Switzerland - Week 4
Lausanne, Chamonix, Mont Blanc, Megève, Monthey
Our plan this summer has been to schedule half day camps for Ollie during the week and travel on the weekends and take shorter half day trips after his morning camp. This week started with football camp for Ollie. Given the arrangement of soccer camp for 4 year olds in the DC area, my bar was low. In fact, I thought he’d be bored.
Much to my surprise, the football camp was arranged in a beautiful professional stadium with incredible coaches and lots of action and activity. The kids learned a new skill each day and scrimmaged hard at the end of the week. The Swiss are challenging with athletics, which is Ollie’s love language. At the end of the camp, Ollie was awarded MVP (I was shocked!) and he’s worn his medal everyday since. The camp was run by InterSoccer—I highly recommend this program.
After soccer in the mornings, we’d grab some lunch and head to our favourite spot in Lausanne, Plage de Lutry, knowing we only would have a couple more opportunities this summer to paddle out on Lake Geneva and linger in the sun, jump off the diving board, and indulge in their nectarine burrata salad paired with a local wine. The way the Swiss live is magic.
Now for the travel…
Chamonix and Mont Blanc - We drove to Chamonix which proved to be a longer, windier trip than we expected. Instead of jumping on Aiguille du Midi (the cable car to the top of Mont Blanc) upon arrival, we decided to grab early tickets for the next day and instead, use the afternoon to let Ollie blow off some steam at the Chamonix Amusement Park. The park has the best alpine slide we’ve ever been on, along with some other fun little rides for the kids. The amusement park is spotless clean, and I love that they let the kids come and go on their own adventures, as they wish. The only attendants on the rides were at the alpine slide to make sure we were buckled in. The other rides were come and go with tokens. Much to my amazement, I have witnessed that the more we trust people to take care of things and follow the rules, they will. Especially if they’re Swiss. ;)
The following morning, we took L’Aguille du Midi (cable car) to the top of Mont Blanc, which was a highlight of the trip. Ollie was one of the youngest ever to go to the top of Mont Blanc (the age requirement is 5 years)—and definitely the bravest. He kept asking to go higher and higher. He was feeling the altitude by the end of our two hour stay on top as he feel asleep in my arms waiting for the cable car to take us back down. What a core memory! This peak is breathtaking. (I can’t believe Mt. Everest is 3x taller!)
Megève- From Chamonix, we drove 45 minutes to sleep at a five star farm property, Les Fermes des Marie, at the suggestion of a close friend. We were blown away by the beauty of the property. It gave us the feel of a true French countryside chalet, with all the five star amenities. We notice when we’ve booked hotels, not all hotels market the kids club or sell their amenities as hard at they do in the US—so we were surprised to find a kids club that operated until 9:30 PM here…which meant an apéro with new friends from Geneva and a lovely dinner date for Matt and me.
Monthey- On our way home from Chamonix, we stopped for an overnight at the eco-resort property, Whitepod. We all loved the experience of glamping on top of a mountain in a pod. The views were incredible—we watched the sunrise from the pod, grabbed some breakfast, and headed out for our first long hike as a family of three. Ollie made it to the summit after hiking three hours straight up the mountain. Along the way, our guide stopped and taught us about animals on the mountain, we got to try and collect the edible plants and fruits (lots of wild raspberries and nettle), and drink fresh water straight from the mountain. The restaurant on property was a fifteen minute hike from the pod, which was lovely way to work up an appetite or work off a full belly before bed. The resort supplied us with lamps to walk with in the evening, emergency walkie-talkies, maps, and hiking backpacks. This leg of the trip was hugely rewarding. Even though we stayed one night, we made a core memory.
These things are normal for the Swiss (and I wonder why we make it so hard to do this in the states):
-Reusable mug options at coffee shops instead of single serve cups.
-Recycling and composting everywhere
-Physical activity all day long
-Local, sustainable food only (they don’t allow food from other countries with pesticides or even meat to be transported on a train through Switzerland—my source says they will remove it from the train and discard it.)
-They do not have self-storage in Switzerland (crazy since it’s a huge business in the states). They seem to keep only what’s good and just enough of it. We haven’t experienced “hoarders.”
-Houses are built well, classic, and once. If there is construction, it is for a purpose, not to update a room or look. In the US, we have ever-changing styles and trends for houses, inside and out.
One thing that struck me this week is seeing the American culture through the lens of our new Swiss friends. I think many Americans come to this part of Europe and think, “Man, we are doing it all wrong back home.” And while sometimes we’re right, there are a couple interesting things I want to highlight about how our European friends view America and the American culture.
Here are the two things I have heard over and over again about our country and culture:
Americans are extremely warm and open.
American national parks are amazing—you can walk for 5-10 days in a park and never see one person, whereas in Europe, you usually hike day trips from hotel/hut to hotel/hut.
I think it’s in the American culture to consider our flaws first (no, just me?). But we are a “young” country, and we should give ourselves some credit and lean into the goodness of who we are—and share it with the world. More than ever, now, as Americans, we can share our gifts with the world, and adopt habits from others we’d like to see integrated into our beautiful land and culture. I have to say it—Be the change you wish to see in the world. Whomp whomp.
Next week, we are off to Lucerne for the final leg of our trip!