Traversing Swiss Mountains

After our trip to Lake Como, I am a lot more educated on how to get through, around, and over a mountain.

I remember when we first moved here, when we looked at a map, we were stupefied why there wasn’t a direct route.   It didn’t take long to find out that the reason the roads can’t go straight here is because of the big freakin’ mountains, otherwise known as “the Alps”.

Within our year, we learned about the wonderful Mt. Blanc Tunnel, which can save you a lot of time getting to Italy (and also adding a big dent to your wallet, around $60 USD).   We had used this tunnel to get back from the South of France, and also planned to use it to get to Lake Como.

However, I wanted to stop in Lugano and Bellinzona on our way home, putting us in the South of Switzerland, far from the Mt. Blanc tunnel.   I saw on Google Maps that there appeared to be two ways though.  They took longer but it was worth seeing a few cities in the Ticino canton.  No biggie.

The little yellow circle is where we came into Italy via Mt. Blanc. The other two were the ways we considered coming back into Swizterland.

The week before we left, I mentioned to my PT that we were going to holiday in Lake Como and return through Ticino.

“Are you sure the passes are open yet”?  he inquired.

No I wasn’t sure.   Anytime we’d gone that direction before, we were in a train.   This was to be our first time taking the car and it never occurred to me that in mid May some roads wouldn’t be open.

So, that week, I tried to research this.  Key word – “tried”.   Google Maps would still let me do directions home through the alternative ways.  It hinted that “some roads would be seasonally closed”.   No problem…i’ll just Google it.    Surely they’ll be a key like there is during ski season showing whats open and not.

I found a few message boards but nothing definitive that suggested if passes were open or not.   I did find a map showing that going up from Domodolossa there was a station in Iselle that you could put your car on a train to go through the Simplon Tunnel if the Simplon Pass wasn’t open.

See the little happy car on the dotted line? That means underground car on rail transportation.

I noted this would be a plan that could work.  Although, no information about the cost, schedule, etc.  Do these car trains go every hour?  Only once a day?  Once a weekend?

More research also found that the Gottard Pass was likely closed  since it usually is open until June, but the Gottard Tunnel was open year round.  A few message boards added that the wait could be up to 2 hours on a holiday weekend, creating a queue of traffic on the freeway for 10-15 km back.  Curses!!!

I’ll stop and interject with some basic vocabulary.  I actually didn’t really know this until our adventure this weekend.

Pass = a road that goes over an Alp.  It is likely curvy, amazingly beautiful, and will make you marvel at the wonder of Swiss civil engineering.  It can only be passable when the snow is gone or can be scraped.  During winter, its simply not possible based on snowfall.  Some passes, like Gottard, are only open 2-3 months a year.

Tunnel = a road that goes through a mountain, usually in a direct way, and will make you marvel at the wonder of Swiss civil engineering.  The benefit is that they can stay open regardless of snowfall.  If it is not in Switzerland, its costly.  If you live in Switzerland, you have a 40 CHF highway pass that allows you to do it for free.  If you don’t live in Switzerland and want to use said tunnel, guess what?  40 CHF.

The evening before we left Como, we tried to inquire about the best way home.  Our sweet apartment proprietor even knocked on the door of her neighbor to inquire since he knew more about Switzerland.  They said they’d think we’d be okay on the passes around Lugano and Locarno.  Okay, then…didn’t even know those were in contention to worry about either.    She gave us an internet password and we continued to look into it the evening before dinner. Nothing else was definitive.  Thus, we decided to get to Bellinzona and see how the GPS acted.

During our awesome lunch in a UNESCO castle, we inquired at the desk about how to get back to Geneva.  We mentioned what we knew.   When we said Gottard Tunnel and the phrase, “but we weren’t sure because it is a holiday weekend”, she immediately blurted, “that’s a terrible idea!!”.

So, we were off to the Simplon Pass or Simplon Tunnel   We entered “Iselle, Italy” into the GPS so that we could decide and evaluate the pass.

