Monday, August 27, 2007

Home at last

We made it home at midnight on Thursday, 4 hours after we were supposed to.

We played with the dogs and then went to bed as we had to run Hood 2 Coast on Friday. For those of you who don't know what that it is, it is a 197 mile relay from Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood to Seaside Oregon. It takes 2 days and you run 3 times for ~15 to ~18 miles total.

We are now recovering from that.

The photos have been posted for our Haute Route trip, I will add captions as i get time.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Grachen > Zermatt

Today was supposed to be the second to last day, we were going to walk up to the Europahut and then down to Zermatt tomorrow. We checked the weather and it was going to be cold (6c) and raining all day today and tomorrow, above 2000m (which is where we were going to spend all of our time). We opted for the more dry option of finishing our trek through the valley, to Zermatt.

After breakfast we caught the bus back to St. Niklaus and then headed out for the last 4 hours.

About an 1.5 in to, my hip and knee were really bothering me and Kevin was tired of walking, so we caught the train to Zermatt.

Once in Zermatt, we checked in to the bag yet (it was supposed to arrive on Friday, today is Monday). We ate a little, drank a little and waited for the post office to reopen at 2 to check on it.

Turns out we need the package number off of the receipt (which we probably threw away). If it doesn't arrive tomorrow before we leave, we will ask the hotel to ship it to us...I am sure that will be cheap.

Our tentative plan is to head to Lausanne tomorrow, then Geneva-London the next day. We are planning on meeting Paul in London for a pint and then head home on Thursday.

Its been a long, great walk. We both feel like we need a vacation from our vacation....and can't wait to see our photos.

Hopefully that bag will turn up.....

St. Niklaus > Grachen

This was supposed to be a short day, we woke up late, ate breakfast and headed up hill. We would have a 1.5 hour walk, UP a steep path. We actually walked about 30 minutes past our hotel so then we had to head back down to it. We checked in, showered and took a long nap. After the nap we went looking for food. Evidently, no one served food between 2 & 6, in Grachen. So we drank beer, I called Dad and we headed back to the hotel for another nap before dinner.

Today was all about staying off of our feet.

Dinner wasn't very good, but it was food, and then we went to bed early.

Gruben > St. Niklaus

Today was a long up hill. The 2 weeks of walking were really starting to taking a toll on us. When we were about 600 vertical meters from the top, we started taking a break every time we would gain 100 m. Kevin also got an extra 30 minutes of walking in, as when we were 20 minutes from the start, we realized that we had forgot the guidebook at the hotel.. So he went back and got it.

Once we crossed the last pass of the trip, we headed down, and then up in to a boulder field that would never end. Eventuall (2.5 hours later) we walked down in to Jungen. What do you know, there is another cable car, and you can guess what we were going to do.... we were not up for another 1.5 hour steep down hill.

Once in St. Niklaus we found our hotel, showered, did laundry in the sink and then headed for dinner. It was really good.

We also ran into the Kiwis for the last time at dinner. They were headed to the Europahut the next day where we were going to take a "rest" day and only do a 2 hour walk to the next town and then head to the Europahut the next day.

Zinal > Gruben

We switched roles on this stage. I was slow, Kevin was faster. It was cloudy all day, but didn't rain. It was a long climb up to the Forclatta (another col). It was also very windy and cold at the top, all I wanted to do was rush down so I could warm up. This is our first German speaking valley...I don't expect to be able to understand a single word they say....should be intertaining.

Walking down from the col, we walked through a sheep ranch (literally, through their pens), down to a road. We caught up to the Kiwis, with the knees of steel. Our feet have hurt for the last hour (at least) of every day... I kept expecting this to go away, but it never did.

We both ran out of water as we finished the death march into town. The hotel was pretty nice, except that the bathroom was down the hall.

We ate dinner with Nigel, who we didn't expect to see again as he was going to walk past St. Niklaus, to get a head start on the Eurpoweg.

Cabane de Moiry to Zinal

We had a crappy breakfast - stale bread and jam....

We met a Canadian couple that were going to finish today - in Arolla. They were headed backwards after weather had delayed them halfway through.

We lost the trail that we were supposed to take to the Barrage de Moiry, so we cut down to the road and walked along it until we ran in to the trail again. We ran into a restaurant where we had a large pseudo breakfast. We then headed up for the 600 meters to the top. It was a nice trail, grassy, smooth and lots of long switch backs. We had also decided that we would take the cable car down from the ski resort to Zinal. Neither of our knees were up to the 1000m knee pounding descent.

We had an incredible view from the top of the col, except for some of the clouds. And we waved to Wim and Bararab (the Kiwis) as we were headed down in the cable car. They must have knees of steel.

We really wanted to do laundry when we got in to town, real laundry. So Kevin started calling the Tourist Office and found a gentleman who runs an apartment complex who would let us use his machines.....Ahhh fresh clothes.

We had dinner (it was long and good!) at a restaurant that was recommended by Benoist Germann (the laundry guy).

La Sage > Cabane de Moiry

"Another 1600m day in the bag. It went fast enough. We hiked from about 9am to 4pm, including lunch and breaks. I felt slow today... or else Dana was fast. I was dragging behind all daz. We made the col tsate in 3 hours and then it was straight down for an hour. We didn't have any food left so we had to make it down the hill to a snack shop. After lunch we had 400 more mreter to climb. )it took us 1 hour 45 mnutes) It was very crowded, for you Oregoniansé It was like Multnohmah falls. except every one said hello to each other. Dana and I must have said 'bonjour' 200 times. The cabane is nice. It is right on the Moiry Glacier and ice fall. I hope the food is good. The problems with the place are: no shower, bathrooms are outside, and thez have us packed in like a middle ages ship. Sleeping tonight will be a lot like riding Portland metro buses during rush hour." --- Kevin.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Arolla > La Sage

Well, this little 4 hour hike proved to be harder then it looked. It only took us about 4 hours, but it was a long 4 hours.

