Lyon & French Alps

 

Dan recently had the opportunity to join a weeklong project in Lyon, France.  Of course as it was a new city for us, I quickly wanted to join!  So I arrived on Friday at the end of the week for a night in Lyon then the weekend in the Alps.

After Dan finished up work on Friday, I met him in the city centre where we walked around exploring.  The city is really adorable – I couldn’t believe how many cafe’s, restaurants and bars there were! It’s a very small, but incredibly charming city built around the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers.  I wish we had more time there than just the one evening…

 

Lyon is known as one of the gastronomic capitals of the world.  It is FILLED with Michelin starred restaurants and is home to some of the most infamous culinary institutes.  I’m a HUGE Anthony Bourdain fan (R.I.P.), and love to follow his recommendations as we travel around the world.  One of my favourite episodes of Parts Unknown was his Lyon trip.  He visited Paul Bocuse’s restaurant and was able to dine WITH Chef Paul himself!  Watching Anthony Bourdain’s excitement and respect for such a chef made me want to experience those feelings as well.  I had just been promoted at work, and Dan told me we were going to go out to dinner to celebrate that evening.  Never did I think we’d be able to get into Paul Bocuse – but somehow Dan managed to secure a booking!!!

Snapseed

 

We indulged in the most memorable six course meal:

  • Amuse-bouche de l’Auberge
  • Duck foie gras terrine, ginger jelly, dried fruits chutney [Kirsten] & Traditional Lyon quenelles of pike with crayfish, Normande sauce [Dan]
  • Filet of beef Rossini, Périgueux sauce [Kirsten] & Fricassee of Bresse chicken in cream sauce, morel mushrooms [Dan]
  • Selection of fresh and matured cheeses from ‘La Mère Richard’
  • Delicacies & Temptations
  • Fantasies & Chocolates

Two things in particular stood out to me; first was the veal sweetbread that was on top of my beef filet – out of this world delicious! And secondly, was the dessert cart.  I wish I was able to take better photos of them (because there were FOUR – not just ONE dessert cart!) I had a hard time containing myself and not asking for a sampling of each of the desserts offered!  It was such a special evening and was by far the best meal of my life!


 

Part two of our trip kicked off early the next morning as we hired a car and drove off east towards the French Alps.  Our plan was to arrive late morning and spend the afternoon hiking.  However…the World Cup was on (and France was playing) and it was nearly 100 degrees out, so we decided to take it easy and just drive and stop in a few small villages along the way and then watch the match at a local pub.

It was such a beautiful drive climbing up and up through winding steep mountain roads, to where we stayed at a beautiful catered chalet.  The house was built into the rocks.  It was quite a striking mix between old/mountain rock and modern.  The area even had a local friendly donkey that greeted us 🙂

 

 

The next day we set off for a full day’s hike in the alps.  Dan chose a beautiful trail around one of the ski resorts with views of Mount Blanc.  The weather was absolutely perfect!  It was quite funny because it was about 70 degrees and sunny, but parts of our hike were still through the snow!

We love adventure trips, and this one in particular because it was such a contrasting trip – gourmet meals to trekking in the alps.  It was also really cool to see this area in the summer as this was a similar area we were in the winter for our ski trip!

New Zealand [South Island]

For our Christmas adventure this year, Dan and I decided we’d go really big.  We quickly decided on Australia and New Zealand! While planning our route, we decided to make it an AROUND THE WORLD experience by first travelling to LA, California.  DSC07327 (2)Dan’s brother, Scott, and his wife, Christine, recently moved to the LA area AND just had a baby so we were anxious to meet our new nephew, and we figured the few extra flight hours on an already long flight were totally worth it!

We spent our two day layover loving on our nephew, Henry, and catching up with our brother and sister.  We loved seeing their new home and lifestyle in LA.  Their neighborhood is beautifully located in the hills near Pasadena.  Our time with them is never enough, but it was great to see them and catch up (last time we saw them was in Japan!).  And how handsome is my nephew…I couldn’t get enough snuggles with him!!!

After LA, we flew into Auckland, New Zealand which is in the North Island.  This is the only way to get to New Zealand via international flight.  After a quick layover, we few down to Queenstown on the south island which was our base for the next week.  We picked up our Jucy campervan at the airport and headed off!  The best way to do New Zealand is by campervan, and ours was absolutely perfect for the two of us.  The converted minivan’s backseat area turned into a full bed for sleeping, bench seats and a table for dining and the trunk was a kitchen, full with a stove, sink and mini fridge.  We were really impressed with Jucy, their service was great and the campervan was in great condition.  We also loved seeing other bright green and purple Jucy van’s on the road and everyone honked and waved as we passed by!

