Desperate Swisswives

I am such a Slow Traveler – I love to settle into a new vacation rental!! We are in Gstaad, in an apartment I found on the Gstaad Tourist Office website. I was a bit nervous about the apartment because there are only a few photos and they don’t look great, but the location was good and most vacation rentals in Switzerland are good quality, so I emailed the apartment manager and she said she would hold it for us.

On Saturday morning we packed up in the Kandersteg apartment, said goodbye to Bill and Pam who own Adams Alpine Eden, and had breakfast in the cafe before leaving town. I don’t remember going to any cafe regularly on our trip seven years ago (I have a good memory for that kind of thing and can point out years later hotels we stayed in, restaurants we ate at, shops we went to – but I can never remember how to spell a town name!!). Maybe this cafe was not there then, but more likely we just did not try it. It is attached to the bakery, in the next building (heading up the valley) from Adams Alpine Eden. We had a good Swiss breakfast of a basket bread, boiled egg, orange juice and coffee. In the US we have the refillable coffee – order a coffee, get one or more free refills. In Switzerland you pay for each coffee but they have a refillable bread basket. If you are still hungry, they will bring you more bread.

Breakfast (Früstück) in Kandersteg

Quiz Question: What is the Ovomaltine thing on the table?
Answer: This is where you put your breakfast garbage – butter wrappers, jam containers.

This time Steve did the drive from Kandersteg to Gstaad. The roads were busier since it was a sunny Saturday – people were out and about! We stopped in Frutigen to get some groceries at the large Coop supermarket there (we knew it would be difficult to drive to the Coop in Gstaad because of the Beach Volleyball games going on just down the street from it). Then we stopped in Zweisimmen for lunch. The main town street was blocked off and they were having a street party. We parked and then joined in. They had lots of food booths, so we got some lunch and sat at the large tables where everyone was eating. I had a simple pasta dish, but Steve had fish fillets on toast. They cooked the fish using an iron!! If you think of it, it is not much different than using a plug in sandwich grill. Plus, everything is 220 volts here – so the iron is very hot.

Then we drove into Gstaad, tried to avoid the Beach Volleyball crowds and found the apartment we had booked. Since we were only booking the day before and not paying a deposit, I thought we could look at it first and not take it if it was horrible. If it was horrible, we could go to the tourist office to find another one. If it was only sort of horrible, we could pay by the night and find something else later in the week. My goal on checkin was to a) get a quick look at the apartment before signing anything and b) not pay for the 12 nights at once. We got to the building (looked okay, location good) and found Ursula who looks after the apartments. I asked if I could take a quick look. She said “sure, but I have booked it for you and have no other apartments”. We ran up and looked. Of course it was nice.

But what if it was noisy or something? I still did not want to pay the 12 nights ahead. We went back down and said that it was fine. She said, “well you have your key and there is another one upstairs, you are set”. Now I begin pleading to pay. She shook her head and said she was very busy and we could pay during office hours – which turn out to be one hour Monday and Friday mornings and one hour Wednesday afternoon. We missed Monday morning hours, so here I sit having spent 3 nights here so far and not having paid anything. Tomorrow is the Swiss National Holiday (August 1st) and the office will probably be closed. And I was worried about having to pay before we saw anything!!! 🙂

View from our Gstaad apartment balcony

The apartment is lovely. Not as wonderful as Chalet Damami in Leysin where we were at the start of the trip, but still nice. It has a nice balcony that looks out to the Gsteig valley and the river. We are on the southern edge of Gstaad, near the Wispile gondola. We can walk to the center of Gstaad in 10 minutes, or in a minute be on the trail that goes to Saanen on way and Gsteig the other.

Late Saturday afternoon we walked around town and enjoyed the Beach Volleyball crowds. The main pedestrian street was crowded with people, food booths and bars. One booth was selling fajitas (but they were more like wraps). We had some excellent French Fries. The Beach Volleyball games were sold out, but we watched a bit on TV!

Sunday was a total down day. I read a Joanna Trollope book from start to finish and basically did nothing.

Monday I did some SlowTrav work, then we walked to Saanen and back on a nice flat path along the river. It is a 1 1/2 hour return trip.

Today we got back into gear and drove up the valley to Feutersoy, parked and then walked into Arnensee. It was just over two hours with a small elevation gain (400 meters). But you did that gain about three times – up, down, up, down, up and then you are at the lake. The hike was nice, but there were some horsefly type things that bit us. We have not encountered many bugs here – it is like Santa Fe, no mosquitos, not many bugs. It felt good to be walking the uphill. You can pay to drive up the valley on a private, narrow road, or take a bus (only runs a few times a day).

We had planned to have lunch, then walk back. When we got to the lake, it was beautiful, but it was full of people. Many people had driven up, some were camping. There was a restaurant but it did not look that interesting. The schedule said a bus was leaving in 30 minutes, so we decided to take it back down and avoid the horseflies. About eight of us were waiting for the bus and it came, but then went to the restaurant, turned around and came back. Now it was full (it was a small bus). The driver asked each of us where we were going and got us to pay then gave us a little strange ticket, said a bus would be there in 10 minutes and left. We were all standing there realizing we had just paid (8 SFr each) and had no idea if a bus was coming or if we would get on it.

Ten minutes later a bus appears, the guy takes our tickets, we all get on. They really do know how to handle the summer crowds here. Of course, with all this messing about we could have just walked back in the same time.

While we were waiting, we were talking to a young woman who was also waiting. She was Swiss and knew a little English. She explained to us about the “bus coming in 10 minutes”. A woman walked by wearing a t-shirt with a logo that looked like the Desperate Housewives logo. She looked the part too – perfect tight t-shirt, blonde hair in a pony tail, tight shorts, perfect legs and shoes, pushing a baby stroller, good looking husband and another child behind her. We were all looking at that t-shirt. I said “Desperate Housewives”?? The young woman said “Desperate Swisswives”!! The t-shirt said “Desperate Swisswives”.

In many ways Switzerland is like Wisteria Lane. Everything is beautiful, well maintained and nearly perfect.

Tomorrow is August 1, the Swiss National Holiday. Fireworks are for sale at the Coop supermarket. The kids in this neighborhood have been setting them off for the last two days, even though I saw a sign saying “Fireworks on August 1 only”. Switzerland on any normal day is full of flags. The Swiss make Americans look un-patriotic. But now there are even more flags. When we got back to the apartment this afternoon, there were new Swiss flags and Bern canton flags in the flowerpots. The notice board in Saanen had a full list of events for August 1. Gstaad is having special meals at all the mountain restaurants. I am not sure what else is going on, but I am hoping for some good fireworks tomorrow night!

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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.

2 thoughts on “Desperate Swisswives”

  1. Pauline – it looks wonderful. I am so glad that things worked out for you after the ‘bother’ about going to England!

  2. Your comment about no coffee refills reminded me of our visit in Grindelwald. While at a restaurant one night, we ordered from the salad bar, and when we went back for seconds, were promptly told that there were no second helpings at the salad bar. We had to “shift gears” and remind ourselves that we were not at home!

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