Zermatt – #BarrellEuroTrip

Posted on December 28, 2014 in Life

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Zermatt Day One (23/12)

Arrival

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It’s 515am and the alarm goes off! Our Paris trip is officially coming to an end! We had packed our bags the night before so it was a simple get dressed and get out the door scenario.

At the airport we grabbed our last coffee and croissant combo before heading through security, now this is where it gets interesting. When going through security I put my carry-on bag through the x-ray and I am then pulled aside and my bag is searched by about 3 people. I am trying to figure out what is going on because they are obviously all speaking French. It turns out that someone (Jess) decided that she should pack her toiletry bag in my carry-on which also has 3 nail clippers and 2 nail files in the bag, all of which are banned from being in carry-on bags. After a closer inspection though it seems they were happy for me to then proceed and gave back the nail clippers, though taking the nail files. Lesson learned don’t let the mrs put stuff in your carry-on bag.

We caught the plane from Paris to Geneva, which was an up, and down flight, no sooner had we taken off we were descending, I definitely could get use to such short flights.

Once we landed it was time to figure out the Switzerland train system. As Zermatt is a car free town the only way in to Zermatt is via train. We had booked tickets in advance for Geneva to Zermatt via Visp and once we had figured out what platform we needed to be at we quickly jumped on the first train available.

On the train and with room to spare we sat back and relaxed with our feet up. The trains in Zermatt are know as the most scenic railways in Switzerland climbing past large forests, cliff faces, snow and fields. So there was no need to get the iPads out to watch movies to past the time with such amazing views outside our windows.

We arrived in Zermatt it definitely felt like a whole other world, if Santa didn’t live in the North Pole he would live in Zermatt. It is a Christmas/Skiing paradise, Jess was in heaven.

Having already researched where our hotel was from the train station we hoped off the train and headed straight to our hotel and stupidly I actually hadn’t put my gloves on and after walking for 5 minutes I looked down and saw that my hands were blue! This is what cold really is, it is safe to say the cold we had experienced so far was nothing compared to Zermatt.

One thing that we thought was quite strange was the amount of dogs that were in Zermatt, it seems that people visiting on holiday also brought their dogs as well, though I don’t think our three would care much for the below zero temperatures and walking on ice and through snow (Maverick has delicate hooves.)

Welcome Apartment B&B Zermatt

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We were pleasantly surprised to see the size of our room and the bathroom in our Zermatt apartment. The bed was much softer and cosier than the Paris version and the shower & bath; were both huge (with great water pressure) the best shower we had had in over a week. Underfloor heating made getting up in minus degrees a lot easier too, it kept the room nice and toasty.

The apartment was in a great location at the end of the main drag and had spectacular views of the Matterhorn from the main living area & kitchenette. The coffee maker & stash of ovaltine the owners left were put to good use every morning.

Cuckoo Bar

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After settling into our room and adding some extra layers to our clothing we set off in search of food. We quickly found that lots of restaurants in Zermatt close between 2:30-5:00pm because everyone is up the mountain skiing or sledding so had to knock on a few doors before we found an open one. We were starving by this point (3pm) and managed to stumble upon the Cuckoo bar on the main drag. Jess’s eye was immediately drawn to this place as it was super Christmas-y and had a crystal chandelier hanging in the entryway. We settled into a booth and were surprised when an Irish waiter came to take our order (and we thought ordering was going to be hard in Switzerland) Turns out that this place was a tapas bar, so we ordered a selection of nibbles and drinks. Food comes out really quickly here, almost no wait time. I don’t know how they do it? This venue was a nice place to relax, warm up, get our bearings in a new town and plan the rest of our afternoon and night.

Champagne Ice Bar

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Part of the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, situated in the city square was a pop-up champagne ice bar. Probably one of the few places in the world where you can have an ice bar in the middle of the town and you know it won’t melt.

We saw the ice bar when we were walking up the main street to our hotel and both agreed immediately that we would go to the champagne bar tonight. The entire bar was made out of ice and they served only high-end champagne by the glass (Ruinart, Dom Perignon) as well as vodka.

Jess and I had a couple of glasses each while we stood around the open flame heaters, we then proceeded to go for a walk around Zermatt.

Walking in -2 degrees celcius

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So we thought Paris was cold… well Paris has nothing on Zermatt. By the time we had finished at the ice bar it was now night time and approaching -2 degrees. Nether of us had experienced cold like this before, I could barely feel my face, though we still walked around as we were both just amazed at how stunning Zermatt was with its mixture of hotels, shops, restaurants, old buildings and rivers.

Then not to mention the whole town was filled with Christmas lights and decorations, as we mentioned earlier, Zermatt is Christmas.