Gabe hadn’t had Ticino, Lugano or Bellinzona on his list.  He found Lugano average, Bellinzona cool because of the architecture and castles, but driving through the Ticino a 10.    We found ourselves curving around lush tropical mountains, feeling like we were in the Amazon.  Were we really still in Switzerland?      It was exhilarating for me to be in the car.  Luckily, Gabe is an excellent driver, but it was still a bit scary.

I made a little movie to show you what driving on these roads was like. Mom, please don’t watch this.

We crossed back into Italy.   And, two hours later, we reached Iselle.  We weren’t really sure what was happening as it wasn’t evident where to put your car on a train, but there were three cars with Canton of Geneva plates and we decided to follow them.   Crossing back into Switzerland, we saw this sign.

All green.  Thanks, Switzerland.  Would have been really nice to have this information online somewhere instead of having to drive here to verify it.

And again, we were in wonder.

Misty Alps

Lush fields with stone fence property lines

There’s still snow up here. The temperature had dropped from 20 C in Bellinzona to 2 C at the top of the Simplon Pass.

The hubby is a good driver. Thank goodness.

Driving over the Simplon Pass

Descending into the valley on the other side of the Alps

A view of Brig coming down from the Simplon Pass.

We had talked with some friends on the way home who warned us about the Gottard traffic.  We didn’t know they were returning to Geneva back through Ticino or we should have shared our information or lack thereof about the roads.

So, this post was to inform any folks trying to drive from Italy back to Switzerland.   It’s not so easy!!

Gratitude Friday: My Swiss Misses

Lately, I have been reflecting on how lucky I am to have met such fabulous ladies in Geneva.   They had some pretty tough shoes to fill as far as awesomeness with my gals back home.   However, I have been very fortunate, and thus this week’s gratitude post.

It’s always nice to have a support network.  But in a foreign country, it is equally as important.

The day I met D & A, at Caves Ouvertes 2011

As culture shock comes on, or a “bad Swiss day” rears its head, I am thankful to have these women in my life.   Plus, there’s only so much Gabe can take 🙂

Courtesy of Schwingen in Switzerland

 

A lot of the times, we have the same frustrations and joy.    It’s good to know that other people usually have been through what you are going through, or just simply understand.   This could include major things, or minor things.   It’s pretty funny some of the stories we all share.   Like, for instance, everyone has forgotten to label the produce at the store and gotten yelled at.   And, everyone’s had an extremely awkward doctor’s visit.

Nutella Pizza usually makes everything better

It’s also fun to share holidays away from home with others.  Both with people who are familiar with the traditions, as well as sharing what we do with others

If it weren’t for these guys, Gabe and I would celebrate silly US holidays like Halloween alone!

Montreux Christmas market 2011

It’s also awesome to celebrate the good times.   Of course, many birthdays, and even I’ve had the pleasure of seeing 2, almost 3, little ones be born.

Celebrating C’s birthday (it was yesterday!)

This one’s almost ready 🙂

Geneva is a transient city.   People come and people go.   The length of time one might stay in a city is easy changeable and usually not very long.

This Friday, I continue to reflect on my good fortune and I’m just happy to have had the opportunity for knowing them in this period of time.

Gratitude Friday: We survived our first year

This gratitude Friday, I wanted to express my thanks for a good first year in Geneva.  Yesterday, marked the anniversary of our move.   We have now seen all the seasons in Switzerland.   An amiable summer, an elegant fall, a mind-curdling winter, and a rainy spring.

 

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that it’s been with ups and downs.  However, the positives of our experience have far outweighed the negatives.

— –We continue to love the travel and our central location in Europe.  Somedays, it feels like we are living inside of a Busch Gardens theme park, hopping around to different countries in a weekend.  The ‘cool’ factor of that has definitely not worn out with us.   This is the best part about our expat experience.

–It is still doesn’t feel like home.  I am not sure it will before we have to leave.   I was talking with a woman the other day who has lived here 26 years and still says she feels like she is still a foreigner.

