The Swiss Mountain Retreat

After 5 nights in Paris we were ready to get out of the city and into the mountains. A two hour stop off in Geneva and 2 trains later we arrived in Sion, the main town in the region of Valais, Switzerland. 20130904-225558.jpg

Geneva

Home to the infamous Matterhorn mountain, Valais region is just an hour or so from Geneva and whatever season you visit, it has something on offer.

Lucky enough to stay in a friend’s chalet 1400m up in the mountains, we were met at the station and treated to food before we headed high into the mountains. The chalet is just perfect for getting down to basics again; think no wifi, no TV… Just yourself,
clean air and your surroundings.

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Ed and some nice rocks

With four full days in this beautiful country it would have been criminal to not use at least one of them to walk around the mountains of Nendaz, where the chalet is located. Running peacefully along the mountainside are a series of gently flowing rivers, known as a ‘bisse’. There are many and it is easy to wander along one route, meet up with another and walk back a different way. They are flat and ideal for those (like me) who aren’t the best at hardcore mountain treks, but still want to experience the beauty and serenity of the mountains. We enjoyed walking along the bisse so much that 14 km and a few hours felt like no time or effort at all. 20130904-225640.jpg

The only sign you need to stay on track on the bisse!

After a day of walking and exploring, the thermal spa baths were of course calling us. With 3 to choose from in the Valais region we opted for one in Saillon, around 40 minutes bus from Sion. Winding down the mountain roads into Sion was about as adventurous as the day got which was absolutely fine by me! Three hours soaking in the spa and outdoor thermal pools, which are in a valley surrounded by mountains every way you look, did wonders for achey legs and feet from the previous days walking.

Thursday had soon crept up and it was the day we were meeting back up with our friends who were taking us to a blues festival in the neighbouring town of Sierre. The headline act were Scot band Texas, who’s name rang a vaguely familiar bell. When they started playing, I was pleasantly surprised and taken back many a year to songs I’d heard on the radio as a ‘youngster’ and knew all the words too! A lovely, small festival which involves lots of beer drinking, it was the ideal way to spend an evening.

Friday, our last full day in Switzerland, meant one thing and one thing only. We had to go to the top of the mountain and walk back down. We couldn’t stay half way up the mountain and not venture to the top, particularly when the telecabine (cable car as us Brits call it) was all but a hop, skip and a jump away from the chalet.
Soon enough, we were in our little cabin and ascending up to Tracouet at 2200m. 20130904-225648.jpg

The source of fear…

The fear of heights (and enclosed spaces) naturally kicked in; the all familiar clammy hands and half chewed lip, alongside a stiff arm from not letting go of the rail and no photos due to any sudden movements obviously meaning I would plunge to my death, were all I was able to take away with me from the ride. After 6 minutes (yes, just 6) we had reached the top and pretty much ran out of the cabin and pretended (once solid ground was firmly under foot) that the ride was great and not at all scary… (Please note: for rational thinking people it is not scary, it barely sways and as previously mentioned, takes only 6 minutes).

At the top, you will find a lake and the start of many walks to other mountains in the range or along the various bisses.
Not quite dressed for anything too treacherous we opted for the 3 hour descent, which was beautiful and just so happened to join the bisse that runs behind the back of the chalet.

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The last thing to do before continuing the journey to Munich, Germany, was to eat some Swiss cheese, of course! With a wood fire on the go and good company at hand, the Valais dish of raclette was served. Bloody lovely. Washed down with wine and schnapps and followed by homemade pear pie and finest Swiss chocolates it was the perfect way to end the mountain retreat.

Switzerland is an amazing country and offers so much more than just skiing and chocolate (though neither should be sniffed at, particularly the latter) and there is nothing quite like waking up nestled into the mountain to allow you to appreciate the simplest pleasures in life.
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