I spent 3 days in Lullin, France with Philippe, and we took down his 100-year old shed! (…and we had pig blood sausage one day for lunch.)

Followers of this blog will recall my good friends Philippe and Linda from a previous post on how they make the best ice cream on the planet. When they are not working in Geneva at ArtyGlace making ice cream, Philippe and Linda live in a beautiful, quaint, rural village called Lullin, nestled in the French alps about an hour away from Geneva. Lullin is characterized by the surrounding majestic mountains, sloping fields with grazing cattle, and all the essentials necessary in a small village, but not much more, which is just the way its 800 or so residents like it.

A while back, Linda happened to mention that there was an old shed adjacent to the property that had become a bit of a hazard and hinted to me that Philippe might be able to use some help in taking it down. I enthusiastically jumped at the chance to help Philippe with the project for two main reasons. The first is that I really enjoy hanging out with Philippe. We always have plenty to talk about, and as he once succinctly put it, “it’s funny”. The other reason was that I’d get to participate and witness the demolition of a large shed! How great is that?

So I drove out to Lullin on a bright Monday morning, and after an hour or so of socializing in his back yard, we went to work. The first step was to empty it’s contents, which included some old doors, a large stack of roofing tiles, a very old wood stove, and two big wagon wheels. Here’s a look at the shed shortly after we began work.

Phil's shed

Philippe thinks this shed is 100 years old.

The second step in the demolition process was to dismantle and remove as much of the shed as possible. Its an old shed, so using a crow bar, the nails pop out relatively easy. Here’s a picture of Philippe and me after taking apart many of the siding planks.

Phil and me

As you can see, the shed is shedding!

More on the shed demolition in a moment, but this was a three day project, and since all work and no play makes us dull boys, we did take some time to have a little fun, and also enjoy some of the traditional local fare. In particular, Philippe wanted to turn me on to two specific items, both in the sausage family. We walked down to the local charcuterie, and picked up some boudin for lunch, and some atriaux for dinner. For the uninitiated (like myself), boudin is a sausage made entirely from dried pig blood. Atriaux is made entirely from pig innards. Philippe assured me that if I didn’t like it, he’d make me something else. I told him that that I was sure that wouldn’t be necessary, and that I would absolutely love it… which I did!

Boudin in Lullin

Boudin in Lullin. (It rhymes, in French.)

We also had some time to take a short walk up to visit Philippe’s mom, and on the way back home, Philippe noticed that a friend of his who owns around 40 antique cars was outside his garage. We walked up to say hello (“bonjour”, actually) and after exchanging pleasantries, Philippe said to me, “come here, I want to show you something.” He leads me over to a very old and very dusty car, which I think he said was a Renault. He proceeded to tell me that this very car was his family’s car when he was a little boy! I said, “You mean this actual car?” and he said, “yep”. Philippe told me that when he was just a little boy he got a nasty cut on his upper lip when his father stopped suddenly, and he flew forward into the front seat frame. They hadn’t yet invented seat belts, and the seats were literally made with a steel tubing frame and basically just screwed in to the floorboard.

Phil's car

Automobile safety has come along way since this car rolled off the assembly line!

Okay, back to our work demolishing the shed. The third step in the process is to loop a strong wire cable two times around the shed. You can see the cable if you look closely (or click on it) at the photo of Philippe and me above. Philippe’s friend and neighbor Yves provided the cable, and also the tractor which supplied the horsepower necessary to pull down the shed. Do you want to see what that looked like? Of course you do!

Pulling the shed down wasn’t quite enough to satisfy our desire for total destruction, so we asked Yves to knock it down a bit more, as long as we had a big tractor at our disposal. This part isn’t as exciting as the previous video, but it’s still pretty fun.

Throughout this whole process of course, we needed to find a place to deposit all the lumber, roofing panels, and other miscellaneous construction materials. Fortunately, there was a very convenient nearby spot to store it all. To be honest, I’m not sure what the long range plan is for all of this stuff, although Philippe did talk about someday using some of the salvageable lumber to build a storage area for firewood and other items. I did notice, though, that Philippe is not the only person who is storing piles of old lumber or other old building materials on their property, so it seems as though the practice is socially acceptable in this part of the world. And it’s not as though there is no place to put it. Lullin is a rural village and there’s plenty of open space around. Besides, we stacked it in very neat piles, as you can see from the photo below.

