SIX OF THE BEST – Historic Swiss Hotels

Biergarten. Romantik Seehotel Sonne, Kussnacht

The biergarten of Romantik Hotel Sonne, Küsnacht, by the lake near Zurich

‘Historic’ need not mean faded glory. These hotels combine spectacular locations with character, fascinating stories…and modern plumbing.  
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OLD (AND NEW) FACES IN AN OLD DUTCH STREET

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It’s a fun, folkloric event, but they take it very seriously.

We happened to be visiting Schagen, a small town just over 60km north of Amsterdam, on the day of a parade.

It was a busy market day, but suddenly the crowd was asked to make way as a group in traditional Dutch costume passed, riding on horse-drawn carts, pushing wicker prams, riding bicycles with baskets of poultry and playing accordions.

Unexpected, and spectacular, it made for excellent photo ops…

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TWO SWISS HOTSPOTS – it’s no surprise which I prefer.

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It’s thrilling to see the Matterhorn for the first time, though I didn’t have it to myself.

I once wrote that to qualify for ‘Most Beautiful Place I’ve Been‘, there should be no crowds, and it should feel like a small achievement to get there.  

90% of Switzerland could be in contention for ‘world’s most beautiful place’ awards, and of course climbing to the summit of the Matterhorn is an achievement well out of my league. But thanks to the super-efficient Swiss tourism industry, getting to eye level with the bottom of the climb is easy. So of course there are crowds.

It’s still spectacular, though there’s another place nearby that meets all my ‘beautiful place’ criteria.    Continue reading

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BEST ONE WEEK WALK IN EUROPE – the pictures

Simon - Lac des Vaches

Crossing the Lac des Vaches, with the Grande Casse in the background.

I’d done parts of this walk before – along the GR5 and the GR55, but this was the first time I’ve tackled the whole six-day Tour des Glaciers in the Parc de la Vanoise, the oldest national park in France.

From beginning to end it’s spectacular. Here’s the photographic evidence… Continue reading

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AMBLING IN AMSTERDAM – de Jordaan

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Bikes, bells and Better Homes and Gardens.

It was Jordaan Open Gardens Day at the weekend. We strolled from one lovely oasis to the next, reminding ourselves why we can’t afford to live in this part of town. It’s too good for the likes of us.
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ZWOLLE, OVERIJSSEL – saved by a Canadian?

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Disneyland, Overijssel? No it’s real. The Sassenpoort gate to the city dates from the 14th century.

Mevrouw T and I have changed trains at Zwolle dozens of times in the past few years, on our way to see family and friends in the northern Dutch provinces. Not once have we ventured outside the station.

Our friend Hans had a significant birthday to celebrate, so with him as our guide we took the time to spend a day in the town where he went to school. He showed us an interesting art museum, quiet squares with cafes under the plane trees, and a bookshop which ranks with the world’s most spectacular.

According to slightly dubious story, Zwolle could have been a pile of rubble but for the heroism (or sheer craziness?) of a Canadian soldier in WWII.
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SIX QUIRKY DUTCH MUSEUMS

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Teylers Museum. Polished wood and creaky floors – the way a good museum used to be.

There are usually queues at Amsterdam’s wonderful Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, and for good reason.

But The Netherlands has a plethora of other smaller, fascinating museums of things we never knew we were interested in…until now.

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