The Matterhorn Says Good Morning

When you stay the night at Fluhalp, you can wake up to a view like this. Pretty darn spectacular!


The Matterhorn above the morning clouds.


Up Close in the Uffizi

This month I had the joy of returning to Florence, one of my favorite Italian cities. I even got to spend an entire afternoon in the Uffizi! Talk about bliss!

Art is so inspiring. While I do enjoy creating music and word/photo collages, I’m not so talented with paintbrushes. Usually when I go to a museum and stand in front of a painting, I take in the whole experience. Just absorb the whole, reflect, then move on.

This time, I decided to change my perspective and focus on details I’d never paid much attention to in the past. It was fun and challenging to admire some of my favorites in a different way. Up close and personal. In honor of this new-found focus, I thought we could play a short game of Name That Painting! Good luck!

Exhibit A:

Can you name this Botticelli painting?

Can you name this painting? And its artist?

Exhibit B:

Can you name this painting? And its artist?

Can you name this painting? And its artist?

Exhibit C:

Can you name this painting? And its artist?

Can you name this painting? And its artist?

Aaaand… go! 🙂


Update: answers are in the comments!

Harry Quebert

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair (original title: La VĂ©ritĂ© sur l’Affaire Harry Quebert) is a present-day masterpiece. Author JoĂ«l Dicker is truly a genius.

His book follows author Marcus Goldman, an author at a loss for inspiration for his second book. His college professor and mentor is accused of a 30-year-old murder, so Goldman returns to small town, New Hampshire, to restore his friend’s name. He conducts his own investigation, which becomes the subject of his book.

There are so many things I like about this book. One of them is the depth of Dicker’s characters: each one of them is complex. I really enjoy books that explore true human nature instead of painting one person as “good” and another as “bad”… because really, life is more nuanced than that.

Another is the plot. As I was reading, I would hypothesize about where the book was going. Sometimes I was right, and sometimes I wasn’t. It was refreshing not to be able to guess everything but oh-so-rewarding when I could say, I knew it!

Perhaps my favorite part is the ending. Without giving too much away, I remain blown away by Dicker’s ability to redeem nearly every character involved. Quite honestly, I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful ending.

If you haven’t read it, I highly recommending finding a copy NOW!!

Lost Your Name?

So, I’m gonna switch gears here. No vacation talk – I want to show you a fun new book find!

As a kid, one of my favorite gifts from my grandparents was a personalized book that had me as a character! So, for some of my favorite kids here, I wanted to give them the same type of gift. And I turned to the Internet for different options.

Since this gift was for boy/girl twins, I didn’t want too much competition or comparison (if I got one of them a Mickey book, for example, the other would be jealous). That made choosing a bit more… particular. But I found the perfect books to personalize for those two special kids in my life.

I invite you to explore !

The idea around these books is that *the child* loses his/her name and goes on an adventure to collect all the letters. Along the way, he/she meets different animals that give them a letter. Elephant gives E, Lion gives L, etc. Each child’s book is different because different letters make up their name (don’t worry about double letters, the creators have it covered)! Such a clever idea, and such a fun adventure for kids to enjoy!

Docastaway Experience, Part One

Sorry to have kept you waiting for so long! Apparently, real life is much more hectic than normal after a relaxing 2-week vacation. I am so ready to relive those moments and also to share them with you! So, without further ado…

Our journey was beginning! It was too early for our local bus to be running, so D’s parents picked us up on Saturday morning (May 18) and drove us to Yverdon-les-Bains so we could catch the train to the airport. After a short flight from Geneva to Amsterdam, a long-haul from there to Guangzhou (11+ hours), and another short flight to Manila, our adventure could “finally” begin. Up until this point, I had been the one reserving the legs of the journey. The rest of the way had been prepared by the travel company Docastaway. It truly was a leap of faith as we had only had email contact with them up to that point. The overall feeling was excitement, mixed with a bit of caution and a spirit of adventure.

