decided to do what they called a Hemicycle briefing tour, I missed the tips and tricks talk. I sort of regret that because I’m sure there were some great war stories.

One of the things which struck me about the population of visitors which I saw is that it was heartening to see the range of ages of people who were interested in knowing more about the language careers, particularly the interpreting. You could see this watching people having a go at interpreting – there was a broad range of ages stepping into the booths to voice their versions of Plastic Waste or The Beetle in French.

I’ve been in the Brussels Hemicycle a couple of times now between the Open Day in May and this. It’s quite a stunning room – my eyes are always drawn to the interpreting boxes, and English in number 2 and Gaeilge in Number 23. We had a terrific speaker who didn’t just talk at us about the Parliament but also engaged us in debate about the present and future of Europe, and the contexts which sometimes get forgotten and how they feed into the choice of representatives sent by the different countries. I’d strongly advise anyone who hasn’t seen either it, or the hemicycle in Strasbourg to grab opportunities when they present themselves. May is usually good for both and the plenary sessions should be accessible as well I think. It was heartening to see young British people attending, even now when it seems as though the EU may not be a part of their country’s future. It seems to me they still hope.

The one interpreting talk I did get to was interesting in terms of listening to the questions people ask. The young Dutch interpreter who gave the talk admitted that it took him about 4 years to get any newly acquired language operational for interpreting and that yes, learning for interpreting caused different learning strategies with a focus on passive understanding more so than active writing, for example. You could understand that too. I kind of wished things like this existed when I was a recent graduate – I would have killed to sit in those rooms wishing and dreaming.

As for the interpreting itself, I was slightly disappointed not to get to sit in one of the hemicycle booths to look out on the room but I had a go at the plastic waste speech which didn’t go too badly. I can’t complain.

On a vaguely related note, uncomfortable and all as they are, I’d really like to know how to get my hands on headphones similar to the ones the Parliament has. Yes they are flat, yes they are plastic and sure they are fairly austere compared to my nice puffy on earphones that look like they date from the 1970s but the sound is crystal clear from them.

Anyway, I think outreach events like this are great – I loved both this and the SCIC Europe conference thing in the Berlaymont in May – and I really do think any one with an interest in working for the institutions, particularly as an interpreter or translator, should try to get to them when they turn up. Finding out about them – well the best thing to do is follow both the European Commission and Parliament Interpreters on Facebook.

 

Wandering through pages

I’m not entirely sure how but this popped up on my twitter feed this morning:

Alex Stubb wrote a piece for Finnair’s inflight magazine on the question of reading and the fact that he seemed to be doing less of it. I must confess I was a bit envious of his 4000 books. I cleared out a good lot last year when I was moving house, much to my sadness. What he said about the place of reading in his life resonated. I have been thinking about this on several fronts myself lately. I’ve recognised that I read far less than I did in the past. This despite the convenience of a Kindle which currently has a queue of about 200 books to read. The fact that I have not been reading much has not necessarily meant that I have stopped actually buying books.

So far this year, I have finished reading 12 books. This is about 8 more than usual lately and this is mostly because I decided to make a concerted effort to read more. I just haven’t formalised it in a 1+1+1 plan like Mr Stubb has. But I am inclined to follow his lead, or at least give it a shot. I’m not able to do 1 hour of exercise every day on the grounds that in theory, most weeks I go swimming 3 to 4 times and that’s a minimum 2 hour cut out of my day. I also feel that twitter absorbs a good deal of my time but not necessarily productively. So in addition to reviewing and rebuilding my reading habit, I’m also looking at chopping the number of accounts I follow on twitter.

Two things led to the loss of reading from my life. I felt the loss of Terry Pratchett enormously. Additionally, I used to read a significant amount of children’s fiction and with Harry Potter, I seem to have tapped out of that lately. Most of what I have been reading of late has been non-fiction. I’ve just finished Motherfóclóir which is the better of the two books focused on using the Irish language which I read this year. I also finished Silk Road by Peter Frankopan which is a book I had been travelling with for some time. More frivolously I have started reading Calvin and Hobbes again. But I have also drawn heavily on the field of science and genetics for escape.

I have a massive reading queue, and it is hard to know what to start with. I have some frivolous German stuff, and a classic of travel writing by Heinrich Boll lined up. In a way, I feel a bit overwhelmed by the number of books both on my kindle and on my Amazon wishlist and I wonder if that perhaps, contributes to the paralysis I sometimes now feel about reading. Like I have a lot of books to get through.

Mostly recently acquired are the memoirs of a US interpreter which I expect to be relatively easy to read, and apart from that, I have been journeying with Empire of the Word by Nicholas Ostler for some time. I think it is sometimes more difficult to make progress through very in-depth, long books on kindles. We lack the visual evidence of progress; the movement of the bookmark through the pages. I regret that and somehow, I need to be practical as well.

