Christmas in Switzerland with snow, markets, gondolas, and James Bond! Yes, the ultimate Holiday experience. The color of white blanketing the crispy points of the Alps. The well lit-up hillside towns, each offering there best for guests and citizens. Reunite with friends, ski, and indulge in the most refined.
An apéritif is usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite.
A digestif is served after a meal, to aid digestion.
White Christmas in Grindelward Switzerland with snow. After the Sahara Desert this past summer, it is hard to imagine not planning a cooler trip. In fact, guaranteed snow and defiantly cold days and nights are a must if I am to leave the comfort of my palace. How to pick Grindelwarld? James Bond told me to go. Yes, my favorite Bond flick is, “On her Majesty’s Secret Service” and it debut in 1969. 50 years strong and not even Daniel Craig can beat the raw, rugged, true-to-life character played by George Lazenby. Yeah who? If you are Swiss or you have spent time in Switzerland, then you would know. On location at Piz Gloria, Lauderbrunnen and Shilthorn the best bond film has it all.
So enough of why, but does anyone need an excuse to go to the Alps for Christmas? Snow, skiing, lights, veal bratwurst, beer, etc. It just gets more and more appealing…
As with every trip it is best to get a feel of the area and hotels before making a final decision and booking flights. I have been to Interlaken which is at the foot of the Jungfraujoch (mountain are where all this great stuff is). Interlaken was beautiful but I felt there were too many tourists, I mean too many tourists. It is a stop of some countries must see spots and huge buses pull up all day long unloading and re-loading the chickens so they can buy their t-shirt and take their selfies before checking the box. I made the mistake last time of being a tourist even though I stayed two nights. Never leaving the lakeside and venturing up the mountain. I also never imagined Christmas in Switzerland with Snow!
Christmas Markets: A little research and I found Zurich’s biggest Christmas market is in the train station, sounds terrible but trains are Swiss’ blood and train stations, the heart. They have everything at the train station. They are like mega malls before there were malls. Lucerne’s Christmas market is supposed be good but very crowded and ends on the 22nd. This makes it tight, what if there is bad weather and everyone ends up going on the last day? Interlaken has a Christmas market that goes into January, they also have Ice Magic. Up the mountain there is a Christmas market in Murren, Grindelvauld, and Lauderbrunnen. I am sure I will find happiness in one of those spots. If not I am sure veil bratwursts will warm my heart and my tummy.
As soon as I realized this was the ultimate Christmas experience I contacted my friends who live in Stans, a small town just outside of Lucerne. Notified them of my plans of a Christmas in Switzerland with Snow and inquired on their Holiday schedule. Immediately I was invited to stay and to ski with them after the trip to the Jungfraujoch?
This is no small offer. Even though in the States black diamonds and moguls are my friends, and Double blacks must have at least 12ft drops of clear air to be considered double blacks to be respectable. The first time I skied with them they brought me a ski instructor for the day. In Switzerland skiing is an everyday part of winter life. Lift tickets are very in-expensive but rental are pricey. Every one there skies all the time, so only tourist rent equipment, oh well better than updating mine and lugging boots, skis and everything involved all the way to Titlis just for one day of white powder bliss.
Growing up in an extremely hot climate, Christmas was always a bit lack luster. Watching movies of white Christmas’ and fantasies of family members back home in colder climates who were skiing, sledding, and enjoying snowball fights. Thoughts of sugar plumed ferries dancing around a fireplace cracking walnuts while drinking hot cocoa… Oh I missed those days (I never had).
Over the past few years I have dedicated my time and energy into spending this time of year with family. This dedication has not brought me peace or joy. Has left me empty and regretting Christmas even more. This will all change, fingers crossed. With a combination of good friends, lights, Christmas markets, snow, skiing, and some of the worlds best hot chocolate, my anticipation for a Swiss Chriss is starting to build substantially throughout this hot summer.
My escape to a Christmas in Switzerland with Snow! Should I feel guilty? Have I not put in enough “family” time? What if it is everything I have ever dreamed and hoped for in a Christmas? Then what? Could I ever go back to the mundane. The dedication to please in absolute servitude for family members that don’t give a shit? Let’s assume I love it: I could never go back to the boring. I could possibly enjoy Christmas.
If I could never go back to family Christmas in the states, I would have to re-think my vacation strategy for every year moving forward. I would have to draw the line and force others to accept that this was me and this is what I am doing on this week. I would need to be bold, strong, and stubborn. Protect myself and my feelings while caring less about others. Tough one. My whole live has been dedicated to please and to be nice, too nice. Hear is a chance to break free. others will have to take care of themselves and be responsible for themselves during this time… Will there be guilt, if so how much. I was once told by a wise older women to deal with the feelings of guilt and not the guilt.
If I love it, then what, would it be Christmas in Switzerland with Snow every year? Should I venture out Bavaria, Austria, Italy? I supposed Italy does not have the “German” slant but the do have Catholicism. Maybe there was something I missed in the suttleties of Borgia. Not the Showtime version which is too un-authentic and over produced but the Tom Fontana version of a truer picture of the reality of that era. A true epic!
