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Our Europe Trip Part I: Switzerland - Cheese, Chocolate, and Snow in July

Our Europe Trip Part I: Switzerland - Cheese, Chocolate, and Snow in July

Jul 27th, 2007, 10:08 AM
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Our Europe Trip Part I: Switzerland - Cheese, Chocolate, and Snow in July

We had a three leg journey on the way to Geneva, connecting in Atlanta and then again in JFK. This was the first time our 2.5 year old toddler had ever flown, and it was quite a challenge.

We hadn't brought along a car seat, so all that was restraining our son was that silly little strap that he constantly unbuckled. On our first flight, the stewardess decided the way to appease our child was through extra snacks. That worked for a while, until our toddler threw up. Fortunately, the second and third legs of the journey got easier. He fell asleep on the overnight flight over the Atlantic.

We arrived in Geneva, and the weather was spectacular, sunny and about 22C (72F), a great break from the heat and humidity of back home (30-35C/86-95F). It felt so nice (cool but with warm sun) I just wanted to get a chair and camp out under the sun, but alas, we had some big time touring to do. Our inlaws picked us up and we dropped off our luggage at their apartment, then we headed straight to downtown Geneva to walk along the lake and see the Jet D'eau.

The next day, we took off for Verbier, Switzerland, taking the scenic route. We decided not to take the expressway/autoroute and instead take the road hugging the coast. It passes through some very beautiful, quaint towns. It was a late Saturday morning, and the town centers were quite lively, with shoppers going to and fro, and people sipping coffee/tea and eating their morning cheese and bread. I immediately began to compare to the states and how it's so sad that most downtowns in small towns are dying. Oh well, at least in Europe they are alive and well. I also noticed that for each town, concrete block housing surrounded the town and then after that were fields. The only homes I noticed were either farm homes, or mansions right on the lake. I guess the normal person just doesn't have a chance of ever having a house in Switzerland.

Our first stop was Rolle, for lunch. My mother in law had packed fried chicken sandwiches (I guess she wanted to welcome me with some good Southern cookin'). We ate along the beautiful seawall and took pictures. I especially admired the view of the mountains on the other side of the lake that rose dramatically from the water.

Next step was Montreux. Now, unfortunately, we were a little early for the Jazz Festival. At the time we went, they were still setting up the barriers, stages, etc... I would really like to see the festival - I'm curious how it would compare to the New Orleans Jazz Fest. In any case, I couldn't have picked a more beautiful setting for a Jazz Festival. I'm also proud that a Louisiana music form has made its way to the Alps. An interesting mix I must say, Louisiana swamp music in the high Alps.

I was also surprised how kid friendly Montreux was. Our son was able to enjoy the various playgrounds and go on the carousel. Quite nice.

We got back into the car and hopped on the autoroute down to Martigny. This part of the trip was through a mainly agricultural valley that was unremarkable except for the background mountains. I noticed how similar autoroutes/expressways/interstates are - they totally cut you off from the place you are traveling through.

At Martigny, the scenery turns much more interesting. I found it especially interesting watching the roaring rapids of the various rivers that cross here, all deriving their source high in the Alps.

I also marveled at the engineering marvels of the Swiss. Road building is a very difficult task there, with many tunnels and bridges required, the terrain is steep and uneven, and the risk of avalanches and rock slides/mud slides means a project completed one year could be totally destroyed the next. Oddly enough, the freeways in Switzerland are probably some of the best in Europe, especially considering the conditions that the Swiss have to build them in.

Finally, we began our steep climb to Verbier. Man, I thought we were going to fall off the roads - those switch backs hug the cliffs pretty closely, and I guess the Swiss don't think guard rails are needed everywhere. I wonder how difficult it is to navigate that road in winter...



bkluvsNola is offline  
Jul 28th, 2007, 07:04 AM
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Next step: Verbier
bkluvsNola is offline  
Jul 28th, 2007, 11:51 AM
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We arrived in Verbier and quickly headed to the grocery store, which closed at 5PM. We got there at 4:50PM so we cut it real close. This is one instance where the 24x7 supermarkets in the states come in handy. I guess if you don't plan well in Switzerland, you can literally starve! Fortunately, the inlaws have lived in Switzerland a while and they had packed groceries in the event we didn't make it to the grocery store in time.

