Last summer, on our trip to Granada, we stayed in this cute apartment in Albayzin (rented through Airbnb) with the amazing views to Alhambra. For me, it was one of those trips when I was just happy to be away, in a nice town. A special trip of the kind in which nothing really is special and in which one of the best things is just to sit there watching the rooftops and palaces shining in the moonlight. And drink wine.
I’ve visited Granada a few times now and I guess that’s one of the secrets for this kind of good trip – familiar enough to feel comfortable and fascinating enough to not feel too comfortable. First time I was there just for sports (orienteering, hiking and skiing in the Sierra Nevada) on our sporty road trip through the Spanish countryside. The second time, we visited a friend studying there, and the Alhambra, and enjoyed the tapas and wine and flamenco in the rainy cold March weather (which caused me the most awful travel flu ever).
The third time, in June last summer, I mainly concentrated on drinking wine and tinto de verano, eating tapas and finding the already known and new (for me) gems in and around this lovely town.
It’s hard to say why exactly I like this place so much that I come back over and over. Some of it, and maybe even most of it, is because of the combination of mountains, a lively city, amazing food and music culture, of tapas and flamenco, and the Arabic influence.
Or maybe it’s just because everything’s so beautiful there. Just look at this.
During summer the city can be extremely hot and on our visit, at the beginning of June, it was moderately hot, because of which the visit to the mountains was extra nice. During winter, on the other hand, it can be cold, even snowy, and then especially the hammams are a nice option.
There are these places which just have to be visited; places like Verbier. For me, it all started years ago, when getting really into freeskiing and learning of these legendary places like Chamonix, Verbier, St. Anton etc. Where mountains are big, where extreme is the real extreme, and where the after ski is really deserved.
I still haven’t done any proper ski bum season in the Alps, as I planned some years ago, and for which I tried to learn French and German without much luck (but someday, baby, someday). There came other dreams and other plans, but still, the places were always there, especially in my dreams. And then I moved to Switzerland. Not for bumming really, but at some point I ended up bumming in Verbier, for a while at least.
It was, or well should have been, the FWT finals on that weekend in the end of March; Swatch Xtreme Verbier 2017. Unfortunately, for the lack of snow and for the strong winds, they could only run the junior race during that weekend, and we had only the weekend free to stay there. Nevertheless, it was a good trip. Drinking very good wine, eating very good burgers, and meeting the legends, the world champions and other weekend warriors, and dancing the night away. It was lovely and krhm. very Scandinavian, as Verbier is, and I sure need to get back there for some more of the good vibes.
Below you may see Bec Des Rosses, which you should know if you know anything about the hardcore freeskiing. I don’t think I’ll never ski it myself, but en place it really impresses, and scares, even the mere spectator, giving that funny feeling in the stomach, just by watching it from distance… And I can only imagine how it feels to really ski it down; huge respect for the ones who can do it. Nevertheless, the other slopes and off piste areas of Verbier offer nice moderate challenges for us who are more for the comfortable kind of skiing.
Verbier is about high-level extreme, but it’s also about high-level life quality. So if you are like me, or even less interested in the skiing, the wine and food and party scene are also more than nice to keep you entertained. Just remember to save some money first.
Ticino’s the sunny side of Switzerland, they said. And after last Sunday I can pass the message on, with empirical proof. Past year, many people and magazine pages have advised, especially during the rainy months of Bernese Oberland, to visit Italy or at least Ticino, as it’s said to be almost always sunny in there. It tempted me, but since it hasn’t rained so much (or even better; it’s been snowing) and there’s been enough of exploring at home in the Jungfrau Region, it took me a while to get myself further. But last Sunday, on my birthday, when it was pouring rain in Interlaken, as it regularly does during these months, which further on didn’t allow any nice hiking or biking or climbing or skiing at home, my road trip wishes were answered. And so I got a ride and the crew to Ticino, with the mission of hiking to the top of Monte San Giorgio and eating some pizza in Italy.