–We love our lifestyle.  I never feel rushed or stressed.  People enjoy life at a more leisurely pace and it has a positive influence on us. Especially me who needs all I can get of this example.  In fact, Gabe just returned from two weeks in the US and said it was remarkable to see the comparison of  tension &  hurriedness when he was back.  He said at the end of his time, he was starting to walk faster as a result.

–It has been interesting to watch our reaction to culture shock over the course of a year.  I mentioned on a previous post how this is a continual process.   It usually forms as a result of multiple inputs, not just one thing.  We knew that this would happen.  We have heard it would continue 1-2 years.  We’ll outsmart it just as its time to return.

–Knowing the language makes it easier.  My french is still not beautiful and nowhere close to fluent but I can make myself understood in simple conversation and getting things done. I no longer avoid making phone calls / appointments — I tackle them head on.  And it feels good to finally be able to do that.

We are very grateful for this year.

Bon weekend, everyone!

Reason which I wish I spoke better French #241

Gabe just got back from being in the US.   One of the things we do when we go back are all our appointments – hair, dental, doctor, etc.   Before he left, we booked all that stuff for him.

I have slowly started to wean myself off my US appointments.  For all of 2011, I managed to get by with going to get my hair highlighted and cut in Charlotte when I was visiting.  And, with the 350 CHF price tag that a certain popular English-speaking salon has here in Geneva for highlights, I concluded that it might be cheaper to fly back to the US for these services.

Luckily, I found a wonderful hair gal who is super reasonable, so in 2012, I didn’t need to plan any hair-centric transAtlantic trips.

In 2011, I also managed to make two dental visits in during my trips home.   However, I decided, like the hair, it is time to find a more local solution.  So, now I am walking a little better, last week, I made an appointment with an English-speaking Geneva dentist.

This leads us to today’s lesson:

Lesson #1 – just because you find out a doctor speaks English, doesn’t mean their receptionist will.    Oh well, its okay.   I am used to it with my foot surgeon’s office and nurses.  And, I have basic French so while it is not pretty, I can accomplish things like taking an appointment.  So, I asked for a check-up / cleaning.  Success.

And, last week, I went.  And didn’t get a cleaning.   Fail.  Which leads us to Lessons 2 & 3:

Lesson #2 – do not celebrate an appointment as successful until you leave.  As I sat down, I was in awe of how cool the office was.  Everything was pristine and cheerful.   I envisioned how many friends I would tell about how awesome this dental office was.   However, I should have remembered my episode at the pedicurist and not to celebrate too early.

Lesson #3 – which I now know after yesterday, a dental appointment does not constitute a cleaning.   I was greeted by a superbly English speaking dentist who asked me what was wrong.  I presented her with my digital x-rays and just indicated nothing was wrong, that I was just in for a cleaning.  And she responded,   “Well, you should have made an appointment for a cleaning.  This was an appointment for a check-up.”

So my French could have been better.   I think I asked for the equivalent of a house cleaning instead of a teeth cleaning when I was on the phone.  And I was in the wrong assumption that the cleaning / check-ups are combination.   Nope. Separate altogether in Switzerland.

So, take heed, fellow ex-pats.  Maybe your French is better that mine.  But in case you are like me, ask for a “le détartrage” to avoid a little embarrassment.

Next week, I’ll go back for my actual appointment.

A day with the butterflies

Recently, I visited Papiliorama to take a Digital Light photo workshop.  Papiliorama is a butterfly haven in Swizterland, north of Murten.   It is about a 90 minute drive from Geneva and even has a train stop at Kerzers / Papiliorama for those who prefer public transport.  Luckily, I was able to catch a ride with a friend who was assisting the class.

The class was meant for us to focus on a certain area that we wanted to develop.  During the day, I worked on my understanding of depth of field.   We continually brought our memory cards back to the workshop instructor for critiquing and guidance.  At first my butterflies are too shallow depth of field (I adore blurry backgrounds) which unfortunately kept my entire butterfly bodies from being sharp, depending on the focal plane.  However, then I learned how to expand the depth of field by closing the aperture and increasing ISO, still achieving the background result I wanted.

