Travel – A few days in Switzerland

I’m not a stranger to travelling alone having worked as a PR for travel clients I have travelled all over the world on my own so when a friend who was working in Switzerland invited me over for the weekend I jumped at the chance.

I got a cheap flight to Basil from Manchester and then got the train to meet my friend in Zurich.  I’d been to Zurich before as I used to have a Swiss client but I had only actually experienced it in torrential rain looking grey and miserable.  It was great to see the place flooded in bright sunshine and we walked around the beautiful old town and by the river.  It was stunning.

IMG_3634.jpg

Early the following morning we got the first of many train journeys to visit one of the world’s best spas inside Villa Honegg Hotel in Ennetburgen.

It truly was one of the most breathtaking spas I have been to with a giant outdoor hot pool that looked out over the Swiss Alps and Lake Lucerne.  It helped that we had glorious sunshine and a cool breeze that came down from the snow capped mountains.  The spa is sat on the side of a hill that was surrounded by farmland lower down and flower filled meadows in front of it.  Inside the spa there was an indoor spa pool and sauna facilities too.

The hotel had a restaurant that overlooked the spa with an outside terraced area so we ate lunch there with again stunning mountain views before we departed for the train station once again to continue our journey this time several hours travel to Interlaken.

IMG_3711.jpg

Interlaken can be described as the tourist centre of Switzerland with coach loads of Chinese, Korean and American tourists arriving into the town in order to explore the nearby sights.  We even noticed they have a Hooters bar to satisfy our friends from across the pond. The town offered a vast choice of accommodation including high end hotels and back packing hostels.  We decided to book an AirBNB apartment as we were only staying for one night – would be arriving late and leaving early the next morning.  The split level studio apartment was to a contemporary loft design, owned by the artists running the nearby modern art gallery, and was practical and functional with what we needed for a one night stay.

The following morning we headed again by train to climb Jung Frau the highest mountain in Europe.  We stopped off in Grindelwald a very stunning Alpine town half way to Jung Frau that sounded like it belonged in a Harry Potter book.  It is used as a base for hikers and skiing enthusiasts.  It was breathtaking surrounded by snow-capped mountains.  I could happily come back here to stay for a few days and enjoy the mountain air. Apparently this was the place Heidi was filmed.

We only stayed in Grindelwald for a quick coffee and then continued our journey up Jung Frau by train on the highest train line and ultimately train station in Europe.  The sun was still shining so when we hit the snowy surrounds I was relieved to have my sunglasses.  This was the most scenic train journey I have ever been on, absolutely stunning views from every direction and we climbed so high our ears reacted as they do on a plane. Once we reached Jungfrau station we then had to continue on foot to the Sphinx observatory, the highest point in Europe and it was truly spectacular.  My friend even stripped off her layers as the suns reflection on the deep snow was so warming.  Some of you James Bond fans may recognize the setting here as it was featured in Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

On our way back down the mountain we stopped off in Lauterbrunnen another pretty village this time it is one with stunning waterfalls where we enjoyed some dinner and chatted to some Australian tourists (yes they get everywhere!) before heading back on the train to Zurich via Lucerne.

The following day I enjoyed a leisurely lunch in Villa Villette in Cham on the banks of Lake Zug before catching the train back to the airport for my flight home.

Travel tips –

Flights – I flew to Basil from Manchester with Easyjet however the trains are so efficient in Switzerland that it could be cheaper to research travel into various different airports.

Train – I recommend you purchase a Swiss rail pass if you plan to travel around as we did as this as it is the most cost effective way to travel.

Luggage – there are inexpensive luggage lockers in most train stations in Switzerland so you can leave items as you travel to collect as you pass through the main hub stations to collect on way back.

Accommodation – there’s a wide choice of accommodation in Switzerland but if like us you simply need a bed for the night then take a look at sites such as AirBNB that can be more cost effective saving more money to spend on 5 class spas!

Surviving after Child Loss

Whilst I was sat on a train heading to Glasgow earlier this week I decided to write a few blog posts touching on subjects people have been curious about.

People often ask me about how we coped with losing Violet and about the techniques we employed to try to help ourselves get through this time.

We tried to remember what we enjoyed about life when our daughter was still with us and focused on making ourselves do these things even though we didn’t want to and certainly didn’t have the motivation.

It all began with us still going on a mini-break to the Lake District only a few weeks after she had died.  A break we had already planned and paid for when our daughter was still alive.  That trip was an extremely hard one for us and we only stayed there for the bare minimum of time.  We also had lunch at L’Enclume that I had arranged as a belated birthday surprise for my hubby.  We just went through the motions and returned home early on the final day as we felt lost.

IMG_2211
Cartmel, Lake District

The things we had enjoyed doing as a family trio were travel, Violet was a true jetsetter and travelled more in her short life then many adults do in theirs, and dining out in new places.  Admittedly the fondness for dining out was more mine and my hubby’s as Violet disliked food although she did enjoy people watching.  She was always good as gold too preferring to use high chairs to rest her books on for reading and often got praised by staff for how clean and well behaved she was.    I work in travel and hospitality PR so my work has always channeled my passion but I felt as though this love had disappeared with Violet.

