As a self-confessed adrenalin junkie, I don't often pass an offer of trying my hand at a new sport. So, when I was offered to try a ski jump in Kandersteg, Switzerland, I jumped at the chance. I had seen Eddie action in the film Eddie the Eagle and always fancied having a go. And the fact he trained at the very same jump centre I was heading to, made it all the more intriguing.
This quiet small alpine village in the Bernese Oberland is lesser known for its thrill seeking alpine ski activities unlike its St Moritz and Davos counterparts. Instead, due its largely flat surface, it's popular with cross country skiers. But now it's aiming high as the local jump centre the Nordic Arena is back in action and both national and international skiers are flocking to the area to train for the forthcoming ski season.
The centre, which was disused for many years, was reopened last year and is being transformed into a centre of excellence. The excitement has been so great that great former professional athletes are now returning to the area bringing along with them their expertise and knowledge to pass on to the next generations. And because the hills can be used both in the summer and winter, the place is abuzz all year around.
The trilogy of truly scenic hills offers the perfect combination for all sorts of training needs whether you're a beginner or a pro. In fact, the national ski jump team were practising on the slopes the very same time as I tested my nerves on the baby slopes alongside them. I was glad they were too focused on what they were doing to look at my measly attempt.
Ski Jumping is not easy. Fact. But the aforementioned ski jumpers make it look incredibly so. A jump from just 20 metres high was enough to send me hurtling down the slope head first. But it didn't stop me from trying again. 'Squat as deep as you can when you're about to land,' shouted my instructor. Finally, on my fourth attempt I managed to do a successful jump without crashing. Granted I only leapt less than foot into the air but experts aren't made overnight!
There are many activities you can throw yourself into here from cross country skiing, with over 100km of skiing tracks, to alpine skiing and snow shoe hiking to one of my favourites - tobogganing. Taking a gondola up in the mountains and then racing down a toboggan is a fun mode of transport I could get used to. Surrounded by the Alps and fresh air, it gives you every inch of the feeling of being a world away from life's stresses.
When engaging in all these mountain activities, food is integral to fuel the body. And the Swiss certainly know how to do food well. Chocolate aside, staple dishes like fondue, raclette and rosti can be found pretty much in every restaurant.
The rosti was particularly good at the Landgastof Ruedihus, which was parallel to its ambience, which stems from a 250-year tradition of hospitality. It's no surprise then that kings, princes and United Nations Secretaries-General have all spent the night at the rooms above the restaurant. This indulgent mix of grated potato, with salt and pepper, fried in a pan was so good I barely had room for the rest of the main. Besides, I told myself I needed carbs to replenish those I had burned off during the day! Meanwhile cheese lovers can rejoice in copious portions of raclette and fondue. The latter is served in an iron pot where cheese is melted alongside flour, wine, garlic and lemon. The creamy mixture is then scooped up with bread, meat or vegetables.
With most activities taking place at the break of day (activities are also offered at night here thanks to the illuminated night track in the heart of the village) breakfast is essential. We stayed at the Waldhotel Doldenhorn (sister hotel of Landgastof Ruedihus) where we enjoyed a breakfast fit for a king. Run by the Maeder family, this 4-star abode oozes Swiss charm with its wooden rustic exteriors and interior set in its own idyllic grounds with a cross country ski run on its doorstep.
The rooms here are simple and practical but charming none the less. Just a humble TV and the shower perhaps give away that the room belongs to the modern day. But in a place like this you don't need any distractions. The views out to the forest or of the mountains are all you need for a much-needed digital detox.
The lounge and bar area with its comfy sofas and cushions is the place to meet for a catch up over the complimentary tea and cakes or indeed a drink late in the evening. Oh, and expect to be pleasantly entertained by a pianist at various points of the day!
But if it's total relaxation you are after, then a trip to the hotel's spa in the basement is a must. With no less than six saunas, a jacuzzi, swimming pool and a relaxation area, you can easily will away a number of hours. Well it's not every day you engage in a strenuous sport like a ski jump.
