|Nick in Zurich|
Mid December we arrived in Zurich, just like Geneva last year it was snowing and looked amazing, but this time it continued to snow. Nothing seems to slow down, the city just keeps on humming, they're so well equipped and used to it. Time to rug up well and do the same.
|Christmas Market in Zurich station|
The main Railway station was a buzz with action and the first thing you see is the famous Swarovski Christmas Tree, over 50 feet tall glittering with more than 5000 crystal ornaments. Below it is the largest Christmas market in the country - all indoors but that doesn't mean its warm and cosy!! Its an extravaganza, with lots of emphasis on local crafts but plenty of food and drink to sample, to keep warm 'gluhwein' is the best.
|Zurich at night|
From there you can wander down Bahnofstrasse, the street known for its wonderful shopping, and admire the luxuries. Or just enjoy all the decorations, and Christmas finery that they do so well.
We met up with Michael, who was over from New Zealand for a wood conference and enjoyed a quiet night on the town.
The three of us headed south to Grenoble in France , to get together with the rest of the family. What should have been a four hour drive took us over nine hours!! A large chunk of that was sitting on the side of a French motorway trying to get some help with our Rental car that died on us. After a few challenges even finding somebody to talk to us on a Saturday morning, we were informed that they couldn't rescue us, its illegal for them to do so off a private French Motorway. So with fingers, toes and all else crossed we somehow got the car moving and crept through tunnels on the busy motorway, idled along the snow covered streets of Geneva and freewheeled safely into the airport car park.
Provided with a nice new car we arrived in Grenoble for a mid afternoon lunch with Christopher and Sylvie.
|Three brothers bonding, Christopher, David & Michael|
|Chris giving a lesson on the origin of the French|
|Gardens at Vizille|
|How many ? does it take to use a money machine|
What a fun reunion for the three Cambridge boys - a delight to see and listen to them telling stories after almost fifteeen years of all being together.
Grenoble - known as capital of the French Alps - has a surrounding population of about 500,000 and is nestled amongst three chains of mountains. Well known for its access to some of the best ski resorts, hosting the winter Olympics in 1968 and also a significant scientific centre of Europe.
|Grenoble from Chris and Sylvie's appt.|
We headed for the Alpe d'Huez ski resort only 11/2 hours away. It was a spectacular day to see it especially as we drove the mountain pass, which is a well known 13.8 metre climb with 21 hairpin bends on the Tour de France, in heavy fog and then emerged into clear blue skies.
|Ski field at Alpe d'Huez|
They'd had over a metre of snow in the previous two days so the locals were delighted and even more so as it was too early in the season for many tourists. They had it to themselves and the runs were nearly empty - oh if only we'd planned better, with skiis on it could have been the perfect day!!
|Start of the Chairlift and they screamed|
After some fabulous hospitality from Christopher and Sylvie and a wonderful family get together we were back in Switzerland again checking out some new solid wood panel manufacturing plants with Michael. These use of timber in the rebuild of Christchurch is high on Michaels agenda and it was fascinating to learn more about the way the Europeans plan and use timber for the longterm.
Winterthur was the next stop, not your classic Swiss tourist hotspot. Once an important industrial city its now known for its many green spaces and its well planned cycle tracks, a network of over 175kms. Christchurch could learn alot from what they have achieved here. http://stadt.winterthur.ch/fileadmin/user_upload/Portal/pdf/Winterthur_E_web.pdf
We managed to see this multigenerational housing complex built predominately from wood and environmentally neutral. Eighty families jointly hold ownership of the whole building and as their needs change they can buy or sell extra space within the group.