Why is coffee in Portugal so good?

coffee

Any coffee lover who has traveled in Portugal knows that nothing makes Pastel de nata go down better than a good cup of coffee–um bica in Lisbon or um cimbalino in Porto. But do you know why this is? Having enjoyed coffee around the country for several months, I set about finding out. Continue reading

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Basel’s Merian Gardens: now a “Garden of Switzerland”

Merian Gardens Nothing announces spring like daffodils popping up through scraggly grass. And once that happens, there’s no stopping the day-dreaming after the real thing, even if tree limbs are still bare. Day dreams being what they are, here’s a preview of one of my favorite places in Basel to pass a spring or summer afternoon: the parkland surrounding the Villa Merian in Brüglingen, slightly out of Basel’s city center. The hilly acreage is surrounded by industrial Dreispitz and the sports complex at St. Jacob, and easily accessible via public transport. Continue reading

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Igloo Festival in the Berner Oberland

iglooMarch in the Alps can be magnificent, and last weekend was one of the best, especially at 2,000 meters, above Adelboden in the Berner Oberland. When I was invited to bring my camera to Engstligenalp for Igloo Festival 2015, I happily said yes. It was a creative, colorful weekend in the mountains–and yes, this is an igloo! Continue reading

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Basel Fasnacht 2015 in 20 photos

Basel FasnachtBasel’s Fasnacht, as Carnival is known here–is a blur of sight and sound, color and music. It goes on non-stop in the city’s Old Town for exactly 72 hours in the week following Ash Wednesday. This year, Anita and I watched Morgenstreich from the vantage point of a friend’s apartment in the midst of the action. Continue reading

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A Basel Fasnacht primer

Basel FasnachtI love quirky cultural traditions, and Basel’s Carnival celebration is right up there when it comes to quirky. In our years in Switzerland, Tom and I have enjoyed the festivities all the more since we learned some of the back story. Called the “drey scheenschte Dääg”, or “three most beautiful days” of the year by Basel residents, just about everything about Fasnacht here involves uniquely local traditions. Continue reading

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Basel Fasnacht: a lexicon

Basel FasnachtBasel Fasnacht, as Carnival is known here, is conducted primarily in Basel Deutsch, the local German dialect. In fact, many of the terms describing the people, events and history of Fasnacht are published in a curious mix of local Swiss German dialect and High German. This is the case even on official websites and in newspapers and other publications! Continue reading

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Stylish winter getaway to Lenzerheide

LenzerheideMy foot, covered in green mud-turned-to-slime, slipped on the wall, the rest of me scooting precipitously close to the edge of the chic bench in my private spa “Kabine”. I tried pushing off from the opposing wall, but my hands were as slippery as my feet. Flat on my back and unable to right myself, I calculated I had been in the little room for fifteen minutes or so, watching from my perch as steam hissed from a jet near the door. This was not exactly the stylish getaway to Lenzerheide I had envisioned. Continue reading

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Carnival in Switzerland’s remote Lötschental

Lötschental valleyIt’s February in Switzerland’s Lötschental, a long valley deep in the hinterlands of the Bernese Alps. Mountains are blanketed with white powder, and the ski slopes are busy. Behind the scenes, in the four villages of the valley–Wiler, Ferden, Kippel and at the furthermost end, Blatten–preparations are underway for Carnival, or Fasnacht as it is known hereabouts. Continue reading

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Lenzerheide Scalottas: creative dining, locally inspired

Scalottas LenzerheideThe two Scalottas restaurants in Lenzerheide are all about local food traditions, served up in two distinctively Swiss dining rooms in the same building. Each dining room is in fact, its own restaurant. Tom and I recently had the good fortune to enjoy two visits to Scalottas, where we experienced both restaurants, and reveled in the favorful creativity of an inventive Graubunden kitchen.

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A cozy retreat in Brigels, Graubunden

La Val Bergspa Hotel BrigelsSurselva means “above the forest” in the Romansh language, and this sprawling district in predominately Romansh-speaking area of Graubunden canton is a delightful winter destination encompassing wooded countryside along the Anterior Rhine Valley (Vorderrhein) between Disentis and Reisenbach. Last week, in the village of Brigels, Tom and I luxuriated Surselva’s refreshing mountain air, great food and some fine relaxation. Continue reading

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