Archive for September, 2014

19
Sep
14

friendly fendant in magical crans

I’ve been back from Switzerland for nearly two weeks now – shoddy effort in updating the blog so apologies to anyone who has put their life on hold whilst they wait to hear my thoughts on the quaint Swiss town of Crans-Montana……!

First shout out before I go any further goes out to the Swiss people I met in my four days in their spectacularly beautiful, clean and frankly marvellous country. I’m not sure I’ve been anywhere else in Europe where the general public are so friendly, courteous and welcoming. From the lovely elderly woman called Beatrice on the train from Geneva who I chatted to marvelling at the beauty of Lake Geneva, through to the waiter in a Crans restaurant that greeted me so warmly when I turned up for a second night running – the Swiss people left a great impression on me.

Anyway, after handing out such praise to the folk of Switzerland, it’s time to give some thoughts on a brilliant long weekender watching some top class golf.

As I briefly just mentioned above the train from Geneva airport through to Sierre was as spectacular a journey as you could imagine. I chose the right side of the train to sit on (in both senses of the word) as I soon left Geneva to be welcomed by sweeping views of the world famous Lake that stretches on and on through middle Switzerland. Being late summer, the lake was wonderfully clear and reflected a magical blue in the sun filled sky. The journey flew by – taking me through a city called Lausanne that I nearly visited back in February to watch Beady Eye (I chose Luxembourg instead!) It looked a decent spot mind, along with several other cities and towns on the way that were all dotted along Lake Geneva.

Crans was reached with ease thanks to the Funicular railway that climbed steeply up from Sierre to Montana Gare. The views got more and more spectacular as you climbed higher, the snow peaked mountains in particular were a highlight that never got tiresome to gaze at.

It didn’t take me long to sniff out a cheap bar. A well known champagne brand had set up a temporary bar on the street just by the golf course. I couldn’t believe it when I saw a local white wine called Fendant being sold for just 3.50CHF, about £2.30! Switzerland and Crans in particular was supposed to be expensive, right?! As I supped up a few glasses of the cold stuff, I noticed I was in the company of former Open Champion Darren Clarke and the evergreen Miguel Angel Jimenez – both stars of the European Tour for the past twenty years. Being surrounded by Rolex shops, Prada shops and plenty of people in posh suits and dresses – not to mention modern day golfing heroes, I could have easily felt slightly out of place in my adidas rain jacket, jeans and England cricket baseball cap. But the funny thing about travelling alone as much as I have, you almost grow some sort of thick skin where you’re not bothered about being judged by strangers! After a few more bargain Fendant’s I retired home for an early night, via a lovely little Italian restaurant.

As for the golf – I won’t bore you with the details other than saying it was every bit as fantastic as the views below. The standout hole was the 7th – you walked through a side road from the 6th green and out of nowhere this incredible panoramic view hit you. We were literally up in the clouds – a better sporting backdrop I am struggling to think of than this simply brilliant half mile stretch of land.

It was a hard walk – I reckon the first day I must have walked fifteen to twenty miles, around the course twice with two different groups of players plus the mile or so walk to and from my apartment.

So would I recommend Crans as a holiday destination? For a few days – definitely a big yes. Would I recommend it to any golf fan as a short break next year? I think you can guess my answer!

A simply brilliant few days away…..however I’m not sure that cheap street bar will be there when Darren and Miguel are not in town for those other 51 weeks of the year. Maybe I’m not the man after all to give advice on cheap bars in Crans Montana after all?

Ah well, I’ll have to go back next year and look harder………

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04
Sep
14

‘i’ve been there’

I don’t think there is a single place in the world that I’ve been to that somebody else I know hasn’t already visited. Either that or they know someone who has spent time in said place or is planning a trip there later that year.

This might seem a bit strange seeing as I’ve stumbled upon 39 different sovereign states in my near three decades on the planet; but I guess with the advent of cheap flights and the brilliant tool that is the internet, allowing everyone to be there own travel agent, the world really is as small as it ever has been.

