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Diavolezza. A place of Eternal Ice and She-Devil legends.

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Switzerland - At about 3 000 metres about sea level the Diavolezza or ‘Beautiful She Devil’ is one of the most popular skiing destinations in the area. With its eight peaks, ice-capped ridges and perfect mountain scenery set to cast a spell over all who visit. 

We took a bright yellow gondola to the top where the impressive views drew our attention to the Pers and Morteratsch Glaciers, as well as Piz Bernina which peaks at 4,049m, the highest mountain in the Eastern Alps! It’s impressive beyond words.

Given the season many hikers were choosing to take the steep paths up to the mountain instead, oblivious to our chosen mode of transport gliding high above them.

There is a legend associated with Munt Pers which gave Diavolezza its name - Beautiful She-Devil, which can be read here. From my perspective this was one of the most impressive glacial sites I’ve encountered and if it comes with the risk of a mesmerising She-Devil, I am all for the risk …

The top station has a good restaurant, outdoor deck which captures the best view and the highest jacuzzi in Europe with Berghaus Diavolezza offering a selection of rooms should you wish to overnight. Now wouldn’t that be a treat!

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In awe of the beauty of this place …

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Highlighting the various hikes and ski run options from the top into the mountain. With Munt Pers the main one.

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The restaurants and gift store, where a hot chocolate in the warmth of the sun is a must have.

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The lakes between the mountains are a mineral teal colour, mesmerising and tranquil, with hardly any movement at all.

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Many hikers were opting to walk up with their hiking poles, something that is only possible in the Summer months.Come winter, this is ski run.

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The gondolas not only transport people up and down the mountain, they also manage a system of filling the bottom with fresh water to be transported to the top on each trip. It balances the cable car whilst fulfilling an important service. Genius!

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A bit of a photobomb in this pic of me in the gondola taken on my GoPro.

Brrrrrrrrr .....

Switzerland - The funicular to The Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl just outside St Moritz is met at the valley station Punt Muragl.

It takes ten minutes to climb the 2201m of steep mountainside through sweet smelling pine trees, to reach this spot which has known a century of hospitality. At a height of 2456m above sea level the temperatures drop with the climb, and on the night settled at -2C on the hotel’s wooden deck, with sprinklings of snow underfoot.

The Swiss adage build high for overview and maximum sunshine has been adhered to, bringing you best vantage point to enjoy magic hour, as they refer to that perfect time when dusk falls.

Sheer panoramic indulgence with the song of cow bells reaching you on the chilly wind … The Romantik Hotel offers 16 rooms, sumptuous dining on regional delicacies and fine local wines in their Mountain Dining Restaurant. With its snug ambiance it will warm you for days.

Take in the panoramic tour here.

Switzerland - St. Moritz as the birthplace of winter tourism is celebrating its pioneering role and long-standing tradition as a tourist destination with all kinds of festivities. In light of the occasion, Engadin St Moritz put together this video to take us through their history and formation …

In 1864 a Swiss bet a Brit that he’d discover Magic … He won the bet.

For a look at my visit in St Moritz see here.

St Moritz. The Oldest Winter Holiday Resort in the World.

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Switzerland - ‘Did you enjoy the Alps? Did you feel fabulous?'

My favourite question from a friend on my return from Switzerland. The answer of course was YES! I did. I still do. I always will have elated feelings about my #SwitzerlandwithSWISS trip.

Especially as I think back on my time in St. Moritz which is currently celebrating 150 years of Winter Holidays. 

   Dating back to 1864, this cosmopolitan town which is aptly described as chic, elegant and exclusive is located at 1856 metres above sea level in the Upper Engadin lake region. Build up on the site of therapeutic hot springs enjoyed from the start of history, its here at Switzerland’s highest lying mineral spa that a healing energy bubbles up to benefit and draw visitors to the region.

   Yet I was to learn from Stephanie Elmer of the Tourismusorganisation Engadin St. Moritz that it was a wager not a cure that led to St Moritz’ establishment as a top holiday destination. ’150 years ago Hotelier Johannes Badrutt promised his English summer guests heaven on earth: he made a bet that even in winter they would be able to enjoy the mild Engadin sunshine on his terrace in shirtsleeves; if not he would reimburse their travel costs - both ways’. The guests took up the challenge, coming back at Christmas only to return home at Easter tanned, relaxed and happy. And so winter tourism in the Alps was born. The British flocked to the region each summer leaving their mark in the form of polo, cricket and an appreciation for the harmony between rustic tradition and upper-class service that can still be felt here today… 

   This tradition and elegance is indeed matched with an average of 322 days of sun a year to provide that dry champagne climate that they’re know for. I was there on the 1st September, there was a fresh sprinkling of powdery snow on the mountain tops, the sun was out and the setting was picture perfect.