What I lack at the moment is a way into fiction. The last piece of fiction that I read that truly took my life by the scruff of the neck and pulled me out of reality – and it was a re-read – was Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I have another of his other books to hand but I have somehow not found a route into them.  In a way, I think for years I was sated by the escapism guaranteed by a visit to the Discworld but I don’t think Terry Pratchett would appreciate the idea that he had spoilt me for other books.

I need to get involved in a little exploration. Just as soon as I’ve read a few more of these books I have lined up for the last 5 to 10 years.

 

 

 

Generation Emigration and the Irish Abroad

I’m not entirely sure when but at some stage during the last recession, the Irish Times started running a regular feature called Generation Emigration.

I was living in Ireland at the time, as I did for all of that recession, and I was mildly annoyed with them. Firstly, this was hardly the first generation to have emigrated in mass numbers and the previous lot were less than 10 years previous. I emigrated in 1994. A lot of people I know did. And secondly, emigration can either be mourned, but you’ll be more successful if you see it as an opportunity and an adventure rather than a complete imposition.

I’ve no doubt the Irish Times did this because it paid them to do so but having read a bunch of the pieces, I found it all mildly depressing, and perhaps that was the angle they were aiming for. They’ve since renamed the section The Irish Abroad which I suppose is a little less depressing.

I don’t know that it was the label Generation Emigration that made it depression. It’s just I read enough pieces talking about people missing home that even though I was in Ireland, I was starting to climb the walls, and then when you got the pieces about people who had decided to Come Home it was really depressing.

I did all this. I did the emigrating in 1994, and I did the Coming Home in 1999. One of the things I knew then and still know now is that having lived elsewhere changes you and there will always be things that you miss. Certainly, Lidl and Aldi alleviated a lot of those things over time and eventually Tesco started stocking couscous as well. But nowhere in Dublin did hot chocolate like they do in Italy and only in that small village in Germany where I was working for a year could you get that really nice Mohnkuche. The years after coming home from Brussels were spent desperately missing street waffles. And I couldn’t get a decent haircut for love nor money.

The biggest problem when I emigrated the first time was tea. You couldn’t get that very easily at all or at least, you were stuck with Liptons Yellow Label which is the equivalent of hell for the discerning tea drinker; that is to say, someone for whom Barrys is the top level of tea. But there wasn’t much else. When I got back though, there were lots of things. Stroopwaffel (Lidl helps now and again), Parma Ham (took a few years but everyone eventually caught up), Butter with salt crystals (take a bow, and quite a bit of money, Marks and Spencer). Your horizons broaden and then, when you go back, they narrow again a little. I read a lot of pieces from people coming home that just made no sense to me because they focused very much on how everything was going to be perfect in Ireland this time. There never seemed to be any consideration given to the idea that in fact, being away changes people and well, with it, comes a little bit of longing. Of homesickness for a bunch of different homes.

Emigration now is different. I emigrated again last November. When I left the first time, I wrote lots of letters. Now, we have email, Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook. Phone calls don’t cost a fortune any more either. Ryanair makes a lot of journeys a lot easier and a great deal less expensive. Aer Lingus have seriously upped their range of routes. It’s all, in practical terms, far easier than it used to be.

It’s just, for some reason, I read a lot of pieces in the Irish Times that suggested emigration was really hard, and coming back was a lot easier. For me, it really was the inverse. Leaving wasn’t so hard. IN a way, it was an adventure. Coming back left little pieces of me in Finland, France, Germany and Belgium. Maybe not so much in London. And yet, I knew this would be the way it was. I sometimes wonder if the current returning ex generation emigration are set up to face this.

Holliers in the mountains

I discovered rather too late that the school holidays in Luxembourg ended two weeks’ later than every other country in Europe which means that those two weeks where I had time off work, chosen because “shur all the schools will be gone back” were extortionately expensive to get to Spain with. Plus, bad and all as it was to get to  Spain, it was profoundly bankrupting to actually get home.

So I had to go somewhere cheaper instead and I chose Switzerland. The irony is not lost on me here.

The easiest way to go to where I wanted to go in Switzerland is usually fly into Geneva, have lunch with a friend and get a train and a couple of buses. However, that was too expensive because only Luxair flew into Geneva, and only Swiss flew into Zurich which left not-terribly-obvious option three, fly into Milan with either Ryanair, EasyJet or Luxair. In the end, I flew into Bergamo with Ryanair.

 

20170902_200353

You can see the mountains there. In fact, since we flew over them, you could probably have seen them from the aircraft. I had an aisle seat and could see nothing.

