Ambitions (Switzerland)

Wow, I’m already getting close to the halfway point of my trip! On Sunday evening, we got to Geneva. We were planning to couchsurf our first night there. For those of you who don’t know what couchsurfing is, it’s basically a facebook for couches. You write to someone and ask if you can stay on their couch for a night or two. Anyway, there was someone who had said we could stay at his house but forgot to tell us where his house WAS. I had asked him before we got on the train and was expecting a reply once we got to Geneva. But when we got there, we had no reply. Meaning we were stuck in Geneva with no place to stay. I was at the point where I would gladly find a park bench and use it as a bed, but we found the closest hostel and got two spots in a six-person dorm. Is it ever expensive in Switzerland! I was always warned that it’s the most expensive place in Europe but I still wasn’t prepared for what I saw. Usually when things are expensive, my first choice is McDonald’s but even THAT was pricey. We decided to go to an Indian restaurant. Ben got daal and I got tandoori chicken. Of course the servings would be tiny! So our meal came to about 43 dollars for the two of us, and I was still hungry. That night, we went for a walk by the lake and to our surprise, there was a fair, which was really weird because on the train that day, I was saying I was sad cause we were missing the Ex. So we GOT the Ex, but in Geneva!

The next day, we got breakfast for free from our hostel so we ate as much as we could so that we didn’t have to eat again until supper. We went to the tourist office to get a walking map, and toured ourselves around the Old Town, which was very cute! Afterwards, we split up for awhile and I went to the flower clock and the jet d’eau, which was so cool! We then met up with Helena, my friend who was also an au pair in Rambouillet three years ago. It was so great to see her again! We reminisced, and just seeing her brought back memories that I had totally forgotten about! It’s too bad the other girls weren’t able to join us, but I’m glad I at least got to see someone. She took us to an amazing restaurant that gave awesome portion sizes, and because we hadn’t eaten all day since breakfast, we were easily able to finish everything. We went for a walk by the lake before heading back to Helena’s for the night.

Tuesday morning, we got up extremely early to go to Gruyères. We went to the cheese factory first, where we got to see how cheese is made, and we got free samples! We then went for lunch and this time I splurged (cause you can’t go to a cheese factory and not have fondue!). So that’s what I had. It was so filling but so good! For dessert, I had meringues with Gruyères cream, which was delicious. After lunch, we went to the Gruyères castle before heading to Broc. I’ve decided that when I retire, I’ll get a place in Broc. As soon as we got off the train, all I could smell was chocolate. It was amazing! I thought I died and went to heaven. But in Broc, the houses were normal and I’m pretty sure in heaven, the houses are MADE of chocolate… Aren’t they? Anyway, we went to the Nestle-Cailler house of chocolate. The tour was so cool! And at the end, there was a tasting room and we were allowed to eat as much chocolate as we wanted! I ate until I thought I was going to be sick; I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to that point before… I also don’t think that I’m used to this chocolate because Cailler condenses their milk for their chocolate, and the milk comes from the cows in the Gruyères area (where we were before), whereas most other companies use powdered milk. So this chocolate was VERY rich and filling, I definitely noticed a difference compared to the chocolate at home. After the tour and tasting room, I went and bought hot chocolate (cause you can’t go to a chocolate factory and not have hot chocolate!), even though it was about 28 degrees outside. The hot chocolate was basically a melted chocolate bar. It was SO thick and creamy; I almost couldn’t finish it! After we were finished, we caught the train to Bern, Switzerland’s capital. In Bern, we couchsurfed with Christina and Ursula, who were definitely the best girls to have our first couchsurfing experience with. They were such nice girls and if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have done half of what we did on Wednesday. Our first night, they took us for a walk to the rose garden and the bear pits.

On Wednesday, Ben and I went back to the rose garden and bear pits since we couldn’t exactly see them the night before. The bears were so cute!! A couple of them were swimming and fighting in the water, I could have watched them all day! Afterwards, we walked to the clock tower, walked around the old town (which is a UNESCO world heritage site), and went to the Münster cathedral. We then met up with Christina so she could show us around. We rented bicycles (for free!) and biked through the town and along the river. I was paranoid the entire way because I’m pretty sure the last time I rode a bike was in France three years ago, when the family took me biking. But everything was fine! Then we set our stuff by the river and jumped in! It’s a local thing to do; you walk upstream as far as you want and then just float downstream back to where your stuff is. It was kind of like the river tube ride by the Nipekamew sand cliffs. I loved it! It was so relaxing and refreshing, as it was 31 degrees that day. After a couple of times doing that, we rode our bikes to a restaurant that’s over the river; the rapids run right under its deck. We just shared a piece of pie and got some refreshing drinks. Ben and I bought some groceries so we didn’t have to buy another meal, and then we spent the rest of the day relaxing on the deck and in the house.

