Thursday, June 18, 2015

Exploring our backyard

Since the holiday weekend in May, I have not travelled overnight at all. The last part of the year is a very busy time at the school. Instead, to feed my curiosity, I have been content to further explore the city of Neuchâtel itself and the areas easily accessible from here.
The greenhouse at the botanical garden

Another view of the botanical garden
On Diego's recommendation, one Sunday, Bob and I walked uphill to the Ermitage area of the city. There we visited the local botanical garden, an oasis of green. It is well planned and highly informative. If I had had a 10-year-old with me, I am sure she would have enjoyed the hands-on nature of the displays here.
In each box is detailed information about the plant growing there.

The Centre Dürrenmatt is built on the site of the man's house.
Close by is the Centre Dürrenmatt, a modern building dedicated to the writings and art of Friedrich Dürrenmatt, a famous Neuchâtel resident. We enjoyed the arcihitecture, the art and the view over the lake, although we were not familiar with the man or his works beforehand.
The patio looks towards the lake.

Learning about Dûrrenmatt
Later that week, on the 30th anniversary of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Bob and I took a boat to Estavayer-le-Lac, a resort town on the other side of Lake Neuchâtel.  That Friday morning, the first day of exams, I believed that I had no supervisory duties. The weather could not have been more beautiful – a perfect day for an excursion across the water.

Enjoying the boat ride

Arriving at our destination
The boat trip took us an hour and half, since we stopped at several communities on the way. No matter – the trip was delightful as I had the deck of the boat to myself.

The view of the lake from Estavayer-le-Lac.
Estavayer-le-Lac is lovely, and on this day, it was even more so as the townsfolk were in the midst of preparations for a weekend rose festival. We spent about three and half hours exploring this small community, snapping picture after picture.
A tower at the Chenaux Castle

Like the one in Neuchâtel, the castle is a working building with local offices housed in historic quarters
The castle was a particular highlight. Every view was gorgeous, so much so, that I had difficulty narrowing down our photo choices.
Chenaux Castle from a distance.
The town itself also had some interesting places to visit. We climbed a tower early on and ended up in the Place des Mordon, visited two churches, and followed the walls that surrounded the place. There are several watchtowers that still stand guard over Estavayer-le-Lac.
Not as famous of the Paris one.

The Collegiate Church of St. Laurent
I had student drama performance scheduled at 16:00 that day. To save time, we took the train back to Neuchâtel, a short 43 minute voyage. When I arrived at the school, I discovered that I had been scheduled to help supervise exams that day after all. I had skipped school! Ever since, I have taken my fair share of teasing. Ironically, my assignment that day was to be the "float", the teacher who provides a break to those who are supervising long exams. I guess I took the word "float "literally.

Part of the clubhouse at the Golf Club
The following weekend, five of us, Bill, Jen, Terry, Bob and I took part in the Canadian Swiss Chamber of Commerce golf tournament. This was an exciting day for me. I love to golf and had not swung a club for at least 10 months.
Our foursome.
My lack of practice showed in my performance, but I enjoyed the day immensely anyway. The Golf Club Vuissens where we played was absolutely beautiful. The clubhouse and change rooms were housed in ancient farm buildings that had been renovated but kept their rustic appearance. At the banquet at the end of the day, I won a bottle of wine. That was consolation for our last place finish in the event.
Château de Joux - with an anachronistic pink crane
Recently, with our June meetings over, Dan drove Bob and me to Pontarlier – just across the border in France –  for an afternoon. There is an impressive fortress there that, in his five years at NJC, Dan had never visited.
The view from the terrasse of the Château
Dan and I on the terrasse
Entrance to the Château de Joux is guided only, so we joined the 2:30 tour. It was given in French, although audio guides are provided for those who do not speak the language. Although I took an English audio guide, I soon realized that listening to our guide would be much more entertaining than the voice on the recording. He was very good: clearly he had a complete understanding of the history of the place, and he enjoyed telling his stories. He was also very warm and charming.
Our wonderful guide
Our guide at the chîateau
Like virtually every other fortress I have visited in France, the architect Vauban had had a hand in it. He is the man who designed Louisbourg in Canada, by the way. In this case, he redesigned parts of the existing fort.
Statue honouring Vauban
During the tour, we learned about three famous residents at this fort, turned prison: Mirabeau, the seductive French Revolutionary; the adulterous Madame Berthe de Joux; and Toussaint Louverture, a hero in his native Haiti, who died while captive there. Many Haitians make pilgrimages to this site to honour this man.
Statue of Toussaint Louverture.
We are all glad we made the effort to take in this tour. It is amazing what you can find within an hour of your home, if you just open your eyes.
It is both a fort and a castle.
This blog covers a three week period. Can you believe that I slept in my own bed every night during that span of time? That is so unlike me.

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