Unfortunately, my propensity for standing wore out before my desire to stop taking photos and improve on my technique.  However, here are a few of my favorite images:

Waiting to turn into a butterfly maybe

He likes to color coordinate

Taking in the view

Spreading out

Delicately hanging on

Patchwork colors

Climbing into the light

Geneva folks, you’ll have to add this to your rainy day to-do list!

Milano

Post by Lauren

Italy was high on the list for the family to see while they were here.   We considered going to Venice but our schedule was already packed as it was.  With Venice being 7 hours on the train, we opted for going to Milan instead as it is only 4 hours from Geneva.  We thought 14 hours would be overkill, especially since we’d done about 20 hours on the train thus far into the trip.

Direct trains leave Geneva twice a day for Milan – 7:42am and 1:42pm.  We picked the early train so that we could maximize our time.

We arrived in Milan just around lunch time and started to figure out how to take the metro and get euros out for the group.  We spent about 2 hours in the Milan train station trying to navigate.  Hello Italy and chaos!  As it turned out, we couldn’t take the metro with the wheelchairs – only steep stairs provided access – so we hopped in two cabs to take us to the city centre.

It took us a little while to find our hotel, but when we did find it we were rewarded greatly.  Gabe had done the research and found apartments nearby the Duomo.  Little did we realize that the view would be this good:

Glamour Apartments in Milan. Mama Mia, Sweet Wine and The French Cougar loved the marble bathrooms.

After marveling over the stately bathrooms and a quick lesson on bidets (see S in S for more), we dropped our bags and headed out for lunch.  We found a nice café directly in front of the Duomo and settled in for some wine and pizza.

Pizza lunch in Milan

Italy's best....gelato!!

The Gladiator's favorite part about Italy

Hanging out in Piazza del Duomo

After lunch, we grabbed some gelato, and Gabe took Sweet Wine, The Gladiator and French Cougar to the tour office to see if we could arrange something for the next day.  We had another small snippet of Italian chaos when some guy passing by stole The Gladiators sunglasses that he had left on the grass.   Mama Mia and I really couldn’t chase him down in our wheelchairs, so Dunkel saved the day by chasing after the guy who gave them back.

After a little bit of free time exploring, we met up for walking to a close-by restaurant, Al Mercante, recommended by a few folks.  It was family owned, cozy and welcoming.  We ordered in the typical Italian way, with a primi and a secondi.  In Italy, this is customary – to start with a pasta and then move onto a meat or fish dish.  Real Italians also add on an antipasti prior, but our tummies weren’t conditioned to this treatment yet so we just left it with the two courses.   However, some of us did participate in dolci, dessert.  Special thanks to Sweet Wine for treating Gabe and I to this marvelous meal.

The next day, after breakfast, we took a guided tour.  The guide, Esther, was quite good.  We’d recommend her for anyone traveling to Milan.  We navigated through the thousands of soccer fans in Milan for the Milano vs. Barcelona match happening later that night.

Dunkel, embracing the soccer spirit

Our first stop was the Duomo.  We learned that it took 500 years to complete, constructed between 1300 and 1800 AD.  The Duomo of Milan  is the world’s 3rd largest church (behind the Vatican and Sevilla).

Waiting to enter the Duomo of Milan after learning that "an Italian 5 minutes" really means 15. Not very Swiss.

The Duomo of Milan was styled after Notre Dame of Paris, built 200 years later.  It can contain 5 times the people however, at 40,000.  It is a Gothic style and has 3000 statues.

Duomo of Milan

There are 91 masses a week.  However, no weddings or funerals with the exception of very important events.  Versace’s funeral took place here in the Duomo of Milan.

One of the Duomo’s most notorious events took place in 1805, Napoleon ordered the Pope to come to Milan and crown him.  No one had ever ordered the Pope to travel before.

The marble used inside and out came from Lake Maggiore, outside of Milan.  Back then, it was quite important that it was a local source because of the difficulties of transportation.  As I mentioned, the marble used outside is the same as inside.  However, inside, the marble is dark.  Because of the current economic crisis in Italy, they cannot afford the expense of cleaning it inside.