Thursday morning, we got up to catch the train to Interlaken. We got settled in our hostel, the Tent Village, which is a community of tents with bunkbeds inside. So far, it’s been my favourite place to stay! It’s been warm during the days but at night, it gets freezing cold! I was brought back to when I was younger, trying to keep warm in the tent trailer when we went camping in the mountains. We walked around Interlaken all afternoon. It’s a cute little town similar to Banff; it’s so awesome being completely surrounded by mountains, I love it! By law, it’s quiet time everywhere in Switzerland at 10pm so we just hung out with our roommates, two girls from Chicago, and socialized with the hostel staff, who are also from the US. Our tent was complete with slugs and snails, and the hostel bar was complete with mice so we were for sure roughing it! However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I forgot how much I missed taking our trailer into the mountains and relaxing there.

On Friday morning, we just spent the whole time at the hostel. I lied on the hammocks and just relaxed before my big adventure. It was nice to have half a day to do nothing instead of always walking around and exploring! At 1pm, I got to go on my canyoning adventure! It was located in Grimsel, about a 40 minute drive from Interlaken. Our group was pretty small; there were three French people and two Koreans, so it was easy to get to know everyone. Our adventure started with a ten minute hike up the canyon, which was difficult because of the limited movement that our wetsuits allowed. Then, we repelled down a 50 metre cliff; we were attached by a metal pole on the side of the highway haha. We did some waterfall slides, many jumps, and a zip line that undid itself when you stopped holding on so you’d just fall into the water. My heart was pumping especially fast when I was about to do a ten metre jump off a cliff into the water. All I could think is that I was going to hit the rocks and not jump far enough. I was also quite nervous when I had to shimmy along the crack in the rock, with my back against one side and my feet against the other. But I did it all! And I’m still alive! Although I definitely felt it in my thighs the next day… I don’t think I could have done it if it weren’t for my guide, Iain, though. He for some reason reminded me of Matthew McConaughey with a Scottish accent. So of course I needed to show him the strong, brave, and confident woman that I am :p When we got to the bottom of the canyon, we had a nice picnic with sandwiches and beer. We then got in the van and Iain said within about twenty minutes, we’d all be completely out. He was right; everyone in the vehicle passed out by the time we made it to Interlaken. It was such a great time though! I’m glad I spent my money and did something, instead of later thinking, “I should have done that!” Especially in Interlaken; there was so much to do! That night, Ben and I walked into town and went to Hooters for some much-needed onion rings. Then we went back to the hostel to get ready for our early morning the next day.

Saturday morning, we got the bus and train to Winterthur, a town about twenty minutes away from Zurich. We used it as our homebase and couchsurfed there, as we weren’t able to find a place in Zurich. Our hosts, Christof and Steffi were so awesome!! They had a gorgeous apartment; Christof is a web designer/programmer and Steffi is a pharmacist. Ben and I went to Zurich for the afternoon but we weren’t really feeling it. It wasn’t like all of the other towns we had visited; I think it is more specifically aimed towards tourists. We went back to Winterthur and went with Christof and Steffi to one of their friend’s housewarming parties. We had to go out and buy our own meat and drinks, and then all the meat was cooked on the BBQ. We got to meet Steffi’s sister and sister’s boyfriend, and many of their friends. After dinner, we went to the Winterthur Music Festival! It was awesome to see some live music and to talk to some more people. I thought it was an awesome night, I had so much fun! The couchsurfing experiences almost seem to be the best experiences!

This morning, we got up and we’re planning to spend our last day together in Zurich before going our separate ways tonight. Ben’s headed to London and I’m on my way to Italy; it should be a fun time! If I had to use one word to describe Switzerland (besides expensive), I would choose cute. It had cute houses, cute buildings, cute people, I just loved it! It’s definitely worth spending the money for. And my favorite destination in Switzerland was by far Interlaken! I probably could have kept myself entertained there for days! I hope you all are doing well! Love always

Ambitions – Joe McElderry

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