You, Me and Teddy

Parenting adventures and activities in and around Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


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Back On My Feet Again

I apologise as I completely forgot to let you know how the BCN Tour du Canton went. For those who missed my previous post: as part of a fitness incentive I decided to sign myself up for a series of 6 races ranging from just over 9 to just under 12 kilometres.

I am proud to say that I completed 5 out of 6 of the race “stages” in the top third of my category. Considering I started training 8 weeks before the first race after not having run regularly for over 5 years I am very happy with my results. I did opt out of one race due to the fact it was E’s birthday. We took her out for a big girl birthday dinner with my mum who was visiting for the week. I had a lovely evening and managed to miss out on the most muddy stage of the tour and not feel an ounce of guilt about it.

The races took part every Wednesday evening over a period of 6 weeks meaning you had one week to recover between races. It sounds horrifying but I found that I actually gained stamina and strength as the races went on. In fact the week where I missed a race really threw me for the following race.

I must say the supporters who lined the route were really amazing and I saw some pretty outstanding sites. Let me share some of my pictures. I afraid some are a bit blurred as I was still running but really did not want to miss the photo opportunity.

The first week the race was 9.310 km starting at Planeyse, Colombier with a 210m elevation. You can see the exciting 3D animation of the course here.

1 colombier

Planeyse

It was nice an sunny on arrival but as the race went on the sky clouded and we made it in just before the thunderstorm started. Some of the slower runners were not as lucky. The race was beautiful  as we ran through the wine yards of the Domain de Chambleau. It was also tough running down the winery’s driveway and my friend and I jokingly discussed stopping off for an aperitif with the staff who were out with a bottle of wine cheering us on.

1 chambleau domaine

Chambleau

It was good as I really paced myself but perhaps I went a bit too slowly at the start as I crossed the finish line with plenty of energy despite looking like a beetroot because of my final sprint.

2 Chézard-Saint-Martin

Chézard-Saint-Martin

Week 2 saw us heading up into the countryside to Chézard-Saint-Martin. This race was more a straight uphill and then downhill run with an elevation of 290m. It was 10.360 km with the peak at 5km once you reached that point you knew it was pretty much easy going but from looking at the race animation. I missed one little peak before the final descent which was in fact at the 6km mark so I struggled with motivation  at that last climb before the downhill started! I wasn’t the only one and at the peak I saw many people collapsed around the place with strains or other issues. One thing I love abut running is that runners look out for other runners and anyone I saw in trouble was begin taken care of. Luckily the weather was cool and so the run downhill afterwards was a lovely recovery towards the finish line. Unluckily the weather had been pretty damp the days before the race and the final kilometre was a mud bath and most the people crossing the line were covered! My trainers went straight in the wash when I got home.

3. Les Ponts-de-Martel

Les Ponts-de-Martel

Our third race was up in the Ponts-de-Martel and one of the longest races at 11.314 km. It had an elevation of 197 m which by this stage wasn’t so bad but the main demotivating factor was the fact that the course looped round in a figure of eight so you had a glimpse of the end while you still had half the course to go.

3. Les Ponts-de-Martel countryside

Les Ponts-de-Martel

I loved it though because one of my favourite supporters was there complete with Alphorn to motivate us onwards. Sorry about the blur but I was trying desperately to keep up with a pacesetter for that race and I din’t want to lose him!

3. Les Ponts-de-Martel alphorn

I also saw this extremely house up there which I thought was brilliant. Swiss nationalism is very strong which I do actually love as I think us Brits have pretty much lost it and its a shame not to feel proud of your country.3. Les Ponts-de-Martel swiss house

Once again we finished just in time before a major hail storm hit. As the hail calmed slightly I legged it for the bus for the long journey back home.

4. La Chaux-de-Fonds

La Chaux-de-Fonds

Race 4 in La Chaux-de-Fonds I unfortunately missed as I explained. The weather forecast said snow, rain and freezing temperatures but my friend took part and sent me this picture saying how lucky they had been and despite the cold they got off lightly. It was, however, a complete killer of a race as they had to change the course last minute as there was so much mud and it ended up being not far off 12km with an elevation of 256 m.

