|The boys in Switzerland|
When our sons were young we holidayed in the mountains at least once every year. We visited many European countries, Canada, USA, and of course here in the UK. Sons and H would wear corduroy knee trousers, and a nice pair of red wool socks in their walking boots. We would set off from the hotel in the mornings with our rucksack packed with bread and cheese, chocolate, fruit and a drink. Other items we always carried were binoculars, wildflower/butterfly books, and the boys had their walking sticks covered in medallions purchased from the various mountain huts and villages visited over the years.
A very essential item was youngest son’s Action-man doll, which travelled to the peaks of many of Europe’s highest mountains. Youngest son could climb like a mountain goat getting far ahead of the rest of us. I always straggled along at the rear. When he made a good margin of distance from us, he would set up Action-man on a boulder, or rock and strategically position him in a suitable pose with gun in hand or grenade ready to be thrown.
One of the hotels we stayed in has special memories. It was a very old wooden chalet in Les Marėcottes, Switzerland. We flew to Geneva and then caught the train that goes past Lausanne. At the station in Martigny we alighted, and crossed the line to catch a little cog railway train that ran up through the mountains to Chamonix, stopping on the way in Les Marėcottes, our destination. The hotel was a very special place, and had a fresh milky smell about it. Our bedrooms also had a distinct scent of the countryside which we discovered to be caused by the mattresses. The bedding was brilliant white and crisp, but on getting into the bed, it was really spongy and soft. On inspection we discovered that the mattresses were made of newly mown and dried alpine grass, strewn with wild flowers. The smell was delicious.
Each week in the hotel, one evening was allocated to a Fondue Night. Out first week was a cheese fondue and the second meat. The boys and ourselves loved it, we had never tried a fondue before. Of course, the outcome was that we came home armed with our own Swiss Fondue set, which has remained in the cupboard and has been very infrequently used.
The other thing I remember were the lovely little gardens in the village, and the rich black soil. Something we saw growing that was completely new to us was Swiss Chard. In the late 1970s the variety of vegetables available in the stores back home was not like the array today. The chard looked wonderful growing out of the soil with its white, yellow and ruby stems topped with shiny, curly, leaves.