chestnut book blog

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I read once that you should go to at least one new place each year. Switzerland was my first new place for 2014. I’ve skirted around the borders before, in France, in Italy and Germany, but Switzerland itself was a bit of an unknown. As you can see though, it was beautiful:

The Slopes, Nendaz

The Slopes, Nendaz

Haute Nendaz, looking towards St Bernard's Pass

Haute Nendaz, looking towards St Bernard’s Pass

Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva


We stayed in a beautiful chalet and this book was on the bedside table in our room – Swiss Watching: Inside the land of milk and money – I couldn’t resist a flick through! With a slight disclaimer that I didn’t have time to read the whole thing, what I did read was very good. Not only was it funny, but it also summed up some of my own observations of Switzerland. Here are a few headlines:

– The countryside, lakes and mountains  are absolutely stunning, but there is a surprising amount of ugly graffiti in towns.

– CH is used on Swiss number plates. I was confused by this as it seems to bear no resemblance in any language used in Switzerland to the country’s name: La Suisse, Schweiz etc. This book informed me that, because of the many languages used in Switzerland, and the Swiss love of consensus, they chose a long dead language to use as their international registration code. Confoerderatio Helvetica – the name for the area from an ancient Roman tribe.

– I love cheese. I didn’t like fondue as much as I thought I would though. There is much more to Swiss cooking than fondue though. See here for some examples we tried. The food was eye-wateringly expensive, but excellent quality wherever we went. As we were in the french-speaking area it was also (luckily for me as I’m not a huge fan of German food I’m afraid) more French than German influenced.

– This bit made me laugh: ‘But the Swiss and the British are more alike than either realise. Both societies are ruled by etiquette and red tape, and outsiders find it hard to make friends or become fully integrated. Added to that both share a reluctance to commit to European federalism, have a common distrust of the Germans and want to keep their own currency.’ Massive generalisations there, but more than a grain of truth I think!

– Switzerland is, of course, land locked. This book argued that the mountains have historically served a similar purpose to the sea and helped keep Switzerland somewhat isolated and remote. I thought this was interesting. I also found that I was very aware of not being anywhere near the sea, for the whole time I was in Switzerland. This was a bit strange and unexpected. I think I must have been a sailor in a former life because I love the sea and could never live in a land-locked country I don’t think.

All in all, we had a wonderful time in Switzerland and I’d recommend it for a short visit. I won’t say too much about the skiing we did itself, apart from to say that I came home in one piece, but with some huge bruises!


Love in a Cold Climate

Nendaz Plateau

Courtesy of wikicommons and Norbert Aepli

On Valentine’s Day night this year, I will be throwing my things into a case as I prepare to leave for a week in Switzerland. Romance will have to wait until the next day when we are safely snuggled up by the fire in Nendaz. This is my first visit to the land of the clocks, chocolate, banking and snow and I’m excited. In theory, as well as sitting besides fires and doing some snowy walks, there will also be skiing involved. Staggering around like Bambi on ice might be the more accurate description of what I will be doing though! While I’m thinking about packing, I thought I might share a few of my holiday essentials with you in case you need inspiration for a get-away as well.

1. Books!

You didn’t really expect me to start with anything else did you? Whilst I am very tempted to take Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate as the title is so perfect,  I’m actually going to take Longbourn and How to be a Heroine. Longbourn is a re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the servants. Normally, I’m not a big fan of meddling with the classics, but I think this sounds very interesting and I will make an exception. As for How to be a Heroine, any book that starts with the author realising that all her life she’d wanted to be Cathy (Earnshaw) when really she should have wanted to be Jane (Eyre) gets my vote! I can’t wait for more revelations and musings from author Samantha Ellis. I suspect it will make me want to go back to all my old favourites!

2. Suncream and Sunglasses

Hopefully it will be sunny as well as cold and snowy in Switzerland, but regardless, I’ll be wearing my favourite sporty sunglasses (these ones are fab too) and suncream.

3. Cosy knits and layers

Mountain Warehouse have some good offers on pure merino wool base layers at the moment. I’ll be wrapping up in these during the day beneath my outer gear and then relaxing in soft fleece and jersey on an evening as I tuck into my fondue. Hush does lovely soft leggings, knits and cosy, casual outfit ideas if you haven’t come across them before.

4. My new favourite film

I’m more of a reader than a television or film viewer, but I have been absolutely loving the film Paul recently. Have you seen it? It is incredibly silly, but I laughed so much I cried the first time I watched it and I may have indulged several times since as well! I’ve also got season two of Game of Thrones and all of American Horror Story to catch up on so I should have plenty of viewing choices.

5. Audio

On the flight out, it will be very early, so I thought I’d listen to some podcasts rather than reading. I’ve downloaded several episodes of Radio 4’s Book Club and Books and Authors programmes. I’m also trying out Audible, with a free download of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I’ll let you know how I get on! If you would like to try it too, you can get a free download using this link.

I hope you are all doing well and if you are going on holiday soon, have a wonderful time!