5. Couvet

Couvet – Centre Sportif

I was back for Couvet in the Val-de-Travers the next week. It was a scorcher of a day starting off by the Sports centre. The final sprint of the race would be around the running track but firstly we had to get around the 9.560 km course in the heat. By this stage 245 m didn’t sound like that much of an climb but the temperatures changed everything. Firstly I was knackered: E had been sleeping a maximum of 5 hours a night that week and then my hayfever kicked in. Gah! I started struggling to breath and realised if I was going o finish this race it would be slowly and not in a great time. I therefore took my time up on the climbs preferring to walk them and run the downhill bits. The good thing about this was that I had time to really look around and take in the beauty of the place.

5. Couvet fields

5. Couvet hill

Once again there were some fabulous supporters to keep us going!

5. Couvet supporters

I made it across the line. It wasn’t pretty but I don’t think it was a good race for most people. There were ambulances everywhere. People had been collapsing along the course from dehydration and many passed out just after making to the end. I don’t know if it was just because of the heat or because it was a shorter race more inexperienced people turned up but it was carnage.

The final week in Neuchâtel town I was determined to do better. It was my home stretch and I knew that plenty of friends and family would be about to watch. When I arrived I spent a good while warming up properly.It was a lovely day but not too warm. Perfect.

6. Neuchatel swans

 

Just before the race kicked off they even had a stage with two ladies doing a warm up routine down by the lake so I joined in and bounced along to the music with everyone else.

6. Neuchâtel lake

Neuchâtel

The Neuchâtel lap was tough at 11.204 km and with the biggest climb yet of 345m from lakeside up past the train station, into the forest and back down again via Hauterive. The climb was tough but I kept moving only grinding to a stop when the line of runners bottlenecked into the forest. The forest trail was great as I know it well. The shade from the trees keeps you cool and it was soft underfoot. The final kilometre was tough though as I had given all I had to give in the uphill climb at the start. Friends who saw me thought i was limping as I reached the end although I was unaware. All I wanted to do was to get there! I high fives the kids I ran past for the final 100m and then it was over.

I was sad to reach the end. I really enjoyed my rather extreme reinitiating into the running world and remembered how much I used to enjoy my runs. Running is addictive. Every time you complete a goal you want to do more; push yourself toward the next challenge. First thing I did was to get a treadmill. I am now training 6 or 7 days a week and have put myself in for the London Marathon lottery with a few charities. Its easy enough to find the time to train if I do it first thing while M is napping. E comes to “workout” with me and we put a cartoon on the TV.

I love that running gives you extra energy and I love the fact that it allows me to eat cake.

Keep your fingers crossed for me for London but if I don’t get a spot I’ll sign up for a local one instead.


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Goodbyes

A couple of weeks ago we kidnapped some tadpoles from the forest and took them home to try and teach the kids a little about growth and a frog’s lifecycle. This week we returned them home now frogs.

I remember clearly having tadpoles in my Preparatory class at school when I was about 4 years old and watching them grow into frogs. I don’t even know if it is allowed any more in schools. Someone told me something about health and safety a few years ago, I never checked the claim, however for me the experience was magical and when we came across the tadpoles in their hundreds in the pond I couldn’t resist borrowing a few for a little science experiment for the kids at home.

We started off by doing some research into how to give our froggy guests the best home we could. I knew that we needed a container but I didn’t know how big. My research suggested that you needed 1 litre of water for 5-10 tadpoles and we had 7. Unfortunately if you put too many in a confined space they start to eat each other (a bit like goldfish). The research also suggested giving them some sheltered space where they can hide, some plants like grass or weeds so that they can nibble the roots and something they can climb out on as once they are in the frog stages they need to come out the water or they will drown.

