We left Colmar, France relatively early on Monday morning to make our way to our Swiss accomodation up in the Alps. As we were so close to Germany, I suggested to Ben that we pop across the border to have lunch, just so we could say we’ve been there, done that. We drove across to a little German town and struggled to order food. It is so difficult being presented with menus in a different language. I get all nervous that I’m going to accidentally order something with cheese or butter on it, which will invoke utter despair and disdain from Rohan or something spicy, which will invoke utter despair and disdain from the girls and I. Honestly, it is so nerve wracking and I always feel a sense of relief when it is over.
Ben suggested that I buy groceries in Germany as he has read that Switzerland is hideously expensive. So the girls and I went off to the local supermarket to buy stuff to make dinner (sausages of course – what else would you buy in Germany!) along with a ton of fruit and vegetables. I also discovered Ovaltine Chocolate and was so excited I nearly wet myself. I sensibly only bought 2 blocks then almost immediately regretted it.
Loading the 6 of us, our luggage, groceries and various other bits and pieces into our hire care (a Renault Picasso) was a nightmare and I ended up sitting with piles of groceries on my lap which slowly but surely became squished on the 4 hour drive to our accomodation. I grumpily pointed out to Ben that with the waste of squashed blueberries and grapes I had to throw out, we might as well have just paid slightly extra to buy them in Switzerland.
Ben ignored my whinging as he was faced with a dilemma of his own. When we entered Switzerland we could pay 40 Euro’s to buy a sticker that meant we could use any toll roads. Or we could skip the sticker and take the “scenic route”. He assured us all that he wasn’t trying to save money as the scenic route would cost a lot more in petrol than the 40 Euros but we would get to experience the beauty of the Swiss countryside. I said I didn’t care, confident in the fact that the kids would care and insist on a shorter travelling time with less scenic viewing. Somehow as a family, we decided to go the scenic route much to Ben and Rohan’s delight.
The first day of driving in Switzerland was amazing. It really was beautiful and I did in fact enjoy all of the scenery (there will be a ton of photos at the end of this blog to attest to that). We passed through charming little Swiss villages who all had the same love of floristry as we had witnessed in France and England. There were rivers running through the villages of freshly melted snow which is the most amazing turquoise colour.
The Route, even though it was peppered with spectacular scenery, was marred by the fact that Ben, the in car navigator and I could not get along. At the best of times I struggle to tell my left and right. It isn’t innate in me and it takes me a split second to figure it out. Driving on the other side of the road has my brain all confused. I keep telling Ben to make “right” turns, i.e. across the traffic, when really I meant “left”. I knew which way he was supposed to turn but he took my “right” to mean literally right when I was using the word to infer that he had to turn in the direction of the driver). The navigator did not understand that there was many road works going on in Switzerland at the time and we ended up driving around and around in circles swearing under our breaths at each other and the navigator.
Ben had of course studied up on Swiss road rules and was pleased to report that ALL Swiss drivers followed them correctly and were very observant of safe driving practises. Ben made me stop and buy a hi-vis vest (a requirement under Swiss law to have in your car in case of a breakdown) and even wore his shoes while driving (another requirement under Swiss law). He kept remarking about how clean and spotless everything was and how Swiss people were renowned for being punctual, efficient and good with money – three qualities he admires greatly in people and surprisingly three qualities that his wife lacks.
Our accomodation was a rustic old farmhouse up in the mountains right between a valley and very high up. From the farmhouse you could hear the thunder of the water rushing down from the snow capped mountains and you can see about 3 different waterfalls. It was magical. I truly felt like I was having a total Heidi experience. The accomodation was about 400 years old and was built in a time when I would have been considered tall as I could only just stand up in most of the house. Ben had to spend most of his time walking around with his head bent forward to avoid hitting the roof.
It was quite chilly and after having a bit of a look around we all had dinner and went to bed.
