It was time for another adventure with Marco (Carlos), this time to Switzerland to visit his friends Nico and Cecila. Marco picked me up at 4am for the drive to Gatwick Airport. It had been snowing that night so we played it safe and took the main roads/M25 route. Conditions were worse than expected and it was touch and go as to whether we would make our flight thanks to snow on the roads. Thankfully we made our flight on time and arrived in Geneva to dismal weather, as predicted. After putting our luggage into the lockers at the station, we headed to a place I read about for brunch, called Birdie. In theory I should have suggested somewhere with local food but we both enjoy hipster-style coffee shops where we can order our favourites; salmon, eggs and avo.
We walked around Geneva city centre and poked our heads in the Cathedral which was very uninspiring, not like the beautiful ones in Spain or Italy. It was bitterly cold and even with my five layers on I was getting pretty chilly so we went in search of a nice wine bar in the old town. We couldn’t find exactly what we were looking for so settled on a crêperie which suited well. I tried a local red wine from the vineyards in the area we were heading to, Vaud. The (very) small standard measure was nice but nothing to write home about.
We walked to the lake but it was freezing and visibility was so poor we couldn’t see much, just some poor ducks with their heads nestled in their wings. It was snowing quite hard by now so we took shelter in a chocolatier (wise choice) and ordered a couple of espressos. I had read that each drink in this particular chocolatier was served with a complimentary chocolate so Marco and I held back ordering the cakes in case this would jeopardise our chance of getting a freebie. That sometimes happens! Phew, we got our free chocolate so ordered a local pine nut tart with almond frangipane and a chocolate orange cake. Both fantastic!
Post-caffeine fix we made our way back to the station picking up some Spanish wine for the evening on the way home. At the station we went to take our luggage out of the locker but Marco couldn’t find the ticket nor took note of the access code. This didn’t surprise me one bit because he is a nightmare like this, always loosing things or getting us into tricky situations. Luckily Marco can speak French so headed to the desk and explained our issue. After paying the ticket officer an undisclosed sum we were reunited with our luggage. What worried me was how the man knew that the locker was ours (he didn’t) so essentially we could have asked him to open any locker.
We caught the train to Vevey, about one hour away, where Nico picked us up. That evening we were treated to a traditional cheese fondue by our hosts. Cheese fondue is very popular in Switzerland especially when socialising with friends. It tasted excellent but I had cheese sweats the entire night and into the next morning. Nico’s beautiful apartment overlooks Lake Geneva and although we couldn’t see much that night we were overwhelmed by the view of the mountains the next morning. Just across the lake within sight is France and in summer old steamboats regularly make the journey. It is truly an idyllic place to live.
Our second day in Switzerland was spent skiing. Nico, Marco and I hit the slopes early to make the most of the fantastic weather which left me stripped down to the bare minimum. I couldn’t believe how hot I was. I had only been skiing very briefly since I was 15 so I was a little nervous on the train up to Villars-sur-Ollon. My skiing technique wasn’t too bad but my confidence and fitness was extremely low.
What bothered me more was the boots which caused me tremendous pain. I didn’t understand how everyone around me was enjoying themselves and seem to ski with no issues where as I was nearly crying as the pain shot through my feet and legs. I must have gotten the wrong size boots, like a few times I remember doing when skiing as a teenager. I loved being up in the mountains but I think next time I go skiing I will make sure I try on multiple sizes and swap if they cause me pain.
We took a break at a mountain hut with some craft beers which were nice and at 8% certainly improved my confidence. Nico and Marco went off to ski for a bit whilst I done a couple of easier runs on my own. They are much better than me and I didn’t want to hold them back. I was doing red runs so I wasn’t a total disaster on the slopes AND I didn’t fall over at all! Clouds were coming in and we were tired and hungry so decided to ski down to a gorgeous alpine hut for some food. We were left waiting for a table a rather long time and in the end the waiter just said “no”. We didn’t understand why exactly they were turning us away but Nico said this was typical. They made their money for the day and now wanted a bit of a break.
Our only option to get food was to ski all way down to the lift, catch the lift back up to the top and ski down to the other eatery above us which only served burgers etc. HANGRY. We finally made it and enjoyed a surprisingly good burger! Not cheap, nothing is in Switzerland, but everything is of a good standard. Fog was beginning to appear so we headed back to the village for a mulled wine at an outside market with some of Nico’s colleagues. For dinner Nico and Cici prepared salmon and prawn pasta back at the apartment and we all went to bed early.
Sunday was meant to be a rainy day so we organised lunch with Nico and Ceci and one of their Spanish friends who lives in Lausanne. We went to a nice bar/casual restaurant there after a short tour around the city and a look inside the cathedral, which was a lot nicer than Geneva’s. Nico and Cici kindly gave us a tour around Vevey which I thought was a lovely little town with gorgeous shops, nearby vineyards, a giant fork in the lake and lots of reference to Charlie Chaplin, who I believe once lived there.
After lunch we returned home for coffee and cake and whilst Nico and Ceci went for a siesta, Marco and I drove to a nearby spa. We purchased a 4 hour pass which I thought may be a little too long to spend in a swimming pool but we used every minute! Most of the pools and jacuzzis were outside and it was snowing which was very picturesque with the mountains surrounding us. Marco pointed out the other couples around us, all huddled close and looking all romantic, an then there was me, snorting and choking on the water that had slashed in my face. I am a different species I told him. He said he already knew this.