One step at a time, Christmas in Switzerland with Snow. I may be getting ahead of myself on this one. Let me taste the Movenpick Ice-cream while enjoying the Ice Magic on the shores of Interlaken. Then take the gondola up the Schilthorn on Christmas eve and visit the James Bond museum and feast on a 007 burger. Let me wake up in the morning walk out on my balcony and be stunned by the magnificence of the Eiger! I want to ski with friends on Titles, and enjoy great Swiss company! Let me see if the weather is my friend or my foe!!!
I’ve given every new search site a chance but format and ease of use are most important for me. I have always use Travelocy.com for tickets, but for hotels it’s Hotel.com. Yeah, my old standby. Other sites seam to show cheaper rooms, but then when you get to check out, there are all these added fees and next thing you know, it cost the same. The other issue I have with these sites is the hotels hate when you use these sites, but they have to allow it. So when you check in, I always seem to get shitty rooms, no matter what I try.
I went to South Beach last year and paid an upgrade for ocean view at the Shore Club only to find out, the hotel did not even have this category. I then Booked through Amex Platinum for my trip down there two months later, got the upgrade, the free room service amazing breakfast, complimentary Champagne bottle in the room on arrival, $100 bar credit…. And the room, Oh my god! 18th floor corner suite ocean balcony that was 30 ft long so so amazing. I didn’t know who I loved more after that experience, Amex Platinum Travel and the W Hotel.
Grindelwald, Murren, Lauderbrunnen, and Interlaken were the options for a hotel. Interlaken was too touristy, noticed from previous trip, and there is something cozy about staying right in the mountains for Christmas in Switzerland with Snow. It all came down to a gamble, what else do we have to go by but internet reviews and pics from hotels. The better hotels appeared to be in the small town of Grindelwald and to be honest; I am just rolling the dice on this one. All three towns are close enough to the cable car to get up the Shilthorn for the James Bond museum/themed park.
Grindelwald Hotel: OK I went with Hotels.com, booked 4 nights in a premium double. We will see what happens. It was hard to research this area for a good place to stay. First of all you are paying for the view and walking on the street will give you the most amazing views so the hotels should focus on style, furniture, and comfort. It does not seem to be the case here in Grindelwald. The hotels take it for granted that you get the view and you need to sleep somewhere. Spots look OK but kind of dated and dusty. I found a more contemporary styled spot that had medium sized rooms the Sunstar Hotel Grindelwald.
Shoes or boots to be more precise. It’s going to be cold and no amount of Booker’s bourbon in my flask will keep me warm enough. It is fun to think about how cold I will be. I cranked the AC in the office to 68 while it is 99 degrees outside. I don’t think I could search for Shearling lined boots online if I were at the pool right now. Found some John Galliano mixed medium heavy threaded boots lined with lamb fur on Saks Off Fifth’s website. Order 11.5 only to find out 3 days later they didn’t have that size.
So much for website/internet inventory management… I am trying the size 11 and I will see if they will do. I am between an 11 and 11.5 but with the fur inside, I am not sure how they calculate the extra stuffing. Too small, so tried the size 12 and they fit perfect.
Insight: OK, I learned from a quick trip to Turin Italy to watch Juve vs. Real in the Champions league semi finals… if you don’t know who they are or what that is, don’t bother. I learned that bringing one pair of shoes on a trip is the absolute worst choice to make. Probably even worst that putting dirty ice from the beer cooler in my mixed drink at Erg Chigaga at the luxury desert camp in the Sahara this past May.
So I get to the hotel in Milan, and I am waiting for my mate to show up from the US. I decide to go for a walk, it is Easter and here I am at the Doma in Milan, crazy. Walk in Europe is one of my favorite things to do while traveling. I lam fascinated by architecture and love to see what the locals a wearing… By the time my friend shows up from his delayed flight, I had already logged about 6 miles in my new pair of Golden Goose Super-Star’s.
I though it is appropriate to wear Italian sneakers to Italy. Right? So he gets in and he wants to go see the sights that I just saw… get back to hotel and I swear the new Italian leather had worn holes in the top of my toes. This is with socks on. Big problem, first option, buy some Italian socks… after that didn’t work, I bought some Band-Aids that help me survive the painful next few days. That story re-cap to come at a future date.
Never bring one pair of shoes on a trip no matter how comfortable they are. So, I’ve got all these cool shoes in my closet; Roberto Cavalli, Salvatore Farragomo, Golden Goose, Diesel, but mostly lots of Farragomo’s. But today I am thinking of cold feet in my 68 degree office. “Fur lined” has a certain ring to it, just not on my way home today. So far I’ve come up with Magnanni Camino Faux Fur lined sneakers. I am a bit hesitant to pull the trigger because; I don’t think I will get too much use out of these Italian foot snugglers for the expense. But what the hell, what is traveling all about. I’ll sleep on this life changing decision and let you know.
Two weeks later I am pleased with my purchase. The Magnanni high top sneakers are just what I wanted and need. They will be perfect for the flight over and any train station/city travel needed. I will reserve the John Galliano’s for the mountains, deeper Swiss snow and when I feel I need extra traction and warmth.
