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Published: September 18th 2015
Bonjour and Hallo!
I am a day late on this post. By the time I got to my hotel room last night I was extremely wiped. It was a long drive! I left Champigny-Sur-Marine around 7 AM, with everything packed and my GPS raring to go! I wish the GPS would have routed me around the Parisian suburbs, as it was rush hour time, and it had me going through like 3 different towns! I was in bumper to bumper for nearly 2 hours, not reaching the French motorway til nearly 9 AM. That was a little frustrating!!!! Top that with the fact it was raining cats and dogs...the WHOLE DRIVE! Ugh! It kind of put a damper on my plans (no pun intended). I had planned on cruising with the top down and my jacket buttoned up...stopping at random places along the way (I had mapped out some castles and monasteries in France). However, it was down-pouring, and I did not want to keep hopping out of the car to get wet, then hop back in. Plus I had already lost nearly 2 hours in Parisian traffic. Unfortunately, the castles and monasteries will
have to happen on my next cross-Europe road trip (I hope that happens!).
As I got closer to the border, I started seeing more and more tunnels. The first tunnel I went through led me to the highways that skirt the Alps. When I first came out of the tunnel, I literally gasped. The view was....for lack of a better term....breathtaking. I was about 500 meters above sea level, and climbing steadily. I knew it was just a preview to what I was going to see when I reached Zermatt.
I was very nervous about crossing the French/Swiss border. This would be my very first border crossing in an automobile. I had done some research on it prior. It seemed easy enough. And it was. I just literally drove through the border. That was a stress point for me, so I am glad it went smoothly. I wish I would have stopped to take a picture though!
I kept the music blaring and/or Game of Thrones audio book going while I cranked out kilometer after kilometer. The rest stops were all very nice and clean. I tried to limit the stops as much as possible. However, whenever
I saw a BP, I tried to stop. I found that I could always count on them to have a diesel fuel pump (see future blog about fueling up in Europe). I stuck to gas station sandwiches and yogurt to keep my appetite at bay. I am a serial snacker when I drive though. I kept buying white chocolate biscuits, I need to make sure I run in the near future!
As I entered Switzerland, I saw that everything was still in French. The only gas station I stopped in was shortly after the border, and they spoke French. The attendant pumped the gas for me, and cleaned my windows (although it was raining so I felt it was a moot point). Now Switzerland is not part of the EU, so they still use Francs. Unfortunately, I did not have any Francs, so I tipped him in Euro...hope he didn't mind. I feel like I am an overtipper too, because I am so bad with the exchange rate. I think I tipped him like $10 American...oops.
As I crossed into Switzerland, I had a beautiful view of Lac Leman, or Leman Lake. If it had not been raining
I would have pulled over to get some panoramic shots. The little towns along the shores were beautiful. Looked like old, charming buildings with church steeples filling out the skylines. I continued to rise in elevation. My ears were starting to feel the pressure. I am not going to lie, I was nervous about skirting the mountains and rising in elevation in my little coupe...in the rain. I am very scared of heights. As I started making the climb up towards Zermatt, my heart started to race!!!!
Before we get to the climb, I started entering the little mountain towns along the base of the Alps. Gorgeous, small, charming towns!!!!! I started seeing the transition from French to German (French and German are 2 of the 4 national languages of Switzerland...Italian and Romanish being the other 2). The architecture was very German looking. Houses were mostly wooden and plaster from what I saw. The towns would come and go in the blink of an eye...with most having just a roundabout to pass through in the center. I wanted again to stop, but I needed to get to my final destination. I was behind schedule, and many of the hotels
in Zermatt (including mine) do not have 24-hour reception desks (check-in ends at 8 PM at Le Petit Hotel).
Again I started making the winding climb up towards the sky. With every passing meter, I was definitely getting nervous. But I took my time, and slowed down when I saw oncoming traffic. I felt the safest when I was driving through tunnels...because I did not have to see down the side of the mountains! What scared me the most was that some curves did not have guard rails!!! Eeeeek!
At about 1500 meters is the town of Täsch, which is about 5 km below Zermatt. They have parking garages there, where you must park your automobile. You then take the train up the rest of the way to Zermatt. Zermatt is a no automobile town, save for taxis and special exceptions (all electric vehicles by the way). I learned this the hard way, so stay tuned for a special blog about my encounter with the Swiss Police!