The inside of the Duomo, 2012

After learning about the marble, we studied the stained glass.   Esther taught us that before the Catholics who attended the Duomo could read & write, that stained class told stories of the bible.  This particular scene details the life of Jesus Christ.

Some arts don’t improve with technology.  Esther said that today, designers are still not able to recreate the blue color that the talented craftsman achieved in the 15th Century.

Stained glass in Duomo of Milan, circa 1450 AD, telling the story of Jesus Christ's life.

After the Duomo, we continued on through the Galleria, the “living room of Milan”.  Gabe and I had discovered it the day before so enjoyed the second look.  We saw the original Prada, which will celebrate 100 years next year.  Speaking of the devil, our guide had the pleasure of touring Meryl Streep herself when she visited Milan. She said she was a very nice person.

Galleria, Milan

The original Prada store, Galleria, Milan

Next was La Scala, the famous opera house in Milan.  It was finished in 1778.  Esther listed three reasons it was so famous:

-the superior technical / sound accoustics

-the history, particularly Giuseppe Verdi, the talented composer who put the crack-down on the social antics of the Milan well-to-do when attending the opera

-the fact that success in the Scala gives you an international passport for your music career

The final stop was The Last Supper.   This was my favorite stop.  Until recently, I didn’t know that The Last Supper was painted on an actual wall.  It was done in the dining room of the monks in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, in a style like a fresco.  During WWII, the church was bombed and the adjacent wall crumbled and so The Last Supper barely escaped.  It is now a UNESCO world heritage site.

They are very protective of the painting, with due cause, so we had to go through three independent air-conditioning chambers before we were let in the dining room.

Last Supper courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

It was simply amazing to witness Da Vinci’s perspective compared to the other art that day. If you stand back in the dining hall of the monks, the scene seems to go on endlessly.  Noticing the other painting opposite the room, which was painted during the same time, the perspective and depth simply wasn’t there.  It was a new concept which made Da Vinci stand out as an artist.

Also of note is Da Vinci’s use of emotion in The Last Supper.  Previous artists had used the same faces for all of the apostles.  In order to differentiate Judas, they put him farthest away from Jesus.

However, in his rendition, Da Vinci focused on the emotion of the men at the moment when Jesus announced that one of those at the table was going to betray him. Disciples are grouped in threes for further examination, each with different reactions.  Judas is now depicted in the middle of all of them, fairly close to Jesus; however, he is in the dark, not the light.

What a treat, especially a week before Maudy Thursday to experience this painting.

Ciao Milan!

Guests: What to Expect out of a European Hotel

Post by Lauren

We have lived here so long, we sometimes forget some of the fascinating differences of European life.  Today, we’ll examine the European hotel room.

In Switzerland, most hotels that we stay in are owned by families instead of corporations.  It makes for an endearing special stay and you know you are supporting local business.

Some of the differences:

Check in and Check out times – they are usually posted and you need to arrive and depart in these parameters or otherwise, the desk might not be staffed.

Payment – usually always after your stay.  They don’t usually ask for any credit card or ID up front. The Swiss are very trusting.

Language – don’t be surprised if they don’t speak English.  But they are friendly and always willing to help.  Usually its straightforward.  Get key. Return key. Pay.

However, our biggest challenge was in Verbier where we had to understand door codes, access times, etc and I was glad for my French lessons then.  Especially when we couldn’t figure it out and had to ask the reception lady to come give us a demonstration.

Beds – usually a double room has two twin beds pushed together with their own comforter.  Gabe likes this as I am a cover-hog so he is ensured a comfortable sleep in a Swiss hotel.

Image courtesy of booked.net

Bathroom – don’t expect soap or shampoo.  Be surprised to find both.  Sometimes they combine hair/body getl in in a dispenser in the shower.  So, look there before panicking.

One time, we stayed in a place that had no soap, shampoo or towels.  I quickly learned to bring extra in the future, just in case.

I have not found conditioner yet.  Bring your own if you have long hair!

Hairdryers are rare in Swiss hotel rooms.  Check ahead if you require one.

