Tag Archives: Switzerland

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 1: Where Italy meets Switzerland: A magic place you never knew existed

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Ticino is the region of Switzerland that is Italian-speaking and -influenced. It’s where the Alps spill into Lake Maggiore, which is shared with Italy. The valleys hold the magic, and traveling up them will leave you breathless and completely enchanted!

swissafter3It’s a place that time forgot, and in this ever-changing world, there is comfort in those places, if only as a reminder to connect with the Earth and your surroundings.

Arriving off the beaten path always involves some effort, and for me, the key is being in the moment, shedding the “hurry up and get there” mentality.

By the time we arrived in Locarno, our home for the next week, we had done planes, trains and automobiles.We flew into Lugano, an hour away from Locarno.  While “hiking” to the train station from the airport with luggage in tow, I could only see the lake the mountains and the charming villages. Then the automobile picked us up at the train station to whisk us to our hotel. There, the beauty of the surroundings dissolved my exhaustion. With a balcony view of the lake, I didn’t feel so tired anymore — just transported.

swissafter5On our first full day, we headed up, up, up. The Madonna del Sasso church and convent is perched above the town, as if it’s floating in air over the lake, and it was a good indication of just how often our breath would be taken away while we were in this magical place. The church is as gorgeous inside as it is outside. Somehow, it’s such a treat when you don’t know what to expect and you turn the corner and BAM! Such beauty, artistry and architecture.

swissafter1Above the Madonna del Sasso, it turned out, was still a whole lot of up, and we kept going until we were above the clouds and shrouded in the fog that danced around the mountain peaks. Here, we spent a lazy hour watching the fog and the paragliders jumping into what could not be seen. We trusted that they had done this before, and watched their colorful parachutes drift off until they disappeared — only to re-emerge in the sunshine that glowed below us and over the lake.

Lunch, I was very happy to discover, was Italian. It is my personal belief that while the Italians have had to endure hundreds of years of corruption, they will not endure any bad food, wine, music or art, and their influence in this region was greatly appreciated by me. Little English is spoken in this area, but I can read “gnocchi” and “risotto,” and I love the lyrical sound of the the locals asking me what I might want in that gorgeous language. With a view of the lake below, I might have stayed there forever, but no: Siesta was calling, and that’s another idea I could sink my teeth into.

swissafter2Is it time to eat again already? Why yes, yes, it is. My husband found a darling grotto (trattoria) for dinner, and we discovered the local wine. Ninety percent of the vines that dot these hills and valleys are Merlot, and the Ticino region is famous for both their white and red Merlot wines. I was already a fan at first sip. I think wine, like food, is never better than when consumed in the place from which it hails. It always gives me a sense of place, and I think of the people who have farmed this land and the people before them as I savor.

Night falls early on the jet lagged, and with two contented souls, we drifted off dreaming of the mountains where they meet the lake in this place between two countries.

To be continued…