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Brian's Diary
Life in Geneva and other places
I am not sure how long this beautiful autumn weather will last, but with a suuny day in prospect and a forecast temperature of 22C I wasn't going to let the opportunity pass of doing some more cycling - even though it was on my own and had to be cut short due to the need to transport some of the participants in our recently completed training to the bus stop in order to travel to the airport.

I drove 45 mins to Pringy near Annecy, unloaded the bike and set off about 13:00. My route took me through Epagny, Chaumontet, Sillingy, Nonglard and Hauteville-sur-Fier to Vallieres where I sat in a park and ate a late lunch (sandwich and fruit).

View from near Epagny


I continued on through Sion to Saint André where I crossed the Fier river and made my way to Rumilly via Lornay, cycling along the opposite bank of the Fier. From Rumilly I returned to Hauteville-sur-Fier and retraced my original route back to the car at Prigny. A total journey time of just over 4 hours.

View from near Saint-André

River Fier near Hautville sur Fier

River Fier near Rumilly

The ride was enjoyable and scenic but more challenging than expected. It involved much climbing and descending, some of it quite steep. I was certainly tired by the end of it but satisfied nevertheless.
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Another weekend of fine weather enabled Tino and I to proceed with the planned ride to Albertville. We had hoped Enka our colleague from Franciscans International would be able to join us, but a family situation that arose prevented that from happening. As it seemed too ambitious to attempt the ride from Annecy, and as I was already familiar with the cycle path along the lake, we made our way to Duingt from where we planned to commence the ride.

Duingt on lake Annecy, the starting and finishing point for the ride

Our plans were thrown into confusion initially when we found the cycle path was closed due to a cycling race. After explaining our intention of riding to Albertville to the officials, we were advised to follow the main road for 3-4 kilometres to Doussard where we would again be able to pick up the cycle path. Accordingly we set off around 10:30am and despite a bit of traffic on the road, it didn't prove to be a significant problem.

The cycle trail proved to be very flat which made for a relaxed and enjoyable ride while surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. Signs of autumn with the red, brown and gold beginning to appear in the leaves of the trees, added to the enjoyment.

After passing through the town of Ugine, the path merged onto a quiet minor road which ran parallel to the busy highway and beside the L'Arly river. A few kilometres from Albertville the cycle path resumed.


L'Arly river

We arrived in Albertville around 12:30 and ascended the hill to the medieval village of Conflans which provided a panoramic view of Albertville. We also discovered that being the first Sunday of the month the Art and History museum was open for free! I could never resist a bargain like that, so we spent an enjoyable and interesting hour in the museum assisted by a free audio guide in English. The museum contained items from Roman times through to the 19th century, with a particular focus on the region's religious heritage and everyday life.


Ancient tower, Conflans

View of Albertville from Conflans

Emperor for a day - Conflans museum of Art and History

While waiting for the museum to open we also visited the local church which provided a guide in English for visitors explaining the history of the church and its various features of interest, statues, paintings etc.

Interior of Conflans Church

After visiting the museum we made our way into the centre of town to buy a sandwich for lunch. Then as we ended up staying longer in Albertville than planned, we set a brisk pace to return to our car only to discover that the cycle path was deceptively flat. We were pushing slightly uphill for most of the return journey. We hadn't noticed that as we cruised along on our outward journey! The head wind also meant that we had to work hard on the 34 km to return to our starting point. That didn't prevent us from stopping to admire the view from time to time however.


Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy
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The prospect of beautiful weather for the weekend and the need to be at home on Sunday due to the arrival of a visitor, meant that I planned a ride for Saturday, and Tino agreed to accompany me.

We set off around 9:15 and drove to Montmélian which was about an hour away, just beyond Chambery from where we started the ride. The plan was to follow a suggested cycle route along the valley of the Isere river towards Albertville, cross the river and return via the suggested route on the opposite bank.

Montmélian. Starting point for our ride

Our route initially took us through numerous small villages, among them were Arbin, La Chappelle, Cruet and Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte to Saint Pierre de Albigny. The weather was perfect, sunny and mild with no wind, the roads quiet and the scenery beautiful.

