Evening! Following on from my last post ‘From Russia With Love‘ here is the second in a series of 5 travel reviews; with this one focused on a country that I keep returning to – Switzerland.
Over the last year, I’ve had three trips to Switzerland – mainly to visit my brother, sister-in-law and gorgeous two nieces who live in the Bagnes region, in the valley below Verbier. During these amazing visits, I’ve been lucky enough to squeeze in a lot of skiing, some running, hiking, swimming and a couple of big birthday celebrations.
Last month I spent a glorious five days there with the whole family, celebrating my brother’s 40th birthday. We also took the opportunity of the first family gathering in two years, to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday, from earlier this year.
So, today’s #5aday is dedicated to Switzerland, and the Alps:
- First Impressions – Whenever I arrive in Switzerland, I’m always blown away by their efficiency. Everything works like clockwork. Little wonder they’re renowned for their time pieces as well as their time keeping. Swiss is my preferred airline to travel to Geneva, with no baggage restrictions, good value, great service flights from Heathrow. I have yet to experience a delay and my bags always seem to be waiting for me as I come through passport control (hope I’m not tempting fate by saying this). From the terminal it takes minutes to get to the train station, with regular and prompt trains to Martigny and Le Chable.
- Summer in the Alps – The Swiss Alps are stunning in the summer. Having spent so much time there during the winter months, it was lovely to see the mountains in all their green glory, with wonderful wild flowers, grazing goats and beautiful blue skies. We went to a lovely outdoor pool in Champex-Lac (great for kids and big kids!), by a stunning lake. We had an adventure on the Sentier Suspendu (Go Ape style obstacle course in the trees) in La Fouly. And the pinnacle of the holiday, took place at Cabane Brunet, 2100m high above the Val de Bagnes. This was the location of my brother’s 40th party, where 60 of us enjoyed wonderful company, food and drink, all with a backdrop of sensational views over the Petit and Grand Combin glaciers, as well as the valley. A few of us chose to hike up on the day and down the following day – not ideal with stonking hangovers, but definitely worth it for the views and the exercise!
- Eating in the Alps – I’ve enjoyed some delicious food while in Switzerland – my favourite tending to be raclette, or some other cheese-based winter speciality. This summer however, we were treated to a new restaurant in Orsieres – Restaurant Les Alpes, for dad’s 70th. It used to be the proud recipient of a Michelin star, but even though this status has not been maintained, the food and service was exceptional. Perfect for such a special birthday. Favourite winter restaurants in the area include Le Caveau for raclette, La Marlenaz for family meals, Fer à Cheval for pizza and Al Capone for its local speciality ‘Potence’ (hanging meat).
- Running in the Alps – I’ve mentioned before, how I like to run whenever I travel, but this time I only managed to squeeze in the one run, in amongst all the other activities. Earlier this year, when I visited I was training for a trail run in April, and managed to get a couple of much needed altitude and hill runs under my belt. My great friend Tori and I have started a tradition of meeting every year in France for a trail run – the first of which was the Eco-Trail de Paris in March 2012 and the second was the Beaujolais Villages Trail in April 2013. I am now hoping I might persuade her to come to the Swiss Alps next July for the Verbier-St Bernard trail. Entries aren’t open yet, but I’m hoping that by publishing this, it will encourage us both to sign up, as well as any other takers out there!?
- Skiing in the Alps – And finally, I could not complete this blog, without mentioning the skiing. I’ve been very fortunate to have a brother who I can visit as many times as I can afford (holiday and money-wise!) over the last 8 years. While it is a little pricey in Verbier, the skiing is definitely worth it. I’ve written a number of posts about Verbier and skiing, which can be read here. In March, I also managed to squeeze in a long weekend at the Swiss Ski Resort of Crans Montana. I took part in the Momentum City Ski Championship and entries will soon be open for 2014, if you fancy entering a corporate team? It’s great fun! Crans is very different to Verbier in that it is a fairly open and exposed resort and therefore it can be susceptible to icy slopes. It does boast spectacular vistas and has a wide variety of skiing. It is also host to some excellent music during the Caprices Music Festival. It seems bonkers, while we’re still enjoying a late summer, but now is the time to start planning your ski holiday for this winter. So, if you’re feeling fit, check out the Momentum City Ski Championship. If you’re feeling flush, check out Bramble Ski. And, if you’re feeling flash, check out Haute Montagne!
Whether you’re looking to book an active holiday in the summer, or in the winter, whatever the time of year, I thoroughly recommend you make it Swiss O’Clock.
By Sarah Mayo