Accessories: It has been a while since I have skied or been in cold climate. One of the best parts of traveling is getting prepared and one of the most important preparations are clothes! Shopping, online only at this point. 5 months to plan, order and send back what I don’t want or what doesn’t fit. I was just introduced to a website www.MrPorter.com. I saw an amazing ski jacket by a French company called Fusalp. Goose down to keep warm and faux fur for style this Whistler ski jacket is just what I need. Discounted from $1235 to $372 I am pretty confident it will do. Issue, the size may be a bit small. I took the measurements and made the calculations so order the coat and wala… Too small.
I have to admit the customer service at Mr. Porter was phenomenal. The packaging is amazing and they even sent a decent quality garment bag with the coat. I should have asked if I could have at least kept that. Found the correct size for $600 something and ordered it. Will see, still haven’t got shipping confirmation…
Done, new size arrived and its perfect. I think I like the coat even more, now that I payed double. Funny how this is, I have a good friend who is the opposite. The cheaper something is the more he enjoys it. What a way to live. He’s got plenty of money but actually gets pleasure out of being cheep.
Other Clothes: While waiting on the ski jacket, for my Christmas in Switzerland with Snow, which is almost an all-purpose travel coat, I am looking at some ski pants, gloves, and then thermals. Damn so much to look at so much research. I am considering sticking with this French brand for most of my choices. Fusalp is pretty much a ski brand so I am assuming the gloves pants and thermals will work for my one time use this holiday. Their website isn’t difficult but not as refined as let’s say G-star or Mr. Porter’s so I am concerned about returns. Prices are in Euro’s and I assume they ship from France so how do I ship stuff back without it costing $50 for a refund on a $65 pair of underwear?
Decided on the Ski pants, a light ski jacket in red (Swiss) and a pair of socks from Fusalp. Ordered from France and only took 5 days to arrive. One hiccup was the warmer more insulated pants I ordered were not in stock. Again, internet stocking issues. Received an email in English form Fusalp and they explained it, I switched to a light pair (which are still warm) then asked them to throw in a extra pair of ski socks. No issues and the pants fit. Funny though all correspondence after that, including tracking info was in French…
I would like to say style is the most important requirement for, well almost everything. When it comes to sunglasses for a specific event, like Christmas in Switzerland with Snow skiing or taking the tram up to Shilthorn to visit the James Bond museum, not being blinded by the highly reflective sunlight is a priority. Leading optics manufacturers have sorted out all the technical issues for us already with 5 categories of emitted light (or Spectoms) and UV IR protection. So style and a bit of research will ultimately rule the day of optic not fashion designers. Sorry Gucci, Armani, and Shadesdaddy.com. Vuarnet, Revo, Oakley, and RayBan’s are first on my list to explore.
RayBan has the widest offering but does not appear to have the technical options I am looking for. Oakley has a lot of information on their website but it is hard to navigate for specific events/uses. Strange because Oakley is all about eye protection. Revo looks ok but the styles seem to be stuck in the 80’s. Speaking of which, Vuarnet is the ultimate 80’s brand but offers an extreme quality glass lens. And Vuarnet has a James Bond edition The GLACIER 1315!
Most manufacturers have gone to polycarbonate claiming it is just as good and offers safer shatter protection… but come on. Money, yes I believe the cost of plastic is much less than the cost of glass, brilliant! Both Revo and Vuarnet offer glass lenses that are actually crafted for quality. Vuarnet Bond edition is top of my list for riding the cable car up to Piz Gloria in Shilthorn, but for skiing? This is a tough one. I don’t really want to bring 4 pair of sunglasses with me.
Considering Julbo. High tech, sort of stylish, lots of option as far as colors and light category. Category 3 is darkest for driving but category 4 would be much preferred for this trip in the sky. Only allows in 5% of light so my eyeballs won’t burn as I am flying through the snow on the ski slopes. I can see myself sporting the Julbo Vermont Classic on a sunny day on the slopes but reviews say they are a bit small for me. The Julbo Cham black/silver spectrom 4 look amazing but I am still not convinced they are special enough for this trip.
Somehow the brand Moncler will not escape me. An Italian brand known for their very expensive puffy jackets, the brand is also synonymous for winter quality. A quick glance through the Moncler website and I stumbled upon a pair of black explorer sunglasses with yellow leather sides shields. Now I can see clearly! Whether ascending Shilthorn or descending Titlis dressed in my Fuslap black goose-down jacket, G-star jeans, and Shearling lined John Galliano mixed-media boots, these Moncler Lunettes are it!
One problem. Moncler corporate is out of stock and they do not expect to get anymore this year. After calling US headquarters in New York, the nice lady did informed me that there is one pair left in Kalakaua Honolulu. OK, that does not sound too bad. I’ll just wait 6 hours and call Hawaii… Turns out, unless you have already purchased from a Moncler boutique, the store is not allowed to send you anything. I have never heard of such a thing and begged the sales rep Mike on the phone to plead with his manager to make this one exception.
No such luck. Well no Moncler store near me but I will try ordering a gift of something else from corporate and get my name in the system to see if that works. If no I may have to run up to DC for the day and buy anything from one of the boutiques there just so I can get the perfect pair of sunglasses for this trip.
