SWISS SLEEPOVER AT CAMPING AAREGG
If I mention Switzerland I imagine your mind is putting together a scene of a snow covered mountain skyline, chairlifts ascending skyward, snowboarders carving out paths in the snow and possibly an evening of Apres Ski, and in all fairness, you wouldn’t be wrong. But what about Switzerland in Summer. There is a completely different side to this alpine region that many never see. Beautiful blue skies, scenic mountain passes and spectacular panoramic views that stretch as far as the eyes and mountains allow; and everywhere is so green and vibrant, the lakes as turquoise as amethyst. Switzerland is truly a beautiful place. There just aren’t enough adjectives in the dictionary to do Switzerland justice.
ARE WE NEARLY THERE YET
Car packed, DVD’s playing to keep Lily-Belle and Matilda occupied, a few treats to keep everyone happy during travel time, and we’re off, our European adventure has begun. We travelled by road and ferry from Northern Ireland to Holyhead to Folkstone, which is on the Southern coast of England, then our first ever trip on the high-speed Eurotunnel Shuttle, followed by a lengthy car journey through France and Luxembourg to our sleepover destination at Camping Aaregg, Switzerland.
VA VA VROOOOOOOOOM
On route through Switzerland, we came across a couple of Corvette Stingray’s parked outside a restaurant, absolutely gorgeous motors so I couldn’t resist stopping. As I took photos of the cars, one of the owners approached, a huge cigar hanging out of his mouth, and he beckons me toward the car whilst saying something in Swiss (I assume). I thought he was offering to let me have a drive, but I couldn’t decipher his gestures, and as he didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Swiss, I smile, shake my head, shrug my shoulders and carry on with the journey. I hint to my darling wife that one of these babies would look great parked on my drive, and I also mention that I do have a ‘big’ birthday coming up in three years, hint, hint!
MILES AND MOTORWAYS
Our journey to Camping Aaregg in a nutshell; we had a 2.5 hour drive to the Irish Ferries port in Dublin, a 4 hour ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, a 6 hour drive to Rochester where we caught up with our very good friends Graham and Sandra; we stayed for 8 hours chatting about this and that before driving for 1 hour to the channel tunnel, we were on the Eurotunnel shuttle for just over 30 minutes, then a further 7 hour drive from Calais to Lake Brienz in Switzerland, plus the odd half hour stop for toilet breaks. Thankfully, not once did we hear the infamous phrase ‘are we nearly there yet’. We still had a little under 7 hours of driving to get to our holiday destination in Spiaggia e Mare, Porto Garibaldi, Italy. Before that, an overnight stay in a luxurious Swiss hotel on the shores of the beautiful Lake Brienz.
MEN DON’T ASK FOR DIRECTIONS
We arrive at Camping Aaregg, Switzerland a little after 15:00 and I (Daddy) have no clue what lies ahead; all travel and accommodation has been organised by Lynne, if it was left to me we’d never leave Ireland. I have no sense of direction (I rely heavily on my car sat-nav), and I’m useless when it comes to organising travel. I am rather well-known within the family circle for not being able to find a car park exit! I’m very happy to do all of the driving and Lynne usually sorts everything else, it works well for us.
I’VE BEEN FRAMED
Lynne attends the reception at Camping Aaregg and after a few minutes appears with a staff member who leads the way to our accommodation, the lady referred to the accommodation as a Woody Tramp, to me it was a glorified garden shed, where on earth was my luxurious Swiss hotel, with room service, and a spa and, and…someone has to be pulling my leg, no way am I staying in a shed, I’m not Bill Oddy! I am half expecting Jeremy Beadle to jump out of the hut! Of course, Lynne thinks it’s hilarious! Lynne is obviously living in a parallel universe to me as she absolutely loves the Woody Tramp, the style, the colours, the location…the location I can’t argue with, the backdrop of mountains is breathtaking.
A LUXURY SAUNA
We enter the ‘shed’ and the heat is horrific. From the outside it looks like a shed, on the inside it feels like a sauna, the joys! Lynne informs me this is called ‘glamping‘, and I decide that whatever it’s called, it isn’t for me. The temperature at Lake Brienz is unusually hot for this region, a barmy 31oC outside, and still rising. After a ‘heated’ discussion with my ‘soon to be divorced’ wife (I jest, she would probably murder me well before I could file for a divorce), I reside myself to the fact I have no choice but to stay overnight in the Woody Tramp at Camping Aaregg, I am extremely bleary eyed and tired after two long days travelling, I need sleep! I hasten to tell you all that this isn’t the first time that I have been less than impressed with my wife’s choice of accommodation, oh no! It is a short one minute walk to the bar, so I dander off and console myself with a very cold beer. Lynne and the girls unpack a few overnight essentials from the car, we are leaving for Spiaggia e Mare, Italy first thing in the morning.
