Foraging in autumn : going nutty on foraging …

After having realised the abundance of nature’s treasures that surrounds me … I was determined to go out and do a lot of foraging this year. So this year, I have decided that I shall spend less time tending to my balcony garden so that I can use some of that free time to go and forage for free food from nature.

Whereas in summer I had the pleasure of foraging for berries and plums … autumn is all about nuts!

Oh yes … this year, I went a little nutty … collecting all the different nuts that I could lay my hands on that are on offer by nature. And although I have now actively stopped looking for them … as I have shifted my focus onto foraging for mushrooms … I still pick them whenever I happen to chance upon any edible nuts during my little excursions to the woods.

And these are some of the nuts that I have had the pleasure of collecting (and then eating, of course!) this autumn.

DSCN2688.AHigh on my list of nuts to pick this autumn are hazelnuts. As I was a little too late to pick any last year … I started checking them out early this year so as to make sure that I would not miss them again. And this year, between the hubby and I, we managed to collect more than 1 kilogram worth in weight of wild and free hazelnuts.

Chestnuts

Second on my list, although equally important as they are our favourite, are chestnuts. While out walking and foraging for berries in summer (and having learnt to recognise the tree a little better), I realised that there are, in fact, a lot of chestnut trees in the nearby woods … as well as one that I could see from our balcony!  What a lovely surprise … :)

So this year, I went foraging for them from the nearby woods instead of having to take a train to our favourite haunt in Bouveret to collect some chestnuts. Unfortunately, being close to the city (with high resident population), I am not the only one collecting these little brown treasures. But despite the stiff competition, I was happy to have been able to collect more than 2 kilograms worth of chestnuts from the nearby woods. Okay lah … :)

Walnuts

Next on my list are walnuts. I am not exactly a fan of walnuts, but as I had seen earlier in summer that there were plenty of these nuts on the walnut tree below our balcony this year, I decided that I would go and pick some when they would start to fall. There were plenty more from a much bigger tree several hundred metres away from home … but as it grows in an area surrounded by tall grasses (which would make it more difficult to look for the nuts that had fallen), I decided that I would give the walnuts from that tree a miss lah!

Still … the hubby managed to bring home some when he went on his bicycle excursion to the village of Romainmôtier … so between us, we managed to collect more than 1 kilogram of walnuts.

SAM_0903.AAnd last but not least, although I had initially decided to give these nuts a miss this year, it was difficult to resist picking some when I saw so many of them on the ground during one of my foraging walks. This was especially so as the ones that I saw at Forêt du Jorat were much bigger than the ones that I had picked last year at Bois de Sauvabelin. So despite my best intention, I ended picking some of these beechnuts … just so that I could bring some home to try. Actually, they tasted pretty good.

Compare nuts

However, since they are very small, one has to pick and to peel a lot to make a decent meal out of the beechnuts.

So that sums up the different nuts that I have had the pleasure of collecting this autumn. Not a lot … but more than enough to keep me one happy nutty forager this year! :-D

In search of the blue lake …

SAM_0705.AAfter having seen the waterfall of ‘Dard’ near Romainmôtier we decided to go and look for another watersource several days later. This time, our object of interest was a lake … to be found in the valley of Val d’Hérens and not far from the famous mountain resort of Arolla. The name of the lake is simply ‘Lac Bleu’ or blue lake.

I had always wondered what the lake looked like whenever we went to Arolla, as the bus passes by an area with a big sign so as to entice visitors to come and check out ‘Lac Bleu’. The lake was mentioned during one conversation during our hiking excursion at Arolla with hubby’s bestie and his father just two weeks earlier … and I believed that this must have helped to pique the hubby’s interest in wanting to see the lake. So taking advantage of the nice weather in early October, we decided to go back to the mountain area near Arolla to look for the blue lake.

Once we found the lake … we have to admit that hubby’s bestie was absolutely right when he told us how beautiful this lake was. We liked it so much that we spent quite some time just admiring and enjoying the cosy atmosphere and beautiful views at Lac Bleu.

Start pointLeaving behind La Gouille (left) … the start point of our hike … and up the mountain slope we went (right) in search of Lac Bleu.

HikeWith the sun shining brightly and the temperature not overly warm … it was an ideal day to go and look for a lake up on the mountain.

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The yellowing and browning of the leaves on the trees due to the change in season made the whole area seem alive.

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Along the way, we came across a herd of cows (a black species specific to this mountain valley) happily grazing on the mountain slope under the watchful eyes of their herder (far left of the picture).

Errr … okay, the herder (which the hubby was very sure must be Léon) was actually busy looking at a mirror as he was shaving himself.  But … he certainly fixed his eyes on us when we decided to get closer to the cows so that we could snap some photos. I take it, it was out of concern for us rather than for the cows lah! :-) The animals were big and with their black hide and horns, they looked mighty fierce.