His: Last visit with my life long Swiss friends was extremely enjoyable. The views, the interaction, conversations, food, and wine. Yes, French wine 2003 Bordeaux. I amt not clear as to how many bottles we emptied but lets us say 3 or 4 a night for 5 nights. I can’t compete with that, so I will change flavors and give him a taste for something American, Bourbon. Booker’s Bourban is my first choice. My favorite and has the status of high-end.
How to get it there and lug it up and down Grindelwald without breaking the glass or ruining the wooden box it is packed in. I will use my old trick of vacuum sealing the bottle in a plastic back and then putting some socks between the box and bottle for extra protection. I have to carry all the extra weight but I am sure the effort will be much appreciated by my good Swiss friend.
Hers: What a wonderful cook my friend is but Switzerland is home of some of the best cutlery in the world and cooking knives are the perfect gift, but you can’t give someone what they already have and score points. One of the best gifts ever was designed and is made by Christian Louboutin. The elegance of the brand and the affordable price of the Lipstick make this the perfect gift. And what woman wouldn’t want this to wear around their neck on an cold evening out. Simple to travel with. Light, compact, but has a big punch when received.
My standard travel rollers are Delsey. A French brand known for it’s style and uniqueness. Traveling from the US I think it’s best to acclimate to the new cultures by fitting in and avoiding the American Tourist stigma. Let’s face it Europeans love the idea of America but they really don’t like us visiting and poking at them and their culture. I feel most American travelers treat other civilizations as if they were in a zoo looking at animals. Hey look at the funny looking man in the ridiculous shorts…
Point being, look and act cool when in a new place. Don’t ask too many questions and dress like you mean business. A woman’s handbag is part of her apparel as is our luggage when traveling. As far as hand bags, I decided on the Arcteryx Blade 22 Backpack. The style is updated and will fit with my travel clothes. plus the features are something I want to try.
The bag is designed to carry by hand and should fit comfortably atop my trolley. The bag packs more like a overnight bag and the 3/4 around sipper will allow me to unfold the entire parcel and lay flat. The size appears to be just right for carry-on. When I get it in and take it for a test run to Miami next month, I will see if I can cut down on the carry-on roller for my Christmas trip to Switzerland with Snow Switzerland. Color-Black, to match my new Fuslap ski coat for this Christmas in Switzerland with Snow.
The Arcteryx Blade 22 Backpack definitely packs well. I really felt like I had too much room on the trip to South Beach so I concentrated on keeping it light. The layout is impeccable and the side pockets and access allowed me to get into my well-organized travel necessities easily. The way it sat atop my trolley made it extremely comfortable to shuttle from car to gate. The shoulder straps were comfortable but if I could add one thing, it would be a better way to secure the straps when in trolley mode. I am confidant that this is all I will need with my 24 inch Delsey for my Christmas trip to Switzerland with Snow
Arcteryx is an Canadian brand that specializes in technical outdoor gear. Gone are the days of Northface and Patagonia, as these brands have become too mainstream and produce for the masses. I will be looking to Arcteryx for my base layer and ski gloves when I get closer to departure.
When my expectations are high and I am trying to wash out the bad taste of an unbearably hot trip to a Sahara desert Luxury camp for my Birthday, Switzerland delivers! Not to be negative about Morocco, the people there, and the culture. But I did go during a heat wave and it was just too damn hot. Switzerland was not as cold as I expected. At a 3,400 foot elevation, Grindelwald temperature ranged between 30 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit during the Christmas week I spent there. When going up elevation, it did get a bit colder but with proper dress, which I overstocked my luggage with, it wasn’t half bad.
I am anxiously awaiting the Amex Centurion lounge to open in JFK, so the Delta lounge had to do for the 2 hour connection to Zurich. I was pleasantly surprised and the quality of this lounge, the best Delta lounge I have visited so far. Free Two Olives Vodka drinks and a well stocked buffet including a Cesar Kale salad that satisfied my tummy before the long flight. With super clean bathrooms and very pleasant staff. After a few drinks, I felt compelled to tip the bartender $20. It’s Christmas, and what good are US greenbacks in Switzerland anyway.
As travel quality seems to deteriorate every trip, reference American Airline flight to Lisbon on way to Morocco, Delta really upped their game! Flight started with a welcoming drink, Prosecco and peach nectar, referenced in the main cabin menu as a Bellini. Yes, coach on Delta now has a menu. Flight time from JFK was less than 7 hours, so I opted out of a sleeping pill. I figured enough alcohol and a bit less sleep would still be better than the groggy after affects of Ambien.
Let’s get to the good stuff, Landed in Zurich, picked up checked luggage, and walked downstairs to the train station to purchase tickets to Grindelwald. SBB agent asked if I wanted the fast or scenic route. I figured that the second lag trip to Luzern would satisfy my Swiss train scenic experience and opted to save 2 hours. Times it perfect to check in at Sunstar hotel just before 4:00 pm.
