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Fresh for 2023

28 Jan

28 January, 2023.

Plans have a way of changing and my winter project was not going to be updati hiking guides. Motivated by new experiences and changes we encountered and fresh perspectives (who says repeat visits to the same location are boring?) it seemed beneficial to issue new-for-2023 editions.

The Val Gardena book now includes some ideas for rainy days as well as for lazier days without hiking. There are also extensions and options to some hikes for increased activity and where possible, and details on where shorter hikes can be linked together for longer excursions.

For Switzerland, there s a new chapter on rainy day ideas since we had about 10 days of cloudy and damp conditions during our late-season stay in 2022. We still found plenty of fun things to do. Some of teh hikes have been tweaked based on 2022 experiences.

In each book, all URLs and maps are up-to-date.

This is a great time of year for planning a summer or fall hiking trip to either Italy’s Val Gardena or Switzerland’s Berner Oberland.

Click here to buy “Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena” 5th edition on Amazon.com and “Walking in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland” 3rd edition on Amazon.com

Both books are on Amazon in all markets worldwide for Kindle and where available, paperback as well.

Best of this-and-that    

31 Dec

31 December 2022.

Inevitably we are bombarded with “best of” lists and year-end compilations. If you hate these lists, just stop now because I am going to assault you with mine. I would love it, however, if you would respond with some of your favorites. They might become mine in 2023.

Best Book

Recently, I tried to recommend my favorite book of 2022 to someone and found myself perplexed: I have several I enjoyed so very much I had the devil of a time picking one.

Goodreads tells me I read only 32 books this year, 11,921 pages, ranging from travel books (5) to mysteries (12), and assorted fiction (15). Goodreads does not have a log of my cookbooks, but I know I read two new ones cover-to-cover for inspiration.

No single genre nor author shot to the top, rather my list is of entirely different specimens.

Tied for top book of 2022: Horse by Geraldine Brooks, West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge, and Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. I think Gayle recommended all of these to me. I shall heed her every word on books to read.

Runners Up:  Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig, and A Gentleman in Moscow and The Lincoln Highway, both by Amor Towles.

Best Picture

We watch a lot of movies. Some are forgotten as soon as they finish. Some of my 2022 favorites are much older than 2022. We aren’t necessary current in our viewing so thank goodness for streaming.

The Fabelmans tops my list.This one will stay with me awhile and we will rewatch it soon. The acting, the script, the arc of the story, and the truth in this movie come together in a rewarding manner.

Others of merit: She Said (gripping!), The Outfit (Mark Rylance), Nobody (Bob Odenkirk), and Vice (Christian Bale as Dick Cheney is a transformation to behold).

Best TV Series

We have a real weakness for great series. While none of these will make my all-time top-10 series list, they are excellent entertainment and far better than network series. Not included are series that are ongoing that we started in years past like Vera, Shetland, Better Call Saul.

The following are in alphabetical order as I cannot pick a favorite.

Alaska Daily: Hilary Swank as an investigative reporter. Cliffhanger on season one. Will there be a season two?

For All Mankind: Alternative history drama about the space program starting in the 1960s. Particularly interesting to those of us who lived through the era. Awaiting season 4.

Gaslit: Julia Roberts as Martha Mitchell and Sean Penn as John Mitchell in another stunning transformation.

Grace: We are suckers for British detective dramas. Season 3 is due out soon.

Inside Man: Stanley Tucci and David Tennant. Too bad it was only a mini-series.

Karen Pirie: Another British detective drama but aimed at a younger market than most. Thoroughly enjoyable.

The Restaurant: This is an outlier. I have two seasons under my belt and am looking forward to the final 10 episodes. In Swedish, with subtitles, so demands attention but extremely well-done with interesting characters.

Best Meal

Ahhh, so many good ones! Sazón in Santa Fe, Recipe A Neighborhood Kitchen in Newberg, and Tina’s in Dundee. But the standout for me was in Geneva at Boccadasse: Italian food cooked by Italians in Switzerland. It was the last night of our fall trip and we feasted on octopus with potato puree, Vermentino (one of our favorite wines with seafood), seafood pasta, and semifreddo. Absolute heaven and so memorable!

