Detour, or why we are in Switzerland and not Ireland

20 May

20 May 2023.

Ireland was the plan: Switzerland is the reality. But first, Wales!

When last I wrote (see Styles of Styles) we had just arrived in Wales in the charming town of Conwy. Northern Wales is lush and green, much like Western Oregon and Washington, with similar trees, shrubs, flowers, and even waterfowl. The weather was fine and there were neither mud nor cow dung underfoot. But then we were not walking in pastures. 

Where the Pacific Northwest has soaring mountains, Wales has castles. Lots of castles. Storming Conwy Castle, climbing the town walls, a day trip and walk in Betws-y-Coed (which I can now pronounce correctly), and strolling through Bodnant Gardens filled our three days. No rain hats required. 

Bodnant Garden is an exceptional place. Acres and acres of manicured gardens, lush forest, winding paths, a folly here-and-there. Once a private estate, it was handed over to The National Trust in 1949. The house is still occupied by Lord Aberconwy. You can point a camera in any direction and get a beautiful shot. Click on any photo for an enlargement.

Our traveling companions including the experienced left-hand-side-of-the-road driver had to cancel their trip to Ireland due to family circumstances. Where we were going in Ireland was quite rural and was not going to be easy to do by train and bus. Ric and I are not left-hand drivers and not about to start. After a quick assessment of how we might best spend the next two weeks, we made an about face from Conwy and headed to the continent and our favorite refuge, The Lauterbrunnen Valley.

I briefly assessed changing our tickets to fly home sooner. Not only was it depressing to think of calling the trip to a halt, the cost to change was astronomical as airfares have escalated so dramatically since we bought our tickets in September. 

Getting here was a two-day journey. We avoid flying when we can and so we did. Tuesday we rode on two British trains to London, then the EuroStar to Paris, where we spent one night. The next day, a French TGV Lyria took us to Basel and was followed by a series of three Swiss trains to get us to our tiny mountain village. I know some would find this nightmarish (my brother’s idea of Hell, I think) but we travel light and find it far less stressful than flying. Plus a night and a morning in Paris = a fine meal and a lovely morning walk in an elevated garden, La Coulée Verte René-Dumont, which I wrote about four years ago in this Postcard from Paris.

The weather forecast for the Lauterbrunnen area was daunting. showed rain for the foreseeable future when we checked it before leaving Wales. But the reality is far better and the weather app MeteoSwiss has been our friend. I have not had to wear a rain hat yet and we even saw peeks of sunlight the past few days with continuing improvement ahead.

No book research, no major plans. Just enjoying seeing one of our favorite places in a different season; we have only visited in the fall and once, briefly, in the winter. It is a totally different experience in the spring: fewer tourists, although the transportation can be crowded, and many places are still closed for rest and renovations between ski season and hiking season. Tulips are still blooming and the deciduous trees just leafing out are a stunning contrast to the deep green conifers.

For those of you who know the area, the little cliff side train from Grütschalp to Mürren is out of service as they will bring the new equipment on-line in June. From what we could see, track-work must be just about complete. The corresponding gondola is also out of service until the middle of June although the path between Grütschalp and Mürren is open if you want to walk roundtrip, I guess. (We did not.)

We are riding trains and gondolas, taking easy hikes, and discovering new corners of this marvelous region. Might have to eat some rösti, too.

8 Responses to “Detour, or why we are in Switzerland and not Ireland”

  1. Marcia Lynn Kakiuchi May 20, 2023 at 10:41 #

    Holy moly! This is a big change but so glad you know most of the ins and outs of getting to places in Europe without flying. I love your pictures in Wales as they are magazine perfect. And the food is Paris…well there are no words. I’m so happy you are back in your Switzerland haven instead of trying to figure out left-hand driving in Ireland! Keep on sending updates.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laurel May 21, 2023 at 08:08 #

      Thanks, Marcia! We had a picture perfect mountain day today. Such good pics — almost surreal! You’ll see them in the near future! 65 degrees at 4 PM even here in Wengen at 4300 feet above sea level!


  2. Grier May 20, 2023 at 07:43 #

    I was certainly surprised to see your post from Paris. What a wonderful decision to change direction and visit a favorite place when your Ireland plans fell through. Did you have any trouble finding accommodations? I’m looking forward to further posts!


    • Laurel May 20, 2023 at 07:46 #

      Accommodations in Switzerland are VERY expensive but available, and no worse than the price of changing our airline tickets. We actually found a budget (for Paris) option suitable for one night. We do have to fly back to Dublin to return to PDX.


  3. Chris May 20, 2023 at 06:12 #

    Good for you to make lemonade out of a lemon! Is there still snow on the higher trails? Muddy? We thought of going this time of year before but weren’t sure of the hiking conditions.


    • Laurel May 20, 2023 at 06:42 #

      Hi Chris! We have not been up high. Will go to Kleine Scheidegg Monday by train but the Maennlichen gondola is closed until the 27th, which is our last day. Hoping we can do our Maennlichen to K-S hike then. A great many of the higher trails are still closed as of today. This map is a good indicator, I think updated in real-time-time or at least often! Zurich area night be a better option in the spring.


  4. nigewelly May 20, 2023 at 05:32 #

    I’ve been worried that the fierce Italian storm would head north of the Alps and give you horrid weather. So good so far – pleased for you.


    • Laurel May 20, 2023 at 05:57 #

      Thanks, Nige! Sunday and Monday look pretty nice. Maybe rain later in the week so we might scoot to Bern as we haven’t been there in many years. Even when it is forecast, it is 1-3 mm for the day. Barely a wetting!

      Liked by 1 person

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