Initially I used a pyrex dish we found some pebbles, dug up some grass from the garden (which we rinsed), and used a stacking cup to give them some shelter. We could use the water directly from the tap but if you live in an area where they chlorinate the water you’ll need to either use bottled water or get some dechlorinating tablets from the pet shop. Our little tadpoles seemed relatively happy in there and we fed them on finely chopped over-boiled lettuce. I took care not to give them too much as I didn’t want the water getting dirty but, generally, they seemed to eat about a teaspoon a day.

tadpoles first home

As they started to grow their arms (and legs) I realised that we would probably need a container with higher walls so that our frogs didn’t escape. Luckily my hubby managed to borrow the work fish tank for us, as their goldfish had recently passed away, but you could just use a bucket.

new home for tadpoles

We loved watching the tadpoles develop. At 3 E is very close to the age I was when I was enchanted by the tadpoles but, to my surprise, M was too at only 15 months. Every time we would take any visitors to see our froggy enclosure he would point at them and quack (I think that M believes all pond creatures quack).

tadpole timeline

They did seem to develop at different rates but I guess they must have come from separate spawns. We had our first frog after about 2 weeks. While still young and having a black sheen, rather than the mottled green he later developed, he would attempt to scale the sides. I was very happy about having the fish tank as images of a frog infested house, and random croaks coming from the bathroom, kept springing to mind.

The other tadpoles developed at a similar rate (luckily as you need to decrease their food once they have legs as they ingest their own tails) and suddenly we had an “army” of young frogs – that does sounds very odd but the collective noun for frogs is “army” apparently… It was time to send our boys home.

We took them back up to the forest in jam jars trying not to shake them as much as possible. Frogs are very sensitive to movement. The forest is currently in”periode des naissances” (birthing season). All the young wild creatures are generally born between April 15th and June 30th and so we were greater with numerous warning and were extra careful to remind the children of the Rules of the Forest:

  • No Cars
  • Cyclists must stick to the paths
  • Try not to pick the flowers
  • Dogs should stay on leads to avoid scaring away wildlife
  • Dead wood is dangerous
  • The forest, while fun, can be dangerous
  • Take all litter away with you

tadpole swarm

Finally we reached the pond and saw that it was still full of frogspawn who were once again clustering in the same spot. We let our frogs go and said our good byes.

froggy goodbyes

M was seriously in awe of the whole experience, now being able to totter along and touch everything, rather than having to stay sat in his pushchair. His little finger was pointing and big “ooooohs” were fairly frequent as he wanted to make sure we saw every interesting thing he spotted. E is still unsure what to make of her increasingly mobile brother but she seemed happy enough and enjoyed feeding the ducks at the pond (an activity that M is less taken with for now).

little boy exploring

There will definitely be more trips back to the frog pond in the near future but we will not be disturbing them by taking them home again.

Hope you are all keeping well.


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Weird and Wonderful Nature

Maybe it is because I am originally a city girl that I find this so exciting but during our walks up and down the lake last week I came across these astonishing spider webs covering trees and bushes.

webs 1 webs 2 webs 3 webs 5

Now I’ve been trying to find comparable images on google but I can only find similar ones in cases where the spiders were running away from flood water which certainly isn’t the case here. There hasn’t been that much rain nor is the lake that close to the webs to warrant any sort of fleeing from water.

webs 8 webs 9 webs 10

They are beautiful but a little freaky.

webs 4 webs 6

I would love to hear from anyone who knows a bit more about spiders out of interest and lest I need to explain this one day. Is this normal spider behaviour?

Hope you enjoyed your weekend.


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What’s going on?

Its a fairly happening weekend in Neuchâtel this week. Some of it is less exciting than others, for instance, the big Security Fair (SecuritExpo) next to the Maladière stadium. Nope, I didn’t know that sort of thing existed either. On a more exciting note there is also a music festival tonight and tomorrow evening, just 15 minutes down the road, in Cornaux called the Corn’Rock.

corn'rock

Tonight is the Fête des Voisins where those living in apartment blocks or places with shared gardens hold parties to get to know their neighbours better. The event is sponsored by the city and they even provide you with party ideas and invites to kickstart any initiative. Its a great idea as today many people find it hard to get to know their neighbours even in a small town like Neuchâtel.

fête des voisins

This weekend is also the start of the La Quinzaine neuchâteloise! During the Quinzaine participating shops give a discounts and tickets to take part in the raffle and there are numerous activities and shows organised in the streets. Officially it kicked off Thursday with an opening ceremony and late night opening of shops but the more interesting parts for those of us with children are yet to come.

quinzaine

This Saturday is the first Grande Braderie (Big Sale) which takes place from the rue de Seyon in the centre of town all the way down to the hospital by the Maladière Centre (10am to 6pm). The buses are all diverted out of town all day as generally most the shops in the centre put out stalls in the street and those selling food or wine do free tastings. There will be carousels and each quartier will be organising their own events so it will be fun to explore with the kids tomorrow.