Bath linens – you won’t get a washcloth.  Europeans simply don’t use them.   One of our friends who lives here says “if they want to play that game, I’m just going to wet the entire hand towel”.  And so do we…..

Breakfast – most of the time included in the room rate, but not guaranteed.  It is more likely that it is included in Switzerland than other areas of Europe.

Many small hotels will put your group name or room numbers on your reserved breakfast table.  So, be sure to look for that when entering the breakfast area.  It is their way of ensuring that the tables are used efficiently as they have limited space.

Typically they serve a buffet of cereals, yogurts, breads, cheeses and meats.  Sometimes there are hard boiled eggs. And sometimes they have raw eggs and you have to boil them yourself.

One of my favorite discoveries is Birchermüesli.  Its yogurt with granola and small fresh and dried fruits.  It looks a little gross but it is one of my new preferred Swiss breakfast items.

Image courtesy of lookcook.net

They usually bring carafes of coffee and milk to your table.  Also something to look forward to – they usually heat the milk that they serve.  It is a nice perk.

Typically, you’ll find a small plastic bin on the table.  It’s for trash – for your tiny scraps / papers.  This has been interesting to our guests.  Speaking of waste, it is more proper in Europe to take small portions of food at a time in a buffet type setting.  It isn’t looked upon kindly if you leave tons of food on your plate like is common in the US.

Also, most breakfast rooms have signs indicating all food must be eaten in the dining area. So, it isn’t allowed to grab-and-go for later.  I have been guilty of this in the US with taking a piece of fruit for a snack later.  I feel like it isn’t as frowned upon back home as it is here.

Our most recent guests inquired why they don’t have pancakes, bacon and eggs like they do in America?  Answer:  It is just not their thing.    We haven’t seen this type of breakfast since we left the States unless its in our own kitchen.

However, although slightly different, we hope you enjoy the Swiss hotel experience!

What exactly are these people doing in my living room?

Post by Lauren


I have been wanting to learn how to use Gabe’s SLR for quite a long time. Even before we moved to Geneva, I looked at taking a photography class when we arrived at a nearby University. The obstacle was that most classes were in French.

When a friend mentioned her partner teaches photography courses in English, I was thrilled and signed up immediately. The course was supposed to happen ten evenings in January but some scheduling conflicts ended up canceling it. It was rescheduled for 3 full days during the week after my surgery. I had sadly accepted I’d just have to wait until the next one.

However, when the group found out that I couldn’t walk in order to get to class, they brainstormed and came up with an ingenious idea…why not bring the class to me?

So over the course of the last week, I have had 8 people (and one puppy) here for a photography course in our living room. We learned a lot of the technical background behind how SLRs work so that it can influence our creativity and ability to take pictures with emotion.

Our professor of photography

Learning our SLRs

The puppy wasn't as interested in learning skills

It’s been so nice to break up the time during my first two weeks home. The social interaction of having 8 people here was awesome since I can’t get out of the house. Also, having 24 hours of instruction on a topic really interesting to me helped make the days past faster.

I learned many new techniques and feel fairly educated on the right approach to use when taking photos in the future. Hopefully you’ll notice it in the coming blog posts.

See Digital Light’s website for upcoming courses in the Geneva & Lausanne area.

CERN

Post by Lauren

Recently, I was fortunate enough to get into a tour at CERN. CERN is located in Geneva, but its underground facilities span both in Switzerland and neighboring France. CERN stands for Conseil European pour la Recherche Nucleaire but also is known as the European Lab for Particle Physics.

 

 

It was founded in 1954 by 12 countries (now 20 are members) to determine the origin and structure of the universe. You may remember it from the scene from Angels and Demons when the antimatter was stolen.

I am relieved to find out that this scene is not based on fact. You can’t use antimatter for energy like this, and it can’t be captured and “stolen”. Good to know. Especially because it under us right now. Like literally. They are trying to recreate the Big Bang underneath where our apartment lies so they can understand more about the Universe.

 

 

As you can see, a 27 km pipe runs 100 m underground, creating a vacuum comparable to outer space. The particles are whizzing beneath us within the ring 11,000 times a second into France and then Switzerland.

