Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Swiss Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music!

We said Au Revoir to France and hit the road (back on the right side-woot!) and spent a day driving through the French country side to Switzerland! We saw castles along the motorway, fields of sunflowers and lots of wine grapes! Sigh...I never got a picture of the sunflower fields. We talked about pulling off to get one but there was always a damn French toll booth thing we had to go just didn't seem worth the hassle.
Quick digression: I never had a GPS (SatNav to you UK folks) system in the US. I knew my way around Seattle so didn't really need one. Having one here in the UK it is ESSENTIAL! We bought a Garmin one for the new mini-van (oh yeah, jealous much?) and of course had to change the "talking voice" to the voice of a squirrel. Yes a squirrel. His name is Squirrely and he is hilarious. Most people would be annoyed by his voice after 10 seconds, but we just love him and he still makes us laugh even after 9 months. We love Squirrely, he gets us where we need to be and throws out random, funny one liners every once in a while. Despite all this, I have a love/hate with Squirrely. The problem is I tend to second guess him, especially if I kind of know where I am going. Sometimes he says to go a weird way, then I often override Squirrely. On our drive from France to Switzerland, when I had no idea where I was going, I had to learn to trust Squirrely. I learned this as we were skirting wide around Paris, we came to a toll booth (shocking, in France?) with a quick exit of right or left into a LONG tunnel. Squirrely said to go one way and I told Pete to go the other way. Bad move. We were in a LONG ASS tunnel for at least 10 minutes, not one exit, and when we came out to the light of day, we saw a familiar site...wait for it...the friggin' Arc de Triumph! Oh shit, we are in central Paris. We both immediately looked at each other and said together "OMG we are the Griswalds and will be circling the Arc for ages trying to get out of that roundabout HELL!" It was time to put our trust in Squirrely to get us the hell out of Paris! As we approached the Arc, the road dipped down and went under it and Squirrely led us out of Paris but not without a drive by the Tour Eiffel! Whew, dodged that bullet!

Uh oh a wrong tour led us headed straight towards the Arc de Triumph...
we did not want to get stuck in THAT roundabout!
 Luckily a tunnel whisked us away FAST!
This is Pete and I navigating through Europe!

We made it safely to Switzerland, skirted around Geneva and into the beautiful Zermatt valley. Zermatt is a carless town, so we parked in Tasch (after a winding road up the valley), taxi'd into the village and got to our rental flat. We arrived on a Sunday and it was the last day of the Swiss Folklife Festival. We arrived just time for the parade! It was sweet, we saw the obligatory alp horns, some taxidermy Swiss varmits, some Swiss-style dancing, and some cool British looking Red Coat guys playing flutes? Huh?

Anyway, Rusty, oops I mean Henry, must have been inspired by the Matterhorn because he wanted to go on a hike! That never happens so we took advantage of the enthusiasm and did a quick hike up one of the trails to Zmutt. It was sunny and gorgeous, the Matterhorn was out in all it's glory, and the beer was cold at the Jaegerstube in Zmutt!
We arrived in Zermatt on a Sunday and during a Swiss Folklore Festival-it was excellent!

Weird float with lots of stuffed animals on it...

Alp Horns

Sunday, spur of the moment, afternoon hike

Yep that's the Matterhorn

Stopped at one of the mountain restaurants for a refreshing beverage in Zmutt!

The next morning the hiking enthusiasm had diminished just a tad but we set off on a hike up to the top of the Sunnega lift (luckily the kids didn't know about the lift UP the mountain) to Leisee Lake. After about 12 steep and long switchbacks, a lot of stopping, moaning, blistering, we made it close to the lake. We pushed on to a gorgeous lake and this was our view while we lunched...
pretty friggin' spectacular!
There she is!

Took the kids on a death march up to the lake above
(they were not happy when they found out we could have taken a lift)!
Leisee Lake-the kids loved catching tadpoles here and playing on this raft

Kids tired so Pete took them down on the lift.
I kept going up to some spectacular lakes and waterfalls!

Meadows, wildflowers and waterfalls!

Gorgeous Grindjsee Lake with the Matterhorn in the background left

Refreshing beverage on my way down
Pete and the kids took the funicular down (in the mountain)
Our adventure the next day was Dirt Scootering! Big, beefy kick scooters with big, beefy tires that you zoom down the mountain! We took the Schwarzee gondola up the base of the Matterhorn, Pete did a safety briefing and off we went! It was awesome-highly recommend!
Gondola up for some dirt scootering!

Let's do this! So fun!

More Matterhorn-she was everywhere!
Video of dirt scootering

Always in the lead!

Gettin' agro on my dirt scooter!

Go May!