Our first stop and campsite was in Wanaka, just about an hour through the mountains and north of Queenstown.  We explored the nearby lakes (including the infamous “Wanaka Tree”) and the town before settling into our first campsite.

On our first full day in NZ, we drove up to the base of Mt. Cook, which is the tallest mountain in the country.  On our way there, we stopped by the Clay Cliffs.  These striking cliffs are quite the site as they are HUGE and so different then any of the other landscape around it!

Once at Mt. Cook, we did a long hike through the Hooker Valley which sits just below the mountain.  The hike was beautiful (and hot!), but we were both surprised at how busy the trail was.  Most of NZ was very quiet and we never saw that many people, but out of the whole trip, this trail was the busiest (although we’ve become pro’s at making our photos look like it’s just us and nature!)

After our long hike, we drove back down south to Lake Hawea for our 2nd campsite.  This was our favourite campsite out of the whole trip.  We were able to park right on the lake and we were virtually the only ones there!  It was such a serene place to relax.

We were fortunate to be visiting NZ during their summer time, and even more fortunate to visit during the longest day of the year.  Our days were incredibly long, with the sun rising around 6am and setting at almost 11pm.  So we woke up very early and had nice long full days to enjoy! We went back into Wanaka the next morning to shop around the little town before heading into Queenstown to explore the city and check out Fergburger.  We had heard a lot about this burger place, and were warned that queues are usually around an hour for lunch and over two hours at dinner!  Lucky for us, we only waited about 30 minutes!  The burgers were good (and huge!), but definitely not worth waiting two hours in a line for!  Fun to try!

After lunch in Queenstown, we drove down to Glenorchy.  The drive to Glenorchy is known as the most beautiful drive in all of New Zealand.  And it did not disappoint!  It was incredibly scenic, with twists and turns along the lake and through the forest.

When we got to Glenorchy, we did a horse back riding tour around the Reiss River Valley.  This area is stunning!  And it serves as the filming location for many films such as, Lord of the Rings (Isengard), Mission Impossible 6 and X-Men Wolverine!  It was a really cool ride because we got to go through rivers and do a fair bit of trotting!  It was a great way to spend the afternoon!

That evening we made our way to our next campsite.  We camped alongside Moke Lake, which is 15 minutes outside of Queenstown.  It was a cool site because it’s up in the mountains alongside a lake, surrounded by a horse farm, a cattle farm and a sheep farm!  So nature and animals were all around us!  We made a wonderful stirfry for dinner and enjoyed some local wine before going to bed early so we could wake up in the middle of the night to star gaze.  Living in London, we don’t see a vast array of stars.  So we set up on top of our van and enjoyed the beautiful night sky!

Our next day started bright and early with a 7am flight to Milford Sound.  The fjord’s were at the top of our list to see, but to get there by car, you have to go all the way around a mountain range which takes 5.5 hours EACH WAY!  So Dan found a flight company (Air Milford) that gets you over to Milford Sound in just 45 minutes!  It was an incredible flight (Dan got to be co-pilot!) over the lakes and mountains!

When we arrived at Milford Sound, we hopped on a cruise boat for a tour of the area.  This area is remarkably breathtaking.  It’s been unofficially titled the 8th Wonder of the World – and I totally agree.  The striking coastline, the waterfalls, the wildlife (seals, otters, dolphins, penguins) and the water all make this place magical.  Our boat tour was only two hours, but I could have spent all day in the sun enjoying the views!

We hopped back on the plane after the boat tour for a quick flight home.  But our pilot told us it was very rare to have little to no wind in the area, so he wanted to have some fun and took us a little out of the way to see some cool glacial lakes and more views of the fjords!

That afternoon, we went back into Queenstown where we took the gondola up to the top of the town.  Dan did downhill biking and I enjoyed the sun and read my book 🙂  Dan LOVED the biking!

For our last night in NZ, we stayed in Queenstown at a Holiday Park walking distance to the town.  We spend that evening having dinner in the town before catching a good night’s sleep for our last big NZ adventure…

…BUNGY JUMPING!!!  The first thing we did after booking our flights for this trip was book bungy jumping!  We’ve had this up on the top of our adventure lists for awhile now, and why not do it at the home of bungy!?  This was the most UHH-MAZING experience!  Words cannot describe the feeling you have as you freefall 134 m over a gorge!  Both Dan and I loved every second of it and we can’t wait to do it again!!!

