Morgins

We spent the weekend up in Morgins mid-February for skiing and relaxation.

Accommodation: Hotel Helvetia. This place was a mere 5 minute walk from the lift and included a spa complete with a jacuzzi, steam room and sauna to ease your muscles after a day of skiing.

Eats: Andrew ate a quick dinner Friday night at The T Bar while I was taking the train up from Geneva after work. Saturday night we totally played our cards wrong. We forgot that it’s high season in the mountains and that these little villages only have a handful of restaurants (and thus réservations as they generally only do 1 seating a night and maybe squeeze in a second – restaurant meals are 2.5-3 hour affairs and they are careful to not overbook themselves). At 8:45pm we tried to get a table and our hotel concierge found the LAST table available in the village at 9:30! oops! Lesson learned. We ended up having an incredible meal at Les Fountaines Blanches, where I enjoyed duck and Andrew had his first steak sur ardoise. This is a method of serving beef where they give you a piece of raw steak on a hot stone. You get to cook it to your preference on your own table. 

Activities: Andrew was able to take off work on Friday to ski while I slaved away at the office. Then we skied together both Saturday and Sunday. Morgins provides access to Portes du Soleil, which is the same area we’ve skiied a few other times (see this post when we skiied out of Champéry in January). This is the network that allows you to access ski areas for a huge area and overlaps the border of Switzerland and France. We skiied a huge distance in both countries and got to see a lot of the area we hadn’t skiied before. Including lunch in France! On Saturday afternoon we enjoyed the après ski and the spa at the hotel. Overall a fun time! Here are some photos of our weekend…

view-of-morgin
A view of the village of Morgins. Typical Swiss mountain village, but in a flat-ish valley, which is rare. Usually these places are perched up high on a mountain side and very steep.
morgins-church
The Church in the center of the village, with the bells outside. The bells played a really long song a few times over the weekend.
jg-dents-du-midi
Skiing in front of the Dents du Midi, our backdrop for a lot of our skiing this past weekend.
You may recall that we took a trip to hike up the Dents du Midi this past summer in this post. That peak we almost completed hiking is the highest one on the far right. We stopped just below the peak.

jg-on-slopes
Yours truly + Andrew (in my goggles reflection)
view-of-mountains-on-run
Love this photo of the mountains on our ski down from the top at the end of the day on Saturday.

A Swiss Winter Wonderland

A long overdue blog post that therefore will be pretty long – sorry sorry sorry for the radio silence!

In January, Andrew and I returned from the U.S. to delve into the audit busy season – which luckily coincides with ski season! The working hours have been long for the past four weeks, but we found some time on the weekends to get out and take advantage of the fact that Switzerland is truly a winter wonderland.

Our first stop was Champéry to go to Portes du Soleil, one of the world’s largest ski areas, including 13 ski resorts in the network! We only touched about 10% of it but it was awesome!

Portes du Soleil on January 17. It was about 10°F and heavy snow fell all day, causing visibility difficulties and near white-out conditions. The snow was amazing! The resort was really nice, nearly all 4 or 5 person express lifts, not over crowded nor any wait times at the lifts.
Portes du Soleil – Again, poor visibility but you can sort of see the town of Champéry down below. This is the cable car we ride up from the parking lot to the ski slopes, which fits about 40 people inside.
Lunch break at Portes du Soleil. Andrew: Burger Me: teeny omelette, salad…. and beers. Beers are necessary 🙂

 

A sunrise view of the Alps and snowy Lavaux wine region from the train on my way to Schaffhausen January 18

One of my primary year-end clients was in the German speaking region of Switzerland, in the town of Schaffhausen, which is about a 3 hour train ride away from Lausanne. For three weeks I stayed in a hotel during the week and returned to Lausanne on the weekends. Andrew stayed in a hotel for two weeks by his client, in Neuchatel.
Schaffhausen

Schaffhausen
One of the village squares in Schaffhausen

Work was pretty busy in Schaffhausen, but one of the nights I took off with two of my co-workers to go for a 5.5 mile night run to the local Rheinfall. The falls are kind of like a smaller version of our Great Falls in VA/MD, and were lit up with a blue light. With the mist coming off the water – it was beautiful and a nice break from the long work days.

