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Mountains, meadows, glaciers,wild flowers – everything you associate withsummer in the Swiss Alps
The Swiss don’t do clichés – but if they did they’d probably be the best clichés in the world. Sure, there are a few images that pop immediately into your head when you think of Switzerland – Heidi in flaxen pigtails or yodellers in tight leather shorts (delete according to taste), triangular chocolate bars and cuckoo clocks. That sort of thing.

And here at Camping des Glaciers you certainly get all the standard features – Alpine meadow, forest glade, mountain glacier, gushing river, crystal air, wild flowers underfoot, puffy white clouds overhead. But, somehow, it all resists cliché because it’s just so refreshingly…refreshing.

The site is spread out like a giant green picnic blanket on the side of the hill at the end of the glacier moraine, and you can take your pick from three types of pitch – in amongst the grassy rocks thrown down the mountain by the action of ice and gravity, with views up to the mountain tops; on the open meadow looking back down the valley; or in amongst the pine trees and wild flowers, where you can’t see the wood for the trees (and the bees).

The owners of the site, Agathe and Michel Darbellay, have run it for nearly 40 years and seem to have intimate knowledge of every blade of grass and flower in the place. Agathe will show you some of the seven different types of wild orchid that grow on the site and can even occasionally point you in the direction of a rarer mountain flower, such as Campagnola thyrsoïdes, growing wild somewhere about the place. It helps enormously that she speaks excellent English along with a number of other languages. She’s always bustling about the place, popping in for a quick drink with some guests who are back for at least the 30th year in a row, showing people around, pointing out the flowers. It’s a small wonder she doesn’t get dizzy.

In contrast, Michel is a quieter type (you couldn’t have two of them like Agathe – it wouldn’t work), though his reticence results from as much modesty as from the fact that he doesn’t speak English. He’s also as far removed from the dizzy type as you can imagine. He was, after all, the first man to scale the north face of the Eiger solo – a feat he achieved in 1963. Luckily this was before Agathe came along, because she claims that if they’d been married then, she’d never have let him anywhere near it.

The site’s a 10-minute stroll from the hamlet of La Fouly, a modest ski resort in the winter months, with a black run and a couple of reds and blues. But it’s probably even more popular in the summer, when the meadows are laced with a profusion of wild flowers and the melon-green river comes crashing down from the glacier.

There’s an intricate maze of walks and climbs from the village, or from Ferret a couple of miles up the valley, and although the mountains around La Fouly are not quite in the Eiger league they can still hold their heads up high. The twin peaks above the site and the col (mountain pass) that leads over to France are sufficient for most serious walkers and you’d need to do more than strap a pair of crampons to your Gucci loafers if you wanted to lunch in Chamonix. It’s only 10 miles (16 km) away as the crow flies, but it will take you an hour and a half by road over the Col des Montets.

Not that you need to go all that way when everything you need is here – all those boringly bog-standard Alpine things.


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