Friday, March 11, 2011

Les Montagnes

Disclaimer: I have trouble with the picture tool in Blogger, the format is not easy to work with so I'm sorry if this looks a mess. It's different in every web browser and on every screen.

Let's play a little game of word association. I say Switzerland, you say....Alps!

Last Friday night, the calm was broken by three hilarious people (Dario, Alaina, and Caro) swinging by my village in a jam-packed-but-just-enough-room-for-one-more Passat. "Allons, to the mountains!" we cried and off we went.

After an hour and a half, a bit of weekend traffic, some terrible honky tonk country music, and an ice cream stop at McD's (where the drive-thru employees were serenaded to in a falsetto rendition of a hymn), we screeched to a halt in Aminona, a cozy burg midway up a mountain. Arriving in the dead of night, this is all I got from the 8th floor balcony of Dario's apartment:

I knew we had climbed in altitude, and were among the Alps, but there was no giant spotlight to give me a clear view of what the landscape actually looked like.
We went quick to bed, Caro, Alaina and I stuffed comfortably into the smaller bedroom and Dario, rattling like a bullet in a tin can in the big room next to us. With snowboarding on the agenda, we eschewed the lazy Saturday mentality and popped up at 8 am, fresh as daisies. I was still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes when I stepped out onto the balcony.

HELLOOOO. Best wake-up ever. I literally stood there, rooted to the deck by the vision before me. After that, it's a little bit fuzzy, but I may have shouted something about being on top of the world, startling a flock of birds flying below me. That's right, below me. "Ladies and Gentlemen, in the event of a change in cabin pressure, HANG ON TO YOUR HATS, WE'RE IN THE ALPS." 

Much invigorated, we sat down to one of the best aspects of Swiss livin': breakfast. Yogurt, tresse au buerre straight from the oven, and homemade jam. Also cake. But that was because it was Dario's birthday.
By 10 am, literally steps from the apartment, we were in the télécabines heading up the mountain.
After what seemed like ages of me pretending I was not inwardly freaking out (I have a thing about gondolas/ski lifts), we burst forth into a crazy blinding wonderland of uninhibited sunshine and glittery snow:

Quel bonheur! Finally, before my very eyes, the glory of the Swiss Alps! A sight that inspires music, poetry, prayer, and altitude sickness.  I confess, this was not my first time in Alps. The first time was in December at Les Mosses, a ski resort at a lower altitude and in a valley of mountain peaks, so the view was not expansive. 

The three intrepid snowboarders set off to carve up the terrain with their mad skillz, or whatever you sports types say in this situation:

I, clearly not being a sports type, set off on a hike for some exercise and the opportunity to take in the landscape and ridiculous self-timer shots of myself:

We reconvened on the terrace in the afternoon for some food, a few good laughs, and a chance to replenish the sunscreen. 

Off once more, I went on another hike to take photos in the afternoon sun.

Mission accomplished, I'd say.
With this exhilarating scenery before me and a feeling of complete peace and harmony with the world, obviously I felt the need to share. I made a really expensive phone call to my parents from the top of my peak, ignoring the time difference to exclaim over what I was feeling. 

Not entirely satisfied, I also recorded a video. Upon further review, I have concluded that it is not footage worth sharing in such a public forum. It consists of a rather shaky 360 degree panning shot, followed by three minutes of me shouting excitedly and launching into an unnecessary yet profound speech about being open to incredible experiences in life. Also, at one point in my exuberance, I make the wrong to choice to rip my hat off, exposing what was most definitely not a good hair day.

Alas, I finished my philosophical musings with a glance down the mountain to see there was no one on the slopes. A tiny bit worried, I hustled on down to the ski lift to see with relief that it was still running. 
As Caro and I waited for our turn to go down, we soaked in the views and of course, took advantage of the photo op on the now empty slopes.

Dario and Alaina, having trekked over to the lift for the glacier,
were not so lucky getting down. They caught one of the last chairs, and got stuck in midair for twenty minutes. Quel disaster. My "tiny thing about ski lifts" would have been much more visible, had I been in that situation. Fortunately, I was not there, and all four of us arrived safely at the bottom.  

We hustled to clean the apartment and hopped back in the car for the long drive back. Yawning and sore, we glided comfortably along the autoroute in the evening glow, managing to miss most of the "end of ski holidays" traffic. All back to Dario's parents (the Krebs) at a reasonable hour, we were in bed asleep before 9:30. Well, I was. But we all know what kind of party animal I am.

Sunday was a glorious day of union meetings and a yummy venison dinner with the workers at the Krebs. And of course, more cake. I don't know about Dario, but that was the best 28th birthday I've ever had. And I'm not even 23 yet. 

We can safely file this into the "one of the best weekends of my life" drawer. Moral can be divided into 3 parts: 
1) The Alps are worth seeing in person.
2) It is possible to have a completely satisfying day at a ski resort without strapping on a pair of skis. 
3) One can never have too many self-timered shots of oneself.

Thanks much to Dario, Alaina, and Caro for including are a solid crew!

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