Monday, October 12, 2009


Dear All
One of the joys of the Food and Wine Festival in Bordeaux was the Italian icecream tent. The one I tried was a yoghurt softserve in a very wide and substantial wafer cone. It came with a serviette and tiny spoon and was really most pleasant. The first evening was Kiwi fruit and the second strawberry. The second evening I had a four seasons pizza with a very thin and crisp base and a variety of toppings. It was quite good, and I did not have the diarrhoea which I enjoyed following the Indian meal of the previous evening.

During this last day I made good use of the tram service which, by the way, is run by Connex, the Melbourne tram operator. Here can be seen the benefits of the changes they have been introducing to Australia - super stops, dedicated lanes, grass growing between the tracks. It seeems to be very popular and is well patronised.
The train sleeper carriages had 6 bunks per small room but the airconditioning was quite efficient. No-one snored though few slept as there were frequent stops and people embarking and disembarking. Why one would choose a sleeper for a couple of hours is beyond me. There is never enough room for the bags, and two of us had really large ones but they fitted OK behind the ladder, a substantial affair with wide rungs. I slept badly as I did not wish to miss my stop, the first of two in Lyon, but all was well.

There was not enough time to walk anywhere into Lyon so I did not bother. Soon the train for Geneva came and we were away. The land forms soon changed with an increasing number of large but tree-covered mountains. These were steep and with exposed patches where the covering earth and vegetation had slipped away in the past. On arrival there were the police and customs checks. With almost an hour in Geneva I walked a little around the outside of the station where pots filled with flowers and the tables and chairs of many cafes greeted us. I remembered to draw out some Swiss Franks but had no idea of the value of the currency so just had a stab at the number I may need.

Then the train for Zurich came. I was a bit concerned in that my Eurail pass was for France, yet I had been issued a ticket in France for this section of the journey on a Swiss train. The conductor came, glanced at eveything, punched the card, and that was it. Apparently I had just saved about 80 Euros. Not complaining!

Manfred arrived wearing a Santiago shell in case I couldn't recognise him(!) and we hurried to the next platform to take the train to the town nearest their village. They live in Illnau, a village with completely made streets, proper drainage and standard suburban Aussie-type housing of one house per block. The farms where they buy fresh produce are within easy walking distance and look more like parks and gardens. Beyond the farms are mature pine plantations with beyond those and off to the left, some snow-covered mountains. Looking through the study window now I can see a house roof, a copse of trees in a low lying area, four farms with about 20 cows each, Romanian girls picking strawberries, some farm buildings, a made road, and the plantations. The sun is shining, and there are some wispy clouds and condensation trails in a pale blue sky.

Manfred and Luciana's house is set on an almost square 900sqm block, sloping down from street to street. Luciana loves the garden which is a thing of beauty with lawns, plantings of shrubs, lots of flowers, and a vegetable garden with onions, peas, lettuce, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and herbs as perfectly ordered as the rest of the country. A low box hedge separates the vegetables from the rest. Living here is hard to take!

Manfred and I go to Zurich today for sightseeing and who knows what.

God bless you all

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