Sunday, September 14 – a wonderful, wonderful last day in Switzerland

Warm, sunny, clear blue skies. Not too hot. Wore short sleeves and cotton pants.

I don’t want to leave!!

I need to figure out how much time we have spent in Switzerland (mountain towns only – not counting time in Zurich and Geneva):
1988 2 wks Grindelwald
1988 2 wks Zermatt
1988 1 wks Lenk / Le Grange (2 places)
1996 1 wk Davos
1996 1 wk Locarno
1997 1.5 wk Grindelwald
1997 1 wk Crans-Montana
1997 1 wk Zermatt
2000 1.5 wk Kandersteg
2002 1 wk Engelberg
2002 1 wk Grindelwald
2003 2 wks Saanen
TOTAL 16 weeks

After two weeks we have both decided that this Gstaad-Saanen valley is the perfect Switzerland place for us. We have spent about 16 weeks in Switzerland mountain towns since 1988 and been to many places, and will go back to many of them – but this valley is perfect.

Gstaad is not really jet-setty – not like St. Moritz. Saanen is the perfect small town. Next time we stay for a month. I would probably pick a different apartment (although we have been very comfortable here and this place has many good features), just to have one with a better view and a balcony and more direct sun on the balcony/terrace. Actually, this apartment one floor up would be perfect.

We managed to get up a bit earlier today. I realize our sleeping problem (other than that we stay up too late) – the bedroom has blackout curtains so we don’t wake up when the sun shines in, like at home. Last night I left the curtains partly open. We did not get bread yesterday, so had to go out for breakfast. We packed up ready for hiking and stopped at a cafĂ© in Saanen. The breakfast was great – croissants, fresh bread, butter, jam, coffee. We had two coffees each. Kleine Fruhstuck (small breakfast) for 9 CHF each, 3.50 CHF each for extra coffee.

Then we drove up the Lauenen valley from Gstaad (the one we had hiked to on that rainy day). We parked just above Lauenen, because I though you could not drive to Lauenensee, but it turns out you can drive there. I saw a big sign showing parking lots and assumed it meant you had to park and could not drive, but the sign was just explaining about the parking at Lauenensee. Anyway, it is good that we did not drive all the way, because instead we did a perfect two hour round trip hike to Launensee. The hike started out through the village of Launen which is located near the end of a long, green valley. We looked directly to huge rock mountains with glaciers showing behind them. It was brilliantly sunny and warm – but not really hot.

The one hour to the lake was slightly uphill through farmers fields. At one point we heard a group of women’s voices singing – but could not see them. I think they were in front of a farm house that we were walking behind. The lake is small and right at the base of the huge mountains. It is very beautiful and surrounded by lovely woods.

We walked along the edge of the lake and now there were lots of people on the trial. These people drove up and parked, then did a 45 minute walk around the lake – then they all went to the one restaurant there and consumed vast quantities of meat. We know, because we watched them. We stopped at the restaurant thinking we might have lunch, but the menu was all meat. We should have left, but decided to have coffee and hot chocolate. It took forever to get our small order taken, and then even longer to pay. The restaurant was somewhat busy when we arrived, but totally packed by the time we left. Sometimes I would give anything for a cashier that you walk up to to pay, instead of trying to catch the eye of a harried waitress carrying plate after plate of grilled sausage. Normally I am not disgusted by meat (heh, I ate meat until I was 25), but this time with the open grill and all that sausage – ugh.

The trail back was through woods along the river. It was also beautiful, but a bit muddy.

There is are hotels in Lauenen – this would be a lovely place to stay if you wanted to look out at the beautiful mountains and be in a peaceful small town for a few days. We stopped at a hotel in Lauenen and has lunch on the terrace. Steve had fish, I had an omelette.

But, the day was young. After all, we were an hour earlier starting and we did a short simple hike (not a long gondola ride before and then bus or train after). So we drove into Gstaad, to the Wispile ride, took the gondola to the middle station and rented trotties (those scooter things). These ones were more like mountain bikes than scooters and had springs on them and were higher off the ground with big wheels. The trotti path from the top station is a dirt road, but if you start at the middle station, it is a dirt road for 300 meters, then paved the rest of the way. We zoomed down the hill. I thought we were doing really great – stopping for a few view shots and shots of us with the cows – when this guy on a trotti roared past us like a Mercedes in the passing lane on the Autostrada. I guess that is how you are supposed to trotti – fast! You get about 30 minutes of a zoom ride down the hill, then 15 boring minutes of scooting the thing along the flat path back to the gondola station where you return it. 14 CHF per person from the middle station.

The day was older but not over. It was about 4:30 and there was still one town in the valley we had not been to – Lenk. We spent 3 nights there in 1988 on our grand Europe trip and loved it. We wanted to see it again. It is at the end of a valley from Zweisimmen. It was about 30 minutes from Gstaad.

As we drove out of the Gstaad-Saanen valley, you could see people everywhere having a great time. The day was perfect and people were biking, riding motorcycles, hiking, walking their dogs, paragliding, flying small planes, driving convertibles with the roof down – it all seemed like a Swiss outdoors playground.

We got to Lenk, drove around, decided it was not nearly as nice as where we were staying, found the hotel we had stayed in, had coffee and apple kuchen, then drove back “home”. The last night before moving on. I am doing two last loads of laundry, some ironing, made dinner, and am almost packed. Packing while on vacation is so much easier than packing for a vacation. I have not bought much (a few tea towels and some books) so everything will fit!

Tomorrow, we finish packing, load up the car, check out of the apartment (Yvonne is coming here at 9:30), have a last Frustuck, then drive through the St. Bernard tunnel to Aosta and then to Levanto. I know we will love Italy – we always do – but tonight I am sad that we have to leave this area. But, now I must pack!!

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.