Polpo con crema di patate
Semifreddo. There was no sharing.

Best New Recipe

Slow-cooker Shrimp in Purgatory. OMG is this good! https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1022265-slow-cooker-shrimp-in-purgatory. New to us this year, it is on the list for frequent repetition.

Best New-to-us Hike

Rifugio Emilio Comici to Mont di Sëura in the Alpe di Siusi. This was a difficult hike for us with a 900 foot descent, beyond what we usually do, but so terribly rewarding in that we did it. We self-congratulated for hours.

Looking back over the trail we hiked.

Best Urban Walk/Hike:

Mount Tabor. I had not been up on Mount Tabor in over 10 years so revisiting with my walking buddy, Grier, was a delight in rediscovering the area. Grier and I also hiked the Alameda Ridge in spring, which is a contender for Great Urban Walks. Thanks to Laura O. Foster’s books on Portland walks we are still discovering treks even after 30+ years living here.

Best Household Improvement: Molly & Sven joined us in January and March, respectively. Such a joy to have their lively selves cavorting about the house, even if they do want breakfast waayyyy too early.

Happiest of New Years to everyone! Tell me, what were your “bests” in 2022?

Beyond the guidebook

27 Aug

27 August 2022.

Frankfurt is an easy city to dismiss. We have merely passed through on flights a couple of times, landing one afternoon and leaving the next morning. In 2016, we spent a full day and self-guided using a tour in the Rick Steves’ guidebook. This time, we decided to spend two nights and take a tour with the highly recommended Jo of Frankfurt On Foot Tours

There is far more to Frankfurt than the thru-traveler using it as a waypoint would know. Jo filled us in not only on the long and important history as a merchant city, but on current culture and the changing face of the city. After a fabulous 3-plus hours, we were exhausted but informed. We have learned over the years that a great private tour is an excellent way to get insight into a site or a city. Worth every Euro. 

Frankfurt: old and new. And hot.

The reason we pass through Frankfurt so often is that there are non-stop flights from the West Coast on Condor Air that make for relatively painless travel, if 10 hours can be painless. Changing planes on the East Coast is a trial we’d rather not endure ever again whether coming or going. Far better to make a single hop to FRA and then jump on a train to our next location after a good night’s sleep. Having a favorite Italian restaurant there doesn’t hurt.

As to sleep, I had a few bad nights prior to departure with so many pre-trip things on my mind: Will Sven and Molly have separation anxiety? Will I have separation anxiety? Will Sven and Molly forget who we are after 2 months? Will our bags arrive or be cast onto a pile of 5000 others as we have heard in reports? Derek’s surgery, new house sitter to get organized for, third heat wave hitting this weekend: Good Lord, no wonder I was stressed! Oh, and then COVID hanging on. I packed a pile of masks because, sensibly, the Germans and Italians are still requiring them on public transportation. That included our German airline. Everyone was masked-up except when eating. 

Speaking of Beyond the Guidebook, we are NOT updating the guidebooks this year. (THAT was a weak segue.) I wanted a trip where I was truly relaxing, not making notes and taking photos, and then spending the winter laboring over edits. I don’t envy the Rick Steves’ editors. It is a LOT of work checking and cross-checking details for a new edition. 

This year is a true vacation and I will post discoveries on the blog instead of updating the books. 

Click on any photo for a better view. The landscapes are stunning!

Clockwise from top left: Morning light on the Alpe di Siusi; The Denti di Terrarossa above the Alpe; Before sunrise in the Alpe di Siusi; One of our many companions on a morning hike; Me fashionably dressed for the German trains; Long view on the Alpe to our hotel with the Sciliar and Punto Santander; The many faces of the Alpe di Siusi include forested sections; Center, pet alpacas at the AlpenHotel Panorama.

Thursday was a long train day traveling from Frankfurt to Munich where we changed trains for the journey south to Bolzano.

Our trusty driver, Ivan, picked us up and ferried us to the Alpe di Siusi where we nestled in to the AlpenHotel Panorama, a favorite spot on our Favorite Places Tour, for three nights. This is another Beyond the Guidebook place. The other guests — mostly Italians — are surprised to find Americans here, especially on a repeat visit. It is not in any guidebook I have ever consulted but it is in our own Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena. One of the best features: rooms include not only breakfast but a 5 course dinner. No cooking, no thinking about it, elegant, tasty, and many choices. We are never disappointed.