View from near La Chappelle

Church at Cruet

Looking towards Saint-Pierre-d'Albigny from near Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte

A little beyond Saint-Pierre-d'Albigny we passed the Chateau de Miolans, a former fortress prison. The site, which has been occupied since the fourth century AD, strategically controlled the route across the junction of the Isere and Arc rivers. The fortress was converted into a prison by the Counts of Savoy in the mid-16th century. Its notoriety led it to be compared to the Bastille in Paris. Its dungeons were called Hell, Purgatory, Paradise, Treasury, and little and great hope. Among the notable persons imprisoned at Miolins were:
Pietro Giannone, 1736–1738, historian.
Vincent Rene Lavin, 1767–1786, forger of banknotes.
François-Marie's Alée, Baron Songy, 1772
and the infamous Marquis de Sade, who was imprisoned here for several months in 1772 before making an escape.

All prisoners were released following the French revolution. The fortress prison was abandoned and allowed to fall into ruin as a symbol of the system of the Ancien Régime.

In 1869, Eugene Alexander Guiter, Prefect of Savoy, privately bought the fortress from the French state and began its restoration. Castle Miolans was classified as a historical monument in May 1944.

Chateau de Miolans

Countryside near Saint-Pierre-d'Albigny

Chateau de Miolans

After passing through Freterive we reached Grésy-sur-Isere where we detoured to visit the old church of Saint-Pierre-aux-Liens. Built on the site of a Roman temple, it was one of the first churches in the valley. After many transformations over the centuries, it was decided to build a new church in the village square after the French Revolution and the old one was deconsecrated in the middle of the 19th century. The old church gradually fell into ruin until 1991 when the decision was made to preserve it.

Near Freterive

Near Freterive

In front of the old church was an ancient stele dating from Roman times. The accompanying explanatory notice explained that a Gallo-Roman village was located on the great Roman Milan-Vienne road its presence attested by the discovery of numerous ancient references. The stele of grey limestone which has been incorporated into a fountain was discovered in the cemetery in the sixteenth century. It was an honorary monument placed during his lifetime by Titus Marcias Taurinus, an official who undoubtedly exercised municipal functions. His name is known through other inscriptions of 1st century Grésy.

Roman inscription at Grésy sur Isere

We departed from the cycle route at Grésy as the next stage seemed to involve a stiff uphill climb. In retrospect it may not have been a great idea as we ended up on a rough stony track which made me anxious about the possibility of a puncture! Eventually we made it to the main road then travelled via Frontenex to Albertville which we reached around 2pm. As we were planning a future ride to Albertville and the afternoon was already well advanced, we decided not to spend and time there so we had a sandwich and drink for lunch then commenced our return journey, initially via a cycle path along the riverbank to Saint Helene-sur-Isere.

Isere river near Albertville

Again we made a navigation error by not entering the village where we would have found signs to Aiton, the next village on our route. Instead we again found ourselves on an unpaved road and took a further wrong turn into a forest while trying to extract ourselves. Eventually we found the main road and made good time despite a stiff head wind. After further indecision at Aiton (helped by some friendly advice from another passing cyclist) we continued on through Chamousset, Chateauneuf, Bourgneuf, Maltaverne, Coise, Saint-Jean-Pied-Gauthier, Planaise and La Chavanne. The route was undulating but not especially demanding, but after more than six hours on the bike I was starting to feel tired.

View of Chateau de Miolans from near Chateauneuf


We re-crossed the river into Montmélian then had the frustration of not being able to locate where we had parked the vehicle! Eventually we worked out that there were two parallel roads from Chambery into Montmélian and we had been looking for the vehicle on the wrong one! We loaded up the bicycles and began the return journey at around 5:30pm.

It had been a long days ride (7 hours from the time of our departure to our return and over 80 km) but a very satisfying day.
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After much uncertainty due to the weather forecast Tino and I decided to proceed with our plan for a cycle ride from Yverdo les Bains to Ins. The plan involved transporting the cikes on the back of the car to Yverdon, cycling to Ins(about 4 hours) then catching the train back to Yverdon. The uncertainty with the weather arose from the threatened thunderstorms and rain that were forecast from a study of the reports earlier in the week. The final forecast for Yverdon and Neuchatel predicted cloudy and overcast conditions with sunny breaks in the morning, some possible thunderstorms and isolated showers between 1:00pm and 2:00pm in the afternoon before a return to cloudy conditions until around 5:00pm when more rain was due to set in. We decided to risk it and set off around 8:30am to arrive at Yverdon a little before 10:00am

Lake Neuchatel at Yverdon. Starting point for our ride.

