I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick

Misty Gryon

Join me in Gryon, a tiny village in the French-speaking part of the Swiss Alps that is — just as my Rick Steves Switzerland guidebook says — perpetually shrouded in mist (and a fine example of the Swiss charms that await the driver who ventures off the main highways).

 

Looking for the Matterhorn

I’m home now from my spring trip to Europe — a busy month and a half of travel across Italy, Switzerland, and Ireland. It’s been fun to stow you along with me here on Facebook — and I hope you can stick around, because I’ve still got a few more little videos to share with you.

I was just in Zermatt, high in the Swiss Alps. I’ve been here twice now, and I have yet to see the fabled Matterhorn. I spent a day in my hotel room writing — and constantly wondering if she’d peek through the clouds…

Zermatt Before the Tourists?

Hello from the Swiss Alps! I’m in the shadow of the mighty Matterhorn, in the little town of Zermatt. Zermatt is extremely touristy, but once upon a time, it was a humble village of farmers. Walking down into town from the high lift stations, you pass through hamlets with 300-year-old buildings of stone and larch — and it’s easy to imagine a simpler time.

An advantage of being here before the summer peak season hits is that there are no crowds. While high-country hikes are snowed in, lots of low-elevation hikes through little farm hamlets (which are filled with Airbnb guests in the summer) are empty and evoke the old days. Join me as I imagine Zermatt once upon a time, long, long ago…with more cows than tourists.

Who’s the Highest Person in Europe?

I suppose there are people higher than me right now in Europe, but nobody who is just stepping out of a lift is higher than me. Joined by local guide Amadé Perrig, I’m in a whiteout on top of the Little Matterhorn, looking at where the big Matterhorn would be on a nice day. We’re 12,740 feet above sea level, high above Zermatt — and higher than the lifts above Chamonix and the Jungfraujoch.

Amadé, who’s climbed the Matterhorn many times, spent his career promoting tourism in Zermatt, perhaps the ultimate Alpine resort. Even in a whiteout, he couldn’t help himself and broke out into a yodel. Of course, it’s a touristy show, but it’s also real. Amadé worked in a village farm with cows and goats, carrying milk down from the high Alps. He yodeled when his Alpine spirit was doing flip-flops then, and 60 years later, he still does.

I generally try to do my guidebook research when things are hopping and in season — but my timing is a bit off this visit, and I’m here in the downtime between skiing and hiking seasons. The high trails are snowed in, and lots of places (restaurants and activities) are closed. I’m scouting for a new episode about the best of the Swiss Alps, and I’m getting some great ideas for the crew — at the wrong time of year. I’ll be back in August, and maybe then I’ll actually see the Matterhorn. Stay tuned…

Discovering a Great Tool for Wine Lovers: The Coravin

I was dropping by the various wine bars in Bellagio (as one does when working) — and at Aperitivo Et Al, Andrea demonstrated a clever tool that pulls wine from a bottle with the ease of a nurse pulling blood from an arm. With the Coravin, he can serve fancy wine by the glass without worrying about finishing the bottle before the wine goes bad.

Maybe I don’t get out much. (When I got back to my hotel and Googled the Coravin, I learned that it was invented in 2011 in Massachusetts.) Is this old news?

Here’s how I wrote up Andrea’s wine bar in the Rick Steves Italy guidebook:

[$$] Aperitivo Et Al, slick and jazzy, is a trendier wine bar; it offers mixed salumi and formaggi plates and light lunches, paired with the right wine. Andrea serves a great selection of wines by the glass (daily 11:30-24:00, Salita Serbelloni 34, tel. 031-951-523).