Lovely dinner at the SonnenMatt on the deck with the Matterhorn in the background

Washed out Matterhorn

View from our deck at the flat
We loved you Zermatt!
The next day was our departure day but Pete and I got up early and did a quick hike up to the little hamlet of Furi. It was fast and furious and we were set on getting to the suspension bridge over the big, glacier carved river flowing down! The bridge was cool but creepy...being up high has gotten scarier to me as I have gotten older. Weird.
Pete and I hiked up to this suspension bridge the morning we left!
We packed up and headed towards our next stop, Grindelwald! There were several routes we could take and our Maps App told us we could put our car on a train, head through a 20 minute tunnel and it would drop us in the next valley over. It shaved about 45 minutes off our drive and plopped us in the quaint Swiss village of Kandersteg. On the other side, we saw this amazing waterfall and stopped for a picnic and a short hike to the waterfall. Gorgeous!

Took a train with our car on it through a tunnel to Kandersteg

You just drive on and put the parking brake on!

20 minutes from one side of the mountains to the cool!

Are you kidding me?? Picnic lunch in Kandersteg, Switzerland

Gondola to the top of that waterfall

Kandersteg Valley

Mountaineers were climbing up ladders to the right of the waterfall

May decides to give it a go


View from our B & B in Grindelwald
We arrived in Grindelwald and checked into our charming B & B, Silvi's Dreamcatcher Inn( Although it was about 10 minutes outside of the central village of Grindelwald, it was a perfect choice. Expansive views of the Grindelwald valley, a hot tub, and excellent, fresh breakfast was the name of the game at Silvi's Inn!

Dreamcatcher B & B

Doesn't get better than this!

The next morning we were up early with a plan to take the train up to the Top of Europe. We got there by 8:15 to find out they were sold out for the day! Bummer, on to Plan B. We took the gondola up to Mannlichen with the new plan of hiking down to the next valley to the carless village of Wengen. As we started down the trail, that no one else was on, we quickly learned why no one else was hiking this particular trail. It was a steep series of switchbacks, through huge metal avalanche guards, down to Wengen. We probably went down at least 3000 feet and it took a L-O-N-G time. The kids were troopers and by the time we got down our legs were jelly and our stomachs empty!
Gondola ride prepping for another death march-this time it was down hill!

At the top of all these gondolas were always great kid's play structures

The hills are alive....
My happy hiker!

Cute photo but didn't get the HUGE mountains behind us!

Death march down to Wengen, through the avalanche guard rails, down switchbacks...

down to that village, way down there...

steep angle ALL THE WAY DOWN...

Kids did great...I was a wreck.

We were way up there!

We hiked down to that village ... 3000 foot descent!
After a much needed carbo load and even with our jelly legs, we took the train to the infamous Trummelbach Falls in Lauterbrunnen. Glacier water flowing down through the mountains created a series of 10 waterfalls inside the mountain. You take a funicular up a few stories and then walk down through the waterfall-it was stunning, dark, loud, and somewhat menacing. After the falls, we were exhausted and made our way back via train to Grindelwald. Even though it was Henry's 12th birthday, we just wanted a hot tub, a beer and a shower!

Trummelbach Falls - loud and wet!

Crazy insect/hummingbird...not sure what but it was super cool.

Exhausted from our death march, we BBQ'd at the B & B for Henry's 12th birthday!
Morning Birthday Cake!

Alpen glow sunset in Grindelwald

Early morning train ride up the Top of Europe (Jungfraujoch)
The next morning we got up early to get the first train up the mountain to the Top of Europe. Even with our first train discount, it was ridiculously expensive. Was it worth it? I guess so. The views were incredible and the engineering of building a train track through a high altitude mountain was amazing. The Top of Europe train is celebrating its 100 year anniversary this year which is mind blowing to me-100 years ago the Swizz had the foresight, the ambition and the where with all to build a train track through a mountain all for future tourism. Well it has paid off in was crowded and expensive. Most of the crowds were bus load after bus load of  Asian tourists armed with smartphones, tablets and huge Digital SLRs, wearing inappropriate clothing for glacier walking.

Unfortunately we were leaving that afternoon to start our drive home, so we didn't have as much time to hike around as we would have liked. We really loved Grindelwald and its beauty but we could have done without the hordes of tourists. We wished we had a couple more days to hike around Grindelwald and enjoy the peacefulness of Silvi's B & B.

The train goes through the mountain all the way to the top of the Jungfraujoch!

Ice Palace


Asked this guy for a pic and he said I stalked him!


Trapped in the Ice Palace

Poor choice of footwear for a glacier

There are people climbing up the mountain over Henry's right shoulder

This sign killed me...apparently they have had a problem with this in the past.
There were a lot of Asian tour buses ...imagine the lady with the wedges trying to pee like this??
Our drive home was uneventful. We left Grindelwald and had lunch on the glacier blue Lake Thun and drove through Germany back into France. We stayed in a random little French village called Luneville and had the best meal of our trip. It really is amazing how close everything is here and we are looking forward to more road trips in Europe/UK-definitely want to hit Amsterdam, lots more Scotland, England and Wales!

I will leave you these gems:
The hills are alive with the sound of ...Griswald!
I am sure this happened to us at some point...

Griswald German Beer Festival