TIME FOR A DIP
It’s getting hotter, 34oC, so the girls get changed into their swimming costumes and we head to the lake, it’s a mere 20 metres from our Woody Tramp. The Swiss sky is blue with a few wispy clouds forming in the distance. The turquoise water of Lake Brienz feels cool and refreshing; water that has come directly from the glacier mountains. The girls enjoy splashing about in the lake, whereas I am content to sit with my feet dipped in taking a few photos and enjoying the view, it’s so tranquil and calm beside the lake. The peace is soon shattered when a couple of Swiss fighter jets do a fly by, this continues on and off for about an hour or so. They are amazing to watch as they twist and perform ‘dog fight‘ manoeuvres through the mountains, the noise is incredible. I tried to get a few photos of the jets in action but it proved an impossible task. There’s a large inflatable assault course floating on Lake Brienz, a bit too far out for Lily-Belle so she stays close to the shore. We are joined by a Coot and then a Swan and her cygnets, knowing just how protective Mummy swans can be, I get the girls to exit the lake and we return to the Woody Tramp to get ready for tea.
FUN FOR THE LITTLE ONES
Lynne came across Camping Aaregg during a late nights internet surfing many years ago. In typical Lynne fashion, she saved it somewhere in cyberspace for future use. I can see exactly why she put Camping Aaregg, Switzerland on our list of ‘Must Go’ places! The site itself is relatively compact and personal; there is a children’s play area with a trampoline, small zip line, swings, roundabout and a climbing frame. Directly in front of reception there is a giant chess board.
On the Camping Aaregg site, there is a small shop for essentials, a restaurant and a bar. We settle down on the wooden veranda outside the bar. Daddy and Mummy enjoy a well deserved beverage and get in the mood for Italy by ordering a large pizza! Lily-Belle and Matilda don’t take long getting through the pizza and it’s various toppings. As you can probably imagine, the facilities in the ‘shed’ are limited, after all, it is glamping, so we pop along to the shower and toilet block to freshen up before bed.
WHO’S A SMELLY NELLY
Who would have thought that one of the highlights of Camping Aaregg would be the toilets! Lily-Belle and Matilda were ecstatic to find children sized sinks and toilets, they even had elephant and teddy bear showers, how cool is that! There was none of the usual bedtime stand offs of ‘I don’t want to brush my teeth’ or ‘do I have to have a shower?’. Indeed not, both girls would have spent the night there if they could have. After finally dragging the girls away, it was back to the hut to settle down for the night, after all, we do have a long journey ahead tomorrow. Aside from the heat, we were impressed by the cosy size and the sleeping arrangements in the Woody Tramp; you wouldn’t think it from the outside, but it’s actually a fair size, the hut held a table and chairs, dressing table, small kitchenette and two huge double bunk beds. Lily-Belle and Matilda loved having to climb the ladder to sleep up in the rafters.
MORNING, BUT I HAVEN’T SLEPT YET
The three girls slept well in the Woody Tramp and one of them snored the whole night, I’ll give you a hint…it wasn’t Lily-Belle or Matilda! The combination of snoring and the stifling heat meant I never got a wink of sleep. The Woody Tramp does have windows, but as soon as you open them, mosquito’s come in. We had no choice but to leave them closed all night. Back to the shower block to freshen up, brush the teeth and make ourselves semi-presentable for today’s journey to Spiaggia e Mare, Italy.
THIS KITE DOESN’T NEED STRINGS
As we approach the exit of Camping Aaregg, Switzerland, we could hear the distant sound of fighter jets, but due to an early morning haze, we couldn’t see them. We hand the key back in to reception just before 09:00 and we’re off, Italy bound. As we leave the glamping campsite I see a couple stood looking toward the sky and pointing. A pair of Red Kites riding the thermals, majestic and effortless. I grab the camera and snap away, unfortunately only one of the photos is worth keeping.
WHEN IT COMES TO LENSES, SIZE DOES MATTER
About half a mile from Camping Aaregg, there’s a magnificent waterfall nestled into the mountain side, I pull over to take a photo out of the car window, and in the corner of my eye I see a fighter jet coming in to land, we decide to see if we can get closer, and we can. We pull up right next to the runway, a small group of photographers are gathered with an assortment of cameras and lenses, I’m almost too embarrassed to bring out my Nikon D3200, but I do, and I add my 55-200 lens to make the camera look bigger, it was still like putting a goldfish next to a great white shark, I’ve never seen lenses as big. The photographers start clicking away as a Swiss Fighter Jet makes its descent toward the runway, touchdown…really smooth landing.
