|Matterhorn view from Zermatt|
Well, after a very rainy drive and rather sketchy road we made it to Nendaz, Switzerland. I had not realized that our apartment was located at 1400m (4593ft) and that we needed to drive up most of that elevation in 15km of a very narrow, steep and winding road. So the whole time I was gripping the "Oh s**t" handle and trying not to look down. And to top it off our GPS "Daniel" (the kids looked up his name) decided to send us up a "shortcut" through a one lane wide, but two direction road, that had a grade of about 30%, which is crazy steep. We all wondered what they did in the winter, because it would not take much snow to make that road impossible to drive. Along the valley floor, driving on the highway, before our ascent, I kept commenting to Justin and the kids, "look at those towns clinging to the mountain, that is crazy". Little did I know that those towns would only be 1/4 of the way up. Once we arrived at the apartment my heart soared to see that it was located on the Haute-Nendaz plateau, not a cliff in sight. We had rented the penthouse and the kids were delighted to be living large. It was a very nice 4 bedroom 2 story place that was extremely comfortable. I was in heaven because we had 2 bathrooms. We arrived a little later than we expected and were thrilled to see we had arrived on the day of the weekly festival. So we walked the entire 150m to the festival, and dinner was served. We got to sample some raclette, (melted cheese served with pickles, pickled onions and potatoes), a merguez sandwich, cheeseburger, crepes, cotton candy, apricots and of course some beer. It was all delicious, and the best part was that they had live music the whole time. We headed back to the apartment and went straight to bed.
The following day we decided to stay and visit Nendaz. We went on a "kid friendly" 10 mile hike. Being in the middle of the Alps, I was surprised that there was only a 210m elevation change, maybe that was the "kid friendly" part. The whole hike is along a bisse (waterway) that is used to carry water to all of the farms and orchards. Halfway through we stopped along the main river to have lunch. The views were amazing. In one direction you had a sweeping view of the valley below and in the other an incredible view of a high mountain meadow and the mountains above. The kids had a great time on the way back having stick races in the bisse. We were all exhausted when we got back so it was not hard putting anyone to sleep.
|Nendaz and the valley below|
|Bisse which was the site for many stick races|
|The hike around Nendaz was very lush and green|
|Stream by Nendaz|
|What a cool mall!|
On Friday we drove into Lausanne to visit the city. We parked adjacent to the Caroline Shopping center (who knew), and walked down to the waterfront of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman for you Frenchies). Justin had seen a place we could rent paddle boats, so off we went. Much to the children's delight, we rented a paddle boat that looked like a VW Bug and had a slide off the top. So we changed into our swimsuits and off we went. Caleb was brave enough to try it first and when he got to the end he totally stopped his momentum and plopped into the water. Once he came up it took him a few seconds to catch his breath because it was pretty cold. Joel was next, then Danielle. The kids coaxed Justin to go, but I decided to stay dry and be on maneuvering duty. Thank goodness, due to the current it was a constant battle to keep the boat in one position. It gave me a great excuse to stay dry and warm. Eden was brave enough to get her legs wet, but not much more. We, meaning they, swam and paddled around for about an hour. We then headed for lunch. Well, Switzerland is very expensive. We looked at a few restaurant menus and decided that we were not willing to spend over a $100 dollars for a few sandwiches, so we headed to the nearest market, got some reasonably priced sandwiches (for Switzerland), and sat on a bench along the water and had our lunch. It was perfect, we stayed on budget (almost) had a great view, and the kids could be loud and no one cared. Once we finished up we headed to the Olympic Museum and walked around the grounds. It is filled with statues and exhibits about the Olympics. They even had a 100m dash track. So Caleb, Joel, Danielle and even Eden, lined up and off they went to see who would win. After a photo finish we still could not decide who had won. So Caleb and Joel went at it again and with much deliberation and looking at the video in slow motion several times, Joel was declared the champion. Now I understand how judges feel, pressure. As some of you may know the Olympics has a special place in our hearts. After Justin and I went on our first date I invited him over to my place for dinner and to watch the Olympics. Lucky for me it had just started and it worked to my advantage to have an excuse to invite him over for dinner and the Olympics for the next two weeks. Well ladies it worked, he was hooked. Joel found our Salt Lake City Olympics step and took a picture of us kissing. Since we had walked down from