The first part of the journey was along a cycle path through flat but forested terrain. It also passed through several nature reserves. Along the way I was rewarded with the sight of a small herd of wild deer. We also detoured to the lake shore where there was an observation point for migratory birds that nested on the shoreline. It was amusing to see the warning signs abour sitting under a tree as the beavers were active in chewing through the trunks of the trees making them vulnerable to falling and crushing the unwary traveller! We certainly saw considerable evidence of the beavers activity!

View of Lake Neuchatel from nature reserve near Yvonand

A couple of deer in a nature reserve near Cheyres

A highlight for me was the town of Estavayer-le-Lac with its medieval buildings, including a church, Dominican Convent and Chateau, and its ancient ramparts.


Congregation leaving the Collegiate church of St Laurent on Sunday morning at Estavayer-le-Lac

Estavayer-le-Lac. Note the frogs decorating the main street. Probably related to the the fact that the town has a frog museum which houses 150-year-old satirical tableaus made from stuffed frogs! (which we did not visit)

Dominican convent Estavayer-le-Lac

Gate and rampparts at Estavayer-le-Lac

The Chateau d'Estavayer-le-Lac was built from 1392 by the knight Pierre and his brother Guillaume d'Estavayer. In 1432, the castle was acquired by Humbert, the illegitimate son of Amadeus VII, Count of Savoy, who completed the defensive structure. Humbert (1377 - 1443) was known as 'the Bastard of Savoy'and he died in the castle. During the Burgundian war, the castle was set on fire. It is thanks to the reconstruction work carried out after 1476 that the castle obtained its present profile. Today, the castle serves as the seat of the prefecture of the Broye district.

Chateau d'Estavayer-le-Lac

Ancient gateway to the medieval town

View from the Chateau

We continued our ride through farmland, forests and small villages. The apples which were in season looked very tempting but the orchards were always fenced off which made it a little difficult for access.

The route was along quiet roads and occasionally unsealed, forest tracks. generally it was quite flat with a couple of hilly sections, only one which caused me to dismount and walk the bike for about 100m. The weather forecast proved very accurate. It was generally overcast, cool to mild with some sunny periods. Importantly there was no wind and we made good time. The predicted storm clouds gradually began to gather as we neared our destination. We almost made it to Ins before it rained but it was not to be. the last 15 mins were spent in light rain.

Looking across the lake to Neuchatel

At Ins we purchased a roll and drink for a late lunch and bought our train tickets back to Yverdon. By the time the train arrived the rain had ceased and we were bathed in sunshine. The weather forecast had proved very accurate. The train journey took over an hour with two changes of train at Murten and Payerne. As we headed back to Geneva, light rain began to fall intermittently. Our return was delayed by an accident on the Motorway which meant we arrived at gaillard a little after 6pm. Another satisfying day.

Journey's end. Waiting for the train at Ins
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It was a public holiday in Geneva (although not for the rest of Switzerland) so Tino and I decided to load our bicycles onto the car and visit Delemont, a town of around 12,000 people and the capital of the Jura canton. We planned to do some cycling as well as visiting the town.

The journey via Lausanne, Neuchatel and Bienne took under 3 hours and we decided to park in the village of Courendlin which was a few kilometres from Delemont and one of the villages on our planned cycle route (following a suggested itinerary obtained from the website of the tourist office).

By the time we reached our destination, heavy clouds had gathered and rain threatened. This was contrary to the weather forecast, but fortunately the rain did not eventuate and the weather progressively improved during the day. Although it was a a little cold when we began our ride it later turned into a mild, sunny and pleasant afternoon.

We entered Delemont and made our way to the medieval old town. We followed a suggested walking route through the streets of the old town visiting the Porte du Loup (1775), the Chateau (built between 1716 and 1721 and now a primary school) as well as the town hall and its square containing the fountain of the Virgin. The square was the scene of an historic demonstration in 1947 which sparked a liberation movement that eventually resulted in the creation of a mainly Catholic, canton (Jura) which broke away from the Protestant canton of Berne.

Porte du Loup (Wolf gate)

Delemont. Rue de 23rd Juin

Fountain of the Virgin.

Delemont. 18th century Hotel de Ville (town hall).

