This was a very special destination for me as it was my first return to the little Swiss mountain village where I spent the first three years of my life. Although I have barely any memories of those years (who does?!), I’ve always maintained an idea of the place I came from through our home videos of when we were babies (Dad had me skiing up on the glacier at the age of 2!) and 15 years worth of old photographs from when my parents lived there before my sister and I were born. My parents travelled to Zermatt seperately as young people, Mum from London and Dad from New Zealand, both fell in love with the place (and each other) and made it their home. I can see how they fell in love with it. From the moment I clapped my eyes on the Matterhorn (the famous pyramidal mountain that rises above the village) I was under it’s spell – completely enchanted. The village itself was also magical to me.. all traditional wooden chalets with great blooms of bright red and white geraniums tumbling from every balcony.
To be fair, my family and I probably didn’t visit Zermatt at the best time of year – It was in between the summer and winter seasons so it was construction central with giant cranes erecting more chalet apartments wherever they could fit. The first light snow fell on the hills around the village while we were there so we got our first taste of really cold weather since our travels began, but the only skiing available would have been on the glacier at that time. In saying that, nothing could really take away from how happy I felt to finally return with my family, after 23 years(!), to the place where it all began!!
Our family rented a car out of Geneva and drove into Täsch (a little village used as the transfer point for travellers into Zermatt) where we caught the ‘Zermatt Shuttle Train’ into Zermatt as the village itself is ‘car free’ (only the real locals are allowed to take their vehicles in). We parked the rental car in the covered parking complex/garage attached to the train station where you get a ticket and pay for however many days you parked there on your return. The train station and the trains are like everything Swiss, impeccably clean, straight forward, and on time!
As were were traveling with Mum and Dad at this stage, we were lucky enough to stay in a beautiful modern chalet apartment called the ‘Powder Snow’ (no more cheapo hostels for us!) with the most fabulous view over the village and the Matterhorn, organised through ‘Zermatt Apartment Rentals‘ (www.zermattapartmentrentals.com). The best thing about Swiss apartments is that they are always kept gloriously warm inside. Also, Swiss bedding is a dream – they don’t really believe in a top sheet, just a giant fluffy feather duvet and equally giant and fluffy pillows making sinking into bed at the end of the day pure luxury! One thing that I found really curious was these giant slipper-like over shoes kept at the doorway that you slip over your outside boots to wear around inside (mountain boots are a pain to take on and off apparently lol).
Walk all around the village exploring the streets and poke around the shops oogling the window displays of all the latest fashions for hitting the slopes. Hike in the hills around the village. There are kagillions of mountain walks and trails to choose from. We did a lovely loop walk from up behind our apartment, via Winkelmatten, Blatten and Furi and back down into the village. So gorgeous seeing the old chalet style barns in the hills and the sheep with their sweet little black faces, elbows and hooves in the pastures with the snow-capped alps framing everything in the background. The air is so cold and fresh in the hills and is just excellent for clearing the head after a few beers the night before! Obviously the best thing to do in Zermatt is to go up skiing or snowboarding, but I will just have to return some other time for that!
For lunch, I would recommend hiking up to one of the chalet restaurants in the hills around the town. We made the short hike up to an adorable one called ‘Chalet Reid‘ and had a phenomenal feed of pork ribs with salad and potatoes, washed down with a few glasses of champagne.
We had a fabulous dinner out at the ‘Walliserhoff‘ a restaurant right in the centre of the village where I had a very traditonal Swiss meal of rösti (pretty much the national dish, made of fried coarsely grated potato – droooool!), wurst (sausage) and onion sauce – accompanied of course with a few beers.
Oh, and of course you can’t go to Switzerland and not eat CHOCOLATE – It’s what the swiss are famous for after all! We grabbed a couple of blocks at the local grocey store, called the ‘Migros‘, which is perfect for all your grocery needs and blocks of cheap swiss chocolate.. a new handbag staple of mine 😉
According to the parentals THE place to party in their day was the ‘Hotel Post‘ which, lucky for us, is still there. So after a fun dinner out involving several alcoholic beverages with a few of their dearest old friends and Zermatt locals, we headed there so they could show us their moves on the old ‘barrel’ – a massive wooden podium in the centre of the dance floor. The club, which I think was in the basement, was empty when we got there (off season) but we soon had the party started and everyone had a go up on the barrel (dad was totally hogging though). It was great because the DJ gauged the crowd really well, playing all the old school tunes that Mum, Dad and their friends loved making them keen to carry on the party into the wee small hours. Also, when I asked the bartender the price of 8 tequila shots he said “It’s on me” – you can’t not love a bar with that kind of service!
For absolutely all the info on Zermatt you should check out http://www.zermatt.ch