Tears. So many tears. Tears mixed with sobs, tears mixed with sunscreen, tears evaporating from the heat.
“Mommyyyyy…whyyyyyyyy!!!!!!” It was hard for Jana to answer, since some of those tears were her own. Not sure if you noticed a blip in the space-time continuum, but sometime last week the universe ended, just for a second. But I get too far ahead, let me back up.
For the first overnight trip of our career break in Switzerland, I wanted to go up into the mountains. We had never been to Goms Valley, which is in the southern region of the country near the Italian border and much less popular with tourists than Lauterbrunnen. I was able to find a chalet on Airbnb in Reckingen for a reasonable price at the last minute, with the main selling point being the public pool within walking distance. The girls had been begging to go swimming since we arrived in Switzerland two weeks earlier. We had gotten our hopes up with a couple shallow splash pools in local parks around our flat, only to find them both drained when we arrived ready to splash just a day later.
Our Airbnb host shared that within 300m from his chalet we would find a large swimming pool “full of kids”. We rode the train down from Basel in the morning with the whole trip taking around three hours, including a short layover in Brig. The chalet was about a third of a mile from the train station, barely within the “accessible by train parameters”, in my opinion (originally I wrote “IMO” but Jana told me that you can’t do that in a public blog if you are over 40).
We dreamed of the refreshing pool as we lugged backpacks and kids up, uphill that is, a dirt road in the bright sun. Once in the chalet, the girls quickly changed into swim suits, hats and floaties, and we headed back down the road to the campground where the pool was. We saw a gate among the pines that looked like one that might surround a pool area, but didn’t hear any of the usual squealing, screaming and splashing that might indicate there was a “pool full of kids” up ahead. And then we saw it–a pool, no doubt, but one void of water, and its gate locked.
The heartbreak was instantaneous for our little hopeful swimmers and they cried on the side of the main road to the campground in their swim outfits as folks drove by. It was such a sad sight that I originally forgot to take a picture to show you. I had a brief “Vacation” flashback to the Griswolds arriving at a closed-for-maintenance Wally World. In the absence of any sporting goods stores I could quickly buy a pellet gun at, we figured the only thing that could ameliorate this situation was ice cream, and pushed on in the direction of the campground restaurant. Some of the drivers going past would see us in our swim suits and floaties, slow down and then unhelpfully let us know that the pool was closed. As if the girls’ and Jana’s dejection was not obvious from miles away.
Amazingly, ice cream was found in the nearby campground, really good ice cream, which helped stopped the tears. Jana, not one to easily give up the dream of swimming, pushed the owner for other swimholes in the region. After first letting us know that, of course, the local pool was closed, but there was a lake with a swim beach only two stops away by train.
A half hour of walking and train-riding later, we arrived at a nice lake with a gorgeous view. A mixture of Italian, French and German families were enjoying the small beach on this warm afternoon. The water was freezing cold and I only managed to get wet up to my knees while Jana and our three year-old got in all the way (they’re nuts). The kids had a great time in the sand, and it was a nice hail Mary “save” for a heartbreaking start to our stay.
We made it back into town and had a very nice dinner at Joopi, as the three year-old slept at the table, exhausted from all the walking. Back at our little chalet, we sat out on the balcony in the fading daylight gazing at the snow-capped alps off in the distance and listening to the sounds of cowbells drifting down from the green slopes above us – such a Swiss setting!
Overall, there wasn’t a lot to do in town for the kiddos, perhaps we should have known this based on their website, which should win some sort of ‘Pollyanna Marketing’ award for saying that there were “Rocks to climb,” “Villages with hundreds of small corners to sneak into,” and “Enchanted walls that are slightly creepy.” But, it was a nice place to crash for an afternoon/evening and the beautiful surroundings perhaps helped to heal the tiny broken hearts a bit faster.