Shortly after bungy jumping, we boarded a plane and made our way over to Australia for the next part of our Christmas Trip!  New Zealand was incredible; if anyone gets the chance to go you have to take it!  We loved everything about it and are ready to go back and explore some more!

Oh – and if you didn’t notice…we FINALLY GOT A GOPRO!!!  Our parents got us the new Hero6 for Christmas!  We were finally able to capture some of our crazy adventures!  We hope you enjoy some of these fun videos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventure in the Swiss Alps

Earlier this summer Dan and I started planning a big hiking trip in Switzerland.  We had planned to do 4 full days in the Jungfrau region of the Alps hiking up, along the ridge, down and from hut to hut…well that was the plan until we got back from Asia…In my last post you may have read that I came down with an illness after our Cambodia trip.  Well this illness was unlike any other illness I’ve ever had.  I was completely out for 3 full weeks and now a month later, am still seeing some of the after effects.  Leading up to this trip I still had limited energy and very weak muscles.  So we had to tweak our trip quite a bit to accommodate…

Luckily, we still have an incredible time! With Dan’s master planning skills, we were still able to see and do a lot!

We flew into Zurich very late Thursday night.  We didn’t arrive until almost midnight.  We headed to our first campsite just outside of town along the shores of Zurich See.  We set up our tent and crashed for the night, and woke up to the most beautiful setting!  It was so fun waking up to such a picturesque setting, as we arrived in the dark having no idea where we actually were!  We packed up and headed over to Interlaken.

Just a half an hour into our two hour drive, we decided to take a pit stop for some breakfast in Lucerne.  It was such a beautiful little town!  The river is the most perfect shade of blue, and the main bridge is unlike any other.  We enjoyed our coffee and breakfast pastries by the water before continuing our journey to Interlaken.

20170825_122154

After a beautiful, scenic drive, we arrived in Interlaken.  First stop: Swiss chocolate!  We headed directly to the chocolate shop to grab some chocolate fondue.  I don’t know how the Swiss do it, but their chocolate is truly the best! We definitely took advantage of it and indulged in copious amounts of chocolate throughout the weekend!

IMG_1105After filing up with chocolate for the morning, we drove over to Mürren for our first adventure activity, the Via Ferrata [Klettersteig auf Deutsch]!  This is essentially hiking along the side of a mountain using steel cables and holds to move along.  It was so cool!  I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole time!  I kept waiting for Dan to get annoyed with me because I kept stopping to tell Dan how cool the views were; but he was just as excited as I was! 🙂  We both agreed that our favourite parts were the cable bridges!  We’re both a bit of adrenaline junkies and loved the feeling of the waterfalls rushing below us while bouncing on a little cable above! [have fun trying to spot us in some of these photos!]

That evening, we made our way back to Interlaken where we set up our tent at a campsite on the western lake, Thunersee.  We had a wonderful fondue dinner in town, before enjoying the sunset over the lake.  One of the things I love about adventure/camping trips is going to sleep so early 🙂  I love going to bed just after sunset and waking to the sunrise.  It’s so rejuvenating!

DSC06854

On Saturday, we had our second adventure activity, white water rafting!  Neither of us had ever done this before [surprising!] so it was something we were really looking forward to.  We rafted on the Lütschine river, which had mainly class 4 rapids.  As the water flows down from the melting glaciers, it was freezing cold, so the weather was absolutely perfect for this adventure, 80 degrees and sunny!   We were  put at the front of the boat to be the leaders, which was really fun and challenging! We both absolutely loved this experience, and can’t wait to do it again! [Thank you Alpin Raft!]

RFT_0955

That evening, we drove back into Interlaken to check out the Unspunnenfest.   We were super lucky to have caught this, because it only happens once every 12 years!  Think of the festival as the Swiss Olympics…stone throwing, wrestling and yodeling!  We didn’t get to see the actual games as we didn’t have tickets, but we were able to enjoy the outer festivities and we even made friends with a yodeling group which we hung out with for awhile!

After getting our yodeling  fix, we drove over to Grindlewald to camp in the valley of the area we would be hiking the next day.  It was another beautiful campsite.  We couldn’t believe how quiet the whole area was – it was such a nice change from busy London.

