The last Days

Well, our “9” months in Europe (which became about 10 1/2) are racing towards their end now. I was treated to a nice lunch in the “Glass Box” of CERN’s of one of CERN’s restaurants in appreciation for the work I have done on the UA9 crystal collimation experiment; Sylvia was invited, too. This was a very nice thing. A week before I drove to Grenoble to have one last meeting with a student I have been working with on the SuperB project. It looks like I’ll become one of his “official” supervisors, assuming SLAC lets me do this. They treated me to a very nice lunch as well. We had farewell dinner with Sarah whom we met fairly early on at the Lutheran Church in Geneva. Sylvia had a farewell tea in our flat with three women she has gotten close to. I have had one last talk to give, in Chavannes de Bogis, about the work I did on a proposed addition to the LHC accelerator (called LHeC). Luckily, Chavannes is just about 20 min. away from us so no difficulty driving there. Due to the closeness I was able to pick Sylvia up for the workshop dinner, our last and maybe best sample of perche—the small fish that also lives in Lac Leman. This was actually moving day… the movers showed up as planned about 6:15 in the morning and by 9:30 they were gone and the flat empty.

The last weekend we cleaned up the place. Fortunately we had already done some notoriously tough things like the bathtub & the stove before so the job was manageable. In between a quick tea at “La Truite” and farewell to them all. They have become a staple esp. for Sylvia. We even could fit in a dinner at a restaurant called “Chez Vous” on the street to Gex that we had passed by often and always said we wanted to try out as it looked so cozy. We were not diappointed: “Sangle de Jura”, a cheese dish to die for and very warm and friendly hosts. Should have tried it earlier, but better late than never.

Now we are sitting one last time in the Cafe du Soleil about to be picked up by Andrea for our last evening, which we will spend with Andrea & Pat (they were our neighbors and friends below).

One more night & it’s flying day. Luggage is already checked & a wheelchair for Sylvia arranged for (with the crutches she just isn’t mobile enough and the cleaning hasn’t helped her state).




Leafing through the broschure from the caves ouvertes of Mont-sur-Rolle in May of this year I chose to call a winery to arrange for a wine tasting as we wanted to take some Chasselas along back home to San Carlos. An older women opened the door when  we arrived at the place and led us into the kitchen with a small cozy corner—their tasting area—with a big painting of Bacchus with grapes and photos from the long-standing wine business. She poured generously, and later her son joined us. Soon we were deeply involved in conversation about the wine and the life here on the north side of Lac Leman. Not only did we come home to our apartment quite a number of bottles richer, but also with a reaffirmed appreciation for the hospitality of the people living in the area. We will think about this outing whenever we open one of these bottles.

Due to me needing to walk on crutches I have been mainly enjoying the view from our balcony which has been stunning in the fall with clear weather, pink sunset and sunrises and the fall foliage.

I did long to see more of the fall colors so when Friday turned out to be a glorious day and rain was in the forecast for the next week, Uli and I took off for lunch in the countryside in direction of  Abbaye d’Hautecombe. We first had a great country inn lunch: pate with salad and mustard vinegrette, tartiflette, cheese, tarte citon and coffee. Even the red wine was included in the Euro 13 each!

The drive through the countryside displayed wonderful fall colors: flaxen mowed meadows, yellow-leaved vineyards, fall foliage in all colors and a sparkling blue lake as well as high hills shrouded in fog.  We circled the Lac du Bourget and in the late afternoon had a stunning view of it and its towns, in the distance the Alps.

After enjoying this scenery we went down the hill to the abbaye, the hills opposite glowing in golden afternoon colors. The abbaye itself was on the lake but perched on a rock. The interiour was mysteriously dark and the ceiling ornate in Gothic patterns. The marble statue by Albertoni of Queen Marie-Christine was very lifelike and the fabric was rendered in such a manner that the texture  looked real and  not like stone.

L'abbaye d'Hautecombe (Photo: Uli)

We drove back as the sun set, in glorious full Technicolor, happy to have taken the time for this outing in this busy time to prepare to leave this place.