Sunstar Hotel was perfect and the upgraded mountain view was key. The mountains in Switzerland are different that anywhere I have been. They seem to be alive. While in Morocco I played with time-lapse video to condense sunsets and sunrises, in Switzerland the opposite. The colors, and texture change right before my eyes and there is no desire to speed-up this eye candy. The temperature was just right to keep the perfect balance between pure white snow and every shade of green, orange and blue. Shadows move in harmony with the fog rolling in and out of the valley. It is beautiful!
It is 5:30, I have unpacked and surveyed my surroundings for the coming days. All pleasure full and exciting. The excitement helps keep my mind occupied as I set a goal of staying until 8:00 in order to brake the jet-lag cycle and remove the need for those awful sleeping tablets. Time to try-on some of the new apparel I lugged all the way over here and go for a walk. The town of Grindelwald is charming and beautiful. The local people are so pleasant, I am beginning to wonder if the air itself has a drug in it, or is it lack of pollution the makes the brain happy. I have often theorized that there is more oxygen in the air over here but that cannot be possible.
After walking by countless watch stores that displayed mans only legitimate jewelry, I stumbled into a restaurant at the front of the Wolt Hotel Grindelwald. Keeping an eye on the time, I thought I would have a drink and snack then see how it goes. The bar menu consisted or real meals,, so I opted for a salad, local veal bratwurst and French fries. Now for the perfect paring, an Irish coffee. It just seemed right and the caffeine will help me make it through the next couple of hours.
I made it back to the hotel at about 8:30 and sleep came easily. Waking up the next morning I was pleased that I slept-in to 9:00. Happy to gain back lost slumber, breathing in fresh cold air from leaving the balcony door open, and realizing that I am in Switzerland, it is good to be alive! I slipped on my red G-star sweatpants, grabbed my red Fuslap top and walked outside for a more fresh air. Holly shit, it snowed last night and the perfect view became even more perfect. I would stand here until my toes freeze but breakfast stops serving at 10:00 so I slipped on my furling lined boots and headed downstairs for a few café lattes and a fruit and smoked trout feast.
Interlaken Day 1
First day in Grindelwald is the last day of the Christmas market in Interlaken (just down the mountain). About a 30 minute train ride and it is a bit warmer but raining. Oh well, not what I was hoping for. No bright Christmas lights and snow covered shops, just rain and lots of kiosks to buy beer and mulled wine. The Christmas market is not like the German versions but do offer a few locally made craft products, such as women’s jewelry, scarfs, handmade knives, and such. Ice Magic turns out to be a nice tented heated area surrounded by an ice-skating rink and more shops. There is a stage for nightly entertainment that I will not stay for. The main attraction for me is the bratwurst, yes again for lunch, while in Rome…
It is great to get down to Interlaken and remember my previous trip here to Erich Von Daniken’s Mystery Park. Though last trip was during the summer and I never made it up the mountains to the real joy. Dinner tonight will need a recommendation from the hotel. Staff at the Sun Star are amazing, the Swiss seem to have converted their English accents into a more neutral American accent. I thought I was being nice to Sven at the front desk, but he was being even nicer to me. By the end of the stay, I realized he had become my new best friend and I was debating whether or not asking him to come visit me in the US.
The Swiss have made hospitality a real industry of excellence in care. Any third world country can pretend to provide extraordinary service by throwing tons of people at every situation. At the Mandarin Oriental in Marrakech I remember when they came to clean the room every day. They would send a team of about 6 to 8 people, and then when almost complete, a manager would inspect the work. Offering a butler to do, I don’t know whatever. I never figured out how to make that work. Or at the Edition hotel Istanbul, a menu on the coffee table alongside some Turkish delights, for what looked like some kind of private massage thing? Although extra features were amazing at that time, the attention to interpersonal relationship building is part of the Swiss recipe.
With a cocktail in-hand I proceeded to the front desk to get Sven’s recommendation for dinner as well as advice for visiting the James Bond museum in Schilthorn. Sven didn’t make much about food. Most restaurants are located in hotels, so you might as well; eat at the hotel you stay at. I had him reserve a table for Christmas eve at the hotel’s ala-carte restaurant. He tried talking me into the big Christmas pre-set extravaganza hosted in the same ballroom as each morning’s breakfast and promised a special guest appearance as Santa Clause. Yes Sven was to be Santa. Too much fun… I shrieked at the thought of giggly children amused by the site of a white beard in a red suit. Besides, I didn’t feel compelled to sit on Sven’s lap, even if they were giving away presents.
Jungfraujoch Day 2
“It’s like Disneyland on the moon!” Sven declared as I inquired about plans.”What,” I asked? “Yes, Schilthorn and James Bond is something to see but you must visit the Jungfraujoch.” As Sven and I debated my limited time in Grindelwald and unpredictable weather, he gave me a closer insight as to why so many people visit Grindelwald. Apparently the “Top of Europe” is straight up the mountain from where I am staying. Straight up meaning two train rides and about 200 Swiss Francs. The highest mountain in Europe would have been visible from my hotel room balcony if it weren’t for another mountain in front of it…
Jungfraujoch is the highest peak in Europe, boasting the highest railway and station. It takes only and hour and half from Grindelwald station to climb the 8,000 extra feet to 11,371. Unfortunately or fortunately the weather blew in high winds and snow so visibility was about 20 feet. Looking out the window at restaurant was like being on the moon, there was nothing there. If you are truly looking for a Disney on the moon experience a snow storm certainly heightens the experience.
