The List: Favorite Trips Of All Time.

This post is dedicated to all the travelers out there.  We often get inquiries about our favorite places that we have visited outside of the US.  Before we forget, we wanted to leave detailed notes on our top picks in rank order.    Instead of putting it as a post and making it impossibly long to scroll through, we have created a new page on the site here.   You can find it in the future on the top menu of the blog. We pledge to continually update it through our travels!

Gratitude Friday: Sunny Saturdays

Last weekend, we actually split up to experience some of our bucket list items remaining.

Gabe skied with Finnish friend A at Les Contamines, France for the day.  With my feet still not up to par for skiing, I opted for a scenic train to Rochers-de-Naye.

The guys enjoyed the day at Les Contamines, with sunny skies and great slopes.

Views at Les Contamines

Views at Les Contamines

I also enjoyed my day on the train at at Rochers-de-Naye.   One of the things that I love about living here is how much people take advantage of beautiful days.   I talked about this mentality in my “Profiter” post, but here are just a few examples of what I saw at the main station on the way out to my day trip:

gare

Skiers and hikers of all ages, ready to board the train

The reason I selected Rochers-de-Naye is because of its 2000m position at the far end of Lake Geneva.  I heard the views were magnificent and you could see almost the entire lake from the summit.  Having confirmed sunny skies, I set off on the two hour journey.

I quickly learned that sunny skies at Rochers-de-Naye and sunny skies over Lake Geneva were two different things:

Evidence of the permacloud

Evidence of the permacloud.  Lake Geneva is below the layer.

Nonetheless, I thought the ambience was pretty neat with the mysterious cover.   Despite my ill preparations of not wearing snow shoes (oops), I had fun seeing the mountains.

Gorgeous views @ Rochers-de-Naye

Gorgeous views @ Rochers-de-Naye

I didn’t happen to notice anything peculiar about the above scene.  However, when I was showing my French teacher, she commented….”ah, Mount Cervin”.   If you look at the pointed mountain in the distance of the photo, that is the infamous Matterhorn.  Wish the view was this clear when we were in Zermatt!

Also of note, the summit hosts 7 Mongolian yourts, which each sleep 8 people.   The ski slopes are only steps from the little huts, so you can easily ski from your doorstep in the winter, or hike in the summer.

Yourt with blue door

Yourt with blue door

Yourt with red door

Yourt with red door

After about 2 hours, I got a little break in the clouds to envision what the view would look like on a clear day.

Lake Geneva starting to show

The blue of Lake Geneva starting to show

We are both grateful for the beautiful weekend to experience some of our final must-do’s!

Related posts:

The Adventures of Miss Widget and Her People: A New Year, Another Mountain, And A Gnome

Schwingen in Switzerland: It Wasn’t Premeditated, Our Hike Up Rochers-de-Naye

The Swiss Watch Blog: Gratitude Friday – Ski School

The Apéro or Après-Ski….Two Alternatives to What We Know As Happy Hour

When we lived in The States, we frequently had “Happy Hour”.   Whether it was with colleagues or friends, it was common to get together after work, enjoy a drink and catch up.  In the US, it is also common for bars and establishments to have Happy Hour Specials such as dollar beers or half priced glasses of wine, etc.

In France, they have a similar tradition, however usually without the discount.  We’ve had the pleasure of experiencing them before but while in Morzine for Christmas, we feel like we’ve really gotten a lot of practice!

The first is “L’Apero”, or The Apero.    L’Apero is the French bridge between your normal busy day and the start of the evening.   Enjoying an ‘aperitif’ before dinner is classified as a gesture of health or well-being, to start your appetite.   The typical aperitif consists of :  champagnes, martinis, vermouths, sherries, or a light or sweet white wines, as well as small snacks like olives, chips or nuts.  A fruit juice is also an alternative to the alcoholic beverages.

Having Champagne for an aperitif

Having Champagne for an aperitif

In ski towns, the apero has a fun spin in terms of the “Après Ski”.   Literally translated, it means ‘after the ski’.  Crowds gather at the most popular bars to start the night.    Here the drink selections are more broad, including beers and mixed drinks.

The Après Ski buzz

The Après Ski buzz

Enjoying the Après Ski with friends

Enjoying the Après Ski with friends, including a special birthday celebration

Finally, after dinner, it is common in France and other European countries to be served a digestif.   Many times this is included with the meal, and is intended to help your food settle.   In Greece, it is raki or ouza.  In Italy, many times it is limoncello.  Here in France, we had homemade apple and pear liquor as well as a hot rum digestif.

While I have heard of “the night cap”, an alcoholic beverage consumed before going to bed, in the US, I typically know it as a sleep aid vs. a digestive aid.

It sure is hard to do this research, but we are happy to do it for the benefit of the blog!  Happy New Years Eve, everyone!!

Skiing Portes du Soleil

While I didn’t ski, didn’t want to deprive our readers of the skiing experience in Portes du Soleil, so I have harassed  asked our fellow holiday-goers to help add some flavor with their photos & stories.

