Saturday, February 18, 2012

Battle of the Alps

We started our exploration of the Alps in January, as we celebrated our one year anniversary with a ski weekend in Lech am Arlberg, Austria (yes! the same place where the Dutch prince was recently a victim of an avalance... so scary!) Pause for a little detour in Milan for fashion week.  And now we are back to our adventure exploring the Alps in Switzerland and France.  After taking the train from Milan to Zermatt, we spent a few memorable days in the charming Swiss resort town.  My parents spent a few days here when they were young travelers and based on their wonderful pictures and stories, it has been on my list of places to see for quite a while.

So, the million dollar question:  Austria, Switzerland or France? 
The Austrian Alps

Naturally, we forgot our camera.  And, somehow deleted all of the pictures off of the iphone.  RIP first anniversary memories.  Moving on, here are the highlights from our trip to the Austrian Alps in Lech am Arlberg:
  • Awesome food.  Hearty soups, game dishes and of course, a plethora of wiener schnitzel.  (I am OBSESSED with the purreed pumpkin soup.  It's my go-to in all of the Alp towns.  I am bound and determined to study the Art of French Cooking until I master this skill).
  • Ridic. apres ski scene - I'm talking Euro club tunes blaring at picturesque little outdoor bars just waiting to greet you as you finish your final run of the day. (As you can imagine, awesome people watching....if you aren't in ski gear or moon boots and fur, don't bother showing up).
  • Good resort for beginners.  (The Mr. learned to ski here and was dominating by the end of the trip!)
  • Great lift access directly from the center of town.  Not to mention, lots of ski-in, ski-out hotels. 
  • Amazing mountain restaurants for a perfect ski break lunch and spectacular views (again, best soup of my life!) 
  • Fabulous spa scene (if you can get used to the fact that they are all unisex....and old German men really love to be naked).  We learned the Austrian Alp spa ritual includes a long steam or sauna followed by a dose of exposure to the cold air (and if you are really brave, a body rub in the snow!)
  • Tres chere.  (But still cheaper than the Swiss Franc).
The Swiss Alps

The most famous Alp contender and by far the most dramatic in terms of topography.  (Although, balanced out by it being the most dramatic in terms of it's ability to clear out your wallet after only a few hours).  A pictures is worth a thousand words in this case:

The town of Zermatt. Picturesque, full of good restaurants, shops and Swiss chalets.  The fact that it is pedestrian only adds to the charm. 

There are a few a downsides to Zermatt.  One being that it isn't the best ski city for non-expert skiers.  Namely, because most of the blue trails (the easiest trails on European mountains) are all at the very top of the mountain.  On one hand it's great because you get to ski in the midst of one of the most jaw droppingly beautiful scenes you've ever seen; but on the other hand, if the weather is not clear these trails are closed leaving few other options.  Secondly, getting to the top of the mountain is no easy fete.  It requires a half hour train ride (hauling skis, and all).  No ski-in, ski-out resorts.  Nevertheless, in my opinion it's totally worth it.  There are great restaurants and bars at the top of the mountain and once you get there, you are surrounded by incomparable beauty.  We were beyond lucky to have a perfect blue sky day to enjoy this magnificent beauty.  I never wanted to come back down!!

So proud that we made it to the top!!

Taking in the formidable Matterhorn.


We couldn't believe it when we stumbled upon this igloo bar.  Live music and ice bar on top the mountain.  Ski-in only.  

The French Alps

We didn't actually ski here.  Instead, we spent two days in the charming French town of Annecy (at the foot of the Alps).  Although we didn't ski on this trip (the popular resort of Chamonix is only half an hour from Annecy), I skied the French Alps with my friend A in college, so I think I can still accurately compare. 
  • Stunning Lac d'Annecy set against the Alp background is one of the most beautiful lake/mountain compositions I've seen.  
  • French food.  Obviously delish.  (The best fondue I've ever had).
  • Small French town charm.  (There is nothing like it).  
  • Bon marche (compared to the others). 


    Ok, so there's my take on the fabulous Alps.  Au revoir, everyone.  See you back in Paris tomorrow!

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