Greg & Penny’s Swiss Holiday – Day One

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Airports are funny places. The opportunities they present for people-watching are probably second to none. And airports themselves are very different in their character and in the type of individuals which pass through them. We flew from Luton (laughingly called London Luton by the cheap airlines). Since it provides a base for most if not all of the cheap European airlines, the population at Luton airport consists largely of young people off on cheap holidays to the sun, i.e., cheap flights, cheap booze and lots of sunshine – Malaga and Ibiza are popular destinations. While waiting for our flight we ran across one “Hen Party” about to depart but fortunately, I suppose, these types of travellers do not regard Zurich as their sort of destination so we were spared the loutish antics for which the Brits have become so well known. We also encountered a gentleman the size of a small blimp but fortunately he too was off somewhere other than Zurich. And, as we made our way through the security checks we were behind one gentleman with the worst comb-over seen this side of Istanbul. Now where is that hair thickening spray which featured on Time’s Worst 50 inventions – this guy clearly needs it considerably more than I do.

When we went to Spain a few years ago, Donna wrote and remarked how lucky we were to live so close to Europe to be able to hop off quickly and easily, which is true. However, what is also true is that the cheap flights all seem to leave at an ungodly hour of the day; ours departed at 6.35 am – which meant leaving home at just before 3.00 in the morning. Hard, hard work for someone as lazy as me.

The flight was fine – short and sweet. That is one of the distinct advantages of living in Europe – nowhere is too far away. The flight to Zurich was only about an hour and a half and then, after about a two and a half hour drive, we were in Surlej.

Sallie and Rod don’t lie – this place is stunning surrounded by sharp, jagged peaks covered with snow. We thought we were coming for some gentle meandering through Alpine meadows in shorts and tee-shirts. Ha! It was cold when we arrived with snow still lying on the ground.

La Pineta
La Pineta

Having settled in at La Pineta, we drove up the road to St Moritz, a thriving and bustling little community of which you will all have heard. A bit of investigation led us to the conclusion that we have timed our visit to perfection – everywhere seems to be between seasons. The skiers have departed but the summer visitors sensibly wait until the weather warms up a bit before beginning their treks across the aforementioned alpine meadows. I suppose that means there are not so many people about but it also means that many of the things one might want to see and do are temporarily shut for renovation, including, we found out, the tourist information office in St Moritz. What to do? Obviously, walk into the lobby of one of the prestigiously posh hotels and enquire. The charming young lady at reception was very helpful although she did concede that her boss would not have been happy with her spending so much time with a couple of gormless tourists had it been in season. Eventually, we walked away with a handful of brochures and a few good ideas. I should say, of course, that this visit won’t take much organising – the views around and about are simply stunning and one could very happily putter about and wander if it weren’t for the crick in the neck one soon acquires from continually staring skywards at the sharp, soaring snow-covered peaks.

While wandering in St Moritz we found a very handy little supermarket where we purchased the requirements for our evening meal, made our way back to La Pineta and then strolled to a local waterfall Sallie had written about – a torrent of water cascading down the mountainside, fed from the snow melt and glaciers up on the mountains. Fabulous. The wildflowers are just beginning to peak their heads out of the warming soil and Ms Playchute in particular derived great pleasure from leaning over a particular species, commenting on its similarity to what is probably its English cousin or not, as the case might be.

Nick had warned us that there was little evening entertainment for those like us who are not great frequenters of bars and pubs so I had ensured we had a few films downloaded onto the netbook which worked wonderfully well. Our first night it was the first two hours of Terry Pratchett’s “Going Postal” which was good fun. Part two tomorrow.

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