Sunday was to be our last full day in Switzerland. The plan was to visit the Val d’Anniviers and complete all the activities that had been missed because of the weather during our first attempt on Thursday. We managed that and some more.
Marie-Francoise and Roland collected us from Serafino at about 9:15 and we headed off to Vissoie where Michel was celebrating mass at 10:00. We were there early enough to “meet and greet”, not that we knew anybody but Marie-Francoise and Roland did. We met Michel’s older brother, Sylvan and his wife, Marie-Rose, and Marguerite, one of Michel’s sisters.
After mass we stood about and talked for a while and then set off to Sylvan’s house in the lower part of St Jean, a nearby village, where we had been invited for a drink and something to eat. In addition to our group, sylvan, his wife and Marguerite, we were joined by a French woman who lived in the valley and spoke excellent English. We had met her after mass and discovered that one of her grandsons was leaving next week to spend a year studying law at a university in Brisbane – the world really is a small place. We enjoyed some local Chardonnay made by a member of Sylvan’s family and dried meat in the Valaisienne style.
From there we drove to the Clostzahan, Michel’s traditional mayen (seasonal residence) outside Grimentz. Building on such traditional sites is tightly controlled to preserve the heritage value and the environment. Michel’s property has 4 small buildings – his original chalet, a small building with kitchen and bathroom, a converted cheese store used by Roland and a specially built small cabin used by Marie-Francoise. We explored the area and admired the plentiful wildflowers while Michel prepared to cook raclette in the traditional style.
Raclette consists of a half-wheel of cheese that is progressively melted and scraped off for individual servings to be eaten with boiled potatoes and pickles and washed down with white wine or tea. In the modern Swiss method the half-wheel of cheese is stood upright in a special device with an electric heater mounted above. Michel’s traditional method required a fire burned down to coals and a rock and boards to hold the cheese horizontally in front of the coals. Michel had obtained some special local cheese which made a very flavoursome raclette. After we had all eaten our fill, we cleaned up and made ready to go.
Our next stop was the Glacier Moiry which is at the top of the western fork of the Val d’Anniviers. We drove up past the point where we had watched the cows on Thursday but this time the barrage and the lake beyond were clearly visible. We parked in the area at the top of the lake and walked up the sometimes steep and always rocky track towards the glacier. Along the way we enjoyed the flowers and the variety of rock formations including some with signs of heavy glacial scraping. At the glacier we were able to squeeze into a blue ice cave under the toe and then climb onto the glacier itself. Emily decided that glacial mud would be a good cosmetic treatment and applied some to her face. The glacier itself is an awe inspiring sight especially where it falls steeply around a corner just above the final section. We walked back down, drove to the barrage and enjoyed a walk and drinks.
On the way down the valley we stopped at Grimentz so that Emily and I could have the pleasure of walking through the picturesque old part of town. Majella had done that on a previous visit. There had been a music festival there that day and there were still lots of people winding down. At the far end of the village we walked on a little further to visit the roadside chapel that Nick, on a visit a couple of years ago had characterised as a chapel for one. It seems he had made the classic programmer’s “off by one” error because, when we looked inside, it was clearly set up for two.
Majella had been planning to take Marie-Francoise, Roland and Michel to dinner at a restaurant in Sierre. Given the time and that Michel was staying in the valley that week we decided it was more suitable to have dinner in the valley. Michel checked the restaurant of a friend at St Jean but all he could offer was fondue. We thought that raclette for lunch had filled our cheese quota. Instead, on Michel’s advice, we drove up to a restaurant in St Luc. That turned out to be an inspired choice. The food was good and we had a table by a window with panoramic views of the valley and up the valley to the back of the Matterhorn. This time the clouds really were lifting and we enjoyed the best views we had had of the mountain though from a different angle than we had anticipated.
It was after sunset by the time returned to Sierre. We spent some time with Marie-Francoise and Roland to watch the end of the World Cup final and then went downtown to see the revelry of the Italy supporters. It was after 11:00 by the time we got back to Serafino. We did some packing in preparation for our departure on Monday and then got to bed.