In the style of the FT column of the same title
My perfect weekend begins on a Friday afternoon when I collect my wife Catherine from Vevey railway station and we head off into the Valais and the village of Nax. Whatever the season, it’s our aim to get there before the sun goes down. As the fire is lit I head off to Le Central to get takeaway pizzas. I always have the Mont Noble, the homage to our local mountain, which has smoked cheese as a topping. It’s washed down with a beer from the local artisanal brewery, also named Mont Noble. Josef, the co-owner has brewed a nice range of beers including an IPA, though the Dahu lager is the best accompaniment for pizza.
Into the Mountains
On Saturday morning I will head off for the ski slopes just above the village. There are only 5 lifts but a great range of skiing to be had, all on natural snow (no snow cannons here!). The top of the lift system is just below the summit of Mont Noble and it has fantastic views from the Weisshorn all the way round to Mont Blanc. My favourite run is from the top at 2600m down to the car park at 1500m. It has a wide variety of terrain and views.
I’ll stop at Le Chiesso for a cup of bouillon topped with red wine – a curious mixture, but one guaranteed to warm you up and provide a tonic when back on the slopes. Le Chiesso is a chalet d’alpage where cheese is made in the summer. When customers throw their small change into the large copper pot that is used to make the cheese, the staff ring the large cowbell hanging from one of the beams.
In the summer I will be up early to go hiking. It won’t quite be an alpine start, but it is good to get off before the sun comes up. I will drive up to the Lovegno Alpage and hike upto the Col for spectacular views of La Maya and the Becs de Bosson. If it’s the height of summer I’ll drive upto Arolla, where the presence of glaciers all around makes the air a lot cooler. I will hike upto the glaciers to see how far they have shrunk over the previous 12 months or go upto the Pas de Chèvres for great views of the Dent Blanche and Mont Blanc de Cheillon.
I’ll head back home for a late lunch in the sun on the balcony. I’ll call in at the local store to buy a cheese from the alpage, local dried sausage and fresh bread to make a Swiss style Ploughman’s lunch. The afternoon is spent sat in the hammock catching up with the Weekend FT, Prospect or New Scientist magazine.
Saturday nights meal will be simple – pasta is always welcome after the exercise. If I am cooking I will listen to the Foreign Desk on Monocle – one of the best current affairs programmes, as it is able to go into the detail on a range of topics. It always provides insights.
Culture and Light
On Sunday we will wake with the light and after a leisurely breakfast will head off to one of the villages in the Val d’Hérens. The villages keep the traditions alive – in winter there are activities around carnival, whilst in the summer there are festivals and cow fighting (no cows are hurt in this tradition!). We will eat at Le Trappeur in Mase which is open all day and serves Val d’Hérens steak (from the fighting cow breed) and a range of mountain food – essentially variations on cheese.
Sundown is time for a whisky and watching the light change a thousand different shades. From our balcony we look down to the Rhone Valley 800m below, and up 2300m to glaciated peaks. The sun is still lighting up the snow above us as down below the shadows are getting longer. I had never appreciated the subtle changes in light until we spent time in Nax. The village is known as the Balcony of the Sky, and its true. We are treated to oranges, pinks, reds and purples in the sky, clouds and snows as evening comes.
Sunday night Catherine and I will read or play Scrabble. One day I will win. Being in the mountains for a few nights always seems to slow down time, so as I drive down the mountain to work on Monday morning I always feel as if I have been away for a week.