We head into the Jura Mountains for our first cross country skiing outing!

Next time you’re driving on Route 1 along the north shore of Lake Geneva from Geneva to Lausanne, take a moment to look away from the lake and Alps out the passenger side – I know it’s hard – and look out the driver’s side window. Those are the Jura Mountains.  The Jura Mountains are best known for two reasons.  First, the Jurassic geological period takes its name from the Jura Mountains because limestone strata from the period (about 200 million years ago to 150 million years ago, give or take a couple million years) were first identified there. Second, the Jura Mountains offer some of the best cross-country skiing on the planet. Andrew Brenner, writing for the New York Times Travel section in 2014 described the area like this:

Imagine all the cross country ski trails in New England crammed into an area slightly smaller than New Hampshire. Now raise the base elevation to a plateau of 3,500 feet. Then bulldoze a 10-foot wide perfectly groomed boulevard of a cross country ski trail… and you’ve got something on par with the Nordic haven that is the Jura.>/em> Continue reading

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it only occasionally snows in Geneva

When I tell my American friends about life in Geneva, many assume the entire country is snowbound for much of the year. People think “Switzerland” in winter and they imagine the Alps, skiing, and powdered hot chocolate.

The truth is that snow in Geneva is a rarity. In fact, due to the tempering effects of Lake Léman, and surrounding mountains (the French Alps and the Jura Mountains) Geneva is pleasant almost year round.  And the city is not perched high in the mountains, its altitude is a mere 1,225 feet.  Its not a long trip in virtually any direction to get up into the mountains where there is plenty of snow, but you won’t find much in the city.

But on occasion, it does snow. And we just experienced our first “major” snowfall. Continue reading

A “bucket list” suggestion for hikers: Italy’s “Cinque Terre” trail on the Mediterranean coast

I consider myself to be a fairly experienced hiker. My parents took us on regular hikes and camping trips in my youth in California, and then after moving to the east coast, my dad brought us kids along on many backpacking adventures in the Appalachians and other state and national park destinations. I’ve maintained my love of the outdoors as an adult and have tried to pass it on to our own kids, including family hiking outings in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, Yellowstone, and repeats of my favorite childhood hike, Old Rag in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia.

Living in the heart of Europe has afforded us many new opportunities to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Regular readers might recall an early post on my first real hike in Switzerland last year, up the Rochers de Naye. I recently discovered (along with my niece Laura who was visiting) an awesome short hike on the Le Selève – our local mountain here in Geneva – that offers one of the greatest views of the Swiss and French Alps one will find anywhere. These hikes were awesome, but I think I just topped them all with a hike in Italy’s “Cinque Terre” National Park along the Mediterranean seacoast in northern Italy. Continue reading

Gym membership?? We don’t need no stinkin’ gym membership!!

One of the things I miss from back home in the states is our affordable YMCA membership. I think it was something like $90 per month for the whole family, so we felt pretty good about the value we were receiving. As an alternative, we have found an affordable swimming option nearby and we also get a lot of walking in, even during these short winter days.

But with the kids coming for the holidays, Patrick expressed an interest in being able to maintain his weight lifting routine, and so I assured him that I knew a gym close by where we could go get a lift in. So one day, we walked over to the gym, and I asked the staff member on duty how much would it cost for just a single workout, thinking that maybe it’d be somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 Swiss francs. (Francs are roughly equivalent to a U.S. dollar. It varies from time to time, but that’s how I look at it.) He responded “25 Swiss francs”. I responded, “… you mean for both of us, right?” and he responded, “No, I mean 25 each, or 50 total”, and I responded by saying, “C’est trop cher!” (“That’s too expensive!”), and then turning and walking out the door.

So, being the persevering and flexible types that we are, Patrick and I went about finding a less expensive (moins cher, en francais) alternative. Here’s a video I took of our “plan B”. Continue reading