Once we had reached our limit of cold it was time for dinner.

Pizzeria Roma

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Right next door to our hotel is Pizzeria Roma, when we first arrived at our hotel we were going to visit Pizzeria Roma to grab a late lunch, however they weren’t open until 6pm. We then decided that we would come back for dinner.

Walking inside and it feels like you are in a cabin, the staff were friendly and the service was quick. Given we had recently eaten at the Cuckoo we decided to share a pizza… The verdict – best margarita pizza ever, well until we get to Italy no doubt.

After such as amazing first experience at Pizzeria Roma we said we were going to go back before we left but we were unable to as we simply just ran out of time. Highly recommend though!


Zermatt Day Two (Christmas Eve 24/12)

Breakfast at Welcome B&B

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I think you will be hard pressed to find better views in Zermatt than the one we had every morning at Welcome B&B. While enjoying our complimentary breakfast we were lucky enough to be able to have a clear view of the Matterhorn, some mornings we were able to see steam coming off the mountain as the morning sun hit.

As it was our first full day in Zermatt the owner was happy to grab a map and help us plan our day, giving us advice on where to go and how to get there.

Train Ride to Gornergrat

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Everything about Zermatt is beautiful and taking a train up to one of the highest mountain points just further confirms that Zermatt is one of the most scenic places in Switzerland. While travelling through the mountain ranges it makes you realises the sheer size of the mountains and how small the town is in comparison. Also you get a feel for the surrounding area and just how much snow there is.

The ride up the mountain to the Gornergrat took approximately 1 hour and the whole time was spent trying to look out both windows of the train at once, making sure not to miss an amazing sight and possible photo opportunity.

Gornergrat Mountain

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We are now at one of the highest points in Zermatt (3,135m above sea level.) First we went around the lower observation deck to take photos, the view just can’t be describe and the photos don’t do it justice. Jess and I have both never experienced such as place, the size of the mountains surrounding you makes you feel so small. If you are going to Switzerland then you have to come to Zermatt to see these views!

After 15 minutes we were frozen enough from taking photos and went inside the restaurant to have lunch and heat up. This is Europe’s highest restaurant at 3100m above sea level, with panoramic views of the mountain ranges.

With lunch completed, there was a higher observation deck with panoramic views that we wanted to see. Climbing to the higher observation area Jess held the rope all the way up for fear of falling over and given the altitude we both struggling to make the climb, being out of breath by the time we reached the top. The climb was worth it though as the views were even better, we hope you enjoy our photos as much as we did being up there.

After taking some more photos at the very top of the Gornergrat we decided it was time to have some fun in the snow.

Rottenboden Tobogganing

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It’s time! Finally I get to play in the snow. We headed back down the the mountain range from Gornergrat to Rottenboden (2,815m above sea level). This is the highest toboggan run in Switzerland and takes approximately 10 minutes from Rottenboden to RIffleberg (2,582m above sea level.)

Jess was trying to hold me up by wanting to take 100 photos, I was like a kid however and just wanted to get going! We were lucky that Jess did hold us up as there was a guy in front of us who was explaining to his kids how to sled, so we actually learnt how to turn, slow down and stop. Would have been interesting if we hadn’t known that.

And below is the end result…

Christmas Eve Dinner at Restaurant Avena

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The amount of restaurants and bars in Zermatt is staggering, when initially researching which restaurants to go to for Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner we were overwhelmed. To assist with the choice we asked Welcome B&B if they had any recommendations. B&B then came back with about 6 venues, from those we then chose 2. The first was Avena. Given Zermatt venues don’t have great websites we actually weren’t 100% on the places we had booked and didn’t really know what to expect.

Walking into Avena initially we though we may have made the wrong choice, it was 7pm and the place was empty except for us and another table (which happen to be the chef’s family.) The waiter took us to our seat and then showed us the specials for the night and the menu.

We saw that there was no fondue, which we had been really hanging, out for but then realised that we had booked a fondue restaurant for Christmas dinner the next night. The waiter was very friendly, had a great sense of humour and was helpful with the drink options. We decided to choose a bottle of Prosecco, looking through the menu we were put at ease as there were many tempting choices, for entrée the mixed salad and for mains not surprisingly Jess and I both opted for the pasta dishes. Jess had the Buffalo cheese ravioli with sage and I had saffron noodles with shrimp and a chilli tomato sauce.

While waiting for our entrée to arrive the waiter brought out 2 small glasses of Thai inspired soup with pineapple pieces, complements of the kitchen. As we had just been outside where it was -2 the soup was welcomes and surprisingly a taste sensation. When they first mentioned what it was we thought this doesn’t sound good, but after one mouthful it would have been great to have a whole bowl of this as an entrée.

