Sunday, October 13, 2019

A first approximation to Austria



Really high mountains, confectionery sugar snow, turquoise blue rivers, cute and small cities, lush greenery all over the valleys and forests, and cake.

So. Much. Cake.

If there's something that I wasn't expecting from Austria, it'd be that I'd eat that much cake. Which might be a silly realisation; after all Austria is home glorious Sacher cake. A chocolatey concoction with a fine layer of marmalade between two spongey layers of cake and all of it covered in chocolate ganache. But surely there's more to Austria than cake.

I just returned from a week in Tirol and I was mesmerised with the beauty of it all. The pristine nature, the mighty Alps, the pretty little villages with their stylised church towers, the many, many castles impossibly perched on the top of a hill, the countless beautiful buildings wherever we drove. Everything and anything, really. And I didn't even make it to the imperial cities of Salzburg and Vienna, or the unspoilt nature of the Hohe Tauern National Park. This was my first time in Austria and I stayed in Ried im Oberinntal, a tranquil village that might be more hyped during the ski season but which was just perfect for a week of doing nothing.

But of course we did something! Not much, as active holidays are still a bit of a challenge for this family of mine, wth two toddlers in two. But still we manage to visit Innsbruck, drive to a glacier and hike in a forest nearby. I also explored the town on my own and walked to the lake nearby, which looked like a grand spot for lazy summer days. Alas, there are many things and places unchecked. But that can only mean that I'll have to return to this gorgeous country, which is definitely not a bad thing. If only for all the mouth-watering cake I'll get to eat again.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

End of summer picnic



This summer has been full of little adventures. Swimming-pool evenings, lazy short hikes, even a day at an amusement park and many, many picnics. I love picnics! There's something, oh, so romantic about packing a bag of treats, laying a blanket outdoors and spending the afternoon playing outside. For a couple of hours it feels as if time stopped by and we could just escape the whirlwind routines of today's fast-paced world.

We are fortunate enough to live nearby a natural area and picnic spots abound. Yes, we are spoiled and it'd be plain silly not to take advantage of our surroundings. So the kiddos and I are often out on some kind of nature outing and this does us so much good.

Last year I started this little tradition I'd love to keep for years to come of having an end-of-summer picnic. Last year we did it later in the season, really coinciding with the end of summer; but this year we decided to do it just before schools started. This is a special year for us as our daughter is starting Kindergarten. We're no longer free to plan as our days as we'd like - not that we could do this anymore since I went back to work full-time. But this clearly signals the end of an era to us. And this really deserved a celebration. So off we went, with our picnic blanket, a ball and a few books. And a bag full of healthy snacks.

We didn't go far from home - we don't really need to - and we didn't stay too long. But we had the best of times! And our freshly cut melon definitely tasted better outdoors!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Switzerland & I



The sky was blue and the sun was shining like I thought it would only do in Spain. The grass was green and fresh and dotted with yellow flowers. And in the distance the Alps soared into the sky. Majestic, still sporting some snow in July. It was the summer of 2010 and I was mesmerised during my first trip to Interlaken. I didn't know it back then but on that day, after first spotting the snowy mountains on the road, my world changed. I changed. Nature, the wilderness, got hold of me and city day trips, shopping sprees and museum visits would be relegated to second best in my travel plans. Nothing I had seen before compared to the utter beauty of the world as God created it.

It is now a little over four years since I've been living in Switzerland and I have tripped around to my heart's content. I have seen the cities and the tiny villages. The rivers, the lakes and the mountains. I have hiked, swum and dined. And the one thing I can't get enough is the nature, the amazing beauty of Swiss landscapes. I know the world is big, I know there's so much out there to see. But if there's one place I want to return to over and over again, it must be here in Switzerland, tucked amid the mighty mountains, resting by some luscious lake. It must be in a summer field brimming with wild flowers. It must be under the naked sky, gazing at shooting stars in August.

Interlaken was the place that first stole my heart but I've had many more crushes every since. Enjoying a glimpse of the Alps while strolling along Bern's cobbled streets. Being surprised by some very well preserved Roman ruins in Augusta Raurica.  Making a splash in Zürisee while visiting Rapperswil. Plucking wildflowers in the early morning in Lenk. Relaxing in a steaming swimming pool in Leukerbad during a snowy winter afternoon. Or swimming outdoors in Basel every summer. Adjusting to a new life in Switzerland has not always been easy. I've had my ups and downs since I moved here but those little moments are what makes it definitely worth it. And love, of course. Life would be pointless without love, here or anywhere else.