Wednesday afternoon (2 to 5pm) on the Place des Halles there are more events for the kids as there is no school on Wednesday afternoons in Neuchâtel. They promise free carousels, a blind cordial tasting, crêpes, ice-cream and presents to be won!

Next Saturday there is another Grande Braderie (from 10am to 6 pm) and you can enter your ticket into the raffle by putting it in the big urn by the Hôtel de Ville  from 3pm. The main prizes range from an electric car to laptop and its free so what do you have to lose? After the raffle is drawn there will be a closing ceremony and music up at the top of the painted street in the free commune of Neubourg.

On the lake tomorrow and Sunday there is the 28th Bol d’Or Regatta where over 100 sail boats will race from Grandson up to Neuchâtel and back again on a 60km circuit. It should be a site to see if the weather stays clear and the thunderstorms don’t hit. They set sail at 11am from Grandson.

neuchatel boat

If you actually want to get out on the lake the boats finally start their tours again this weekend after their winter break including the old steam boat “Neuchâtel” which has recently been refurbished. Check out the timetables for “Neuchâtel” here. Otherwise you can take one of the regular boats.

fete de la nature

Finally it is also the 4th Fête de la Nature which takes part all over Romandie (French-speaking Switzerland) and there is lots going on the Neuchâtel Botanical Gardens this weekend. For the early birds who can get themselves to the Botanical gardens for 8:30am it begins with a guided walk to discover local mushrooms. The walk should last  2 1/2 hours and is suitable for anyone over 10 years of age. For those of us who won’t be up for a stroll through the forest that early there is also an indoors exposition of local mushrooms from 11am to 5pm up on the top level of the Gardens.

There is a fabulous walk tomorrow from 9am to 3pm for anyone over 5 which has been organised from Montmollin-Montezillon called Plantes utiles à croquer (Plants good to eat). It includes a culinary workshop and drawing activities. For those who want to stay in Neuchâtel town there is also the Belles à croquer exposition in orchard of the Botanical gardens with more information on edible plants.

From 11am to 12pm on Saturday there are also some rather intriguing sounding Jeux en forêt (Forest Games) up by the Roché de l’Ermitage in the woods above the Botanical gardens.

There are another couple of easy nature walks taking place tomorrow if you fancy a stroll: Balade pédestre : de la Ferme Robert à Champ-du-Moulin and Balades nature Valangin-Engollon-Cernier and an Elfen excursion Plat de Riaux, Môtiers.

Sunday brings with it yet more activities starting very bright and early at 5:30am at the zoo du Bois du Petit-Château in La Chaux-de-Fonds with a guided dawn chorus of birds (Les oiseaux de l’aube) suitable for those over 8. If you like birds but not in a 5:30am kind of way you could always go to the derniers Tariers des prés du Jura neuchâtelois excursion at 9:30 in Les Ponts-de-Martel.

actualites_parc_en_fete

There are more activities on Sunday too in the Parc du Chasseral including several based around edible plants: Cuisine sauvage (Wild Cooking) from 10:30 to 12 or 2:30 to 4pm and Miam! Une plante (Yum! A plant). You can even go an learn to build stone walls (Les secrets des murs de pierres sèches).

If you want to take part in any of the organised activities of the Fête de la Nature please sign up on the given pages as they all say to do so and I wouldn’t want you to turn up and be told to go home.

flute-enchantee-2014-724x1024

Anyways as I was saying Neuchâtel is a busy place this weekend and all of this is not even starting on the various opera and plays in the theatres. No excuses with not getting out over the next few days.

