FATWorld 2nd destination: Loèche-Les-Bains, Valais, Switzerland

Leukerbad1250km by road and 4 hours later we arrive in Leukerbad. We have left the windy and fresh Jura for the warmer valleys of the Valais in Switzerland. What a contrast! Apple, pear and late apricot harvest. Dry forest, dry air, blue sky all over.

It is difficult to describe Leukerbad (or Loèche-Les-Bains) to the ones that have never been here before. It is a large bilingual (French-Swiss-German) village on the top end of the valley. It is surrounded in the North by steep mountains and is blessed by uncountable warm water springs, which the authority used to build the largest European Alpine Thermal Resort. The infrastructure of the village is excellent and very family friendly. In the winter, it is a very good ski resort. In my view this place has it all . The centre is officially car-free, but obviously half of the population has got special passes to drive through.

View from our balcony - Residenz Ambassador

Our flat is a real jewel. We enjoy an incredible panorama from the large balcony. The interior is very well furbished in an Asian-European fusion style. We all feel immediately at home. A few minutes after taking possession of the flat, we receive our first guest on our world tour.

Hildi in Leukerbad
Hildi in Leukerbad

Hildi, Isa’s sister, comes arms loaded with a delicious cheese fondue preparation from Fribourg. My favorite dish! I can’t wait to melt the 840gr of cheese in the caquelon tonight.

We will now spend 1 month in Leukerbad, primarily for rehabilitation purposes. We also take the opportunity to train our little daughters to swim without arm floats or buoys. It is a priority for us as most of our destinations around the world are by the sea.  To our surprise, Manon takes out her arm float during the FIRST day and shows us how she can swim above and under water. Simply like that! August 30th, 2009 is clearly a day to remember. The capabilities of kids to learn is really freaking amazing sometimes.

The First Feelings of Truly Being on Vacation

leukerbad le memont 060

80 days have passed now since my bike crash on June 8. A lot happened in between. We have now left Vienna behind, the international furniture removal is now behind us, a large part of the administrative work related to expatriation is now done. Today is the first day, during which, Isa and I truly feel  on vacation… and there are good reasons to let these feelings invade us.

It is June 27th, the 4th day we spend at the farm in the French Jura. Not a cloud in sight and we decide to discover the surroundings. We find a few kilometers away from our place a  a small quiet river. We decide to picnic there but do not find immediately a convenient place to park the car and sit comfortably next to the river . We suddenly see a rather idyllic garden at the river. The only issue: a big sign marked “PRIVATE”. Fortunately the owner is mowing the grass and we ask him whether we could stay there. To our surprise he answers that he likes Swiss people and that we should sit at  his table by the river. We spend a great 2 hours there, kids playing along the river while we rest on the blankets.

796px-Brücke_in_Saint-HippolyteWe decide in the afternoon to explore a bit further and discover a lovely small city called Saint-Hipployte . We stop to take an ice-cream on the terrasse of one of the restaurants of the main square and just love it. This square is for boh fo us the stereotype of a traditional French square, with a bakery, a florist, a traditional deli, a couple of terrasses with people drinking Pastis and of course people walking across the square carrying their baguette under the arm pit.

We travel back to our spartan farmhouse at the end of the day and have some second thoughts about the level of comfort there.

The Ultimate Open Air Bath Tub…and Standing Without Crutches!!!

bathtub le memont 026

That’s it. We have left Vienna behind us. We land at Geneva Airport and go to the rental cars. We get a fancy Peugeot 807 family van. Thanks goodness, the little ones like the metallic blue colour of the car and their new comfy seats. The journey to Jura can start.

We arrive at the farmhouse (1000m) close to le Russey. It is a hot summer day. Sweating, tired of the 10 hour journey and in need of a relaxation of some sort, the owner of the farm suggests we take a hot bath! We are surprised, as we know there is no heating system in the house.

bathtub le memont 027But we soon discover a weird composition of early century laundry water heater, a set of pipes and a large tub standing in the field. We do need a few minutes to understand the mechanism and then, follow to the letter all instructions. 30 minutes later, hot water fills the bath, we add a few twigs of fresh mint growing a few yards away and we experience the most invigorating bath of our lives. The kids do not show any surprise, as if this tub in the middle of the fields was the most usual thing in the world.

As of today, open air bathing every day!

By the way, 75 days after my accident, I can at last stand without the help of crutches. I am miles away from being able to perform a 100m sprint and my body mass index is not the best anymore, but I can at least limp my way forward…

FATWorld (Family Around The World), First Destination: Jura, France

leukerbad le memont 034We had planned to spend the whole summer in this farm, but due to my bicycle accident, we only arrive on August the 24th. We take possession of our rented flat in this “Pipilangstrumpf-Heidi-House”. It is very basic and not for anyone that could not live with all usual urban-flat amenities. It has electricity but no hot water, no bathroom, no central heating system, no TV, no internet connexion, no dishwasher, no washing machine, no luxury.

We love it at first, but also quickly feel the necessity for home improvement…which is our main common hobby! Anyway, back to the simple life (without  Paris). We try the first two days to personalize the place and we now feel a bit more at home. We love in the meantime to make wood fires for everything (heating water, washing clothes and ourselves, cooking, grilling. The kids, impressed by the fire in the first day are now helping and throw more wood in it.

leukerbad le memont 052leukerbad le memont 056But it is now 21:30, time to go to bed.

