Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fall in Yosemite

Last weekend we travelled to Yosemite to see the fall colors. My online research showed that the peak fall color in the valley was likely to be for that particular weekend. And so I was all excited about the trip. To add to the fun, a couple of friends decided to join in too - the more the merrier.

Before we go into the actual description of the trip, some background is essential. When I came to the US it was to the east coast which is home to some of the best fall colors. While I do not miss all the cold and snow from the east coast, the 2 things I do miss here in California are the spring flowers and the fall colors. So when my husband went back to school on the east coast, I would travel every fall to meet him in the hope of seeing some color. But of course he was always busy and so we never made the trip. To cut a long story short, it was after a span of 7 years that I was hoping to see fall again.

We set off early morning (5 am - I absolutely insisted we leave early) and were inside the park by 9 am. It took us another 30 minutes or more to drive to the valley floor where the color was at its peak. It was stop and go after that even without the traffic - we wanted to stop at each and every bend :-)

The color was in plenty - the oaks, dogwoods etc. all were showing color. It was a pleasant day too. The colors were being clearly reflected in whichever rivers and ponds still had water (since by fall most of the water bodies are already drying up). We spent a good amount of time in the valley walking around, clicking pictures.

We later went to the mariposa grove and hiked a bit there. On our way back through the valley we noticed that the color was even brighter - it was changing fast, within a span of half a day.

The following day we travelled back - reaching the bay area by mid-afternoon, in time to get ready for the work-week ahead. It had been a little hectic but a very fulfilling weekend.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

My latest favorite place in the world is Lauterbrunnen. It is a beautiful valley near Interlaken.

For most Indians, Interlaken is synonymous with Yash Chopra movies and classic Swiss scenery. But about 20 miles from Interlaken, is this quaint little town and valley called Lauterbrunnen and this place formed the base of our Swiss travel in the Berner Oberland area.

While Interlaken boasts of all the touristy stuff, if you want to live close to the mountains and numerous waterfalls (close to nature as my mom would say), Lauterbrunnen is where you need to be. A small town, that leads to a beautiful valley, with waterfalls falling on either side. When we went out for our first walk on the valley floor, I stood at one point and counted the total number of waterfalls visible - the count was 11. Streams trickle down from anywhere and everywhere. My husband remarked - "This is much like Yosemite, but multiplied by 10'.

Days in this place just seemed to vanish - there was so much to do. There were beautiful walks on the valley floor next to the river, and numerous hikes, some to the top of waterfalls, others took you high onto the ridge surrounding the valley. One day was spent taking the cogwheel train to Jungfrau - the top of Europe. Another day was spent taking the lift to Murren and walking the flower trail over there (More on the flower trail in a later post).

On a rainy day (to my disappointment, I would have been happier closer to the valley), we also did the Golden Pass Scenic route in a train and explored the lakes near Interlaken. BTW that is where Interlaken gets its name - "Between the lakes" - it is between two lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.

Valley view from our hotel

I guess we were also very satisfied with our stay at this place - at the Staubach Hotel, a very comfortable and fairly reasonable hotel. The staff was very helpful and gave us numerous tips on things to do and places to eat in the area.

If I look back at our trip, I think we were happiest at Lauterbrunnen. Another time around, I would just plan to go to this area and spend a week there.

View of the valley from one of the mountains