Monday, July 6, 2015

Mama H visits (part 3 -- when Stuttgart gets hot, head for the mountains)

Stuttgart has been abnormally warm this year.  We've already had a couple of heat waves where temperatures have surged over 90.  That would be great weather if you are at the beach.  But we live in the top floor of an old building with very little insulation, so our apartment gets pretty toasty, pretty quickly.  And we only have an air conditioner for the master bedroom.

When the weathermen were forecasting another weekend of 90+ degree weather, we decided enough was enough and booked an airbnb place in the mountains of Switzerland.  We packed up Mama H and Natalie and hit the road.

Along the way, we took a quick pitstop in Zurich for lunch.  We grabbed lunch at Café Restaurant Mohrenkopf along the pedestrian restaurant mecca Niederdorfstrasse.  Great lunch specials and big salads.  And perfect on such a hot day.  Natalie thought it was a perfect place to stretch out and take a long nap.

After lunch, we did a quick walking tour of Zurich to show Mama H some great views of the city.  We had done the same route with Abby and Jack a few months earlier.

We were tired of all the heat in Zurich and couldn't wait to arrive in the mountains.  In the valley below our rental it was nearly 100 degrees--before we started climbing higher and higher.  By the time we arrived in the town of Mache, it was in the 70s.  Such a relief.  The drive provided some great views of the Alps along the way.

Mache is located in the French-speaking part of south western Switzerland, 3 valleys away from Zermatt and the Matterhorn.   It is a tiny town with one cafe and a bakery/general store that is only open for 2 hours a day.  We spent the first day exploring a slightly bigger town on the other side of the Valley, Evolene, and the towns beyond it.  Evolene was a great base -- it had a market, a bunch of restaurants, and majestic views of the Alps.

The views in the area were pretty amazing, looking both up and down.  There were cute villages below us and towering alps above us.  There were even tons of wildflowers in bloom in every direction.

Our second day was devoted to hiking in the area.  We started at the Grande Dixence Dam.  It is the tallest gravity damn in the world at nearly 1,000 feet.

Kristin has no idea what a gravity dam is either.  But it was big.
To get to the top, we took a cable car.  Natalie got to touch snow for the first time.  (She was not impressed.)

We walked across the dam and looked over the beautiful blue lake filled with glacial water from the Alps.

Mama H opted out of hiking along the banks of the lake, but was treated to a concert by this guy while she waited. Apparently he brought his alpine horn up in the gondola in a number of pieces and assembled it again once he reached the top.  He played for a few minutes and then disassembled it and headed back down...probably had another concert to get to.

Matt's goals for Switzerland were riding a gondola (check) and seeing an alpine horn (fail).  We totally missed the horn while hiking.  Now we need to make another trip.

Instead of alpine horns, we were treated to some great views of the alps during an easy walk along the lake.

Did you find anything down that hole, Matt?  Why don't you stick your hand in and check it out?
After a quick lunch at a stand on the side of the road (Mama H was the big winner with a ham and cheese polenta), we headed out on another hike near the town of Ferpecle with Natalie in tow.  She has been such a trooper about walking around wrapped up in her Ergo carrier.

We swear there is always a baby in that Ergo.
Little too cold and swift for dipping in your toes.
The hike was spectacular. An amazing glacial river, beautiful valleys on either side, and the Mont Mine glacier at the end.

"Oh, so that's how glaciers work Dad.  I had no idea."

We met Mama H at the Restaurant le Refuge in Evolene and grabbed a great dinner. Natalie spent most of dinner telling Mama H about all of the hiking adventures she had been on that day.

"And then Dad carried me up to this glacier.  It was cold.  Literally."
We were sad to say goodbye to the Alps, but on our drive home, Mama H got to check off one of her bucket list items with a trip to the CERN supercollider used for physics research.

We were sad to see Mama H go but have been lucky enough to keep up frequent video chats and hope she can make it back soon!