After a sandwich and drink we made our way to the Chapel du Vorbourg an 11th century Marian shrine believed to have been consecrated by Pope St Leo IX during a visit in 1049. The shrine was built on the site of a castle the origin of which is obscure, although it is believed there was a fortress on the site from Roman times. The castle was damaged in an earthquake in 1356 and eventually destroyed as a result of several fires and wars, although the chapel survived. It appears to have suffered damage during the religious wars following the Reformation, but was restored and reconsecrated in 1586. The site also survived the unrest during the French Revolution although its statues were hidden for a time after which the pilgrimages to venerate Mary were recommenced. Fifteen stone crosses (stations of the cross) line the avenue leading to the chapel which is perched atop a rocky outcrop and set in a forest.

Chapel du Vorbourg

The site provided some great views both towards Delemont and of surrounding locations. Some great views were also obtained on the road leading up to the chapel.

View from the Chapel du Vorbourg

View of Delemont

We next resumed our ride passing through the villages of Develier, Courfaivre and Courtetelle (with only one wrong turn soon corrected) before we returned to our car. it was an easy ride through mainly flat terrain, but surrounded by thickly wooded hills and rolling green pastures and farmland.


Cycling near Chatillon

We decided on a different return route which took us via La Chaux-de-Fonds. It took over twenty minutes to negotiate the narrow streets and traffic in La Chaux-de-Fonds and then we again ground to a halt outside Lausanne. I could never understand why there was so little movement with three lanes of traffic and no traffic lights or intersections to negotiate between Lausanne and Geneva! The result was the return journey took about an hour longer than expected but overall it was an enjoyable day.
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I took the morning train from Gare St Jean to Saint Emilion; a journey of a little over an hour. Saint-Émilion's history goes back to prehistoric times and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with Romanesque churches and ruins stretching along steep and narrow streets.

The Romans planted vineyards in what was to become Saint-Émilion as early as the 2nd century. The town was named after the monk Émilion, a travelling confessor, who settled in a hermitage carved into the rock there in the 8th century. It was the monks who followed him that started up the commercial wine production in the area. It is now one of the principal red wine areas of Bordeaux.

Saint Emilion

The town was reached via a 20 minute uphill walk from the station and I spent several hours wandering the streets and visiting sites of interest. Highlights of the visit included La Tour du Roy, a tower whose precise date of construction in the 13th century and its purpose is disputed. The Jurade, a wine-marking brotherhood, is believed by some to be the group that organised its construction. Although the Jurade was dissolved during the French Revolution, it was recreated in 1948 to assure the promotion of Saint-Emilion wine in the world. The Jurade continue to use the tower today meeting at the top of the tower to proclaim the New Wine Judgment in June and the Grape Harvest in September. I climbed the 118 steps to the top to obtain a panoramic view of the town and its surrounding countryside.

Tour du Roy

The Porte Brunet is the only surviving gate in the 12th century ramparts built to protect the town.

Porte Brunet

View of countryside from Porte Brunet

The Franciscans came to Saint Emilion at the beginning of the 13th century, but their original convent was destroyed during the Hundred Years war. It was two hundred years before they could build a new convent, but the community was then expelled during the French revolution in 1791. After falling into ruin the site was eventually classified as an historic monument in 2005 and converted to a winery.

Le Cloitre des Cordeliers. (The cloister of the Cordeliers). Site of a former Franciscan monastery, now a winery.

La Porte de la Cadene is the location of the only remaining timbered house in the town.

La Porte de la Cadene

Other sites visited included the Great Wall, the only surviving fragment of the 12th century Dominican monastery; the 12th century Cardinal's palace of which only the facade remains; the ruins of the Ursuline convent which was the site of a school for poor girls until the nuns were expelled during the Revolution, and the monolithic church, a 12th century church dug into a limestone cliff. The church was carved in the 12th century, painted in the 14th, devastated in the 16th, battered in the 18th during the Revolution and restored in the 20th. I could only view the exterior of the church as it was not open to the public at the time of my visit.

Monolithic church

Saint Emilion

Saint Emilion

The Collegiate church dominates the village. The religious community that lived there from the 12th to the 18th century was a college of Canons following the rule of Saint Augustin. Construction started in 1110 at the request of the Archbishop Arnaud Géraud de Cabanac. The transept and the core of the Collegiate church were transformed between the 13th and 15th centuries. Today the Collegiate church is the parish church of the village whilst the adjoining cloister houses the tourist office.