Basically, they accelerate and create head-on collisions for the particles to try to detect and look for “The Higgs Particle” sometimes called “The God Particle.” Each beam has around 3000 bunches of particles, with an average of 100 billion particles in each bunch. Even with those numbers, there is typically on 20 collisions among 200 billion particles. The machine generates. However, there are so many that they can only keep the most interesting ones. So they filter for that and store only the most interesting data.

 

 

They have about 100,000 computers in a networks (called computer farms) to analyze the interactions. Only 10,000 or so are here in Geneva  and the rest are in labs all over the world. They use a web network to share and confirm the data transmissions.

 

 

You can see in real time how this data is coming in from all over. In fact, the World Wide Web was actually invented at CERN in order for scientists to share their data & experiments. Interesting!

Someone is watching the data and systems 24/7. Mostly it is a team of scientists in Europe. But they said that the folks in the USA take the night shift, so its being monitored and controlled by a lab in Chicago.

They used to let people underground up until when construction was finished 3 years ago. Thus, I didn’t get to go underground, but did get to see the former version that they still use in conjunction with the new systems.

However, I did get to see the spot where antimatter was first discovered!

 

 

The CERN guy joked that while the main building is in Geneva, since their facilities spans the border, they actually tap into French electricity. They are using 7 trillion volts of electricity to make this happen and in France it is a lot cheaper. Just like my groceries.

For another take on the tour, check out my new friend’s blog, The Adventures of Miss Widget and Her People.

Vibrant Verbier

Post by Lauren

For Gabe’s birthday, he had an easy wish: skiing in Verbier. We planned the trip about 3 weeks ago and the last hotel room left in the entire valley was a hostel at the base of the hill in Le Châble. We were excited to get it. Also, we have friends with a chalet there and could rely on their expertise for what to do in the chic mountain town at night. Plus, I was actually excited to ski after my lessons the week prior.

We met A & A in the parking lot Saturday morning, along with their friend J. We climbed about a half hour in the telecabin and were greeted with snowy skies. I immediately noticed the complete lack of green runs. Literally, no greens. Apparently they don’t exist in Switzerland like they do in France, where we’d been skiing prior.

Also, let me disclose that in a normal world, the easy skiing would be at the bottom of the mountain. Not here. They put it in the middle, so that you have to do a red to get to the blue, etc. etc. Not cool.

Planning out our routes

 

On the first run, we all went as a group of five. We did some blue then a red before lunch. It was way over my level. Gabe commented the blues at Verbier were like blacks in Virginia & West Virginia.

 

Snapshots from skiing Verbier

 

After lunch, we split off from the guys so that they could enjoy skiing sans babysitting. They assured us we’d taken a wrong turn before and it was possible to do the blue the whole way down to Verbier village.

 

At least we knew there were trained dogs to save us in case of emergency

 

And, we set off. We found that blue they mentioned and followed it…and…it led back to a black. Way worse than the red from before. We could see where the blue was supposed to go but it was chained off because of a recent avalanche.

There was literally no way to go but down.

Me, attempting to side step the entire black. This was moments before the ski patrol came over and told me it wasn't wise for me to be on a black. No S&**, lady.

 

A and I survived to tell the tale. However, after that second run, we decided that spending the afternoon in L’s chalet would be a safer adventure for us.

The guys rejoined a few hours later, loving life after their mountain exploits. We all got ready and went over to the chalet for an awesome dinner before going out.

Afterwards, we headed to T-bar with the group. There were some amazing live musicians and it was a great evening. We really enjoyed the stark contrast to Gstaad nightlife.

 

Nightlife in Verbier

We had so much fun that we missed the last bus back to Le Châble and our hostel. It was a 75 franc ride back down the mountain ($85). Whoops! But well worth it as we really loved the night time atmosphere in Verbier.

*I was also severely scolded by my french tutor for skiing Verbier. She informed me its one of the hardest places to ski in Switzerland. I now learned not to assume that all slopes have pistes for beginners. But in turn, she gave me a great list of places in France that are “my speed”.