Originally written: July 8, 2018
This past weekend, I did something completely new and out of the ordinary. My friend, Ashley, and I went to Switzerland through one of the base’s travel agencies. The company created the itinerary, provided transportation, and booked our excursions; all we had to do was sign up and hang out with the twenty five or so other travel companions.
It also meant that I would be leaving the kids in Alex’s care for over 24 hours…. For the first time. Ever!
I know most parents have accomplished this feat a long time ago, but for me this was a huge deal. As Ashley put it, “I was really stepping out of my comfort zone.”
It was good for me, though. Way back when I first created this blog, I discussed my goals for living in Europe and one of them was to do things I normally wouldn’t be comfortable doing. The kids and I had gotten into a too-familiar pattern of me constantly being around; it was past time they saw me doing something for myself. I needed to show them that just because I’m a mom and a military wife, I can still have experiences separate from them. My reach extends farther than “mommy;” I’m also “friend” and “tourist” and my hope is that when they’re older they can pause their busy lives and plan an outing for themselves. Things like that feed the soul, recharge the batteries, and embolden one’s shy side.
Set at a very relaxed pace, the trip wasn’t overwhelmed with activities but also never experienced too long a lull. The first leg of the journey was getting to Switzerland, which involved a six hour charter bus ride. Memories of our insane London bus trip kept popping into my head, but fortunately I was able to nap and rest more this time.
We then switched transportation and boarded a Swiss chocolate train that dated back to 1915.
The interior was adorned with wood paneling, golden rails, and green upholstered seats, everything someone needed to take them back a century. It was a shame I didn’t have my flapper costume and a glass of gin with me…
The train ride was shorter than I expected but provided gorgeous views of the Swiss Alps and a complimentary pastry and coffee. Once we reached our destination, we got on a different bus that drove us to a cheese factory.
We were able to go on a walking tour through the factory with a guided audio tour. Ashley and I enjoyed the commentary of the chatty cow, Cherry, who told us about all the different foods she consumes and that she has to drink 85 liters of water a day to produce 25 liters of milk. Between this experience and the Clara Maria farm I visited in May, I know more about cheese making than I ever thought I would.
After getting sticker shock at the price of magnets in the factory gift shop, (5.80 Francs) Ashley and I got back on the bus and went to the city of Gruyeres. A quaint little medieval town set in the foothills of the mountains, it is a hidden gem of Switzerland. I wasn’t expecting to see such a beautiful little city with cobbled streets, a castle at the end of its main road, cows grazing on mountaintops, and the smell of cheese fondue wafting from street cafes.
Strolling from end to end and popping in and out of shops ended up being my favorite part of the entire trip. No matter where you looked, the view was breathtaking; I could have pulled out my book and wasted an entire day outside, reading under the nearby mountain’s shadows.
As an added bonus, Ashley and I had the opportunity to go inside the H.R. Giger Bar and have a drink while we looked around at the uniquely designed room. For those unfamiliar with Giger, he was the visual effects guy behind the movie, Alien, so the bar had all sorts of extra terrestrial features on the walls, floors, and ceilings.
The last stop on our tour was the Cailler chocolate factory, where we were taken on a guided tour covering the history of chocolate and how the Cailler company was formed. Then, at the end, we got to sample as much chocolate as we wanted. Challenge accepted!
Except, once you have two or three of those rich truffles you realize very quickly that there is “too much of a good thing.” I managed to sample every offering but couldn’t bring myself to go back for seconds of anything. I had certainly satisfied my sweet tooth.
Ashley and I endured the six hour bus ride back to our starting point, pushed through another hour of driving in my car, and ended up back out our houses around midnight. Which meant, in total, I was gone from my kids for 28 hours. I’ve got a new record to beat now!
Getting the chance to hang out with my friend for a whole day was wonderful. We talked for hours on end, got to know one another even better, and cemented our friendship even more. The sad fact about military life is that some friends you meet along the way are temporary. Once you move away from one another, you have to really put in the time and effort to remain connected, and that’s an impossible task to do with every single person you befriend year after year. However, after taking this mini-vacation with Ashley I’m confident that we are going to get along for life. This is just the first of what will hopefully be many years of adventures together.
One of the great things about Ashley (probably one of the many reason we get along) is that she’s a great writer, as well, and loves to blog like me. For this trip, she made an awesome vlog that’s a lot of fun to watch, so head over to her blog and check it out: Ashley’s Blog