Our Hotel Tremplin provided two lifts with direct access to Morzine / Les Gets.   These two villages are a part of an overall area is called Portes du Soleil which includes 12 resorts with 8 in France and 4 in Switzerland.  There are over 209 lifts in Portes du Soleil, allowing complete exploration of this region of 650km of slopes.

Image courtesy of avorinet.com

Image courtesy of avorinet.com

Having a central hotel was nice so everyone could break and re-group.   Plus, it was nice for them not to have to walk far to hop on a lift or rent/return skis.

Ready to go after a lunch break at Le Tremplin

First day….ready to go again after a lunch break at Le Tremplin

There was a hotel above ours, at the top of the Pleney lift.   I sat there on the terrace one day soaking in the sun, as the lift didn’t require you to be a skier to take it because of the hotel guests also needing access.

The positive to this hotel is that you could really ski directly into it.  However, the cable car stopped at a certain time which would limit your Morzine nightlife access.

The views at the top of Pleney, the furthest I could go on foot

The views at the top of Pleney, the furthest I could go on cable car + foot without being a skier

The area at Pleney was also where the ski school was headquartered.  Out of the five skiers in our group, four ended up taking lessons of differing levels to improve their skills.    This is a really good practice for skiers of all levels, to brush up and learn more.  By taking them early in the vacation, they could apply the learning.

Morzine offers lessons in English, either private or shared.  Everyone found them helpful, indicating about 2-3 things that they learned that really helped their technique the rest of the week.

Gabe at Pleney

Meeting Gabe for lunch at Pleney before his lesson

The group preferred exploring the top of the mountain, where they said it was less crowded and the views were magnificent.  Later in the week when there was rain in the village, it became more and more important to ski the top where the altitude resulted in snow vs. rain.

Slopes at Morzine, captured by Gabe

Slopes at Morzine, captured by Gabe

Riding the lift

Riding the lift, captured by J

Gorgeous snow image by B

Gorgeous snow image by B

 

Image 1

J, conquering the mountain

Image of M courtesy of B

M gazing out onto the slopes.  Image courtesy of B

Image 2

IMG-20121224-00052

Gabe, M & B, ready to descend from the top.  Image courtesy of J. 

Time for a beer!  Image courtesy of B.

Time for a beer! Image taken by M.

IMAGE_226CD6A4-EC5D-463E-B8E4-C2A892B45273

B enjoying his beer, taken by M

Each day the group came back exhausted but happy.  They were very content with the ski area and had a wonderful time.

Gratitude Friday: Christmas in the French Alps

We spent Christmas in Morzine, France, just a short hour’s drive from Geneva.   We were fortunate that some of Gabe’s colleagues and partners/spouses were also interested in spending a joyeux Noël skiing, so worked together to select a place and it ended up being the French Alps.

The village of Morzine, France

The village of Morzine, France

We couldn’t find a chalet for the group on short notice, but the hotel, Le Tremplin, ended up being a fabulous location:

Hotel Tremplin

Hotel Tremplin

The slopes literally run into the hotel, making it really convenient for the skiers

The slopes literally run into the hotel, with two different lifts, making it really convenient for the skiers

Image & vantage point courtesy of B

Image & vantage point courtesy of B

The hotel also had several restaurants attached and a cool patio.  While service wasn’t hot (they were still ironing out some beginning-of-the-season kinks), the heaters at least were.

Hanging out on Le Tremplin's patio

The guys with their beer

The ladies with our wine

The ladies with our wine

Le Tremplin's patio was nice for après ski action, with a band and a lively crowd

Le Tremplin’s patio was nice for après ski action, with a band and a lively crowd

Our room had a village view so it was neat to wake up to the sun rising and setting on the town:

Morning in Morzine

Morzine in the morning

Morzine at night

Morzine at night

The skiers had a good time, enjoying a nice variety of slopes accessible from the town.  While I wasn’t skiing due to an injury, I still was able to get access on foot to witness some of the beauty.

At the top of the Pleney telecabin lift

At the top of the Pleney telecabin lift, I saw some nice panorama

Gabe and friends skiing.  Photo courtesy of J.

Gabe and friends skiing. Photo courtesy of J.

One of the members of our group even organized a gift exchange so all shared in that on Christmas Eve night.  It was fun to open something!

Having fun at the gift exchange

Having fun at the gift exchange

We had phenomenal food, in the Haute Savoie style.   We enjoyed the hearty meals, although I wish I could have been skiing to burn them off!!

Rack of meat from L'Etale

Rack of whisky meat from L’Etale

 

Grilling food at L'Etale, an traditional alpine meal

Grilling food at L’Etale, an traditional alpine meal

We also had a nice traditional meal for Christmas Eve at a local restaurant, La Grange.   It was nice to have the treat of turkey which is uncommon here.

Thanksgiving dinner, image courtesy of B.

Thanksgiving dinner, image courtesy of B.

