The Journey To Switzerland

Monday 30th June:

We left the house shortly after lunch, having done several final checks of windows, gas, doors, etc. However, within a mile of the house, nagging doubts crept mockingly through my mind, and by the time we had reached Benhall, I was in such a state that Mark turned Wombat around and we headed back.

Once back at the house, I, rather sheepishly, dashed back in to do a final final check, and made sure that the curling tongs I hadn't used for the better part of a year were in no danger of causing a fire. Looking back, it all seems a little silly, but at the time reason had fled and something altogether ridiculous had taken its place.

And so we started again, and this time I shut my mind as best I could to our home and lives, and went to work on acting excited about the trip. Of course, many would not have needed to act excited for a trip that promised so much, but I'm a home bird at the best of times.

And these were not the best of times, as Dad was about to go into hospital to have what turned into quite a major operation. I was having some difficulties reconciling myself to the fact that when he and Mum needed me most, I would be in Switzerland, which, as we drove along the M4, seemed about as accessible as the Space Station. Duty to parents, or duty to husband and daughter? Hmm. On top of this, I had damaged the ligaments in my right ankle, and was walking with a pronounced limp, to the accompaniment of discreet grunts of pain. Perfect for hiking in the mountains!

So the journey began, and led us that first day to the Travel Lodge in Canterbury, an uninspiring motel, at the side of the dual carriageway. Not the most promising start, but then this was not really part of the tour, just a means to an end.

We parked up, and shuffled in with our bags, noting a rather unpleasant sewagey type smell. We chose to believe that there must be cows nearby and hurried through the stench to our room. We had a family room, Stef being under 16 at the time, and found it to be functional if rather tired. To Stef's horror, the TV only received four channels, which though at first faintly amusing, by the end of the evening became rather irritating, especially as the reception on those four channels was patchy at best.

We grabbed a sandwich in “On The Run” at the petrol station outside, then I phoned Dad to wish him well with hospital. Feeling a bit of a rat, I climbed into bed and spent a fitful night, listening to the person upstairs also having a fitful night.

Tuesday 1st July:

I won pinch and punch! A major achievement that surely bodes well for the coming days. We were away from the Travel Lodge and on the ferry by 8am. Breakfast was Costa coffee and a croissant; we felt we should get into the continental spirit! We had an easy crossing, making friends with seagulls who apparently spend their lives flying back and forth the channel chasing the ferries. Do they ever touch land?

And then we were in France, belting along the E40, a long, boring, torturous road that we have travelled before, and it never gets any better! We made good time though, and stopped for diesel and lunch at a service station just before the Luxembourg border. It was extremely hot, and we found ourselves thanking our lucky stars that Wombat had climate control.

We pressed on to Larouchette, arriving at Camping Birkelt at 4pm. Sat Nav took us straight to the gate, and I found myself wishing we had had it 4 years ago when we toured Southern Germany.

“Dan” from Leeds greeted us, offering drink and welcome. This was our first experience of Euro Camp and we were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful campsite, set in trees, and the spacious tent we were shown to for our overnight stop.

It was still very hot, so we changed into swimming gear, and went for a dip in the small but wonderfully refreshing pool. We sunbathed for a while, enjoying the chance to be still, and not have to watch scenery hurtling passed us. Dad should be safely in hospital now.

Rumbling stomachs led us to the camp restaurant for some much needed “proper” food, and a cooling beer. Very nice, sat outside beneath a vast gazebo, with chandeliers! I had spinach and ricotta tortellini, Stef had salmon tagliatelle, and Mark had lasagne.

It was here that we began to realise how widely used the English language is, as there were many nationalities there, but most of the time, cross-nation seemed to use English as their common language. I was surprised, and, in a strange way, slightly disappointed, although it was to make our lives much easier on the journey.

We took a slow stroll around the camp, and were impressed by the individual pitches for campers, and the abundance of facilities. Scattered around the park were table tennis tables, badminton nets and play areas, all set, ready for use.

Mum phoned when we were back at the tent. Dad had eventually got a bed – in the women's ward! At least he's in, and set for tomorrow. Decent night. Quiet. And surprisingly comfy bed.

Wednesday 2nd July:

Up at 7:30am, packed the car, and left the site at about 8:45am. Long, long drive down to Switzerland. We stopped a couple of times, but for the most part, this particular leg of the journey passed un-regarded. I suspect my mind was back in England, imagining what Dad was going through.

We reached the Swiss border and sailed through, thanks to Mark's forethought of purchasing the necessary Vignette for using Swiss roads before we left. The first tunnels of the trip began in earnest as we passed through Basel. Many, many more followed!

As we drove down the road towards Interlaken, Stef and I took up our cameras and attempted to take photos through the open windows. It was so beautiful, but even a picture carefully framed, with perfect lighting and a steady, non-mobile base would struggle to do it justice.

We stopped at a parking place and clambered out. The water was staggeringly blue, like a well maintained swimming pool. As we watched, a woman jumped in and swam out a short way with her, rather bemused, dog paddling along gamely after her. I got the impression that it was quite cold in there.

Back in the car, TomTom directed us to the gates of Camping Jungfrau in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. The Euro Camp courier was a bit wet. She didn't seem to know what to do with us, hovering nervously, and looking slightly puzzled, giving the impression that she hadn't been expecting us.

She finally decided that it would be an idea to show us to our mobile home, which was very nice. Clean, modern and well laid out. We were looking forward to not having to walk to shared bathrooms this evening!

The camp is surrounded by mountains, and waterfalls, and overhead, a clear blue sky. The distant mountains were still iced with snow, and most of the buildings in the valley were in the traditional style, wooden chalets, with flowers adorning every balcony and window.

We unpacked, then visited the camp shop, which seemed a little pricey, but we got a few supplies. My thoughts kept turning to Dad, knowing that he should by now be being operated upon. I kept checking the reception on my mobile, which was unwaveringly good, so decided to go and take a shower.

We elected to have a quick meal at the camp restaurant. They only really had junky snacky stuff, but it didn't matter to me. I was more concerned with what was going on back home. By the end of the meal, there was still no news, so we went for a stroll through the village, Mark and Stef trying their best to distract me.

I walked along, clutching the phone, and checking the reception every few steps. We got to the cable car station and it suddenly gave a chirrup. I nearly dropped the wretched thing, and wasted a few seconds, fumbling with it before I realised that it wasn't Mum, but Mark's sister, Anne, texting about Stef's upcoming birthday.

Walked back and sat having a drink. Still no text from Mum. In these situations the mind goes into overdrive, mental navigation fails, and thoughts go careering away in all manner of directions, none particularly helpful. Suffice to say, I was sat trying to work out the quickest way to get home, when a text came through from Mum to say that the op was over, and that although it had been long, he was okay.

Next Stage: Switzerland