Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Switzerland - Wine Tasting, Walking in Juras

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Saturday, September 24

Katty left early with Annabel to catch a flight to her Belgium homeland for the weekend.

We helped Martin mow and clean up his yard then the three of us bicycled to a nearby village for an Italian pasta meal. We left the bikes against a hedge without a worry. Martin helped us with the menu, ordering our meals. I liked the relaxed atmosphere, not minding the slow service, as poplars rustled.

Givrins, a village we probaly pedaled through with Martin.
Photo credit: Mark Haussermann, Panoramio
Afterward we pedaled around the countryside then turned into a headwind for home. Martin needed to pick up child safety gates; Anabel had recently begun crawling. We went out in his company car, the fast speeds feeling strange after so many miles on the bike. Lake Geneva sparkled in sunshine. The white-peaked Alps brightened the eastern horizon, the direction Andy and I were headed next. Shopping took little time and soon we were buzzing through the vineyards. Martin wanted to show us the church where Annabel would be baptized the following weekend.

Fechy church. Photo credit: Jean-Marc Allet, Panoramio
Row after row of grapes, all covered in netting, wound from the church’s stone walls downhill to villages along Lake Geneva’s shoreline. It was the first day of harvest; barn doors were flung open. Andy and I followed Martin across the street from the church where he chatted up an elderly man. Martin translated for our benefit. Portuguese and French pickers are shuttled in for 2-3 weeks, but unlike the U.S. they return home afterward. We observed the tanned help who wear lime green plastic funnels on their backs, pluck the fruit, toss it over their shoulder into the container, then periodically walk to the roadside, climb a ladder beside a truck and flip the cone, emptying its contents. Martin apparently made such an impression on the gentleman that he poured each of us a glass of wine. Tradition requires that each person sip their own glass with the host finishing the last one. The man was happy to keep sharing the bottle as he showed us the inside of an old building proudly displaying his 8000 liter storage tanks. Martin periodically translated, but mostly he obviously enjoyed his conversation with the vintner. Later, Martin explained how he admires the outdoor life a wine maker, with lake and mountain views. We later learned that he is also a connoisseur. He showed us his small wine cellar in their home.

Martin then drove into the Jura Mountains. We walked on a high plateau surrounded by open pasture. Brown and white cows with clanging bells meandered. Martin was delighted to be outside, showing us around. He talked about stress at work. His job was changing and he wasn’t sleeping well. It was difficult, he said, but he’d had to reduce staff while maintaining moral. Martin enjoyed the walk and said he wanted to bring Katty to the high meadows to show her the outdoor restaurant that we’d stumbled upon at a ski area.

Prestigious cows lead the descent. Photo credit: Annecy-Photos
As we drove through La Cergue, banners flew across each end of the village proclaiming “Des Alpes, Oct.1”. Martin laughed, slapping the steering wheel in delight. This is the day when the cows are led several miles down the mountain to winter pastures. Drovers dress in traditional clothing while cattle don elaborate red and green embroidered collars with special large bells. The older cows are honored by wearing the largest decoration, while goats often bring up the rear. Martin wanted to bring next week’s guests - those coming for Anabel’s baptism – to the event. The procession takes several hours. In springtime, cows travel in reverse with a similar celebration.

Goats are also part of the procession, bringing up the rear. Photo credit: Annecy-Photos
At dusk we left the cool environment and cruised back to their house. Without Katty and Anabel around it was a quiet evening. We made sandwiches and crashed in front of the television.

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