Parking is pricey, as is everything in this area (typical touristy-type place). Once I parked, I gathered up my belongings, purchased a round-trip ticket from Täsch to Zermatt
(a whopping 16 francs, or $16.50 American), and rode the train up to Zermatt. The ride is only about 10-15 minutes! The intercom comes on in the beginning, welcoming you to the train. It speaks in multiple languages, to include German, French, Italian, Japanese, and English.
Once I arrived, I saw a bunch of taxis for specific hotels. I did not see one for my hotel, Le Petit Hotel (I learned later it was there, under the bigger corporation's name ). My hotel was about 2 kilometers (not even) away from the train station..on Metzggasse Street. I decided to haul my suitcase, my backpack, and my Disney Paris duffle full of souvenirs to the hotel without the aid of a taxi. Easier said than done! It was a very steep incline the whooole way. Combined with the rain, cold, and thin mountain air...I was smoked! I had a heck of a time finding the street at first. The maps on the street were vague to say the least. I walked an extra half kilometer up the mountain before I realized I needed to turn around! I did make it the hotel though, and the man behind
the desk applauded me for walking! He was very nice, and spoke very good English! He gave me a map of Zermatt, and circled a bunch of things for me to do the next day. Skiing would not be an option, since I was not staying very long. He was friendly and welcoming. Told me to stop calling him Sir, because I don't work for him! He did teac me that Lac means lake in German, so a very brief language lesson was had as well! By far the best check-in experience I have had so far.
The hotel is beautiful. Very cozy looking, appropriate for a ski environment. Warm wood, reds, oranges, and German architecture. It is a tall, narrow building, with steep stairs. I decided not to take the elevator (I needed the workout). I am on the 2nd floor, with a view of ski chalets on the mountain, and the kindergarten for the children in town! The hotel has a rooftop terrace with a view of the Matterhorn, to which I took advantage of this morning!!!! The room is small, as all my rooms have been. This is by far the coziest though. The lamps are
dim and designed to mask the harshness of fluorescent lighting. The bed had a thick white comforter, and cute wintery red pillow resting on top. TV has German cable, and a nice wide desk below a big open window with rich bronze curtains. The bathroom is by far my favorite! Compared to the hotel and the room, it is very sleek and modern looking. Chrome appliances (to include hairdryer), and a big frosty window you can crack open. I know it is weird, but the sink soap dispenser is amazing!!!! It is a squeeze bottle mounted to the wall, and the scent is rosemary, melissa, thyme. It smells AMAZING, and so clean. I wanted to just dispense all of it into one of my travel bottles!!! I know, there are probably better things to be excited about right?
Did I mention that on the train ride up I realized I forgot my passports in my car? UGH!!!!! After check-in, I threw on my puffy vest and boots, and had to make the trek back to the train station to go back DOWN the mountain. Not my happiest moment...I was very tired from the drive and shenanigans upon arrival to
Zermatt. But I was not comfortable leaving my passports down there. I got to the bottom of the mountain pretty quickly, and saw the next train back up left in 7 minutes. I made the mad dash to the parking garage, which was right next door. To save energy, the parking garage has automatic lights that turn on after you walk a few feet into the garage. I was DEFINITELY apprehensive about doing that at 9 PM...just did not seem like a safe course of action! Who knows if someone would be hiding in the dark?! Doubtful, but my paranoia set in. Creepy to walk into a pitch black parking garage in the middle of the mountains. I turned my phone flashlight on just in case, until the big lights came on. Got my passport without incident, and rushed back in time to make the train back up the mountain!
The hotel front desk closes at 9 PM. After that, you have to use your key to let yourself into the hotel. I do not even want to think what I would have to do if I had forgotten it...there has to be some option (I probably
should have asked, since I am so forgetful). Nevertheless, I made it back to my room. The passport incident ate well into my blog time, so I decided to just go right to bed. I had no intention of waking up early, or following an agenda! I needed the mental break after an exhausting day!
All in all, even with the shenanigans, I am so glad I decided to drive across Europe! It is a unique way to see the countries I am driving through, with no ties to itineraries! I recommend it. The signs are pretty much universal across all the countries, speed limits manageable, and rest stops plentiful! Of course the language barriers in the countrysides are difficult. But if you can get past it, make the journey! I am glad I did it, and will do again as I drive to Italy.
Thanks for reading!
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