Sixt Fer-à-Cheval and Brienz

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July 25th 2017
Published: August 25th 2017
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Thursday 20 July

I awoke to find myself in the dreaded car seat again. I had just got used a pace of life with a less hectic travel rhythm, but there I was again! Fortunately it was only a few minutes before we stopped in Carouge. Daddy and I enjoyed a stream of filtered sunlight whilst mummy went to find her Spanish friend whom she had met when she had lived in Geneva. Daddy had also met her some 15 years ago. Sonia is very pretty and has a beautiful smile. She gave me a great hug before we sat down for a morning tea of pizza. Apparently Sonia is always hungry!

We did return to driving (sigh) with the target of Chamonix in our sights as neither daddy nor Sonia had been there. There were a few false starts, but daddy discovered GPS in the car and things were smoother after that. I was startled by the majestic (huge!) mountains, and Sonia entertained me with a new language (Spanish) by pulling faces and making lots of goo goo sounds.

Our first destination was a climbing gym in Les Houches, which mummy used to viisit regularly. As mummy couldn't remember exactly where to turn off, we took a few more exits than were required, with plenty of associated banter. The gym was very impressive, and jaws dropped whilst watching the spectacle of rippling muscles attempting spectacular acrobatics. Mummy had to extract daddy from the gym by indicating that we would be too late to take the télépherique / cable car from Chamonix. This proved to be irrelevant, since when we talked with the télépherique operators they wouldn't allow a little child like me up that high. Why not? Apparently my ears might hurt, but this setback might dampen my dreams of becoming a great mountaineer!! Anyway it was way too expensive and the weather wasn't good enough to be able to see from up that high anyway! We did a little tour of Chamonix but had another much more pressing activity to undertake - the ordering of a birthday cake.

We headed back up the valley and then on super picturesque roads through green & perfect landscapes to Samoëns. For this entire half hour of driving, daddy seemed super excited. These were some of the roads and cols upon which the Tour de France is cycled (the 12th Stage of the tour was occurring at Mt Garibaldi that same day). The sign welcoming us to the Grand Massiff had a remarked effect on daddy - he had seen and knew some of these roads and now understood how fast and tricky they would be to cycle. Daddy must really like this Tour de France stuff.

Samoëns is a very pretty town and well worth walking around. We found the best pâtisserie in France (it had been recommended by our hosts and had won many awards) and ordered a white chocolate and raspberry cake. Phew, we would be ready to celebrate mummy's birthday tomorrow 😊. A few minutes further up another beautiful and twisting road we stopped outside a lovely wooden chalet. This would be our home for the next few days.

A happy and hearty man, called Dominique, greeted us. I liked him already. Dominique and his wife (Evelyne) have run this gîte for 17 years. In the summertime it is visually spectacular and full of wildlife (& eagles). In winter there is lots of cross country and alpine skiing, but the days would be quite short since the valley is surrounded by massive cliffs.

In his youth, Dominique went to cooking school for 6 months, and it showed in the salad entrée that was served that evening. Main course was a Swiss favourite - Raclette. The cheese Smelt divine. It was squished onto potatoes and pickled things. I can now squish my food a bit like that and mummy let me try potatoes which were very squishy! A power outage shifted the scene to candle light. The talk, like the food, was good and hearty.

After dinner I had an awesome bath but was too excited to sleep so Dominique played me the kettle drum and then his guitar. It was wonderful to hear his music and I finally settled to sleep.

Friday 21 July (Mummy's birthday!)

Breakfast was another massive affair. I squished banana and sampled yoghurt. Mummy was very happy with all her birthday wishes and cards that were on the table. After breakfast we donned clothes to protect ourselves from rain and I got into the backpack. Yay, a walk!! I liked the boulders near the river and daddy's babble! Constantly moving upwards, we passed massive cliffs, campgrounds and mini horses. Somewhere up a creek we stopped and had a picnic - I just drank mummy's drink of course. Mummy and Sonia were worried about an approaching storm, but daddy convinced them to go a little further. They were most grateful when they got to the waterfall and it had not yet started raining. Best of all, the encroaching storm meant that the crowds had returned home and we had the place to ourselves! We took an alternative route home, and about halfway back it began to rain properly! I still felt protected and warm, so we just marched steadily home with lots of laughter of course!!

This walk confirmed that my walking backpack works well, except when I am tired ... when I fall asleep, my head bobs around too much, so mummy and daddy switch me to the front "Ergo-baby" again.

When we got home, the table was laid (in gold and red) and there were a whole lot of new people at the gîte - Puig with Xavier and daughter Anaïs, Gabriel and Phil & Ruth. It was exciting to have so many people meeting, smiling and talking wildly. Excitement was building. There was so much talk in different languages (& a bit of music from daddy's computer) that it was difficult to understand anything. I constantly went from hands / arms of one person to another. Yay for kisses and smiles! It was a whirlwind!

After the nibbles at the couch were nearly expended, the crowd slowly moved to the table. I sat in a high chair for the feast and daddy looked after me. Some more people joined - Pierre-Jean and Magali. Wow, it was overwhelming and my head was spinning. I wanted to sleep but couldn't. Mummy kept putting me in the green tent with the puppy and feeding me. But I was too excited and kept getting up ...

