Friday, October 1, 2010

Chalet Shopping

 Alright, everyone is dying to know what is going on with the Chalet Hunt.  This will be just like an episode of House Hunters International!  I will show you pictures of our top three choices and you help me decide which one to pick!  Where is our narrator, Suzanne Whang?  We need Suzanne Whang!  “Mr. Big and Trailing Spouse, a charming American ex-pat couple from Lausanne, Switzerland, have decided to purchase a chalet in the Swiss Alps because Mr. Big hates being a renter and being forced into complete silence every night after 10:30.  With the help of THREE DIFFERENT realtors, due to some arcane realty law in Switzerland that I don’t understand, this lovely duo will attempt to find the perfect mountaintop get-away.  Stay tuned!  We’ll be right back after this short break from our sponsors.

OK, obviously, I watch way too much HGTV.  Sorry.  Back on track.  The first place we looked at was in Champex Lac which is a teensy weensy village near Verbier.  The draw in Champex, (pronounced Shahn-pey), in my opinion, is that it sits on a little lake which freezes like a rock every winter, but then provides fishing/swimming/boating in the summer months.  Or, should I say summer DAYS, or, possibly, summer HOURS.  The village sits at 1465 meters which is about a mile high.  This summer the lake thawed on August 18th between the hours of noon and two.  That was a crowded day in Champex, let me tell you what.   The paddle boats were nut to butt.

Seriously, the locals do swim in the lakes here in Switzerland.  They even swim in the rivers.  Those would be the rivers that are full of snow melt and glacier water.  These are hearty, hearty people.  I got in Lac Leman three times this summer up to my rib cage.  Each time, I just kept hoping that my body was turning Swiss and that all of a sudden I wouldn’t think it was cold anymore.  Um, no.  My body was like, “Lady!  What is it that you are not getting about 45 degrees, eh?  You are old and you are now blue!  A blue, old woman in a bikini is just wrong, wrong, wrong.  Get the heck outta this ice bath and put some clothes back on, for the love of God!”

The chalet we looked at in Champex showed promise from the outside.  Here is the link on the internet:  (As with all other websites in Switzerland, the “English” option in the upper right is just a teaser.  Nothing is in English.  You can click “English” all you want, but it is not going to make one whit of difference.  Just deal with it.)

This charming abode was right on the lake and it had the “look” of the typical chalet that I was going for.  You know, like Heidi could come skipping across the lawn any moment, holding a small wheel of cheese whilst leading a goat pack.  In addition to the listing agent, the owner of the home was also on hand to show us around her Grand-Pere’s home.  Yes, the chalet had only ever been in one family since Grand-Pere built it in 1935.  And, no her name was not Heidi.  Durn.  I might have bought it on the spot.  The Swiss never sell anything.  Boat slips, chalets, land, nothing.  Once they can finally afford to actually own something here, they hang onto it, baby.  99 year mortgages are the norm.  Not kidding.  99 years.  In America, we own houses about as long as they own a pair of socks.

So, nothing had been touched in this chalet since 1935.  They did put a new roof on in the 1970’s which the Owner Who Was Not Named Heidi kept referring to proudly as if it were put on yesterday.  I’m like, hey, Not Heidi, you might want to find another selling point besides your 40-year-old roof.  Whatever.

 I am going to attach a picture of the stove.  I’m sure it is worth some money.  Not to ME, but to some dealer in obscure wood-burning appliances, perhaps.  The doorways were tiny, the ceilings were only 8 ft. high.  It was a complete gut-and-redo.  I don’t mind renovation, but we were talking about serious, serious deconstruction and reconstruction as in turning a three-story Habitrail into a two-story house.

The Owner Who Was Not Named Heidi kept pointing out the paneling on all of the walls, floors, ceilings, etc.  She was quite proud of her paneling.  It was tres original, it was tout en bois, (all solid wood).  In my head, I’m thinking, it is tout en ugly and it will soon be firewood if I buy this place, You Who Are Not Heidi.

The views were awesome, though.  And the location was excellent.  I mean, it was right smack dab in the center of the village.  The ski bus from Verbier stopped right out front.  My drunken, skiing, partying twentysomething-year-old children would never have to drive anywhere, everything was available right in the village or in the larger resort of Verbier via the bus system.  Our family had already stayed in Champex one Christmas and skied for a week and our kids had had no problem making friends in just the short time that we were there with some other kids from Wales.  In short, the question became, will Mr. Big spring for three quarters of a mill for basically a plot of land and a cute village?

Well, we don’t know, do we, until we see the other two choices?  Ha.  I am evil, I know.

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