   On arrival we were transferred the short distance to the Schweizerhof Hotel where we spent the night. A family owned four start hotel located in the middle of town, with my room overlooking the square. Offering convenience and every amenity, as well as a small healthy facility, fine dining room and helpful staff, the most appealing part for me that you can walk everywhere from here. That and the little temperature indicator in the bedroom window guiding me on how to dress …

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From my hotel room looking towards the town square, this indication that it’s pretty cold out there.

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  Three different cultural regions converge in St. Moritz. The Romansch language of the Swiss, close proximity and influence of Italy and local German speaking population. Seeking out the best of these worlds, our afternoon was spent with our guide Mario; charming, friendly and Italian, who took us on a walking tour, my favourite way to meet a place. Here he is looking rather dapper as he offered his anecdotal accounts of growing up in St Moritz and all it has to offer.

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   We walked down to Lake St Moritz to take in the views. These spyglasses thrilled me. When you look through them across the lake you get a visual of what it looks like all frozen over in the Winter time. Horse racing and ice polo at play. Such a fun idea.

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   Whilst walking the streets I heard of the need for St. Moritz to protect its name as a trade mark – the first resort to do so – and how it is now registered in around 50 countries. Also about all the famous guests who had frequented this place which embodies such style, among them Alfred Hitchcock, Brigitte Bardot and Gunter Sachs as well as Charlie Chaplin, Henry Ford, Greta Garbo, Thomas Mann, the Kennedy family and the Shah of Persia. The reason is obvious …

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Loved the detail on the buildings.

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Murals above the arch way.

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Church in the middle of town.

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From the nature trail looking back, I couldn’t resist a selfie.

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Church on the side of the shores of Lake St Moritz.

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   Oh, and probably the best big brand shopping imaginable! Whether its designer clothing, a Maserati or fine Swiss Chocolate you’re in the right place and the shopping bags are about the right size for the spree.

   Be it Winter or Summer, you will find every sport on offer in this outdoor paradise from hiking, mountain biking, skiing, sailing on offer here. Actually they told me at the Hotel that the only thing they couldn’t organise for me was deep sea fishing … Love that humour.

   As for the numbers, in 1830 St. Moritz counted only 200 inhabitants which has increased to about 5400 today. During high season I’m told that 21000 guests and employees join the ranks and leave the town bursting with a sense that adventure based happiness is within easy reach.

   I loved the sun shining down and the dry crisp champagne air, the towering mountains at the start of Autumn, and would much recommend a visit at this time. Although as the World’s Oldest winter holiday resort, and as a nature lover, I’d love to go back when the lake is frozen over and glühwein forms a crucial part of your daily diet.

   Congratulations to you St Morritz on 150 Years of Winter Tourism! Here’s to millennia more …

My St Moritz recommendations:

  1. Try the local nut cake or Bündner Nusstorte - so very good!
  2. Book a guide if you can, well worth it to learn more about the various buildings and the significance they hold in the town’s history. It also diversified the route taking us up a circular nature trail and off the main roads.
  3. In the Design Centre take the escalators down to the terrace overlooking the lake, we took them down but walked back up … (to combat the nut cake indulgence). That said, a leisurely stroll around Lake St. Moritz and past its picnic spots and look out points is a must.
  4. Stock up on chocolate. Its Switzerland!
  5. Visit the Tourism Office for their comprehensive maps and kind assistance, one of the best I’ve encountered.
  6. Visit the original Heidi Hut on the mountain just outside town.
  7. Take the funicular up to The Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl which at 2400m above sea level boast the most beautiful vantage point in the area. Endless beauty, sublime locally sourced food at their Mountain Dining Restaurant and ambiance for days.
  8. Go in the Spring time when you can have the place pretty much to yourself … Go back in Winter to find out what he celebrations are all about.

An indulgent, healthy, adventure based, beautiful place to visit.

Contact Stephanie Elmer of Tourismusorganisation Engadin St. Moritz at stephanie.elmer@estm.ch  | www.engadin.stmoritz.ch. There’s a great App too that will help with your planning.

Switzerland - We took to the numerous impressive modes of transport on offer in Switzerland to maximise on the experience. Trains, panoramic routes, tunnels, viaducts, funiculars, ski-lifts, cableways, busses and happy feet on cobbled walk ways. Beauty abounds in this postcard perfect country, an infectious pride and respect. This is a little of what it looked like on the move … #‎SwitzerlandwithSWISS‬

Switzerland - There’s a romance to train travel. In this case much enhanced by the comfort of a first class cabin and its impressive curved windows, which allow a full panoramic view towards the impressive Alps.

