Monday, September 26, 2011

A Gift from Prince Charles


Several years ago I had the great honor and pleasure of being invited to tea at Highgrove, country residence of the Prince of Wales. Ever since that visit to his garden, a private tour for just Gil and me led personally by His Royal Highness, we've remained in touch—it amazes me that with all the people in his world he has to consider he still takes the time to think of me. This morning an envelope arrived and this post is about its contents.

I recently wrote His Royal Highness that I'd enjoyed seeing his speech in Washington on sustainability and the looming global food crisis, which can be viewed in its entirety on the web if you click here. It was a short note of admiration for his efforts in this vital cause. This is the Prince's reply.

Prince Charles is famous for writing letters—I have a stack of them here on my desk. I think I saw a recent statistic that he sends literally thousands of personal letters a year. This is just one of them. He has a style that he adheres to. He dictates to a secretary, and later, when the finished letter is printed up, he rereads it, underlining words or phrases he wishes to reenforce, then signs it. At the beginning of our friendship he always called me Mr Gervais, but somewhere along the line he took to calling me simply Paul.

But what's of real interest here is the subject matter of the book itself. It opens with these lines: "This is a call to revolution. The Earth is under threat. It cannot cope with all that we demand of it. It is losing its balance and we humans are causing this to happen." You can buy the book here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Monbiel: An Alpine Village


Not all the walks we take in Klosters lead to the highest altitude. Sometimes we're less ambitious and take a leisurely stroll along the brook that takes you to the charming village of Monbiel. If you're very fit you can go on. Here, in the words of the local tourist board, is the recommended route: From Monbiel you will hike up the Baretschrüti Forest and down to Schwendi. Continue over the Pardenner Boden to Restaurant Alphütte Garfiun. Enjoy Graubünden’s home-cooked cuisine and a magnificent view of the Vereina Valley. Subsequently, the tour continues through the Spärrer Forest, along the Verstanclabach (a stream) up to Alp Spärra and to the fork branching off to the Seetal Valley, Silvretta and Galtürtälli. Walk across a little bridge to the other side of the brook and hike on the other side of the valley across the Novai to the Vereinabach. Hike along this stream to Schindelboden and then across a bridge back to Monbiel.

But the town itself is charming—it's not a town at all, it's a hamlet. And yes, that water is potable.

This is a view of the walk we later took, towards Alprosli. And that, in the distance, is one of Switzerland's disappearing glaciers.

This little hotel is a dream for those looking for a more simple life in the alps. They also have a lovely restaurant. It's called Höhwald.

A table in the sunshine.

It's something of an artists' village.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Our Mountain Retreat


We hadn't stayed in this charming hotel in years, having usually gone to the Walserhof instead, another lovely place with what used to be (and perhaps still is) a superb restaurant. But for old times' sake we thought we'd go back to this little old institution here in Klosters, which we'd always loved—I don't know why we ever left it.

The common rooms are old and have dark wood walls, which are warm and beautiful but difficult to photograph. This room in the newer bit has white walls and little windows with pretty framed views of the town.

This mural is modern but it's about the history of the hotel, which takes us back to the year 400. I have no doubt that we'll return next year for another delightful stay—the food is fantastic and the management and staff are friendly and kind!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Klosters to Davos: The High Road


Most Septembers Gil and I travel to the Swiss Alps to walk the mountain trails in the first chill of late summer, often staying in the charming resort town of Klosters, not far from Davos. The above image shows the high road walk from Gotschnagrat at 2,285 meters. Views like this are the glory of Switzerland—William F. Buckley once remarked, "it's one damn fine piece of real estate!"

This is the path we followed from the cable car landing—it's the easy bit.

Here's Gil not far from Parsennhutte—the walk to Davos takes about 3 hours.

Here's one of the fine musicians who contribute to the charming cow bell concert you're given along the way. These cute animals seem to have no fear of heights.

In late summer the weather changes by the minute, so you need to prepare yourself for the unexpected.

I'm not showing the scary part of the walk because I'm not so surefooted that I can pull out my camera when the drop away from my boots is straight down 1,000 meters.

Gardeners love to walk these mountain trails—Vita Sackville-West did it every September as well.

I don't know the names of these wildflowers, my apologies.