In August 2014, I went on a county Guide trip to Switzerland. There were twelve of us and I was the penultimate youngest, at just turned 29. Kate (the organiser’s daughter) was 24, then the next youngest was 52 and the other nine just skyrocketed from there, topping out in the late 70s. There are downsides to travelling as a twenty-something in a predominantly pensioner-age group: plenty of them do not want to walk anywhere and you have to keep stopping for cups and tea and pieces of cake. I am not a great believer in stopping for tea and cakes, I’m more of a believer in stopping to take in the view. I’m glad I went on my first ever international Guiding trip but next time, I might just check the average age first.
We spent two days travelling down by minibus. Our driver, Bob, tried taking the motorway down through Luxembourg to cut a corner of France and as a consequence, we got stuck in slow-moving traffic for so long that we made it to the motel with only minutes to spare on our driver’s legal driving hours.
We arrived in Grindelwald sometime in the middle of the afternoon on day two, went to the agent’s, and picked up a representative who took us down to the chalet we’d booked. Its details aren’t on the website anymore so I can’t show you exactly what it said, but I think the description matched what we saw pretty well:
There are a few steps, yes, and then you have to walk approximately thirty seconds alongside the railway line – not an intercity express railway line. This is the Wengernalpbahn, a mountain railway running approximately twice per hour, at around walking pace while it’s in the town. Nonetheless, just looking at it was enough to prompt a chorus of “how ridiculous!” from at least nine of the twelve travellers. “How can we be expected to walk all that way?”
I’m serious, we spent two hours beside the road arguing with the poor woman from the agency. They were not having it, they were not walking all the way to that chalet and it was utterly unreasonable to expect otherwise. The woman offered option after option, to be met with rejections of every single one and an insistence that there must be a chalet suitable for twelve people available immediately for a week because “it’s not as if it’s high season”. No, August definitely not prime holiday season. Disgraceful behaviour from a pack of Guides. And that was the other problem – these women acted like Brownies all week. “She said this…”, “Well, she did that…” and so on. As the second youngest in the group, I felt like the only adult there at times.
In the end, having stood arguing for two hours, the poor woman eventually said “Well… I run a B&B… I suppose you could… stay… there…”
So off we went to our new home, B&B Anita in Lütschental, in the valley halfway back down to Interlaken. It was quite nice – river at the bottom of the huge garden, views up the valley to the Eiger, sheer cliffs fore and aft, horses in the yard and a temperamental Jack Russell called Torolf who only took to me but on the other hand, it wasn’t really meant for twelve. Our driver lived quite happily outside in the caravan and the others squished in all over the place, using Anita’s private bathroom because the general-use bathroom just wasn’t enough for eleven people all trying to get out at the same time – in the middle of the morning, by the time everyone had had a shower, eaten a large breakfast around the huge table, had a cup of tea, faffed, fetched coats and shoes and finally got out the door.
At the end of the week, to thank Anita for letting us take over her home, we gave her a present and a card and we printed a photo of all of us at the Pinning Ceremony at Our Chalet and I gave her a UK Friendship Badge – I’d been carrying them around all week in the hope of meeting someone at Our Chalet I could give them to.