Winter Wonder: Paris & the Swiss Alps

From the lights of Paris to the heights of the Swiss Alps, Topdeck’s operations supervisor Xanthe discovers the wonders of a European winter.

Waking up to the Swiss Alps - bliss

Waking up to the Swiss Alps - bliss

I woke up on the third morning of my trip in utter panic: there was complete silence around me and I had one of those moments where you are convinced you’ve overslept by hours and hours so you leap straight out of bed and scramble around for some kind of time-keeping device.

Part of you actually wondering if this is in fact a nightmare and your hand will never clasp that portable alarm clock that you know must be lurking at the bottom of your rucksack somewhere.

As I was frantically searching, I reached out to pull the curtains aside a little in the hope that some light would be shed on my situation. As I did something caught my eye and I was drawn to the irresistible gleaming of an early morning sunshine persistently filtering through.

Filtering through what? I looked closer and realised that I hadn’t overslept at all - I’d woken at dawn, just in time to witness a glorious sunrise filtering through thousands of pine trees, steadily floating higher behind the breathtaking Swiss Alps and reflecting a thousand times off the thick layer of powdery snow flakes that covered everything.

As I sunk back into bed and snuggled into the cosy down duvet (or, doona), mesmerised by the view for a few more minutes, I thought about how surreal this all seemed.

Less than 48 hours before I had found myself whizzing through the “City of Lights” on a night driving tour of Paris.

We jaunted through bohemian Montmartre, the eclectic Latin Quarter, the buzzing nightlife of St Germain and past the unapologetically gothic Notre Dame, stopping or slowing for photo opportunities at all the main sights, before scooting back to our hotel for a few hours rest.

Cycling around the Eiffel Tower on California Beach Cruisers.

Cycling around the Eiffel Tower on California Beach Cruisers.

The next morning we glided along the Champs-Élysées on “California Beach Cruiser” bikes; i.e. the biggest, comfiest saddle I have ever come across that wasn’t on a horse.

I have to admit I nearly bashed into other cyclists, or lamp posts, several times because I was so distracted by staring in all the shop windows!

After we cruised around the Eiffel Tower, through the Champs De Mars, past the Arc de Triomphe, through the Louvre and back underneath the Eiffel Tower I decided to take myself on an afternoon of window shopping.

I picked up a Nutella drenched crepe from one of the infamous street vendors to fuel me on my way and headed straight for Dior (their largest flagship store in the world) followed by Louis Vuitton - also the largest of its kind (I might not be Blair Waldorf, but I can do my very best impression!).

I treated myself to a bottle of ‘Coco Mademoiselle’ in Chanel (well, Paris is the fashion capital of the world. It would be rude not to really…) and then walked a bit further down to the more affordable high street shops.

I stopped in Ladurée on the way to sample one of quite simply the most delectable macaroons ever made and then jumped on the metro to save my tired feet from walking me to the meeting point for our group dinner that evening.

At dinner, listening to everyone else’s escapades of the day (climbing the Eiffel Tower, visiting the Musée d’Orsay, getting lost in the vast Louvre museum, drinking in an Irish pub…) I realised just how varied a city Paris really is - everyone has different fantasies of it and it somehow fulfils them all and creates new ones at the same time. I was amazed at how much some people had managed to squeeze into just one day of sight-seeing, but then I guess that’s another advantage of travelling in winter – no queues!

That evening a small group of us went out to catch the raunchily glamorous show that is Moulin Rouge. We walked under the famous red windmill and immersed ourselves in an evening of light-hearted, exaggerated debauchery!

And that is how I found myself wondering at how surreal it was to have gone from all that vibrancy; the lights, feathers, glitter and designer high heels, to this tranquil yet equally impressive stillness.

Perhaps I had been too sleepy to notice that our luggage had been picked up in a sleigh or that my feet had carried me through the snow to the hotel entrance the night before.

Exploring the beautiful town of Lucerne.

Exploring the beautiful town of Lucerne.

That morning we all huddled together in the deceptive gondola (a kind of cable car) to sail down the mountain and through the clouds for a chance to explore the majestic town of Lucerne.

We sifted through the countless souvenir and specialist shops searching for the perfect watch or Swiss army knife or cuckoo clock.

To get back to the hotel we took the scenic cruise across the stunning, but slightly sinister, Lake Lucerne and then a train ride up to the top of the Mount Rigi (Queen of the Mountains) where we spent the afternoon sledging, building snowmen, making snow-angels and creating teams for spontaneous snowball fights with some local schoolchildren.

The perfect evening to end the day with was spent in the cosy hotel bar with delicious traditional cheese fondue, a few games of pool and endless amounts of gluwein (mulled wine).

As I climbed back into bed I remember thinking how thankful I was that this was only day three of my trip and there were still another 11 to go.

Tomorrow I was off to Italy, another fascinating country that I had never visited!

Xanthe travelled on Topdeck Travel’s 14 day Winter Wonder. For more winter trips check out Topdeck Travel’s first ever winter pre-release brochure. Book now to save up to 10% off your winter experience.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply