The mountains are calling and I must go…” – John Muir
The hours, days, weeks and months seem to fly by and before I know it, it’s 24th March 2017. Spring has sprung and so the dark depths of winter finally begins to depart. After a couple of days visiting friends in Milan, I was invited to stay at the Matterhorn Focus hotel in Zermatt, Switzerland. This is it: one last opportunity to taste the snow, feel the bitter icy wind on my cheeks and be blinded by a duvet of white that softly lay over the rolling hills around the Swiss Alps.
After an hour train ride out of the city, I take the car from Milan Malpensa airport and make my way through Domodossola, into blizzards over Simplon pass before reaching Switzerland. “Right is right” I tell myself, as I get used to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road once again. It sounds all perfectly planned but I must admit, I was googling how to get from Milan to Zermatt just days before leaving. All I needed to know, was that there would be snow.
I arrived in Täsch after just a few hours of driving and dropped off the car, taking a shuttle on the last leg of my journey into Zermatt, a car-free town. As the train drew closer to the station, we became engulfed by the expansive mountain range from left to right, as far as the eye could see. There in the centre it stood: the Matterhorn.
The Matterhorn is a peak on the border between Switzerland and Italy, with a summit of 4,478 metres. Much as Zermatt is surrounded by mountains, the Matterhorn is often wrapped in a blanket of thick cloud, appearing at the break of dawn and often not re-appearing until sunset.
In what I can only describe as a ‘golf buggy’, I was driven up through the mountain valley where we reached Hotel Matterhorn Focus, perfectly located adjacent to the cable car station. I was genuinely shocked at how beautifully the hotel has been designed. I’m such a massive fan of architecture and I couldn’t stop looking around. Extravagant chandeliers over the breakfast room, large wooden ‘chalet’ style beams; sauna rooms, outdoor pools and a secret tunnel entrance. It’s no surprise then, that all this elegance was topped off with the most incredible suite. It was an absolute dream and as I lay down on my bed looking up at the Matterhorn, I was pretty speechless. “How is this real?”
I spent most of my time in Zermatt hiking and running in the mountains. It was total bliss to be back in the clean, fresh alpine air. With just a couple of weeks until the Two Oceans Marathon, I tried to be as reserved as possible, not running too much but I promised myself I’d be back in the summer. That, I am sure of.
That’s the beauty of Zermatt: not only is it a winter paradise for skiers, it would make the most perfect summer location for camping and hiking. After a day of exploring Gornergrat by train, I retired to coffee and cake at Petit Royal before an evening hike to watch the light fade over the town.
There’s something so beautiful about this little town; something I can’t quite express. There’s no denying that Zermatt is a very expensive destination (£60 for a return shuttle to Gornergrat), appealing to a particular group of travellers. Yet, there’s such a warm and welcoming atmosphere; people huddle in blankets around toasty log fires, sipping their espressos after a day on the slopes. It’s moments like these I cherish; moments like these I feel more removed from reality than ever. While I can’t fully explain how Zermatt makes you feel, it is indeed an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
I’m really grateful for the super majestic Matterhorn Focus for being truly welcoming and accommodating. What a place of such incredible beauty; one which I am eager to return to. Zermatt… I will see you soon!