We walked past a pristine blue lake that had many people sunning themselves near, then we headed down to a little bar where Kevin had the worst hamburger possible. It related it to a burger from 7-11, only worse. We then headed down for the next several hours. At Les Haudiers (sp?) we then headed up, for what would be come a death march. We ended up in a woman's backyard, she directed us to the trail and we continued up.

Once in Le Chable, we checked in to our Dortoir. They laughed when we said we had a reservation...come to find out we were the only ones on the entire floor. I think the only other guest we would meet would be a strange guy from Pennslyvania.

The "hotel" was very creeky, you walked as quietly as you could incase the place came crashing down.

The dinner was horrible, but at least they served dessert, for Kevin's birthday.

We met Roger, from Pennsylvania. He was kind of strange, he planned to hike from Arolla to Zermatt, in sandals. His pack weighed about 30 pounds and was filled with stuff like a tent, sleeping bag and camping stuff....sounded like a lot of stuff he wouldn't need. Not to mention he was in pretty bad shape from the hike from Arolla. Granted I said it was harder then what we expected, but not nearly as hard as what we had done before or were expecting later.

Kevin shipped his extra backpack from Arolla to Zermatt, for a whooping 14 francs...we will see if it actually arrives.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cabane Prafleuri > Arolla

The day started out with a climb up a col to 2800m (from 2600m). The view was of a deep valley now filled by a dam held glacier lake. It was supposed to rain this morning, but so far, no sign of it.

We walked down to the lake and along it for about 2 hours. We saw lots of climbers and day hikers. The climbers must have been coming down from Mont Blanc Cheilon. We stopped for lunch at the end of the lake, which is where I learned I wouldn't have to cross the bridge--something I was really not looking forward to. Instead we would avoid the traverse across the steep slope covered in scree and head to the Cabane Dix, cross the glacier and then go up the ladders.

We could look over on to the other side of the canyon and see Alex & Paul traversing the scree, I was glad to be on the side I was on.

It was a long slow climb to the Cabane. We kept expecting it to be just over the next little ridge, turns out we first had to climb to 2900m+ and then down to the cabane. We stopped for hot chocolate and then headed down to the glacier. We crossed a boulder field on either side of it and then scrambled up to the ladders.

The ladders are 3 iron ladders bolted to the rock face (near vertical). They are about 50 feet tall. At one point, near the top, you have to get off of one ladder on to a little rock ledge and then get on to the last ladder. We waited for a family to come down them (with a rope). Then it was our turn. I went first, I wore my gloves for fear the ladder would get cold and then I wouldn't be able to feel my fingers. I took them off when I switched ladders near the top -- my hands were sweating and the bars were actually warm. The long middle ladder shook a little and it seemed like a really long way to the top. When I switched ladders, I took the gloves off. I have never been so happy to be at the top of anything! Kevin came up after I did. We took some pictures, caught our breath and then headed down to Arolla. It was about 2 hours down hill. It was pleasant at first, but then turned into a death march. About 30 minutes above the town we heard a band...then we saw them when we got in to town.

Alex, Paul & Nigel met us with beer. That was a welcome sight! Turns out we were the only ones to take the ladders. They made it in 6.5 hours, we made it in about 8 (should have taken us 6.5 - 7.5), so not too bad.

After the beer we checked in, picked up Kevin's bag (a welcome sight - 9 days later), showered, did laundry and then headed out for dinner with Alex & Paul. Today was their last day.

Cabane Mont Fort > Cabane Prafleuri


The way around the Col Termin and over to Col de Louvie sucked ass. Most of the way we had to traverse a steep slope and post hole through thigh high snow. What was supposed to take 3 hours and 15 minutes, actually took 5 hours 30 minutes. Where there was only a little snow on the trail we would sometimes slip...Looking back at the trail you could see how steep the slop was...It was as mentally tiring as it was physically.

However, the view was spectacular. The weather was great and we saw a lot of wildlife - Chamois or Ibex or Steinbach? " -- Kevin

Between Col de Louive and Col Prafleuri it was a lot of boulder scrambling as we crossed a moraine below a couple of glaciers. Then we had to climb up to the Col (pass) on boulders and snow.

Anne smashed his toe under a 2 ton boulder, we stopped to check out the damage, when he took his sock off, the toenail went with it. Alex doctored it the best she could (the surgeon in the group).

We met a couple for New Zealand at dinner. This is their 3rd trip on the Haute Route.

I started reading about tomorrow, cable bridges & ladders --- both of which I am not looking forward to. Hopefully the day after that will be easier, my nerves are shot.

It took us 8 hours 45 minutes - not counting breaks. It should have taken us 6.5 hours.

Le Chable > Cabane du Mont Fort

"We slept a little late... until about 7:30am. I took a shower and then we headed to breakfast, which was quite small, a little bread with butter and jam, and coffee. Dana's hot chocolate wasnàt too hot. Alex and Paul decided to take the cable car and then climb above the cabin. We we headed off. The trail was easz to follow, but it was UP UP UP UP. The guide book mentions all the attractions, including the little church (which had a wedding going on). The BBQ joint. The restaurant in Clambin (which was closed). We ate the bread, cheese & sausage we had bought in Le Chable. It was a nice lunch break in the sun with a panoramic view of the Bagnes valley.

Near Clambin we met a nice fellow from Geneva...He was an artist wandering the trails looking for inspiration. He talked a lot about how great the area was, except for Verbeir which he said was shit now that every one was building 5 million dollar homes and looking down their noses at every one. He was very entertaining.

After Clambin it was more UP UP UP UP. Eventually getting to a ski area that was filled with mountain bikers. We finally saw the signs directing us to the cabin - 50 minutes away. It actually took a long 70 minutes. Right before we got to the cabin we met a couple of dutch guys (Anne and Pepain). They had spotted a marmot and pointed it out to us. Very Cool! Finally we made it to the cabin. We had spaghetti ( a lot of it) and beer and wine. It was a fun evening.

