Sunday, 15 July 2007


In Switzerland I have a young friend, slightly older than me, who from time to time winkles me out of my reclusive shell to take me on adventures.

One of her recent escapades was to take her visiting niece to the Napoleonic Museum at the Simplon Pass - would I like to go too? We would catch the train to Brig and then the bus to the Pass. Why the train and bus when we both have perfectly good cars I haven’t quite figure out yet but it sounded like a plan to me.

She instructed me to “be on the parking at 1000”. The “parking” is the tarmac in front of our garages. So there I presented myself on the dot of 1000.

The plan started to go awry when we couldn’t find the bus that would take us up to the pass. My friend approached a man who was marshalling a gaggle of bright young lycra clad rollerbladers onto private buses to be shuttled off to some place else. She asked him where our bus was. He tried to fob her off, but she persisted in getting an answer from him. He was not in the least bit interested and kept shouting and pointing for us to “go to the office”. I guess he just wanted us doddy old ladies off of his patch so that he could attend to his chargees. I thought “my rollerblading beloved should be here, he would show these upstarts a thing or two”.

My friend was not very happy with the pointy shouty man and shouted back that the timetable stated the bus would leave at 1205 and it must be here somewhere. He, however, continued to point and repeat “go to the office”.

A younger marshal, taking pity on us, lead us to an enormous all singing, all dancing, illuminated, flashing information board that any fool would have seen but we hadn’t, and explained that the next bus was at 1330 from bay 4. My friend demanded to know what had happened to the 1205 bus. He shrugged and apologetically pointed to his watch. Ah! 1210. The bus had gone.

Eventually ensconced on the correct bus our next problem was on arriving at the Pass where, exactly, was the Napoleonic Museum and was it open? The bus driver couldn’t help us, (great) but two passengers knew that it was the next stop down the hill, although they didn’t know whether or not it was open.

Plan numero duo, I’m ashamed to say, was mine. “Let’s get off the bus here, at the top of the hill, ask at the Kiosk if the museum is open today and if it is walk down and catch the bus back from there”. Yes, it was open and it was only a 30 minute walk - so off we set. 50 exhausted sweaty minutes later we arrive and I suggest plan numero trios! “Let’s ask if there is a bus stop near here for the journey back”.

Not only did the museum attendant refuse to speak English, the stupid man didn’t even understand pointing and shouting, a fact that we found hard to believe. Surely everyone understands pointing and shouting. Perhaps it hasn’t reached this mountain outpost yet.

At first he seemed to say the bus stop was 1 hour away further down the mountain. Even we, total strangers, knew that this was total crap. More pointing and waving of the bus timetable under his nose caused him to renege and admit OK, it might be 45 minutes down the mountain. By this time he was running out of credibility and we were running out of time and options. Home and a good bottle of wine beckoned. The 1700 train out of Brig being our preferred option we thought to hell with this stupid museum anyway and with that set off up the hill again to a bus stop that we knew really did exist.

The bus was late and when we eventually hauled ourselves onto the 1700 train it was full of the dreaded lycra clad objects. Problem was that after spending all day rollerblading in the blazing sun, they were lycra clad SMELLY objects who lolled across all available seats. With that my friend declared “I’ve had enough of this” and marched us into the 1st class compartment where we thankfully sank back into luxurious seats. An “Ahhhh” moment.

We all agreed that we had had a great time and the “icing on the cake” was the excellent meal accompanied by a delicious well-earned bottle of wine pressed from the grapes surrounding our favourite restaurant The Napoleonic Museum would have to wait for another day.

1 comment:

DogLover said...

How nice a memory! I also remember the Simplon Pass which I went over with friends who were poor, but now rich. We had spent a fortnight in the Italian canton Ticino and were returning home in my old Rover. We stopped at the top of the pass, early in the morning, and I took a photo as the mist rolled away. It's a badly composed shot, but shows beauty of the scene very well.

What I don't understand, given your vast wealth and need to get rid of it before your heirs can get their hands on it, is why you didn't go by chauffer-driven limousine and why you didn't, anyway, have first class tickets. But then you always were, shall we say, parsimonious...

Enjoy your holiday - you deserve it. How can that husband of yours get bored in Switzerland?