My own headline makes me feel a bit blown away because let’s face it, there’s something about Switzerland that just feels so regal and chic and luxurious and like, well, you’ve made it in life.
Maybe it’s all those big banks decked out in leather and high security that always crop up in spy films, eh?
Anyway, before I get stuck into the nitty-gritty about the things I saw and the things I ate and all the LOLZ I had over wine, lemme just give a big ol’ juicy shout out to London Southend Airport.
It’s my joint-closest airport, joint with London Stansted (which without a doubt is my least favourite airport because it’s absolute bedlam. That tweet about there needing to be two queues at airports, one for holidaymakers and the other for people who can follow basic instructions is so on-point for Stansted.)
I’ve never flown from Southend before, probably because it only had a massive overhaul in 2008 in time for the Olympics (because it’s the only airport with direct links to Stratford), and so it isn’t well established yet and well, I’m a convert. A Southend Airport convert.
It’s so small and efficient and perfectly formed that it makes getting the plane like getting the train (just without all the hideous delays, obvs).
There were no queues. No queues to check-in, no queues for security, no queues to get on the plane and no queues on the return at passport control or for baggage reclaim. It was a breeze.
When Chris picked me up from Manningtree station on Sunday night (it was marginally quicker than waiting for a train to Ipperz), I spent the entire 18-minute drive home just babbling about my new-found love for an airport, like an old man who just really likes planes.
EasyJet, SkyWork and Aer Lingus all fly from Southend so it’ll 100% be the first place I look for flights when doing that thing where it’s Tuesday afternoon and oh you know what would be nice? A trip to Berlin. Or maybe Italy. Oh or Spain. Maybe we should go on a city break next weekend and just eat McDonalds for three days straight because we have no money.
Anyone else? When like you find £40 return flights to somewhere in Europe and you’re trying to justify that you can defs afford a little holiday if you just eat 19p noodles and beans for the next month and don’t do a single sneaky ASOS order or eat out.
Anyway, enough of fan-girling over an airport, I’m cooler than that.
Last Friday evening I found myself whizzing off to the corner of Essex on a train to catch a flight to Bern alongside a group of journos and my fellow gal pal Josie from Fashion Mumblr.
Bern is teeny tiny. Although it is the capital fo Switzerland, it only has 180,000 residents which makes it about the same size as Ipswich.
After some gourmet sausage rolls, sarnies, cakes and G&Ts in the first class lounge we boarded our SkyWork plane for a 90-minute flight to the Swiss capital.
Our plane was as close to a private jet as you’re ever going to get with a writer’s income (lol) and held about 34 people. I felt a *bit* like a member of One Direction, can’t lie to you.
I napped and got on board with Undisclosed which is kind of the follow-on podcast to Serial, focusing on other elements in the Hae Min Lee murder case and omg I have so many more questions for the world.
We landed late into the evening, checked into the Bellevue Palace Hotel and got straight onto the most important thing of all time – sampling the Swiss wine.
I can confirm that a Swiss red is as light and dreamy and fruit and soothing on the soul as you’d hope. So that’s good.
The hotel itself is a decadent heaven. The bathrooms are lined with Molten Brown goodies and come with a bar of game-changing local milk chocolate. Yummo. The rooms also have doorbells which made me feel a *bit* like I had a casual Swiss apartment for luxury weekends away everytime Josie called for me for outfit photos.
Hashtag living the dream.
We spent Saturday exploring the city. Climbing the clock tower, walking around Einstein’s house and discussing Klee’s work in a museum dedicated to his artistic works. Honestly, you had no idea I could be so cultured, did ya?
(Side note: Me either).
We ate lunch in the more incredible chalet-type restaurant located on top of a hill, in rose gardens which overlooked the entire city. The windows were glass from floor to ceiling and there was sheepskin rugs across the benches and piled up logs and it felt so autumnal and cosy and made me excited for winter markets and piping hot cider and fairy lights and that magical fairytale feeling that just lingers in the air throughout December.
COME ON CHRISTMAS, I AM SO READY FOR YA.
We ate dinner in the hotel with some of the most incredible, melt-in-the-mouth cuts of meat my mouth has ever had the pleasure of encountering. I’m usually cramming it full with £1.29 double cheeseburgers from the palace that is McDonald’s, so it basically had a breakdown over the sweet, sweet pork belly and crispy crackling. Oh boy.
Now, here’s the part of my travel tale that words won’t do justice to. We went to what was described to us as a ‘light show’. I pictured 7 minutes of underwhelming lasers, kind of like when you go to a dull half-hearted fireworks display, but nah, seriously nah.
Every evening for the next six weeks, Bern will put on a visual display projected onto their parliament building. And for realz, it was amazing. And this is usually the opposite of something I’d ever be interested, like nah where’s the pudding and prosecco plz?
I’ve got snippets of it in my Switzerland vlog (check out my travel vids over here), but basically it was a story about a mountain played out in imagery projected on the Federal Palace of Switzerland in all its opulent early 20th century glory. At times it looked like the building was melting or on fire or covered in ice, it made you feel like you were hallucinating and seriously London, you are missing a trick.
It was completely free, wasn’t overly busy, and included some mood-setting tunes from the likes of Coldplay and The Apprentice (I know, HA).
So yeah, after that we retreated back to the hotel and got acquainted with some more local wine, and one by one people snuck off back to sleep until there were just a few of us left and we stayed up until 1am telling Essex crime stories.
It was nice to be part of a group where there were three other East Anglian folk who’d also moved to the area for work from around the country. It was nice to hear other people struggle to make friendships and their opinion on the area as an outsider. It was nice to not feel alone or a bit crazy. And it was nice to talk journo rather than blogger for an evening. To talk crime and newsrooms and reporting rather than lipstick and Instagram and blog envy.
Not that I don’t adore the latter too, obvs.
We spent Sunday eating croissants and drinking coffee (because the hotel breakfasts were just incredz – they made my usual tea and homemade lumpy protein ball look a bit sad), and doing other cultural things that made me feel like a proper qualified adult.
We investigated the local fine art museum which tbh made me want to come home and get out the watercolours and easel again, and we sat through an hour-long classical music matinee, which made me just remember how much I love a good bath, LUSH bath bomb, candles and Classic FM after a bit of travelling.
So erm yeah, that, boys and gals, is 100% my plan for tonight, along with a good clay face mask because my face is ALL the angry after the chocolate and the wine and the cheese and the plane air-con and lack of sleep.
I don’t know how best to explain Bern as a place, unless any of you grew up playing Zelda. It reminds me of a cross between Hyrule Castle Town in Ocarina of Time and Clock Town in Majora’s Mask. Christ, I am a Nintendo geek.
It’s enchanting and full of cobbled streets and flower markets and coffee shops and macarons and cheese. It has pretty winding rivers and street lamps that light up like fairy lights in the dark.
It also has a mini bear park with real bears for you to just watch. Yuh huh.
It’s majestic and pretty and the perfect location for a chilled out autumn city break. The Swiss are very low-key and it makes for the dreamiest of stress-free environments to explore and get lost and just take life at a slower pace that doesn’t make you feel like you might have a breakdown every 27 minutes.
It’s also an hour away from Zurich, and hour from Geneva, and a three hour train to Milan. So it’s perfect for a dual-city break that hasn’t already been absolutely overdone all over your Instagram feed.
And on that note, I’m off to root around in my bank account for spare next city break adventure pennies, but I’m pretty sure I already spent them bringing home my weight in artisan macarons.
(P.S. Full Switzerland outfit post coming later this week…)
Return flights with SkyWork Airlines from London Southend to Bern start at about £150 pp.