Unplugged in Zermatt

When we are told that Frida from ABBA is in the audience and sitting just a few rows ahead of us, we clap and cheer. The marquee is not as intimate as you may expect for an acoustic concert, and Frida is not the star that the crowd has assembled for. After a few speeches (the Swiss are mad about honour speeches) the lights dim and the spine-tingling trills of a string quintet emerge from the darkness. Their whirlwind rendition is the perfect introduction to the star of the final night of Zermatt Unplugged: Aloe Blacc. He's been described as the "new voice of American soul" and found worldwide acclaim for his hit single "I need a dollar".

His performance does not disappoint. Accompanied for the first half of his set by the remarkable chamber quintet from Germany, the music is soothingly beautiful. Aloe Blacc injects political comment into his music and reminds us that when we vote, we must vote for the right politicians (I'm sensing Cameron would do well to avoid Blacc's concerts). After a while, he announces the fun is going to begin. A swift band change leads to the introduction of Blacc's Parisian soul band. Their voluptuous harmonies of guitars and keyboards announce the less acoustic part of the concert and sound like the glug-glugging of water in a basin. The crowd is standing up and dancing for most of the performance, singing along and enjoying the music. Outside, the ever-imposing presence of the Matterhorn looms above the marquee, adding magic to this ever-so-special music festival.

Earlier in the day, we had walked down the Gorner Gorge - a magical spot where you stumble across hamlets of wooden cottages, cross ski pistes resisting the season's end, and wind back into the village past glamorous hotels. Our hotel was relatively modest but we had a charming mezzanine, two balconies and a view of the Matterhorn. A snow storm heralded in Sunday and Baeckerei Fuchs provided a perfect spot to nibble carrot cake and sip green tea before the never-ending train journey back to Zurich.

A suburb of contrasts ...

Zurich Affoltern is a strange little place. Tucked into the Glatt valley, it is encroached on in the south by the sprawling, high-rise arms of Zurich that creep ever closer. Its main street is run down, with shabby-looking shops and tacky bars. Its railway station is always packed with people, revealing its importance as a commuter hub. However walk towards the north, over the motorway that snakes into the distance carrying as many cars as its capacity can hold, and you find a haven of green fields, twee hamlets and wooded trails. The woods are currently carpeted with snow drops and blossom is beginning to bloom. Quite the surprise when it snowed a storm today, on Easter Sunday.

On the top of a rise in the ground is a solitary tree. He is quite the undisturbed majesty, proudly buffeted by wind and rain. If you were to draw a tree, you would draw him, with his solid trunk that rises up to frail little branches, twisting and curling to create a perfect sphere. I will enjoy watching him bloom a mane of greenery later in the Spring. Walking back towards Affoltern, you pass a road sign that declares the official start of Zurich. The roaring motorway below is the only sign that this may indeed be the case. After the sign a cluster of tumbledown barns in Unteraffoltern, a homely bakery and fields of grazing horses meet your eye. As you walk along the lane, you can smell that comforting leathery, smell that lingers around stables. And then you look beyond to the ugly high rises that are invading...

Blooming spring

The title of this post is not intended to sound fed up, though I realise in hindsight that is perhaps the effect. Rather, Spring has arrived in Zurich Affoltern and the area looks blooming lovely. The sun has shined for the last two weeks and from our patio we have gazed across lush green fields, towards hazy peaks in the far distance and vivid blue sky. Just along the road, we have watched a never-ending field of tulips blossom into a rainbow of delightful spring colours; grassy plots are now dotted with tiny flowers - like buttercups but in shades of rose, lilac and lemon.

We have enjoyed feeling the sun on our faces and jogging after work. I pinch myself when I realise I can live amongst such beauty and pursue the career of my dreams - no London smog for me. Visiting a chocolate fair in the city last week reminded me that Easter is on its way; intricately-decorated chocolate eggs and perfectly-proportioned bunnies were piled high at each stand. At the first edition of Zurich's Mode Suisse event on Saturday, designers presented their latest collections to a sunny soundtrack. We enjoyed a perfect Sunday out in the fresh air, jogging, de-weeding and reading on the patio. Life couldn't get much better ...
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