What are three of my most favorite things? Stand up paddling, coffee, and travel. And in this blog, I’ll begin to take you on a journey of some of the World’s Best of unheard of locales with sup-able waters just waiting to be paddled, the world’s best places to stay when you get there, and I’ll show you the best world’s best cup of jo to leave you with a foamy upper lip and a hitch in your gitty-up for SUP!
In this first of many installments, I invite you to come with me as I take you through a little corner of Europe. Our first stop…Switzerland.
SUP & and CUP – The Way the Swiss Do it.
My back ached and my ears were popping. The quiet night drive up into the Swiss Alps felt good after lugging my inflatable SUP backpack through planes, trains, and now automobiles. Would it be worth all the effort of lugging it from the USA to Europe?
We kept climbing higher and higher and my one year old dozed away through it all. I too was looking forward to a good doze after a long day of traveling as we headed into Switzerland. The hairpin turns kept coming, and as the final turn broke free into a straight stretch I began to see water stretched out with lights from tiny swiss villages sparkling down on it. It looked glassy. My stand-up-paddle-itus started to flare up. Following the line of the lake the road took us finally to our small little destination town of Silvaplana, Switzerland.
Our stay of choice: Conrad’s Mountain Lodge, Silvaplana Switzerland.
A quaint little Bed & Breakfast that looked intriguing on the internet when I was checking out the area. Upon checking in our room, which was really much more a suite with a loft, was one of just 19 rooms in the lodge and was well appointed. It was love at first sight when I spotted all the glorious details. The cashmere throw pillow on the bed, the lovely little crib set up in swiss fashion with at tiny little pillow and petite duvet for my baby, the bottles of sparkling water left for our refreshment, the fair-trade toiletries, the real wood furnishings, the equipment closet which perfectly housed my SUP bag and kept it out of the way, and the list goes on. Spacious, warm, and inviting, so myself, my nanny, and I settled in for lovely night’s rest.
I woke early the next morning as my love for European coffee infiltrated my every being. As I rose, I walked to the terrace doors and pulled back the curtains to reveal the most breathtaking Swiss Alps view I had not been able to enjoy as we drove up at night. I knew we would have a view but I had no idea it would look like this. It literally did make me stop breathing for a moment as I soaked it all in. And in a gentle distance from my terrace I saw it…water.
“Silvaplana See” as the locals call it, or Lake Silvaplana. We buzzed through our morning ritual and graced our slippers provided by the Lodge and headed down to breakfast.
The smell of fresh baked bread and eggs filled the breakfast lounge with warm fuzzies and the staff even more so. Ana greeted us with a gorgeous smile, and had coffee and lattes as well as “Vitamin Drink” on our table before we could even wipe the sleep from our eyes. And it was by far the best cup in all of my (most likely 178 cups) espresso experience in Europe. But that wasn’t all that was good…An amazing spread was laid out for breakfast of assorted meats, fresh swiss cheeses of many different types, smoked salmon, fresh yogurt, muesli, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, croissants, fresh homemade breads, eggs cooked to order, and plenty of it. I was in swiss breakfast heaven! And I needed a good fueling before I hit the water.
In this small Engadin valley town set up high in the Swiss Alps had a generous elevation, and this sea level, fresh-water mermaid gets quite winded when paddling in elevation. So I chowed down, knocked back about 4 espressos…(honestly they are like tortilla chips there – you can’t stop with one) and asked Monti, a lovely little gal that ran the front desk at the lodge, the best place to access the beautiful water I saw outside. She pointed me in the direction of the local campground “Camping Silvaplana” and I grabbed a crisp apple that the lodge has laying around on plates everywhere you look and headed just 2 minutes away to the water’s edge.
Tears almost struck my eyes as I gazed at one of the most beautiful and scenic places I have ever been to paddle in God’s creation. Lake Silvaplana, surrounded on all sides by the towering snowcapped Swiss Alps, pristine ocean blue water with barely a ripple to it, a waterfall in the distance cascading down into the lake, and quiet bell choir of cows with bells around their necks in fields alongside the water creating gentle music in the distance.
It was a moment I will never forget, because in that moment, I realized lugging my board halfway around the world, and the back-ache it gave me was all about ti be definitely worth it. I pumped up my BiC SUP Air, and paddled out. I was on a Swiss Mountain High as the view never ceased to amaze me in every direction. The air smelled of fall and I noticed some trees starting to paint their leaves different colors of varying hues.
While their was a crisp, coolness in the air at about 55 degrees, I was warm with the comfort of the mountains, the waterfall, the sunshine, and yes, even the cow-bells. Switzerland seems to warm you heart and soul even when it’s cool out. I watched fish swim in clear waters underneath me, birds fly all around me, and people quietly walking the lake’s path nearby and I knew I was truly in a magical place.
After a mesmerizing paddle, I settled back into Conrad’s to catch up on some work on the internet which is complementary in the public areas. In the afternoon they serve assorted cakes, fruits, and snacks, as well as, you guessed it, more coffee. The girl of the evening was Lucia, who played with my baby and offered her toys to occupy her while I worked and while my nanny enjoyed some treats.
Lucia told of us of some local places to dine that would offer us that traditional Swiss fare. Just around the corner we walked to Restaurant Pizzeria Arlas, where I wanted to try the dishes of the locals. One of the specialities that locals enjoy is tripe, which was divine (that’s cow brains for those who don’t know). But for the less adventurous, they also offer pizzas made right in front of you and cooked in a brick oven, fondue, and fresh made meals served table side in a family-style manner. The waiters flirted and made eyes at my baby and kept her entertained, and the restaurant was warm and boasts and extensive menu.
Back at the Lodge, we settled in and watch the starry night sky from our terrace. As our four days there rolled on, we explored the beautiful nearby posh town of St. Moritz, we enjoyed the Gondola lifts up into the Alps to see expansive views (courtesy of Conrad’s), we shopped where the locals shopped and got some great souvenirs at the local “Coop” store, we explored Glacier “Diavolezza” in the nearby down of Pontresina, drank espresso on the “top of the world” at Piz Nair, we dined at some other fantastic establishments like the St. Moritz Sailing Club.
But it isn’t just the food or the views that make a place “stand out” in the SUP world. As always with stand up paddlers, it’s about the community. It’s the people. It’s the energy of an active city containing a love of nature and all it has to offer. I’ve stayed a lot of places with my life as a BiC SUP Ambassador, but never have a felt so at home, so far away.
Never have I stayed at hotel that made me feel like family rather than a customer. Watching Ana whisk my daughter into her arms every morning, kissing her and showing her off as if she were her own, as well as having every care we could ever require or ask of attended to by all the staff there made it actually quite difficult to leave.
It felt as though I was leaving my family’s home after the holidays, rather than just checking out. I left a piece of my heart in Silvaplana, and I will be back to experience it again. That lake still calls to me in a haunting way that I must experience it again. And the
coffee at Conrad’s…well let’s just say I took a picture of their espresso machine and am trying to find out how to purchase on just like it.
The delight in is the details when it comes to SUPing and sipping in Silvaplana. Not sure what Silvaplana means, but I associate with the “Silver Platter” of SUP and a cup of good coffee. Maybe I won’t order the espresso machine after all.
That way, I’ll make my self find a way back their even sooner.
Special Thanks to Conrad’s crew: Kathrin, Ana, Monti, Lucia, and some guy we called “Poppa” every morning, who made our stay in a SUPerb Swiss way.
Links to Plan your trip to Silvaplana:
Conrad’s Mountain Lodge: http://www.conradsmountainlodge.com
Where to rent a SUP if you don’t bring your own:
Where to nosh after a hard paddle: