David & Jacqueline visit Reims and Nancy

The fact that we had three travel days left on our Interrail pass was enough of an excuse to visit North East France over the Whitsun weekend. On our journey via Paris to Reims, we watched the second day of demolition work on the Atelier in near real-time via the surveillance camera at home: quite an experience to see how carefully out builders work with their enormous machine!

We spent two days in Reims, visiting the well-known Cathedrale de Notre-Dame which is reminiscent of the Paris version and was used for crowing French kings. We also saw the splendid Basilique de St Remi (where we experienced a Catholic Confirmation service, with bishop) and a couple of other churches. Unfortunately, other main attractions were shut for renovation work, but that is just an excuse to return. The old town is very attractive to walk around, particularly the area with all the restaurants, Place Drouet d’Erlon, near the station. We also (of course) ate well.

We travelled to Nancy on Whit Sunday and had a nice time in the beautiful old town with its various city gates and areas in different historical styles. The hit is of course the Place Stanislas, a totally symmetrical square, with King Stan himself in the middle. A surprise was the student car race in the centre – 24 hours of pushing around a historic square, Place de la Carrière. And we saw another Confirmation Service with bishop, of course. And we ate Pfannkuchen, also a sweet version with apple and pear.

Every train was totally punctual!

David and Jacqueline go to Südtirol with Pauline and Greg

The excuse was a Mediterranean cruise by Pauline and Greg and they came a few days early to meet up with us and Áedán in Zurich. Because the pilot was sick in Detroit, they ended up arriving a whole day late, so we missed the planned trip to Berne.

On the Saturday the four of us travelled together via the scenic Rhaetiabahn to Santa Maria Müstair and stayed the night in a historic hotel, Chasa de Capol. Pauline discovered her love for a fruity local red wine, Lagrein, which only grows in the region. On the next day, we travelled by the Vintschgaubahn to Meran and stayed for a couple of nights in the Hotel Windsor, down by the Passer river in the centre. On the first night, we ate Knödel (as is to be expected in Meran), having enjoyed an afternoon Aperol Spritz and Apple Strudel. On the second day, we spent several hours in the Trauttmansdorff Botanical Gardens which were just splendid! After that, we took the bus up to Dorf Tirol and walked to Burg Tirol and back (unfortunately it was closed!). The walk back down to Meran had plenty of great views, but also strained Greg’s knee. Luckily the evening meal in the Rössl bianco compensated well, preceded by an Aperol Spritz.

On the last day we went on to Bolzano, staying in the Hotel Laurin Park, which Jacqueline and Greg really only saw from the inside as they both caught a tummy bug. David and Pauline did the tourism bit in Bolzano. David went down with the bug when we got back to Zurich, and Pauline also succumbed and missed the first event of the cruise, a day trip to Venice, which she and Greg had luckily seen with us in 2019.

Winter temperatures in Zurich at the end of April

Only a week after Summer seemed to have arrived in Zurich, temperatures dropped rapidly to just around zero and we even had snow in the City. Climate change? Maybe.

Summer temperatures in Zurich at the beginning of April

The weather was unseasonably warm in Zurich at the beginning of April. We had temperatures up to 26°C. On the climate side, March 2024 was in fact the warmest on record 10 months in a row – the Paris 1.5°C climate barrier is now being broken. To make it difficult for our bodies, we also had brief periods of two to three days with rain and temperatures 10° cooler or more.

Still, the “Klimaseniorinnen” (older women protesting against the inaction of the Swiss state concerning climate change), won their case in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on 9 April 2024.

At least it meant that we could do some nice walks over Easter, David could help Andrew with the Pestalozzi mini-park, and we could meet up with Dom and family for Filipino lunch in Brugg. But high winds prevented the burning of the Böögg at Sechseläuten in Zurich this year (a première!).

Finally, the building work can begin!

We finally received permission to start building the “Stöckli” from the City of Zurich on 11th April 2024, after just over three years of preparation (celebration photos with Lorenz and Georg below)! All the conditions have been met. And we have also received the contract confirmation from teh main building contractor.

The planned start date is Monday 6th May 2024, starting with the demolition of the former Atelier building. Some preparation work will take place in the week before. And the windows will be dismounted on 3rd May and sent to the Ukraine so that they can be reused.