Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What to do on an indoors day in an outdoors country

Switzerland is very much an 'outdoors' country. Especially on a Sunday here as everything here is shut (towns basically close down, even larger cities are really quiet - and I thought Holland was bad but at least we have once a month koop zondag!). The only thing to do is to get out and enjoy the mountains, have a picnic or take a hike - it's certainly a beautiful country for it, especially in this region. As much as there is NO way I could live here, I do appreciate it's beauty although I must admit I find the mountains a little bit suffocating at times.

We've been really blessed with gorgeous, sunny weather since arriving - and quite a few warm days as well. In fact, so warm that it's been a really dry winter and you can't even really ski here at the moment!!!! But what do you do on an 'indoors' day in an 'outdoors' country??? This was our dilemma on Sunday when the weather turned sour and it was cold, overcast, foggy and snowy. Although the snowfall is yet to reach our mountainside accommodation, there are fresh piles of snow not far behind us and the trees have turned a snowy white. On Saturday we visited the nearby town of Vevey, on Lake Geneva. We picked up our friends from St-Maurice on the way and arrived in time for the end of the local markets. The town itself was small and not particularly interesting but the markets were great - a small junk market (we admired a lovely old sled that would look GREAT hanging on a wall but the thought of postage back to Aus wasn't too appealing) and a cool old military suitcase but it was severely overpriced - like everything else in this country. The food section of the markets reminded me of my beloved France - fresh olives, bakery goods, fruit and veg, cheese... Mmmmmm.... Being on a low sodium diet though, I managed to contain myself and not walk away with a bag of olives :-( Anyway, while we were in Vevey we noticed a poster advertising the skiing & baths at a local ski resort called Ovronnaz. The picture was of thermal baths surrounded by snow and although we weren't too hopeful that there would be any snow there right now, we tucked it away in our memory (thank you Roy for 'New Zealands ovaries' - I will never forget how to remember the name of Ovronnaz now :P ) for another day.

After much googling on Sunday morning, we finally decided to brave the weather and go swimming at Ovronnaz. It was bizarre once again leaving the house with a bikini and a ski jacket but I'm slowly getting used to it. As we made our way up the windy mountain road to the ski village, we started noticing cars driving down covered in snow, the temperature dropped down to 0deg and the rain turned into... SNOWFLAKES!!! The higher we got, the more snow there was and by the top, it looked like a picture perfect winter village. A strange sight after such a lack of snow this winter!!!! None of us were prepared for the heavy snowfall of course (I only had on my flimsy little Kathmandu runners & had removed the hood from my ski jacket & had no gloves/beanie etc and poor Tiff didn't even have a jacket!) and it wasn't a fun walk through the slushy carpark snow up to the resort. After paying our entry fees (19CHF - a bit cheaper then Lavey but the facilities weren't as good - Lavey is worth the extra $$) and getting changed, we made our way into the pools...

Ovronnaz has 3 pools - one indoor and two outdoor. You enter the outdoor pools indoors by swimming through plastic flaps - this is great because it means you don't have to walk outside in your swimmers when it's  0 deg. We swam outside and... brrrrrr!!!! The pool was - well, it wasn't warm!!!! It wasn't freezing but there was no way I could have stayed in it for long as it was snowing heavily. We noticed the second outdoor pool and unlike Lavey, it's not a big interconnected pool - to get to it, you had to hop out and walk across the freezing cold pavement. We sent the boys over to test it out and voila - smiles all round. Tiff and I ran across to the other pool (it was so cold, especially when touching the handlebars to get in - once I hit the water my hands burned with the change in temperature) and were instantly relieved - warmth, beautiful warmth. The pool wasn't as big as Lavey (and Ovronnaz is lacking the same facilities & cleanliness) but was still really relaxing to swim around. It was such a strange experience though swimming, outdoors, in the middle of winter, while it was SNOWING!!!!! The snowflakes were freezing on our eyebrows & lashes and making our heads look like they were covered in dandruff - charming.

So, thermal baths: a great solution for an indoors day in an outdoors country. It was really relaxing although I must admit I'm wondering if all the pool water I drank is the source of my current illness - bad gastro for 24hrs is not the most fun thing to have at the best of times, let alone while pregnant.... :-(

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