By: Michel Crowder for The Gainesville Times


     Here I sit soaking in a hotel bathtub for the first time in my life. In a lifetime of travel I have never seen a tub I would sink myself into. This bath room is not only immaculate it is extravagant. From heated floors and towel racks to robes and slippers, no comfort has been spared. The mental plans for my dream home have just been rewritten.

     The main living quarters of the room are just as fine. Two walls of solid glass open up onto separate balconies both with exquisite views of the Alps. The North Face of the Eiger and Junfrau tower almost within reach. There is an immense pride in a job well done among the people working in the Swiss service industry. This dedication coupled with any amenity a person could desire make for a level of hospitality that seems dream like.

     I have been dreaming of a ski vacation in the Swiss Alps for twenty years but always ended up on more money conscious trips. How does the budget minded traveler end up in a four star Swiss resort hotel? Several factors combined to make this trip possible. It started as a whim when I saw a sale fare on an airline website. The price was too good to ignore so I booked two tickets, six months in advance, without hesitation.

      The next piece of good news in the financial puzzle was discovering how favorable the exchange rate is at the present time. The U.S. Dollar is flexing its muscles overseas. As I started researching hotel rates I was presently surprised when I calculated the rates in U.S. dollars. In the midst of rate shopping, the tragedies of Sept. 11 happened and travel came to a screeching halt. The masses began canceling flights into the foreseeable future and I started looking for more bargains. I have seen round trip flights from major Eastern U.S. cities to Zurich and Geneva for as little as 276.00 U.S.D. The recent decline in travel has also caused hotel rates to become more competitive.

     Our first stop on this three week tour of Switzerland is the Town of Grindelwald. This beautiful town nestled in the Swiss Alps is probably most famous in the U.S. for its use as the setting in the movie The Eiger Santion starring Clint Eastwood. The impressive view of the Eiger is always present from anywhere in town. This town is also surrounded by several more of the most impressive mountains in the Alps.

     Grindelwald is one of the most charming towns a person could visit. Beautiful hotels, quaint shops, wonderful restaurants and some of the best pastries known to mankind line the main road. This town sees little traffic as the only road bringing folks in terminates at the end of town. There are no people just passing through. The restaurants mostly specialize in fondue, which is the regions specialty, or Italian food. With Italy being only a stones throw away there is much Italian influence.

     There is much to do for the winter visitor. First and foremost is the skiing. We skied on the Eiger glacier and at First which were both outstanding. Both of these areas have fine lifts and first class skiing. Riding the Kleine Scheidegg to the Eiger glacier is an experience in its self. If skiing isn't your cup of tea then sledding, snowshoeing and ice climbing are also popular.

     For those of ya'll that are not so adventurous the shopping is great. Everything from Swiss lace to fine watches can be purchased. While touring the town you can gorge yourself by stopping and sampling all of the exquisite pastries. If relaxing is your game then all of the fine spa facilities and other touring delights will calm you for your return to the hectic pace of returning to work and day to day life. The train to Jungfrau is very scenic and is topped of by a meal that has you feeling as if you were on the top of the world.

     If you have dreamed of taking a Swiss vacation since seeing the Sound of Music then now is the time. Flights are cheap, hotel rates reasonable, and the hospitality is first class. This has been one of the best vacations I have ever experienced and we plan on returning as soon as possible. For more information on visiting Grindelwald check out