Lac du Bourget

Last visitor

The last weekend in October, Manni from Hamburg visited us for one last time (with 3 visits he holds the record, followed by sister Susanne & Andreas with two). While the weather was somewhat mixed we had a great time and on a whim decided to go to Chamonix, taking advantage of some attractive hotel rates during the off season. Manni & I went up the Aiguille du Midi. We got a few glimpses on the top, and an impressive dose of icy cold wind. To strenghten the impression we were stranded up there for over 1/2 hour while the lift operator was sitting in his cozy, warm machine room reading a novel.


At the Plan du Midi we walked around for more than half an hour, here we had great views and it was a pity we did not have more time. Sylvia preferred to stay in the village; her foot just isn’t up to any mountaineering yet. In exchange she went for massage and facial in the hotel. More good food of the Savoy variety (heavenly cheese and meats!).

The wild landscape on the Plan du Midi, in early winter.

We parted with some sadness. Manni won’t see us over Christmas this year, and for us it’ll be all travel preparations from now on.

Visitors from Germany

While Uli was attending his conference in Malta, my brother Thomas and his wife Claudia came to visit us on Friday (the 15th October). I could by now hobble with my crutches to the neighborhood restaurant where I also only had one step to conquer. We had a French dinner at L’Imprevu where we have already taken other guests. They were as good and innovative as usual in their quality and presentation.

On Saturday it was raining so I suggested to visit the castle Chillon. In spite of the gloomy weather we had a nice drive along the lake and through the vineyards which were changing color and glowed bright yellow.

In Montreux I stayed in a nice restaurant near the lake and read, while my relatives enjoyed the castle. Uli arrived back from Malta just in time to join us for a Raclette at home.

On Sunday the weather cleared up a bit so we dared to drive to the mountains. Claudia, Thomas and Uli went up the gondola to Aiguille du Midi and had a beautiful view with fog and sun.

They told me it was freezing cold but they were excited about this adventure. I sat in a restaurant, family owned, where everyone was very nice to me so I did not mind passing my time there reading. In the evening I was glad to watch the countryside from the car again.

The next morning Thomas and Claudia had to leave. It was a short visit but I was very happy that they came and we caught up with life the times we were in the car, cafes, restaurants or at home.

A Blast from the Past in Malta

One of the reasons why I got involved with CERN in the first place was my former work at the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) near Dallas, TX, where I was group leader for one of the pre-accelerators for the big machine. That project—which would have dwarfed the CERN LHC—was cancelled when the US Congress stopped funding for the project (after $2billon had already been sunk into it). Now, with the LHC beam commissioning proceeding quite nicely CERN is thinking about possible upgrades to the machine; one avenue being to raise the beam energy by maybe a factor 2.5. The machine we wanted to build in Texas would have had even higher energy so I was asked by CERN to recall the specific issues we faced when designing that machine and to present such recollections at an upgrade workshop they had organized in Malta. Wohoo! Pack bathing trunks and camera and off we go! Malta is not so far from Africa and promised to be warmer than already-becoming-chilly Geneva. As it turns out my talk was quite well received (good), but we were holed up in “Villa Bighi” all-day long (not so good). The Villa—where our conference was—was about 45 min by bus away from the hotel so no chance to sneak out over a lunch break, and the bathing trunks remained dry.

Our hopefully aptly named conference location, in the Villa Bighi on Malta

Well, CERN paid so I guess I should not complain. We did have very good food indeed, and a nice lunch cruise along Malta’s coast line showing off its fortifications and other buildings, all yellow (build from the yellow rock making up the island), and mostly more “blast from the past” as there are a lot of historic buildings. An intense but also satisfying two days.

Hard at work during the lunch cruise... (Photo by a workshop participant)

The reason this workshop was in Malta is noteworthy: The local organizer was a young physicist who had written his thesis at CERN on the LHC and now had a job with the Maltesian government and also is managing the conference venue (if I understood this all correctly). Fun for him and us as many CERN people knew him quite well. Maybe more relevant though is that Malta is lining up to become a member of CERN.

On Sunday (Oct. 10) I was ready to do a small outing and practise walking on my crutches. There was a small fall market advertised here in Ferney Voltaire so I wanted to go.

It was a bit gloomy but not rainy outside. Uli drove me to the beginning of the stands. From there I could walk and browse along the market stalls. We tasted some good chutneys (the one with potimarron being especially nice) and bought some other local products.

We even sat down and had a wonderful leek crêpe and cidre. That cheered me up!

Enjoying local food & cidre. (Photo: Uli)