Friday, January 28, 2011

Chalet Hunt Continues

I’ve decided that I’m going to apply to Fodor’s travel guide company as the expert on Obscure Alpine Villages.  In the past few months, Mr. Big and I have explored every valley in the French-speaking Alps in our quest for the perfect chalet.  He has only acquired one new speeding ticket on these junkets, to the tune of only 45 euros, so that is a good thing.  Go ahead.  Ask me anything.  What is the population of Zinal, Switzerland?  477.  What is the altitude of Sixt Fer-a-Cheval, France?    760 meters above sea level.

Why are the old barns in the canton of Valais perched on stone columns and discs?  Well, they are known as “mazots” and that is how the villagers keep the mice out of their foodstuffs.  Mr. Big pointed out that it might be just a hair less labor intensive to invest in a few good mousetraps rather than elevate a whole building, but the Swiss are an industrious and hearty group and, if it keeps them busy, well, why not?

What are those cute little sheds out in the yards of some of the older chalets that look like kid’s play houses?  Well, those are called “carnozets” and that is where the locals eat their fondue and raclette so it doesn’t make the rest of the house smell like ass.

Why do the French pronounce the “x” on the end of words and the Swiss don’t?  No answer.  It is what it is.  The town of Bex in Switzerland is pronounced “Bay”.  If you moved it 10 miles away across the border, it would be called “Bex” rhyming with Tex-Mex.  It is enough to make you slap yourself upside the head.

Mr. Big and I are having some issues with this househunt.   I prefer the little, authentic villages where no tourists go.  He prefers bigger ski stations where he can ski his old butt directly out onto the slopes.  As he is highly allergic to public transportation, he doesn’t want to have to board any ski busses to get to the chairlifts.  Personally, I think he is just terrified to land in a village where no one speaks English.   He is more than willing to give up charm and character for infrastructure and ease-of-use and an abundance of Anglo-speaking tourists hanging around.  Last Saturday, we almost came to blows.

I had found, on the internet, a brand new listing for a chalet in a place called Mase (population 235, altitude 1620m) in Switzerland.  Y’all.  This was the cutest village, ever.  EVER.  I would post the link to this house, but this is Switzerland, so by the time I saw it on the net, drove to the village and found it, (a grand total of about 13 hours), it was sold.  It is no longer available, either on the net or in real life.  As a matter of fact, when we were walking around the village, there were FOUR other people standing out in front of it taking pictures.

I was like, MR.BIG!!  THOSE BASTARDS ARE LOOKING AT MY HOUSE!!  He said, no way, calm down, Trailing Spouse.  So, I took pictures of the house and barn and pretended to myself that all was well.  Really, the whole time, I KNEW, I just KNEW, that somebody else had already bought it.  This is where we almost came to fisticuffs.  Mr. Big said he was “not impressed”.  Dude!  Are you kidding me?  It is perfect!  What’s your problem?  Well, honey, you have to get on a BUS and travel approximately 1.5 MILES to the ski lift.  Mr. Big, you are driving me crazy.  This is the coolest house ever and if we don’t buy it in the next 8 nanoseconds, one of these other gawkers is going to snag it up.

Of course, I was right.  It had already sold earlier that day.  Ah, me.  Trying to buy/rent property in Switzerland is like California, circa 1992, when everyone was flush with money, there were bidding wars everywhere and houses sold in 36 seconds.

This is what I have learned and, also, the reason that Fodor’s should hire me:  TROTW (The Rest of The World) only knows of the “famous” ski stations like Verbier, Zermatt, St. Moritz, Chamonix, Crans-Montana, etc.  TROTW is missing out on the best places.  Consequently, there are fabulously underrated ski stations sprinkled throughout the Alps where only the Swiss and the French and a few in-the-know Austrians dare to tread.

Case in point.  Arolla, Switzerland.  Now, most of you skiers are saying “HAH.  Typo.  She means Arosa.”  No, I do not.  There is a ski village called Arolla at the very end of a valley called Val d’Herens in Switzerland with the most jaw-dropping views I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot, thank you, ma’am.  The village sits at 2000 meters.  The views are beyond breathtaking.  There is a hotel there called Hotel Kurhaus where I would like my ashes spread when I am dead.

I think we might have found a winner in the village of La Clusaz, France.  It is a large resort, which Mr. Big likes, yet it also has some charm and character, an old church and some old buildings and farms, which I like.  Now, we just have to find a house that we can agree on.  This will probably get ugly.  Mr. Big SAYS he is open to buying an old one and renovating it, but when push comes to shove, I think he is going to balk and go for something new.  We’ll see.

In the meantime, did I tell you that a huge, wild boar ran in front of our car last weekend in the mountains?  Y’all!  It was durned near as big as our Audi and it was all hairy and lumbering across the road like a rhino or something.  I’m screaming  WHAT THE HELL IS THAT, MR. BIG?  I believe that is a wild boar, Dear.  WELL, STOP THE CAR SO I CAN TAKE A PICTURE,  FURGODSSAKE!  He wouldn’t stop, the old poop, so I have no pictures of my Close Encounter of the Swine Kind.  Are there a lot of those in the woods, does anyone know?  And do they eat people?  Here I thought I only had to worry about the Yeti and now I also have to worry about giant pigs.  I bet those suckers are the real reason the barns are lifted up on rocks, not a few, measly little mice!

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