A company that teaches surf-kiting in the summer but runs from Brig in Switzerland in the winter specializing in snow-kiting. However, Oli, the owner, was happy to cater for us on our first ski/boarding holiday.
He knows the area well in terms of where is best to ski in which conditions, has many alternatives for a break from the piste ie 15km toboggan runs, cross-country skiing, trying out snow-kiting. He gave us skiing lessons at a very favourable rate, has deals with the hotel where he is based and a local kit hire shop. We started out with brand new boots for the week! He charged us for the "guiding" for the week. We found this invaluable having never been on a winter holiday before. We were so well looked after even to the extent of Oli telling us, while I was still investigating ski trips,about the Ski train run jointly by Eurostar and TGV Lyria. This took us all the way from St. Pancras to Brig on two very comfortable trains. Nine hours but actually equivalent in time and price to the air/hire car travel alternative. Much more pleasant than air travel, which played a big part in the choice, with bigger baggage allowances (teenage daughters!) and Big Blue Experience gave a discount for coming all the way by train.
Brig is a relatively undiscovered ski destination, particularly by Brits. Chats on the ski lifts prompted surprise to hear an English voice and questions about how I found out about the place. More experienced winter holiday takers told us it has the least busy pistes that they have been on.
In the end the holiday worked out about £100 less than the cheapest ski-package I was looking at for the same dates, in Borovets through Crystalski, and much less expensive than anything else I could find in Switzerland!
Not the greatest views in the Alps but the warmest atmosphere and the most delicious food. Startgels is in a league of its own in the Weisse ski area of Eastern Switzerland. Watch the owner Ueli Grand (known to us as the 'bearded man') grill your lunch over a roaring open fire. A wonderful haven for that final hot chocolate and cake on the last run home, but our friends also enjoy walking there from the top of the Foppa chairlift. Never been in summer but it would be equally lovely.
Postfach 79, CH-7017 Flims-Dorf
+41 81 911 58 48
The Startgels restaurant is open when the Weisse Arena ski lifts and cable cars are in operation.
The best burgers in Switzerland with meat carefully sourced from local cows grazing in the Alpine pastures above Lake Geneva. Rubbing shoulders in lovely restaurant with families on holiday in the Jura, commuters from the United Nations, cross-country skiers and climbers AND accessible via the funicular railway from nearby Nyon (or easily by car). Incredibly friendly English-speaking owner who really knows about high quality burger ingredients!
10,000 metres of altitude in one day. Nothing makes a day of skiing quite like frantic racing around a resort, skiing no run or lift twice, completing the last run of the route at 4.55pm in the dusk, finishing by downing shots from a ski. A-mazing.
Imagine an apres ski bar that gets so hot from the superb bands and throngs of punters dancing on reinforced tables and chairs that they have to open the roof every half an hour to let the steam out! That's Apres, the simple name for the Apres Ski bar attached to Hotel Farinet in Verbier. Forget your cliché resorts like Val d'Isere, St Anton or Meribel, this is the single best apres ski you'll find anywhere in the Alps. Open from 4-8pm, it's always heaving and sitting down is simply not an option for the last two hours as the live bands churn out classics that drive the crowds bonkers. If they didn't open the roof the atmosphere would probably lift it off anyway! Apres is the best night out you'll ever have that ends at 8pm. After staggering back to the chalet for dinner you'll be forgiven for getting an early night, perfect for making the most of the ski day!
This is a classic Alpine hike,which is easily undertaken in a day by the reasonably fit and has the added benefit of a low carbon footprint as access to the start and finish is by rail. You take a train from Interlaken to Wilderswil and then the cog railway to Schynigge Platte at 2000m for breakfast with spectacular views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. You then follow a well signed path to First, enjoying magnificent views of Interlaken, Thunersee and Brienzersee. You can take the option of lunch at Berghaus Manndlenen and then on towards the Faulhorn which boasts the oldest Alpine hotel in Europe at 2600m. You then descend towards First via Lake Bachalpsee before taking a well earned drink at the cable station and then descent to Grindlewald and a train back to Interlaken. There is the option of an extension to the walk by continuing to Grosse Scheidegg and taking the postbus to Grindlewald. (Tip -check the times of the cablecars for the descent from First before you start.)