We also met a parisian who writes for a golf magazine and had visited Portland to write an article about Nike Golf.

The bad news came in that our next day may have some weather issues. Deep snow and afternoon thunderstorms. We are counting on the snow being less deep and we are going to do it as a group (the three brits - Alex, Paul & Nigel, the two dutch - Anne & Pepain, and us). It may be a tough day so we are going to get an early start. We went to bed at 9:30, breakfast at 6, leave at 7.

It tooks us 6.5 hours to get to Cabane Mont Fort, including most of our breaks." -- Kevin

Champex > Le Chable

We started out after a nice leisurely morning. I updated the blog and then we packed our now dry clothes. We wakled through the town, by the lake, to the trail. We had a couple of glimpses of mountains and it promised to not rain on us. Todays walk was nothing but really steep down hill. We walked through fields and little villages to Sembracher. Along the waz we ran in to a man walking his two dogs, 1 puppy and 1 older one. We chatted about the weather and played with is puppy before moving on. We had planned to stop in Sembracher for lunch but took a wrong turn and instead stayed on the trail for Le Chable. When we figured out that we had taken a wrong turn it was too late to turn back so we split Kevin's Mars bar and headed up the trail. There was only one up hill section - Kevin made me count to 100 in french so the hill went by really fast.

When we got to Le Chable we stopped at the first restaurant that we found, which was a really nice place and our waiter was from Quebec. We chatted about the weather and where we were headed. After lunch we headed to our hotel in Villette (just across the river). We showered, did laundry and took a nice long nap. After the nap we wandered around town a little, bought some chocolate, new (better) gloves for me and then headed to the hotel restaurant-bar for a beer and fries. Alex and Paul showed up and we had dinner. Dinner was horse, i was full from the beer, fries and soup. I tried it anyway, it was chewy and really tasted a little like beef. Now I can say I have had it and don't need to have it again.

After dinner we headed to the two bars in town - Rosbef (an english bar) or Manhattan (an american one). Manhattan looked more lively so we went there and had a beer and played foosball. At ten we headed back to the hotel and went to bed.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Trient > Champex

Stage 3:
We ate breakfast with Alex & Paul. Last night we had heard mention of snow falling. This morning we debated either going on the standard route to Fenetre d' Arpette (2665m) or doing a lower alternate route, Apage de Bovine (2000m). Alex asked some of the locals and the response was a lot of head shaking, finger wagging and something about going down on your ass. We decided it would be wise to go the alternate route. Before heading out we picked up some sausage and cheese to go with the half of loaf of bread Alex & Paul shared with us. We donned our rain gear and headed out in to the rain (it would rain all day). It was definately a great day for Gore-Tex. It was a 2 and half hour climb past For de la claz on our way to Bovine, at 2200 feet. Alpage de Bovine is a little farm (three stone buildings) surrounded by cows. You can get lunch hear and dry off, which we did. The onion soup, bread, cheese and hot chocolate hit the spot. After warming up a little Kevin and I headed on with out Alex & Paul (they were going to give the weather a little more time). We put our down vests on under our jackets and added fleece hats and gloves - it was now snowing. We would be headed downhill for the next 2.5 hours. The trail was wet but not bad at first, but then turned into a streambed that was very steep. It was like walking down stone & tree root steps. There were a couple of stream crossings (Kevin got wet on one of them). I am glad that I was able to tape my knee, as this was going to be hard on it.

We eventually made it to a gravel path and then a paved road. We stopped to verify directions when a car pulled up. He asked if we were going to Champex and then pointed in the right direction. He then offered us a ride, we must have looked like drowned rats -- it was still raining.

We headed up hill for our last 50 minutes of the day. We came a long a cow in the creek, just standing there. We also walked past a lot of houses and dreamed of being able to dry off.

Eventually we made it to Champex and our hotel. It is dormitory/bunk style. We have the two at the end of the room -- with the heater. I promptly got out the clothes line and cranked up the heat. We both fell asleep for a little while and then headed down to see if we could find someplace to do laundry -- no such luck. So, back up stairs to rotate clothes on the heater. Kevin was still dealing with his luggage, it appears to be stuck somewhere, maybe Geneva. Hopefully they can get it to us in Le Chable (the next stop), otherwise it will have to meet us in 3 days, as the two nights after Le Chable are mountain huts.

It looks like we won't have any rain on Friday, so maybe we will have some nice views. Evidently today we should have been able to see Mont Blanc and also down in to the valley to Martigny.

I don't know if we will have internet in Le Chable, so this may be the last post until Monday night.

Even with the rain and the luggage issues, the trip has been worth it!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Chamonix > Argentiere > Trient

We were able to replace most of the "required" gear for Kevin, in Chamonix. I picked up a jacket too. We shoved every thing into Kevin's new backpack and headed for Argentiere in the rain. It was a pleasant hike, about 1/3 of the way in we headed up hill and started trading the pack back and forth.

Stage 1: Chamonix to Argentiere
"Well, its 7:45 and we just woke up in Argentiere. Its pouring down rain so we are not very motivated to get started. Dana is on the phone dealing with British Airways and the courier that is supposedlz bringing us her backpack. It would be nice to get her pack this morning because it has all of her rain clothes in it. My pack, meanwhile, is still 'god knows where'. My new gear will suffice I guess. Last night we hiked into town soaking wet and found our hotel. A young woman brought us straight to our room (and made fun of us for taking up so much space in the elevator). We didn't have to sign any paperwork which seemed weird to me. We then found a pharmacz and some dinner. Porkchops, potatoes, green beans, and beer. I'll let Dana tell you about the strawberries" -- Kevin.