With the harsh weather, going outside and playing with all the fun toys is not an option. Snow tubing or sledging with the balancer, fly on the flying fox rope or trying my luck at the Omega Hole in One just will not happen for me this trip. Oh well, there are still a few attractions left like, The Alpine Sensation, Ice palace, Lindt Swiss Chocolate Haven, Sphinx Observation Deck, and Top of Europe shops. Why not buy a $12,000 Omega moon watch at an elevation of 11, 371 feet?
My favorite distraction was the smoked duck breast salad and Swiss beer for lunch. Favorite mainly because the food and service were impeccable, I can never get enough salad, and there was no crowd at the nice restaurant. Most tourist rush through the moment of a quick sausage and ice-cream, or bag of nuts to go with the Lindt chocolate they just bought. It was hard at first to get peace and tranquility at the Top of the World, until I broke free from the crowds and sipped on a frosty 500 ml glass of beer while staring out into the oblivion of windy white powder swirling around in my mind and being. This one moment in time brought me closer to who I am and what life is about. The Dali Lama tells us to remove all distractions or as he calls them, superficialities.
Air is thin up here so the beer takes greater hold of the mind, or maybe the alcohol helps regulate the uneasiness of dealing with less oxygen. I have flown at 13,000 feet and without extra oxygen the brain does start to get foggy but you are sitting. Imaging light-headed-ness and stepping down from the train car and starting to walk for the first time. It was something to get used to, but the beer really helps. My brain can easily make the comparison between a little tipsy and lack of oxygen, so it copes just like bowling after a few vodka sodas.
Schilthorn Bond-Day 3
James Bond 007 Museum in Schilthorn may sit in the shadow of the Jungfraujoch but in no means is it less exciting. Being a James Bond super fan I’ve concluded that “In Her Majesties Secret Service” is by far the best Bond flick ever. Visiting the focal point of the film could be like traveling to the Holly land (which I’ve been) or Mecca if you are Muslim. Perhaps a more down to earth comparison would be visiting Graceland. OK, been there done that but Switzerland top of the world… Schilthorn/Piz Gloria is everything I hoped for. Even the whiteouted weather leads me to focus more on the Bond experience rather than the stunning views that would be available two days later. I love the revolving restaurant, but a mix of the Irish coffee and the altitude started to make me a bit dizzy.
The museum is fascinating, action packed with a mocked up helicopter to give a virtual ride up the mountain, making stops to point out specific locations of the film. Unfortunately the weather delayed my arrival and cut my time here short. In fact the last cable car down is now and I don’t see anyone in the building. The distraction of the virtual bobsled chase put me into a trance that limited my ability to process time. Being bond in Bondworld! Can I stay forever? Looks like I might have to at least stay the night.
I am not sure which floor I am on or where the exit is. I find an elevator, and enter. A creepy Bond-girl voice speaks in Deutsche. I press a floor. “Einer, zwei.” Door please open, let me out. I find myself back at the top in the restaurant. There is no one here, I panic, my mind speeds up. What will I do for dinner, where would I sleep? I run down the stairs, just like Bond escaping the soon to come blast. I turn the corner and find an Asian tourist that tells me to calm down. He must see in my eyes that I believe something is wrong. He informs me that the last lift is about to arrive and everything is fine. I breathe.
As fun as spending the night with James and all the Bond-girl images, a nice meal and warm bed sound a bit more appealing for tonight.
Christmas Eve dinner at the Sun Star Hotel’s ala-carte restaurant “Adlestrub” is amazing. The martini I am sipping has some kind of cream in it and is a bit too sweet. The waitress assures me that adding my requested soda water to the milk would not be right. I insist and I was right. Veal filet on a hot stone, fries and Swiss Mayo, pure delight. A good portion of perfectly cooked mixed vegetable balances out the meal and I have plenty without finishing my plate. The Veal was seared in butter then placed on a hot stone with a temperature of about 450 degrees. Slice the meat and lay it down on the stone to finish cooking it just the way I want, rare. Oh, so perfect. Why have I not had this before? Why do I not do this all the time? It is brilliant.
Having guests at the house and preparing steak is always precluded with the difficult question of, “how do you like your steak?” And then the inevitable depressing response, well-done. OK, I just spent some good coin on this great cut, oh yeah, and something had to die for this meal, and you want me to extract all the moisture and flavor, charring the inside so it feels and tastes like a dried out sponge. The hot stone would solve all these problems. My guests could finish off their meat to their hearts content without me ever knowing. Then I might be able to face them again, or even invite them back for another meal.
I stumble off to bed, only to wake up to another glorious white frosting on the ground. How does it do that? Is this some kind of pretend land, where snow quietly disappears during the day only to allow new snow to fall at night repainting the perfect picture even more perfect. It is Christmas, and I have my white Christmas! In the Swiss Alps, ok I strongly recommend this. Now it is time to pack up and move on, my friends are waiting for me in Stans and I am sure more fun is to be had.
