EuroTrip: Part 1 – Soundwave, Singapore Airlines, and Skiing the Swiss Alps

You may have the universe if I may have Italy. – Giuseppe Verdi

We had to give it a go, make a change, try something different. It would start with an open ended trip to Europe. We talked about it for over a year before we left, and we weren’t really sure what would happen…

The real preparations really started just 6 months prior to departure. With our house half packed before we left, we decided to take the chance and not rent it out straight away. We would pay for removalists to take care of the remaining gear if we had to.

Equipped with a couple of backpacks, a laptop, cameras, and clothes, we set off. On Friday the 22nd of February we left Cairns for Brisbane.

Saturday the 23rd of February 2013 – Soundwave

Soundwave was our first stop, one of Australia’s biggest music festivals; and no wonder when the line-ups seemingly get better each year. Metallica, Linkin Park, A Perfect Circle, Offspring, Garbage, Sum41, Killswitch Engage, Stone Sour, and more, all at one event in one day? It was our first big music festival and it won’t be our last. Definitely the perfect start to our trip!

We met up with friends before heading from the CBD area to the RNA Showgrounds, and one of the first things we noticed when we arrived (besides the masses of people) was that black is definitely the colour of choice for “Soundwavers”. This was probably augmented by the fact that most people were wearing tour shirts from the headline acts; which were mostly black…

I’m a big fan of Metallica, who were undoubtedly the biggest name at the event, however I’d seen them before, and so my favourite of the day was definitely Linkin Park; especially since they slipped some Collission Course in for good measure (no sneaky appearances from Jay-Z though).

After some hiccups finding our way back to the train, we decided to walk back to our accommodation; a trek that took us around 30 minutes, and set us up for the rest of our trip.

 

Sunday the 24th of February 2013 – Bye Bye Australia

This was it, the day our trip really began; we could hardly wait to get on that flight. Singapore Airlines Flight 236 to Singapore, then Flight 368 to Milan (who doesn’t enjoy a stopover at the Singapore International Airport, with it’s free wifi and massage chairs). We joked that our seats looked like the cockpit, however the best part free alcohol (here’s a tip, try the Singapore Sling).

… and the food wasn’t too bad either.

We tried to get as much sleep as possible since skiing the Italian side of the Swiss Alps was our next stop; it was important to be feeling good to make the most of our visit to the Matterhorn! However we also made good use of the digital entertainment system (the cockpit) to catch up on some movies and TV shows.

 

Monday the 25th of February 2013 – Ciao Milano, Ciao Milano, and Ciao Cervinia

We arrived in Milan at around 8:00am and were pretty much waved through the customs area without so much as a second glance. Actually, I don’t think anyone was stopped; we definitely weren’t in Australia now…

Entering into the arrivals lounge, we were greeted by my brother and his mate who had flown in the day before. As we stepped out of the airport, the first thing we noticed was snow, in Milan; we weren’t even near the Alps yet! No time to explore today though, we found Piero our driver, who would take us from the Malpensa Airport (MXP) to Antey-Saint-André in the Aosta Valley in a reasonably new Range Rover Vogue. Piero didn’t speak much English, but that was ok, we were in awe of our surroundings and there was a lot to take in during our 2 our trip.

It snowed most of the way there; the first sign that it would be great skiing conditions!

As we drove through the relatively small town of Antey-Saint-André where we would spend the next few nights, it felt almost like the small Italian influenced towns back home (Babinda, Innisfail, Mareeba, Atherton); yet the landscape surrounding us was amazing, steep cliffs and tall snow capped mountain peaks. It was all a little bit surreal.

Our accommodation, La Gran Becca, which appeared to be less than 5 years old, had no doubt modeled after a traditional “log cabin in the snow”. After some initial mucking around, and a short trip downtown to get some locally baked lunch while we waited for our room to be cleaned, we were able to move in to the somewhat “cozy” unit with its single combined kitchen and living area, a bedroom with a double and single bed, and a combined bathroom/laundry. It wasn’t big, but it didn’t matter!

With everything sorted, it was time to track down some supplies and hire some ski gear. Not far away we found Du Elle Sport, which is run by a local couple that spent lots of time making sure we had all the right stuff. We all started with skis, except for my brother, who picked up some snowshoes to try some hiking (since he was still recovering from an arm wrestling incident…). While downtown we also took a trip to the local supermarket for the essentials, some food, beer, and a 2L bottle of red wine of course!

Because we were still getting our bearings, we decided to eat at the resort restaurant for the first night. The meals there were ok, but the atmosphere was lacking, and the vibe we got from the staff almost felt like they were annoyed that we were keeping them there…

The next morning we were up early to make the most of our first day. After a quick breakfast, we caught the local bus from the nearby stop up to Cervinia, the town at base of the slopes. The trip took about 30 minutes, and we travelled through a number of other small towns on the way up, passing plenty of grocery stores, gift and flower shops, delis, and even a formaggeria (cheese shop)… I could live here.

Cervinia is a cozy little snow town with cafes, bars, restaurants, and ski hire shops, connected by a maze of little roads, footpaths, and pedestrian bridges; all with snow covered alps as a backdrop. After a short wander it was time to prepare for the slopes and find our ski legs, so we took to the easy runs first to get started.

It didn’t take long to get back into it, and after a short time, we decided to head further up the hill towards the Swiss border. We stopped at a ski bar on the way up for panini and cafe’ (espresso coffee) for lunch, before continuing our ascent.

Being Australian, it is an absolutely weird feeling to be able to stand with one foot planted in one country while the other is in the next. It’s not something you can do unless you leave our continent. With a few short runs and exploring behind us, we then decided to head higher up the mountain and find our way across the border into Switzerland.

At nights, we spent time planning the next part of our trip; Paris first, then Venice, train to Florence, then Rome, and a flight to Sicily to meet our cousins in Agira. We were still only getting started…

 

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