Kevin is right, the strawberries were excellant, I don't think that I have ever had ones that tasted that good. The hike was a nice start, luckily my new shoes didn't give me any blisters on the uphill part. After dinner, I took a hot bath (which I promptly fell asleep in).

Stage 2: Argentiere to Trient
As we were hiking along, we worked on my french, which really meant numbers and a song about plucking the head, beak and eyes off of a bird. The walk to Le Tour was pleasant enough. No rain and we traded the pack every 30 minutes. Once in Le Tour we headed up the ski slope to Charamillon. Ski slopes were not made to be walked up. At Charamillon (a ski lodge) we stopped for lunch. We donned our "rain gear", or at least as much as we had, and headed up to Col de Balme. I can only imagine the views that you get on this when there are no clouds. Needless to say, we had clouds....and rain ---and i had no rain gear (I did pick up a pair of pants in Argentiere). At Col de Balme we had hot chocolate and coffee. When we started we headed out in to the cloud break and no rain. Down we went. When we leveled out I took the pack from Kevin (he carried it on the down hill to save my knee). It was raining so hard that we walked into town with our heads bent over, into the rain.

Once at the hostel, we each called about our baggage. Kevin's was finally found. We need to call them back tomorrow to confirm the delivery location. Mine was supposedly signed for here at the hostel. The host does't know anything about. We met an English couple (Peter & Alex). Alex was able to translate for us for more information on the bag. We had several beers and then dinner. Right before dinner, someone walked in with my bag. I have never been so happy to see another bag. It was missing my trekking poles (british airways will be paying for those). We made it to Trient in 4:45 minutes (according to the guide book it should have taken us 5 to 5:30 hours). Not bad for being a rainy day.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Geneva > Chamonix

When I woke up this morning I immediately checked on the status of my bag, online. I saw the magic words "received at airport". I called to confirm and update the location I needed it delivered to. The bag was at Heathrow this morning at 7am and we were planned to head to Chamonix at 9am. I asked them to either send it to the hotel in Argentiere or Trient. I have no problem walking from Chamonix to Argentiere in flip flops (about 2 hours), but I am a little worried about Trient. Especially since we lost the guide book in Kevin's bag.

We couldn't call on Kevin's until 1pm Central Europe time so we would have to wait and see on that one.

We each had a croissant, orange juice & coffee for breakfast and headed for the train station. Along the way we found a little store to buy Kevin a cheap duffel bag to carry his shoes, coat, pants & shirt in (the two plastic shopping bags just weren't working).

We took the train to Martigny and then switched to a really local train that would take us up to Chamonix. About 30 minutes before Martigny our stomaches really started growling. We would have to wait until Chamonix for food. The train ride from Martigny was amazing. I can only imagine what the views would have been like if there were no clouds or fog. Every now and then you would get a peak down into the valley, it was truly amazing.

Once in Chamonix we headed for lunch....we just happened to pick the a cafe that took neither credit cards or Swiss Francs. Kevin went to try to get Euros, but had problems with the ATM card. We think it is because we took out the max on Monday our time and it is still Monday US time.. not sure. Hopefully it works tomorrow in Argentiere.

After lunch we went to find a book store (for a new guide book, maps) and a couple of stores to re-outfit us. This place is crazy ---- expensive and crowded...and the stores take an 1.5 hour lunch break. We figured out what we would need to get me along until I had my bag (shoes & a jacket) and figured out what Kevin "had to have", which is very close to everything he brought. Now for the shopping spree, I found a 2007 edition of Kev Reynolds Haute Route guidebook (our lost one was 2001) and I got the two maps we would need. Next we headed for a camera store to get another charger for the camera (the old one is in Kevin's bag). She said she might have one this afternoon and to come back at 5...we can't figure that out, maybe there is an afternoon shipment. Then we were on to a phone store to get a new charger (the original is in my bag but my blackberry is almost dead and we are going to need it before I can get my bag back). We headed to an internet cafe to get out of the rain, update the blog and charge the blackberry. Next we are headed for a couple of outdoor stores (once they get back from their lunch breaks) and then on to Argentiere.

More later.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Portland > London > Geneva

Well, we both had a couple of challenge ridden days of travel.

Kevin left Portland at 8:30 for Las Vegas, then to Philadelphia and then on to London. He got lucky from Las Vegas to Philadelphia. "From Vegas to Philadelphia I was in line to try to volunteer for the exit row (I was in a middle seat). The person behind me told me that they had just paged me because someone in first class wanted to trade seats with me. WOW. 5 minutes later I was sipping a bloody mary." He almost didn't make the flight the connection in Philadelphia and then wasn't able to sleep on the plane. He made it to London around 9:30. Turns out US Airways lost his bag (yes his backpack with everything in it). We were supposed to meet at Westminster Abbey, so he headed downtown. He was able to see the church and the side entrance to Buckingham Palace.

My flight from Seattle to London was delayed so I didn't get in to London until 12:30. I was able to get about 5 hours of sleep on the plane. Turns out, British Airways lost my bag too. (Yes, my backpack with everything in it). At this point, it is too late to meet Kevin at Westminster Abbey, so he headed to Paddington Station to meet me there.

We arranged for the airlines to send our bags to our hostel in Geneva and then headed to Kings Cross Station to catch the train to Luton airport for our flight to Geneva. We stopped for a pint outside the train station (it was the least I could do for my brief visit to London). Hopefully I will be able to see a little more of it at the end of our trip.

The train to Luton was only supposed to take 25 minutes, it was more like an hour. Once there we got to go to the front of the line to check in (it was a fast check in since we didin't have any lugguage -- Kevin had his coat, I had a little "ditty" bag with my credit cards, passport and blackberry). Security was a nightmare, I have never see a line so long...oh yea, we checked in at 5:55 and our plane was supposed to start boarding at 5:55. Needless to say, after we made it through secuirty it was 6:15 and our plane was delayed. We finally got on the plane and headed to Geneva. Easyjet is definately a no-nonsense airline, I think it is even more sparse then Southwest. Once in Geneva we caught a cab to the hostel (we couldn't get any of our credit cards to work at the trainstop at the airport). We showered and washed our clothes in the sink and then crashed (at 1 am).

