Design in Adelboden ...

One feature I read described Adelboden as 'pristine' - not quite the choice of word I would have gone for. A collection of tumbledown Alpine chalets and sleepy shops at the top of a steep valley in the Bernese Oberland, it sits in a leafy basin of traditional farmland. It is so much more than pristine. It seems unspoilt by tourism and has so far escaped the Alpine skyscrapers that have swamped so many resorts. The powerful Engstligen Falls tumble down 600-metres on the northern valley slope - they are Switzerland's second longest waterfall - and provide a superb focus for any photo.

When Tim and I arrived on Saturday, the falls were drifting in and out of focus behind the foggy soup clouding the village. As the afternoon progressed, the skies began to clear and, by the time evening sunshine had laid out its syrupy cloak, we were able to enjoy Adelboden in all its glory. From our south-facing room in the Welsh-owned The Cambrian we gazed over the pistachio pastures, dotted with vivid greenery, and couldn't take our eyes off the waterfall. We moseyed down to the Spa and gazed some more from the outdoor pool, which is small but boasts an unspoilt panorama of the valley. The hotel is in a wonderful position. A chic haven of style and design on the southern valley slope, it stands in stark contrast to its neighbouring buildings but has paid homage to its surroundings. In our room, there were two locally-produced cow hide chairs and an earthy colour scheme. This was offset by modern artwork from a gallery in Cardiff. A thoughtful touch was a DVD player, with a long list of DVDs to rent from reception - first sign that this is a place you come to relax (and perfect for a night in watching classic James Bond). More on that later.

In the meantime, we took part in a yoga class on the hotel's terrace and then dined out. We walked over a bridge high above the gushing river and meandered between farm houses to the Bodehuttli. A lovely wooden Gasthaus, it serves delicious, homemade pizzas. As we chomped greedily, we gazed out of the window onto beautifully manicured gardens filled with colourful flowers - such a pretty scene against the wilderness of the mountains.

We awoke early on Sunday morning to sunbeams and a Nordic walk up to the Alpine herb garden. After a steep walk uphill through pastures chiming with cow bells, we reached a meadow laid out with various herbs and flowers used in the Alps, each with a little label. I could have spent hours smelling all the wonderful scents and admiring the perfect little shapes. But a stiff mist was gathering around us and, by the time we returned to the hotel, Adelboden and its mountains had all but disappeared. Tim went for a foot massage - a birthday treat - and by the time he returned, it was raining. It didn't stop us going for a wet walk through the forest with a nice couple we met on the Nordic walk and returning, damp and cold, to the cosy 'Tea Time' in the hotel's Winter Garden. The room has floor-to-ceiling windows - it was remarkable how lovely the scene of unerring grey outside looked (at least from the warmth of the great indoors).

The steam rising from the outdoor pool was so tempting that we spent even more time in the spa. I opted for lengths indoors, under a panel lit up like the night's sky. Making our way to dinner in the hotel that night, we came across idiosyncratic touches such as a grand piano painted like a Friesian cow. The menu was modern Alpine and I went for a summer salad followed by local Perch fillet served with vegetables and roast potatoes, finishing with peach in chocolate sauce. It was all very tasty and the sun even treated us to an evening performance. Apparently visitors come to the hotel in their droves in November, to escape the grey Swiss lowlands, and, if they leave the hotel at all, leave only for a couple of hours. I can understand why. It was such a comfortable space to be in - slick yet unpretentious, with friendly staff and interesting touches to entertain the mind. And, of course, there is that panorama it boasts over Adelboden, its mountains and its stunning waterfall.

This is the life: First swim of the year in the Katzensee

It's been a grim winter in Switzerland but, as of the last couple of weeks, the sun has begun to shine more and more. Today was particularly glorious, so Tim and I headed to the Katzensee (our local lake) early - and armed with freshly baked muffins from the local bakery for sustenance. Although the meadow where we laid out our picnic blanket was already in the sun, the pontoon into the lake looked somewhat shady and imposing, lying as it does beneath a thick canopy of greenery. We could hear the coots and their chicks on the water, and could see several people swimming or ready. So we went for it.

Tim jumped straight in; I lingered on the steps into the water, counting to an ever-increasing number and chuckling at a group of ten year old girls and boys. As overheard from the boys: "Ugh, the water is so cold; I'm not going in!". As overheard from the girls: "Let's go and play in the water - it's quite warm!" Telling of society?? Eventually, I jumped in. I had thought the worst ordeal of the day would be bearing my winter white limbs to the world for the first time since last September; it was actually the way the water took my breath away in true Tim Vincent fashion. It was so cold, bracingly cold, so cold that you can feel your goose bumps expanding even as you swim.

But it was oh so fresh and lovely - made all the better by lying on our picnic blanket afterwards soaking up the sun and munching muffins. As the lake began to get crowded around lunchtime, we moseyed home and spent the afternoon on our patio reading. We enjoyed deliciously summery meals courtesy of Gwyneth Paltrow's 'It's All Good' (which contains some of the tastiest and healthiest recipes I have come across in a while): for lunch, avocado and mango salad with balsamic-lime vinaigrette and for dinner, white fish tortilla wraps with guacamole and jalapeno. This is certainly a standard of living I could get used to!

True rural Switzerland: Walking above Appenzell and beneath the Saentis

Ebenalp is a land of jagged cliffs, where bundles of rock - some sharp and pointed, others rounded - are stacked ever higher until they meet the majestic, snowy summit of the Saentis (2504m). Sweeping out beneath this landscape of turrets is a carpet of rolling greenery and quaint villages of colourful houses: Appenzellerland. A place associated with dairy products and tricky dialects, farmers and country costume. Women in one region here were only given the vote a few years ago - which gives you an idea of how rural it is.