I hope I’ll have some fun pictures to share with you on Monday. Enjoy your weekends.


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It’s just like riding a bike

I got my bike out for the first time this year! So we celebrated with a trip down to Hauterive which is an easy ride for the novice cyclist along the gentle lakefront cycle route away from worrying cars.

Actually when I say first time this year, my bike didn’t see the light of day last year, or once I fell pregnant the year before. Lacking confidence in my cycling ability I thought it was best to avoid cycling while even more malcoordinated thanks to pregnancy. I have missed it so much more than I realised. Luckily I still remember how to do it despite being a little wobbly at first and E thoroughly enjoys being on the back in her seat. Neuchâtel is brilliant for cycling as there are so many tracks about the place: up in the forest and down by the lake. The only problem is getting up the hill if you don’t want to cheat and go in the bus or up the funicular.

lakefront

I love Hauterive as it has so much to offer. There is a brilliant playground with a large stretch of well-maintained lawn next to it; this makes for an ideal for picnic spot. There is also a fountain by the playground meaning fresh drinking water and somewhere to wash the dishes. You can even have a kick about or go for a dip in the lake (albeit when the weathers a bit warmer).

playground collage

E points out every train that go past (a little trainspotter in the making) and down by the beach there are often some ducks about to annoy. E even managed to find herself a few good sticks and some stones; souvenirs are the most important factor for her in an outing at the moment.

lake

spotting

It was really peaceful looking out over the lake and it felt like summer for a moment. Then E decided it was time for an ice cream so we went in search of one.

running free

Next to the beach is a little stand-alone self-service café with plenty of tables and a mini go-karting track. E loves to grab an ice-lolly and go on the cars although she can not quite manage to coordinate a steering wheel and the acceleration pedal alone yet so I have to sit on the back and go around with her. This is easy enough and I really quite enjoy it too.

If you carry on a bit further along the lake front in the direction of Neuchâtel then you come to Hauterive port which is a great spot to inspect the boats which are currently being prepared to go back into the water. There is also a restaurant called Le Silex where you can go for a hot drink and warm up in the winter or grab a cocktail on the terrace in the summer. They also do quite nice food. They have 2 dining rooms but the smarter one is a bit stuffy for us with the kids. Last time we went we made the mistake of reserving in the smart one and when we asked to move into the main dining room they moved us happily without question. Then we relaxed and had an amusing time choosing from their menu which lists just how far your food has travelled to reach your plate. They were really brilliant and actually let us choose from the smart restaurant menu while sitting in the causal section. The waitresses were also really brilliant with the kids.

You could really spend a whole day playing around the lakefront up there as another 5 minutes in Neuchatel direction and you’ll come to the Laténium Museum where we spent a good afternoon recently.

It really is a brilliant spot. Last summer we were sold a second-hand bike trailer for the kids at an excellent price and since my outing I have managed to set it up and attach it to my bike. I think we may be making a few more trips around the lake. I can’t wait to take both kids out next time the weather is fine.

watching ducks


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Walking, Running and Painting

I think I have a case of Springtime writers’ block. As the days get longer and brighter I just want to make the most of the sunshine and be out and about lest it disappears again (as here everyone is convinced it will).

This weekend I was dog sitting so we have been exploring the forests of Neuchâtel while walking him a few times a day. I found a Pro Natura walk which starts by the top of the Pertuis du Sault (you walk up the steps and carry on straight).

pronatura

It was less trod than many of the paths but you could follow a vague sort of route through the trees. Along the way there were little signs with facts about animals such as the legless lizards you can sometimes spot. There were also a few little constructions by the forest authority such as a drinking spot by a fountain for the birds and local deer and a rockery for smaller wildlife to shelter in.

SENTIER DU TEMPS

I also actually did the reverse Sentier du Temps (that I was telling you about) on Friday. I wouldn’t recommend the uphill version for a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s hard work!
  2. It’s much harder to follow the route uphill as you can’t see the markers very well.

It was a good workout and it’s got to have helped my running legs. Speaking of running I started my official training this weekend with a 5km run in the forest.