We changed terminals (surprisingly easy considering horror stories I’d read about the Manila airport) and caught a flight to “Local Town.” (Out of respect for Docastaway and their services, I will not be revealing exact locations.) We had to wait on the tarmac for 45 minutes before taking off, no explanation offered. At least I got a great nap in while we waited! Upon arrival at “Local Town” later in the afternoon than we were expecting, we learned why there had been a delay: a thunderstorm had just passed through. We collected our suitcase, and went to look for the person picking us up. At such a small airport, the meeting was made quickly. We drove in an air-conditioned van/bus over pot-holed and not-always-paved roads to the actual town. At this point, the bus driver called someone on his cell phone and dropped us off alone at the port. Although things had been going smoothly, D and I exchanged wary glances. But, lo and behold, 5 minutes later, one of the hotel workers arrived on a small (very small) speedboat. We got in and were whisked away to… we didn’t know where, and we couldn’t really see where either, because the sky kept getting darker and darker with night.

"Marooning" Island. This was not taken at our time of arrival (because it was too dark to see anything).

“Marooning” Island. This was not taken at our time of arrival (because it was too dark to see anything).

Instead of dropping us off directly at our private beach + bungalow, they decided to put us up at the actual hotel for the first night. This was complete with a coconut welcome drink, a dinner buffet, the beach-front cabin for the night (the starry sky was incredible!), and a breakfast buffet. Could have gotten used to the great service, but we were here on more of an isolated adventure this time around!

Welcome drink at the beach-front cabin.

Welcome drink at the beach-front cabin.

After breakfast, we were transported by boat to our own private beach! They dropped us off with a cell phone and promised to return later in the day with our kayaks and to replenish the water supply. That meant we had time to get installed in the bungalow, explore the beach, make and eat lunch, and go snorkeling. When we were in the water, we felt like we were getting stung by small, invisible creatures. The stinging went away after a few minutes. When the hotel workers returned in the afternoon, one of them confirmed that this was jellyfish season so the stinging was probably by baby jellyfish that were too small to notice. So, from day one, we knew we’d have to be on the lookout!

Did we find more jellyfish? Sorry folks, out of time for the moment… Check back soon for the next installment!

“Marooning” in the Philippines

I am now the biggest fan of the unique travel agency Docastaway. Founded by Alvaro Cerezo, this company specializes in desert island vacations (mostly in Indonesia and the Philippines).

We signed up for their Marooning experience and were on their glorious island from May 18 to June 1. A vacation that will be hard to forget. 🙂 Here are a few pictures for you while I work on more posts about the trip:

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If this type of experience is something that interests you, contact Docastaway! They have great customer service. It being something I found online, I was wary at first. But I was blown away by their amazing service. My assigned agent always answered my questions within a day (usually just a few hours) and made sure I felt as comfortable and as informed as I needed to be.

Absolutely zero regrets. In fact, we’ve already started thinking about where we’d like to go next time!

Violin Virtuoso

My soul is musical. Going to orchestra concerts is such a joy, especially when there is an amazing talent featured in the program, like a concert we went to recently in our village.

Alexandre Dubach is a Paganini genius. I was floored as soon as he started the Violin Concerto No. 1. The more he played (from memory), the more in awe I was at his brilliance (and at Paganini’s). Frequent double-stop thirds (lots of chromatic and harmonic ones, no less!!) made my jaw drop, not to mention his bow work, flying fingers, and vigor.

As an encore, he played a version of Happy Birthday (similar to this one) for a friend in the orchestra:

And of course, he just happened to be playing his Strad the night we went. Sigh. Way to melt my heart in an instant!


They’re building a castle using middle-aged techniques!

In rural France, the Guédelon project has been underway since 1997 and is projected to be completed in the 2020s. Part tourist attraction, part 13th century construction lab, Guédelon is definitely a sight to behold.

To build the castle, workers use only local materials, split and carve stone themselves, build wooden support structures and horse-drawn carts and hamster wheels. They also make ropes and forge every nail and tool that is used on the site. They even mix their own mortar with sand and limestone.

Visiting GuĂ©delon (I’ve done so twice now) is an incredible learning experience not only for researchers and workers but also the visiting public!

Gianadda Statue Garden

Before the A-Z Challenge, I had posted about a temporary exhibit at Gianadda and promised a follow-up about their outdoor statue garden! 🙂

What is unique about the Gianadda Foundation is that they welcome all forms of art for temporary exhibits. This is evident in their statue garden as well, which is an eclectic mix of… well, look and see:

Definitely worth a visit!

Marisa V Photography

If you want a photographer in the Neuchâtel area, look no further! Marisa V is your girl. We took a family photo session with her recently and had a great time. Marisa is creative, easy to work with, and such a gem!

Plus, she finished the photos quickly and provided us with multiple copies of jacketed DVDs and prints! A great service provided by a great lady!