Is there more to autumn than dank dark mornings?

There is no mistaking it. The misty mornings, watery sunshine, longer shadows and the darker evenings.

Autumn is here.

autumnal long shadows

autumnal long shadows

Now others might be rueing the end of another summer, but not I, my friend, not I.  Autumn, for me, is an amazing time of year and here are 6 (British and Swiss) reasons why.

That autumnal outdoor feeling – get yourself outside, whether it is on foot or on a bike, and just explore.  I love wandering in the woods or around a Tierpark (animal park) like the one in Sihlwald, near Zurich.

A wolf at the Tierwald in Sihlwald near Zurich

A wolf at the Wildnispark in Sihlwald near Zurich

The “Herbstmesse” or autumn tradeshows are in full swing.  This is something for those danker, wetter days, as mostly they are undercover.  Not that I am biased, but I rather like the Zugermesse.  It lasts 10 days and there is something for everyone, from the home improver to the chef, from the fitness fanatic to the holiday seeker, from the foodie to the wine-lover. The kids love the farmyard enclosure. Personally I just love wandering round the stalls and seeing what is on offer.  But be warned these tradeshows are not for the faint-hearted, they are huge. We went last weekend and we walked for 3 and a half hours without sitting down!

The “Chilbi” or “fair” comes to town.   This weekend in my village, we have bumper cars going round the roundabout instead of cars.  The main streets are completely closed for 3 days as the village comes together and enjoys the fair and celebrates the end of summer.

Steinhausen Chilbi - the main roads through the village are closed for 3 days for the fun fair

Steinhausen Chilbi – the main roads through the village are closed for 3 days for the fun fair

It is almost time for the ski season and so the preparation must begin in earnest.  Now this involves hard work as well as a little bit of retail therapy for some new socks and thermal undergarments (sexy, eh?). A new exercise regime working on strengthening the leg muscles and increasing flexibility has begun.  (Let me tell you, sitting against a wall is quite painful after about 45 seconds!)  But I know that all this effort will be worth it, when I can start the ski season in December without any stiff legs!

The traditions….halloween is almost upon us and I love fancy dress plus who can resist the jack o’lanterns, apple bobbing, toffee apples and pumpkin pie? Then the Christmas markets will start, but not before I am back in the UK for work, which nicely coincides with one of my favourite UK traditions, bonfire night on the 5th November. While most other countries stand outside and watch fireworks in summer, we stand outside and watch them in autumn, often in the rain! But nothing quite beats wrapping up warm with hat, scarf and gloves, wearing sturdy boots or wellies and then heading out to friends or to the town firework display and bonfire, partaking in some mulled wine to keep warm, plus a hot dog and toasted marshmallows, if you are lucky. But best of all you can write your name in lights (ok,  in sparkles) with the sparkler.

Fireworks on November 5th in the UK

Fireworks on November 5th in the UK

The food….”wild” season is upon us and there is lots of game in the shops, but best of all for me it is the vegetables and fruits we have in autumn: the pumpkin, butternut squash and sweet potato, plus the figs and dates. Warming soups, cheese fondue and raclette can all now reappear on the menu and stay til April!

Fondue at Christmas time

Fondue at Christmas time

What do you like about autumn? Or even why you don’t!.

Written by Catherine Evans Joines


10 must-have accessories for the single female traveler

My must-have essentials

My must-have accessories

I love travelling, and I have often traveled on my own. I have done city breaks, cross-country tours and inter-continental trips. Along the way I have discovered my must-have accessories. These now accompany me on every trip helping to reduce the hassles and niggles which could turn a great experience into something much less pleasurable.

So apart from the obvious (camera, guidebook, etc) my Top 10 accessories are:

1. The wedding ring – whether you are married or not, this is my must have accessory for the female traveller, but especially if you are travelling alone. In my single days, this tiny band of gold on my left hand, proved especially useful at warding off unwanted attention. My “pretend” husband was always off at business meetings whilst I was busy sightseeing or shopping. But he was a true gent, that “pretend” husband of mine, and was always meeting me for lunch or drinks after work. And now I am married at least I can put a face and personality to the man behind the band of (white) gold.

2. Dark sunglasses – not just for the summer sun, but a must for wandering through the souks or markets. Perfect for soaking up the atmosphere and hustle and bustle so that you can browse from a distance without getting accosted and cajoled to look at wares which don’t interest you.

3. The versatile pashmina – as well as being perfect around the shoulders for those cooler evenings supping sundowners on the beach it can be so much more: the comforting blanket on the airplane; the ultimate coverall for visiting key attractions with a strict dress-code of covered shoulders; a replacement sarong and a pretty scarf if you happen to passing through cooler climes.

