France, Italy, Travel

A Wonderful Winter (in Photos)

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It seems like only yesterday we were lamenting the onset of winter, and coming up with all manner of plans to get us through the cold, dark days. But this week, as council workers pulled snow markers from the streets, and washed grit from pavements, I felt a tinge of sadness. Winter was over before it’d even begun.

Unfounded angst aside, our plans became redundant when winter naturally evolved into three months of new experiences. From Gluhwein in Germany to snow shoeing in the French Alps, we’ve met amazing people and discovered hidden gems. And as it comes to an end, we thought we would share some of our favourite winter moments.

Stuttgart, Germany

The Stuttgart Christmas Markets breathed an air of magic into the first dark days of winter.

The Black Forest, Germany

In late January, a snow-covered Black Forest saw us rediscovering our ski feet on Feldberg mountain. The skiing was pretty ordinary, but the views were postcard perfect.

The sunshine saw us stripping down to T-shirts for an afternoon hike around the pretty village of Hinterzarten.

The snow wasn’t half as deep as the last time we visited, but the ghostly trees were just as magical.

T-shirts aside, I was particularly excited to find that a week of sub-zero temperatures had frozen the entire Lake Titisee.

And watching the sun set over the snow covered hills was as magic as watching it set over the ocean.

Beffay, France

Although the mountains were shrouded in cloud when we were welcomed into this cosy chalet in Beffay, France, we had to stop and wonder what we’d done to deserve two weeks house-sitting in this stunning part of the world. So, when the clouds cleared, we were lost for words.

And as if ‘roughing it’ in a cosy chalet wasn’t enough, our ‘responsibilities’ involved walking Solly, the gorgeous Golden Retriever through the surrounding snow-covered mountains.

It was hard to ignore this gorgeous boy’s dropped Frisbee and puppy-dog eyes following us all the way up the mountain. And when the Frisbee got old, there were plenty of snowballs.

Our first snowshoeing experience was far more challenging than anticipated. And after trudging a kilometre, uphill, through knee-deep snow, we settled on snowman building instead.

The Tete du Danay might not have been covered in knee-deep snow, but it was just as challenging a walk . . . with equally as stunning a view.

The mighty Mont Blanc dominated the horizon at the top of the La Clusaz ski area, and offered a moment respite from the idea of skiing (badly) down the icy piste.

Vevey, Switzerland

Our house-sit luck continued with this beautiful home in Vevey, Switzerland, overlooking the stunning Lake Geneva.

And after weeks of marvelling at the neatly stacked walls of firewood across Europe, and surmising what equipment had been used to build them, we learnt, first hand, exactly what was involved: strong arms and hard work!

The summer-like sunshine saw us back on our bikes for the first time in three months and exploring the beautiful Lake Geneva and surrounding mountains.

Bellagio, Italy

A pleasant drive from our house-sit in Lugano, Switzerland was the exclusive village of Bellagio, Italy. While the place is no doubt buzzing in summer, the cooler months made it even more beautiful in the absence of the crowds.

Bad Ischl, Austria

A short train ride from the spa town of Bad Ischl, where we were fortunate enough to score yet another stunning house-sit, is the picturesque town of Hallstatt. Although it was filled with one too many tourist buses for our taste, the ferry ride across the lake did give a stunning view of the town.

Thinking the gondola was closed for winter, we psyched ourselves up to hike to the top of Katrin, just out of Bad Ischl. Surprised find it running, we opted for the walk anyway. Two-thirds of the way up a very steep, very icy, trail we relented, vowing we would make it to the top . . . via gondola . . . another day. The gondola ride in itself was stunning, and undeterred by a Cliffhanger moment we enjoyed a picturesque hike overlooking Bad Ischl and the seven surrounding lakes.

Beautiful scenery and happy memories aside, my favourite part of winter this year has been experiencing the change of season. Seeing the leaves turn brown and fall from their trees. Watching the landscape slowly fall into a winter slumber. Shivering through the sub-zero days then sharing the sense of hope that comes with spring flowers and sunny days. The kind of hope that only comes after braving a proper winter.

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