Shed scraps

Here’s what a 100 year old shed looks like all stacked up.

On Wednesday, two days after we began, we completed the job. Philippe confessed to me that at first, he was unsure that we’d be able to get it finished, but we discovered that the two of us work pretty well together, and that combination along with a little bit of horsepower and assistance from Yves and his tractor was enough to successfully complete the job. I’ve had lots of fun during these last 4+ years living in Switzerland, but spending these days in Lullin working with Philippe to take down this shed will definitely be one of my most enjoyable memories that I take back home with me when this whole adventure is said and done.

Phil with no shed

Philippe standing where the shed once stood.

Greg was here to hike for a week. It’s Game On!

My friend Greg came for a visit, and he came with just one objective. To better the record of my other friend Pat M. who was here a couple months back and hiked about 50 miles with me on his 6 day visit. Greg told me that he had been training for this week by hiking up and down stairs near his house along the nearby Mississippi River, which is the closest thing they’ve got to the Swiss alps.

So, here we go. Two physically fit, adventure seeking, hiking enthusiasts going mano a mano (albeit a month or so apart) for the undisputed title of “Top Visiting Swiss Sojourner Hiking Partner”. Continue reading

Think you can find a more beautiful country than this?? Norway, José!!

One of the things we like to do when the whole family is here visiting is to take advantage of Geneva’s proximity to other fun European destinations and to go there for a few days. One time it was Berlin. Another time it was Paris and Amsterdam. Last Christmas, Pat suggested that we spend part of our summer together in Norway. So in early August, the four of us boarded a plane to Oslo for a week in that beautiful country. Continue reading

What’s the best place to watch a French victory in the World Cup? A French bar!

As you may or may not know, there was just a month long soccer tournament hosted by Russia called the World Cup, in which the 32 best national soccer teams compete every four years for the world championship.  This tournament is a huge deal over here. Geneva is an international city, so there are die-hard fans for virtually all of the European teams, and many of the South American teams.  Continue reading

I rock to classic Lynyrd Skynyrd on the city tram!

I ride public transportation in Geneva virtually every day.  One of the things that users of the system soon learn is that they will frequently be “entertained” and subsequently solicited for donations by a variety of musical acts while riding the trams (Geneva’s light rail network). These acts typically involve some combination of guitars, accordions and/or stand-up bass fiddles, along with some vocal accompaniment.  I’ll be honest, when I see a group filing onto the tram with their musical instruments, I generally groan, but I do reach into my pocket for a franc or two figuring that if someone has the stones to wake up in the morning and decide they’re going to spend the day riding around town on the city tram playing an accordion for donations, that’s worthy of a small donation.

So I’m riding the tram to work last week, and two guys climb on board, one with an acoustic guitar, the other with an electric guitar.  Now I’m somewhat intrigued.  Continue reading

My friend Pat throws down the hiking gauntlet on all future visitors.

Meet my good friend and notoriously-slow-Snickers-candy-bar-eater Pat M. He was just here for six days. I’ve known Pat since we were teammates on a powerhouse third grade boys soccer team back in the late ’60s. These days, Pat spends much of his time working outdoors as a wetlands scientist so I knew he would be up for a solid week of hiking and exploring in the Swiss and French Alps. He did not disappoint. Continue reading

Wintertime in Switzerland means cross country skiing in the Jura Mountains!

Winter weather in Geneva can be a little depressing. With the alps to the south and the Jura mountain range to the north sandwiching Lake Geneva and the city, it’s not uncommon to go two or three weeks without seeing the sun as a thick, impenetrable fog settles in over the city.

Clouds over Geneva

It’s beautiful… at 4,000 feet!

So what can one to do to escape the dreariness? Throw some skis into the “boot” (that’s what they call car trunks over here) and head up into the mountains! Continue reading