On a day's hike with my former editor Carina and her boyfriend, we all took a steep cable car ride up from Wasserauen in the valley. Hiking up that section seems a perfect waste of time, as the views really begin once you are at Ebenalp. From there, you can look down to the effervescent green depths of the Seealpsee and admire the walls of rock that reach vertically upwards around it. We crossed snow fields and grassy mounds, snaking slowly upwards towards the Schaefler Alm (1924m). Over delicious sausage and cheese salads, we gazed over the 360-degree views - our eyes ever drawn towards the Saentis. We descended beneath the jagged rocks, sloping for some distance under the protection of giant walls that were being scaled by brave climbers. We passed herds of golden cattle and cute calves with impossibly huge eyes in some of the steepest pastures I have ever seen.

It certainly is not a route for the faint hearted, as to the right of the path is a breathtaking drop of some 500 metres to the lake. One of the highlights of the descent is passing through the Wildkirchli, a cave where bears allegedly used to live and, just beyond, a church built into the rock. A real tourist trap (where fondue was being served despite the high temperature), we quickly bypassed the hut here and began a very steep woodland descent to the lake. That is not a part of the walk I would recommend, as the descent is steep and without views for a long way.

Reaching the lake makes it worthwhile though and especially the stretch beneath the woodland to the lake, which resembled a lush green scene from the Nepalese rainforest. Collapsing into chairs at the hut beside the lake, we indulged with seriously creamy home made ice cream and zingy apricot strudel in the hut beside the lake. What had been forecast as a rainy day turned out to be sunny and warm. Only late in the afternoon, as we made our way back to the car park, did clouds begin to build. We left with a sense of wellbeing and sunkissed skin; we had escaped the bustle of the everyday for a few hours and lived only in the present, with no cares or worries except whether we had enough water to get us home: never a real problem in the mountains though, where you are sure to come across a mountain stream to fill up your bottle with ice cold and deliciously refreshing water. If only it was as easy to bottle the mountain air to bring home with you ...

Eggs and myths: Hoch Ybrig Laucheren to Brunni via the Grosser Mythen ...

The 7-Egg-Wanderung (7 eggs walk) takes in some of Canton Schwyz's most stunning pre Alpine scenery and, not far from Zurich by train, it was too much of a temptation for Tim and me to forego on a sunny day like yesterday. Greasy with SPF but raring to go, we took the Hoch Ybrig Laucheren chair lift up about 400 metres and were rewarded (effortlessly) with some poetic views. As we climbed higher, eventually reaching the Spirstock summit (1856m), we crossed obstinate snow fields and looked over to white peaks in the distance. In one direction, we could see Lake Lucerne with Mount Pilatus arising from it and, in the other, majestic mountains Toedi and Hoch Pfaffen (Swiss for 'Big Faff' - NB. This is Tim's translation!)

Behind us was the Druesberg (2,282m) - it looks like a cluster of Lego blocks thrown together. After a brief photo stop with the summit cross, we continued along the shoulder towards Ibergeregg, marvelling at the peace and quiet. Underfoot, flowers were blooming among grass still recovering from the snow cover. I managed to identify white crocuses and snow gentians. Ibergeregg was quite a built-up part of the route and accessible by a road, which led to inevitable sights of people 'hiking' in flip flops.

The route is interesting, however, because it has been used for hundreds of years connecting Schwyz and Hoch Ybrig. The next stretch was quite gentle - and perhaps therefore busy - but we found an idyllic picnic spot for lunch and a tap streaming with alpine spring water. Tim started working on me here, as we gazed ahead to a rock-like summit thrusting up on the horizon - the Grosser Mythen (Big myth). Reaching almost 2,000 metres above sea level, its rocky shoulders look impossible to ascend. "Wouldn't it be nice to say we have climbed that too?" He said. "Imagine what the views will be like from the summit." "Just think how much you would like to say you have climbed it." "Let's climb it now and then we'll have 'done' this part of Switzerland." Even though we have already scaled one summit and walked 13 kilometres in between?

As we approached, however, the summit looked marginally less imposing and I could see a steady stream of people traipsing up (including children and elderly people, which is perhaps what gave me the final push). Apparently there has been a path up it since 1864. Oh, and the flag was flying on the hut at the top - which meant it was open! We refreshed with Schorli (a tasty apple juice mixed with sparkling water) at the Holzegg hut. And then it was up... for the next 45 minutes ...

One of my favourite parts of the walk was seeing a cluster of solitary wild daffodils clutching to a sheer edge. Another, as we approached the summit, was a German chap stopping us to say he had a "short announcement" for the "Herr" and proceeded to tell Tim that sadly he had drunk all the beer in the hut at the top and so he should probably descend right away! Fortunately for Tim the guy had a sense of humour! At the summit, we felt as if helicopters and planes were swooping around us - there must have been a lot of sight seeing trips going on. We were so high up and on such a small platform - I certainly wouldn't want to be caught up there in a storm. The slog uphill was worth it for the views and the cute little hut and, really, it wasn't so bad. Uphill done for a short burst like that passes surprisingly quickly. Before we knew it, we had descended to Brunni and were enjoying a slice of apricot cake while waiting for the bus. I have remembered why I love living in Alpine places (the winter had made me forget it for a while...!)

Swiss meadows ...

Sometimes you don't need to look far to find beauty in a world of pollution, violence and aggression. Sometimes, you just need to walk out of your back door. I have spent the last few weeks moaning about Zurich's weather - the sun hasn't shone all spring. But today it came out, and on a walk around our local lake, the Katzensee, I simply couldn't stop snapping the array of wild flowers in the meadows. Embedded in long grass and sweeping in carpets of yellow, purple, pink and white down to the shore, they are like something from a picture book. The rain has certainly served its purpose in one way!

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