Ticino’s only three hours away from Interlaken, so it’s almost perfect for a day trip and just perfect for a weekend getaway (next time hotel and biking too, please). Not to mention that it’s just an hour drive away from Milan if you’re interested in flying nearby. But luckily we didn’t need to fly this time; all we did was took the car and drove away. After the Gotthard tunnel (of courseI hadgoogle how the story of the fire goes in thatloooongtunnel – btw when did they start offering 4G in road tunnels?!) the rain stopped and the sky turned cloudy but dry. Moreover, the roadside signs turned to Italian; it was like going abroad, even though we weren’t even officially on the Italian side yet.
Finally in Ticino, after the drive and 10min hunt for the parking spot, we hit the trail through this forest towards our destination, the top of Monte San Giorgio (which holds an UNESCO status, btw), in where the greatest birthday surprise was waiting for me: it was sunny, and the views were just breathtaking. The “Sunday walk” kind of hike didn’t really do the job, but the snow-topped Swiss alps in the north, Italy in the south, the lakes, and the green hills of Ticino took my breath away, big time. And when the day ended just a short drive further to the Italian side, with pizza and wine, panna cotta and espresso, I hugged my crew and said that this was definitely one of the best, if not even the best, birthday I’ve ever had. My favourite people, food, drinks and mountains. La grande bellezza. Only thing missing was the sea and gelato, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time when I get the crew to Finale Ligure or Ascona, for even more Italian outdoors fun. Or I might just return to Ticino with more time and my bike, as it was already more than fine in here.
FI: Voihan Pyhä Yrjö (San Giorgio), mikä paikka. Tämä Ticino siis, jonne suuntasimme sunnuntaina juhlistamaan syntymäpäivääni. Interlaken tervehti kyseisenä aamuna sateella, kuten tähän aikaan täällä asiaan kuuluu, ja ainoa kuivalta vaikuttanut kolkka oli säätiedotuksen mukaan Luganon seutu. Syntymäpäivän, ja huonon kotiseudun sään (ei kiipeilyä, ei pyöräilyä, ei vaellusta tai hiihtoa) varjolla sain siis helposti hankittua matkaan autokyydin ja mukavan seuran, sekä idean valloitettavasta huipusta. Ja niin suuntasimme aamulla auton keulan kohti Ticinoa, läpi Gotthardin (surullisen)kuuluisan tunnelin ja sumuisten maisemien.
Vielä Meridessä autolle parkkipaikan löydettyämme ja kohti Monte San Giorgion huippua suuntaavalle polulle astuttuamme taivasta peitti ohut pilviverho, joka ei kuitenkaan haitannut nauttimasta kävelystä läpi vihreän metsän ja ohi viiniköynnösten, heinäsirkkojen sirityksen säestyksellä. Lopulta UNESCO -stauksestakin nauttivan vuoren huipulle päästyämme sain vieläpä ihan parhaan syntymäpäiväyllätyksen taivaan auettua ja aurinkon lämmitäessä lepohetkeen asettuvia matkalaisia. Pakko kai nyt on uskoa kaikkia niitä vakuutuksia, että Ticinossa paistaa aina.
Leppoisan sunnuntaikävelyn jälkeen nälkäisinä ja janoisina päätimme vielä ajaa muutaman ylimääräisen kilometrin Italian puolelle, jossa muutaman neuvonpidon (kiitos italainen seuralainen tulkkauksesta) jälkeen löysimme tiemme erinomaisen antipastin, pizzan, viinin, panna cottan ja espressokupillisten äärelle. Siinä kohtaa myönnän hyvin epäsuomalaiseen tapaan halanneeni seuralaisiani tiukasti, ja todenneeni kyseessä olleen yksi parhaista, ellei paras syntymäpäivä.
Ticino on Interlakenista vain kolmen tunnin ajomatkan päässä (ja Milanosta vain vajaan tunnin) ja vaikka se näin soveltuukin hyvin päiväretkeilyyn, voisin suositella sitä jopa vielä enemmän yhden tai kahden yön reissua alueelle. Itse ajattelin seuravalla kerralla varata mukaan myös pyörän, ja aikaa uimiseen ja gelatolle.