our parking to the waterfront, we decided to take a metro back up. And when I say up I mean up. It was much steeper then we thought and neither Justin nor I had the desire to push Eden back up the hill in her stroller. So the metro we took, man I love public transportation. On our way back we realized that the next day, August 1, is the Swiss National Holiday,and that most stores would be closed and also closed the following day, Sunday. So we decided to stop and stock up on groceries and try to do more meals at home considering the cost of eating out. Joel and I discussed a great menu and had a plan of action. Justin dropped me off at the entrance to the supermarket and went to park. When I walked in, I was told that the store was closing in 5 minutes, so our menu and plan was out the window. I ran through the store like a mad woman grabbing the essentials, trying to find full meals that did not need many ingredients. Well, I ended up getting pasta, pizza and sandwich fixings. As they announced the 1 minute left Justin and the kids walked in and I told them to grab some fruit and meet me at the cashier. Once out the door I looked at Justin and commented how bright it still was for being so late. He told me it was only 7:30pm. What, they close at 7:30, That can't be, but yes, as we found out most stores in Switzerland close between 7:00 and if you are lucky 7:30pm. Now I needed to brace myself for the scary drive up the mountain. Deep breaths.
|Swimming in Lake Geneva|
|The paddle boat with slide included!|
|They all made the podium|
|At the Olympic museum in Lausanne with Lake Geneva in the background|
Saturday turned out to be raining so we decided to stick around Nendaz. Lucky for us because of the weather they had relocated the festivities to a tent about 200m away from our apartment. So around 4pm we opened the balcony doors and let the music pour in. The rain stopped just long enough for the alphorn players (think Ricola commercial instrument) to gather outside and put on a mini concert. Caleb, Joel, Danielle and I headed out to watch and listen. It is very unique and I was impressed at how lovely it sounded. We made our way into the tent and Danielle got her face painted like a butterfly and all 3 of them made paper lanterns. They even got a battery operated tealight to put inside of them. Once Eden got up from her nap and saw Danielle she wanted a butterfly face herself. Justin took the girls back to the tent to get her face painted while Joel and I made fondue. Oh yeah, funny thing, the grocery stores in Nendaz are open on the Swiss National holiday and Sunday, so there was no need to run around a grocery store for 5 minutes like a mad woman, nice. We had cheese and chocolate fondue for dinner and listened to the music coming from the tent. Then we sat out on the balcony and watched a spectacular fireworks show. It was an amazing day.
Sunday we drove to the town of Tasch, boarded a train and went to Zermatt. This village is at the foot of the Matterhorn. The view was incredible. I had never seen the Matterhorn other than in pictures and it was truly majestic. We found a park and had our sandwiches that we had prepared at home. The kids played at the park and then we headed to the station to head up towards Rothorn. We rode a funicular through a bore in the mountain that was so steep I was not sure why they did not call it a "ginormous elevator", and 2 cable cars, to get to the top of Rothorn 3103m (10,180ft). I thought the view of the Matterhorn was incredible before, well let me tell you it was nothing compared to this. We were all in awe. I also did not want anyone going within body length to the edge because the drop off was shear. We walked around the top and Justin and I wondered what it would be like to ski here. So hopefully in about 16 years when all the kiddos are grown, Justin and I will make it back to have a ski holiday in Zermatt. We stopped midway down the mountain to let the kids play at Sunnegga, the area just after the funicular ride. They have a small lake and playground for the kids. They also have a water system that the kids can play with and experiment how the water travels. Joel was delighted to see another Archimedes screw! They even pulled themselves across the lake on a raft. Once back down the mountain we walked around Zermatt and headed back to Tasch on the train. We decided to drive into Brig before we headed home, because we wanted to get some raclette for dinner. Justin had eaten it here with his brother Jon, years before. We were walking around and looking at the menu of a restaurant when Justin wondered aloud what a word meant (it was in German), when the waitress overhead him and said to follow her. We were thinking that she knew we were looking for the raclette and low and behold we found ourselves sitting in an interior courtyard being asked what we wanted to drink. We had dinner here and though it was delicious it was not what we were looking for. By the way, the word we were wondering about was "GARDEN". Again I braced myself for the drive up the mountain, this time in the dark, on a sketchy road. Lots of deep breaths.