There was a nude sauna and after some miss-communication I followed Marco into what I though was the aromatherapy sauna. Out of nowhere Marco stripped off and went in. I noticed the sign saying “MUST HAVE TOWELS” so I quickly followed Marco to let him know. We ended up in the nude sauna, without towels much to the disapproval of everyone else in there and what’s worse, I had forgotten to take my bikini top off! We quickly vacated the sauna with our heads hung low but trying not to laugh at the same time. We never returned. Marco had an ice bath and ice bucket tipped over him. I attempted and chickened out. It was a lovely spa but on that occasion there were too many people for it to have been relaxing. We still had a good time.
Monday was our final day and forecast was good. We left the flat later than planned as we were enjoying being there with the views and exceptional coffee machine. We caught the train from Vevey to Mountrex where we planned to leave our luggage and spend the afternoon. As we pulled in to the station I asked Marco if he had checked if there was luggage storage there. No!! He got lucky, there was. We got an almond croissant close to the station- best croissant of my life – and caught the train to Agile. From Agile we walked 15 minutes to Agile Deport Station for our connecting train, although, we later found out we could have just caught the train from Agile. Marco blamed Google. I blamed Marco. Agile Deport Station was worth the walk as it was incredibly cute and made a wonderful photo. We watched the driver jump out and change the direction of the tracks by hand before jumping back in. Our walk also allowed us to pick up a winter walking route map. We decided against our planned route and opted for a more strenuous trail which took us up to 1800m. A little worried our hiking shoes wouldn’t cope with the snow at that altitude, we hired rackets, otherwise known as snow shoes. it was about a a 30 minute walk back and forth from station > hire place > start of trail so we were worn out before we even begun.
The weather was amazing and we were enjoying every second. As it was a Monday, all the mountain huts were closed. This didn’t bother us too much as it meant there were less people on the trail and we packed our own beer and snacks anyway. I managed the whole walk without falling over. Marco on the other hand….
In-between falling here, there and everywhere, Marco took some incredible photos which I’ve used in this post. After a refreshing beer and some nuts at the top we abandoned the track and followed a rough path through the trees which was more “wild” and barely trodden. The majority of the hike could have been done without snow shoes but this little detour couldn’t. We were thankful we had rackets.
After dropping the rackets off late we were extremely pushed for time so we decided to catch a later train to the airport and have a well deserved and needed glass of wine at sunset. Where better than the Grand Hotel, in which we severely underestimated the distance to. We ended up walking half way there and having to turn back due to time. Most things are closed on Monday’s so we ended up buying a bottle of wine in the village shop and drank it on the chairs outside a closed bar. We missed sunset as we were too busy choosing wine.
Our train got held up at every signal delaying our expected arrival at the airport. It was beginning to turn into a bit of a stressful nightmare. We were going to miss our flight. To distract our minds from this situation, we drunk the rest of our wine and beer on the train. An email appeared telling us our flight was delayed so we relaxed a little. We hopped off at Mountrex to collect our luggage and pick up another one of those fantastic almond croissants. We hadn’t really had lunch and due to our rush to get to the airport, dinner was unlikely to happen. Sadly no croissants left but picked up some tarts (the pastry kind).
Thankfully we made our connecting train after a speedy 6 minute luggage and food stop. Pros. A little into the journey Marco realised we had forgot to buy tickets. Idiots. We had just seen a guy get fined and didn’t want to risk being delayed even more so got off at next station to buy tickets. The train sat idle for a while so we had time to run out and get tickets but Marco forgot to top up’ his international currency card and it was declined. By the time he has transferred funds and purchased the ticket our train was gone. Not only had we missed our train, we happened to get out at the only station without an inside waiting room so we had to wait in the cold for 20 minutes. Brrrrr!
We hopped on the next train and received an email telling us that our flight was no longer delayed so we were REALLY pushing it for time now. We had a little wine left so poured a final glass which the woman opposite us managed to knock over onto my lap. Marco said quickly “it’s our stop” so we rushed off the train and down the platform stairs. I said “this doesn’t look like the airport station” and we soon realised we had got off at Geneva not Geneva Airport. We ran back up the stairs to the platform with our heavy bags and thankfully the train we were on was still there. We were SO lucky. If that train had gone, our flight would have too. We rushed through the airport. Of course my bag got stopped and searched at security, delaying us further. We tried our usual “coats over backpack” trick to get past Easyjet’s one-bag policy. It works every time.
We made our flight by the skin of our teeth but we were now stuck on runway for one hour due to fog in Gatwick. Not happy bunnies. We were very tired and a little sun-stroked from a day in the mountains. We finally landed at Gatwick 90 minutes behind schedule and hopped on the bus to the car park. Our luck with transport was going from bad to worse and our bus broke down! I counted the hours until I had to be back on farm as we waited for a replacement bus. Our exhaustion was worth it, we had the best day in the mountains and the best weekend in Switzerland. A massive thanks to Nico and Cici, our kind and generous hosts and to Marco for organising.