As I trained into Leysin for the weekend, I became deathly jealous of my friend Caitlin’s au pair location. Leysin is surrounded by the most gorgeous winter mountains I have ever seen. This town is so far up the Bernese Alps that you have to switch to a cog railway just to get to the top. It was quite apparent from my train ride into Leysin that it is a popular place for skiing and easy to get around because there were hoards of people hauling equipment away from the village as if they do it daily. As soon as I stepped foot off the train, I felt like I was home—it was the kind of Switzerland I meant to come to and accidently ended up in a city. Just goes to show, a little research goes a long way.
Caitlin met me at the station and took me on a 5-minute hike up a snowy slope to her chalet where her Swiss children were already sleeping. Come to find out, when I sat down on the sofa, two of the most adorable kiddies on the face of the planet popped out to scare me, Otis, 3, and Elle, 5, are the most interesting pair of brother and sister I have ever met. They are sweet, smart, caring, helpful, curious and retentive. After having spent nearly two months with them, Caitlin now thinks their behavior must be genetic.
Spending the weekend with Otis and Elle sparked a newfound confidence in me as an au pair. We played games, read stories, sang songs and taught each other different things (they speak Swedish, French and English). They have a very contagious, vivacious spirit that just begs you to get involved and upon leaving, I felt very lucky to have met them because I think they provided the missing link I needed to connect with my Swiss kiddos. However, hanging out with the kids was not all I did in Leysin.
I hung out with their parents too—Joe, from Canada and Eva, from Sweden. They spent the majority of their single, childless life traveling to a variety of places around the world and have a very down-to-earth, easygoing nature that was easy to relate to and very refreshing. It didn’t take long to realize exactly why Otis and Elle are such great kids. Their bath time scenario consists of the two kids in the tub, Joe with his guitar and Eva with the harmony. The family hangs out in the bathroom for an hour and just jams out with each other.
First night, Caitlin took me out with a group of her friends that she had hooked up with through Couchsurfing (fun fact: that site is good for more than just a weekend couch to crash on) who go to the hospitality school, SHMS. Apparently, Switzerland is home to the most prestigious hospitality schools in the world and the students that attend here wind up being the best of the best in the hospitality industry. Besides that, they are just a fun bunch of people.
I was also fortunate enough to have stumbled in on the weekend of a huge snowboarding competition, Nescafé Champs, bringing in people from all over the world and it down poured snow for an entire day. So it was killer skiing by day (although I had some mega complications totally worth, but not worth mentioning) and great partying by night. The Leysin locals turned an entire parking garage into a rough crowd style club so it was rock band, cheap beer (by brand, not price) and wild fun all night.
My last day I spent trucking around the village taking pictures and sightseeing. Eva told me about a restaurant at the top of the resort mountain that a lot of people like to skin or snowshoe up to and have a cheese fondue feast before heading back down, so I decided to hike up regardless of my lack of proper equipment. First wrong move was actually thinking I would be able to make it and second wrong move was forgetting to bring the map Eva drew for me. So, I got lost most the day and ate a lot of snow, but it was a gorgeous day with a breathtaking view. Moral of the story: do not go to Leysin without bringing gear or planning on renting gear.
All in all, I cannot wait to visit again. It cost me 40 francs round trip using my half-Swiss rail pass and was worth every cent.