Our French turkey dinner

Our French turkey dinner

The cheese plate that came after dinner

The cheese plate that came between dessert and dinner

While we missed being with our family this Christmas, we are grateful for all God’s blessings, especially this special experience of seeing this beautiful area of the world.

Discovering Geneva: The Salève

Just outside of Geneva, is a cliff called The Salève.   It is visible from the town and towers over the city.    It’s so close you’d think it was in Switzerland.   But, it is actually in France.

3D Map courtesy of Alps Dream

 

Many women I know have hiked the Salève.   It is a strenuous 5 hour hike and 100% of it is steps and steep climbs.  I think a lot of the time, this hike ends up on people’s “Geneva Bucket List” of things to do before they move.  It’s never been an option for me because of my feet, although ever so tempting!

 

The Salève is the big cliff overlooking Geneva

 

Good thing that there are alternative ways up.    You can drive through France.   We heard from A & A & D that this is only for people who don’t get car sick.  They may have learned this the hard way.

You can also take the little cable car up.   Since Twin & Solid were visiting, we decided to go to The Salève on the day that they landed from the US for their first ever cable car ride.  It was sunny and clear that day, which is an absolute for planning a trip to Mont Salève.

From Geneva, you can take the TPG (Bus #8 direction Veyrier Douane)  to the border, and walk across.    It is about a 10-15 minute walk and the route is decently marked.  You can also see the cable car wires looming in the air, so you have a visual reminder of which direction to walk.

At 1000m, it is a good introductory cable car compared to say, Mt. Blanc.

Enjoying the view

Panorama of Geneva from the top of Mont Salève

They have two restaurants at the top – a small chalet selling inexpensive drinks and sandwiches, as well as a fancier place.   In fact, the nicer restaurant wouldn’t let us sit on the edge if we weren’t ordering food.  So, we just sat a row inward so we could order a drinks.

Many friends have told me its nice to bring a picnic and enjoy it as you look upon Geneva.

Beyond hiking, Mont Salève is also known for more adventurous sports.  We saw a mountain biker coming up in our cable car.  We also watched this guy take off into the horizon.

Going, going, going….

….gone!

You can do the entire trip in 2-3 hours from center city Geneva.

Swiss Sports: Tobogganing

On our Neuchâtel fun day, we drove through La Vue des Alpes on the way home for what else but the view of the Alps.

The view wasn’t bad:

Forests, lakes and Alps. The average view in Switzerland :)

As we walked back to the car, we saw a chute underneath where we were standing….the place offered tobogganing!

The three bravest members of our fivesome decided to try it out.    The other two of us decided to partake in another Swiss sport: regional wine drinking.

T and I enjoying the Neuchâtel white….

When they passed, we left our perch to watch.

What goes up…..

……must…..

come down!!!!

They really enjoyed their adventure sports and joined us for a glass after they finished.  The warm sunshine and views of the Alps were quite nice.

The big find of the stop for me was a little farmer stand in the parking lot.   I adore buying things from local places.   I bought a pack of copa, a type of meat that was Gabe’s favorite delicacy from our trip to Italy.  It all has to be eaten in one sitting so think we’ll save that for when we have special visitors this month!

Gratitude Friday: A Great Ski Season

Post by Lauren

Ski season is officially over for our household.  With temperatures warming up, the local slopes are slushy by lunchtime.

However, we wanted to dedicate a post in gratitude to the Alps and the ski opportunities that we have had this winter.

Last winter, it was unusually warm.  We heard people say that it only produced about 2 decent snow days and even still, the slopes weren’t ideal.

This season is a stark contrast – there was wonderful skiing to be had pretty much every weekend from the beginning of January until now.  Over the last 3 months, we have visited:

  • La Clusaz, France
  • Les Contamines, France
  • Megève, France
  • Chamonix, France
  • Verbier, Switzerland
  • Saas Fee, Switzerland

We feel lucky that we have had the chance.

Our friend A has major talents with the camera while skiing.  I don’t possess such talents as I always have to concentrate on not falling.  However, since I have a lot of time in the chair lately, I mixed her video footage with my own to create a recap video of our ski exploits.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trPb_eHtZsw

Au Revoir Ski Season – until next year!

And bon-weekend to all.

 

 

 

 

 

Just another day at the office

Post by Lauren

Last week, Gabe had a company outing to La Clusaz, France.  The group skied as a team building activity.

As the weather warms up, we aren’t sure there will be many more opportunities for skiing.

We hear that Zermatt and Chamonix have year-round skiing so perhaps this could be an option.

Magnificent Megève

Post by Lauren

Gabe went skiing in Mègeve a few weeks ago when we were having our Arctic temps.    Luckily, two fellows from Geneva accompanied him as I was worried he would freeze to death in the -20 C temps.

However, I am happy to say that they survived.  Below are two photos from his blackberry he captured while out on the frigid French slopes:

Skiing at Megève

Mt. Blanc

While they went for just the day (only about an hour’s drive from Geneva), we have heard good things about the town of Megève  from friends.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to return and perhaps stay in the town next year.