Saint Emilion. Collegiate church in the background

Cloister of Collegiate church

Again it was a very hot day and I was quite tired by the time I walked back to the station to take the train back to Bordeaux. I had something to eat and then relaxed after the day.
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I decided to travel to the August ERI Board meeting via Bordeaux. I managed to secure a couple of cheap flights and some cheap accommodation in Bordeaux through airbnb. I duly I arrived in Bordeaux in the afternoon only to have my journey from the airport delayed by a security scare. Apparently a bag was left unattended somewhere in the terminal which resulted n a section of the terminal, including the bus stop, being sealed off by armed soldiers. After a loud detonation some time later (presumably the bag in question was destroyed) we were eventually allowed to board the bus for the hour long journey to Gare St Jean where my accommodation was located.

After checking in and taking a short stroll around the area where I was located I had something to eat before retiring early ahead of a busy day of sightseeing planned for the morrow.

In the morning I took the tram into the centre of the city stopping first at the Place de Quinconces, reportedly the largest square in France, where I viewed the monument to the Girondins. The Girondins were members of a loosely knit political faction during the French Revolution. From 1791 to 1793, they were active within the Legislative Assembly and the National Convention. The Girondins campaigned for the end of the monarchy, but then resisted the spiraling momentum of the Revolution which brought them into conflict with a radical left-wing faction within the revolutionary government. This conflict eventually led to their fall, their mass execution and the beginning of the Reign of Terror. There name came from the fact that most members came from departement of Gironde near Bordeaux in southwest France.

Monument to the Girondins

A short walk brought me to the Grand Theatre with a façade dating from 1780 hosts which operas, dance & music performances.

Bordeaux National Opera - Grand Theatre

A short distance away was the 17th century Eglise Notre Dame (Church of Our Lady)

Eglise Notre Dame

From there I visited the cathedral of Saint Andre. The cathedral was consecrated by Pope Urban II in 1096. Of the original Romanesque edifice, only a wall in the nave remains. The Royal Gate is from the early 13th century, while the rest of the construction is mostly from the 14th-15th centuries. The building is a national monument of France. It was in this church in 1137 that my ancestor the 15-year-old Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future Louis VII, a few months before she became Queen.

Bordeaux. Cathedral of Sant Andre

Nearby was the Tour Pey Berland (Tower of Pey Berland) named after a former archbishop of Bordeaux who commissioned its construction in the 15th century. It has remained isolated from the rest of the Cathedral to protect the Cathedral from the vibrations of the bells.

Tour Pey Berland

For a small fee one could climb the several hundred steps in the winding staircase to obtain a panoramic view of Bordeaux.

View of Bordeaux from Tour Pey Berland

View of Bordeaux from Tour Pey Berland

I also visited the nearby museum of the French Resistance but as the museum covered three floors and the explanations were entirely in French, I had to cut short my visit without viewing the exhibits as extensively as I would have liked. I continued my walk past the remaining tower of the Château du Hâ, the former fortress in Bordeaux built in 1495 and now a law school. Nearby was the Palais Rohan the former Bishop's Palace which is now the main administrative centre of the city. The temperature had soared into the mid-thirties by this time but I continued my walking with the next stop being the 15th century La Grosse Cloche ('Great Clock') one of the remaining gates of the Medieval walls of the city. I walked back to my accommodation and rested before heading out into the cool of the evening for a meal.

La Grosse Cloche

The following day I took the tram to the Place de la Bourse with its 18th century public buildings facing the river and a more modern innovation - Le Miroir d'Eau, a reflecting pool that was extremely popular with children (and adults), especially on a hot day when they could frolic in the fine mist and shallow water.

Le Miroir d'Eau

I continued along the promenade beside the River Garrone - the river is quite deep and seemed popular with cruise ships, then wandered through the streets of the historic old town, passing through the Place du Parlement, the place St Pierre, where I visited the church that gives the square its name, and made my way to the Porte Cailhau.

Quai Louis XVIII

The Porte Cailhau dates from 1495 and was once the main gate to the city. It now contains a small museum in its upper floors which I also visited.

Porte Cailhau

I took a tram ride across the Pont de Pierre, my first venture to visit the La Bastide area and continued the ride for a dozen or so stops through the fairly unremarkable suburbs on the opposite bank to the main city. At least there was something resembling a small hill which offered a view of the city from a more elevated position, in contrast to the very flat terrain on which the city is built. I retraced my tram journey but got off the tram at the bridge and walked back to the city from there. My concluding visit for the day was to the 15th century Basilique Saint-Michel (Basilica of St. Michael) with its separate bell tower. For my evening meal I returned to an outdoor cafe in the Place du Parlement.

