You, Me and Teddy

Parenting adventures and activities in and around Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


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Sun, Snow and Skiing (and a little sadness)

Hello, we are finally back after a couple of weeks in the Alps.

We were very lucky with the weather as it was mainly sunny for our whole stay and I was able to do a fair bit of ski touring up on the glaciers in between getting E comfortable on skis.

This post is going to be more of a photo gallery as I thought I’d share with you some of the beautiful sights we saw along the way.

The first photos you can see here were taken on my outing up the Glacier de Gébroulaz in the Vanoise National Park. That day was seriously windy and so they shut the chairlift which normally takes you to near the top of Glacier leaving you an hour’s skinning up to start of your run. This meant that we had to walk up the piste too in order to get there. The wind kept us cool during the climb and deterred many others from joining us so we had a beautifully clear run down.

Glacier de Gébroulaz decente

I loved looking at the spectacular ice pleats on the glacier. I had a Guide with me to make sure that we are safe and stayed well away from the crevasses but even in this image you can sense some of respect we had to treat the glacier with.

Glacier de Gébroulaz views

On our way down to our next climb: After the Gébroulaz we headed across to climb back up to 3153m and go down the Glacier du Borgne which you can see just the top of right in the middle.

View from the Glacier de Gébroulaz

That was my biggest hiking day but we did spend most of the time as high as we could as the valley was starting to look distinctly green.

La Masse

Here is the Bouquetin statue up at the top of La Masse. The Bouquetin is a type of Ibex and is the logo of Les Menuires.

Les Menuires Bouquetin (La Masse 2804m)

We went on another off piste adventure along the corniche by the Pointe de La Masse in order to do a descent down the Vallon du Lou.

Pointe de la Masse Pointe de la Masse corniche

Many people forget how stunning the mountains are in the summer too and most are pretty well sign posted for hiking. It always feels a bit odd though coming across a sign post up at the top of a mountain.

Walk in La Masse?

We came across a little Cairn (a man made pile of stones to guide travellers) before we did our final climb.Cairn at the top of La Masse Cairn and the valley

The snow was starting to melt fast towards the end of our stay and little streams started to spring up out of the rocks.

Melting snow

Rivers forming

E’s confidence on skis grew as the week progressed and she very excitedly came on trips to restaurants in different valleys. We are very much gourmet skiers in Les 3 Vallées and lunch is as much a part of the experience as the skiing. My favourite restaurant in the world is based in Saint Marcel in the Belleville Valley. It is called La Bouitte and we have been going there for over 20 years. Originally it was a very simple but excellent Savoyard family restaurant but over the past 10 years or so the father and son duo have been working on more innovative and creative dishes. The little restaurant has been expanded and a hotel built and they now have 2 Michelin stars. They have kept the relaxed mountain charm though: the dress code is mountain wear and slippers and even my mad little girl was made very welcome.

Towards the end of the week the skies clouded but I did snap the giant Bulldog at the top of Courchevel for you before we left.

Top of Saulire (2700m)

Unfortunately our week had to end on a sad note as we headed off to Haute Savoie. If you haven’t guessed my family is into skiing in a fairly major way. My grandparents were skiers and took my father and his little sister skiing from young age. My aunt passed away very suddenly at the end of last year and her wish was that her ashes be scattered at the top of Les Grands Montets in the Chamonix Valley.

It looked to be a miserable day for a sad task but as we got to the top the clouds parted and we found ourselves on a beautiful sea of cloud.

Aiguille des Grands Montets (3295m) Grands Montets

View from Les Grands Montets

Once again we had a qualified mountain guide (also a family friend) to take us onto the Argentière Glacier to remain safe. The glacier changes daily and snow bridges formed can be deceptive.

The clouds opening

 

I understand completely why she would want to be scattered in such a beautiful place.