I had to overnight in Milan with a really early morning train on a Sunday morning so I picked somewhere near Milano Centrale. Milano Centrale is a great building.

It’s massive.

20170903_075112

It screams delusions of grandeur and when you realise Mussolini had an interest you kind of understand why. It’s a stunning building.

20170903_081003

with lots of halls and massive high ceilings.

20170903_081111

and art.

I could spend a day in Milano Centrale and probably go bankrupt in the shops there.

Growing up in Ireland, the train network is kind of limited to Ireland, and doesn’t seem terribly exotic.

20170903_075347

Continental train stations on the other hand…Mine was the EC 32 at 8:23, destination Geneva.

20170903_081415

It was a Swiss train. It takes a fascinating and stunning route into the mountains via Lake Maggiore.

20170903_091909

20170903_092433

…and then the landscape starts getting a bit pointier.

20170903_093304

and pointier.

20170903_094011

The last stop before the border with Switzerland is a place called Dommodossola. This is a good warning to switch off your data roaming because in Switzerland, there is no Roam Like Home and even the phone calls come in at 1.72 a minute.

We don’t do snow capped mountains in Ireland much, never mind in summer.

20170903_102501

Switzerland does.

I was staying in the Valais.

20170903_103620

The mountains are full of character.

20170903_103826

I got off the train in Sion and had an early lunch.

20170903_111205

Surprisingly, there were a couple of shops open, including a bakery. This was unexpected since it was Sunday.

From Sion, I had to get two buses to Ovronnaz. The next change was in Leytron.

This is vineyard country.

20170903_120236

So lots of vines on practically vertical terraces.

20170903_120256

Leytron was kind of quiet.

20170903_121003

But it was Sunday morning.

And the land was a bit pointier than I am used to.

20170903_120858

Despite McGillycuddy Reeks being a formative part of my life

I got on the second bus.

20170903_122316

That’s Leytron as we started winding up our way an eternal number of hairpin bends. I don’t know that we would send buses up there if it were Ireland to be frank Some of the turns were nervewracking and we frequently met enthusiastic traffic coming at us. I’ve only been more scared in a bus once and that was in Fuerteventura.

I was staying in Ovronnaz.

20170904_175910

Ovronnaz is at around 1200m, and it’s well known for thermal baths and skiing. During the summer it also gets a bunch of hikers. I didn’t actually take any pictures of the baths but what follows are pictures of mountains, quite a few of them.

20170904_180506

20170904_180243

I think this one was the view from my apartment.

20170904_181400

and we were below the snowline.

20170904_182006

The place is stunning when the sun comes out.

20170905_103843

20170905_104942

So I decided to take the skilift up to 2000m. This was still below the snowline.

20170905_111700

20170905_111723

20170905_112257

20170905_112321

20170905_112226

20170905_112249

20170905_112433

Apparently you can walk to the top of that. I didn’t.

20170905_112409

Yay. Snow caps.

20170905_112708

20170905_112826

We don’t get a whole lot of snow in Ireland or indeed in Luxembourg so I find this joy inducing. Although I draw the line at doing those hairpins in a bus in the snow.

20170905_113055

This is the chairlift posts looking down. I didn’t want to take my camera out while I was hanging in midair so that’s really all you’ll get of that.

20170905_113044

But I loved it up there.

20170905_113110

20170905_113230

20170905_112506

Sunset one evening.

20170905_194557

Weather not so great another day:

20170906_090240

Sunset another day.

20170907_195328

View from my balcony.

20170908_184714

View from the front of the hotel.

20170908_185120

It rained the last night I was there.

20170909_071912

This was how it looked at 7.20 in the morning as I started the 12 hour journey home. The trip down the hairpins was sufficiently dizzying that I took no photos and I only had 60 seconds in Leytron to make the bus back to Sion.

The train from Sion to Milan was packed. This is what the luggage area looked like half an hour out from Milan

20170909_110953

Would I do this again? Yes, despite a few stupid mishaps (I lost a full swim kit including swimsuit, goggles and nose clip on day one) but I’d like to be a bit hill walking fitter. There is no actually horizontal piece of ground up there – you’re either walking up a very steep hill or down a very steep hill. During the snow season, there are buses moving people from hotels to skilifts and the countryside is dotted with skilift lines which leads me to think there’s a good few more than the one I got up to 2000m, Jorasse. Switzerland is not terribly cheap and the exchange rate is really not in the EU’s favour at the moment (but it was more than offset by the cost of flying to Spain). Ovronnaz is a hassle to get to from outside Switzerland but the buses worked out okay. The food was generally good. Plus, if you’re European, seeing the Alps really should be on your bucket list. You can also do it in winter (duh) and I did the Glacier Express in 2016.