Sweet-zerland!

Category: Travel

Answer: The reason Leonore went to Switzerland

Question:
a) What is to escape from the Nazis with her family of singing children who sometimes wear matching outfits made of drapes?
b) Why is because there was a Swiss bank account secret laser thing embedded in her skin, so she went to check that out and pick up huge wads of cash and fake passports?
c) What is because it is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world and everyone should go, especially when you have an invitation to stay at a farmhouse with a friend’s pseudo-family?

Contestants, you have 30 seconds. Good luck.

Now we come to you, returning champion…and you’re right! The answer is what is because it is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world and everyone should go, especially when you have an invitation to stay at a farmhouse with a friend’s pseudo-family?

You waged everything! Your two day, cash winnings, now totals a bajillion and two dollars!

In all seriousness though, we might as well have been fleeing from Nazis based on how fast we had to run through the train station the morning of our Paris to Lausanne travel. Those of you playing along at home may remember that this was the only train available for the day we needed to travel AND we had to pay 70 euro (no rail passes) for tickets, so it was, let’s just say, IMPERATIVE that we make the train. We had a bit of a delay (I’m not naming names…TYLER SCHIMMELFING) in our departure from the hostel, so we had to run like crazy people in Gare du Lyon to make it to our TGV.

Spoiler alert: We made it…and were picked up in Switzerland by Grace’s Swiss grandpa (the father of the family that her mom stayed with when she was an exchange student in Switzerland…from here on known as “Grandpapa” for simplicity).

In case you are not familiar with the geography of Switzerland (as I was not) here is a handy lil map I made in GoogleEarth for reference:

switz google

So we got picked up in Lausanne (red train) and drove along Lake Geneva

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and were rewarded with STUNNING VIEWS (though technically, all of that is France…including EVIAN as in the place the water comes from…on the other side of the lake).

We were headed toward Sommentier (yellow house) which is where the family lives. In possible the most charming farmhouse ever:

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Did I not mention they have a farm? Because they do. A dairy farm. You know what comes from dairy? SWISS CHEESE.

After a charming Swiss lunch and a bit of settling in and freshening up, Grandmaman and Grandpapa wanted to take us up into the mountains to see the cows. Apparently, it’s a Swiss tradition to take the cows into the mountains during the summer so they can have air and vacation time etc etc. There were 6 of us, and the car only held 5, so we had to split up in order to get there. This would not be noteworthly, except for the fact that the Castellas (Grandmaman and Grandpapa) do not speak English. Only French.

I don’t speak French.

Neither does Hannah.

Grace, our beloved translator, rode in the other car, which left me and Hannah and Grandpapa for some quality language barrier bonding time. It was all right though, because most of the drive was too pretty for words. “C’est magnifique!” and “Tres tres tres tres belle!” seemed to get our point across pretty well, with a lot of “voilas” from Grandpapa thrown in.

So we were  just driving along, following the other car, nearing some mountains, when all of the sudden, we turned off on another road. This was a little bit alarming, however the scenery was too overwhelming to allow for any actual concern. As long as I could look at Switzerland, I was good.

Then Grandpapa pulled off on the side of the road and got out of the car, indicating that we should get out too. As soon as I opened my door, all I could hear was gazillions of cow bells, except it sounded like giant wind chimes. They all wear different sized bells, so they play different notes when they move!

When I think “pulled off the side of the road”, I usually picture something like this:

side of the road

Oh no. In Switzerland, this is what it looks like when you pull off to the side of the road:

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I know, right?

At this point, Hannah and I were in “figure out the context clues and gestures and 10 words of French we know” overdrive mode, and once Grandpapa crawled under the fence and the cows happily flocked (can cows flock or is that sheep-clusive?) to him, we surmised that they were his cows, and he was checking on them…or something.

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After another stop to check on some brown cows (supposedly the Castellas have a very strict philosophy on mixing different colored cows) we reunited with Grace and Tyler at the Castella’s chalet in the mountains.

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Holy-freakin-moley…you could’ve rolled me into my grave right then, and I would’ve died happy. The tinkling cow bells, the breeze, the sun, the Alps, the valley, Grandmama’s tea and cake. That’s the life, man.

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Turns out that Hannah and I were half-right. They were counting the cows to make sure that none had wandered off.

After that, Grandmaman went back to the house to prepare dinner (raclette…tasty cheese you melt in mini skillets and pour on things like potatoes) and the rest of us drove to Gruyere (purple building with flag) to see the town.

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Unfortunately, the Chateau and the cheese factory had already closed.

Just when I thought the day couldn’t be any more of an aneurysm of awesome, Grandmaman took us on a walk after dinner down the road to the chapel. And I finally understood the whole “purple mountains” and “amber waves of grain” business.

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I’m not sure how many more times I can use the word “beautiful” in this entry before you’ll want to beat me over the head…so let’s go with “breath-taking” this time.

For Day 2 of Swiss-a-palooza, we drove to Friburg (green walking people) to meet up with Grace’s “aunt” and “cousin,” Christian and Odile. Odile rode with us and Grandpapa and broke our car’s language barrier (she’s in college and started English a year ago but is SO GOOD that it’s insane). We left Friburg and drove up to Morat/Murten (it has both names because the area is French and German) and took a lil boat cruise! With a picnic!

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Christian speaks some English too, so when we went back down to Friburg (green people) she gave us a walking tour of almost the whole town! Including a cafe where the students hang out (there’s a Uni) and a gelato shop and an art museum!

We went back to her house for a “barbecue” (it was a little bit sacrilegious to call it that) cooked by Pierre Henri (Odile’s younger brother) who sneak attacked us with some ninja English at the end of the night.

I do not know where their house was on the map (presumably somewhere between Friburg and Sommentier) so I will just show you a picture of the view from their yard.

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This was, hands down, my favorite part of EA!P2…and it may trump all of EA!P1 as well. I was blown away not only by the magnificent country but also by the incredible hospitality and kindness of the Castellas. They showed us around half the country, fed us, paid for everything (!) and even took us on a flippin boat ride! After 5 months on my own, it was so comforting to have someone welcome me into their home and badger me to take second helpings and give me a ridiculous amounts of blankets and ask how I slept and OFFER TO DO my LAUNDRY and watch us while we walked up the street to the train station to make sure we went the right way. Grandmaman even packed us lunches to take to the airport with little blocks of Gruyere cheese and a chocolate bar!  And we didn’t even speak the same language! On the last day, I sounded like a broken record of “Merci beaucoup!” I was absolutely astounded by their generousity.

Back at the Lausanne train station, The Team parted to go our separate ways. Grace and Tyler were headed for Amsterdam, and Hannah and I went to the Geneva airport, bound for Madrid, Espana!

Even if you look at none of the other gazillion pictures I’ve posted, please please look at these. You won’t be sorry : )

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One Response to “Sweet-zerland!”

  1. Hannah Says:

    Too bad the sneak attack of ninja English was not, “Mon cherie, please marry me and let’s raise our Swiss babies in this wonderful land of wonderfulness!”

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