A walking tour of old Lausanne

I mentioned in an earlier post that old Lausanne is partway up the hill/mountain – that when the Roman Empire collapsed, the remaining people moved up the hill for safety. So the old town, which is very picturesque, is also very hilly. Be prepared for a walk.

This is the view outside the Cathedral, looking back down towards Lake Geneva.

The Cathedral itself is very plain on the inside. When the Calvinists took over in Lausanne, they destroyed the decoration inside the Cathedral. Which isn’t to say it isn’t still lovely. Just lovely in a different way.

After we visited the Cathedral, we walked down a covered stairway (that is part of an official pilgrimage path) that had this little park off to the side about halfway down the hill. It was a little gem that we just stumbled across.

This was a square that we came across, very colorful. It’s near City Hall, and this was the neighborhood fountain, where you would come to collect the water you would need for the day. It was hot the day we were there and I filled up my water bottle at this fountain.

Durig Chocolatier has delicious, yummy chocolate. Would recommend.

All in all, this was a good, albeit short day. We rounded it out with a good long lunch, and it was a relaxing vacation tour.

The International Olympic Museum

I enjoyed The International Olympic Museum more than I expected to. Lausanne is where the IOC is headquartered; ergo, the museum makes sense. (Lausanne in general is a very sporty town, we found.)

This is one of two olympic flames that never goes out. The other is in Greece.

This is the entrance to the museum; it’s also the current high jump world record. That is, someone has jumped over this bar (that most people can easily walk under) without anything like a pole or trampoline to help them along. It’s 8′ 0.25″, and the record hasn’t changed since 1993, according to Wikipedia.

There is a lot to the museum, like the history of the Olympics and what its goals are, the torches that have been used – the design retrospective through the years is fascinating, how different body types are good at different sports, but my favorite is the costumes. These are the costumes that Torvill & Dean wore for their famous Bolero routine.

This is Jim Craig’s sweater from the Miracle on Ice in 1980. (This is when a team of college kids from the US beat the all-professional team of Soviet hockey players in the 1980 Olympics. You can assign all the Cold War significance to this event that you want.)

Usain Bolt’s jersey if for no other reason than he is fast.

A basketball that every member of the 1992 Dream Team signed. That’s the year that the US finally sent its professional basketball players to the olympics – the team that included Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson – and won their games by an average of 44 points. (Dream Team was a fun book to read about their journey, but the narrative arc – the golden team that stayed golden – isn’t the most interesting.)

Jessie Owens‘ shoes from the 1936 Olympics, when he definitively proved that Hitler was a racist asshole. (I mean, didn’t everyone already know that? But still, keep shouting down racist assholes.)

The gardens outside the museum were full of statues (as well as Olympic sports to try, including a 100m dash course), mainly of sports. But there was this tribute to abs, which I found amusing. Yes, it’s all about power and performance. But also: abs.

This was the most out-of-place sculpture – it’s a gentleman holding an umbrella that’s made of water. It is whimsical, if a bit out of place in a place that is a tribute to sports.

The Olympic Museum is a bit on the expensive side, as is most of Lausanne, but it was totally worth it. I really enjoyed the visit. But then: the Olympics has so many good stories, and I am a sucker for a good story. Recommended.

Switzerland is pretty, aka, an introduction to Lausanne

The early morning, jet-lagged view from our apartment in Lausanne/Ouchy.

We went to Europe! Our family (me, my husband, our daughter) traveled in Europe for two weeks. First, we went to Lausanne, where it was hot and we had a lovely 4th floor apartment near Lake Geneva. The view was great, and being near the water kept things a little cooler than they might otherwise have been.

The first morning there, while my husband and I were up and ready to go and our teenaged daughter, um, wasn’t, we went for a walk to see a bit of the city. We actually mostly stuck to the shoreline. It was lovely.

I personally enjoyed this fountain of three horses fighting over who has the best access to the water.

This is apparently the hotel you stay at in Lausanne if you are royalty, rich, and/or famous. We did not stay there.

There were lots of wild swans. I chose not to get to close. Swans are dangerous.

