Small Town Experiences High Above Switzerland

When the first snow falls each winter on the East Coast island I call home, I always daydream off to being atop a mountain. I made a vow to seek out more alpine experiences this year and I began that journey with Switzerland. A lover of small town experiences, I happened upon Whitepod in the Western Alps and I knew I had to spend a night in the region of Valais.

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We made our way up to the tiny village of Les Cerniers (population 70) via bus from the train station and got a warm welcome by school children on their way home who must have been between the ages of two and five. The last stop at the top of the hill and we would arrive at Whitepod. Upon checking in, we traded in our luggage with the concierge for a backpack (with headlamps for night) and hiking poles for a 10 minute winter walk in our snow boots uphill to the main lodge as our bags were delivered to the room.

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It was like Christmas day when we sauntered on the deck of Pod number 6, the white snow globe like dome we would be calling home for the next 24 hours. We couldn’t wait to unzip the flap door to see what awaited us inside. Our newly renovated Deluxe Pod was modern with natural design elements from floor to dome ceiling. A front and center table and chair set-up with fresh juice and homemade sweets to kick back and relax in-room, Nespresso machine for early mornings on your deck, wifi, and a walkie talkie instead of a phone to call for anything you need — like breakfast delivered straight to your Deluxe Pod. The pods are weatherproof for snowy nights and soundproof for late night conversations in bed by the fire with an iMax-like view to where the starry skies meet mountains below.

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Of all of the snow-sport and alpine offerings at Whitepod including 25 kilometers of trails, private ski slopes, and mountaineering for the more extreme, my first time dogsledding was both thrilling and dreamy as we passed through snow-laden pines.

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With all of the on-property activities at Whitepod, you’re bound to work up an appetite. The main lodge is open 24 hours with an honor bar for a night cap or two.

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Breakfast is served downstairs and afternoon tea time on the main floor each day, which are included in your stay. Boil your own egg and choose from an assortment of homemade breads with melon jam and caramel sauce, dried and fresh fruits, fresh juices, hot coffee and cocoa.

The food and wine for dinner just down the hill is sourced from local producers and made on property, themed with sustainability in mind. We left full and happy after ordering a charcuterie assortment, Vacherin and Gruyere fondue and chestnut mousse topped with crumbled meringue.

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Bring the whole family, make it a friend-cation, or couples nature retreat. It’s an authentic place. An eco-luxury experience wrapped in a blanket of white you will never want to end.

Kristen Kellogg

Exploring rugged to refined, digital storyteller and film producer Kristen Kellogg has a unique eye and flair for capturing the essence of a brand or destination that is immediately recognizable in the work she crafts through her Wanderlust Website + Creative Agency: Border Free Travels. Kristen’s work has been featured in Yahoo Travel, AFAR, and Microsoft among others. A Nantucket resident, when Kristen isn’t on the road, she is literally running around exploring her own backyard. Kristen is from Southern Illinois. Follow her daily adventures on Instagram here.

La Pinte du Vieux Manoir

La Pinte du Vieux Manoir, set in Switzerland’s gorgeous Lake District, is as fabulous as it sounds. The elegance that permeates every corner of the property is matched only by the gracious hospitality of each member of the staff. Further afield, you find a quaint village that seems bent on charming all newcomers at every turn. But the real winner, if it’s possible to pick, is the property’s spectacular restaurant. These and many other factors culminate into the epitome of grace and charm that is Le Pinte de Vieux Manoir.

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La Pinte du Vieux Manoir’s property sits lakeside on substantial grounds that include many accommodation options. From the the Lake House, the Railway House and the Glass Diamond, there’s an option for everyone. We stayed in the Lake House and were delighted from start to finish. Perfect for a couple or a group looking to get away, the lake house’s décor exemplifies understated elegance. The bright airy rooms are as comfortable as they are chic, and the view of the lake from the large windows will make your jaw drop and your mind still. The house is situated a minute walk from the restaurant and this allows convenience without sacrificing privacy. You’ll feel a million miles away, yet only need a short walk to get to dinner or the village. But before you leave, have La Pinte de Vieux Manoir set up a relaxing massage to be had in your room. You can thank me later.

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The village is a moment away, and from there you can sightsee and stroll to your heart’s content. Not surprisingly, we chose to do a bit of all. The town’s ancient city wall holds gorgeous views of the lake and surrounding hills. Take a ferry across the lakes to enjoy seeing the town and surrounding vineyards from the water. And while out, it would be a travesty to not go to the neighboring vineyards to taste Switzerland’s best kept secret. Planted by the Romans, these grapes yield delicious Pinot Noir and white wines. Since Switzerland vineyards rarely export, this is a treat that you simply must take advantage of. La Pinte du Vieux Manoir can set up any of these activities, and they have exceptional relationships with the vineyards since their restaurant serves local wines. Which reminds me, don’t stay at the vineyards too long. You don’t want to miss a single meal at La Pinte du Vieux Manoir restaurant.