The Alpine Pass Route is a 14 day walking trip from one side of Switzerland to the other. It starts on the eastern boarder and finishes at Lake Geneva. In between you walk some of the most stunningly beautiful and spectacular scenery in Europe. As the name suggests you walk an alpine pass each day (occasionally two) but each evening you end up at a town, village or hamlet so you don't need to use mountain huts. We walked the path in September and we only booked one night's accommodation in advance, the rest of the time you could just turn up and find somewhere with no problem. Cicerone Press publish a guide by Kev Reynolds.
From Sargans to Lake Geneva via Grindelwald.
This family run four-star hotel offers a three-day Christmas package which is just magical! Kandersteg is the archetypal Swiss village set in a deep valley and blanketed with snow in winter. We stayed in the Ruedihus, a 300-year-old chalet (think Heidi, but bigger and more comfortable) with beautiful antique Swiss furniture and home-made Bircher muesli for breakfast, but had full use of the facilities of the main hotel 10 minutes walk away, including a luxury fitness centre with gym, sauna and heated indoor and outdoor pool. Tea and cake were served every afternoon in the country house-style lounge with open log fire and luxurious sofas. During the seven-course gala dinner on Christmas Eve, hosted by the owner and his family, there was an interlude where we all sang Christmas carols and every guest received a gift from under the Christmas tree. Later, the hotel mini bus transported everyone who wished to the candlelit Christmas Eve service in the tiny village church. On Christmas Day the 'Pelzmartiga' (local men dressed in furs and medieval costumes) roamed the streets, rattling chains and ringing bells to chase away evil spirits. Another gala dinner on Christmas evening rounded off a perfect Swiss Christmas - unforgettable!
+00 41 33 675 81 81
Teatro Dimitri is a small family theatre based in Verscio in the Centovalli - Ticino. It is the opposite to SERIOUS switzerland. Try and book up for "Canti popolare nel ticino." No yodelling or thigh slapping, just Dimitri and Roberto singing together.
Lucerne is only 45 minutes (with the railway) from Zurich. There is the beautiful Lake Lucerne, which has mountains around it and a famous old town. It is not so overcrowded as Zurich and much more relaxed. You can swim in the lake either in the lido (for a fee) or the equally beautiful "Ufschütti" (for free). The "Ufschütti" is near the railway station (ask for the way, many people in Lucerne speak English). You can also make boat trips on the lake, climb one of the many mountains around the lake or visit the old town.
Each year Basel in Switzerland holds its Fastnacht which is three days of processions, small bands wandering the streets playing piccolos and drums and people in costume reciting stories in cafes. There is a lot of fun and mayhem with a lot of confetti thrown (being Swiss it is cleaned up very quickly.) This year the carnival starts on 14th March it always begins at 4am in the market place. Everywhere is very dark and quiet then at 4am precisely a procession of lanterns comes into the square, the drummers start drumming and the piccolos are played.The square is filled with light and sound. It is magical and a true feast for eyes and ears.
I lived in Basel some years ago and have never forgotten the magic of their carnival.
On the Sunday night after Mardi Gras, start the Swiss Fasnacht celebration by visiting the small and sleepy town of Liestal. On that day though, the town will not appear sleepy at all, as it is the day of the Chienbäse parade. This tradition dates back to the 16th century and involves the town’s strongmen and women carrying burning broomsticks through the city to chase away the evil spirits. If that is not enough excitement, watch the flames of huge wagons piled up high with burning wood licking the roof of the narrow town gate. Surely, health and safety regulations in most countries would not allow a parade of that kind!
Continue the celebration of a different carnival, maybe less cheerful but wonderfully spooky and impressive, at precisely 4am on Monday after Ash Wednesday. Experience a city coming to life in the dark, as all street-lights are switched off to fully appreciate the groups of Fasnächtler meandering through the crowded streets of Basel, carrying beautifully hand-crafted lanterns on their heads and in their hands. Accompanied by drums and piccolo flutes, the lanterns wander through the city displaying current issues of interest in politics, world and local, usually in a mocking and sarcastic way. The Fasnächtler are disguised wearing the Larve (traditional mask), which are usually rather ugly and scary – so be prepared to jump if one of these comes up from behind in a dark city backstreet, as there are no fixed routes and a group can turn up anywhere you walk. Finish this early morning experience in a Beize (pub) with a traditional meal of Mehlsuppe (flour soup), Chäsweihe (delicious Swiss cheese quiche) or Zwiebelkuchen (onion quiche), and watch all the locals wandering off to work.