There is a lot happening on the shoreline at Lausanne. When the Romans founded the town, this is where they started things. But after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 400s CE, the people remaining moved up into the mountains. (Lausanne is incredibly hilly. Being in the Alps will do that.) So the Old Town isn’t here, and there was plenty of room for development when the time came around.

I’ll be spacing out posts from our trip, with a different thing to do on different days. I’ll post restaurant recommendations as I come across them. Enjoy!

Books and coffee: the Pacific Northwest #2

After we went to Victoria, BC, we hopped the Washington State Ferry to travel to the San Juan Islands, specifically, Friday Harbor. We didn’t have a car, so the biggest town made the most sense. We spent another three relaxing days, one of which was even sunny!

This was not the sunny day, but probably was my favorite picture of the trip. It makes you understand why coffee and books are so popular in the Pacific Northwest.

Look, coffee and books are two of the things I really associate with Seattle. It has the most coffeeshops per capita in the US, and there are lots of bookstores and local authors. But we really didn’t do a lot of coffee and books.

This is the bookstore I wasn’t allowed to go inside because I basically already had a book per day for the trip. And look! They sold coffee!

I did read a lot on the trip though. In Friday Harbor, we went bike riding around the island on the beautiful day and to the Whale Museum on the day that was gross and rainy.

One of the beaches we visited on the lovely day.

I got A LOT of reading done on the trip and we ate VERY well. Overall, it was lovely and relaxing.

Books and coffee: the Pacific Northwest, part 1

I expected Victoria, BC, to be more like Seattle, honestly. Vancouver and Seattle are so similar in many ways. But Victoria was different. It’s smaller, and I think because it’s the capital of BC, it’s definitely got a touch of old world glamour, as evidenced by the parliament building above.

I have a thing for old fancy street lights.

It was a good walking city – a small city, but a city nonetheless. We ate very well.

Three days was about the right amount of time to spend. We saw the Royal BC museum, hung out in some of the city’s parks, went shopping, and watched A LOT of hockey.

A stuffed peacock from inside the Craigdarroch Castle

Overall, it was great for a long weekend. And hey, I only bought one new book – from Munro’s Books, a lovely local bookstore. No pictures of the store, though. I was too busy browsing.

Going to the desert and thinking too much about metaphors

Deserts are about getting rid of what you don’t need – you travel through them and leave behind whatever isn’t absolutely necessary. They whittle you down to your bare essentials, and leave you a better, if more battered, person afterwards.

Sand dunes only exist in a small part of Death Valley’s vastness. It was very windy the day we were there.

Let me tell you that a long weekend in Death Valley is neither so romantic nor so transformative. It was lovely and I learned a lot about the different types of deserts, but I also learned that all those rocks and so very little vegetation gets me a bit down.

This is the scene from Dante’s View. Death Valley National Park has lots of scenic points named after either the Devil or Dante.

The desert, the National Park Service would like you to know, isn’t desolate. There are lots of forms of life there, and they are just as deserving of protecting as more verdant areas, like jungles or forests. This is true. But it just seems so damn barren. It was a beautiful place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Golden Canyon, aka, one of several places Star Wars filmed.

Am I a better person for having gone to the desert? I believe that travel always widens your perspective on the world, both in terms of what’s possible to do and what’s out there. But it’s not like we were roughing it. The National Park has a lodge, and we stayed there. It was lovely.

This is all salt, mainly NaCl, the kind you find on your table. I wasn’t brave enough to taste it.

There’s nothing like seeing the barrenness to understand why those literary metaphors of sloughing away what’s not important exist in the first place. You can’t have anything that isn’t necessary if you’re going to survive there. The land can’t support it.

The sunsets are pretty, though.

I would absolutely recommend a visit, though. The land is striking, you can channel your inner geologist, and maybe even pretend that you’re Gertrude Bell or Lawrence of Arabia.

There’s a creek! In the desert! This is Salt Creek, and it’s fed by an aquifer rather than any kind of run-off. The plants and animals in it have evolved to deal with very salty water.

