Seaside Inukshuking

I made an inukshuk on a cliff, and Dad balanced giant rocks. Tonight we walked to Manarola for dinner. We ordered one seafood appetizer and it had 13 dishes! Mom and I ordered a lobster linguini for 2 and it was Laskin-sized. It could have fed all of us with some leftover! – Alexandra

We skipped stones and enjoyed the view of the ocean and also the waves retreating off the stones. I had a great time relaxing right beside the sea. – Isaac















Cinque Terre

Today we went to Cinque Terre, which is 5 towns on cliffs right beside the ocean. We stayed in the first town that’s called Riomaggiore. We went on a hike from the 1st town to the 2nd to the 3rd. On our way we passed several olive trees that were a long ways from producing olives. At the top of our hike we had an absolutely amazing view over the ocean and everything!! When we got down to the 4th town we had our first taste of real Italian food, and let me tell you it’s spectacular! After we ate we took a train to the 5th town where Alexandra and I played in the waves. – Isaac

We walked above the Mediterranean Sea. It is a beautiful deep greeny blue. From Manarola we had a detour hike that was 3 hours long, but it was amazing. When we walked through the terraced olive groves it reminded me of the Roman Gods. – Alexandra


Above Riomaggiore


Looking towards Manarola





High above Corniglia
Apparently these stone terrace walls cover as much ground as that other Great Wall we saw about 5 months ago






In October 2011, Vernazza and Monterosso were hit by a massive flash flood. 3 people were killed. There was evidence of destruction and rebuilding everywhere. The flood was the reason we couldn’t follow the normal seaside path between the towns but instead had to hike way up into the hills.


We had yummy pizza and lasagne in this cute cave restaurant




People had presses outside their homes for wine






In the middle of the town square this man was making a cardboard box fort for his kids.


This guy made all types of yummy focaccia breads. Our favourite was simple, made with fresh local olives and olive oil


Riomaggiore at sunset


Manarola. These towns are even prettier in real life



We were amazed at how beautifully clear the Mediterranean water was.



Simplon to Pisa

Today we drove across the amazing landscape of both Switzerland and Italy until we finally arrived at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s definitely leaning. It is very well built for how long it has lasted. I learned that it leans at 4 degrees and before it leaned at 5.5 degrees. I think it’s very beautiful. From the windows of our hotel we could see the mountains where Michelangelo got his marble. – Isaac

I was surprised at how small it was but it was still neat with its slant that’s held so long. – Alexandra


Maybe they make wine here?


The Simplon Pass heads from the Swiss Alps to the Italian side. We could have taken a really long tunnel under the mountains, but thought this would be more picturesque.






This Shining-esque building near the top of the pass appears to be some sort of military base



As soon as we got to the other side it was nice and green again




Lake Maggiore


Canal through central Pisa













Even the trees lean in Pisa



Rainer took us for a tour of the Matisa factory. The machines are custom built and take a year to make. They are for train track renewal and are extremely pricey big machines. – Alexandra

My favourite machine was the one that takes away the old tracks and puts in the new tracks. – Isaac


Matisa was founded in 1945 and is a pioneer of railway track maintenance work mechanization. We were lucky to be able to go on a tour – it was like watching Mighty Machines but we were actually there!


The first tamping machine for packing the stones beneath the ties.


Frame fabrication shop.


Rainer explaining the process of making all the pieces in the cnc (computer numerical control) shop. The cnc machines are computer programmed and a tool then cuts a train part out of a solid block of metal.
A plasma cutter making perfect cuts through 20mm steel. The operator is even able to handle the pieces with bare hands immediately after cutting.


Ballast Regulator for recovering and redistributing ballast.


Hundreds of wires hanging and waiting to be connected to a terminus.





It can take up to one year to manufacture a new machine. This one is close to being completed and being tested onsite before leaving the factory.


Drawing of a Track Renewal Machine designed to lay new track and sleepers (ties) continuously – around 500m /hour




A new tamper which can work at 2 km/h. Even with their huge size, these machines have to be able to move on and off the tracks very quickly as the window for being able to work is very brief due to regular train traffic.


Tamper fingers.