The mains WOW! The food was simply amazing easily some of the best Italian food I have had outside of my Nonna’s house. The food and hospitality in Zermatt is the best we have experienced so far on our trip.

Even though we were full from dinner there was panacotta on the dessert menu so we didn’t really have a choice. It was actually a perfect way to finish off the meal, as it was light and also delicious.

I was also quite happy to finally break out my Christmas sweater that I bought at H&M in Amsterdam, Jess was less impressed.

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Zermatt Day Three (Christmas Day 25/12)

Skype

I have been keeping in contact with the olds over Viber, however given it was Christmas we thought it was best to Skype them to wish them a merry Christmas. Apart from the initial technical difficulties we got up and running and it was great to see them both and update them on what we have been up to lately and what we have coming up next. Mum is house/dog sitting for us and was great to see Maverick and Denny over Skype. Maverick could hear us and was looking behind the computer to try and find us, Denny didn’t seem to care as Father was patting him. Josie must have been out causing trouble somewhere as she was no where to be found.

Definitely starting to miss home, but lots more to see and do on our trip!

Blogging

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If you have seen the tobogganing video you would have seen how Jess finished the run, with her knee a bit batted and bruised from the slopes we thought it would be wise to not test fate and avoid the slopes today. Especially considering we still have 3 weeks of the trip remaining, which wouldn’t be fun if ether of us hurt ourselves. So instead we stayed at the hotel in the morning to relax and finish the Paris blog.

Not a bad view though if you are going to stay at the hotel for a few hours to finish a blog, definitely beats sitting in an office to work!

Our Paris blog took longer than expected which also made us realise how much we actually did in such a short stay. For those who haven’t seen it Paris – #BarrellEuroTrip.

Lunch at Brown Cow Pub

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Blogging can be hard work, so after finishing the blog we were quite hungry and thirsty, so we headed down the main drag of Zermatt in search of a nice place to eat/drink for lunch. We came across the Brown Cow Pub.

Once we grabbed a seat the waiter came up to us and spoke to us in French, German, Italian and then English by saying “hey.” I replied “hey mate, how are you?”. From this exchange we had picked up that the waiter was an Aussie. It turns out that there were about 5 other Aussies in the bar at the same time (we’re taking over Zermatt!), although they were all from the east coast.

We ordered a couple of drinks and some burgers, the food was great and the atmosphere was what we needed for a relaxing afternoon in Zermatt and it was good to hear some Aussie accents again.

Matterhorn Museum

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The Matterhorn Museum offers insight into the history of Zermatt, providing accounts of how people in the 19th century used to live in Zermatt. It also showed the triumph and tragedy surrounding the ascents of the Matterhorn.

The most significant part of Zermatt history is the story of the first ascent of the Matterhorn by Edward Whymper in the year 1865. There were only 3 survivors (Whymper and father and son Taugwalder, the mountain guides) and the 4 men who died (Michel Croz, Francis Douglas, Robert Hadow and Charles Hudson.) The museum has the the broken rope from the ascent, which is draped over a red velvet cushion, you can also see equipment and clothing from the victims, as well as their portraits.

Christmas Dinner at Restaurant Walliserkanne

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There were a few things we needed to cross off the list when visiting Switzerland – snow, fondue and hot chocolate.

So far we have only done one of the three items on the list, but finally we were having our first cheese fondue experience. While the first few dunks were tasty, the abundance of cheese eventually became too much especially when you are not use to it, never thought I hear Jess say that she has had reached her cheese limit.


Zermatt Day Four (26/12)

Hot Chocolate

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Our last day in Zermatt and shockingly still hadn’t had a hot chocolate… what the hell had we been doing?

Whilst out buying present for certain people in -6 degrees, we thought it was too cold and it had to be done. Having seen hot chocolates being served at Cuckoo on the first day we headed back there to have our first swiss hot chocolate.

What a perfect way to spend the last hour in Zermatt. The hot chocolate was also the best ever.

Final Thoughts

Zermatt can’t be compared to any other place that Jess and I have been. Each place we visit Jess and I compare to the other but you can’t compare Zermatt to anywhere else. It is so different, isolated, scenic, mutli-cultural, friendly and Christmasy.

Our time spent in Zermatt will definitely be an overall trip highlight and if you are ever going to Switzerland do yourself a favour and visit Zermatt, especially over the Christmas period. Also make sure to let us know when you are going so we can come back!

Next stop Florence, Italy.

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Adam Barrell

MD of So Perth Media Group
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