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Although it was Friday, we came across several hikers who had decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather to do some hiking like us … and most likely check out Lac Bleu, too.

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Hubby patiently waiting on a rock for me to catch up with him as I had stopped several times to take photos of some of the interesting flora and fauna that I saw along the way.

the views

But with views like this … it was not a bad spot to do some waiting while taking in some sun lah!

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So I decided that I would rest on the rock for a few minutes, too … so that I could have my fill of looking at the glacier of Arolla before us while I filled my empty stomach a little.

Mountain cabinOnce I had rested enough, we continued with our hike … and as we passed the rows of mountain chalets and huts further up the slope, we saw that one of them, named Chez Léon (Leon’s place), also served as a kind of mini café for visitors to the area. So although we had already had our rest stop only a few minutes earlier, we were keen to have another rest stop … so that we could give Monsieur Léon some business.

Unfortunately, despite the sign that stated that it was open, there was nobody at Chez Léon. (The hubby believed it was because Monsier Léon was busy looking after the cows since one of the huts was clearly a cow barn). What a disappointment … not only for the two of us … but also for another small group of French hikers who had come down the slope and were also hoping to have a drink at this rustic mountain café.

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And really … with a view like this, I am sure you would like to rest for a while and have a drink at Chez Léon, too … do you not agree? (Click on the picture to enlarge).

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So we continued with our hike … not realising that the blue lake was only a short hike up from the wooden huts. That wooden bridge in the picture is, in fact, the start of the lake … as I later found out.

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My first view of Lac Bleu … situated at 2,090 metres. The first thing that I noticed once I got near the lake was how clear the water was.

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The water was so crystal clear that one could see the contents of the lake very clearly, including the trunks of trees and branches that had fallen into the lake … so lovely. And it certainly made me feel like wanting to jump into the lake! :)

Given such a beautiful spot … naturally, I took lots and lots of photos! But here are just several selected shots of the lake area.

SAM_0430.AA wooden bridge meant for visitors to cross the lake has the unfortunate effect of separating the lake into two. This is the smaller and less popular part of the lake as most of the visitors (including us) tended to focus our attention more on the bigger part of Lac Bleu.

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A shot from up the hill showing the lake being divided into two by the wooden bridge that connects one hill to the other. (Click on the picture to enlarge).

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A shot taken from under a tree …  with the wooden bridge which is the start point for those coming from La Gouille (seen on the other side of the lake).

SAM_0486.AA shot taken near the water’s edge .. showing the crystal clear water on the lake.

SAM_0597.AThe glacier of Arolla could be seen quite clearly from Lac Bleu. I simply adored the juxtaposition of different colours on this sunny day in autumn. We were so fortunate to have seen the blue lake at this time of the year.

Reading

A small waterfall fed the lake. After checking out and snapping photos of the waterfall, the hubby then decided that he would read his book at the foot of the waterfall.

SAM_0487.AI, on the other hand, chose to sit under the shade of this tree … like a typical Southeast Asian lady who prefers to avoid being burnt by the sun! hehehe … :-D By this time, all the other hikers who were there when we had arrived had left, so that we had the whole lake to ourselves. It was sooo peaceful.

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However, I soon got tired of playing with my handphone game (as unlike the hubby, I had not brought any book with me to read) … so I decided to go and do a little exploration of the waterfall myself.

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I followed the narrow steep path at the side of the waterfall to go all the way to the top, only to realise that the fast flowing water falling down the rocky slope …

Water source

…  actually came from underneath these huge rocks! I had assumed that it was from a glacier but I later learnt that it was, in fact, from a spring about 10 metres further up the hill.

SAM_0514_stitchThe view of Lac Bleu from on top of the waterfall. From this vantage point, the name  fits, does it not? The blue colour is the result of algae and glacial clays that inhabit the depth of the lake.

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Some Dutch hikers making their way to the lake … as seen from my spot on top of the waterfall.

SAM_0491.AA shot taken from the foot of the waterfall.

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And again another shot from under the tree where I had rested … with the glacier of Arolla rising above Lac Bleu.

We later made our way to the opposite hill to check out the view from there.

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And this was the view of Lac Bleu from the opposite hill … the arrival point for those coming down the mountains, including from Arolla. (Click on the picture to enlarge).

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I could actually see Chez Léon quite clearly from this spot. While I was busy snapping away, the hubby decided that he would do a spot of napping on the opposite hill (if you are able to spot him, that is! :) )

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A lone lady hiker coming down the mountain slope to Lac Bleu. Whereas she and a few other hikers had just arrived in the area, for us it was time to leave the blue lake.

Going down

Making our way down the mountain in order to catch the last bus back to the railway station at Sion.

