Follow the reluctant adventures in the life of a Welsh astrophysicist sent around the world for some reason, wherein I photograph potatoes and destroy galaxies in the name of science. And don't forget about my website,

Friday 18 October 2013

The Rewards of Victory (II)

Last time I left readers as I was leaving Interlaken by means of a time-travelling funicular. Something like that, anyway. From Interlaken we went to Zermatt, which I give huge brownie points to for being a town where cars are banned. The reason being that smog could obscure the view of the town's very famous and very pointy mountain. Bloody marvellous. An example to us all, if you ask me.

The very famous and very pointy mountain was not immediately visible because it was raining. Zermatt in the rain is... well, it's alright, I guess, but you'd be hard pressed to understand what all the tourists are doing there when they could be in the much larger, better-equipped Interlaken. Fortunately (we were only there for one night) the weather cleared up in the evening and I discovered how to take long exposures with my camera.

That was the view from the hotel room.

The next day the weather continued to time itself with... well, Swiss precision, but especially for us. We took a train to Gormenghast (OK, it's really called called Gornergrat, but they should change it for obvious reasons) where we discovered a second mountain observatory, again with no information for passing scientists on holiday, but this one overlooking one of Europe's most famous mountains. And some glaciers and whatnot too. Also, Rhydian continued his search for his falcon, now named Caruthers for reasons that escape me.

We also found that Swiss German is a downright strange language, featuring multiple place names with no less than 3 consecutive g's. What were they thinking ? Countdown in German must be a boring game :

"Consonant please Carol."
"Consonant please Carol."
"Consonant please Carol."
"Consonant please Carol."
"Consonant please Carol."
"Consonant please Carol."
"Consonant please Carol."
"Consonant please Carol."
"Consonant please Carol."

From Zermatt, to Chamonix. This time we had to make do without the efficiency of Swiss trains and catch a bus part of the way. That involved a transfer, in which we were unceremoniously dropped at a (closed) bus station and waited, with as much hope as expectation, for the second bus. It wasn't the prettiest - or driest - part of the expedition.

This minor bout of being stranded in the middle of nowhere was soon forgotten on reaching Chamonix, which is a very pretty town near Mt Blanc. We're still not sure if we saw it or not, because Mt Blanc may be nearly 5,000 metres tall but it doesn't have a particularly distinctive profile. In any case it was raining when we arrived.

The next day the weather once again co-operated with stoically un-British grace, so we went for a walk inside a glacier. Mer de Glace was actually a rather depressing place, because there are markers showing the level of the glacier at various years. Fortunately the view above the glacier is of Les Drus, which is surely one of the pointiest mountains in the entire world.

We then encountered our one and only spot of poor timing from the weather, as it was too windy to journey up to the summit of the really insanely high Aiguille du Midi cable car. We could only go to the halfway point, but no-one minded because everyone was completely high on mountains (terrible pun intended). The midway point turned out to be the most Skyrim-esque of all our destinations, and there is video of me tooting my souvenir Swiss horn to accompany the Skyrim theme on a mobile phone. Which I will duly post here when I have it.

Then we walked down to the Restaurant and the End of the Universe, or at least that's how I remember it, ate some cake and went home.

... except that we didn't go home at all. First, we went to Marseille - twinned with Glasgow. This is somewhat bizarre, because most of Marseille is lovely. The highlight was undoubtedly visiting the island of Frioul, a tiny, beautiful place that I'd like to buy, if I could.

In the distance the Chateaux d'If, home to Marseille's least interesting fictional prisoner.

And then this happened.

That would have been an absurdly perfect point to go home, but instead we went to Monaco the next day, although I don't know why. As far as I can tell it's a very small country full of yachts and soulless tower blocks. Can't see the appeal of it. In fact, I'm not going to spoil this post with any photos of it.

And then I went home and collapsed, and while I was still collapsed I went to Prague, but that's another story.

Oh, and if you're wondering, yes, Rhydian did find Caruthers. He was in Zermatt.

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