Glacier d'Argentière

So we left my aunt to complete her final descent of the mountain and continued on to complete ours.sea of snow

The ice is stunning but frightening as you ski past huge cracks, pleats and shards.

ice shards

The glaciers in Chamonix are a different league to the 3 vallées ones.Ice crumpling under the weight of the glacier

Here you can see the foot of the glacier crumbled under its own weight.The foot of the glacier

 

It was a holiday filled with experiences and moments I will never forget.

I hope you have made yourselves some happy memories over the holidays and I look forward to our next adventures.

 

 

 

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Westside

Nope, I haven’t gone all Rap on you. This is the name of one of Switzerland’s biggest (albeit not saying much) shopping centres. It is really easy to find, just off the ring road of Bern (our capital city), and only 40 minutes drive from Neuchâtel!

We decided to spend our Saturday at Westside doing a bit of shopping, grab a nice meal and most importantly have a good old splash at Bernaqua Water Park.

E at the entrance

It was our first trip to Bernaqua, as M has been too small really up until now, but we had a brilliant time. Apparently they have 18 different indoor and outdoor pools but I think we only went in half of them and we managed to spend about 2 hours there which was plenty for the kids. All the pools are all different temperatures with different attractions and suitable for varying ages.

Our highlights were the kid’s pool area which included a shallow pool (The Jungle) with 2 small slides and various jets and showers and a Pirate ship (Takatiki) complete with cannons that you could use to shoot water at each other. And the raspberry pool (as E termed it) where jets shot up from the floor making raspberry-esque bubbles.

There was also a cinema-style pool (Solaqua) which was filled with salt water and soft lighting showing nature documentaries or cartoons. I love swimming outside when its cold like in a lot of the thermal baths you find in Switzerland. Here they had their “Fresh Water Pool” which you got into in the warmth inside but it lead you outside where they had bubble seats and benches, hot tub, waterfall, stream channel, various massage jets.

We didn’t try out the steam room or the 18°C plunge pool with the kids but we did take it in turns to go down the Canyon D’eaux Vives waterslide! It really threw you about which was good fun and you could collect rubber rings or boats to take down it from the bottom. I can’t wait for the kids to be old enough but we have a few more years yet. They have 3 more waterslides that we didn’t see, one of which you can take kids down accompanied from 4 years, but I expect it is only open in warmer weather. I think we had plenty enough to keep us busy though.

I really enjoyed the fact that the whole place was cash free including the lockers. You paid your entry and then were given a wristband and you simply had to pay the balance on leaving. This made the whole experience at the café, and dealing with any supplementary hours, so much easier.

I should probably mention that the place is not only a water park but also a Spa and a Gym. They also run Aqua fitness classes, baby and children’s swimming classes. I would really like to go back and test their Roman-Irish baths in the Spa and maybe get one of their “Wellness Formulas”.

Roman-Irish Baths

Wishful thinking? It does seem possible for a mum though (funds permitting) as they have a crèche service in partneship with Kinderland just opposite. Kinderland is an indoor play area consisting of 300m2 of fun: from climbing to building or even painting. They take 0 to 8 year olds for a maximum of 4 hours at 3 francs an hour.

kinderland

I will be back at some point that’s for sure. It’s a great activity for any time of year and guess what the Westside centre has its own Holiday Inn so if you are popping through your could stay there on route to wherever you are headed.


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Chaumont and Any Excuse for a Hot Chocolate

There is no shortage of outdoor activities in Neuchâtel. Neuchâtel is a beautiful medieval town and you literally only ever have to drive 5 minutes to be in the surrounding countryside and the views are stunning.

This weekend was cold but lovely and clear so yesterday we decided to make the most of it and take the kids up to Chaumont to have a play in the snow. Chaumont is a brilliant Sunday activity when most places are shut as there is plenty to do (and even more in the summer).

We often get the funicular up from la Coudre (E loves this) although it only goes once an hour on a Sunday. An hour allows you plenty of time to explore Chaumont or a couple to have a nice lunch in the Petit Hôtel de Chaumont. You can also drive up which we did this time. It is very easy as there is plenty of parking and you don’t have to worry about timetables.