Monday morning we slept in and then headed to the train station to buy our tickets for Chamonix on Tuesday. We wondered around a little, bought some pjs for me, shorts & crocs for Kevin. Lunch was a beer and a sandwich. It is really warm here so at 2:30 we headed for the hostel for a shower and a nap...after we checked on our flights.

Kevin called on his bag, it doesn't look promising that it will make it to Geneva before we leave tomorrow at 9 for Chamonix. He then called on mine. We are both in some sort of baggage twilight zone, neither airline knows where either bag is and we are supposed to call back in 24 hours -- at which point we will be in Chamonix. If they don't make it here, our next option for them is to have them delivered to our hotel in Argentiere. Its a good thing it is a easy 2 hour "valley walk" from Chamonix to Argentiere.

Now for another shower, a nap and maybe a cheap little backpack purchase (to carry what little belongings we have from Chamonix to Argentiere).

After the shower and a nap we headed back out for dinner and more sights.

There isn't much to see in Geneva, there seems to be some sort of festival going on so we walked through that and then found a bar that was serving pizza. After dinner we walked up the hill to Notre Dame and then back towards the hostel. Along the way we each had an ice cream cone. We got back to our hotel around 10pm. We laid around pondering what to do about the gear we would need to do this trip. The crappy thing about losing the bags is that we packed really light so we only brought what we would need, and we lost all of it. I don't even have a coat, socks or my asthma medicine.

We finally fell a sleep around 10:30 and then both woke up at 11:30. (you have to love jet lag). We laid awake until 3 and then were able to go back to sleep for until 6ish.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Our Next Adventure

For our next adventure we are going to hike from Chamonix France to Zermatt Switzerland, alson known as the Walker's Haute Route. We will fly in to London (August 4/5) and spend most of the day there, and then fly to Geneva that night. We will spend a day in Geneva and then leave for Chamonix the next day. Once in Chamonix, the hike starts. Each day we will start in one town/village or high alpine hut and walk to another town/village or high alpine hut.

The total distance is 170 km/110 miles and it should take us 14 days. Below is the hill profile for the trip.

We should be back to Geneva by August 21, with a flight to London on the 22nd and the flight hom on August 23rd.

We are going to try to post while we are en route, but photos may not be available until after we get home.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Day 14 - Brugges

Last night we headed out to an italian restaurant near by. It was the second time that we made the assumption that they took credit cards (it was clearly marked on the door), but once we asked for the bill found out they didn' Kevin ran to the ATM, again.

After dinner we walked back to the Grand Place to try to find a bar, where we did some serious people watching.

Today we headed to Brugges. It took about an hour to get there by train. Once there we headed to the square. We climbed the bell tower, this spiral staircase was worse then the Arc d' Triumphe, it was just as narrow but everyone went up and down the same stairs, and there wasn't really a good way to pass. To practice for our hiking trip in August (ok, its not really practice but really just our little joke) we try not to use the handrail on the way up or down. I made it to the top before I had to use the railing (it was just too steep and the steps too tall and narrow). Going down, I used the railing the entire time. At the top we waited for the hourly ringing of the bells...(they sound much better from the square).

Once down we both needed a beer and to sit down (to get rid of our vertigo). After lunch we headed to a couple of museums (where we saw several van eyck paintins, the Madonna & Child by Michaelango and several other works). We spent a lot of time walking around. We were going to go for a bike ride, but decided instead to have some fries and catch the train back to Brussels.
When we made our last transfer I got on one car and Kevin got on another...I thought he was one direction so I headed that way...turns out he was in the car behind me...we found each other at the last stop. Kevin was a little scared as I had both tickets and he had to board the train in front of one of the conductors...

Now we are packing, downloading pictures, charging ipods and downloading podcasts. We fly home tomorrow, my flight is at 7am and Kevin's is at 12. I get home at 11:30am and he gets in around 11:30 pm.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Day 13 - Brussels

We slept in until 9am, it was heaven. Kevin then worked on the Amsterdam posts and I lounged around. We finally left the hotel at 10:30. Our hotel appears to be in a business district, and none of the neighboring restaurants were open. It wasn't until we got close to the center of town that we found some place to eat. Before breakfast, we stepped in to a little chocolate shop and each had two pieces...what a great way to start the day! Breakfast was a croissant, coffee and orange juice...perfect! We decided to follow another of Rick Steve's walking tours (he hasn't led us wrong yet). We made our way to the Grand Place. Once there we spent some time looking at the Town Hall, the King's House and the guild halls. We went to the Brewery museum (the museum is kind of silly, but it was a good excuse for a beer). We then did "choco crawl", starting with Godiva, followed by Neuhaus and then Galler. The line was really long for Leonidas (and I had had some at Laakdal), so I stepped across the street to Elisabeth Brussels. I picked up some chocolate for An (my apologies to everyone else, it wouldn't last until I could get it to you, and she is 8.5 months pregnant) After Neuhaus, we had to stop for another beer.... We then continued to the first "covered shopping mall", Galeries Royale St Hubert, about halfway through we turned down "restaurant row". Since we were still full from the chocolate and beer we kept walking. Next was the church of St. Nicolas, followed by a waffle from a street was that good. We walked around the stock market and then headed for Maniken Pis.

Still feeling pretty strong, we thought we could take on another walking tour, this one of Upper Town. We made it to the last standing section of the original wall around Brussels and then headed up the hill. We stopped for lunch....and came to the realization that we both needed a nap. So we caught a cab back to the hotel. We didn't mean to sleep for so long, but ended up sleeping from about 4 to 7. Now we are trying to figure out where to go to dinner.

