This year’s Easter weekend was one of the most memorable in my life so far. I hopped on a TGV train by myself and went to visit my cousin and her husband in the East of France. They live in a very small town called Challex, which is right on the border of France and Switzerland. Challex is absolutely adorable. It is completely surrounded by the Jura mountains and the Alps, so there is never a dull view anywhere you look around. Challex also makes its own wine, so there are also many vineyards surrounding it. Even though the vineyards were bare and I couldn’t see much of the mountains, I really loved the atmosphere Challex gave off. It was so refreshing to be in a small town again, enclosed by complete silence and beautiful landscapes. My cousins moved to the area four years ago and absolutely love it. After spending a few days with them, I can absolutley understand why they don’t want to leave!
When I arrived on Saturday morning, we left straight from the airport in Geneva, Switzerland to go see a castle in Montreux. I had never visited a castle before, so I was really excited to explore Châteaux de Chillon. The castle was built in the 12th century and is located on an island on Lake Geneva. It was made popular by Lord Byron’s poem The Prisoner of Chillon (1816) about a monk who was imprisoned there. Châteaux de Chillon is quite large, and it took a few hours to see the whole thing. My favorite parts of the castle were the dungeon, the chapel, and the weapons room. This castle is my cousins’ favorite to visit, and I would definitely recommend seeing it to anyone traveling to Switzerland.
I had no idea that I would be touring Switzerland for a whole day, so I was very happy to see Montreux and a completely different traditional Swiss town called Gruyères. This small town is home to the famous Gruyère cheese, which I tried for the first time and loved. My cousins believe that this town is the most beautiful they have ever seen, and I may have to agree with them. The town is situated a little higher into the mountains than Montreux, so I was amazed by how perfect the view of the mountains was. Gruyères is the perfect example of a postcard town. For dinner, we ate fondue and crème brûlée. This was another first for me, and I just fell in love with fondue. I’m already a big lover of cheese, so I’m not surprised that melting it just made me love it more.
On Easter Sunday, we drove to a lovely town called Annecy, which is just south of Lake Geneva. Once again, I was shocked by the beautiful view in this town. Annecy is just North of Lake Annecy, and lining the lake are gorgeous mountains. To top it off, there is a castle downtown. What more could you possibly ask for? We spent the day taking in the sights around town and enjoying the little bit of sun while we could. Since it was Easter, I learned a little bit about how the French celebrate this holiday. Instead of the Easter bunny bringing eggs to the children during the night, the bells from Rome fly to France and bring them instead. How this is possible, I don’t know, but I like the creativity! Apparently French children also make nests outside of their homes for the bells to put the eggs in.
Another fun holiday that happened to be the next day was April Fool’s Day, and boy, do the French like celebrating that holiday. Somehow in Annecy, we stumbled upon a Poisson d’Avril festival. Basically on April 1st, the French (mainly children) go around secretly sticking paper fish on the backs of unsuspecting people. When the person finds the fish, they are called the Poisson d’Avril or the April Fish. Legend has it that in the 16th century, King Charles XIV changed the French calendar to the Gregorian calendar. Before this change, New Year’s Eve had been celebrated from March 25th to April 1st according to the Roman calendar. Those who hadn’t heard about the change and continued to celebrate New Year’s on April 1st were made fun of and called April Fish. I think this legend is hilarious, and I wish we celebrated this in the U.S. At the festival, they gave out fish stickers, and we had fun watching children slyly stick them on adults’ backs.
On my final day with my cousins, they took me to a town called Les Houches in the French Alps to see the mountains a little closer. We put on our snow shoes and hiked along the ski trails for hours. It was surprisingly warm up in the Alps because of the direct sunlight and the reflection off of the snow, and I ended up with a sunburn on my hands and the bottom half of my face. One thing that I’ll never forget is how we climbed a summit of a mountain. Although I’m not that great with heights and had to inch my way both up and down, I can proudly say that I’ve climbed a mountain. (Maybe not all the way up by myself, but I still climbed the summit of a mountain!) Before I went to the Alps, I thought that I had already seen some amazing sights that weekend. It wasn’t until I got up the mountain and looked up at Mont Blanc (the highest mountain in Europe and the 11th tallest in the world) that I knew I had seen something extraordinary. I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful the view was from the top of that mountain, and I know that I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life. The mountains have absolutely captured my attention, and I’m already dying to return as soon as possible.
I had such a wonderful time with my cousins Easter weekend. I experienced so many new and exciting things, and I’m very grateful that I was able to spend Easter with my family. I can’t wait for my next visit to Challex and the Alps! Maybe next time I’ll have the nerve to try my hand at skiing.