Grimentz: Geraniums galore and more


And the winner is — Yvonne Rouvinet. The competition: Geraniums.

Grimentz, a tiny Swiss hamlet high in the Anniviers Valley in southern Switzerland, is the Shangri-la of geraniums. The fiery red blossoms are the village claim to fame – brimming from boxes on houses, apartments, hotels, shops. Tourists clog narrow cobblestone lanes with their cell phone cameras.

Yvonne Rouvinet and her prize-winning geraniums.

Every August the village sponsors a geranium contest. This year there were over 170 entries in three categories: apartments, businesses and chalets. Rouvinet took top honors in the apartment category, beating out 130 other competitors.

Grimentz, a quintessential Swiss village,  was my destination for a solo mountain break. Husband Bob stayed home with his daughter who was visiting.  I miss the Swiss Alps where Bob and I had so many amazing adventures. We biked, with panniers, six of the country’s nine national bike routes. We hiked, often spending nights in gemütlich mountain lodges and huts. We skied its challenging slopes. I enjoyed several terrific press trips to different parts of the country. Those were the days. We were younger and very fit.

The Grimentz-Sorebois cable car ascends to  2,700 meters.

At times it was all too nostalgic. I could not hold back the tears when I saw cyclists loading their bikes on the trains. How many times had we done the very same thing? I hate growing old. I still yearn to soar down black runs (red would do), hike to high peaks, bike those three remaining Swiss bike routes. Merde!

Reality really set in when I set out on a hike which the guy in the tourist office recommended as “flat and easy” – supposedly an hour and half trek to the Hotel Weisshorn. I rode the funicular from St. Luc to the start of the trail. I had a backpack, but unfortunately no hiking poles. The trail was stoney. From the onset, there were ups and downs, not steep, but not my idea of flat. I progressed slowly, stopping to take photos. This was the Planets Trail with markers for the various planets along the way. After about 45 minutes I reached a large clearing where an imposing planet-like structure stood at the edge of the mountain. A woman sat on a bench underneath. I approached and asked her about it.

Marie Claire takes a rest under Saturn.

“Saturn,” she answered. I told her I was on the way to the Hotel Weisshorn. “Oh, it’s up there,” she said, pointing to a distant building atop a mountain. No way. This was not a “flat, easy hike.” I was devastated. I was already tired and my knees hurt.

Marie Claire is from Belgium and has been coming to nearby Zinal every year for many, many years, this time with a son.  Her husband died in 2006. She hiked to the hotel two years ago, but intended to take a pass this year and head back down. Her son had charged ahead.  She invited me to join her for the descent. She saved me, lending me one of her hiking poles.

Flat?  How naive was I?  Nothing can be flat in the Swiss Alps.

We talked about our old and broken bodies. She has two knee replacements. I have one. We both have hip tendinitis. I have a decaying back. Marie Claire was also an inspiration, very positive about everything. “You have to keep moving.”

I failed at the Weisshorn hike, but certainly I could master the hike around Lake Moiry. Clement Vianin, a Grimentz native and the manager of the charming Hotel Meleze where I stayed, suggested I take the bus to the Moiry glacier, then hike the trail around the lake to the dam and bus stop at the other end. Bravo. I did it.

Moiry Glacier.  Climate change has taken its toll.

Like all mountain glaciers, this one has suffered from climate change and has receded significantly.

The lake is a marvel of intense, vibrant turquoise. Minerals from the glacier’s melting ice give the lake its gorgeous hue.

Lake Moiry

I relished hiking around the lake at a snail’s pace, stopping for lots of photos. I even tried macro on some wildflowers. This is the Switzerland I love.

I was in heaven the first night when I entered the cozy, woodsy restaurant of the Hotel Meleze permeated with the aromas of Switzerland – fondue and raclette. I ordered one of my favorites, the deluxe version of Croute au Fromage, bread topped with ham, Gruyere and an egg, baked so the cheese melts and the egg cooks. This called for several glasses of Fendant (Swiss white wine). During my visit I indulged in other Swiss favorites, Rosti, grated potatoes with any melange of other ingredients. I chose one with lots of melted cheese and an

Cheesy Risotto

egg. I had another cheese bombshell, a Risotto speciality at the Becs de Bosson restaurant. Parmesan is pounded smooth in a big bowl as you watch. Grappa is added, then the hot rice. That was my Swiss cheese farewell. I savored it all, but by then I had had enough cheese and was ready for a return to fish from the Med.

Back to those geraniums. I plant them every summer, but mine never looked like those in Grimentz. “It’s the climate,” Rouvinet said. “Not too hot. That is not good.” She also pointed out that the old dark wood of the village buildings “gives a good effect” to the geraniums. Many of the ancient houses date from the 13th to the 15thcentury.

The villagers use a special fertilizer for geraniums. They caution against over-watering. Dead-heading the faded blossoms is also critical. Many chalets and apartments in Grimentz are not occupied year round. Thirty village volunteers visit unoccupied residences to care for the flowers.

Wooden houses were built upon a base of stone where grain was stored.  Wine now replaces grain .