Last Thursday was a bank holiday here, the Swiss National Day. We watched the fireworks the night before and had a barbecue on Thursday afternoon after a nice stroll around Augusta Raurica. Then I thought that this might be a good occasion to reminisce about all these years in Switzerland and the many reasons why I like this country. To focus on the good and let go of the not-so-good. No place is perfect, no life is perfect. But I'm grateful that I get to live mine here amid beautiful nature. So let's celebrate, just like Switzerland has celebrated its 828 birthday - and that's quite an age for a country! The country has changed much since that fateful 1st of August in 1291. Many cantons have added to the confederation and the borders have extended and shrunk throughout history. But Switzerland's wild spark has never been tamed. Its thirst for freedom has never been quenched. Its people remain loyal to its convictions and proud of their heritage. And that's part of what makes this country so unique. That and nature.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The last four years and two months

Four years and two months seems like a very random time frame. It is. But as it happens, today marks two four years and two months since my daughter was born. And so much has happened ever since.

I struggled with anxiety after my daughter was born. I felt better at times. I had another baby, a boy. I read and read and read. And I wrote and wrote and even managed to get a handful of short stories published here and there. I got married. And I went back to work earlier this year. I also stopped blogging, or so it seems.

It was never my idea to stop blogging, it just happened. Much like life happens, I guess. I always meant to come back, I kept on brainstorming ideas for posts and thinking of new content for this ol' site of mine but I always had something else to do. Time was scarce in those days, it still is. Plus I wasn't really seeing the point in keeping a travel blog when I wasn't travelling. And I also grew very disenchanted with the whole blogging thing as it became more and more of a business and less of a hobby. Or a creative outlet. Or whatever you chose to call it.

Yes, the blogging game has changed and I totally lack the time and energy to keep up with the blogging hype. And yet I still like the idea of having a little corner on the internet where I can keep track of my adventures, dump my thoughts on anything and everything. For a while I toyed with the idea of starting from scratch, creating a new blog with a new name and other topics that better reflected my life as it is now. But in the end I always came to the same conclusion: it just wasn't worth it. I had already invested time and energy in choosing a name that meant something to me, designing a layout I liked and crafting many, many posts that will always bring happy memories to me. And so, here I am, scribbling a new post three and a half years after I last hit the 'Publish' button.

So here's to new beginnings, to more stories and pictures. I might not be blogging regularly and I will probably post more about life as it is now and less about travel - although I have many trips to recap. But let's fill the blanks one post at a time ...






Tuesday, February 2, 2016

2016, what's in it for me?


We're already one month and one day into 2016, so I'm as late as ever to ask myself these questions and outline some of my plans for this no-longer-new year. Better late than never, or so they say. Truth being told, I have been neglecting this space for a while now but as much as I think that I've totally outgrown this travel blogging thing, I still find myself coming back from time to time. Of course, my approach to blogging has changed. I no longer seek fame and money, a huge readership and a career as a travel blogger - not that I ever got remotely close to that, mind you. But in a way I feel like I've stepped down the blogging game; I'm writing more for myself and I'm happy about. And as always, happy and thankful for those of you that still read and comment on my posts. A big THANK YOU goes to you.

Somehow I think it's a pity that I'm not devoting that much time and effort to this blog anymore now that I have been travelling more and taking some interesting trips. Well, I may recap all my recent travels any time soon. Or maybe not, who knows. My life and priorities have changed greatly in the last year, I guess, and I am putting all my energy in some other ventures. Besides parenting being so time consuming, you know.

Anyway, one month and one day into 2016, these are some of the things I look forward to. 

Travel. We already have a couple of family trips planned, London and Montreux. And I'm also going to Tenerife in March. We would also like to plan a trip to Ireland this summer, but at the moment, this is just an idea. I love London, I haven't been there for eight years now, and I can't hardly wait to go back. I'm so excited about this trip that I might even blog about it - yay!

And writing. I have been wanting to write like all my life but until now I have always found an excuse not to do it. I really don't know how to write, I will wait until this and this plot ideas are perfectly clear in my head, I'm not that good at writing, I don't have the time, I will never be good enough ... you know how it goes. 2015 was a life-changing year for me, not only because my daughter was born but also because I was confronted with the reality of death more times than I would have liked to, which made me very aware of how brief is our time here. Oh, such an obvious truth, yet so elusive. Becoming aware of my own mortality made me realise that I can only try and do the things I enjoy while I'm alive, for who knows what will happen next. Again, another very obvious truth. And then I had the big revelation. The time to follow my dreams and pursue my callings was now. Not tomorrow when I have more time, not in the future when I learn more about writing, not whenever inspiration finally finds me and takes my hand to write a novel-length story from the first word to the last. No, the time is now and it is up to me, and only me, to make this happen.

So this is what I've been up to lately and what I'm planning to do this year - as far as I have planned. 

Though I'm not the best writer I could be yet, I already started to treat my writing more seriously. I try to write something every weekday and in the last couple of months I have completed several short stories and edited a couple of them. Some are terrible and some are not too bad, but I'm ok with this. I also set up my own personal website, so you can find me now at Irene Montaner. It is a work in progress but I will keep an updated online presence there and write every now and then about how my writing dream career is developing. Feel free to drop by and say hi. Or just write something here and let me know what are your goals for this year. Or if you have any crazy, life-changing idea you would like to turn into reality in 2016. Or if you have any interesting advice for aspiring writers. Or just say hi, really.


Have a lovely Tuesday!

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