The weather this winter has been unusually mild at times, so we have not always been able to go skiing. One such weekend we instead went off to the town of Saint Maurice to Les Bains de Lavey, one of the thermal baths near Lausanne. We also went back in November, so this was our second time visiting the baths.

The baths have an indoor heated pool, which has waterway exits to the outdoor baths and pathways to the two outer buildings. There outdoor pools have areas with differing temperatures and areas with water jets and even a small lazy river style ring where you can let the water push you through while on floating on your back. My favorite was the water jet beds, which are on the outer ring of the spiral on the bottom right of the photo below. The thermal baths were a family affair, with plenty of kids, couples, old people, young people – everyone was there! When we went in November it was snowing while we were in the baths, which was a really surreal experience.

We also gave the saunas and turkish baths a shot. The outer buildings had saunas with three different stages of temperature rooms. There were also “serenity rooms” where they play music, have colored lights, you lie back in a rocking chair and just kind of chill out. Kind of odd but very relaxing. In the main building, they had Turkish baths as well.

bains 1
Borrowed from the website, here’s what it looks like from above
You are not allowed to bring a cell phone inside for privacy reasons, so I sketchily took this from outside the complex. 

February 7 we caught up with our friend Kevin, who works at a school and lives in Leysin. His village is up in the mountains about 50 minutes from Lausanne and has a ski resort so we were able to meet there to go skiing/snowboarding together. The day was not too cold and very clear, the views from the slopes were incredible!

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View looking south – and check out the guy in the center about to wipe out 🙂
Part of the resort in Leysin
Lunch at Leysin
Lunch at the restaurant in Leysin. This is on top of the mountain, and is a revolving restaurant. You end up getting a 360° view during your meal!

So let’s see. What else is going on in our life these days? My four weeks away staying in hotels in Schaffhausen and Geneva for busy season is now over. I think the worst of busy season is over for both of us for the near future (I hope!). We pretty much have been at work all week, Saturdays are devoted to errands while the stores are open, laundry, cleaning, and then trying to go skiing whenever there’s an opportunity.

Andrew is very likely going to buy a car. His commute to Boudry is very long through public transit and inconvenient for his work responsibilities. He is at the same client about 90% of the year, which is in a small village and has a ton of parking available. It would also be nice for us to have one and to not have to rent Mobility cars. His co worker happens to be selling his car, so Andrew is possibly going to buy it from him. We’ll see, but we might get a car soon! We do not have to have a car here in Switzerland, the public transit truly is great, but it would be nice to be able to have one available whenever we want and have a little more freedom. Oh, and to not have to lug our groceries back up the hill from the grocery store would be nice 🙂

Andrew is progressing very well with his French. His most recent feat was having a conversation with a car dealer at a used car lot to talk about cars he was interested in viewing. It was so great! And I am … well … not devoting enough time to my studies. I can place orders in restaurants and get by with greeting co workers or asking if anyone wants a coffee but my progress has stalled lately. I just spent a week working on an entirely French speaking team, French speaking client contacts and even had colleagues in town from KPMG Paris. It was the first time for me out at a client as a senior in-charge of a team where there was more than one other French speaker on the team and where they could converse in French together without having to talk to me in English.  My client’s documentation was entirely in French, my team were all French speakers – talk about adding a different element of challenge and a solid kick in the butt to dedicate myself to getting better at French! We are able to get by with English here in Switzerland, but learning French will make life here so much easier and it would be nice to join the conversation more often. I’ll get there!

