I don't write anything down and now I only have these glorious pictures Jackie took when my camera broke down. Heavenly paintings right there under the arches, there for me and everyone else to see, to approach, touch if we want to. No guards, no ropes, no rules about what we should and shouldn’t do to enjoy these masterpieces. I’m awed and grateful that Jackie decided to have lunch here.
But, I digress; we’re already back on the road and as the tarmac flies under our wheels I’m starting to shriek in the co-pilot’s seat. Don’t worry, Jackie’s doing an amazing job with the driving, which allows me to have an ocular orgasm as the Alps fill the entirety of the windshield and my window. They go up, and up, and up right into the mist and puffy clouds overhead. I’ve never seen mountains so high except from the air, and while that’s breathtaking itself, this is awesome.
Songs from films and lines from stories itch in my throat as I ogle at the sight. Poor Jackie, I think I chattered her silly, she’s a good listener as I’m babbling away and having all sorts of emotional seizures. Yes, I take dozens of photos of the mountains, in the mist, in the clouds, in distance, up close, far away … and dozens get erased too.
Pop, pop, pop, the hairpin turns take us closer and closer to the summit along the Simplon Pass. I’ve missed the sign for the tunnel with all my screaming and yelling, so poor Jackie has to drive, pop, pop, pop, up this winding mountain road. I’m thrilled about my mistake! We arrive at the top at last and I dash out of the car, forgetting how high we are and how badly heights affect me (imagine this: I get breathless at Denver airport!) We’re twice as high here and my running looks a bit like Tiny Tim’s. Slightly pathetic and after ten paces I’m wheezing.
But the air is brisk, thin and Alpine. It’s a scratch and sniff moment. We go for a short walk, (hey that’s the best I can manage, OK?) but I do give Jackie a quick rendition of “The Hills are Alive …” about two lines and then I have to stop. I’m out of breath. Well, actually she’s begging me to stop. What a let down, I always thought I could be the Julie double, y’know I’ve got the short hair and all, the stickie-up nose, maybe I’m a bit fatter than Julie … OK, a lot. Right, deep-six that idea and we press on.
Finally, Zermatt, at the foot of the Matterhorn, is just up the road. It’s pedestrians only, so we park the car in a town just after St Nicklaus, and a taxi takes us to the point of no return, where a little elfin-like electric 6-seater bus awaits us. It looks like an overgrown piggy bank! The drivers are all speaking Portuguese. It seems there’s a huge Portuguese colony in Switzerland, so we make the most of our fluent Spanish.
Meantime, I’ve run out of pops in my ears and my head is pounding, but I don’t want to miss a thing. I’m here! I’m in the Alps, in a little Swiss village, with all the little Swiss houses and little Swiss people walking around. Well, I think I spot a couple anyway. Then with a silent thunk, when I'm not watching, the thermometer drops below zero and it starts to snow.
Indescribable feelings of déjà-vu ripple under my skin, as we walk around, hundreds of cascading geraniums in window boxes, clean streets, beautiful views, rushing water.
Dinner at the hotel restaurant is a Swiss theme times ten. Like the hotel, everything is red-and-white, wood, and utterly charming. I’ve fallen in love with this place, headache, breathlessness and all. They're so polite they even "turn off" the giant bonging clock at night, so we can even hear our bubbling cheese fondue!