Sitting on my balcony and all I can hear is the sound of rushing water from Staubbach Falls across the valley and cow bells (honestly) echoing across the meadows. It’s a far cry from the bustle of a Yorkshire market town, where we used to live.
At the end of October last year (2016) my family and I decided, pretty last minute, that we would move to the Swiss ski resort of Wengen in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. Why? Well it was editing season for me and I guessed I could do that from anywhere in the world and my husband, James, works for Swiss Travel Centre so obviously, Switzerland for him was a ‘no brainer’.
But for the boys, then five and eight, it was a pretty big deal leaving their friends behind and joining a new local village school where potentially very few people would understand English.
The plan was for us to stay for six months. A short-term adventure for all of us, no risks attached, a chance to do something new. Thing is. It hasn’t worked out that way. This week our move became very much more permanent. We’ve moved into a beautiful new chalet, which is much more a home than a holiday home and we’ve rented out our property back in the UK.
I think now is a perfect time to reflect. Have a look back at the past, life-changing, six months and discover just why The Wilsons fell in love with Wengen.
The snow and the skiing
There were five big ‘dumps’ (falls) of snow this season …. one before the season had started, which was blown away by the Foehn (strong warm wind that comes off the lee slopes of a mountain range) and the other in April, after all the lifts had closed so not much use to anyone!
Nevertheless, the skiing was most excellent. Alfie, I’m proud to say, was skiing with Ski Club Wengen and Ed rocketed through ski school with flying colours. They both skied A LOT.
Me and my husband did not. I was way too busy editing last season’s wedding films and James was also too busy with work. But towards the end of the season I would get up early and ski for a few hours before the ‘tourists’ got on the slopes. I had the place to myself and it was a great way to set myself up for a day ‘in the office’.
The most memorable moments (so far)
From stepping out of my chalet and sledging down to the nearest ski bar 100 metres away for a Baileys Hot Chocolate, watching my youngest ski down a World Cup ski run and my eldest talking almost fluently in German after just a few months, are some of my most memorable moments.
As a family, our weekends are nothing like they were in the UK. Spent mostly skiing over the winter months and now the weather is warming up taking long walks in the mountains and among nature.
And living in the centre of Europe, it opens up many more adventures both for me and my family, and Story Of Your Day. Almost as soon as I moved here I received my first commission for a wedding in Switzerland at the most gorgeous and glamorous Suvretta House in the exclusive resort of St Moritz.
Although I am looking forward to returning to the UK for several weddings this summer, I have far more weddings throughout France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland this year than ever before.
The people, the life
There are four official languages in Switzerland – German, French, Italian and Romansh – as well as many regional dialects. And once you think you’ve nailed German, which my son is learning in school, you then have to accept that the locals speak Swiss German so you still can’t understand a word that’s being said (not that I understand German yet, you understand).
The village of Wengen supports many different cultures and nationalities. Although Alfie attends a local school, his birthday party was attended by an Australian, Hungarian, German and Portuguese boy, as well as Alife and another English friend he’s made in ski school.
But right now, we’re ‘between seasons’ and Wengen has literally shut down. The skiers have left and the summer walkers haven’t arrived just yet. Almost all the shops have closed until June and it feels like everyone has left. It’s nothing like I have ever experienced before and it’s not for everyone. But I like it this way. I feel like I have the whole place to myself.
THIS is the place to get married if you’re looking for an amazing destination. Mountains and lakes… it really is a picture postcard.
This is a view of the Jungfrau, also known as The Top of Europe. You get there via Wengen, by train. At the top, there’s a restaurant with the most amazing views. I cannot wait for a clear day to get up there again. It’s so stunning. Then just across the valley there’s Schilthorn aka ‘Bond World’ … a great day out but getting there by cable car means it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Wengen is an hour up the mountain from Interlaken (between two lakes) nestled between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. The paddle steamer ride on the lake is something else.
Recently I filmed a gorgeous ceremony from Lake Blausee… the minerals in the lake mean that no matter the weather it’s always a bright turquoise blue colour.
If you’re looking for some bling then there’s Zermatt, with the amazing Matterhorn as your backdrop, or if that’s not your thing then how about the streets of Engadin St Moritz… lined with all the top designer names, including Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton and Giorgio Armani. Once of the most exclusive hotels in Switzerland is situated there, Suvretta House, and it was my pleasure to film Claire and John’s wedding there this January.
And my favourite city, in the WORLD, is Bern, another hour on from Interlaken. It’s a very contemporary city with amazing architecture, places to visit, such as the Bear Park and cool, hip cafes and restaurants. On my bucket list of hotels to film a wedding at would certainly be Hotel Schweizerhof, a luxurious five star hotel in the heart of the capital.
The oddities of living in Switzerland
Did you know that it’s illegal to flush the toilet after 10pm in Switzerland? Well, I can tell you categorically that it is. It’s also an offence to mow your lawn or hang your washing out on a Sunday. And choose your day for recycling wisely, one Swiss citizen got on the wrong side of Zurich’s authorities when she dropped hers off on the wrong day – she was offered the choice between a fine or two nights in jail. Having just moved into a chalet we have a lot of cardboard to recycle and noticed the ‘warning’ sign at our bin depot just the other day.
Also, and close to home because we brought our beloved Harry with us from the UK, you have to pay a tax on your dog and the annual fee is dependent on their size and weight.. let’s hope he doesn’t get fatter in his old age!
Although it sometimes feels like worlds apart from our life in Yorkshire, I wouldn’t change a thing about our #swissfamilywilson adventure. Being situated in the heart of Europe means that everywhere seems even closer than ever before. Not only will this mean an amazing life for my family and I, but in terms of wedding commissions I am very excited to be a stone’s throw away from other fabulous countries, such as France, Austria and Italy.
Stay posted to hear more about the summer ahead.