Thursday, September 22, 2005


Paris to Annecy in less than four hours, TGV is impressive. That made it possible to visit a friend of mine in Annecy for the weekend. After meeting up with my friend at the train station, we grabbed some croissants from a shop for breakfast and dicussed where to visit for the two days. The plan was: Day 1 - visit Chamonix and Day 2 - visit Annecy old town in the morning and a nearby village Le Grand Bernand in the afternoon.

It was Sunday morning when we strolled around the Old Town of Annecy. We started at the square in front of the Old Town Hall and Church of Notre-Dame de Liesse. Rambling through the town, with a local resident leading the way I hardly had a chance to find out where I was going, being too dependent this time.

The Old Town Hall is a 14th century building with yellow façade that formerly housed the administrations of the town council. The adjacent Notre-Dame de Liesse has a neo-classical façade and a Romanesque bell-tower.

Through the narrow street we came to the Thiou quay, a very attractive sight running along the waterway. This is one of the main sights for the tourists, residents and artists in Annecy. The Palais de l'Ile, a former prison that was built on a diamond-shaped “island” in the middle the Thiou Canal connected by two bridges to both the banks. Not far away, there are the 15th century Church of St. Maurice and the 17th century Church of St. Francis.

The Castle of Annecy is located to the south of the quay. This former residence of The Counts of Geneva is the landmark of Annecy.

From the castle, via the Perrière Gate we returned to the Thiou quay. It was a nice walk then from the quay to the port on Annecy Lake. The scenery along Quai Nepoleon III in Jardin de l’Europe is spledid with the view of the port, the Castle, snow capped mountain and the lake. I really wish I had more time for all these. Maybe one day I will go back to Annecy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Chamonix was the host for the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924. This French Alpine town is one of the most popular winter destinations in the country.

During the weekend trip to Annecy, I had a chance to visit this charming ski resort for a day trip. It is located very near to the point where the French, Swiss and Italian borders meet. Italy is just at the other side of Mont Blanc, linked by a tunnel.

Chamonix is the main gateway to the Vallee Blanche area, Mont Blanc and Aiguille de Midi, for skiing and mountaineering. Both activities weren’t the reasons for me though; maybe the spectacular view of the summit of Mont Blanc and seeing the town in winter were more likely to be the valid reasons.

My friend showed me around the town and I had my first ever “vin chaud”, nice heated and spiced red wine.

The town of Chamonix spreads along both banks of the River Arve, deep in the valley with many bridges connecting it. The views from the bridges are astonishing especially in the winter with show-covered roofs, crystal clear river running and show-capped mountains of the French Alps.

Chamonix is definitely a nice place to spend a day even for those who don’t ski. I enjoyed strolling around the streets, browsing the souvenir shops, having the authentic “vin chaud” of Huate-Savoie, and admiring the scenery, the beautiful town scene and the snow!

Thursday, September 8, 2005


Basel is Switzerland’s second largest city, situated on the bank of the River Rhine with its city boundary interestingly stretching to the French and German frontiers. We spent two nights there, making Basel as the base to visit Freiburg (40 minutes by train) in Germany and Montreux.

Having actually spent only half a day walking around the city, I must say we saw only a little of it. Indeed, to me, Basel is that sort of place that has more to offer to business visitors rather than tourists.

With the Mobility Card given to us by the hotel while check-in, we were entitled to free tram and bus travels throughout the city. Having not decided where to go, we boarded a tram at Barfüsserplatz hoping that it would gave us some ideas on where to go. It turned out well though. The tram went from Barfüsserplatz to Marktplatz (Market square) then continued to the other side of the city across the Rhine via the Mittlere Rheinbrücke (Middle Rhine Bridge).

We then got off the tram and decided to walk from the bridge back to the old town area stopping by some interesting places. There is a nice view of the medieval Münster (Cathedral, one of Basel’s landmarks) by the river from the brigde. At the Marktplatz, the red Gothic-style Rathaus (Town Hall, built in the 16th century) dominates the skyline and that's where the cultural centre of the city.

Barfüsserplatz is just a few blocks south of Marktplatz. Here we found lots of shops, cafés, restaurants and fast food outlets; also that's where most of the trams make a stop. Next to the theatre, the Tinguely Fountain is also worth a visit. This wonderful work by Jean Tinguely consists of some “kinetic sculptures” moving and spraying water in a pool.

That's more or less sums up on what I saw in Basel!

Sunday, September 4, 2005

St Davids

After seeing two enchanting historic villages, Caerleon and Solva, we continued our journey to yet another delightful one, St. David's (Tŷddewi in Welsh). The city (Queen Elizabeth II conferred city status in 1995 because of the presence of the cathedral) was founded by St. David himself, the patron saint of Wales in the year 550. It is the smallest city in the United Kingdom


We rented a car for the weekend to drive along the southern coast of Wales visiting Caerleon, Solva and St David's. The reason to stop by Caerleon was to check out the Roman Amphitheatre.

This quiet little toen beside the River Usk was the site of a Roman Legionary Fortress and also believed to be the location of the legendary King Arthur's Camelot. We first arrived in the village at the Roman Bath Museum. Unfortunately, we were unable to visit the museum as it opened late on Sunday so did the tourist information office.

We then got the direction to the site of the Roman remains from a helpful local bloke. There is not much left of the fortress wall and the barracks, whereas the amphitheatre looked a lot more impressive with grass over the ruins.

This historical site dates back to the 1st century. The Roman made this place a very important settlement with fortress, barracks, infantry, amphitheatre and bath, in fact one of the major military centres for the Roman Army in Britain.

When traveling to Southern Wales, visitors should try to find time to visit Caerleon. It’s easy to find and almost tourist free (despite the fact that it was a fine summer weekend, there was no other visitors around when we were there).

Saturday, September 3, 2005


Using Basel as the base, we traveled to Montreux by catching one of the early morning trains. The train ride between the banks of the River Rhine and Lake Geneva in the Swiss Riviera offered magnificent view. What was just not complimenting the scenic ride was the rain, that was greeting us “Welcome to Switzerland” since we arrived 2 days ago.

Montreux is set along the shores of a large bay and lined with many of the Edwardian-style splendid residence

Thursday, September 1, 2005


After our visit to Strasbourg, we crossed over the French-German border to Baden-Baden. This cosy and relaxing little town is located on the western foothills of the Black Forest in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

We first made a stop at the tourist information centre on the way entering the town centre to check out what to see and get a tourist map. As suggested by the people from the tourist information centre, we started the town walk at the Trinkhalle (Pump Room).