August 30, 2022

Back streets of Sion.


The mountains are calling, and I must go.

-John Muir


Sion is one of those cities whose roots go back into antiquity.  In Roman times, it was called Sedunum.  There are two hillocks in Sion crowned by the remains of the 13th century Château de Tourbillon and the Château de Valère (the latter containing a museum and a 13th century church).  In the town, there is also the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-du-Glarier, the Church of Saint-Thêodule (1516), the Maison Supersaxo (1505), the town hall (1660) and the remains of the Château de la Majorie (now housing an art gallery).  It is an important market place for fruit, vegetables and wine and lies on the road and rail routes to Milan, Italy, via the Simplon Pass.  It is predominantly French-speaking and has a population of 29,000.

We take the bus to Sion today, not to enjoy the sights, nor to ponder our place in its history, but to go shopping.  Tomorrow is my sister-in-law’s (Michele) birthday and I want to find her a gift.  I’m also looking for chocolate to bring home (when I asked my friends and family what they wanted me to bring back from Switzerland, the unanimous answer was chocolate) and maybe something uniquely Swiss for me.  The temperature is 88℉ and I work up a sweat walking through the streets.

After a few miles and stores, I find a girolle.  It is a round wooden plate with a hole in the middle through which you secure a spike.  Small wheels of cheese (traditionally Tete de Moines, or monk’s head cheese, but there are others) are impaled over the spike.   One end of a blade, with the cutting edge sitting down on the cheese, is placed over the spike so it can be spun round and round.  As the blade is turned, thin portions of cheese curl up into rosettes that are just the right thickness and consistency to melt in your mouth.  Delicious and very Swiss.  I buy Michele a bottle of Novembre, her favorite local white wine, a lot of chocolate for me to take back to the US and we head home.  At dinner, I feel uncharacteristically very tired and, again, slightly feverish.  Damn cold.  I will sleep well.

I awoke feeling fine and rested, no fever or other symptoms.  Today is Michele’s birthday.  It is a tradition that the family goes, on her birthday, to Crans-Montana, a touristy ski resort town high in the Alps, down the tracks and on the opposite of the valley from Haute Nendaz.  There’s a restaurant there that has a blueberry tarte that Michele loves.  It also has a lot of small shops that cater to the rich and famous and is a nice place to window shop.

The first hotel, Hotel du Parc, was opened in Crans-Montana in 1893.  Golfing started in 1906 on a majestic plateau that exists amongst the steep slopes.  Golfing is still popular here today.  The first downhill ski race took place in 1911 and the place has been a ski mecca since.   I can only guess how brutal skiing in these mountains must have been before there were any ski lifts.  One of its most well-known celebrities, Roger Moore, owned a chalet and lived at the resort for many years until his death in 2017.  The town has a population of 10,218.

After we have lunch and eat our tartes (I had a wild-berry tarte full of currants that was delicious), we walk around the town and ogle what’s behind the store windows.  There’s a store dedicated to selling every kind of Swatch you can imagine, chocolatiers, sports shops for all kinds of outdoor activities, cheese shops, clothing stores and just about anything else you can imagine a resort town might have.  By the time we make for the bus stop, I’m feeling really tired, achy and a bit feverish again.

Back in Haute Nendaz, we go out to eat and enjoy a fondue dinner and good wine.  Fondue is a very traditional Swiss meal originally designed as a way to eat hardened cheese and stale bread during the winter months.  The earliest known recipe is from 1699, and today, it’s prepared using mostly Gruyère and Emmental cheeses.

The food and wine are very good, but the exhaustion and fever are starting to get the best of me and I’m glad when it’s time to go home.  The temperature in the valley was in the high 80s today, but tonight, up here in the mountains, it’s 60℉ and I’m feeling a little chilled, wearing no jacket.  I’m soon in bed, picturing all the places I’ve been the past few days, imagining doing it all with Waldo on the end of the leash.

He would love it.


Celebrating Michele’s birthday with a nice glass of vin blanc.

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