The almost fruitless search for coffee


Money money money

Originally uploaded by StripeyAnne

The brochures said Gstaad was home to the rich and famous. The Rough Guide said it was the best place to be snubbed by the rich and famous, so why did I think I'd just be able to walk into a cafe and order coffee and cake?

After an extended journey over here involving three attempts by ground staff at Leeds Bradford Airport to de-ice the plane in freezing fog, then a pleasant half-hour in a holding pattern over Geneva, I arrived three hours late to catch the train to meet Noel at his ski school in Schonried. One thing was for sure, the Swiss trains would definitely run on time and I would certainly make my connection in the five-minute time window. And so it was.

Noel the Gnarly had completed four of his first five days training to be a ski instructor and gone through the pain threshold. He's even talking about skiing this weekend, just for fun, he says. Recreational skiing's relaxing.

So after I waved him off this morning, I set off to go a-wandering along the mountain path, I slung a rucksack on my back, but there was no singing, just a happy hum as I set off to Gstaad via the fabulously scenic Golden Pass railway.

Naturally, the first thing to do on arriving at any place is to seek out and drink coffee, preferably good coffee and preferably with cake. I walked up and down the main street from the station, passing the exclusive shops from Cartier to Calvin Klein, Rolex to Prada, but was there a Starbucks or Cafe Nero? Then I spotted the Grand Palace Hotel, high up on the hill, in all its turretty splendour. It features in all the tourist blurb and must, I argued with myself, have great coffee, even if it was a hike up a steep hill. It MUST be worth it.

As I reached the top, smelling, almost tasting the coffee, I had to come to an abrupt halt. It wasn't the red carpet leading up from the car park, or the commissionaire in his red with golden spaghetti trim. It wasn't even the mini versions of the exclusive shops in the town below. No, it was the sign in English on the restaurant door that announced a dress code which boiled down to anything I was wearing, my fine stout leather walking boots, warm, comfy anorak, stripey hat and natty rucksack wouldn't be acceptable, I'd have to go in naked. I wasn't prepared to do that, there was no way I could leave my camera in the cloakroom. So I left coffee-less and cake-less, heading down hill, hoping I'd missed somewhere on my way up.

And I had. I found the Swiss answer to Betty's Tearoom. Waitresses prissily dressed, art deco styling, and, best of all, the aroma of freshly-ground coffee. It was so good, I had two. The only thing missing was a Fat Rascal, but when in Switzerland, do as the Swiss do – eat cheese.

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