Shortly after we arrived, Florian's parents took us on a three-day tour through the Italian part of Switzerland and into Italy. We took a boat on Lago Maggiore
and explored the little flower-festooned towns around it, with their architecture of brightly painted stucco and crumbling stone.
The water was delightful for swimming
and during our day on the beach, a little family of duckies even came close for a visit.
Driving across the country, there was no shortage of stunning views across glacier-topped mountains, sunny places to picnic,
and even a very friendly dog who tried to raid our picnic basket.
Now the Swiss way of driving is not as calm and easygoing as you might expect in a neutral country known for its high standard of living, rich food, and healthy balance between work and leisure.
With Florian's mom behind the wheel as we wound through narrow, precarious mountain roads that frequently went down to one lane as they reached a blind corner around the edge of an ancient farmhouse,
suffice it to say that I may have missed a few really picturesque scenes because my eyes were closed.
Normally a hike feels incomplete without dogs, but this is one hike where I was actually glad not to have any little packages of spastic risk-taking behavior teetering on the edge of the very steep stone steps on the edge of the precipice leading up to the summit.
At the top of the climb, we visited the tiny, sleepy town of Monnetier where Florian's father grew up. More stone buildings and the ubiquitous hollyhocks and red geraniums.
We even got to visit Florian's grandparents' gravesite.
Notwithstanding the extraordinary scenery and diversions, I definitely reached a point where I longed for the feel of a furry chest under my fingers or a blast of hot breath on my cheek.
Fortunately, the next-door neighbors have a wonderful dog named Bingo who didn't mind one bit that we took advantage of him to satisfy our own emotional needs.
He let us take him for walks, deluge him with cuddles and kisses, and sneak him bits of bread and gruyere from the table.
Bingo, coupled with regular goat and pig-oriented outings (more about them in a future post), kept us from the depths of missing our own animals.
Who were very glad to see us, though they did great here with my friend Francine and the occasional little dog she brought to keep them company.