Basel Autumn Fair 2013

I have always been fond of Basel - and especially in the autumn. The terracotta spires of the Minster rise from a golden canopy of leaves and the winding Rhine reflects the autumn colours in a surface broken only by the occasional boat. The city looks particularly charming over the two weeks of its Herbstmesse (Autumn Fair). The big wheel pokes over the sloping medieval rooftops, enhancing the city's skyline; a swinging pendulum thrusts above Kasernenplatz, its passengers screaming in delight.

The Herbstmesse was founded around 500 years ago and nowadays is huge, spreading over seven of the city's squares. Yesterday, while visiting the fair, Tim and I munched seriously tasty crepes (filled with melted ground chocolate instead of Nutella) and enjoyed a few leisurely rounds on the big wheel. We inhaled the sweet smells of waffles cooking mingled with the earthy scent of roasting chestnuts. Tim went thrill seeking on that swinging pendulum, and then we wandered back along the Rhine as the sun began to dip behind the city. If, like me, fairground rides strike fear into your heart, the atmosphere of the Fair is the reason to visit: the smells, the laughter, the excited screams from the rides, the soft smoke in the air... Here are some snaps from our visit.


Beautiful despite the rain: Snaps from a wet weekend on Arran

The Isle of Arran never fails to astound with its unspoilt beauty and enchanting profile. Though Tim and I paid just a short visit to the island off the west coast of Scotland - to stay at Lochranza Caravan and Campsite and visit my mum - we felt removed from real life within hours of being there. Rain tumbled, sometimes drizzly, othertimes driving, most days - but it didn't matter. We managed to mountain bike (from Lamlash up and through the woodland to Kilmory), take a trip in Mum and Nigel's RIB (a speeding trip - bumping over waves - to the prehistoric giant millipede tracks close to Fairy Dell), sea kayak from Corrie to Sannox, walk to the prehistoric Cup-and-ring marks (a form of prehistoric art) above Brodick and hike down Glen Sannox and up over the Saddle down into Glen Rosa - and we spotted red squirrels, golden eagles, sea otters and seals to boot.

We ate well, too, nibbling delicious home made cakes at The Old Pier Tearoom in Lamlash, and honouring our last evening with scrumptious pub food at Lochranza Hotel (I had beer-battered Haddock - yum!). At night, we could hear stags roaring - the rut was coming to an end. The island gleamed golden and burnt umber against the steely skies; the sea was gunmetal grey - a cold contrast to the island in all its autumnal glory. A short escape to Arran is always worth it - especially if all you want is to feel truly alive for a few days.


Time slip: A wet weekend in Valle Bavona ... in pictures

Valle Bavona is one of the steepest and narrowest valleys in the Alps - and, apart from one of its 12 hamlets, it is not connected to the national grid. Tim and I recently had the pleasure of experiencing its 16th-century cottages, roaring waterfalls, vast forests, and peace and quiet - we fell asleep in perfect darkness to the hooting of a lone owl. I have written all about it for the National Geographic Traveller blog, but in the meantime, here are some pictures...
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