Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Another episode in Switzerland

Following on from my Chateau experience I decided to move on and became an au pair/tourist guide. How this worked was that I became friendly with the family who ran/owned a large underground lake in the canton of Valais, actually, only a few miles up the valley from the Chateau. I had been there with a couple of friends, got chatting to some of the guides and to cut a long story short decided to give in my notice at the Chateau and join the lake crowd where I thouhgt I might have more fun! Parents were not amused at the time.... but hey, you have to live!

During the winter months the lake was closed to the general public as it really was too cold. So, I went home to visit parents for a little while to explain my change of job and spent the rest of the time 'spring cleaning' two flats where I was staying with the family who were in charge of the lake. The two flats were side by side. I had a room in one of them whilst they used the rest of 'my' flat as a sitting room and slept in the other flat. This worked fine.

The season at the lake ran from late March until early November. You had to walk up to the lake entrance through some vineyards which then opened up onto a terrace where you could sit and drink whilst waiting your turn in the lake or relax after the tour. Souvenirs could also be bought at a kiosk located here.

To go on the tour of the lake you had to descend a number of concrete steps to a shallow beach and jetty where the rowing boats awaited with a guide/rower in each to accommodate up to 20 visitors and able to pass on the details in French, Dutch, German, English and Italian.

Let me tell you a little about this wonderous place:

In the heart of the Valais, between Sion and Sierre, on the Simplon road, lies the largest underground lake in Europe.
In 1943, a chap called Jean-Jacques Pittard discovered for the first time the mysterious cave of the underground lake.
Only in 1949 did the lake become accessible to the public. With a length of 300 m, a width of 20 m and a depth of 10 m, the underground lake of St-LĂ©onard is the largest of its kind in Europe.

More than 100,000 tourists visit this exceptional natural wonder every year.

We would start at 7am working until about 9pm with a break for lunch which the owner paid for and was super as we had to go into the local village of St Leonard to the station cafe where a hot meal had been prepared..... delicious! This set us up for the rest of the day. During the day, I would spend my time, sorting out the souvenirs, stock take etc, make sure the drinks/coffee side was in order with all the washing up done up to date! Then help out with the boats and translations before returning to the terrace to serve the numerous visitors.

I stayed there for just over a year, thoroughly enjoyed myself. At the time I became fluent in many of the languages as it helped that I already knew some Dutch due to my mother having been Dutch.

Later I will let you know what happened next! A clue..... something very different:)

1 comment:

Sweet Spice said...

what a kewl story!!! and the pictures are just beautiful, how fortunate you were to get to experience that =o) and I've always believed our parents don't always know whats best when we're grown

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