Wednesday, September 9, 2009

We spent over 200 francs and all we got was a stupid Twix

Well, a Twix and Steph's forgotten house key...

Let's rewind just a little bit... These things happen. We all forget things. Sometimes it's just less convenient than others.

The four of us arrived home from our mountain trip a little past 5 in the evening on Sunday. (A full write-up of the trip is in the works...) I walked in the door, kicked off my shoes, tossed off my backpacks, hugged Chris and settled in for a night of laziness...three minutes later the phone rang - Steph calling to say they couldn't find their house key in their suitcases and asking if they could drop by our place to dig through their bags in comfort. Naturally, we agreed. When I opened the door to two stony faces minutes later, I knew the fate of the key as well as they did, though they insisted on searching anyway. No key. Chris and Dani retreated to the back porch with whiskeys in hand as Steph began making phone calls. Could her apartment concierge help? Nope, no master key. What about a spare key left with friends or family? Nope, no spare key either. This meant two keys were locked in their apartment and one was locked in a mountain chalet that would be uninhabited until mid-October.

So what were the options? Break in a door - expensive. Break in a window - cheaper but still pricey. Skip a day of work and spend eight or nine hours on trains, roundtrip, to retrieve the key in person? That's it - the only option that would work. Thus decided, we grabbed Chinese take-out and all settled into bed (and guestbed) for the night.

The next morning Steph and I got up at six to be ready to head out the door for the seven AM train (160CHF for both) - I was going along to provide moral support and lunch company. The biggest bonus of leaving at this hour was that we would only have to change trains twice on the trip as opposed to our five changes on the way home. We grabbed a couple little pastries and sandwiches as well as a big jug of mint iced tea and caught an absolutely packed train to Bern. In Bern we changed to an equally crowded train to Domodossola where we caught an emptier train to Verdasio. The train to Verdasio turned out to be a panoramic train, so we had to pay a 4 CHF surcharge (8CHF for both) to sit in a train with window that went all the way to the ceiling - something that would have been much more enjoyable had the other occupants of the train not chosen to promptly pull their sun shades down, blocking the view. Once at Verdasio, we took the Funicar cabin thingies to the top of the mountain (27CHF). By this point it was just past 11 in the morning and we had been awake for five hours. Once there, the house was only a 15 minute walk. We arrived and opened the door. Steph stopped long enough to de-boot before running upstairs to look for the key - there it sat, right on the narrow shelf it had been left on. Thusly reunited, we took a brief photo op to celebrate the moment before shedding our unnecessary belongings to go for a nice little walk before lunch. The next train didn't leave until 2:30 and there was no sense in us not taking advantage of the gorgeous weather. We walked for about 45 minutes and then headed to our familiar grotto for lunch (65CHF because we forgot to check our total - whoops!) . Steph had a huge bowl of minestrone while I enjoyed what looked like roughly a week's supply of pasta bolognese. We sat outside as we sipped ice tea and ate lunch, enjoying the breeze. Around us, six or eight retired couples out for a day in the sun munched risotto and sipped wine. I kept a constant eye on people's shoes, making note of how many were wearing hiking boots and how many in sneakers. Since I got my own boots, I'm now obsessed with this.

Soon enough it was time to head back home. Before we left, Steph grabbed a Twix from the restaurant and I bought a jar of mountain honey for our neighbors. In the yellow cabin thingie on the way back down the mountain, we got a sever case of the giggles over the idea that maybe we made the trip just to buy a Twix, hence the title. Back in Verdasio, we caught the panoramic heading back homeward (or other-train-station-wards more likely) we were probably the only people under fifty. Apparently when you retire in Switzerland, you go for long lunches in the mountains and take panoramic trains, because everywhere we look it's socks and sandals and heads covered in white hair - I love it!

An hour later we changed trains in Brig to catch train number four to Bern, where we'll catch train number five to Fribourg. Another packed train - I was really surprised at the number of people traveling during a business day. As an added bonus, this was the fourth time passport control walked right by us. By this point, we had been in and out of Italy twice on Monday and four times this week. The train stank of burning brakes and, faintly, of people. It made me really miss the 'normal' Swiss trains.

Despite the annoyance of having to go back for the key, we actually had a pretty good day full of conversation and laughter, though the last thirty minutes to Fribourg were among the longest in my life. As a final note, after four days of hiking and riding trains, I'm completely sick of smelling people.

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