20160221_102115.jpg
Violet watching the Snoopy film on the flight to New Zealand at 7 months old

After the initial Lake District trip we continued to make sure we planned and booked other things in advance, so then we had less chance of being able to back out and change our minds at the last minute.  Don’t get me wrong there were quite a few dinner reservations we made and then couldn’t be bothered going to or arrangements with friends we had to back out of as we simply couldn’t face it.

We jointly decided that we should focus on ensuring, despite our misery, that we booked restaurants or mini-breaks for anniversaries and birthdays.  We encouraged each other to make an effort to keep the reservation, as we often found that only one of us would wobble and want to back out of plans.  We worked as a team to persuade each other knowing that it was for the best in the long run.

We planned trips to places we had already wanted to visit but only for a few days at a time, as again we knew a big trip would be too much for us.  Places like Florence in Italy for Valentine’s day, Bilbao in Spain to visit the Guggenheim, Montenegro to escape for Violet’s anniversary, Morocco to escape Arthur’s due date etc.

IMG_1268
Sunset in Bilbao, Spain

Slowly but surely after nearly 2 years I can now talk again about travel being a passion of mine, without instantly feeling guilty about it as now I realise that this was also a passion of my daughters and something she would still relish if she was alive today.  I also embraced a new hobby for photography, especially landscape and architecture.  All the photos in this blog are mine.

I’ve not yet gotten there with the dining out thing, I’m still fond of food and work in hospitality however we don’t dine out as a couple anywhere near as much as we used to.   I know in time we will and this will be easier too. To the “friend” that said to us after Violet died “well at least you can now travel whenever you like and dine out whenever you like” well we did travel and dine whenever we liked with Violet as she loved it and we can nearly do this again without pangs of guilt and imagining what she’d have thought of it/been like in these places but every day is tough.  It’s not as easy as “at least you don’t have to arrange a babysitter”.

Anniversary dinner at L’Enclume

It’s important to mark the special occasions when they occur, as difficult as it might be when you’re also grieving.

Last month I got totally spoilt by my gorgeous husband and taken to L’Enclume in Cartmel in the Lake District as it was the 5th anniversary of our very first date. Cumbria holds a special place in our hearts, as it was the first holiday we ever had together when it was snow filled and the hotel we stayed in had a gorgeous fountain outside that was frozen.

When we arrived this time and checked into our room my hubby got instant extra brownie points when I saw this photograph on the bedroom wall!

IMG_2107

We stayed in one of L’Enclume’s many guest houses in the village that had clearly been renovated recently, so was luxurious and decked out with modern facilities but the real icing on the cake for me was the attention to detail. Knowing I was allergic to cows milk they had ensured the mini bar had a bottle of soya milk in it and dairy free treats too.

We arrived a few hours earlier than our dinner reservation so there was time for a bubble bath before getting dressed for the restaurant and I have to say I loved the handmade organic bath products and the heated tiled floor. Got inspiration for our forthcoming house renovation!

The L’Enclume dinner experience (and I call it an experience as it is more than just having dinner) was amazing and a real treat all 18 courses. The menus were presented to us at the start of the meal in an envelope sealed with branded wax. There were 2 menus in the envelope a “normal” one for my hubby and a dairy free one for me alongside the wine flight details too. 

IMG_2515
The L’Enclume wax seal
IMG_2521
Standard/ Cows milk free menus
IMG_2518
The Wine Flight

Each course was presented and described in detail by the extremely attentive staff.

Here are photos of some of the amazing dishes.

The highlights for me was the scallop served with green tomato and hogweed juice that tasted a little appley, the monkfish was delicious and the grilled potatoes, ramson (which we googled to discover is a name for wild garlic) and smoked eel was one of the tastiest dishes. We could have eaten more of it!

The other delight was the dessert named “Anvil” which was a chocolate mousse dusted with bronze and gold powder set in an Anvil shaped mould.   My hubby’s mousse was white chocolate whereas mine was dark chocolate orange. They were sat on top of preserved orange and passionfruit.

At the end of our sumptuous dinner we were offered the cheese board, which looked amazing but we literally couldn’t fit anything else in.

Dinner or lunch here is the perfect special occasion treat as it really is an amazing experience if you are a real foodie like us.

The breakfast the next morning in Rogan’s café, that’s also owned and run by the team behind L’Enclume, was probably the best breakfast we have ever been served. Here’s a copy of the menu.

If your budget doesn’t stretch to lunch or dinner at L’Enclume then I would heartily recommend a trip to Cartmel and lunch in Rogan’s, that I’m sure will be more than worth the hour and half drive from Manchester.

For more details of L’Enclume the restaurant click here

For details of the accommodation available click here

For more information about Cartmel and what to explore there click here