Stop at the first ski lodge in Italy.
The prosecco is cheaper than anything in Zermatt and the pannini excellent.
Most of all the juxtaposition of the order in Switzerland with the chaotic scramble and shouting is a laugh riot.
'Highway 7' (Run 7 on the Zermatt\Cervinia ski map), bottom of the blue run.
Nothing in Saas Fee is cheap, they will soon be charging for breathing. The resort sure is stunning though, especially when you find little places like this.
On the way down from a hard day's riding, pop into the Gletschergrotte. It's a small restaurant/ bar on the way down. They serve well priced drinks and nice but not budget priced meals. I would recommend getting a nice beer or gluewine or two, before riding down to the village.
Just be careful of pisters as the runs may have closed while you have been enjoying your beer!
this is a recommendation for a cheap eat in the ridiculously expensive resort of saas fee. At the bottom of the main lift area below the "platjen" lift there is the no1 bar. Everyday it has the biggest pan you have ever seen cooking one dish. They change the dish daily and it is really good. nasi goreng was amazing! whats better is that it is only 10 francs which is a real bargain when a crappy margerine, ham and gherkin sandwich will set you back 5.5 francs in the supermarket!
Google map: bit.ly/faKFXT
The largest alpine thermal spa in Europe, with 10 indoor and outdoor pools on four levels, ranging from blissfully warm to an almost-can't-stand-it natural cave watery sauna at 43 degrees. Water jets pummel and massage every part of your body. Family friendly, with a huge curly waterslide for children. And the view! At 1400 meters high, you can stare across the valleys to the Matterhorn as you soak away the days' hiking (summer) or skiing (winter). In a word (or two) watery bliss.
Burgerbad, Rathausstrasse 32, CH-3954 Leukerbad
+41 (0) 27 472 20 20,
Google map: bit.ly/hFHLUE
Fly to Geneva and then the train/coach link takes you straight to Leukerbad.
Better still, do the whole journey by rail; eurostar, French rail to Lausanne, change for train to Leuk; a coach meets every train for the final stunning ascent into Leukerbad. Lots of hotels and self-catering to choose from.
Chateau de Chillon rests on a small island on the shores of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva). The lake itself is hemmed in on all sides by hills that rapidly rise into snow-tipped mountains. The castle's gothic night-time appearance is said to have inspired some of the passages in Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein's Monster'. Similarly, the story of François de Bonivard, a Genevan monk held captive in the castle's dungeons for four years by the Savoys, was the inspiration behind Byron's poem 'The Prisoner of Chillon'. Byron carved his initials into the pillar where he believed Bonivard to have been chained. Now, the castle is open to be explored, from the depths of its dungeons to the towers where you can look out on the lake and the mountainous peaks around.
Avenue de Chillon 21, CH 1820 Veytaux
+41 21 966 89 10
Google map: bit.ly/fZKVdL
After a bracking walk along Lake Zurich in winter this is one of the best places to find a warm drink or even a glass of champagne and while away some time. Set in the heart of the old town this Cafe-Conditorei serves an excellent selection teas and coffees, the hot chocolate with cream on top is particularly good. Set on three different levels, each with a distinct feel, with the cafe at the front with an amazing selection of sweet treats on offer and a smart bar at the rear. My favorite place to find a seat is the luxuriously appointed middle level. Gold-gilted chairs with soft velvety cusions, low-beamed ceiling and plush carpet all add to the cosy atmosphere. If you are lucky someone will be playing the piano to help you while away your time.
A new milestone in architecture another famous project designed by Herzog & De Meuron in Allschwil near Basel.
Gewerbestrasse, CH-4123 Allschwil, www.artbasel-gallery.ch/pub-art-actelion-business-center.htm
Bus Stop: Im Brühl, Allschwil
Google map: bit.ly/aM8Tzh
In the heart of the old town a popular local haunt, small enough to be intimate and decorated in the local wooden style. Almost everything comes with rosti, the ubiquitous Swiss 'hash brown' (grated, pan-fried potato) such as steak, sausage, kidney and liver, plus there's a viable selection of vegetarian courses, a pasta (described as dumplings) with Swiss cheese and mixed vegetables was delicious. Wines are by the glass and carafe and feature Swiss reds.
Marktgasse 19, 8001 Zürich,
+41 (0)44 251 29 91
Google map: bit.ly/9gNw6o
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