Saturday the 4th, I woke up at 5:30, caught a train at 6:30, to board a bus at 7:15 in Nyon. Me and 60 other au pairs.
It was great fun. While I absolutely hate waking up and getting out of bed, I do love being up in the mornings. I think that stems from my years of working in a coffee shop. There is something special about walking through a city at sunrise, witnessing something gorgeous that happens every day without fail, but generally goes unnoticed.
I arrived in Nyon at 6:41, and I had a lot of time. So, I wandered to an open bakery, and got a pain au chocolat and some fizzy water. The woman who was working didn't just grab one from the display, she got on straight from the oven. My plan was to walk to the castle and eat in the courtyard, overlooking the lake (the side door is always open), but my croissant was so warm, and the chocolate so gooey... I couldn't help myself and DEVOURED it on my way to the castle. It was one of the best things I have ever eaten. It probably wasn't the best pain au chocolat in the whole world, but it certainly hit the spot. Here's the view from the castle courtyard (well, when there is daylight):
Can you see why I like to go there and think? It's lovely. Anyway, it was drizzling a bit, and the lights from France were glittering across the water, and I just sat and thought. I like to just sit and think these days. When it was closer to 7:15, I headed back to the train station to meet up with the other au pairs and to claim a seat on the coach bus.
The whole trip was organized by a really great couple, Paul & Becky. They organize and run an au pair club, centered in Nyon, for people in the Geneva/Lausanne region. It's a great resource for au pairs, and Paul & Becky are some of the nicest people you will meet. They've lived in Switzerland for 22 years, so they know the ins and outs. Check out the website for information.
Anyway, somehow all the au pairs made it, and we left for Zermatt. I couldn't sleep at all. I stupidly left my iPod at home, and my book was under the bus with my luggage, so I just stared out the window at the gray weather, and prayed that it would clear up so we would have a nice hike.
After about 3 hours, give or take, we arrived in Täsch, and had to take a train into Zermatt, because no cars (or huge coach buses) are allowed in the town. When we arrived, it was like a postcard. Imagine what you think a Swiss village should look like, complete with flowers, gingerbread woodwork, and beautiful Europeans in designer ski-wear, and there you have it. To top it off, it was snowing. It felt like Christmas. We trekked to the hostel, got settled in our rooms, and then departed for a short (6 km) hike to Z'Mutt and back. The sun came out before our hike, and it turned into a beautiful day. At Z'Mutt we stopped at a little place for apple strudel with vanilla sauce. ZOMG it was so good. I had a hot chocolate, a great view of the Matterhorn, and good conversation. So nice.
After we got back, I ran to the grocery store with some of my roommates and got lunch and dinner for Sunday. It's hard to buy groceries when you know you don't have refrigeration or access to an oven/microwave. We realized we would be able to put some things on the windowsill overnight, because it would certainly be cold enough. I got 2 baguettes, a little jar of nutella, baby bell cheeses, and some dried meat. Perfect. We made it back to the hostel in time for dinner (which was actually really good), and then we (my roommates and I) decided to stay in for the night. Turns out we were the only girls who decided to stay in... But it was so worth it. We talked a ton about au pairing, and family differences, and the lights were out before 10pm. I slept like a rock, thanks to the fresh mountain air, good stretch of the legs, and amazing down comforter. I woke up before 7, and was able to capture a few pictures of the Matterhorn at sunrise - I took this from the window in the hostel.
Sunday was our big hike. We met at 9, and took the train up to Gornegratt. The view was absolutely breath-taking. I didn't take too many photos because I just knew I couldn't capture it. The first one is me on the "observation deck" (for lack of a better term), and the second is actually just a picture I took of the glaciers while eating lunch, but that's what you could see from the top. Incredible.
We started our 3.5 hour hike down, and it was awesome. After a short time we decided to stop and eat our lunch. Here are my roommates/new traveling buddies/partners in crime:
I had such a great time with those girls. The hike was tough, because it was downhill the whole way (about 14 km). When you think downhill, you think, "oh, that's way easier", but really, it's just as hard. My feet were hurting because I was trying to grip the ground, and I was curling them up in my shoes. By the end, my knees were so sore from the repeated impact. But what made it even tougher was the snow... It had snowed about 10 cm, and with all the hikers and the sun, the snow got pretty packed, and it was dangerous. It was great packing snow, would have made for an awesome snowball fight, but dangerous for hiking. Sadly, right when we arrived, a lady fell, bloodied her nose, and broke a tooth. This wasn't on the hiking path, either - it was in front of the mall by the observation area. We all realized we needed to be very careful. Nevertheless, I still fell about 27236 times. One time my feet just slipped out from under me, but there was no snow or ice to blame - just dry meadow grass. Taryn took a picture of me just sitting there and laughing - before I realized I fell on thorns...
But really, the hike was beautiful. This is a picture from the worst spot of the whole hike. The only way I can think to describe it is like that famous road in San Francisco - down a steep hill with lots of little hairpin turns. Now, when I started this hike, I knew I was pretty high up there (over 3000 km), but the trail was flanked by level ground. I knew at some points it would be steeper on the edges, but I didn't think it would be so steep that my palms would sweat and my tummy would drop and my knees would get weak and I would feel like ants were crawling up my back because there was a sheer drop and the trail was packed with ice and snow and if I lost my footing I WOULD DIE.
Ok, I'm being a little dramatic, but it really was intense. We took it very slow, and Jenna and Mavis alternated holding my hand, and Taryn bravely led the way. The other girls from our little group were faster, and waited for us at the bottom, which was sweet. When we got down, I looked back to take a picture, but it was hard to pick out the trail, because it just looked like a snowy cliff.
Anyway, we reached Zermatt without further incident (it's that town on the floor of the valley in the last picture). We changed clothes, packed up, and met up with everyone else from our massive group at the train station. It was definitely worth every penny. I highly recommend Zermatt if you want to hike, ski, or snowboard, but it is very very expensive. I made some great friends, planned a trip to somewhere warm (or as Jenna calls it, our sunny vacay), and just had a ball. This weekend I'm going to Anzère, so I will have more stories to tell.
I really want to write more but my brain just shut down. And I realized I've been writing/formatting this post for about 2 hours now (I get easily distracted). Time to finish a novel, and go to bed - tomorrow I only work until 11am, yea! Happy Tuesday, tout le monde!