Moving Places, Managing Stress…or Not


This was our favorite room, a 40 sqm or 150 cubic meter “lounge” with large windows. It was a place for working, relaxing, exercising, watching TV, listening to music and playing with kids. A choc for all of us to see boxes everywhere, in every room of our apartment. There is no stress free removal, whether you pack yourself or have it done by a removal company. Most stress comes from letting go, leaving behind memories attached to the house… and all farewell parties…They are critical rituals to let go, but I feel that I can never satisfy everyone, that there are always more goodbye to be told. Many expectations are left unfulfilled. Come with that, many late nights, drinks, etc.. All is well but it does not really help in terms of increasing stress resistance.

We are all very tired and, right now, we cannot enjoy the prospect of a relaxed sabbatical around the world. We are just looking forward to handing over the keys to the new owners, have a long night sleep before taking our one way boarding card on Monday from Vienna to Geneva.

DSC_0280DSC_0287No More Lounge

From the logistics side, 65 cubic meters were packed and loaded into a truck and trailer, that is already under way direction Jura in France. We will be there next Wednesday ready to off-load. Once this is done, a whole lot of stress will be behind us and I hope that we will start to enjoy the time that is given to us.

We now spend the last 4 nights at a friend’s place in Central Vienna, which smoothens the whole process and makes our departure seem a bit more natural. So long, Vienna

Cannondale Hi-Mod Synapse 2010 Ordered

The good thing about a serious bike crash is that one can get a brand new one for free! During my recovery period, I have been thinking what kind of bike I should take. I am mostly racing in triathlon events, but I don’t like to train with a time trial bike, especially hilly or mountainous courses. The last time I bought a bike, I chose a regular road bike with a steep seat-post angle, a rather aggressive geometry in general and added a tri-bar. But this compromise is not ideal for training. One issue is the saddle. Great for biking in regular position, not so good when sitting in aero position. I personally would need two magic interchangeable saddles, depending on the position I ride. Another issue is, while I like to train on a compact  50 crank, I would prefer to race with a 53 or 54. There are other smaller issues and I have now decided to indulge in luxury and stop compromising. I will get 2 bikes!!! 1 regular road bike and a time-trial machine for flat courses and races.

For the road bike, I did not hesitate long. I wanted to buy a bicycle from my Swiss acquaintance that owns a shop, “Seiler Fahrrad” close to our house in Vienna. He has always helped me to tune and repair my previous bike and it is normal for me in return to get a bike from his shop. He manages mostly 3 brands: Flyer, Cannondale & Idworx. It was clear, that the choice would fall on a Cannondale (the other ones being electro bikes and sturdy mountain bikes).  I chose a comfi Cannondale made for long distance rides.

Cannondale Synapse 2010

The brand new 2010 Hi-Mod Synapse! It is not top of the range with Ultegra 6700 Shimano components, but it is certainly good enough for me. The weight, 7.0 kg for a 56 size, is good too! I like the design especially the red/white saddle and bar.

I can’t wait to get on it and it motivates me to push myself during rehabilitation in September. My knee is still blocked at a 70 degree angle and I need a 110 to get on the bike! Hope I will reach this angle in 3 weeks.

As for the Time-Trial bike, I will wait to be next year in the US. I hope that my colleagues from Dailymile will give me some serious tips as to cool, small, local US time trial brands. But this is a different story.

Round The World Trip is booked!

Our trip round the world 2009-2010
Our trip round the world 2009-2010

We are leaving behind Vienna next Monday, the 24th of August…for good. One more week of stress. The movers are coming on Wednesday to pack around 60 cubic meters of material and transport it to our temporary home base in the French Jura. We have been very busy planning and preparing our next moves as a family on a sabbatical. The plan stands now, the tickets are paid, alea jacta est.  And our first station will be Leukerbad, a village in the Swiss mountains (Wallis) well known for its thermal baths. We will spend the entire month of September there mainly for rehabilitation purposes. I hope by the end of the month to be able to walk normally and even ride my bike again!

The real adventure starts on September 26th though! We travel back to Geneva and take the plane to our first Asian destination: HONG KONG! 2 weeks during which Isa will improve her Wing Chun skills with a local master, Manon et Zoe will discover Disneyland and I will be swallowing Dim Sums 24/7.

The next leg of our trip, planned on the 11th of October, is BALI & LOMBOK Islands where we will spend 2 months. I can’t wait to see again the rice paddies, the temples, the beaches and the Balinese. I can’t wait to eat every day Nasi Goreng with a Bintang Beer either!

We will leave Indonesia for SINGAPORE on December 10th. We will stay there only a few days, mainly to replenish our bags: SHOPPING BONANZA!!!

From SINGAPORE we fly to the Oceanian Continent; first Brisbane and Sunshine Beach before moving on to Wellington, the Malborough Sounds and the South Island of NEW ZEALAND.

The next leg and one of the most exiting one is HAWAII! from February 16th to March 25th we will discover the Big Island and Kauai. The best about it is that we will do this with Isa’s sister and her family who will fly from Maryland to see us for 2-3 weeks! I am also looking forward to this destination, as I hope to be competing in my first triathlon after a year of pause due to this knee injury. There are triathlons organised nearly evey week there!

We will then fly to Denver where an RV should be waiting for us. We will pack everything inside and discover the national parks, (at least) Zion, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone and Glacier. We don’t know yet, if we will travel through Canada or not, it will depend on our mood. Destination is Maryland, Chesapeake Bay, Before flying some times in June back to Zurich.

Three, two, one…