Family bliss in Switzerland

By David Lewis [email protected]

David Lewis lives in Praia da Luz with his wife Shirley, and two children, Ollie and Fraser. Having spent more than 25 years in the City of London, he is now Financial Services Manager with the Oceânico Group.

One of the glorious things about summer is that it brings with it the opportunity to get away from it all and enjoy time with the family somewhere new.

The Lewis household is no different and this year we decided to enjoy a mini touring break, taking in such varied activities as hiking in the Swiss Alps, followed by a more leisurely few days driving in la belle France.

Of course, the first challenge that faces any family intending to stay away from home for more than a night or two is the packing.

After weeks of making lists (regular readers will recall my complete and total reliance on a variety of lists to undertake complex tasks such as holidays), it always boils down to a frantic 24-hour period in which the entire contents of every wardrobe, cupboard and drawer have to be shoe-horned into enough bags to be just too big to fit in the car. In our case, we decided that, for the four of us, five completely stuffed bags should just about make life on the road as passable as possible.

I swear that our dear old Volvo was positively wheezing as we thundered across Europe into Switzerland.

The roads were clear and dry and the journey passed largely without incident aside from my continued inability to position our right-hand drive car close enough to the left hand drive toll booths, with the result that Shirley, my long suffering wife, had to contort herself through the passenger window in a way that was reminiscent of those valiant men in Escape from Colditz in order to retrieve our toll ticket, or to pass a few Euros to the attendant who, from her expression, had clearly seen this type of Brit escapade just once too often.

Eventually, after an overnight stop in what has now become our favourite hotel in the whole world, the Novotel (primarily because the boys get free Xbox games in the lobby, I get free Wifi and my wife gets some peace and quiet for an hour or two while we all take advantage of these modern facilities), we arrived at our hotel in Bonigen, on the banks of the glorious ice-blue waters of Lake Brienz.

I pulled into the car park, threw open the boot and watched as the entire contents of our home poured onto the tarmac.

The hotel was gorgeous, just as you would imagine a Swiss hotel would look, with large window boxes in full bloom, a wide open terrace area with unhindered views of the lake and a backdrop of snowcapped mountains.

The boys ran ahead as we piled into the hotel, Shirley happily switching into her fluent Swiss-German only to find that the owner (or at least, her husband) hailed from Manchester. It truly is a cosmopolitan world we live in.

After a few moments exchanging the formalities, we were led to our room which, as it turned out, was actually a suite complete with a bedroom each for the boys and Shirley and I, a lounge area, small kitchen and fully equipped bathroom. I was delighted. The boys were thrilled. Shirley, however, was not.

“But there’s no balcony” she complained. “I thought we had ordered a balcony”. The hotel owner looked quite down-heartened. “I will check ze booking but I am sure zat you booked zis lovely family room”.

The boys and I looked horrified. We didn’t want to give up our lovely, two-bedroomed apartment room for a balcony. If we wanted to see the lake we could just go outside.

As the owner trooped off, shoulders bowed, to check the booking, Shirley consulted her “travel bible”, the folder we carry with absolutely everything contained within it.

“Oh” she said quietly. “Whoops. There isn’t a balcony after all. Oh dear”.

After a few moments reinstating the entente cordial and explaining that we had looked at so many hotels before booking that we had got a little confused, order was restored and we began the onerous task of unpacking before heading out for a walk followed by our first taste of good Swiss beer (a recurring theme, I should add, throughout our holiday).

That evening, we all had a good meal and decided, after the travails of the day, to enjoy an early night, ready and refreshed for the new day ahead. However, all was not quite as well as it might have appeared. “Dave”, Shirley whispered as she closed the bathroom door behind her. “Mmmm?” I muttered, continuing to browse my “Speak fluent French in 10 days” manual that I had purchased, on a whim, shortly before our departure.

“There’s a beastie in the bathroom”, she added conspiratorially not wanting to alert the boys. “It ran on to the sink but disappeared down a crack behind it before I could get it.”

Now, among a long list of other things that I could happily live without, small beasties are fairly high on my list.

So, I very slowly opened the bathroom door, flicking on the light with a single movement that suggested I might just shout “Aha, caught you!” to whatever might have been lurking on the other side. I looked. I looked again. Nothing.

Then, just as I was turning to give the all clear signal to Shirley, I spotted it out of the corner of my eye. He and I just stood there, glaring at each other.

It was small, no more than a centimetre or so long but looked menacing in the fluorescent glow of the overhead bulb.

Two long feelers twitched as we stared each other out, like a pair of old-fashioned gunslingers. Who would move first?

I had armed myself with one of the deadliest weapons known to the insect kingdom, a sheet of toilet paper.

One quick move would send my adversary to that great dark corner in the sky. He moved, trying to make his escape.

I struck, to me like a lightning bolt, but I was too late. He slipped away behind the sink into the tiniest of cracks where I could just see the tips of his feelers as he waited for me to make my move.

I did. I went back to bed. This could be a long night ahead.