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Little Spouse On The Prairie: The Hills Are Alive

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Out of France and into Switzerland we drove. The mountain villages in the Alps were deserted in mid-June. The ski season had just ended and the white water rafting and mountain biking seasons had not quite begun.

Out of France and into Switzerland we drove. The mountain villages in the Alps were deserted in mid-June. The ski season had just ended and the white water rafting and mountain biking seasons had not quite begun. This was no great hardship on my part, as white water rafting and mountain biking are equivalent to colonoscopies and root canals in my book. It was, however, a letdown to my son, who had really been into biking recently. I tried to assuage his disappointment by volunteering to take him shopping at all the boutiques, but he was too gloomy even for retail therapy. He perked up a bit when we saw a Swiss Army Knife shop.

The little town we stayed in was called Crans-Montana. People there spoke French, but I gave my kids a break and dropped the faux French accent. I figured they would rather see me running through the meadows singing, “The hills are aliiiiiiiiive! With the sound of music!” anyway.

I, personally, preferred the empty streets to what I could only imagine would be mass chaos once the summer season commenced. This place really looked like a postcard. The town was narrow due to it being situated in a valley, so we never felt crowded. We could be in a meadow by walking five minutes in either direction. For some reason, this caused my children to give me nervous sideways glances anytime we were out and about. The window of our little seven-room hotel looked out on one of those glorious fields. The only chaos we saw was the riot of wildflower blossoms. “Edelweiss, edelweiss! Every morning you greet me!”

We had the undivided attention of the locals, who went out of their way to give us a fabulous experience in their area. In Switzerland, guests pay a small tourist tax at the hotel -- about two and a half Swiss francs per person. At the time we stayed, the Swiss franc was worth only one penny more than the U.S. dollar. The hotel then provides a voucher for visitors so that they can have tickets to many local attractions. This meant that we could play miniature golf, ride the kiddie cars, swim at the lakes, skate at the ice rink, ride the ski lifts, use the mountain trails and more, for about the same price as a cup of coffee in the U.S. All we had to do was show our hotel voucher.

We took full advantage of this! Clementine rode the kiddie cars six times, one for each of our vouchers. And our mini-golf experience yielded her a legit hole-in-one on the final challenge of the course, which took the second-best player in our group ten shots to make. We celebrated by trying fondue back at our hotel that evening. I would have enjoyed it more had Joel refrained from double dipping, but after the kids started using their fingers to scrape up excess cheese, I figured it was one of those battles – you know, the kind not worth fighting. Switzerland is a peace-loving country, and I didn’t want our crew to be the ones to break up the calm.

The next morning, we rode the funicular down the mountain. This particular funicular (yes, I was just looking for a spot to use those two words together) is 100 years old. While normally, I am comforted by longevity and fascinated by Victorian-era ingenuity, for some reason, those things weren’t as impressive on this day.

The conductor said we should ride in the front car for a better view. (Yeah, I’m pretty sure we were the only tourists in the entire Swiss Alps that week.) The funicular went 3,000 feet straight down the side of the mountain at an extremely steep grade. As a mom, I had to keep my abject terror to a minimum. I needed to put up a good front so that my children would feel secure. So, instead of screaming and carrying on like some silly parents might have, I calmly told the kids how much they had meant to me, and how proud I was of their many accomplishments in their short, precious lives. I thought about launching into, “So long. Farewell! I bid you all adieu,” but if anyone survived, I didn’t want final memories to be marred by my quavering voice.