Articles tagged with "switzerland"

Bellinzona

Bellinzona

We went to Bellinzona for an afternoon. We went to one of the castles; Bellinzona has lots of them. This one offered a tour which started with some kind of video about the history of the place. Probably it was very informative but I wasn’t in the mood at all after a late night the previous night, so I sneaked out and left all my fellow astronomers in there to listen to it for me. A couple of them followed me out after a few minutes, and we went up onto the castle ramparts to check out the views over the valley and some of Bellinzona’s other castles.


Autumn at Lago Maggiore

Autumn at Lago Maggiore

The conference venue was on a hilltop overlooking Lago Maggiore, but for the first couple of days there was nothing to see outside except thick fog. Just when I’d begun to doubt that there was actually a lake nearby, the fog lifted and the views came out. The air was fresh, the sun shone, the lake shimmered, and all was good in Switzerland.


Over Switzerland

Over Switzerland

ESO’s last minute flight booking antics meant that instead of a nice easy direct flight from London to Zurich, I had a horrific 6.40am flight connecting in Paris. After a last night out in London I got to a cheap hotel near Heathrow at 2am, then had to get up at 4.30am to get a bus to the airport. So I was not feeling too fantastic when I arrived in Switzerland at 11am.

Switzerland has many awesome travel memories for me. It was the destination for my first ever overseas holiday at the age of 6; I stopped in Zurich on my way to China when I travelled from Beijing to London by train; and I’d crossed the country on my way from Liechtenstein to Monaco a couple of years ago. I crossed it again today, this time from north to south. In grey skies and drizzle I arrived in Locarno, and headed to the conference venue.


The easy way

The easy way

It was a sunny June day. I left my house at 6am and walked to Bounds Green station, slightly unable to believe that I wouldn’t be back until almost September. I rumbled under London on my 33-stop journey to Heathrow Airport, and from there I flew to Zürich.

I had four hours to kill in Zürich before my flight to Beijing, and I got a train from the airport into the city. I wandered randomly down what looked like a main street, until I found a coffee shop. With half-remembered German from years ago I bought myself an espresso, and then a caramel iced coffee. I didn’t have time to do much more than that, so after a quick wander down to the river I headed back to the airport for my next flight.

For reasons that were never clear to me, I was upgraded to business class for the Beijing flight. I thought this would be awesome and imagined being fed fondue and chocolates by beautiful Swiss stewardesses all the way to China, but in the end it wasn’t so great. I didn’t have a lot of legroom, the stewardesses treated me as if they knew I hadn’t paid for the place I was in, and there weren’t even personal TV screens. But as the sun set over Europe, we flew over Poland, Belarus and Russia, reaching Moscow in the late evening. I looked down on the city and could see the Moskva River snaking through it. I was looking forward to coming back this way, eight kilometres below my present level.

I slept, hoping to wake up in time to see Mongolia in the morning. But it was cloudy across north-east Asia and Mongolia was hidden from view. When we landed in Beijing the skies were leaden and the humidity was astonishing. I was met at the airport by Yong, another student of Xiaowei’s who I’d met in Australia a few months previously, and we got a taxi to PKU. As rain began to fall, I felt very excited to be in China.