|Matterhorn view from Rothorn|
|More of the Matterhorn|
|The town of Zermatt below the Matterhorn|
|The funicular through the mountain was steep!|
Monday we drove to Interlaken. Justin and I decided to take a train that you drive your car on. You stay in your car while the train is en route. Sounds cool and it was totally cool. The route is 15km, 14 of which are in a tunnel. Cool and dark. All the cars are turned off so there are no lights on and you can't even see how wide the tunnel is. Midway through a train passed us going the opposite direction. Eventually we literally were able to "see the light at the end of the tunnel". Once across we drove the rest of the way to Interlaken. Again, "Daniel the GPS" gave us a very crazy shortcut. I will tell you I am starting to lose faith in Daniel. More of these one lane wide, 2 direction traffic roads where you really need to hope no one is coming. But halfway down you get this magnificent view of the lakes and the city below, with the mountains rising above. Totally worth the crazy road. Daniel might not be too bad after all. We found a great restaurant and I had the best meal of puff pastry filled with veal sausages and mushrooms in a creamy sauce. The kids had fondue and Justin had a yummy sandwich. Our waitress was so nice she even brought Eden some free cookies. By the way, our little golden ticket has had so much free food that we are now keeping track and it will be coming soon as a new post. Eden shared her cookies with Danielle but when Joel asked for a bite she shoved the whole thing in her mouth. The waitress thought that it was so funny she brought 4 more cookies and told Eden that she couldn't have any. Eden looked at her and pouted and asked why. The waitress laughed and told her she could have one. Eden grabbed one and gobbled it up. During our meal we watched about 50 para-gliders land in the park adjacent to the restaurant. This is quite a big thing. People pay to do tandem jumps off of the surrounding mountains. So Eden also learned the word para-glider and announced that she wanted to para-glide. My response, no way!! After our meal we headed to Grindelwald and visited the city. We had a great view of Mt Eiger. We headed home to pack up to get ready to leave the next day. But first we needed to drive up the terrible road AGAIN. Many, many deep breaths.
|Traveling in our car on a flatbed train|
|En route to Interlaken. The greenery was amazing!|
|Grindelwald with Mt Eiger in the background|
We left Switzerland on Tuesday and on the spur of the moment decided to head towards Chamonix France to do a quick visit. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and sprinkling, so we were not able the see Mont Blanc (the highest peak in Europe) or the Aiguille du midi.
|Glacier near Chamonix|
|Mont Blanc in the clouds|
We grabbed a bite to eat and headed towards Nantes, France. We had a midpoint stop planned in Montlucon. Around dinner we stopped in Diou a tiny little town and all played at the park. Eden now asks to go to the park all the time. There are some really great ones in Europe. Eden discovered a merry-go-round that she could get going herself, but could not stop. So once in a while we heard a little voice saying, "daddy, mommy, can you stop me". We played a few games to get the energy out and then went to the only restaurant in town, La Tradition, and had dinner. It was very good and priced well for 4 courses. We got to the hotel late and went to bed. This morning we finished the journey to Nantes with a stop at the Chenonceau Castle. We all enjoyed the tour of the castle. I really liked the kitchen area, it seemed so cozy with the stone walls, wood tables and copper pots. The gardens were magnificent and the kids enjoyed the labyrinth.
We are now in Nantes, France for the next week. Thank goodness this is not located at the top of a sketchy road.