The next day, we walked around town. I quickly realized that nothing was open because it was a Sunday (not even the grocery store), and to top that off, it was the off season in Verbier, so most restaurants remained closed that week. Later in the week the "summer season" started and the town of Verbier took on some life.

The first two days were about as glorious as it could be, around 70 degrees and sunny (21C) with nighttime lows in the 50's (10-15C). Really, chamber of commerce weather, as they say in the states.

Because of the good weather, we did quite a bit of walking around, etc... We had forgotten our child back carrier, so unfortunately, hiking was out of the question while we were with our toddler, and grandma and grandpa were not yet comfortable to watch our kid yet. Thus, we mainly walked around the village and took pictures. I also took the time to buy some lovely postcards. We were also able to plan the rest of the week's excursions.

I had wanted to have fondue in the mountains, but since almost every restaurant was closed, and since we had a fondue pot in our apartment, we decided to go ahead and do fondue one of the nights. So on Monday when the grocery store reopened, we purchased the necessary ingredients.

The weather turned quite nasty the next few days, with torrential downpours and temperatures in the 10-15C (50's) in the day and 5-10C (40-50) at night. However, it was great weather for the fondue that we had, since fondue is traditionally served during cold weather. Also, the cold weather brought mountain snow on the peaks around Verbier, and when the sun finally returned mid week, it was even prettier than before!

Also, we found a great restaurant "Les Touristes" that was open and we all had Raclette. It was the first time I had that dish and it was quite fantastic.

As a side note on the cheese: One of the things that was both a blessing and a curse to me was the cheese. I absolutely love Swiss cheese, almost as much as I love the chocolate, but I normally don't eat a lot of dairy products each day. For instance, I rarely if ever eat cheese for breakfast, and cheese seems to be a part of every breakfast in Switzerland. Also, they tend to drink milk in the morning and not juice, and that means even more dairy products.

I won't get into details, but I had to cut back on dairy products by later in the week. I would eat bread with butter and jam and drink orange juice instead of having bread with cheese and drinking milk. My inlaws thought I was being a picky American that just wants things his own way, but honestly, my body just had had enough dairy. Has anyone else had this problem?

I found, however, that if I just limited dairy intake to lunch and dinner, the problem went away. Sorry, but I just can't stomach gruyere at 8AM.

We ended up having fondue two nights (yummy) and Raclette (also yummy) one night, but I resolved that problem with a good dose of Pepcid AC each night!

By later in the week, the inlaws decided to watch our son, and we took the ski lift up to the top of Les Ruinettes. The ski lift was quite dramatic I must say!

At Les Ruinettes, we decided to hike to Cabane Mont Fort. Now, we had wanted to go to the glacier, but that was not possible because the ski lift didn't open until the day we left. so Cabane Mont Fort would have to suffice.

So, we hiked over to Cabane de Mont Fort. The weather was iffy that day, with scattered clouds and fog alternating with sun. There was a mist at times, and it was rather cool. As we ascended in elevation, that mist turned into snow flurries. That was an odd occurrence, snow flurries in July? We rarely get snow flurries in January back home, so I really felt like I was on another planet.

Cabane Mont Fort is so cute and picturesque, sitting on the top of that mountain and covered with snow. We made it up to there and then, since it was still cold, had some hot chocolate inside. That really hit the spot, as we say in America.

The only thing I regret is that more of the ski lifts weren't open. I'd really like to go up to the glacier next time. Perhaps next time we'll go in mid to late July and we'll be able to take in the Montreux Jazz Festival and go up to the glacier in Verbier...

bkluvsNola is offline  
Jul 28th, 2007, 09:06 PM
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Good job! Is there more to come (Part 2)?
LCBoniti is offline  
Jul 29th, 2007, 06:59 AM
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Yes, next stop: Barcelona: Ritzing it up with paella and sangria in a Gothic City.

It will be posted soon.
bkluvsNola is offline  
Jul 31st, 2007, 06:34 AM
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LCBoniti,

Part II has been posted. The Title is:

Our Europe Trip Part II: Barcelona: Ritzing it up with paella and sangria in a Gothic City
bkluvsNola is offline  
Aug 1st, 2007, 09:46 AM
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Part III has been posted:

Our Europe Trip Part III: Soaking up the sun on the Costa Daurada
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