Grimentz is in the French speaking part of Valais, a  bi-lingual canton in Switzerland.  The town, elevation 1,570 meters, is a ski resort as well as a geranium Mecca. It has just 450 permanent residents, but the number skyrockets to as many as 4,000 in winter when  skiers arrive. Summer and geraniums bring almost that number, but many just come for the day to admire red blossoms and take  photos.

Rouvinet’s prize? Not a bottle of champagne. Not a bottle of Fendant, but a bottle of fertilizer and a coupon to buy geraniums next year.

Scroll down for more photos.

Road to the Moiry Dam and glacier at right.
Picnic at Lake Moiry
Sunset in Grimentz
Name this flower


Please continue to scroll down and leave a comment.  I love feedback — good and bad.  If not already a talesandtravel follower, sign up, upper right.  Your email address is kept private and never shared.  Recipes —  check them out, right column.  New one coming soon.

22 thoughts on “Grimentz: Geraniums galore and more”

  1. Dearest Leah,

    As always, your commentary and photos are in a class by themselves. The next time you and Bob are out or way, we can go hiking in the Dolomites. They are much more user friendly than the Alps!

    Hugs to both of you.

    Noel & Carol


  2. Keep moving forward and sharing your fantastic adventures! What breath taking places, fascinating insights, wonderful people and culinary delights you’ve shared! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful photos once again. I especially liked the sky in photo #4. Your description of your body have me some comfort that I am not the only one suffering from body parts break down in old age. I still look at mountain trails and Alpine meadows with longing but leave these to my daughter and son-in-law and enjoy them vicariously through their photos as my knees no longer support my hiking desires. Thanks again for your wonderful articles and postings. Sandra Eddy and John Bean.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sandra and John. Aging, decaying bodies are no fun. No, you are not alone. But, as my mt. Belgian friend, and many French doctors have said, “Il
      faut bouger…Keep moving.”


  4. Such great escapism, Leah! I need to go back to Switzerland and reconnect with Wengen, my favorite village below the Jungfrau. The huge begonias are what I remember filling the flower boxes attached to the cottages. Glorious blooms! Your posts always make me itchy to do more traveling, even though we are all aging and can’t scamper up the hills the way we once did. Nonetheless, thank you for allowing my brain to do the scampering and for the wonderful photos. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember Wengen, too — namely the ski slopes. It seems to take more and more energy to travel as we age. Just getting ready for a trip can be exhausting. But, it’s worth it.
      Happy to hear from you and happy with your comment. Thank you. Gloria.


  5. Loved all the photos and descriptions – especially of the geography and of course the food. I’ve traveled all around Switzerland but never INSIDE it – now I have to add it to my bucket list! Thanks for the inspirations!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Once again,Leah has led us ‘armchair warriors ‘through an amazing adventure into the Swiss alps!The mind says yes,sometimes the body says no;but Leah marches on! Wherever the beaten path leads her,she’s there to take up the challenge and brings us stories and magnificent photos despite infirmaties that would keep less adventurous folks sitting at home.What a joyous life amongst the beauty nature offers us is Leah’s gift to all her friends and readers.Whether having ice cold arctic water poured down her neck and back on a recent cruise,skiing those triple black diamond runs years ago,she has given us inspiration to move forward despite the many challenges we meet as we grow olde,THANKS LEAH !, bisous,Wayne.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a million dollar comment. I don’t think I deserved all that, but of course I love it. I thrive on adventures and love writing about them. All the comments inspire me to keep truckin’ — and writing. A special thank you for this, dear Wayne.


  7. You sure are getting around.   I have some geraniums but nothing that comes near matching your gorgeous display.   Cheers,Barney               > Message du 09/09/19 09:41> De : “Tales and Travel” > A :> Copie à : > Objet : [New post] Grimentz:  Geraniums galore and more> >

    leahlarkin posted: ”  And the winner is — Yvonne Rouvinet. The competition: Geraniums. Grimentz, a tiny Swiss hamlet high in the Anniviers Valley in southern Switzerland, is the Shangri-la of geraniums. The fiery red blossoms are the village claim to fame – brim”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Loved your story Leah, one many of us can relate to. I’ve been traveling to Germany since the early 80’s; over 35 trips. I’m 67 now and wonder how many more times I can do this, yet there is so much more to see and experience. Thanks for the geranium story too. Are you sure you can’t divulge the secret fertilizer ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keep traveling. There is always more to see and experience. It gets harder with age, but we cannot give up.
      I wish I knew the secret fertilizer formula. Thank you for the comment.


  9. Love, love, love this post, for many reasons: your gorgeous photos of the scenery, mouth-watering descriptions of the cuisine, and, of course, those amazing geraniums, flowers which, it must be said, are destined to hang from balconies of old chalets. Any other setting doesn’t quite do them justice!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a wonderful visit! Thanks for taking me along—I felt just like your companion, accompanying you up and down the trails. A very special place indeed! I envy your being able to enjoy the cuisine, especially all the cheeses! Some aging bodies like mine are unable to indulge in such richness. Now I will always think of Grimentz when hanging my pots of geraniums in the spring—and hopefully remember not to overwater!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a wonderful visit indeed. I am happy you were able to tag along. Too bad about the cheese, but I felt cheesed out by the end of my stay.

      I am always glad to hear from you, Susan.


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