My family has a quest: to visit all twenty-six cantons. Sometimes we visit a museum or take a walk. But mostly we prefer to spend the night. So last Easter we skipped our escape to a warm destination and made a four canton tour to Valais, Aargau, Schaffhausen and Fribourg.
With the October vacation drawing near, I could recommend this same itinerary. The tourists are gone and the fall colors of the plants, leaves and Larch needles are in full force.
DAY ONE AND TWO : Valais
As a mountain addict, I can never spend enough time in the Valais with so many nooks and crannies to explore. This trip begins in Haute-Nendaz.
The mountain village of Nendaz is home to the Bisse, which are canals dug into the side of the mountain hundreds of years ago to bring water to the dry agricultural areas in the valley floor (see July 27, 2013 post). The Bisse must gradually descend so if you have children these are the best walks ever. Your kids will not notice the ascent and they can play with water (in the summer months) during the entire hike. Furthermore, the local tourist office has designed several great treasure hunts with gifts upon completion.
For the more ambitious, I can recommend two hikes:
Begin at the top of the gondola, Tracouet, walk down to Prarion. Find the Bisse de Saxon, direction Praz de Dzeu, across to la Bouria and down to Nendaz. The tourist office says this is 10.5 km. Map and description. If you want to add some altitude to your hike, upon arriving at Tracouet first climb to the Dent de Nendaz.
Another beautiful hike I recently discovered is to take the chair lift up to Combatsoline. Then hike to and past the Barrage de Cleuson, along the lake and as far up the valley as you feel like. I seem to recall that this path actually meets up with the well-known Haute Route. Map and description.
Nendaz has many food specialties – dried meats, cheeses, apricots and raspberries. But in October, look for the Menu de Chasse (the hunting menu). It is truly my favorite Swiss dish. It consists of chestnuts, spezlï, red cabbage and your choice of boar, deer or elk.
DAY THREE AND FOUR: Aargau (or Argovie)
We decided to make the drive to Aargau interesting by passing through the Lötschberg tunnel by train.
We stopped in the Old Yown of Aarau to have lunch. A Swiss-German friend of mine lived there for a year completing her medical internship and found the people extremely conservative and stifling. Calvin’s strict protestant values may have been born here in Geneva but according to her they live on in this enclave.
Our short experience, however, was quite the contrary. The restaurant (Tuchlaube)we happened upon in the Old Town indicated a group of young, artsy, very friendly people who spoke excellent English. It seemed to be a restaurant by day and bar, often with live music, by night. Their Flamm Kuchen was the best I have ever had.
Aarau is known for its amazing painted gables, or “dachhimmel” which are in pristine condition. It is worth taking time to wander around and enjoy the paintings.
I would have loved to have stayed the night in this town but we were off to Baden.
Upon leaving Aarau our next stop was the Habsburg Castle. This isn’t a necessary stop but we wanted to see and learn more about this Germanic family’s domination of Europe for centuries. They are the reason Switzerland exists today. The first Swiss cantons joined forces to maintain peace at the death of Emperor Rudolf of Habsburg.
Any time you stay in a town with the words bain or baden, there are hot springs. We made sure our hotel on the river Limmat had connections to the natural hot springs. The area, just outside the Old Town, was very quiet, almost desolate. But it seems that the city is making large investments to renovate its hot spring industry. We spent the day walking around the village enjoying the architecture, learning about and sipping the hot springs (yuck) and finally relaxing in the spa.
Part Two of A Four Canton Tour will include Schaffhausen and an afternoon in Fribourg. Until then!
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