Stockholm is also pretty

Stockholm was the last place we visited on our Scandinavian journey. It was a good almost-three-week trip. It spanned the summer solstice, so there was plenty of sunlight. Just look at the color of the sky in these photos – it’s amazing.

a city building
There’s a lot of water in Stockholm, as you’d imagine. Which means bridges everywhere.


b government and church
This is, I think, the parliament building. The steeple on the church in the background is great – an open steel structure. I like that as a way to make the top of a building interesting. I’m keeping it in mind for the palace I will someday build.


c german church
This is where the minister stands to deliver the sermon in the German church. It’s not too shabby. (Stockholm was a big trading town back in the day – and each culture had its own church – there’s at least a German Church and a Finnish Church in addition to the Stockholm Cathedral.)


d gamla stan street
When you build on an island with no cars, you build narrow streets and tall buildings. (This is on Gamla Stan, which is the original island of Stockholm. It’s mostly given over to tourists now.)


e gamla stan street
This is an actual, named street on Gamla Stan.


f a boy and his horse
A random statue of a boy and his horse. My palace is also going to have a large garden with lots of random statues.


g dragon slaying
Dragon slaying!


h dragon slaying
More dragon slaying! It’s the same statue, just different size and colors (obviously). This one is in the Stockholm Medieval Museum – which is both free and super-fascinating.


i smallest statue
The smallest statue in Stockholm. Those are normal sized coins. Someone knits hats for it; we were told that it changes about once a week. It’s in the park next to the Finnish church.


j artemis or athena
I am 90% sure this is a statue of Artemis. But maybe it’s Athena? There’s a small two-room museum off the Royal Palace full of ancient Roman sculpture. (My ancient-loving heart was warmed.)


k frederick
One of the King Friderics of Sweden. Sweden had more money than Denmark, and thus Stockholm in general is fancier than Copenhagen was. I think this is the Frederick that turned Sweden into that fancier place, with building initiatives and the like.


l fire
This is the little symbol over the door that you put up once you paid your dues to the firemen. They’d only put out fires at the houses of the people with the symbol. You’d be surprised at how few there were.


m doors
My royal palace is totally going to have a door that looks like this.


n town hall
Stockholm City Hall. This is where they give out the Nobel prizes every year.


o statue
An adorable little lion statue outside City Hall. It could be a nice addition to my palace gardens.


p park
Woo-hoo! This is the oldest park in Stockholm, and, in fact, a number of workers brought their lunches here to escape the dreary offices they work in. The buildings across the canal are hotels and department stores. Pretty fancy for a department store. Maybe I should build one of those instead of a palace….

I’m making plans for my own palace now…

We initially decided to tour the Swedish Royal Palace because it was hot outside and the stone buildings were nice and cool. But the palace? is also very elegant.

grand banquet hall
There was a royal wedding in mid-June (this was taken on maybe 1 July?). This hall was where they had the wedding dinner. It was HUGE.


hall of mirrors
If this room reminds you of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, well, it’s supposed to. They borrowed the design from the French.


A trunk from somewhere in the palace. The detail is amazing.


I’ve forgotten exactly where this detail was – over a door? Carved on a wall? Think about living somewhere with this kind of detail – I’d simultaneously love being surrounded by the beauty and be terrified I was going to somehow break it all.


e sitting room 2
A sitting room.


f sitting room
Another sitting room, but in this one I can imagine Lizzie Bennett and Caroline Bingley taking a turn around the room while Darcy covertly watches them, pretending to write letters.


g statue
When I own my palace, I’m going to put artwork in the front hall for everyone to admire.


And this will be the staircase they have to walk up to get to the living area.


This is an incredibly whimsical table layout. If you think it’s a flower, it’s porcelain. All of it. It’s both lovely and funny. And it was all for sale, too.


Your throne, milady.


The palace turned out to be a surprisingly fun detour. I’d recommend it if you’re ever in Stockholm.