4. The cross-over handbag – ever since I found this type of bag I have not looked back. I am no longer constantly readjusting my handbag strap on my shoulder, trying to prevent it slipping off. Or worse have it slip off just as I am trying to take that once in a lifetime photograph, jolting the camera and all I have to remember that moment is a lovely picture of the pavement or sky! Now I have both hands free and I know my bag is much more secure. My favourite bag has many zipped pockets and I can easily access the water, guidebook and camera, but my money, passport and phone are squirreled away on the inside making it very difficult for any would-be pick-pocket.

Look carefully and you will see the strap of he bag...the sunglasses are in my hand!

Look carefully and you will see the strap of he bag…the sunglasses are in my hand!

5. A great pair of walking sandals, (even better if you can find a pair that are “pretty”) – enough said!

6. But just in case…then blister plasters are my next must-have item!

7. Sun cream – it isn’t much fun having sunburn! The little handbag-sized bottles are just perfect for when you are out about town. Keep that bigger bottle for the hotel.

8. Little bottle of hand disinfectant. An absolute necessity after visiting the facilities and before eating anything. The last thing you want is to pick up a bug on your travels.

9. Imodium – because in variably that dodgy tum will catch up with you at some point.

10. Refreshing wipes/deodorant – because it is nice to feel human after a long flight or if you haven’t quite got enough time between the sightseeing and those pre-dinner drinks!

Happy travels!! Would love to learn your must have accessories.

Again, you can spot the sunglasses on my head, the pashmina on the shoulders and the strap of the bag is clearly evident too!

Again, you can spot the sunglasses on my head, the pashmina on the shoulders and the strap of the bag is clearly evident too!

10 awesome (and nearly free) ways to enjoy the outdoors this summer

This week I was on a work trip to Warsaw, Poland and as usual I didn’t have a lot of time for me during the 2 days.  But as this was my first real visit to Warsaw I was determined that this time I would see something of the city. So bright and early one morning before my meetings for the day started, I decided to explore the city.  The weather was perfect, the sun was shining and it felt like summer might be finally here.  As the city slowly woke, I enjoyed my “free” sightseeing and the benefits of fresh air and exercise first thing in the morning. As I wandered, I got to thinking about how I could spend more time enjoying the outdoors this summer (weather permitting!!).  Here is my list.

1. Swimming in the lake or Lido (as I live in Switzerland this is relatively easy but could be substituted for swimming in the sea, if you are brave enough to venture in the coast round Britain!)

Enjoying the summer sun and cooling off in Lake Zug

Enjoying the summer sun and cooling off in Lake Zug

2. Walking in the forest or in the mountains. Essentially anywhere where there are more birds than cars!

3. Arrange an evening BBQ with friends. Here in Switzerland we have these great little grill places tucked into the woods or by the lakes, which are ready and waiting for us with wood and kindling available.  So all we need bring are the matches, our sausages and burgers (oh and salad) and drinks! Super easy.  Grilling and watching the sun go down, chatting with friends. What could be better?

4. Cycling by the lake or through the park. With the many bicycle rental schemes around, even if you don’t own a bike, it is easy to rent one and whisk yourself through the parks under your own steam.  Also perfect if you are visiting a new city and want to see more, faster!

5. Have a picnic “Dad style”. So when Morag and I were little, we often went on holidays with our Dad. Now Dad didn’t have a lot of patience for making packed lunches and relied instead on the impromptu picnic to keep us fuelled for the afternoon.  A “Dad style” picnic involves heading to the nearest baker, choosing some nice baguettes or rolls. The baker is followed by a stop at a delicatessen for the ham/beef that will be the filling for our sandwich; then the greengrocer for some fruit for dessert. And finally the newsagent for the drinks.  Next stop, a nice bench in the park or by the lake to sit back and enjoy a back-to-basics picnic! Superb!

6. For those summer evenings, mosey on down to the nearest “free” music event near you.  And chill out listening as the music fills the evening air.  For me this would be the free Jazz event that happens every Wednesday evening in summer at the local bandstand.

7. Crazy golf! Grossly underrated. Crazy golf, or mini-golf as it is known here in Switzerland, can be a real laugh especially with friends.  It can bring out the competitive side of even the most mild-mannered people!

Nothing like a little competitiveness between friends!

8. Rollerblading – this is very popular here in Switzerland and there are loads of Rollerblade paths (as they are just like cycle paths, this should be easy to try almost anywhere – if I can stay upright!)

9. Head to town and be a tourist for the day…take the camera and really view the city through fresh eyes.  Just as I did in Warsaw this week.  I plan to visit Zürich one weekend this summer and just enjoy being there instead of frantically dashing in and out of shops!

10. Now the best way to enjoy the outdoors this summer for me is at home, on the balcony. Sitting there with a good book, listening to music and sipping home-made lemonade. Bliss!