Tomorrow we are on to Brugges.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Day 12 Amsterdam - Brussels

I headed to work to finish my last day here and Kevin slept in... When Kevin woke up he tried to retrace his steps from his tour with Diane yesterday. He was able to find the flower market, Rembrandt's house, Leildsplein and the flood memorial. I met him in Dam square at 3ish. We were going to try to go to the Anne Frank house. The line was around the corner and we didn't have the patience for it.... Next time... We then did part of the tour Kevin had done earlier in the day, so I got to see the flower market, Begijnhof and the Beguines (a relgious sect of nun-like women), we walked down Kalverstract and the Church of St. Nicholas. Our plan this afternoon was to take the train, direct from Amsterdam, to Brussels. We found our train and took over a "quiet" section of one of the first class cars. When the train stopped at the airport we learned there had been an accident on the track to Antwerp (on the way to Brussels), so we had to switch trains, go back to Amsterdam and get on another train for Brussels. We got lucky again and was able to take over a "silent" section. Eventually two guys joined us (as the rest of the filled up. Eventually we ended up in Rosendaal, where everyone on the train had to get off and switch trains. The problem was that the next train was already full (and we are pretty sure it was the last one going to Antwerp/Brussels). There was some confusion around whether there was another and what to do. Turns out they quickly decieded to send the train we just got off (which was supposed to be at the end of its line) to Antwerp and send the new train to Brussels, so we crammed on to the Brussels bound train. We ended up sitting on our bags between the cars, (good thing we bought first-class tickets huh?) once it stopped in Antwerp and let some people off we were able to grab a couple of seats. We finally made it to Brussels (about 6 hours after we left Amsterdam the first time). We grabbed a cab to the hotel and checked in...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Day 11 - Amsterdam

Well, Dana had to work most of the day so I have to write about day 11. I started the day by running to and around Vondelpark. I used Dana's wristwatch-GPS which turned out to be a good idea! Vondelpark was very nice. For those of you familiar with Seattle... Vondelpark is a lot like Greenlake except 95% of the people are on bikes, it's bigger and flatter, and the trails cut across the center of the park in addition to going around the perimeter. I went back to the hotel a different way so that I could see more of the city. I found the Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum. There is a big park behind them which reminded me of the mall in Washington DC. I planned on going to see those museums but it didn't happen.... next time. I got a little lost on the way back to the hotel but not too bad.

I was supposed to meet up with Diane but I still kept getting a busy signal when I called. I headed out for the red-light district for an English Breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, and beer). The prostitutes are still there at 11am but they are of a different quality (lesser) than they are in the evening. After breakfast, I finally got Diane on the phone and we planned on meeting at the War Memorial at 1:00. So, I had a couple of hours to kill. Using the Rick Steves guide, I explored the Dam area including: The Palace, the New Church, Kalver Straat (shopping), and Begijnhof. Begijnhof is a neighborhood where a bunch of ultra-religious, single women lived. They were single because the men were fighting in the crusades. Okay... now off to meet Diane.

We agreed that it had been about 18 years since the last time I saw her and yet she doesn't seem to have aged a bit. She has lived in Amsterdam full-time now for 9 years but she seems to know the place like she had lived here since the Renaissance. We would walk for a while and she would tell me about the city in a way that sounded...hmmm... well almost cynical, and like she was making fun of the people and making them sound charming at the same time. For example, she told me about how dutch people are obsessed with those tacky little garden gnomes. They know how silly, ridiculous, cheesy, clichè... (you pick the adjective) they are and that seems to feed the obsession. Okay, then I would look up and we would be at another city sight. Diane would then tell me about the landmark as if she were there when the residents were deciding to build it. That went on and on for about 2 hours but it seemed like much longer. We saw: craft markets, flower markets, Rembrant square, The House of Hajenius (extremely famous cigar shop), a flood memorial (a large cylinder of water that was labeled with the levels of floods), and the Church of Saint Nicholas - amazing! It was an amazing experience for me. I wished that I'd be able to recreate the tour for Dana but I knew I wouldn't be able to.

Dana came home from work at 5 or 6 and we headed out for dinner. We ate at a middle eastern place and tried to make it to the Anne Frank house by 8:30 (when they close). Well, we made a few wrong turns and found the place at 8:35. Alas! we didn't make it. So, I tried to show Dana the chuch - closed. So, I tried to show Dana the flower market - closed. So, we wanted to take a canal boat cruise in the dark when they turn the lights on on the bridges. The problem with that was that sunset here, this time of year, is at like 10:45pm and the last canal tour was at 10. So, we took the cruise but it was too light out for the lights on the bridges.... next time. I was starting to lose Dana (she actually fell asleep on the canal cruise) so back to the hotel we went.

Day 10 - Antwerp - Amsterdam

Today I headed to the Laakdal for my last day there. I worked until 12 and then drove back to Antwerp to check out of the hotel with Kevin. We grabbed our bags and then headed north to Amsterdam. We stopped for lunch about 30 minutes outside of Antwerp. Its a shame that we get to rent a convertable an the only time the top was down was when Kevin was driving around Amsterdam and Hilversum with the car, last week. After we got back on the road again, I promptly fell asleep. Kevin woke me up in Rotterdam and then I was asleep again until we had to stop for gas at the airport. We returned the car and caught the train back to Amsterdam Central. I am really glad that we got a GPS with the car, driving in Belgium (and back to Holland) would have been a lot more difficult.

In Amsterdam we headed out for dinner at a little Greek restaurant, around the corner from our hotel. It was very good. When they brought the check we learned they only took cash (there were credit card signs on the door and a credit card machine by the bar), evidently they were a new restuarant and didn't have the credit card process of working yet. Kevin had to run to Central Station to get cash. While I waited they offered me a drink on the house (for the misunderstanding), when Kevin got back they offered one to him too. So we each had an ouzo before heading out to see the Red Light district. This area was very close to the hotel.