Leaving Grindelwald Day 4
Rolling my Delsey luggage down the mountain toting my Arc’teryx backpack on the handle, I can’t stop myself from walking into a watch another watch store. I had been tempted to purchase the new Tissot T Touch Expert Solar II Jungfrau edition. Only sold in this area, and I tried one on in Interlaken. Altitude, temperature, compass all built-in and powered by light. Truly an amazing accomplishment. I’m Impressed but the 1,000 CHf price tag is a bit much for a toy. Yes, toy.
My eyes spot a work of art as I remove the Tissot from my wrist. Heuer Carrera Calibre II Chronometer. Part of the Heritage collection Tag Heuer has resurrected the original Heuer brand to ad nostalgia and a bit of extra class to their line. Think of Steve McQueen in the cult-classic film Le Mans.
The timepiece is in racing-grey chronograph with a perforated black leather strap. The underside or which is red and is slightly visible. Silver dial with silver hands and a red Heuer logo. Date, automatic and gorgeous! Special addition limited production, last one available and on sale. How could I be so lucky? 30% off and VAT rebate which saves another 279.95 CHf if I file the paperwork at the airport on my exit. It is impossible for me to pass up this great deal. I will never see this watch on anyone’s wrist or anywhere else, even online. For me it is one of a kind.
Always perfect timing in Switzerland. I miss-read my train schedule, the train inspector informs me that my ticket does not go to Luzern but I need to change trains now to take a train back to Stans. Wow, I would have wasted 30 minutes. After boarding my final train, I text Karin to let her know my new arrival time. She meets me at the station with her husband Leo’s brand new BMW 335td. Such luxury! A short drive and we are at their home. A beautiful site!
Swiss “family” in Stans is always a treat. The 4 young kids have grown; the way they interact with me is mind-blowing. They all now speak great English and are fun! We all opted out of skiing and replace it with a mountain adventure activity that allows us to intermingle more for my short stay here. Tomorrow we will take a train up a mountain, have lunch and then walk down the mild ski slope. I unpack in the newly finished guest flat, then take the elevator down to their house. An elevator sure beats the stairs after a few drinks that I am planning to consume.
Karin is a fantastic cook and we all feast on slow baked chicken, roasted vegetables and potatoes. How does she do it, juggling four kids, work at the company, running out to pick me up at the station, and making dinner without what seams any effort? Amazing!
I say goodnight, hit the elevator, then the bed and wake up to such an amazing view. I am on the 4th or 5th floor and can look out over the village of Stans. There is an old church, houses and some industrial buildings. The guest flat is lined with three walls of windows and has a humongous deck that doubles as the roof for the main house. In front of me is a large mountain; to the left is the Stanserhorn elevation 6,227 ft. Covered with snow but still allowing shadows in dips and crevasses to make me feel like it is alive. I can see fog starting to roll in to the valley. This is so amazing I have to video it but I need my camera today for our stroll.
Breakfast is met with the magic espresso maker is similar to the one at the Sunstar hotel. Just press a button and the machine does the rest. Heats, and steams the milk, grinds the beans, and makes the perfect café latte.
Let’s go Leo says, two cars boys in one girls in the other. This type of segregation may not be politically correct in the US or UK but the Swiss are traditional and they make sense in their ways. Men are men and women are women. Both equal and both necessary. There is no need to castrate the men and over empower the women to even out all our wrongs from generations long past. An old teaching, “men love your wife, women respect your husband,” finds it way still n practice in this perfect place.
The drive to Andermatt is short and the train looks stunning. We walk by the bar car and find comfortable seats for the 15 minute ride up the mountain. I step down from the stairs and hear music coming from up a small hill, walking in the 2 ft of fresh powder is difficult and I hoping my John Galliano Shearling lined boots hold up and my toes don’t get wet at the start of the day. It would be a long walk down with frozen feet.
We can see the restaurant just behind the outdoor bar and dj. This looks like so much fun! We walk by a group of resting skiers relaxing in the brilliant sun on lounge chairs sipping down some of the local brew. In Switzerland, always choose what is on draft and drink local. It’s always amazing and fresh tasting. The restaurant is small and crowded but our reservations are honored. We squeeze into our table. The rotisserie chicken looks amazing and the gravy smells delightful. But I am still aching for that 007 burger I missed at the Schilthorn. Burger, fries and a large beer please. Oh, also can I get some mayonnaise?
The fresh cool air and walk are energizing. This was really the better choice, relaxing drive, train and meal. Comfortable walk with stunning views of the town of Andermatt. We are talking, enjoying each step as the kids take advantage of the slopes and skid down the groomed snow on their sleds. I am trying not to get run over by the consistent flow of novice skiers taking advantage of the walking trail. This can’t be safe. This can’t be Swiss. In front of us I see a skier picking up a child he just ran over and apologizing to the father. They are all smiling and happy, I am pissed.