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Specializing in seasonal dishes with a modern twist, this restaurant is one of the best in the world. Head chef Rudolf Reetz creates classic French dishes with his own unique interpretations. Miraculously, in his modifications he doesn’t sacrifice a molecule of flavor, even to go so far as improving these age-old recipes. It is spectacular to experience. The menu is constantly changing, not only with the season, but because many locals come to the restaurant multiple times each week and Reetz likes to keep them surprised. The meals use fresh herbs from the garden, and they make as much of the food as possible themselves. If you’re able to glance away from your plate, you can soak in the restaurant’s peaceful ambiance and gorgeous views. You’ll likely be saddened when dinner is over, but don’t despair. Reetz hand delivers a charming breakfast basket to your door in the morning! The basket is full of deliciousness, and it promises that your day at La Pinte du Vieux Manoir will be as fabulous as the last.

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La Pinte du Vieux Manoir exudes elegance and comfort with ease and class that must be experienced in your lifetime. Whether it’s enjoying the stunning lake views, marveling over Reetz’s latest culinary achievement, or simply strolling the grounds to soak up every corner, you’ll adore every moment spent in this special place. You will leave refreshed and better able to take on the world, and dying come back for more.

Blakely Downs

Blakely left her job as an advertising producer in New York to turn professional traveler with her husband. As they explore, learn, give, and get lost, thrilled, and changed through distant lands, she recounts it all on her travel blog and enables couch travelers everywhere. She now contributes to Glamping.com as a guest writer.

Le Clos de Saires

There is a secret part of France that most don’t get to experience. Of course, the French known for their impeccable elegance and style, and these are what most travelers see. We rush through on our ten-day jaunts and arrive back on the tarmac breathless, albeit impressed. But this doesn’t allow time to get to the heart of the French, and enjoy their greatest trait (yes, one that even exceeds their chicness!). And anyone who’s ever been a guest to a Frenchman knows that by far their greatest trait is their extraordinary charm and hospitality.

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But how can we get this added to our vacation? For those of us who don’t have a friend in France and can’t spend three-months warming up our French neighbor, is it hopeless? And what if we don’t want to choose, but still also want France’s elegance and style? Is there possibly a place where you could get all three?

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Yes. Le Clos de Saires, owned and operated by the spectacular Fabrice and Anne, is the culmination of all things wonderful about France. Enjoy a cuisine, cooked up by head chef Fabrice, that makes you close your eyes and mmm with every bite. Enjoy your rooms, decorated by Anne with the graceful style the French have perfected. And throughout the grounds, enjoy a charm that permeates every molecule, and soak up enough that you can carry it home with you.

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Le Clos de Saires is located in the lush French countryside. The accommodations range from safari tents to large apartments, and they’re the perfect answer for a couple getaway, family reunion or even wedding weekend. Surrounded by orchards, forests, and pastures, the grounds are cushioned from the stress of the world and exude a peace unfound in most corners. Watch your neighbors, gorgeous horses with their newborn fowls, gallop and play around their meadow. Sit under the flower-laden veranda while you sip grape concoctions famous from the region.

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If your family isn’t the sitting type, Le Clos de Saires is also ideally situated to highlight some of the best attractions in France. Be it mansion touring, nature watching, or wine tasting, you’re not far from a variety of activities to entertain and delight a range of preferences. But be sure to be back by mealtime so you can sit down to Fabrice’s table d’hôtel for yet another delicious feast.

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Fabrice learned to cook in his mother’s kitchen as soon as he was old enough to hold a whisk. What’s equally important as his skill is his love of cooking. And one of his favorite parts is sourcing all of his produce from the local farmers in the area. He knows exactly where to buy exactly what he needs. And he does all of this while making it look effortless, as only the French can. Anne and Fabrice seem genuinely confused when I press for more details on this process. Yes, of course we only buy fresh produce from local farmers. Yes, of course this is homemade made from scratch. Yes, of course my menu changes each day depending on the markets. After these questions, I was grateful they were the model hosts, so full of kindness and courtesy. Otherwise, they would’ve said “You barbaric American, yes we do things the right way! What other way is there?”

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Le Clos de Saires is a haven of everything wonderful about the French people. Anne and Fabrice have infused their property with elegance and charm, yet also warm and welcoming. Everything from their table to their linens shows a devotion to the highest standard that will never be compromised. And they themselves exude a kindness that immediately sets guests at ease and protects your vacation in a world of gracious hospitality. And once you’re back at home, you can draw strength, peace, and charm back into your world by remembering your time with Fabrice and Anne at the fabulous Le Clos de Saires.

Blakely Downs

Blakely left her job as an advertising producer in New York to turn professional traveler with her husband. As they explore, learn, give, and get lost, thrilled, and changed through distant lands, she recounts it all on her travel blog and enables couch travelers everywhere. She now contributes to Glamping.com as a guest writer.