IMG_1229Sunday was our big hike day.  Adventure number three began in Grindlewald and ended at the Gleckstein Hutte – 2,317 m high up Mount Wetterhorn.  We had researched a lot of hikes and there are so many in the area.  As our initial plans changed, we decided to let the locals help us with what to do!  We wanted a hike that was very secluded, picturesque and particularly one in which no cable cars could get to to keep the tourists away.  SO we ended up with this hike as the locals recommended it would be perfect as not many people do it and the hut at the top is one of the best views in the area.  Little did we know how difficult the hike would be! We quickly found out it was a very steep ascent on very rocky ridges! [picture on the right shows what the terrain was…!]  After hours of heavy breathing and strategically placing each foot, we rounded the corner to the most beautiful sight – our mountain hut for the night!

The hut was adorable.  There were about 8 other hikers staying there with us for the night.  Some of the hikers were locals that told us this was in the top 3 most difficult hikes/huts to get to!  The hut owners provided us with a delicious, hearty dinner and breakfast which was much needed after a long day of hiking.  After dinner we had a lovely surprise with a heard of Steinbock’s visiting our hut!

DSC06956

IMG_1249

The next morning we started adventure number four…making our way back down to the valley without falling face first. It was a beautiful hike down, as the air was much cooler and the descent takes so much less effort!  We enjoyed scampering down the rocks, taking in our last views of the mountains.

We rewarded ourselves with one last fondue and raclette meal in Grindlewald then made the drive back to Zurich.  We decided to stay in the same campsite as we did the night we arrived because we loved it so much.  As we arrived in the afternoon, we were able to swim in the lake and enjoy the sun and relax for the afternoon.  We cooked a lovely pasta camp meal before crashing early in the night for our 7am flight back to London in the morning.

I was so proud of myself for being able to do everything we did.  And so thankful my health is finally almost back to normal!  We absolutely loved this trip.  Every moment was perfect!

 

 

 

English Countryside Camping

People thought we were crazy when we said we were going to go backpacking and camping in January in the UK.  It’s “too cold”, “too wet”, and “too muddy”. But, we did it!  And it was amazing! And you should all do it!

20170128_133223This weekend we packed all of our outdoorsy gear into our big backpacks and headed down south into the South Downs National Park.  We took a train and a bus to get to Ditchling.  From there we hiked about 2 miles to Ridgeview Wine Estate for some sparkling wine tasting.  The vineyard was beautiful and the tasting was great.  One of the best tastings we’ve ever been to for your money.  We sampled 7 different sparkling wines, each one with a very generous pour!  We both agreed that the 2011 Blanc de Blancs and the 2013 Rose de Noirs were our favourites.  We bought a bottle of the Rose to bring back to London with us (Dan had to lug it around for the rest of the weekend!)

20170128_152915After wine tasting, we walked another few miles into town for a quick lunch at a cafe’ before another few miles into our campsite.  We stayed at a place called Blackberry Wood.  It is quite a quirky place. They offer camping in a helicopter, double decker bus, a tree house and a few other odd shelters.  We settled for the simple, wooded site and set up our own tent.  There were only 2 other tent campers there, so it was nice and secluded!

After setting up, we took a nice rest and enjoyed the quiet outdoors.  Living in the city for awhile now, I often forget how much I love nature and enjoying the quiet outdoors.  At dusk, we laced up our hikers again and hiked off another couple of miles into town to grab a pub dinner.  We enjoyed the warmth of the indoors and the fireplace with our delicious pub food and pints.  At this point, it started raining, so we cheated and called a cab to take us back to our campsite.

20170128_191203

Although it was still drizzling when we got back, we decided we had to still have a campfire and s’mores.  It’s really hard to find s’mores ingredients in the UK – so we decided to improvise with Biscoff biscuits, dark chocolate and of course marshmallows.   You guys – don’t ever use a graham cracker and Hershey’s again!  This was a total game changer!  It was amazing and I never want a traditional s’more again!  Delish!  (Total failure on my part to take a picture – but I was too engrossed in it’s delishness to stop and snap one!)

20170129_101604Although it rained most of the night, our tent kept us dry and (mostly) warm.  I wouldn’t say it was the best night’s sleep – but it was still good.  One of my favourite things about camping is having coffee in the morning.  We love Starbucks instant packets for camping.  We boiled water with our little stove and were able to enjoy Starbucks coffee while relaxing in our tent.

Nothing crazy exciting about this weekend.   But it was perfect. Short and sweet.  Dan and I love the outdoors.  We did get a bit cold, damp and muddy – but we love getting away and enjoying our time together.  It really was so beautiful, refreshing and relaxing.   And we were able to get some good mileage in 🙂