Fun story. We first met “Taxi Ivan,” as his business is called, in 2016 when we vacationed in the Val Gardena with our two cats, traveling from Rome to beat the heat for the month of July. (See Training Cats from July 2016.) We used to take a bus to Ortisei from Bolzano, but imagine getting on a bus — even a nice one — with 4 suitcases and two cats! Taxi Ivan rescued us and we have been using his services ever since.

Hope you will stay tuned as we continue our Favorite Places Tour.

Two Books for 2022

20 Feb

19 February 2022.

Perhaps I should repurpose my worn out boots like this Swiss gardener did.

1.2 million steps. That’s what my Fitbit logged on our trip last fall to update our two easy-hiking books. Converting that to miles, between 400-480 miles in 10 weeks.

No wonder I needed a new pair of hiking boots when we got home.

Those steps have come to fruition at last: the 2nd edition of Walking in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland and the 4th edition of Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena are now available on Amazon in all markets worldwide in Kindle and in paperback. (These URLs are to the US site. Listed below are links to the sites for the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. Please search your country’s Amazon site – Italy, Germany, Japan, India, etc. – if you are buying elsewhere.)

The Val Gardena book still features 23 hikes and minimal changes were made in this edition. We checked the local information and retook many of the hikes, rechecked URLs, transportation, cost of passes, and so on. For those with earlier versions, there are not a lot of changes and significant ones are noted on our updates page at ProjectEasyHiker.com.

An outing not in the book is one we call “A Path to Lunch,” an easy but satisfying outing in the Val Gardena that can be split into two shorter walks.

Seven new hikes were added to the Berner Oberland book for a new total of 20 outings. We spent 28 nights researching in the area last fall and never ran out of ideas for easy hikes. While the new book is the only place we’ve written up all of the new hikes, updates to walks featured in the first edition are on ProjectEasyHiker.com.

All of the hikes in both books feature maps and all of the maps are available to download to your mobile device.

Most notable this visit versus our last trip in 2019, there are now great apps for transportation in both Switzerland and the Südtirol. The SBB app links travelers to all modes of transportation: train, bus, boat, and mountain lifts with an interconnected route planner. It is also an easy platform for buying tickets on the go.

In the Südtirol, the südtirolmobil app offers timetables and a trip planner that are invaluable when you are on-the-go.

As always, we are happy to answer questions and get your feedback. Please drop us a note at ProjectEasyHiker@gmail.com.

Happy Hiking!

UK sites: Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena and Walking in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland

CA sites: Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena and Walking in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland

AU sites: Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena and Walking in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland (Sorry, Kindle only. Amazon makes it impossible to offer this book in paperback in the Australian market at a decent price.)

Val Gardena book now in third edition

21 Feb

21 February 2020.

It has been a very busy month. Having just released our book Walking in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland on January 26, we’ve updated our book of easy hikes in Italy’s Dolomites. Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena is now available in its third — and best — edition. Just released on Amazon overnight last night, the big improvement in this edition is that it includes maps for every one of the 23 easy hikes described in the book.

We first published “Walking,” or as I like to call it “WIVG,” in early 2017. Each year we’ve made it stronger, but I am really delighted that we found a tool to help us create maps. Each hike has a printed map and a link to an online map with an elevation profile. The viewer can customize their experience by selecting the type of map (Street, Satellite, Cycling and more), zoom in to see more details, and also personalize a timer based on individual walking speed. Maps can be downloaded in eight different formats.

For fun, here’s one route, a very easy but delightful art walk on a small mountain called Monte Pana where views over the valley from almost 7200 feet are accompanied by an art installation. Take a look and discover the Troi Unika.

Mountain path with artwork

The emblem a the start of the Troi Unika, a very easy walk.

WIVG is available in paperback as well as Kindle, and if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can read it for free. Our books are also available in Amazon Marketplaces worldwide such as Italy, the UK, Japan, and India.

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