An emergency helicopter fly’s buy but it is too quick for me to get on video. So cool looking, the bright red craft and white Swiss cross fluttering by making a thunderous sound. Leo gets and alert on his phone. Avalanche! Where, I ask. “Right over that mountain,” Leo points. Another helicopter goes buy. Leo checks his news feed on his phone and finds out 4 Skiers are missing. Talk about excitement in the Swiss Alps an avalanche and rescue the day we decide to have a scenic stroll in the mountains.
It is the next day and I wake up to another glorious morning. I wrap my mind around this view. It overwhelms me while I dress and get ready for the day. A trip to Lucerne and pre-arrange lunch at a micro brewery. The missing skiers were found last night and taken to a hospital for inspection. No one was hurt. The shops in Lucerne are amazing and Leo, Leo Jr. and I stop in to look at some watches. In a sealed lit case is a diamond incrusted 75,000 CHf Omega.
I spot the Speedmaster Professional, then the one I want, the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Chronograph Dark side of the Moon. The dial has been skeletonized to reveal its blackened movement, which has been laser-ablated to represent the lunar surface. The near side can be seen through the blackened skeletonised dial & features a light shade with a landscape full of craters to represent our view of the moon’s surface from Earth. The far side can be seen through the case back which represents the dark side of the moon that only astronauts get to see. The case back is engraved with APOLLO 8, DEC 1968 , DARK SIDE OF THE MOON & “WE’LL SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE” which were astronaut Jim Lovell’s final words spoken to ground control just before the Apollo 8 traveled to the far side of the moon.
“Would you like to try it on,” the gentleman asks in English. He overheard us talking about the features. “Yes,” I reply. As I remove my Heuer, he comments, “that is also very nice.” He helps me fit the Omega to my wrist and I look to Leo and say, “this was the first watch on the moon.” The salesman corrects me and says no, the exact model is this one over here.” “What”, I ask? “Why is it half the price of the one I like.” He explains, “the exact model is exact, same technology, the newer version on your wrist is Chronometer Certified just like your Heuer. The casing is also 44.25 mm and the Omega manual winding caliber 1869: The Calibre 1869 is a specially decorated version of OMEGA’s famous Calibre 1861. Beats at 21,600 vph (3Hz) Contains 19 jewels. Has an approximate power reserve of 48 hours.”
Manual wind? I think this a new retro idea from the Swiss. Hublot’s most popular movement, HUB4700 is manual wind. Without the pendulum swinging inside the case, there is a lot more room for reserved power and to add extra functions to the watch. Plus now that all watches offer a clear back to inspect the movement, engineers are able to create cleaner looking movement designs. For me, I don’t know if I could get used to it. I would obsess about running out of time so-to-speak. I would stop and wind the damn thing probably every hour just to make sure.
Leo jr. asks if we can visit the Moncler boutique. I say sure, his mom cuts in, “Jack, this is your vacation, we go where you want. The kids can come back to any shop at any time.” I understand and request we eat lunch. A micro brewery in the heart of Luzerne. I love Swiss bear and I am not sure I want to depart from the Reinheitsgebot – purity Law. Also known as the German Purity Law. The law limits the ingredients in beer to barley, hops, water, and yeast. This keeps the flavors consistent and not too complicated. How often does Switzerland embrace a new trend. I am confident the brew master on site will not let me down and he doesn’t. I don’t usually drink beer but when I do, it better be damn good!
More Swiss Family
Dinner tonight is a big party for me. I missed the Christmas eve celebration so Karin decided to have all the family over tonight so I could see them. What a fantastic host. Tireless catering to everyone! I come down the house and the children are constantly making popcorn with the “machine.” as they refer to it gift I gave them. t’s a winner! I am also hoping I will see Karin wearing the Louboutin lipstick and we get a chance to sip the Booker Bourbon I brought.
Her mom, dad, and sister are already here. Kisses and hugs and lots of joy surround me as I catch up in my broken German. I can smell the lasagna cooking and my glass is filled. Light appetizers keep us focused on each other and the food to come. The younger brother shows up with his new wife and newborn baby. We are all family and I feel happy and loved. What a strange feeling. These pleasures are normally not part of my every-day. Is because we rarely see each other, we know so much or so little of each other. Our time together is limited and precious. There is only time for the good stuff.
I am so sad to leave but Delta’s Airbus A330-200 is calling my name. A quick ride to the Luzerne train station and than 60 minute direct to Zurich airport. I am looking forward to my Bellini welcome drink, not because I crave alcohol or I like all that sugar. It’s the idea I like. My bags are over filled and I believe I am 10 lbs overweight. Well me and the bags.
I was thinking, I f I lose 20 lbs before a trip, can I then get 20 heavier bags? In reverse, if I gain ten pounds on a trip, do my bags need to balance the scales? Anyway the Delta ticket agent could careless and let’s my bag go through. Easy flight to JFK, the Delta lounge is familiar and well appreciated. I enjoy a drink, then another. The kale Caesar salad is too familiar. I must have had a bit too much on the way out. OK, over indulgence does have its side effects but I am confident the new Amex Centurion lounge will be open my next time through.
SIDE NOTE: while editing this adventure, I talked myself into going again next year and have booked my flights. It wasn’t that hard…