We travelled from Chur, the oldest town in Switzerland, to St Moritz and the next day onward to the Italian town of Tirano where we stopped for a pizza and cappuccino. As one does whilst moving through  

The area we contains Europe’s highest density of castles, there are mysterious gorges, world famous viaducts and 55 tunnels. 

Crimson coloured train carriages, quaint villages on hills and in valleys, church steeples peeping out above tree line and freshly fallen snow capped mountains in the distance. The beauty astounds, as do the impressive masterpieces of the art of civil engineering. Railways loop and climb within the mountain, circling as they gain altitude. At the one point we saw the same Church three times as we progressed.

We travelled through a UNESCO World Heritage site over railroads planned and laid out over a hundred years before. When tunnels were chiselled by hand men took on the height of the giants. 

Best bit, when planning that trip to Switzerland and once your flights are secured with Swiss Airlines, you can get a Swiss Pass in advance. Rail Europe are the official distributors for the South African market and can be contacted here

Read Switzerland and Beyond with Swiss International Airlines here. And on the official website for the Swiss Travel System.

Switzerland and Beyond With SWISS Airlines.

Switzerland - Breakfast arrives by trolley. A sophisticated spread of cured meats, Swiss cheeses, croissant, muesli and cut fruit. The tone is hushed and the attendant charming and attentive. He brings good coffee and fresh orange juice with a warm smile. I want to freeze time for just a while…

I’ve just woken from a comfortable night’s sleep on Swiss Airlines A340-300 between Johannesburg and Zurich. I’m in their Business Class section and completely understand why its regularly voted the best in Europe. My flat-bed seat is private and snug and I can’t resist a mini stretch whilst pushing the buttons to bring it back to a seated position. I feel as though I have the plane to myself and looking through the window as light returns to the sky, one thing is evident. Life is good.

By invitation of Swiss Airlines I’m on an educational trip to Switzerland, about to be shown much of the beauty this uniquely diverse country has to offer.

From the moment I’d boarded to a glass of bubbly and impeccable care the night before, I knew I could relax into the experience. Efficient, carefully planned and in excellent travel company, I had a whirlwind wonderful few days ahead of me.

I confess that before the trip my knowledge of Switzerland never extended much beyond a collection of cliches: alpines, banks, skiing, funiculars, watches, cheese, chocolate, Heidi and the Hills Being Alive with the Sound of Music. Yes, there is all that and it is wonderful, but there’s much more and the focus of our trip was to learn more about the living customs, traditions, different regions and Switzerland in the Summertime.

This we did by taking three of the Swiss Travel System's Panoramic Routes that criss-cross the towering Alps, walking St Moritz, visiting a glacier and exploring Bellinzona, Locarno and Ascona in the Ticino region. Where Swiss efficiency meets Italian spontaneity. It was an incredible trip!

Starting on arrival in Zurich when we got to really look at the airport, meeting with the Network Development Manager at the Arrival Lounge for a presentation which offered much insight into the intricacies of the Airline business. Routes, connections, demand, client trends, influences, which aircraft to assign to which. It was interesting to learn that there is a curfew at Zurich Airport with no flights outside of 6am to 11pm, so as not to disturb the residents. That their busiest routes are to New York City and the minimum connecting time only 35 minutes! Zurich Airport is a slick effective machine working to deliver. A hub that successfully connects 20000+ passengers - and their luggage - daily. 

We also visited the Product Centre where decisions are made about every aspect of the inflight experience. As a smaller airline they rotate the style of food by selecting a Chef from one of the 23 Cantons every three months. The Chef designs the menu and selects the wines on offer. Much emphasis is placed on small producers, which I really like. Training is offered here for the crew who follow a clear set of guidelines for all in-house service. Who designs the fabric on the chairs, what crockery and cutlery is used, glasses, gift bags, blankets … Every item is carefully considered and thought through. Swiss is also the first allergy friendly airline in the world.

All this really gave me a far greater appreciation for the airline industry.

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Me in Business Class, my ridiculously long legs stretched out as I sipped on bubbly and paged through the menu.

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Modern design, natural light, world class shopping, plenty of space.

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Trolleys, chairs, wine and food. All part of the thought and training process at the Product Hub.

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The train track that was to take us South to discover new regions.

