THE BEST ICE CREAM IN BASEL

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As the temperature gauge tickles the mid-thirties there’s only one thing to do in the city: ice cream. The summer has been hot and languid this year, heat bouncing off the buildings and stifling the breeze. Sure, there’s the Rhine to jump into and float along, but it’s not exactly an office-friendly quick fix to the sweltering conditions. So, ice cream.

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HORSING AROUND IN PONTRESINA

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I thought the mountains would be cold. That even in summer, the sun would shine across the snow drifts, and the people would be wearing puffy jackets and long trousers throughout the season. I was right – sort of. Yes, the actual tops of the mountains are a bit chill. But in the valleys the sun shines at full strength and outdoor activities are de rigeur.

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SWINGING WITH THE SWISS

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Yesterday was a holiday. There were so many things we could do. We thought about going to Paris for the day, or maybe somewhere in Germany. Maybe stay closer to home and visit Schaffhausen, with its pretty old town and iconic Rhine Falls…

What we actually did, was go and watch a bunch of grown men hold onto one another’s shorts and try to flip each other like tortoises. Welcome to Schwingen, a national sport of Switzerland. I’m a bit unclear on the rules, but the idea seems to be to get your opponent on their back, with both shoulders on the floor, by twisting, pushing, wrestling, hugging or sitting on them. Each competitor wears a pair of breeches with a belt to help the other grip onto them and they employ all sorts of flips and trips to try to win.

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POSTCARD FROM… APPENZELL

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Appenzell is picture postcard Switzerland. Rolling green hills dotted with cows are juxtaposed against rugged grey cliffs reaching up to a blue Spring sky. It’s enough to distract you from the fact you’re hiking up a million steps. Almost. The walk from Wasserauen to Berggasthaus Meglisalp is about 2.5 hours up and 1.5 down (if, like me, you strategically pretend to take pictures when you’re tired), but it is striking. And there’s lunch at the top.

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LEARNING TO SKI AS AN ADULT

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This winter, I learned to ski. Well, I learned to slide from side to side down a slope on skis and stop at the end. Just about.

Learning anything new as an adult is hard. But add in lack of control and a healthy dose of terror and it seems near-impossible. Day one seemed to go well. We started on a basically flat section. I could stop! I could turn! Yippee. We then went onto a slight slope. Turned out I could fall as well…

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FORAGING FOR BEAR LEEK

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It’s Bärlauch, or wild garlic, season and I am beyond excited. You can pick it up in the supermarkets, but it’s much more fun to don the wellies and head out into the woods to pick your own. Much like in the UK, the season runs from March to May, with the middle period yielding the best leaves.

You have to be careful that it’s wild garlic you are picking and not the poisonous and similar-looking Lily of the Valley, but if you can identify it, you can have a foragers field day. It grows everywhere here. We drove five minutes from Basel and were greeted by green carpets of the stuff. Restaurants pretty much serve nothing else at the moment, and everyone has a recipe or two they can recommend. It doesn’t keep that long, so follow the foragers rule of only taking what you need, give it a good wash and whip it up into a quick pesto (with parsley and parmesan), or fry it and serve it with olive oil over pasta.

FIVE THINGS TOURISTS NEVER DO IN LONDON

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1. PETERSHAM NURSERIES

This little oasis away from the city is the perfect day trip for anyone who wants to escape for a local lunch. Petersham Nurseries is a veritable treasure trove of plants, flowers and garden supplies, but for me, the real reason to take the tube or boat out to Richmond is The Café. New Head Chef Damian Clisby, previously head chef at HIX Soho and Cotswold House, works alongside Culinary Director Lucy Boyd to create seasonal menus of fresh, local produce, beautifully presented and impeccably cooked. The setting is in one of the greenhouses, populated with mismatched wooden tables and chairs and surrounded by greenery.

Church Lane, off Petersham Road, Richmond
Tube stop: Richmond Station / Thames River Boat from Westminster Pier

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