SWISS flies from all major airports. All-inclusive fares start from £54 one-way, including all airport taxes. The Swiss Travel System provides a dedicated range of travel passes and tickets exclusively for visitors from abroad. The Swiss Transfer Ticket covers a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and your destination. Prices are £116 in second class and £188 in first class.
For more information on Switzerland, visit www.MySwitzerland.com.
During my visit, I was hosted by Switzerland Tourism. All views and opinions are my own.
As I watched the plumes of smoke rise from the chimnies and curl against the deep-blue sky, I couldn't have felt more relaxed, even though I felt like a walking ice block, thanks to the freezing temperatures. It was my first day in the breathtaking city of St. Gallen, Switzerland.
Known by many fashion lovers for its buoyant textile industry (St. Gallen produces embroidery for a wealth of international designers), this petite and perfectly formed town has charm in spades. From its renowned ornate bay windows ‘orioles’, which used to signify people’s wealth, to stunning historical buildings, there are an abundance of gems waiting to be found around each corner.
Must-see architectural wonders in St. Gallen include: The Abbey Cathedral of St Gallen, a Baroque masterpiece, the 15th century Church of St. Lawrence, and the Abbey Library of Saint Gall, a UNESCO World Heritage site. If more modern architecture is your thing, then ensure you visit the Pfalz of St. Gallen, home of the cellar vaults, which were converted into unique meeting rooms in 1999 by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The entrance features a spectacular modern gate with a large curved arch, that's simply screaming for an Instagram photo.
The best way to experience St. Gallen is a 1-hour guided tour of the historic old town with its romantic alleyways. When in St. Gallen, you must try a St. Galler Bratwurst - a crisply grilled sausage made from veal that's traditionally enjoyed with a 'burli' (bread roll). Afterwards, grab a legendary hot chocolate at the Chocolaterie Koelbener Cafe Pelikan, perfect for warming you up on a cold winter's day.
When it comes time to retire for the evening, if you're looking for a unique place that won't break the bank, stay at Hotel Vadian, a budget hotel that gives its proceeds to support its care home for those less fortunate.
If you have time to venture further afield during your visit, the rutral area around St. Gallen is gorgeous and perfect for those seeking outdoor pursuits, given its wonderful hiking and cycling routes that boast never-ending views over Lake Constance and the surrounding mountains.
With so much to see and do, one thing's for certain, you'll be spoilt for choice in this magical town!
For more information visit:
Key dates to visit:
The International Buskers Festival (featuring contemporary street arts): 12-13 May 2017
St. Gallen Festival (arts festival): 2017 dates TBC
St. Gallen Open Air Festival (outdoor music festival): 29 Jun- 2 July
*During my visit I was hosted by the Tourist Board of Lake Constance and Hotel Vadian
A seriously stylish city that's bursting with culinary and cultural delights...
When the Lausanne Tourist Board invited me to experience the pleasures of Lausanne first-hand, I jumped at the chance, despite being fully aware of how chilly Switzerland would be in November! Now, I'll be honest, before I'd visited I knew very little about Lausanne, so it was definitely an eye opening experience to learn what a wonderful city and to discover the sheer abundance of things to see and do.
Despite Lausanne being the second largest city on Lake Geneva (after Geneva) with 130,000 residents, it retains its small town charm evident by its friendly locals. The city is built on three hills, which our host informed us is what gives the ladies of Lausanne the 'best legs in Switzerland'. Resting on the shores of Lake Geneva and surrounded by vineyard-covered slopes and the majestic Alps, visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to capturing envy-inducing holiday photos.
During this trip I was hosted by the lovely Lausanne tourism board and the stunning Hôtel de la Paix. Thanks also to Durig Chocolatier for a wonderful chocolate-making experience. All words and opinions are my own.
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