Friday, January 30, 2015

A weekend in the Swiss Alps

It is a well-known fact that I love to travel and that I do so rather frequently. Many of the trips involve actually leaving the country (probably about 80% of the time) and most are also long distance visiting family in the USA and in Germany.

The only “short” trips are those to the flat that I rent during the summer months as that is roughly two hours depending upon how many times I stop or take side-trips on the way. The shortest trips otherwise are the 3-hour train rides to Paris, or the 7 hour ones to Southern France/Northern Germany.

When my younger son decided that he would like to hold a party at home (he is currently living here – another story entirely) I said, no problem, I’ll go stay in a hotel for the night. Well that became, oh yeah, maybe I should go somewhere that I haven’t seen and, for the comfort, also take the train.

Up to Leysin it was.
One of many such chalets
Detail on a cow bell

Many lovely displays in this chalet

And what a fun weekend it turned out to be. Last minute reservation at the Mercure hotel (not going to rave about it – it was adequate) then joined a friend who was dining with other friends Friday night and Saturday night.  First though the tour to a local restaurant and mini alpine museum where they make the cheese in the old-fashioned way – in a large caldron – three times a week for the evening fondues. Then it was off to an Italian restaurant: five adults and one child. Three were of Italian origin, one of those was married to a girl from Cameroon and of course me. All were polyglots.

Cheese Restaurant in Leysin, Switzerland
Old-fashioned way of making cheese

Saturday my coffee buddy and I went off to Bulle (nearest larger city to the castle of Gruyère always a hit with the tourists) to attend the indoor flea market. I was at the tail end of a weird flu episode so after a couple of hours needed to sit and went and found the cloakroom and a bench: these indoor events rarely have seating and I didn’t think it polite to simply sit down on someone’s stall – or antique chairs. Entertained myself reading a brochure that some kids were peddling then the lady who’s stall was just outside the cloakroom asked if I would watch her stand for her whilst she went to the bathroom. Not every visitor finds them self a temporary saleswoman: fun.

Traveling there we took the back roads and mountain passes – something that as a family we had never done. Started snowing on the way back so ever so “typically Swiss” and we stopped for coffee in an authentic mountain “bistro”. 

That night we continued the oh-so-international theme when we joined the cousin, his companion and another woman in the latter’s chalet for sushi!  D’s chalet was a most wonderful blend of traditional Swiss and zen Japanese: she trained as an artist, in particular ceramics, and taught at Scripp’s in L.A. as well as at the University of Bern before turning to teaching in order “to make a living”. All the dishes used were her own works and I’d love to talk her into coming out of retirement as an artist. The other woman’s history was just as fascinating. Main language of the evening: Italian with a smattering of French as well as German between three of us when S. discovered that I spoke it.  The cousin was more than entertaining and the word “mass” will forever make me laugh as at one point whilst discussing how the artist had put one leg on solid ground and the other on not-so-solid thus falling forward he described it as her “mass” made her topple meaning of course mass and velocity (he was an engineer) as opposed to weight (she was top heavy), but he had a hard time back peddling out of that one.

Best sushi ever!

The of algaes salad was devoured by all

Again late to bed, but no matter as Sunday there were no plans. Late breakfast followed by simply relaxing, partially in the sun, after touring the village and admiring how the snow, which had ever so conveniently fallen during the night, covered the slush, mud and rocks that had been apparent upon my arrival.

Fresh snow powdering on the trees

Must have been a strong wind at some point

Christmas lights and snow make the branches festive

Huge rocky mountains

La Tour d'Ai

It was a true break (tried checking e-mails the first night as the hotel supposedly had wi-fi, but although I could go online for the news, etc. couldn’t seem to get passed the barriers for e-mails etc. so decided that a computer-free weekend was perhaps a good thing) and returning home somewhat of a let-down, but never mind I have another adventure with my housemate coming up mid-February.