Next to the top of the funicular is a children’s playground which is great for all ages. They have swings, two separate climbing frames for big or small kids and a zip line tyre swing.

little kids playground and view

big kids plaground full

They also have some educational activities about the local wildlife and plants and a picnic area for when its warmer.

trees

Our plan was to have a bit of a play and then warm up with a nice hot drink. I think E would have stayed on the swings until she froze to one but we managed to bribe her inside with the promise of a hot chocolate.

I haven’t actually been to the Petit Hôtel since it changed hands and I was pleasantly surprised. The restaurant has always had a fabulous panoramic view but it has been redecorated and they have made an effort to make it kid friendly with high chairs and some toys and colouring books.

petit hotel

Once we had warmed up we went out again to watch the sun starting to disappear behind the mountains from the viewing tower. It is one Franc to go up per entry but I could squeeze the two kids through the turnstile with me.

viewing tower

viewing tower entrance

Don’t look down as you walk along the slippery bridge… the whole experience is not for those who are suffer from vertigo.

viewing tower bridge

I did not expect things to be as clear as they were for such a grey day. You could see all the way from Pilatus to the Eiger (where we were last weekend) to Mont Blanc!

view to east

IMG_8269

With older children you can walk back down via the Sentir du Temps. I have done this before when E was small and I could carry her on me in a harness. This is a great trail that is lined with carvings that take you all the way from the birth of the solar system through to the evolution of man on Earth but as its 4.5km its asking a bit much of my two year old especially in snow.

So we hopped back in the car to head home to snuggle up on the sofa and watch some more snowy landscapes in Ice Age.

view to south


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A Shopping Trolley, A Slide & Grindelwald

One of my objectives in writing my blog was to compile a list of places to go in Neuchâtel with children. What I have discovered since being a mum is that sometimes the simplest things can bring the most pleasure.

Yesterday was a mummy-daughter bonding day. We spent the day in Marin (a commune just out of Neuchatel town) whizzing around the shopping centres. I had plenty of chores to do but actually E loves shopping with me so she was happy.

Shopping

In most the supermarkets here you can get various shopping trolleys: there are the standard ones, ones shaped like cars complete with horn (to beep continuously) and often miniature ones that your child can push about (and generally try to run down other customers in the shop). Yep you guessed it: the latter trolley is my little monster E’s favourite! Once we had our trolley we commenced on our rounds and the challenge of preventing E from trying to fill it with unwanted articles or from bashing unsuspecting grannies started.

When the weather is bad in Neuchâtel the challenge is finding good indoor activities. Often it is crafty home baked ideas but sometimes we go in search of indoor play areas. Most of the big chain restaurants or supermarket restaurants have a toy corner or play area. I know it does not seem like much but these places are great for us as we can grab our elevenses or tea and break up our day without having to deal with the usual boredom battle in a normal cafė or pop home.

We managed to go to two of these yesterday: the Migros restaurant Marin Centre for elevenses and the Manor restaurant in Centre Manor for lunch. The first is pretty fun with a climbing frame with tunnel and slide but the Manor one has really gone downhill. Manor used to have a chalk board with chalk, seesaw, tv with movies, rocking horses and even a slide at one point however now they just have a couple of chairs, a broken toy and a playhouse with a broken door and no chalk. E spent the whole time trying to fix the playhouse door or getting me to try. I am a bit sad about how useless the Manor play area is now as it has really gone from hero to zero but the food is good so we still go.

It was great to have a whole day with E on our own. Our relationship suffered a bit initially with the arrival of M and the usual sibling jealousy but since I have managed to wangle some time for us every week things have definitely improved. I am utterly grateful that this has been made possible for us. I would be interested to hear how others manage the sibling balance?

Another busy day in our busy lives but this weekend I am doing something special: I am in Grindelwald to see the 84th International Lauberhorn Race! Here is the view from our hotel:

IMG_7965

I will take some more pictures for you over the weekend 🙂 Very excited!

Also I just wanted to add a big thank you to the wonderful grandparents who are being stars and keeping the kids.