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Equipped with more understanding and after a tour of the Airport itself, we took a train into Zurich to meet the Swiss Travel System representative who joined us as we headed to Chur, the oldest town in Switzerland. Connecting from there to our spectacularly scenic train trip down to St Moritz where our ground experience was to unfold … But before that, here are some important things I learned from my experience:

- Think outside the box and book Swiss Airlines when travelling to and through Europe. You can always overnight in Zurich or stay on to explore Switzerland like I did. But the unbelievably efficient and record breaking connection times at Zurich International Airport have been precisely worked out to allow a connection time of less than an hour. It’s brilliant. For South Africans there are no transit visa implications, like there are when going through London, for example. This is a boutique airport for a boutique airline and there is endless attention to detail and customer care to make it work. And it does.

- Buy a SWISS Pass suited to the number of days that you will be travelling in Switzerland. There are flexible options available that include the panoramic routes, public transport in 75+ cities and towns, entrance to over 480 museums and additional discounts. Best value travel that makes exploring Switzerland very easy and convenient.

- We checked in our luggage in Bellinzona and received boarding passes, not having to give it another thought until we arrived in Johannesburg the next day. A wonderful way to free yourself up for a full last day of exploring. Talk about Swiss efficiency.

- If you’re shopping for Swiss Chocolate and the airport is your only option, there’s a supermarket downstairs that offers very good prices and an excellent selection. 

- Everybody should take home a cowbell and a Heidi t-shirt, or you’ve really missed an opportunity to get into the spirit of this incredible country. I did. I actually think that the sound of the cowbells across the Alps will be one that I will always remember with much fondness.

- My travel companions where host Axel Simon of SWISS Airlines, Kate Turkington, Brendon Seery and Tyson Jopson. Get on a trip with them if you can!

My thanks to Swiss Airlines, Switzerland Tourism, Swiss Travel System, Engadin St Moritz, Ticino Turismo and Luzern Tourismus for taking care of us. Also to the Schweizerhof Hotel in St Moritz and the Hotel and Spa Internationale in Bellinzona where we stayed.

Please find more photos and stories on my trip by clicking on Switzerland

Switzerland. - The day is here. Tonight I join Swiss airlines on their #SwitzerlandwithSWISS Media Trip to the St Moritz and Bellinzona regions. 
It’s my first time there and the excitement and anticipation is HUGE. 
Here’s to the ‘Swiss efficiency mixed with Italian Spontaneity' that awaits me. The people, history, culture, tradition, alpines, funiculars, cowbells, watches, cheese and chocolate that I am about to encounter.
Thank you for the opportunity Myswitzerland x

Switzerland. - The day is here. Tonight I join Swiss airlines on their #SwitzerlandwithSWISS Media Trip to the St Moritz and Bellinzona regions.

It’s my first time there and the excitement and anticipation is HUGE.

Here’s to the ‘Swiss efficiency mixed with Italian Spontaneity' that awaits me. The people, history, culture, tradition, alpines, funiculars, cowbells, watches, cheese and chocolate that I am about to encounter.

Thank you for the opportunity Myswitzerland x

Giveaway. Old Mac Daddy #SecretSunday. Don’t Miss It!

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Elgin. Old Mac Daddy. - There’s a valley just over an hour’s drive from the city which offers a myriad of attractions, cool climate wines, the country’s only MCC Estate and endless views across apple orchards and vineyard covered hills. Here is a place for mountain bikers, hiking trails, restaurants and eating superior local produce. 

Its also home to Old Mac Daddy and the collection of antique Airstream trailers that lux-up the hillside, offering the most charmed and comfortable accommodation with meals served in the Brinny Breezes Restaurant.

I was invited to spend last Sunday night here and by Doctor’s Orders, bunk off work on Monday. I couldn’t resist. 

Collected together by invitation of Destinate we settled on the deck after a full and happy day. Enjoying an offering of local wines, cider and beer before pizza-making and relaxed chatting next to the fire. Now this is the way to bring closure to a weekend.

Old Mac Daddy is changing the Sunday night game from that anti-climax feeling that seeps in as the weekend draws to a close to one more night of spoils in the country. Every sunday night, under the banner #SecretSunday, they break the rule. And so should you!

To help you get going I’ve got a Sunday night’s accommodation to give away so that you can have this experience yourself. It’s easy. All you have to do is follow the Old Mac Daddy Twitter account @old_mac_daddy and tell me your favourite way to spend a relaxed Sunday. All suggestions are welcome!

The winner will be announced on Friday 5th September. Good luck!

In the meantime and for more information on #SecretSundays or to book, contact +27 21 844 0241 or reservations@oldmacdaddy.co.za. Oh, and for all #SecretSunday bookings in November, they’re throwing in the mini bar for free. Yep - now that’s a deal!

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For other post on Old Mac Daddy have a look here. It’s a very special place!