Wednesday, 22 November 2017
Waldhaus Flims, one of our favourite spa hotels in Switzerland and a lovely escape from the foggy swathes that are Zurich in November. It is situated amid skyscraper pine trees that cloak the resort's Belle Epoque grand hotel, villa and chalet in a tranquil pillow of woodland. Visible above the trees are the jagged Tschingelhörner summits and the concertina-like Flimserstein. Our walk took us first down to Lake Cauma, an impossible shade of turquoise in the frozen landscape, then up through woodland and along a panoramic ridge to the viewpoint over the Rhine Gorge that we had set out to find. The platform strained against the sheer drop, suspended above the impressive swathes of rock that looked like a gushing waterfall. The Ruinaulta, as the gorge is known in the local language Romansch, was formed 10,000 years ago by a formidable rockfall. Some 400 metres beneath us, woodland clustered around the horseshoe bend in the Rhine. A little red train, the Rhaetian Railway's Glacier Express, chugged along beside the river. Apparently the woodland here has never been disturbed by man and is a good example of how trees develop naturally when left alone. My mind boggled at how trees could grow on such steep slopes. Onward, we entered this frozen woodland, finally reaching Lake Cresta. Mist moves across the water. The air is so still we can hear the whir of ski infrastructure in the distance.
Saturday, 30 September 2017
two years ago - the place and its pace of life as enduring as the moods of the ocean are fleeting. We recognise the fruit seller, Michele, whose open-backed three-wheeler truck parked up by the sea is bulging with peaches, lettuces, tomatoes and melons. Then there's the checkout guy in the grocery store, who seems to know everyone in town but is equally chatty to the tourists. We easily settle into the pace of life, spending hours on our indulgently huge sea-view terrace reading and practising slow yoga. I enjoy watching as the sea oscillates between pistachio, grey and turquoise as it rolls up into a frothy carpet on the sand. Scicli is often overlooked as one of southeastern Sicily's Baroque beauties compared to its more famous neighbours, Monica, Ragusa and Noto. But I find it the most rewarding to visit. Within its tangled alleyways of tumbledown sand-coloured townhouses and crumbling Palazzi, the lot adorned with trailing balustrades and worn stuccowork and interspersed with shaded piazze, there is a microcosm of Sicilian life. Grocery vans rattle through the narrow alleys, loudspeakers announcing their daily specials. As we stroll past Chiesa Madre, admiring its ornate facade, an elderly lady pokes her head out a nearby window and points to urge us into the church. It proves a good recommendation: inside, glass-panelled turrets illuminate Baroque detailing. Later, we order granites - the local speciality; a type of fresh fruit sorbet served with brioche - and are buffeted by the wind as the world whistles past. We're horrified when, after a gust of wind lifts the napkins from our table and drops then on the square, the locals at the adjacent tables tell us to just leave it. No wonder there is a litter problem on the island.