The Red Light district was a little surreal, the women were standing in the windows, they were much prettier then we expected. We wondered around here for a while and then headed back to the hotel .

Day 8 & 9 - Antwerp

If you haven't noticed the majority of the sight seeing is done by Kevin while I work.... the two ful days in Antwerp was no different.

On Monday I headed work while Kevin hung out in town. He did a little laundry and then headed out into town.

Monday, the team in Laakdal hosted a team dinner, so Kevin road the train out to Geel and I picked him up. We then made our way to Tessenderlo where we had dinner. We were the only ones in the restuarant (it was a little late on Monday), the food was very good and the conversation was great. We only talked about work a little. The people there from Laakdal were Danielle, Anja, Dimi & Kris.

Driving to Geel and then Tessenderlo was an expereince, I really liked the little towns, they have a much different feel then Antwerp.

I went to work again, and Kevin saw more of the sites. He slept in, worked out and then went to the the Maritime museum. In this museum he saw models of ships and small maritime artificacts, like compasses, sailing rigs, naked ladies for the bows of ships, but mostly fancy model ships. When I got back into town from work, we headed out for dinner, but first stopping for some friete. They weren't in a paper cone, those I couldn't find when I was in Antwerp (because I was always out after the places were closed), so I will have those in Brussels or Brugges. We had dinner in a little restaurant near the big church. This was the third time I ended up with a goat cheese/bacon salad, man is it good. I only knew I was ordering once, so I got pretty lucky. We decided to take the metro back to the hotel. We got on a train going the right direction but missed our stop, so we got out at the next one and then walked the rest of the way. We ended up walk through the diamond district to Antwerp Central and then to the hotel.

Once back at the hotel, I packed and we "veged" out.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Day 7 Paris - Antwerp

Today is Sunday, in Paris. We slept in, packed and then had breakfast at the same cafe as was handy and good, what can I say....

We then headed to Notre Dame to follow the Rick Steves' "Historic Paris" walking tour. We started at Notre Dame around 11am. Mass was starting as we were walking through it. I am not Catholic nor religious, but if there are ever religious experiences, this was one. To think that the Parisians (in this community) built this on their own, for over 200 hundred years, its amazing. The inside was beautiful. We had to wait for the priest and alter boys to come and walk past us as we walked around the outside of the "chapel". We stayed and listened to some of the choir too. Granted, the only choir I have heard has been Christmas Eve Mass in Arizona, I don't think I have heard anything like what we heard at Notre Dame. After leaving the church we followed the walking tour through a "Memorial of the Deported" for those French who were deported from Paris and later killed in concentration camps, through the Left Bank. We had lunch here and checked out a historic English bookstore where the likes of Hemingway and others, Luxembourg Garden, St Chapelle and finally Pont Neuf.

We caught the train back to Antwerp and checked in to the hotel. I had to finish prepparing for a presentation for Monday, so while Kevin slept, I worked.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Day 6 - Paris

Today was our first full day in Paris. We left the hotel around 8:30 and had breakfast (espresso, croissant and orange juice) at a local cafe. We then headed to the Louvre. We listened to the Rick Steves Louvre podcast while we went through the museum. It didn't have us doing the whole thing (I don't think I would have had the patience to do the whole thing at once). We saw ancient greeks statues, roman statues, Raphael, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory and da Vinci - all amazing.

We then walked down the Champs de Elysees towards the Arc de Triumphe. About halfway down we veered off to the right for lunch. Once at the arc we took one look at the line to the top and decided we go go with out. We spent some time in awe of the traffic going around and around. On our way back out, the line to the top was much shorter so we decided to go for it. After a long dizzy-ing climb we made it to the top. Holy Cow.

Eventually we headed back down and back towards the hotel, although this time we took the metro back. We napped/uploaded pics and generally relaxed for a while.

At about 6pm we headed out for a dring, dinner and the Eiffel Tower.

We had a drink at Georges in the Pompidou Centere and then headed over to the metro stop to catch the metro and train to the Eiffel Tower. Before going to the tower we headed in to the Trocadero neighborhood. This took us through the grounds for the Palais de Chaillot. This gave us some really great views of the Eiffel Tower. After dinner we had plans to go all of the way to the top. After we took one look at the line (it was 10:30pm) we decided we would head home instead. On the way we stopped for crepes and champagne.

Then on to the metro and back to our hotel...getting in around 11:30.

Day 5 - Antwerp - Paris

On our second day in Antwerp, we spent less time lost.

I was able to make it to work with out a hitch (turn left out of the hotel, say on the same road and it puts me on the highway to Laakdal - couldn't be more simple).

Kevin purchased the train tickets to Paris (for Friday), went in to the the cathdral. He drank at several different pubs and had his first frituer (fries with mayo) and then met me at the hotel at 4:30.

We then took the train from Antwerp to Paris, it is suprisingly fast (only 2 hours). Our first cab experience in Paris lived up to its reputation. At one point we saw the lives of several scooters flash before us...traffic is crazy. Our hotel is close to the Louvre and the Eglise Saint Eustache. The view from hotel is of a park, a shopping area, Georges Pompidore Center and the church above.

For dinner we headed out to a nearby creperie and then returned to the hotel by walking along the Seine.

Once back at the hotel Kevin downloaded several Rick Steves' pod casts for Paris - a historic distric walking tour and a Louvre tour.

