Tuesday, July 30, 2013

heat wave? let's get some ice cream

EXCESSIVE HEAT EXPECTED. My Weather Channel App had a most foreboding weather alert for the Pontresina area on Sunday. What to do? We came all this way to avoid the heat, and now this. How are we supposed to hike in the heat wave? Okay, give me the bad news, weather app. How bad will it be -- 110? 100? Nope. 75 degrees. I do love myself some Pontresina in July.

When the "heat" descended, the Ecksteins (along with Collin and Holly) ascended -- the easy way. (As you will see here, Collin has shed his Baby Bjorn camera pack from the day prior. Too bad.) That is, we took a funicular up to Corviglia (8,150'), a small summit just above St. Moritz. Corviglia sits in the middle of a massive collection of ski runs in the mountains behind St. Moritz and Celina. I saw at least six chair lifts heading out in all directions from Corviglia. Those lifts were all shut down, though, as the summer is the time of the hiker and the mountain biker, and there were plenty of both out that day. The mountain bikers, in particular, seem to make their presence known, both on and off the trails. (The emergence of mountain biking is probably the biggest change in this place since I was last here in 1989. I am clearly getting old, as I find myself wanting to shake my fist at the bikers as they whiz by us on the trails, doing their fancy jumps and all. Damn kids.)

From Corviglia, we took a gondola up to Piz Nair (10,030'), the tallest peak that overlooks St. Moritz. The views, as with all the mountain peaks in this area, are breathtaking. Notwithstanding the "heat wave," it was really cold and windy as we stood outside. (Dan, Katherine and Jennifer are braving the elements in the name of a good photo op.)

We all rode the gondola back down to Corviglia, where we ate and split up -- my parents taking Lauren and Owen on public transportation back to the hotel and the rest of us hiking the nearly four-mile trail down to St. Moritz. From there, most of us walked back to Pontresina, back in plenty of time for dinner and our second encounter with the dessert buffet. I won't write a lot here about the buffet, other than observe it was pretty much the same layout as the week prior. I felt a bit better prepared this time, focusing my attention on the ice creams and mousses. My uncle made several passes at the buffet. He likely would have made several more had my aunt not been there to rein him in.

Our good-luck weather streak ran out on our final full day in Pontresina, as a cold rain moved in, and did not move out. I was determined not to let the weather deprive me of a last hike/run, so I hiked (quickly) the three-and-a-half miles to the Morteratsch station, and ran back. I was a little shocked to see that I was not the only idiot in the area that day, as there were several others out walking/hiking/biking. I even saw two families, including one with two small children riding mountain bikes in the driving rain. Those were two totally miserable looking children. I was soaked when I made it back to the room. In case I had any doubt about how I looked, I saw all I needed to when Keri opened the door, slowly closed her eyes, sighed, turned around, and grabbed me a robe -- all without saying a word. I think she was too impressed to put into words her true feelings.

We all spent the afternoon at the hotel, swimming, reading and talking. I would have rather the weather cooperated, but the rain did give us a chance to sit down for a while as a family. Even Owen managed to put down the iPad and join us for some real conversation. I doubt he will soon recover from that. (Pictured here is Owen manhandling the knight in armor that stands outside the entrance to the Walther dining room. This photo captures well Owen's general disregard of our instruction to keep his hands to himself, as well as his level of comfort in the hotel. If I have not made it clear before, let me do so now -- the hotel staff bent over backwards to made Lauren and Owen feel at home, and we cannot thank them enough.)

Our last dinner was uneventful. Luigi took good care of us, as he had for two weeks, meeting without the slightest visible sign of judgment or frustration each of our many, many culinary demands. The kids got their glasses of apple juice, and their chicken nuggets/steak. Keri was delivered an extra helping of wine. Most importantly, Luigi met perfectly each of our eleven different dessert orders. I am not sure how this happened, as there were two perfectly good desserts on the menu, but I was the only one to order one of them (something called a Coupe Romanov that had a scoop of vanilla ice cream sitting on top of a whole heap of cut strawberries. (It was delicious.)

Everyone else let go of whatever inhibitions had heretofore compelled them to stick to the dessert menu, instead asking for whatever the hell they felt like. Owen ordered two scoops of strawberry sorbet and one scoop of vanilla ice cream -- in two separate bowls. (When it comes to frozen desserts, Owen is a strict segregationist.) Keri got a scoop of mango sorbet and chocolate ice cream (a rarity for this low-fat frozen yogurt eater). Lauren went with two scoops of chocolate ice cream. Everyone shared in a the chocolate sauce that Luigi had placed in the middle of the table. Even my aunt splurged and put some chocolate sauce on her fresh berries. Must have been something in the air.

Most impressive was the performance of my uncle, who finished off with a flourish his two-week eat-a-thon. Kevin McHale, the old Boston Celtic, was often called the Black Hole, as once the basketball went into him in the post, it did not come back out. My uncle is pretty much the same when it comes to food, in particular desserts. Keri and I have had many dinners where we passed desserts around a table full of adults. Most of the time, those desserts make several trips around the table, with some food remaining uneaten as the plate comes to a final rest. Literally six different plates/bowls went in the direction of my uncle last night. Not a single one emerged with even a morsel of ice cream or cake alive.

This morning, we sent off my aunt, uncle, and cousins to catch their train. Keri, the kids and I followed an hour later, taking a train to Zurich, where we are spending tonight before we fly through London and on to Phoenix tomorrow. My parents are staying a couple extra days in Pontresina, and will be home by the weekend.

As we were saying our good-byes, my uncle said he looked forward to the dessert buffet at our home Sunday night. I am not sure he was kidding.

1 comment:

  1. You can't end this vacation! How am I going to make it through August w/o the funny stories (and history lessons)?! Safe travels (if you insist on traveling home).
    -Jill Herbert