Norway is pretty

These are the last of my photos of Norway. We took a cruise to see all the fjords; it is a lovely, lovely place. I recommend going.

fjord boat
I’ve forgotten which particular fjord this one is. The huge cruise ship is on the left.


fjord camping
This is Geiranger. There’s a big campground there and it was full. I can totally see why. There’s also a small town with all the amenities, including many cafes and a chocolatier. It’s civilized camping.


fjord views
A view down the fjord from a mountaintop.


fjord waterfall
One of the bigger waterfalls.


fjord waterfalls
So, so many waterfalls.


geiranger grass roof
We walked over to town from the dock. They’ve left up this old cottage with a robust sod/grass roof. The Scandinavians are big on the garden roofs; one of our tour guides pointed out that this is at least partially explained by the fact that the old houses all had sod roofs. It was the best way to keep the rain out.


geiranger pews
This was inside a church in Olden. Each pew was closed off by a door and had these decorations on the end. I thought they were unique.


molde garden
A park in Molde. It was a lovely place to sit and rest.


mountain stream
A mountain stream, possibly back in Geiranger.


nordfjord bench
This was in a town called Norddal. There’s a row of boathouses along the fjord, across the street from the town. People still use them (and the boats) to get around. I liked the blue of the bench against the dark wood. Pretty.


nordfjord boat
The boathouses at Norddal. I like boat in between the boat houses.


nordfjord church
The (well-maintained) church in Norddal. It’s octagonal.


stavanger boat
The cathedral tower in Stavanger. Those are hotels along the fjord for all the tourists.


troll eggs
There’s a lot of animal husbandry on the western edge of Norway; it’s not flat enough for a lot of farming. But goats? Goats do great. Goats also have to eat during the long snowy winters. During the summer, they let the grass grow. Then they mow and harvest the clippings, saving them in these giant white bags. You see them everywhere in the Norwegian countryside; they’re called troll eggs.

That is it for the Norway photos. Next (and last) is Stockholm.

Other Norwegian Cities

The cruise stopped at other ports too – we explored a number of towns. I’ve narrowed the photos down to a couple of the larger cities: Stavanger and Molde. Molde was the furthest north we went, and we were there only a day or two after the summer solstice. The sun rose at 3:30am and set at 11:30pm. How did we sleep? Blackout curtains.

old stavanger
This is the view of old Stavanger from the port (I took this from the balcony of our room on the ship). There are strict regulations about the buildings in this section of town, obviously. Including: only very small signs for stores are allowed. So there’s little in the way of tourist schlock available for sale. It was lovely.


old stavanger anchor
This giant anchor was outside of the maritime museum. It’s HUGE.


old stavanger flowers
Have I mentioned that there were flowers everywhere in Norway? People definitely take advantage of summer to make everything prettier.


old stavanger stairway
This was a little alleyway in Stavanger’s old town. I like the flowers and the lamppost.


Stavanger’s cathedral. It was closed to repair the organ – and had been for more than a year – and was going to be re-opened the week after we were there. Le sigh.


bright street
Stavanger had a regular shopping district, too. This was clearly the shopping center for the town, full of locals and tourists alike. This one street, though, is the brightly colored hipster center for Stavanger.


bright street - hipster
See? Hipster center. Look at the bunting and the deer and the colors. You could buy everything on Etsy, I’m sure of it.


bright street - manic pixie dream troll
There’s even a manic pixie dream troll. Where else but Norway would you find one?


bright street - mural
This mural – women supporting each other and looking cute – tickles me.


brigth street - bookstore
I couldn’t *not* get a picture of the local bookstore, could I?


The rest of Stavanger’s shopping district looked more like this: cobblestone streets, white buildings, colorful windows. This is a statue of an old seaman or viking. He has personality.


molde - statue
Then it was on to Molde. They love flowers so much, they’ve got their own rose variety. She’s celebrating that.


molde - torget
The town center of Molde – the torget. Molde is fairly small and very modern. The King of Norway hid here for a bit during WWII, so the Nazis destroyed the city. It’s all been rebuilt.


We also visited Alesund, which has lovely art nouveau buildings. Wilhem II used to vacation there with his family; there was a fire in the early 1900s that burned down about half the town. So Wilhelm foot the bill for rebuilding it, hiring the best European architects. The result is a fabulous art nouveau city. But I was sick during that port visit, so I didn’t get to see it. My husband and daughter tell me it was very pretty.