Tuesday – Ben rose early, eager to force us all to participate in an early morning walk. I kindly offered to stay at the cozy farmhouse and pack all our stuff but he was determined that we were all going to see, marvel and enjoy Switzerland’s charm. Rohan and Isabelle were as excited about the hike as Ben was. Kylah, Jazzy and I not so much but we obligingly went along. The owner of the farm took the kids to feed the Lama’s and or Alpaca’s (I can’t tell the difference) and we all viewed a bit of Lama porn as two of them were having a root. The girl lama/alpaca looked extremely bored and the boy one was making terrible noises. Kids were totally grossed out when I excitedly pointed out what was going on. The farmer then took the kids up a mountain to a swing he had built that looked to me to be completely terrifying. He swung the kids out from the spot up on the mountain and they were suspended high up in the air. It nearly ended in disaster when Rohan slipped off his seat (which only Rohan would do) and ended up dangling 10 metres off the ground only holding on to the ropes of the swing.
Ben had guaranteed that the walk would hardly be taxing and only a slight incline. It was not a slight incline in the slightest and I should have known better than to believe him when he said “just up here is a nice flat bit” over and over again to keep us going. The walk WAS nice and Switzerland certainly is beautiful but after snapping some photos I didn’t see the point in continuing up the mountain (I was dubious about Ben’s claim of a flat bit) when there were things I could be doing back at the farmhouse (like chatting to my new Danish friends and a girl I met from Adelaide). So I graciously said adios and abandoned the hike, closely followed by Kylah and Jazzy who took the opportunity to flee back down the mountain as well.
Girls and I packed our things and then carried them to the car. Poor old Kylah, who looked like a turtle with her backpack on, had a stack and ended up ripping a hole in her jeggings. “Don’t worry” I told her “now we have an excuse to go shopping for new ones!!” which immediately cheered her up.
We left soon after Marco Polo and his entourage arrived back and set off on our journey to Italy via back roads (as we did not have the sticker that allowed us to go on highways). On our way we saw beautiful mountains and lots of snow. Kids, Ben and I even hiked up a rocky waterfall to reach the snow above it so that Isabelle could see snow for the first time. What looked to be a short way up from the road ended up being a long treacherous journey which resulted in casualties (Kylah fell in the water) and lots of whinging (mainly from me – I was freezing!!). Our mission to reach the snow probably wasn’t the safest idea Ben and I have had as there were a million ways I envisioned that it could all go pear shaped. Generally I don’t even give a thought about safety when I throw myself in to a task (Ben usually has that covered) but even I was worried we might come back with less than 6 people.
At the very peak of one of the mountains Ben suggested we stop for lunch. The pub there handed me a very limited menu and I took one look at it (20 Franks for a toasted cheese sanga which is the rough equivalent of $36AU) and I turned around and left. Kids were bought a packed of chips from a grocery store for lunch instead. Not a single Marks and Spencer was sighted in Switzerland with their lovely pre-made gourmet salads, sanga’s and sushi.
After lunch, which was eaten at about 3:30pm and was not a lunch approved food, much to Rohan’s dismay, we realised that we still had about 8 hours of driving before we reached our destination for the night.
As we had decided to take the scenic route and couldn’t use the highways, the journey was going to be a very loooong one. Kids took it as well as could be expected. Tears, in-house fighting and demands for food, water and toilets (all things not readily available in a car).
Dinner was purchased at a fuel station in Italy where I had my first ever encounter with a non-English speaking Italian. The two gentlemen at the fuel station were so welcoming and spoke to me in their beautiful sing-song bellowing voices. Even though I had no idea what they were saying I could have listened to them all day. The called me Beee-ahnn-ka and spoke using gigantic gestures and lively expressions.
We finally made it to our accomodation in Italy at 11pm. I didn’t even bother showering the kids and instead just shoved them into their beds before collapsing in to my own.
Even after our huge day I’m still appreciative that we took the long route. I got to experience so much of Switzerland and was really amazed at it’s beauty. I definitely want to return. Will need to become an extremely successful travel blogger first so I can negotiate less than $36AU for a toasted cheese sandwich.
Thanks for reading!!
1 thought on “Three Countries in One Day”
In order to avoid confusion when navigating, I like to use “steering wheel” and “glove box”. That way, it doesn’t matter which side of the road you are driving on, your driver will always turn in the direction required!
It sounds a long and exhausting day, but the scenery looks spectacular 🙂