Archive for September, 2010

A la neige!

She ain't happy!

We also explored more the French Jura mountains around the Col de la Facille. As Sylvia tells it: “Uli picked out a “nice hike,” level along the ridge (“balcon du lac”), with great views. In reality, we had to hike across ridges, mostly no view for all the trees, and eventually he got lost and we had to scramble up and down rather steep slopes. It was 5pm, and I (Sylvia) already saw myself fed to the wolves or other inhabitants of the forest.” Needless to say, this did not go over too well! We did see the gondola to Petit Mont Rond, which inspired us to return next day. Sylvia took the cabine up and I hiked the not too long and pleasant road up. From Mount Rond we had great views across the Geneva basin and the lake, and enjoyed coffee and a bite to eat. None too late: when we took off again, the waiter just wrote “A la neige” onto the menu board: This was in fact the last day of the saison until the skiers will invade the place again in December. So we took the last ride down.

I guess it did drive home that our stay here is also limited: 2 months to go.

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Mount Mourex

With the weather being very pleasant we are continuing to explore the area. Recently, Sylvia took me up Mount Mourex, near Mount Mussy where Sylvia has been with the CERN women. A pleasant walk through mediterranean landscape, not unlike what we have in Edgewood park near San Carlos in California, but much greener of course. Even here, the CERN PR machinery functions: on an orientation table, what would we find but an indication of CERN (in the wrong direction) and even a lengthy write-up of what CERN is about. As it turns out, this is one of about 20 alignment monuments establishing the geodetic grid used to place the CERN accelerators. Good to know, I guess, although the features of CERN, much less the LHC, do not stand out from here.

Orienting table on Mt. Mourex. The lower middle of the table holds the CERN information (not readable at the resolution of this picture).

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Conveniently, my birthday fell on the “Jeûne Genevois” holiday, so we could use the occasion for a little excursion to Martigny, Switzerland, on the other side of Lac Léman past Montreux. The entrance into the valley was beautiful with steep cliffs rising up, and the clouds added to the dramatic scenery. The main reason for going to Martigny was to visit the Sculpture Garden and the Niki de Staël exhibit, both at the Pierre Gianadda Foundation. It was really pleasant to discover 40 sculptures by famous artists like Miró, Chagall, Moore & others in a park-like setting.

Uli meeting Segal's Women with Sunglasses

The de Staël exhibit was inside a large building where the top floor housed a collection of Roman artefacts found in the area while downstairs are changing exhibits. The exhibit traced de Staël’s stylistic development from very abstract in the beginning to more defined later, until almost minimalistic and very colorful towards the end of his life (which he ended by his own hand). In the bottom of the same building was a collection of oldtimers (cars)… some relief for Uli!

The Roman artefacts bear witness to Martigny’s being a settlement already during Roman times, called Octodurum by the Romans. In fact, an amphitheatre has been uncovered and restored nearby. Uli enjoyed a great echoing effect when being inside near the centre of the oval. But we doubt that those cast to the animals by the Romans felt similar appreciation for the acoustics.

Uli checking the acoustics

We ended the day with a nice meal in Cully on the lake shore with nice evening light, where I finally had the famous perche (Perch), little fried whitefish from the lake.

In all a very uplifting birthday!

PS: Pictures of the birthday child are in Uli’s camera… on film and waiting to be developed!

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September Visits

September was a time for yet more visitors-it is so great to see everyone. My sister Susanne and Andreas came again—this time passing through. They planned an adventure of driving over mountain passes for 4 wheel drive vehicles—they have a Land Rover and the tent is on top. We explored the castle Prangins in the area and were blessed with fabulous fall weather.

Prangins Castle

On Friday Rudolf, a long time friend of ours visited and we met Petra. We took them to Lausanne and heard the organ concert that Uli already mentioned. It was great to see Rudolf who faithfully comes to visit us whenever he can and wherever we are and we enjoyed getting to know Petra. We went to Geneva on Saturday—here a photo of them with the jet d’eau!

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Reunion (in the Alps)

Along the trail... (Photo: Sylvia)

Late August Peter & Roswitha came to visit. As mentioned here before, Peter is a friend from high-school days and we all studied together in Mainz for a couple of years; a time I certainly remember very fondly. Since then our ways had parted somewhat since we left for Canada after university, while they first went to Hamburg and later to Wiesbaden.

We saw each other again at our common friend Michael’s birthday bash in June this year, and we were very glad when they agreed to visit us in France. We spent a great weekend together; first in Ferney—I got to show them CERN’s Microcosm exhibition, the new exhibit in the Globe (which we found quite impressive) and we even had a peek into the CERN Control Center.

Then we headed to the Alps, staying in our beloved hotel Les Rhodos in Cordon to get the views and some more hiking in. This time the weather did not cooperate so poor Peter & Roswitha got to see the scenery in a mist of fog and rain.

But we did not let it get in the way of enjoying the hike which had a special charm in the mist.

Cows in the mist... (Photo: Sylvia)

We walked in the Cordon area high up above the village, the trail leading us to Chalets des Bénés (which is an alpine meadow and not a vacation colony).

The top end of our walk (yes, that's rain drops on the lens!). Photo: Sylvia

When we did not walk we enjoyed sitting on the patio of the hotel. Thanks to modern computer technology (as well known, I do not travel without laptop) we were able to show them pictures of our kids and our house in San Carlos. Almost made me wish to have an iPod Touch which should make a nice picture frame as well… One time we saw the most colorful rainbow we (at least Roswitha & I) have ever seen. Color as strong as painted against the stark backdrop of a sheer rocky mountain wall. Unfortunately by the time Sylvia was called and had her camera ready it was already fading. But even without rainbow the clouds made for a rather dramatic view.

View from our hotel. (Photo: Sylvia)

In the evenings we enjoyed the good food our host Pascal served for dinner, with an after-dinner wine glass to round off the evening. We caught up on each other’s lives and discussed the kids, the state of the world today, and the science we do at CERN and Christianity and how we see it. (At the latter part I think I waffled a bit (as I tend to do when such themes are coming up) but then, it is not so easy conveying ones beliefs (or doubts) without sounding in some fashion odd). At any rate, we also had good laughs.

The four of us in the driveway of our hotel (photo: Pascal)

The visit went by fast and on Sunday we had to say goodbye; hopefully not for another 20-or-so years.
This likely will have also been our last visit to Cordon before we return to San Carlos, but we do hope for a chance to get here again one day.

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We have come out of a very busy week. First, Peter & Roswitha, friends from my time as student in Mainz, visited; then Susanne and Andreas, then we ran our UA9 Crystal experiment at the CERN SPS, and following that Rudolf & Petra visited, Rudolf being one of our long-time friends, originally of Sylvia.

Anyway, more about these events later. Last night we went to Lausanne for another installment of the organ concertos in the Cathedral. These we love very much. This night it was an all-French program performed by an Italian Organist. This performance however, we will surely not forget: at some point, in the middle of the 1st movement of Widor’s 5th organ symphony, something got stuck in the organ and the whole play got stuck on a single note. The bewildered organist and his page turner pushed and pulled various buttons, keys and registers, to no avail; the organ would insist on that one single note. Eventually the situation got resolved by the tried and true method of cutting the power, and after the power was restored the remainder of the performance went off without a hitch.

Rudolf & I quickly came to the conclusion that there must be a controller running Windows in the playing table!

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