visiting friends in Switzerland

4 Calgarians got together in Switzerland.

Meet-ups like this on the road are always fun.

Tam had come to Europe with her daughter who’s doing a semester in Spain.

Cal and Maria are starting their 3rd year living in small villages near Bern.

The first two years they lived in Solothurn, a lovely place popular with Swiss but almost unknown by foreign tourists. Population is about 17,000 with 20% of those being resident foreign nationals.

St. Ursus Cathedra, Solothurn.

We enjoyed a terrific meal in Solothurn. It  was Tam’s farewell. She flew home to Seattle same day.

I stayed the night with Cal and Maria, learning much about Switzerland. It’s a unique place which many other nations should study.

Cal showed me a fantastic book called Living and Working in Switzerland: A Survival Handbook by David Hampshire. It’s hilarious, must reading for anyone moving there to work.


Mont-Saint-Michel, France

I finally made it to Mont-Saint-Michel.


It’s a little known treasure visited by a scant 3 million tourists a year.

Still, I didn’t find it all that crowded. It’s a huge site.

The island has held strategic fortifications since ancient times and since the 8th century AD has been the seat of the monastery from which it draws its name. …

… just a few hundred metres from land — made it accessible at low tide to the many pilgrims to its abbey, but defensible as an incoming tide stranded, drove off, or drowned would-be assailants. The Mont remained unconquered during the Hundred Years’ War; a small garrison fended off a full attack by the English in 1433. …

I had expected to wade out to the Abbey. But you can only do so now with a guide.

I stayed in an excellent hostel in the nearby town of Dol-de-Bretagne famed for the weird and wonderful Saint Samson cathedral.

have you heard of Saint-Malo, France?

I hadn’t before taking the ferry there from Portsmouth, England en route to famed Mont-Saint-Michel.

It was a surprise to see the old city of Saint-Malo on arrival early morning.

The walled city had a long history of piracy, earning much wealth from local extortion and overseas adventures.  …

In World War II, during fighting in late August and early September 1944, the historic walled city of Saint-Malo was almost totally destroyed by American shelling and bombing as well as British naval gunfire …

Saint-Malo was rebuilt over a 12-year period from 1948 to 1960. …

Call me impressed.

Quebec House


ferry Portsmouth to St Malo, France

In 2018 it would seem crazy not to fly.

Yet I recommend the overnight ferry for foot passengers. It’s a huge ship. Reasonable cost. Good food. Two films offered each night. Wifi works.

Departing at dusk I got to see the Emirates Spinnaker Tower departing Portsmouth.

Booking just a seat, I slept about 3 hours on my camping mattress. Accommodation with beds looked good too.

I never would have learned about the amazing destination if I hadn’t taken this trip … St. Malo, France. That’s it in the background.

But the main reason I traveled this route was to visit famed Mont St. Michel which is an easy visit from here.

I would like to return to see more of Brittany and Normandy. It was my first visit to northern France.

Cardiff, Wales is a terrific city

My friend in Wales couldn’t get rid of me. I hung around for a couple of weeks.

She heads the European branch of the Tumbl Trak UK Gymnastics equipment company. Moved from Michigan to Wales 3 years ago.

We had a number of excellent meals.

I’d been trying to find a time to visit the Wales office since she got there. When my laptop battery died in Morocco, I desperately wanted to get to an Apple Store for repair. Happily the Geniusesesss‘ at Apple Cardiff did a terrific job.

That took 5 days. I wasn’t bored.

The acclaimed outdoors Wales history museum is excellent. I learned that I knew nothing about what made Wales different than England.

Cardiff is just the right size. Population about 360,000. Small. But it has everything you could want.

The pedestrian downtown area is very walkable. In fact, the arena is just steps away from downtown. It’s easy to get to the biggest sporting events.

Architecture is very interesting.

Welsh National War Memorial

I looped the harbour through wetlands. And saw the ocean locks.

I missed Snowdon while there, but got to the other two great hiking destinations:

Brecon Beacons (2 days)
Pembrokeshire Coast Path (5 days)

If you ever get the chance, visit Cardiff. And Bath which is nearby. Swansea … not so much.

Wales history museum

Highly rated is the St Fagans National Museum of History. A short bus ride from the centre of Cardiff.

It chronicles the last 500 years of Welsh history with fun, interactive, mostly outdoor exhibits. I finally started to see the difference between Wales and England.

St Fagans consists of more than forty re-erected buildings from various locations in Wales, and is set in the grounds of St Fagans Castle, an Elizabethan manor house. In 2011 Which? magazine named the museum the United Kingdom’s favourite visitor attraction. …

Employees dress up in period costume.

visiting Cardigan, Wales

Casten Abertefifi is the main landmark in Cardigan. It was first built 1176.

It was lived in continuously for 900 years, falling into disrepair from the 1940s with the last family.

It was finally restored 2015 and is now a great tourist attraction.

You can sit on a giant throne.

The Parish Church of St Mary is even more impressive than the restored castle. And it’s still being used after hundreds of years.

I got stuck in Cardigan on a Sunday in early October finishing a hike. Turns out there is no bus service in or out of town on a Sunday aside from summer months. It was 50£ by cab to the nearest train station. So I took a B&B room for 45£, taking a holiday from my hiking vacation.

An even bigger draw for birders is the wetlands refuge, Teifi Estuary Woodlands & Marshes.

The first badger I’ve ever seen in the wild.

By far the busiest restaurant is Crwst (Crust). For lunch I had slow cooked pork & eggs benedict. Excellent.

For dinner I got two pies. And sat by the river.

Cardigan is predominantly a Welsh language speaking community. At the 2001 census more than 69% of the residents were recorded as being able to speak or understand spoken Welsh, with 45% able to speak, read and write in the language …

I heard mothers and their children on the street using Welsh as a first language. It’s not a dying tongue. College classes in town are offered in both languages.