Our friends Amanda and Laurie kindly invited Rebecca and I, along with Jenn and Spence, to join them on their vacation in Switzerland over the Eid al Fitr holiday. We didn’t want to miss such a great chance to spend some time with our friends in a beautiful country. Laurie injured his knee the weekend before the trip and was in a wheelchair so we all waited with bated breath to see if the trip was still a go. Laurie said he’d prefer to heal in the Swiss Alps as opposed to being cooped up in AD so off we went.
So, on Friday, May 31st, Bec, Amanda, Laurie, and I boarded the red-eye to Geneva. Jenn and Spence would join the following day. We picked up our 7 seater Citroen SpaceTourer van and headed out of the city. We traveled north around Lake Geneva and arrived in the town of Vevey around 9:30am. We strolled/rolled down the promenade and had a nice al fresco lunch. Bec and I checked into the nearby Le Charlot Guest House (unfortunately the Grand Hotel du Lac was fully booked) and had a little quiet time in the afternoon before meeting Laurie and Amanda for a drink on their patio followed by a delicious dinner of fresh fish from the lake.
Bec and I walked into the nearby town in the morning and did a little shopping at the weekly market. We found the freshest strawberries, carrots, figs and radishes as well as some saucisson, cheese, and bread. We also tried something new to us and incredibly delicious called ramequin au fromage. Jenn and Spence soon arrived by train and got settled in the hotel. We were then off on a Lavaux wine tour driven by yours truly. The stops included Domaine Bovy in Chexbres, Les 11 Terres in Epesses, and Croix Duplex in Grandvaux. We were back in Vevey around 4:00pm and again had a little quiet time before our big dinner. Laurie had booked us into Denis Martin, a Michelin starred restaurant. We were given a demonstration in the kitchen by Denis Martin himself followed by the multi-course chef’s menu. I lost track of them all, but every last one was delicious and the presentation was amazing.
On Sunday morning, Bec and I took the 9:07am train out to Lutry to walk “Les Terrasses de Lavaux” wine route. The scenery was amazing with the steep cliffs and the Cistercian monk-built terraces being the highlight. We walked all 11 km to Saint-Saphorin and decided to walk the additional 5km back to the hotel. We just sat down at our local sandwich shop when we saw Jenn and Spence walk by. It turned out that they were only a half hour behind us the whole time! We had a bite and a well-deserved beer. That night, the four of us had a picnic on the waterfront while Amanda and Laurie dined at the Ze Fork, but we all met up later for a nightcap.
Bec and I explored a bit of the old town on Monday morning and met the team at the van around 11:00am. We made a pit stop at Migros supermarket for a few supplies and then headed for a small town named Aigle. There, we visited the Aigle Castle and had one last walk through the Chasselas grape vines. We continued our journey and arrived in the village of Tasch around 2:00pm. As no combustion-engine vehicles are allowed in Zermatt, we parked the van and took the train up the valley. Our hotel had an electric buggy waiting for us at the station and we were soon checking into the Romantik Hotel Julen. Laurie had made some big strides in his recovery and was now walking with a cane. He was eager to get on the trail and found us a nice hike up to the village of Zmutt. It was a constant gradient through the forest and then leveled off into sheep pasture with the Matterhorn always in view. It was quite scenic and a great start to Zermatt.
On Tuesday, we set out for Glacier Paradise, the highest cable car station in Europe. Three separate lifts took us to the final elevation of 3883m. We were lucky to have great visibility – we could see Mont Blanc and well into Italy. We also checked out Glacier Palace, a tunnel bore through the glacier full of ice sculptures. We then came to learn that Laurie had never heard of Gluhwein and quickly fixed that problem. Back down in Furi, Rebecca and I decided to do a hike called the Gletsch Walk that points out a few interesting bits about the receding Gorner Glacier. After the hike, we walked down to Zermatt instead of taking the gondola. We took advantage of the sauna facilities before meeting up with the team for happy hour and dinner.
The next morning, we were on the move again. We took the train back down to Tasch, loaded up the van, made our way to Goppenstein, and drove the van onto the railcar. We were tugged up the 14.6km Lötschberg Tunnel to the other side of the Bernese Alps, disembarked in the town of Kandersteg, and headed to Interlaken. We had time to grab coffee and a snack before our Swiss chocolatier workshop at the Funky Chocolate Club. We learned about and tasted different types of chocolate and then we re-constituted the chocolate, poured, and decorated it to make our own bars. We had a margarita across the street while we waited for the chocolate to set and, with chocolate in hand, made the final drive up to Grindelwald.
On Thursday morning, we awoke to a loud clamoring of cow bells around 6:00am as a herd was being driven through town up towards their highland summer pastures. The weather wasn’t really cooperating and it was drizzling rain. Up to that point it had been beautiful and unexpectedly warm. The advice we received was to stay at lower elevation and head to the next valley over, Lauterbrunnen. We parked in the village of the same name around 11:00am and continued up the valley on foot. We soon passed Stubbauch Falls, Europe’s highest free-falling waterfall. We continued on to Trummelbach Falls which is a series of 10 subterranean waterfalls. Paths and tunnels have been built to allow visitors to wind their way through and up to the top of the falls. There was an option for us to take the gondola up to Murren and along the ridge back to Lauterbrunnen, but we could see that it would all be above the clouds and decided to head back to Grindelwald. We had an early dinner in the hotel that night and went for a long walk through town afterwards.
Friday was Rebecca and I’s last full day in Switzerland and the weather was looking much better. The team walked into town and took two gondolas up to First. We were told there was still a lot of snow at this higher elevation given the time of the year and, unfortunately, all of the hiking trails I had been researching were closed. The guys checked out the First Cliff Walk which is a metal walkway bolted to the cliffs including a suspension bridge. The last feature is a viewing platform jutting out over the cliff’s edge. We headed back down to Schreckfeld on the gondola. From there, Jenn, Spence, and I hopped on some mountain carts and raced down the 3 km track to Bort. Meeting Bec there, the 4 of us set out on a hike traversing the mountain. Soon into it, we met up with Laurie and Amanda who had coincidentally chosen the same path. So the 6 of us walked 7.4 km to Bussalp. The team chose to hop on the bus as it was due to be arriving, but Bec and I wanted to walk down into town adding another 6 km to the day. We were definitely ready for our daily sauna by the time we got back. Everyone met for a happy hour and then walked into town to a traditional restaurant named Barry’s. My schnitzel cordon bleu was absolutely delicious.
Bec and I were up early and had set the van’s course for Geneva by 6:00am. Jenn and Spence would be staying on another day and Laurie and Amanda had another week planned in Wengen and Zurich. It was a fabulous trip with our dear friends from Abu Dhabi. The mountain views, the hiking, the food, the chocolate, and, of course, the wonderful company all made it such a memorable trip.