Pont de Pierre

The following day was spent visiting the nearby town of St Emilion (see next entry) and my final day included a return to the Place Saint-Michel where there was an open air market in the square in front of the basilica, a walk down the rue St Catherine from the Place de la Victoire to the Grand Theatre. (The rue St Catherine is reportedly the longest shopping street in France). From there I visited the remains of the Roman ampitheatre before taking a tram to La Cite du Vin (the city of wine)- a modern museum devoted to the story of winemaking for which the region is famous. I wandered through the interestingly designed building but did not bother to pay to enter any of the various exhibits. I returned to the city by one of the ferries that provides public transport. Again the temperature was in the mid thirties so I decided to spend my remaining hours in Bordeaux by taking a tram to the lake where there was a public swimming beach. It was a relief to spend some time relaxing in the water, before returning to an outdoor cafe in the Place St Pierre for my evening meal.

Place de la Victoire

The following morning I took the bus back to the airport for my flight to Dublin, thus concluding an enjoyable few days in Bordeaux.
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Wanting to make the most of the remaining summer season and with a fine day in prospect, I planned a cycle ride from Bulle to Lausanne. Accordingly I booked my bicycle onto a train to Romont from Geneva which I boarded at around 8:50am. At Romont I changed to a train to Bulle which I reached at around 10.30am after a short journey.

Bulle. Baillival castle

I spent a little over 30 minutes cycling around Bulle an attractive town of around 20,000 inhabitants. I visited Baillival castle which I believe dates from the 13th century. It is now used for government administration and although the buildings were closed it was possible to enter the courtyard. I visited the church and the streets of the old town before setting off on my ride which was to follow the national cycle route 9.

Another view of Baillival castle


The weather was superb. Mild and sunny and the route took me through quiet roads, over gently rolling green hills, past peaceful farms and villages.

Countryside near Bulle

At Vaulruz I visited the chateau which was built at the beginning of the 14th century by Louis of Savoy. Over the centuries it has served as a feudal residence, a residence for bailiffs, the cure and for orphans. It is now used as community centre. A plaque commemorated the fact that it provided refuge for a group of Belgian orphans during WWI.

Countryside near Vaulruz

Church at Vaulruz

I continued on my way making additional stops at places of interest at Semsales and Chatel-Saint-Denis (a somewhat larger town) where I ate lunch. I was impressed with the large church which I visited at Chatel-Saint-Denis and I also visited the chateau which housed many of the local government offices.


Countryside between Chatel-Saint-Denis and Vevey

The road descended steeply to the lake at Vevey after which i made my way to Lausanne. this section of the journey was less enjoyable due to the heavy traffic and as the afternoon had become quite warm. The scenery on journey itself was quite spectacular with the lake and terraced vineyards but I had passed through the area several times before. Lausanne is definitely not a cycle-friendly city with its many steep hills and as I had become quite tired by this stage i was greatly relieved to reach the train station at around 4pm.

On the train trip back to Geneva i fell into an interesting conversation with a fellow Australian visiting Geneva for one of his regular training updates. He was a watchmaker working for Patek Phillipe the Swiss family company that manufactures exclusive watches. He told me that around 50,000 watches are sold annually around the world coating around $100,000 each! His job in Australia was to deal with any complaints from customers and make any repairs or adjustments to their watches - providing a replacement watch was to be avoided at any cost! He also said the company employs around 1800 people in Geneva - a statistic that greatly surprised me!

Again overall I was very pleased at how the day worked out.
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On my return from the Philippines I was conscious that we were well advanced into the summer cycling season. Constantine (Tino), had joined the community in April but the time between his arrival and my departure for Australia was extremely busy with little opportunity to undertake a cycling expedition, although I knew he was interested.

The weekend after my return offered the first opportunity to organise an outing. Accordingly I suggested that we drive to beyond Annecy and explore the region close to the Bauges Regional National Park. We eventually decided on a ride from Lavy to Lescheraines.

Countryside near Gruffy

As we parked at Lavy and prepared to unload the bicycles we were struck by a heavy downpour. Once the rain eased we made the decision to continue as planned. We were fortunate. The rain held off until we got to Lescheraines where we were forced to again take shelter for 20 minutes until another severe thunderstorm had passed. In between time we enjoyed a variety of weather conditions, including some extensive sunny breaks.