However, at some point I must have collapsed!! I missed the cake cutting but heard it was great fun, with mummy sharing the honours with Xavier who was celebrating becoming a decade older than mummy the next day. Piere-Jean introduced us to the jazz of Ben Webster.

Apparently something called 'schnapps' was offered on the house by our host. I suspect that mummy had her favourite Abricotine, since when I reawoke temporaily, she was dancing with daddy and my food tasted funny. It was a most agreeable evening. What a super way of beginning a new decade - celebrating with friends in a beautiful place.

Saturday 22nd July

Today the group walked around the Sixt fer-à-cheval gorge and visited a waterfall. The instructions as to where to go were communicated during breakfast, but when the group drove off, we ended up at the gorge first. We decided to start the walk there. There were lots of leaves on the ground and a nice narrow single track. I loved walking there.

It was a bit slippery for those who didn't have super shoes like mummy and daddy have, so there was lots of cross helping within the group, and a few brown bums 😊. The rock cutting and gorge cross sections were really lovely. The massive size of everything is really majestic. I needed a feed mid journey so the whole group waited for me.
It was decided that it was too difficult to walk the full loop, so instead we decided to go by car to a part of the track closer to the waterfall.

For the second walk we moved cars and then hiked along roads. There were lots of children carrying backpacks from a camping trip - I want to do that someday. They looked so happy and were roudy. When we got to the waterfall some of the group went to have lunch, whilst others took a super narrow, rocky stepped ascent of the waterfall. Of course mummy, daddy and I were part of the hikers. It was very loud and a bit frightening being up so high, but very invigorating... mummy and daddy had huge smiles.

The walk had tired out everyone such that the desire to play cards and music dissipated, rather everyone eagerly awaited another fine meal served by Dominique which was devoured accordingly! First, however, everyone sampled some Valaisan wines and snacks for the 'apéro' courtesy of Pierre-Jean. Everyone, including the hosts, looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves!

Sunday 23 July

Today we all had our last hike in the beautiful Grand Massif area. After an extravagant breakfast prepared by our hosts, we decided to hike to Bout-du-monde (the end of the world) in the Sixt Fer-à-Cheval area, further on from the waterfall we visited on the first day. We also found out why the region was so named: fer-à-cheval means horseshoe and the mountains are in a horseshoe shape. The hike was magnificent. It ended in a cave with a spectacular view of the valley we had walked up. When we got there, mummy gave me a big feed, perched on a rock with a view out through a small waterfall to the valley. I wasn't paying much attention to the view but I think mummy enjoyed it!

Everyone was also going home at some point today. It was going to be sad to say our goodbyes, but because not everyone left at once it wasn't so bad. We said goodbye to Pierre-Jean & Magali at the first waterfall, later Phil & Ruth went on ahead to the Bout de Monde and then headed back before us to return home. Puig and her family departed when we were back at the gîte. Gabriel didn't say goodbye because she was going to stay another night with us before joining us on the drive to Brienz.

Monday 24 July

It was rainy today. Perfect for a drive, except if you wanted to see the majestic Swiss mountains approaching beautiful lakes!! All was shrouded in fog or covered by clouds. Despite the weather, there were lovely glimpses and much story telling.

We had a surprise (at least it felt like that to me) break in our journey half way along Lac Leman / Lac Genève with a visit to a smaller gated community along a lake edge - the commune of Sciez. A security official asked why we were there. We must have had the secret answer, since he let us through. It was all very pretty. We turned into a driveway and were greeted by our AirBnB hosts from Amsterdam - Sophie and Pieter-Bas. Apparently most of the commune was inhabited by Sophie's family who had bought it many years earlier when it had not been worth so much, with her cousins living all around! We had a short walk around to the harbour overlooking Lac Leman with me on daddy's shoulders. After a social table tennis tournament between daddy and the children, everyone sat down to lunch - it was lovely for Sophie's mother to include us as one of the family!

After lunch, we continued our drive to Interlarken and a long the lake to Brienz, where we checked into the youth hostel right by the lake. Mummy's plans for a swim in the lake were foiled by the rain and the cool change that the rain had brought. Despite the weather, we attempted a walk to find wooden carvings for which town is famous. We found a few shops and galleries, but the rain continued to fall, so we retreated for the evening.

My fascination with water bottles continues, I am now able to turn and grab bottles, and of course bring the cap to my mouth for eating.

Tuesday 25th July

The weather was no better this morning, so we sought out options that would be less affected by rain - a visit to a wildlife park, and a walk along a wood carvers trail.

The ruggedness of the European alps play host to a wide variety of exotic animals that I am unlikely to see from my walking backpack, so it was nice to appreciate them in a more contained environment. In the mini wildlife park, which was built to enable wood carvers to witness "wild / natural" behaviours of their animal subjects, we got to see: Chamoix, Steinbok, snowy owls, marmots and pheasants.

My teeth hurt so much today that we didn't make much progress, hence we abandoned the option of walking on the wood carvers trail, preferring instead to visit the town and find a woodworking shop that mummy might have worked in 15 yrs ago (she was made a job offer, but didn't want to be in German-speaking Switzerland), and lots of other wood galleries, It was all very expensive, so we didn't buy anything.

The rain continued to fall. We would not be able to swim, so we had lunch overlooking the lake before heading to Lauterbrunnen. On the way, we said goodbye to Gabrielle, I am not sure that she has a good opinion of babies after I have spent so much time crying.

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