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD
We stay and watch a total of four jets land, the photographers begin to pack up and leave and we do the same. Our journey to Italy takes us over one of the most ionic mountain passes in the world, the Susten Pass. A winding road with more curves than a pool party at the Playboy Mansion. There are switchbacks, hairpin bends, steep climbs, even steeper drops (should you fall over the edge) and the most spectacular scenery you could possibly imagine. The Swiss Army has quite an inconspicuous presence in this area, you see the vehicles, you hear the jets, but you never see any military personnel. One can only presume they are using the Alps as their training ground.
NOT YOUR EVERYDAY PLAYGROUND
The Susten Pass was built between 1938 ad 1945 and is 2,260 metres at its highest point. The 26 miles of road connects the villages of Innertkirchen in Canton Bern and Wassen in Canton Uri. This iconic road is a playground for thrill seekers in high spec cars and on powerful motorbikes, the pass also attracts cyclists from all over the world. The challenge is to make it to the top and back down again, preferably without the use of Air Ambulance (or a hearse). It looks like a real lung buster on a bicycle! We pass several cyclists heading up the mountain, very slowly, and several cyclists fly past down the mountain, very fast! Fearless or Stupid, it’s not up to me to decide. We just hope they all make it up and down in one piece.
SHOUD HAVE PACKED A BOBBLE HAT
We climb the Susten Pass and stop where possible to take photos of the monumentous mountains and cascading waterfalls, we are completely overwhelmed by the beauty of this region. As we began the drive in Innertkirschen, we noted the outside temperature as 26oC, and as we climb towards the top of the Pass, the digital numbers on the car thermometer drop one by one, 11, 10, 9, 8…we increase the temperature inside the car, toasty warm. We stop at the Stein Glacier which is located on the South side of the pass. A quick Wikipedia search tells me it is about 2.5 miles long, and decreasing in size. Back in 1973 the glacier was a little under 4 miles long. Such a beautiful place.
TIME FLIES WHEN YOU’RE ENJOYING THE VIEW
Our journey to Spiaggia e Mare began at 10:30 with a drive over the magnificent Susten Pass, the time has flown by and it’s just before 15:00…we haven’t reached the top yet! Close to the summit we stop at a cafe; it’s a self-service cafe and the staff don’t speak any English, and we don’t speak any Swiss. We point at the sausages, gesture x4 and take a seat. The food was nothing to write home about, bland and expensive is about as much as I can say really. We continue along the Susten Pass and very soon we begin our descent. There’s nothing more satisfying or as blissful as descending swiftly (but safely) down a sharp twisting road in a car, well, maybe on a bicycle, but for today I’m happy in the car.
We continue the final part of our road journey to Spiaggia e Mare, passing through Milan en route. It’s just before 21:00, the sun is setting and we still have 2 hours of driving left. Lily-Belle and Matilda are fast asleep.
WOULD WE GO BACK
Well…Switzerland is a must for our family to return to; the scenery is spectacular and there’s an abundance of things to see and do, but what you can see and do depends on the time of year you visit, our stay was late June 2016.
We would be more than happy to stay at Camping Aaregg in the future but maybe not in the Woody Tramp. On site there are bungalows situated right on the lakes edge, fantastic panoramic views, the bungalow would be our choice for any future visit. The Susten Pass should be on everyones ‘bucket list’ and we do mean everyone, such an amazing iconic drive. We fell in love with Switzerland and just wish we would have stayed a little longer to explore the region.
I have always wanted a bunk bed so I really liked the hut, me and Matilda got to sleep on the top bunk. I liked being right next to the lake for paddling. The assault course looked good but it was to deep for me. The showers were fun, the water came straight from the elephants trunk, I would like a shower like that at home.
MATILDA (age 3) SAYS
The elephant was good. I like(d) the pizza.
tip: take plenty of wonga, Switzerland is not cheap.
tip tip: if you plan on using the motorways to travel through Switzerland, you need a ‘vignette’, on your vehicle windscreen, the cost for our car was £32.00 and the vignette lasts until 31st January (yearly) regardless of which month you buy it. You can buy your vignette online before you travel, or at petrol stations (not all) and at border control. We nearly forgot to buy one, do this at your peril…you will be fined well over £100 if you get caught on the motorway without one.
Ireland to Holyhead: Irish Ferries £294.00 (return trip)
Eurotunnel: 1 car £85.00
Camping Aaregg is seasonal so please phone prior to visiting to ensure your journey isn’t wasted
note: season opens on 1st April and closes on 30th September
Date of stay: 22nd June 2017 (mid season)
Tel: (0041) 33 951 18 43
Woody Tramp Pricing: Accommodation £56.00 (this is just for the hut)
Adults: £9.00 each per night
Children age 6-15: £5.50 each per night
Children 5 and under: free
information, currency and prices are correct at time of post
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All views, opinions and experiences are that of The Callaghan Possy and are correct at time of publication. Photos taken by Andrew Callaghan for use and distribution by Around The world In 18 Years.