Our view of the lake and mountains these days during runs along the lake 🙂


Our 2016 vacation requests have been submitted to our company’s scheduling team, and we are supposed to find out this month if it has been 100% accepted. So far our biggest request has been to take four weeks vacation in late July-August. One week of that is going to be spent on a cruise in Norway of the fjords with my mom, sister, uncle, uncle’s girlfriend Kelly, and Andrew’s parents. It will be so fun to get everyone together! We are left with three other weeks to plan. So, we’ve started to spend a lot of time researching a trip. We are thinking of trying a roadtrip through Spain and Portugal before the cruise, then afterwards hitting up Belgium and maybe doing some backpacking in the Alps. Just some thoughts … but it has been fun to research! We’ll see, so far 2016 in Switzerland is off to a great start 🙂

 

Andrew’s Parent’s Visit

Andrew’s parents arrived last Tuesday and stayed in Lausanne until Sunday. They had a busy trip and I am pretty sure they saw everything there is to see in Lausanne and some of the best sites in the region while they were here!

From Tuesday through Thursday, Andrew had taken off work and spent the days with his parents and I met up with them in the evenings for dinner. We cooked at our apartment a few times, went out to two of our favorite restaurants (Brasserie Montbenon and Cafe de Grancy) and also had the chance to try a new spot, Restaurant Vieux-Lausanne. During the days they walked the city from top to bottom, took the ferry across the lake to Évian-les-bains (yep, where the water is from!) to watch the Evian Championship, walked through the Lavaux wine terraces, toured the Olympic Museum (the Olympic Committee is headquartered here in Lausanne!) and even rented a little motor boat to cruise around on the lake one afternoon. Let me tell you, all this sounded way better than going to work every day but I am so glad they had a good time and gorgeous weather!

Andrew and his parents on their little rental boat out of Ouchy on Lac Léman.

On Friday I managed to take the day off of work to join in the fun. First thing in the morning we boarded a train headed towards the mountains. We got on a cog wheel train in Aigle, with a destination of Champéry to ride the Champéry-Croix de Culet cable car up into Portes du Soleil for some hiking. The town of Champéry was such an adorable little mountainside ski town with the Alps rising up all around it. I want to go back there in the winter for sure!

At the top of the cable car we were treated to beautiful vistas and no one else sharing the trail with us except for the dairy cows (each with their own bell around their neck, so you can hear them clanging from across the valley!). We hiked through the ski area and up to the top of a ridge where we stopped to have some sandwiches we brought along. The views were absolutely incredible, and we were pleased to discover that we had unknowingly brought ourselves to one of the largest ski areas in the world. There were ski lifts everywhere the eye could see, and we were only in a teeny little portion of Portes du Soleil!

Portes du Soleil
Up on the ridge while hiking in Portes du Soleil
Magnificent views of the mountains from the trail in Portes du Soleil
Waiting for the cable car down the mountain at the top of the line. The Dents du Midi towering above us in the background.

On Saturday we rented a Mobility car and drove about 50 minutes to Gruyère – a quaint hilltop town only accessible on foot from a parking lot below. And, most importantly, it’s the home of Gruyère cheese 🙂 Being in the land of cheese, it was fitting to stop first at La Masion du Gruyère – a “demonstration fromagerie” which has a viewing area where you can watch them make cheese and tour through a little museum/informational series about the process of making Gruyère cheese and its history in the region. Afterwards, we walked up into the town of Gruyère, had lunch at La Fleur de Lys on their terrace with a view of the mountains and toured the Château de Gruyères.

In Gruyère
Top Left: The Château gardens; Top Right: Inside the Château; Bottom right: View from the Château of the valley below; Bottom left: Our first time having Raclette! For this Swiss cheese dish, you are served a block of cheese along with potatoes, bread, onions and cornichons. The cheese is placed below this contraption shown here, which heats the cheese from above (the heating mechanism is the top part with the handle on it, reminds me of an old fashioned iron). The top layer of the cheese slowly melts, and you scrape the top off with a long handled knife. Very simple – very good!

When the time came for us to say goodbye to Andrew’s parents, it felt like they had just gotten here. So much fun and it flew by so quickly. So good to see you both and can’t wait for your next visit for us to explore more together 🙂