New cockpit being completed.



The new white machine getting ready to go out on the track and be safety tested to travel at speed. The orange and yellow machine will collect all of the data from a bundle of wires going to the white one.


Storage area of parts with row upon row of 10m tall shelving.


Quality control room. Note the large black marble slab in the background, it is 30cm thick and the top is extremely flat. So flat in fact, that it is accurate to within a 1000th of a mm from one end to the other and is used to check parts for precision.



We drove and saw a 5th century church that has been added to over the centuries. It boggles my mind how such an old building can still stand because most buildings in Calgary are no older than 50 years. Originally we weren’t going to go into the Prior’s House but we spent 3 hours there. It is the last of its kind and has been beautifully restored. It was for noble men to stay at on their religious pilgrimage. We chatted with the 84 year old woman who bought it when she was 30. It was a ruin and no one wanted it. My favourite room was the cellar because it was full of old pots and now is just used for storage. That is funny because it has such history but here it is part of everyday life. – Alexandra

My first impression of the place was amazing, it was built in the 400’s! Each floor we went up, everything got even more interesting. My favourite room was the library. Most of the stuff was probably an antique, and people just come in and read books or leave some on the shelves! The cellar was definitely old, the floor is cobblestone and the doors have extreme character. – Isaac


The backside of the priory is seen on the far right of this pic. Romainmôitier is situated along one of the pilgrimage routes leading to Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. More than 1000 mansions were erected along these axes to receive noble guests and high-ranking religious officials. It’s believes the priory house is the last of these mansions remaining.
These ancient public water basins are everywhere in Europe




They hold concerts in this church and the acoustics are supposed to be amazing
This tiny narrow staircase leads upstairs to another small chapel inside the church.


The outside of the Prior’s House. The front room and courtyard are used as a teahouse.



This pillar, in the Hall of Knights, supports the whole building.



The Bernese Hall served as a courtroom, and has a ceiling painted with children’s faces.



This is the the hall above the Hall of Knights, which is still used for receptions. The timber pillar, carved from one piece of wood, rests on the cement pillar below.


Backyard complete with gypsy caravan


The library, where people from the community can come and read, and take or leave books


The attic was full of treasures, like old beds, partially finished tapestries and ancient looms


Cellar door


The cellar used to be the stable and dates to the 5th century





Katharina von Arx and her cat Fatsly. She was a journalist and world traveller herself, but when she was going to have a child with her photographer husband, they settled down in the only place they could afford. She said it was so worn down, no one wanted it, so it was dirt cheap. She said her parents were horrified. When they were trying to renovate it to make it livable, they came across frescoes from the middle ages. So she contacted experts and eventually the truth and historical significance of her new home was revealed. We were so lucky to meet her and get the story firsthand.







Old Friends and New Friends

Dad went out today with his friend Sean from Calgary who lives in Lausanne with Karine (who is from Quebec) and their 2 year old son Luka. In the evening we went for a walk and we ate cheese and bread sticks below the cathedral and chatted as the sun set. It was great to play with Luka and talk with younger adults from Canada. – Alexandra



They have a great apartment in a funky building just a short walk from downtown Luasanne






Cailler Chocolate Factory

Today we went to a chocolate factory. I learned that chocolate was a sacred drink for the Aztec warriors. It’s mostly made now by machines like conveyor belts. They let you have as many samples as you want on your tour. I thought the first sample was the last, so I had a whole lot of these, but boy was I wrong. There was an entire room full of different types of chocolate, so in the end I didn’t feel so good. – Isaac

We learned about the history of chocolate. I never thought I could get sick of chocolate, but I did. Too much of a good thing! – Alexandra




They use many different types of beans from around the world.












After our chocolate extravaganza in Broc, we went through the Swiss countryside once again, tracing Baruch’s trail that he cycled 16 years ago.


Can you see the hang gliders?


This is the pass near Mürren, where Baruch cycled and camped.



The village of Mürren is up there, and it is only part-way to the top. You can take a train / gondola combo to get to the “Top of Europe”, but we thought the price ($200.00 each) was a bit stiff for a quick trip up late in the day.


In front of the Eiger at Grindelwald