Monthly Archives: July 2014

Switzerland, Part 3: In the Magic Kingdom (Or, did my heart just stop beating, can someone please pinch me?)

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Today was about Jack Johnson and the Valle Verzasca. I’m not sure which enchanted me more, but to my husband, who is reading this, the answer is you, for planning such a stellar trip: Hats off and a big heaping of gratitude! It’s true; this one was planned entirely by my beloved, and I was so impressed.

swissafter15Somehow, with all the adventure around us, we still managed to relax, take leisurely breakfasts while sipping fantastic coffee, and breathing in the moment. We did many laps in the pool and even fit in some reading … but, um, there is that valley I read about and that adorable looking town, so, yeah, let’s go!

The Valle Verzasca (which I still can’t pronounce properly) is, simply put, a slice of heaven. The road twists and turns, following the river, which pulses with water that’s brilliant turquoise and so clean that it makes you wonder if maybe the Evian folks sneak in and steal it. It spills over boulders the size of small houses, creating swimming holes and waterfalls.

The stone villages appear, and you wonder, “Where am I? And why did I not know this place existed?” Before too long, we came upon the town of Lavertezzo, which I’d found on a Google search of “most beautiful villages near Locarno.” As far as I was concerned, it could be on any list of most beautiful villages around the world.

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Almost too cute for words, the village was layered atop a hill, giving the impression that there’s no separation between the town and the river, with copious boulders and waterfalls. Some of these boulders were giant, literally the size of a house, and made for the most beautiful little beach areas right in the river and lovely (albeit cold) swimming holes. But the air was hot, and the place too other worldly not to jump into that water — so I did, again and again. Jumping in, swimming to another rock, walking upstream on said rock, jumping back in and letting the current carry me, then doing it again. What folly!

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Looking at the time, we realized we didn’t want to be late for Jack Johnson, and so this little party needed to wrap up so we could go to the next festivity.

swissafter16During July in Locarno, they turn the the Piazza Grande, or town square, into a concert venue, and what a lovely venue it makes. We decided to grab dinner right on the piazza and keep it simple: pizza and the local white merlot. I would normally go red with the pizza, but at 86 degrees, white won out.

The Swiss in this region definitely got their food influence from the Italians, and the pizza was fantastic. I recall capers and mushrooms and other yummy things, with a crust light and perfect,

swissafter12Now it was time for the concert, and since we were already there and happened to get in line early, we were front row. Literally. I have long appreciated Jack’s happy-go-lucky, sweet, soulful tunes, and seeing him live was a treat. Zack Gill — Jack’s piano, accordion and other instrument player — almost stole the show, playing with the audience and rockin’ out some sweet tunes. I kept turning around to be sure to take in my surroundings and just soak it all in as the music washed over us.

The show is over and it’s late: Time for these two jet-lagged travelers to get to sleep, floating on a cloud of music, sweet music!

To be continued…

Switzerland, Part 2: Now that is a view: From Switzerland to Italy by train

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When doing my research on this area, which I thoroughly enjoy doing, the Centrovalli train line comes up again and again as the highlight of many traveling to this region. Some went so far as to say it was the one of the most romantic train rides in Europe.

swissafter8It didn’t take much arm twisting to get me on that train. Leaving Locarno, the train twists and turns through charming towns, across the mountain valley sprinkled with the grand river, waterfalls and vineyards, until it emerges in Domodossola, Italy. The journey takes about two hours and does not disappoint.

Domodossola’s old city is almost Medieval; it feels very, very old. It utterly delighted me as we stopped for a coffee in the piazza. You could see the horses and carriages of a time long ago, if only in your imagination.

swissafter9Today, the city bustles in that way that Italian towns often do. Everyone seems to know everyone, and the piazza was filled with much meeting and greeting, many with their dogs in tow. Newspapers are still read here, and returned to the cafe’s newsstand. Little children skip about while Mom or Dad talk to someone they know.

swissafter10One little girl sat dutifully in her cafe chair with her face buried in her smartphone playing a game, her father having to remind her to look up and greet the townspeople who had stopped by to say hello. So time has not completely escaped the region. But sitting there even just watching, you felt a part of something — what was it? Community? A simpler time? The charm of Italian cafe life? All of the above, maybe. But a smile spread across my face as I watched, thinking that if I were a writer of fiction, I would have plenty of fodder here.

But our train would soon be departing, so we needed to pay our bill and be on our way, leaving this little place nestled in the mountain valley only a memory in our minds.

swissafter11What? Mi scusi? You don’t take credit cards? Um, cash only? We only have Swiss francs, not Euros, as they use in Italy. Off my love went to find a ATM, and so it goes. We had crossed the border.

swissafter7Upon returning “home” to the land of the Swiss franc, life by the pool sounded like a great idea, and so we remained in the pool and the surrounding gardens right through dinner. I spent the remainder of the night on our balcony as I wrote and sketched, time for la dolce far niete. Time. (Sigh.)

To be continued…

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