We followed one of the Parcours Mesurés up at Champ-Monsieur marked out for those looking to “test their fitness” so it required very little thinking which was great for a first attempt. There is an 8km one up there too which we thought we’d test next week but try to pave ourselves better.

Ok, it wasn’t very speedy today (5km in 30 mins) but I think in 6 weeks we should be much better. It’s getting very exciting.

IMG_0079

I also spotted a Parcours Mesurés up in the forest of Peseux. It seems to start by the football club so I’m going to have a look and see if it is worth a go.

In other news we have been building a house. Well, a cardboard Wendy House for the kids. The only problem is that the paint I chose (following consultation with the paint shop) is not really suitable for the kids to go near. I attempted to let E help me but she still has paint stuck to her forehead so I’m trying to find moments when I’m alone to do it.

painting houses

Our house is starting to look pretty good and the kids love it but E has maybe become too house proud as I caught her trying to scrub her cardboard floor clean with a damp towel earlier. She found it hard to understand that cardboard, like paper, doesn’t like water.

I will of course post the finished results once we get there but renovations are hard work and E is a fussy client.

Hope you enjoyed your weekends.


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We went to the Zoo

This zoo differs from all the other zoos I have been to in that it was under snow!

The higher areas of Neuchatel on the Jura Plateau are white most of winter and get plenty of sunshine, while the lower areas are covered in a blanket of fog and generally get little snow and plenty of drizzle. It certainly makes you miss the almost Mediterranean summers we get down here on the lake. This week we decided to break through the clouds and go see some sun up in La Chaux-de-Fonds and the Zoo du Bois du Petit-Château with one of E’s best friends.

Zoo entrance

The Zoo is really easy to get to with the bus 304 directly from the train station or if you drive there are free parking spaces right in front. It is open all year round from 8am to 6pm (except in winter when they close at 5pm) there is also a Vivarium with slightly more restricted hours but as the sun was out we chose not to go inside this time.

Most of the creatures in the zoo are wild and are used to the cold, staying out all year round but some, such as the chickens and guinea pigs, in the petting section are taken inside in Winter.

We saw foxes on entering and learnt about their “bad reputation” due to their highly adaptive nature in different environments (they find food anywhere and then breed).

Then we headed up to the petting zoo which is always the favourite point of the tour. On the way in we met some wild boars which were pretty huge and penned off although there where some rather worrying holes in the wire. I wouldn’t want to fall in a pen with them.

Petting Zoo

Once we were in the roaming enclosure we met some much tamer goats. I think they were waiting on their food as they were all clustered together by the barn looking hopeful. This meant that due to the prospect of food they were pretty happy to be stroked by the excited children. Then we went to say hello to the “Eeyores” who were gorgeous and not at all bothered by little people running around them. I did stay cautious, however, explaining to E not to walk behind them for fear of one kicking out.

With the promise of a visit to the playground we managed to steer the kids away from the Vivarium (which is found just next to the petting zoo) and we continued on our way.

Deer collage

On the way to the playground we saw lots of Deer: they have reindeer, brown deer and elks. They also had a few different species of goat and wild sheep which some pretty impressive horns. There were also a few bird enclosures with brightly coloured parrots including Perroquets and Love Birds. I adored discovering the name for Lovebirds in French (Inséparables) I think it is better better than the English name.

birds and ducks

Finally we reached a playground under fair bit more snow than we had expected. This didn’t deter the kids and I was glad that I had put E in her snow trousers. They climbed rope ladders, slid down slides in to piles of snow finishing off by making snow angels. We spotted a new playground construction which looked amazing but it was fenced off much to the dismay of the children so I reckon they are waiting till Spring to open it to the public. That should be fun this summer!

Playground collage

It was time to start slowly heading back but not before we saw the ducks (now a must see attraction for E thanks to our duck feeding adventures) and a rather large brown bear who was sitting fairly peacefully in a pile of snow.

We said our goodbyes to the goats, llamas and sheep and took a rather hungry E back for some lunch.

Wooly creatures

I feel refreshed for having a whole morning of sunshine. We should definitely head up the hill more often.