Monday, January 26, 2009


As our tram squealed up a pass in the Swiss Alps around lunchtime on Friday, Laura and I watched out the window as the landscape slowly turned to white. The smoking chimneys of cottages, flanked by snow topped evergreens, occasionally dotted the nearby hills. We approached our destination and exited the tram to the sight of slushy streets, dripping icicles, and icy sidewalks. Large, irregular rain drops from the grey sky made it seem as if the clouds were melting overhead just the same as the rest of the city. We welcome you to Gryon - it is wonderful.

As the tram lurched away into the fog, en route to deliver other passengers with their skis and snowboards to the lifts further up the mountain, we started the slog to our hostel. Up the street we went, first dodging cars and then carefully navigating the narrow icy path snaking up the overlooking hill. Inside the Chalet Martin we were greeted with generously placed Australian flags (for an early celebration of Australia Day on Saturday) and signs instructing us to remove our shoes, leave our bags, and come join the fun inside. Once we saw the view out the window of our room of the Alps towering in the distance as a slow moving river of fog flowed down into the valley, we wondered if we could extend our stay for an extra week or a month or longer like our fellow hostel mates; many of them had lingered so long that they greeted each other as old friends.

Hungry stomachs, unfortunately, interrupted our contentment. In a land where food is so excruciatingly expensive that virtually any meal costs greater than 20 Francs (>$17), we avoided the restaurants and instead embarked with other friendly travelers to the grocery store in nearby Villars. Compared to sleepy Gryon, Villars bustled with life: tourists admiring the warm shops, locals buying their weekly rations, and skiers just down off the mountain walking clumsily down the streets in their ski boots. The Migros offered an assortment of snacks and cheeses and the local baker served us a warm loaf of bread.

In the mood for some adventure, Laura and I decided to make the 45-minute downhill trek through Arveyes and Barboleusaz back to Gryon. We stepped carefully and stopped to take plenty of pictures along the way as cars swished by. We arrived just as the blowing snow started to sting our eyes.

This time, as we walked back into the cozy Chalet Martin, we took off our shoes to stay a while.

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