Day 4 - Antwerp

I over slept (could be from the sleep deprivation as last night was the first almost full night of sleep that I have gotten so far). Today was also my first experience at driving in Europe (Kevin drove yesterday). When I left the hotel I didn't allow the GPS to find itself before I started driving. I ended up going in circles for about 30 minutes. It took a while for me to figure out how to interpret what the GPS was saying, as in the city the verbal commands are a little late (and I was in full traffic). At one point I turned the wrong way on to a 1 lane, one way street. The driver I ended up "face to face" with was very nice, he pointed out that I was going the wrong way (I don't think he even honked), then he waited for me to do a 3 point turn and get headed the right way. Not much later I ended up in the "Tram/Bus" lane. As I was at the light (the tram light) a car turned in front of me. He smirked and shook his finger at me and pointed to the right lane. I finally made it to the right street (which took me back in front of my hotel and straight to the highway). Once on the highway it took me about 3o minutes to get to Laakdal. When I got off of the highway in laakdal I again took a wrong turn...the GPS said turn right, but I thought it was a driveway....when it recalculated it put me on some very rural roads... I finally made it to the office. What an adventure. The drive back to the hotel was much easier.

While I was at work Kevin wondered the city. He got lost while walking and then went for a run and got lost again. His Nike+ said he went 9 miles on his run. He was really lost. He had fun though, he walked all over Antwerp and saw the outside of many things. He also made it to the cathedral in Antwerp. He says it was so nice that it almost made him wish he was still Catholic. He had the infamous "belgian waffle" but no frituer (he was waiting for me). We met at the hotel at 6:30pm. We headed back towards the cathedral for dinner. After dinner we took the tram back to the hotel. We found the right train, just going the wrong way..there were only 3 stops before it hit the end of the line and did a u-turn, now we were headed the right way.

If you can't tell, we are going to spend a lot of time lost on this trip, but that is part of the fun :)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Day 3 - Amsterdam and Antwerp

Today we had to go to the hotel to pick up the rental car and then I had to head to work while kevin went back and hung out in Amsterdam for the day. Breakfast was at a little cafe next to the hotel and then we hopped the train to the airport. The car is a convertable and we were able to get a GPS (which came in very handy later). I ended up on a different train to Hilversum then I had taken before and it took about twice as long. While I was on my way to work Kevin drove back to the Amsterdam - which was pretty exciting - the GPS is very handy, although once you get in town its verbal directions are a little slow, but if you watch the map you can figure it out.

Today was also a "team" dinner for the project I am working on. It was fun, it was a bbq at a local (near the campus). All of the people on the team are very nice and very social. After dinner (at 10pm) Kevin and I drove to Antwerp, as I had to be at the DC on Thursday. The drive was very easy (especially for me since I fell asleep and Kevin drove). We made it to Antwerp with out any problems but promptly got lost once we were in town. Thanks to the GPS we eventually found our hotel. Its a good thing our first experince navigating Antwerp was at 12:30am as traffic was non-existent.

We stayed at the Astrid Park Plaza, across from Centraal station. It is a very nice hotel and we both slept like rocks...except for the my phone ringing at 1:30 am (a call from the US).

Days 2 - Amsterdam

Day 2 - June 19

Kevin finally got to Amsterdam around 5pm. He had two very long days of travel (he left Portland late on June 17th). When I got back from work, we headed out to "see the city" and have dinner. We walked from our hotel to the Dam square, had a beer and then headed down a side street - to get away from the tourists... It was much calmer and quieter as we walked away from the square. After dinner we tried to get back to our hotel. Tried being the key word. Before leaving the restaurant I asked for directions to the hotel, she pointed to the right, so that is the way we went. We left at about 9:45, we finally got back to the hotel at 12:30. Yes, 12:30. I don't think you could be more lost then we were. We kept following signs to Centraal Station, but couldn't seem to make it there. We ended up walking in circles far to the east of where we were supposed to be. We tried to orient our selves with the maps at the tram stops but didn't do a very good job of it. Maybe we just weren't seeing the road signs (or they didn't exist), I am not sure. After we walked around the same windmill about 3 times we decided to stop for a beer (at 12am) and then gave up and took a cab home. We had been walking away from our hotel....

Monday, June 18, 2007

Day 1 - Amsterdam

I finally got into Amsterdam around noon today. I was able to check in to my room immediately. After putting my clothes away, the first order of business was a shower. Thinking that I would watch a little tv after I no longer smelled like I had been on traveling all day. This was a joke as it really turned into a 3 hour nap.

I woke up around 4 and decided to check out Central Station (so I could get to work relatively easy tomorrow).

I asked the Conceirage at the front desk for a resturaunt recommendation. He suggested "The Milk Maid", it was a little (and very good) dutch restaurant.

Tomorrow I head to the office and Kevin will arrive. He really did get the short end of the stick on the travel arrangements. Last I knew he was in Philadelphia, not able to get on line with his computer. He did still have email via his black berry (don't ask). He is going to be one tired guy when he gets in.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Preparing for a summer of travel

All in all its been a pretty good birthday. Breakfast/Brunch at Fat City Cafe, Annie Bloom's Books, a swim, Powells and dinner with friends.

We have a week before we leave on our first trip. I am so excited that I want to start packing it too early for that? I think I now have enough books to suffice for the the summer flights, I just hope they all fit in my bags....

Several people have asked me to keep my blog updated during our summer travels. Here is the general itineray for the Summer.

June 17 - July 2: 1st Europe Trip.
We got lucky on this trip. I have to go to the Nike EHQ (Hilversum) and EMEA DC (Laakdal) for work and Kevin is going with me. We are going to spend the one weekend in Paris and the second in Brussels with vists to Brugge & Ghent.
  • Amsterdam
  • Antwerp
  • Paris
  • Brussels/Brugges/Ghent

July 6 - July 14: Florida in July.
Kevin's parent's 50th wedding anniversery is in December, so the Tastets are celebrating it in July. (something about not wanting to fly at Christmas). We will be in Orlando for the week.

Aug 4 - Aug 23: 2nd Europe Trip.
Our Haute Route trip. We will be walking from Chamonix France to Zermatt Switzerland. It will take us 14 days. We will spend a day in Geneva on either side of the hiking trip and a day in London on our way home. ~20 days in all.