‘Oh you’re going to the Gili Islands in Bali? I’ll be there at the same time, we’ll meet up if you like?’……’A weekend in Helsinki and Tallinn? That’s a great trip, we did a cruise there last summer’…..’Moalboal in the Philippines?! Great! I spent time in that village as well a few years back doing some scuba diving’…..And perhaps the best being the chap at work earlier in the year that kindly lent me his LP from the mid 90’s to the bustling metropolis that is Luxembourg City!

This blog comes to you from the old faithful departure lounge that is Bristol Airport. For I am about to embark on a short flight to Switzerland, just an hour and a half away from my second UK home.

Many of you reading this will be thinking ‘I’ve been to Switzerland or am planning a trip there later this year’…..I agree, there is not a lot of ground breaking in visiting what is a major skiing hub for many middle class Brits. Business trips a plenty to the money hubs of Zurich and Geneva go on day to day. It’s hardly an inaccessible long haul flight, internal flight, boat or bus ride away just to get there.

But the place I’m spending a few nights in might just be the first place in the world I’m going to that I don’t know anyone who has been – Crans Montana, situated high up in the Swiss Alps, a two hour train ride and fifteen minute Funicular journey away from Geneva, is the location I’m talking about.

Not heard of it? Thought not – neither had I until last year when I was watching Sky Sports!

I’m not going there for the sake of being the first person in my knowledge to have visited the picturesque, almost fairytale book style Swiss town. I’m going there to watch some top class sport – The European Masters golf tournament has started this morning and I’m lucky enough to be watching some of Europe’s best golfers tee it up over the next three days. It just so happens to be played in what looks on paper to be one of the most stunning locations you could wish to visit (oh the hardship, I hear you cry)

A love of sport has played a huge part in my developing my love of travel.

From short cricket holidays watching England win in Barbados and Mumbai to several weeks travelling across Sri Lanka and South Africa, all the way through to a full eight weeks watching a full Ashes tour develop, sport and travel have gone hand in hand throughout my adult years.

My last tour abroad with England was to the Middle East a couple of years ago, taking in test matches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It was on that final day in Abu Dhabi that a group of us England fans took advantage of a day off (England lost the test match early) to go and watch a top class field assemble in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Tournament.

I walked the course with household sporting names such as Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell. To say I was in awe would be an understatement and as such my interest in the game of golf over the past two years has all but taken over from the England cricket side who have struggled to capture my imagination after the recent Ashes / Kevin Pietersen debacles. Don’t get me wrong, I still watch practically every ball that is bowled in an England cricket match (just ask my missus or work colleagues) I just don’t feel the love for the side that I did twelve months ago.

Another reason my interest in watching test cricket in person has died down in recent years is the fact that the international cricket schedule is reasonably limited in its number of destinations you can visit. I’ve toured all of the main countries (except Bangladesh, New Zealand and Zimbabwe) and in some cases been back several times; such as three trips to India.

The (un)healthy obsession of visiting new countries coupled in with a love of golf has opened up a whole new world of opportunity to watch sport abroad. Looking at this years European Tour schedule the following are virgin territories for me –

Qatar, USA, China, Sweden, Russia, Denmark, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Turkey.

I’ve developed a major interest in punting on European and PGA tour events, winning big on a couple of occasions earlier on in the year. It was one of those wins back in June that played a big part in the booking of these two trips I’m about to undertake over the next couple of months. In November I will be off to Shanghai in China for a week to watch the worlds best seventy players play in the HSBC WGC but for now its the short hop to the Swiss mountains that beckons.

There are obvious similarities between test cricket and professional golf tournaments. Both are played out over four/five days. Both tend to be played in interesting, sometimes ridiculously glamorous destinations across the globe. Both involve a story-book style script unfold in front of your eyes over the course of its duration, with ebbs and flows that can add fantastic drama and excitement.

What could be better? A new country, a great sport, a new place to explore and a proper chill out……roll on country number 40, Switzerland!

So if you ever want any tip on Crans Montana – in a few days, give me a shout. I should be that annoying bloke that pipes up saying ‘Been there, I know a great bar…..’




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