Cows

And along the way, we came across the herd of black cows yet again … and this time, they were right in the middle of our path! As there was a young cow amongst them, we were careful not to attract too much attention in case the protective mummy decided to charge at us thinking that we were a threat. We got some fixed stares … but none came charging, so that was fortunate.

La Gouille

Back at La Gouille to catch our bus. We were a little early and had to wait for quite some time in the chilly evening air … but better that than missing the last bus altogether! The small lake on the bottom picture is actually a private fishing pond.

So, after several visits to the valley over the course of a few years, … I finally got to see Lac Bleu. As my favourite adage goes … better late than never lah! :)

Other entries on Arolla and Val d’Hérens:

A visit to Romainmôtier …

SAM_9730.ALast weekend was the désalpe festival at the small village of Romainmôtier. It is a fest to celebrate the cows coming down from their mountain pastures to take cover from the onslaught of snow and cold weather in winter. Last year, we had missed seeing the cows parade at the village of l’Etivaz, arriving there only after the cows had already reached their respective farmhouses.

So this year, we considered going to the one at Romainmôtier … a lovely small village located near the foot of the Jura mountain range and which is only about an hour away by train from Lausanne. However, as the weather forecast for the weekend was expected to be a wet one … we ended up doing an altogether different activity instead.

Nonetheless … even though I have no photos of the désalpe festival at Romainmôtier that I could share … I can still show a selection of the photos that I took of the village when we went there two weeks ago. It is a lovely village … and the many fruit trees that I saw there added to the appeal of the village (at least for me!) :-)

Village

Making our way through the village of Croy after leaving the railway station. Although the railway station is called Romainmôtier, the actual village itself is located further up the hill. In order to get to it, we had to pass through the village of Croy first.

SAM_9728.AThankfully, it was a lovely day … so that it was not really such a hardship to make that 30 – 35 minutes walk from the railway station to the village of Romainmôtier.

DSCN9672Arriving at the outskirt of the village … where there were plenty of nice houses for me to ogle at. It was really a beautiful residential area.

SAM_9751.AFrom here, the old medieval village of Romainmôtier is just a few hundred metres away. Once we cleared this wooded path in an area called Praël

Path to village … open pastures with horses as well as walnut and apple groves greeted us. We later saw a group of people busy picking apples from one of the apple trees as we were making our way back from the village of Romainmôtier.

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The first thing that we noticed as we reached the village is the spire of the famous medieval abbey church of Romainmôtier.

Old churchThis abbey church is one of the main reasons why people come to visit this small village. It is more than a thousand years old and it was built in the style of a famous abbey in France, at Cluny — as the hubby was keen to explain to me.

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And opposite the church are the impressive towers that were part of the remparts.

Village centre

The tiny village centre … which includes a small library which opens twice a week for just half a day, housed in the Maison de Commune or the administrative hall (bottom picture on the left).

Tearoom

Having a little tea-break from all that walking at a cosy open-air tea-room. I adored the set-up … and their pear tart with almonds was unbelievably delicious! :-)

After that, it was time to look for the waterfall that the hubby had wanted to see on his visit to the village a week earlier by bicycle but which he did not manage to see.

Path

Instead of taking the route which we had taken earlier to go to the village of Romainmôtier.… this time, the hubby suggested that we walk along a narrow path, called ‘sentier du patrimoine’, by a small stream.

PathsThis proved to be one of the highlights of our little visit to this old village. The area was so peaceful and lovely and the sound of running water from the little stream (La Nozon) as we walked was so soothing. In addition, there were many fruit trees growing along the stretch … apples, pears, plums, quinces, hazelnuts, etc.

Path

Along ‘sentier du patrimoine’ in an area called Sainte-Anne.

Washing area

The path comprises two stretches and, at the end of each, we saw ‘lavoirs’ (laundry areas) which the villagers had built in the old days to make use of the stream for the purpose of washing their linen. From the notice on the wall of the lavoirs’, it was a lengthy and tiring process, apparently.

SAM_9982 ABack on a country road … in area called ‘Grand Moulin’ (because of the watermill that I caught sight of).

Waterfall

We then made our way through an area called ‘La Foule’ (the ‘crowd’, probably ironically, at least originally, because there were very few houses) to the waterfall of ‘Dard’ (which the hubby says means ‘sting’).

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We were not the only ones who had the same idea of visiting the waterfall … as there were already several groups of people enjoying the view of the waterfall when we made our way down the slope to get near the waterfall.

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The twelve-metre high waterfall of ‘Dard’ at the ‘gorge’ of the small river ‘Nozon’. Even if not as high as some of the world’s most famous waterfalls, it was sufficiently impressive to me. A highly refreshing environment for what was a beautiful first weekend of autumn.

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