Pont de l'Abime suspension bridge near Gruffy with the Tours de St Jacques in the background.

We departed from our planned route to cross the gorge of Le Cheran via the spectacular Pont de l'Abime, and eventually reached Lescheraines. We decided on another variation to our planned route while sheltering from the rain, and so headed towards Arith. It wasn't long before we began to question the wisdom of that decision, as it proved to be a very steep climb to Arith. At least we were able to free-wheel back down to the road that eventually took us back to Lavy where we had parked.

Countryside near Lescheraines on a stormy afternoon.

Overall a successful afternoon.

Near Tours des St Jacques
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It has been a busy couple of months since my last entry. I spent an enjoyable 6 weeks in Melbourne catching up with family and friends before heading for the Philippines. I was fortunate with the weather in Melbourne. Cool but mainly fine with some beautiful winter days as this photo indicates. It was good to be present for 3 cats victories in their newly renovated stadium.

Melbourne skyline from the Treasury Gardens

My flight to Manila passed without any problem and on arrival I took a taxi to Quezon city which although only 20 kms from the airport took well over an hour to reach due to the heavy traffic - and that was on a Sunday afternoon! I stayed with the Spiritan fathers through the kindness of Fr Ed Flynn whom I had met when he had been based in Geneva for a few years. I allowed plenty of time the next day to get back to the airport (it took 90 mins) only to be told that my flight to Tacloban had been cancelled and I was rescheduled for another flight later that afternoon. That involved a more than seven hour wait at the airport. At least I had a 1 hour free WiFi connection, but the rest of the time passed slowly. Manila airport is not the greatest place to be stuck for a few hours!

Manila skyline

Fortunately I managed to get a message to my welcoming party that I had been delayed but it was a pleasant relief to be warmly welcomed on arrival at Tacloban. We visited the Edmund Rice Ministries office, then had a meal in a food court at a local shopping mall before setting off on the several hour drive to Maasin.

We did make several detours on the way to drop of members of the welcoming party which meant that the journey was made in darkness. That was unfortunate as I missed out on obtaining a view of the site where General Macarthur landed with his US troops to begin the liberation of the Philippines from Japanese occupation during WWII. Even though the darkness limited the view of my surroundings I was nevertheless also surprised that there was no obvious signs of the cyclone that had destroyed much of Tacloban with heavy loss of life only a few years previously.

I arrived in Maasin a little before midnight to be greeted by Vince with the news that an earthquake had knocked out the power stations on southern Leyte a few days before. The result was that we had to rely on candles and torches, as well as buckets of cold water for ablutions as the water pump relied on an electricity supply to work.

Fortunately the venues where I was scheduled to make my presentations had back-up generators, so I was able to go ahead with the workshops without any problems.

Workshop with Edmund Rice ministry staff in Maasin

I did have one day free of commitments which I used to catch up with emails as the electricity was partially restored by my last day. I also took a bit of a walk around part of Maasin that I had not seen on my previous visit.


Street scene Maasin

I was booked to leave for Cebu on the ferry on Saturday morning. The journey that was supposed to take a little over 3 hours turned out to be more like 7 hours as the ferry broke down, and we had to wait to be towed into Cebu! From the port at Cebu I took a taxi to the hotel I had booked at the airport in anticipation of my early morning flight to Bacolod the following day. It was a relief to check into the very comfortable hotel and have an internet connection. I was cheered too with the news of the Cats narrow win although I had hoped to be there in time to watch it live! I also learned that my early morning flight the following morning had been cancelled which I was quite happy about as the later flight to which I was reassigned gave me a few more hours in bed and in the comfort of the hotel.

The short flight to Bacolod went off without incident, I took a taxi to the bus depot as instructed and boarded the bus to Kabankalan. A few hours later I was welcomed by Rod on arrival in Kabankalan.


The next three days were spent in delivering workshops in Batang, Binalbagan and Kabankalan. Again I had a free day before my departure for Manila, so John drove me out to the Magaso falls. My last night was spent in the local hotel as the community had a group of Sisters visiting for the weekend who were using all the guest rooms. The following morning I bade my farewells, boarded the bus back to Bacolod, took a taxi to the airport and flew to Manila. Another taxi journey took me back to Quezon city where I again enjoyed Ed's hospitality before returning to the airport for my flight back to Geneva.

Magaso Falls
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