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Snowboarding The Jungfrau

This was not my first rodeo. I’ve headed out to the Jungfrau region for a snowboarding holiday a couple of times before in the past handful of years, but something about this year felt a bit different. Maybe it was the weather, maybe the town we stay in, Wengen, is not as quaint as I remember it, maybe it’s just that I’m getting used to the place so it feels less interesting or exotic… I don’t know.

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the cute Wengernalpbahn, the fourth and final train to get to Wengen

All that aside, Wengen is a charming little village, accessible only via a rack and pinion railway (the world’s longest) from either Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald. Of course that’s after three other trains: Zurich to Bern; transfer for Bern to Interlaken Ost; transfer for Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen. But once you get into the village, it’s pleasantly car-free. With the exception of the hotels’ electric cars, which seem to have seriously multiplied since my last visit. A “pedestrianized” town loses some of its charm when you still have to keep an eye out for vehicles when walking down the village streets.

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a snowy day hinders the visibility towards Kleine Scheidegg (taken from the Arven lift, I think?)

Snowboarding was a bit of a mixed bag this year and I think that’s where I felt the biggest difference, with the weather playing a significant role.  Continue reading

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36 Hours In Bern, Switzerland

When indulging in a snowboarding holiday in the Swiss Alps, we often find ourselves with a day or two to spare before or after making our way to the mountain resort of Wengen. As we fly into Zurich, that’s normally where we spend our extra time – and good times have been had there (I’m looking at you, warehouse district and Hive Club) – but this year we decided to switch it up and spend some time in Switzerland’s quiet, old and totally charming capital.

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snow falling on the old city and Berner Munster while walking down to Schwellenmatteli

Bern is about an hour away from Zurich on Switzerland’s heinously expensive rail system. But hey! It’s a good introduction to the country, where everything is heinously expensive (except alcohol, if you happen to be a GCC resident), so may as well get used to it. With a couple of suitcases as well as an unwieldy snowboard bag, it was a relief that our stay, the Hotel Schweizerhof, was an easy jaunt just across the street from the train station (the hotel is also a short walk from the Old City, situated just outside of its border). Continue reading

Fujairah – Al Hayl castle…& a small serving of other things

A new road opened up recently that cuts through the Hajar mountains and provides a more direct route to/from Dubai and Fujairah (yay!). This is excellent news, considering Fujairah is pretty much my favorite place in all of the UAE and it now only takes an hour to get there; previously it was about  1 hr 45 minutes I think?

This weekend, we tested the new road out and took a little detour to peek at Al Hayl castle. Located just a short drive away from Fujairah city, the (pretty quaint) castle is about 250 years old in a gorgeous location surrounded by mountains and date palm farms. Continue reading

Places I Wouldn’t Mind Behaving Badly in 2012

With 2012 swiftly approaching and my penchant for pre-planning the year ahead starting to kick into gear, I’ve begun to to think about my top travel goals for the next 12 months.

Kerala, India: After putting India on the backburner so many times over the years I’ve lived pretty much next-door to it, India is definitely scheduled in for a visit this year. I have to get it out of the way. I’d like to focus on Kerala in pre-monsoon season (ie. May) for a couple weeks. It will be the total opposite of Dubai with its abundant greenery, lack of glittering, soulless housing developments & skyscrapers and bling, and hopefully regular bouts of rain. Exactly what I am looking for in a holiday – the opposite of my normal life. If I’m really lucky there will be poor t0 no internet/phone service so no-one can get in touch with me! That’s a real vacation. And curry, the curry. I just hope I don’t get tired of having to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and everything in-between.

Lebanon: Party, shop and EAT in Beirut. Historic sites and ancient ruins throughout the rest of the country. Maybe summer?

Hong Kong: Whether I continue to consider a move out here or not, I desperately want to visit Hong Kong with the quickness. The urban/natural combo landscape of the area looks incredible and anyway I absolutely love visiting Asia. The city looks far more stimulating than Dubai and I bet there are some good eats, too. I’m particularly curious about Kowloon. And delighted to visit whenever I can fit it in to the schedule.

Wengen, Switzerland: Yeah, so I’ve been here before and am returning to the exact same place pretty much exactly one year later so it doesn’t sound that interesting. BUT! I never got around to trying out that rather dangerous-looking and injury-inducing sledging sledding down the mountain last time. It’s definitely on my list to try this year. After more than a few glasses of Glühwein. Because getting hurt hurts so much less when you’re drunk.

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Outside of this, I hope to pop in some random long weekends/short week trips to other locales around the Middle East (& possibly India, as I think the visa for that country should last a full 6 months, so may as well make good use of it). And I really want to go back to Oman to see an opera in Muscat’s new opera house, Royal Opera House Muscat. And hopefully a Halloween/wedding-related trip back to the states in the second-half of the year?

And I’m certainly not one of those new year resolution weirdos, but if I do have one for 2012, it is this: I will not waste/lose my vacation days next year like I did in 2011. Out of the 30 vacation days I am given, I think I only used maybe 20? I’m in no way pleased about this, as what I don’t use I simply lose at the end of the year, and will be making sure it doesn’t happen again in 2012.

Wengen, Switzerland

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Switching it up from my more usually planned trips to places where snow and warm layers are never any consideration (I generally hate the stuff), I found myself excited about  a trip to Switzerland.  Cold weather may not sit well with me (it literally causes me pain, like my body just wants to cramp up all over) but I am willing to go through some suffering to get a good bit of snowboarding in.

After spending a good portion of my life skiing (started when I was 11-ish) and snowboarding (started in my early 20’s) in the not-so-glamorous state of Pennsylvania, I was totally beside myself with excitement to finally get the chance to hit the slopes on the Swiss Alps – in the Jungfrau region of the Berner Oberland, to be exact. Continue reading